The Nationals bullpen continued their season-long trend of blowing games tonight, with Jacob Turner giving up two runs in the eighth and Matt Albers giving up three in the ninth to collectively turn what had been a late three-run lead into a loss to the Braves.
That Washington’s bullpen has struggled thus far isn’t surprising—something along these lines could have been predicted six months ago, when the front office let closer Mark Melancon walk and failed to attract anyone else to fill his role, which has since been filled by such luminaries as Koda Glover and Blake Treinen. But there’s something remarkable in just how bad they’ve been. They’ve gotten fewer innings from their bullpen than any other team, but they’ve given up home runs at the highest rate in the league. The only relief corps that’s been further below replacement level is Minnesota; bullpen WAR is finicky and questionably precise, yes, but that’s an unquestionably terrible position to be in regardless of the exact statistical rigor behind it. In short, they’ve really sucked!
It hasn’t been a matter of a handful of players underperforming or of suffering some bad luck collectively; it’s been, simply, that it’s a bad bullpen not constructed for a team that has hopes of contention the way the Nationals do. Which, you know, seems very apparent when one considers that Enny Romero and Oliver Perez are among the six players who’ve recorded saves for them so far this year.
The Nationals have a comfortable hold on first place in the NL East, which should continue for the foreseeable future thanks to the multilayered incompetence of the Mets. But the state of the bullpen makes success down the stretch and into the fall seem far less certain, with the long-term outlook summed up pretty succinctly by manager Dusty Baker tonight: