Another Name for the Royals to Float

Things haven’t gone very well for the Royals this season. On that matter, we can all agree, right? Injuries have been a major problem, and injuries aren’t always “fair,” but what happens happens, and with the deadline coming up, the Royals aren’t in a great position. They’re eight and a half games out of first in their division, with three teams in front, and they’re only a couple games closer to a wild-card spot, with even more teams in front. No team wants to concede, and especially not a defending champ, but the Royals can probably tell this is unlikely to be their year. It’s not a coincidence they’re listening on Wade Davis. The Royals could be helped by doing some selling.

Some rumors have surrounded Davis. Other rumors have surrounded Ian Kennedy, if only when linked to Davis. Luke Hochevar has drawn attention to himself. Edinson Volquez has gotten some press. One name, to my knowledge, has been curiously absent. Danny Duffy is having a breakthrough season, and it feels like the Royals should make his availability known.

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Wade Davis, the Ultimate Deadline Gamble

The Royals are apparently listening to offers for Wade Davis. The Royals would be stupid if they didn’t listen to offers for Wade Davis. Any team would be stupid if it didn’t listen to offers for anyone. Listening comes at basically zero cost! There seems to be a real chance here, though, a chance of something happening. The Royals haven’t been very good, and while Davis has another year of control, you know where the reliever market is. If nothing else, you have to find out. You have to see what a guy like Davis could pull.

Davis could represent a proven, dominant addition. There’s no questioning his track record, and he was fantastic in last year’s playoffs. Davis is right there in the argument for the best reliever in the game, and relievers are being valued more highly than ever. It’s easy to see why Davis could command a huge trade return. It’s also easy to see how he could bust. These negotiations might well be complicated, because Davis looks like one massive gamble.

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Team Ball-in-Play Analysis: An Overview

Over the last few weeks we have taken a position-by-position look at granular ball-in-play data for both hitters and pitchers, assessing their respective contact quality/management ability. Next up: a macro-type evaluation of overall team performance in those areas.

Over the next few weeks, we’ll take a division-by-division look at each team’s granular data through the All-Star break, ultimately comparing their actual won-lost records to projected ones based on exit speed/angle of every ball in play hit and allowed by each club. About 90 games’ worth of balls in play is a fairly substantial sample size, one that enables us to make fairly educated guesses about the true talent level of each team. Today, we’ll focus on a brief overview of general BIP data estimating the overall hitting, pitching and defensive abilities of all 30 clubs; we’ll drill deeper into the data in the subsequent divisional articles.

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Calculating Ian Kennedy’s Negative Trade Value

At 49-51, 8 1/2 games out of first place, the Royals sound like they realize they’re probably not contenders this year, and with a few days to go before the trade deadline, they’re now listening to offers for their best trade chips. Given the price of relievers these days, Wade Davis is pretty clearly their most valuable asset, and the Royals could expect to get back a significant haul for him, given that he’s also under contract for 2017.

But according to Jeff Passan, the team might be looking to use Davis to do something besides add young talent to the organization.

So that’s an interesting idea. By tying Kennedy to Davis, the price in talent would come down, which would likely make a deal more appealing to a team like LA — we’ve seen the Dodgers take on plenty of dead-money deals in order to acquire or retain prospects in previous trades — and would give the Royals the flexibility to reallocate Kennedy’s money to other free agents this winter, which would allow them to essentially make a trade for 2017 assets instead of prospects who might not be able to help before the rest of their core players hit free agency.

On the surface, the idea makes some sense, but it also brings up a question; how much negative value does Kennedy have at this point? How much of a discount on the talent portion of the trade would the Royals have to give in order to free themselves from the rest of Kennedy’s deal? Let’s do the math.

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Jeremy Hellickson: Now Slightly More Interesting

This is simply the nature of the current starting-pitcher market. There’s no Cole Hamels, there’s no David Price. There’s a Chris Archer and a Sonny Gray and a Julio Teheran, but odds are they all stay put. So you move on to your Andrew Cashners and your Drew Pomeranzes and you look for reasons to get excited. You don’t force reasons to get excited — some guys just aren’t that exciting — but if they’re there, you pay attention.

It’s understandable to not find Jeremy Hellickson too exciting. Over the course of his career, he’s been about the definition of average. Oh, Hellickson once was exciting. As a minor leaguer in 2011, he was ranked as the No. 18 prospect in the sport by Baseball America, and after making a brief but impressive debut that year, was bumped up to No. 6 on the following year’s iteration. In 2011, he was arguably the most hyped pitching prospect in baseball, sandwiched between Teheran and Aroldis Chapman, and then he started off his career with 400 innings of a 3.00 ERA.

But then, there were the ugly peripherals that had always loomed, followed by the heavy hand of regression, and then the elbow surgery, and Hellickson became a forgotten name as quickly as he’d become an intriguing one.

Except now it’s 2016, and the Philadelphia Phillies are reportedly asking for a team’s top-five prospect in order to obtain Hellickson; otherwise, they’re comfortable extending to him what could be a $16.7 million qualifying offer. Which, of course that’s what the Phillies are asking — no harm in talking up your own guy. The question is: how crazy is it, really? Or, more specifically, how interesting is Hellickson, really?

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Eno Sarris Baseball Chat — 7/28/16

Eno Sarris: I think I’ll do some weird music today. Some won’t like it. Shrug emoticon!
Mike : What’d you think of Demeritte in San Diego?
Eno Sarris: Asked him about his two-strike approach and he said he was trying stuff and nothing had clicked. I think that’s a fairly bad sign and I’ll put his bust rate at 80+%. But! He probably still has a 5% or so superior rate, because if he does put it together, I believe in his power, and think he can even stick at second.
Eric: I hope you are very wrong that Josh Reddick could net Bellinger+. That would be an objectively horrible trade for the Dodgers’ present and future
Eno Sarris: Well, I think the trade would be Hill and Reddick together, and I thought Bellinger was further down the prospect list, so I probably am wrong.
Jake: Where do you think manfred can improve!

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Scouting New Braves Prospect Travis Demeritte

The Atlanta Braves have turned one player they claimed off of waivers and another they signed to a minor-league deal into a prospect who appeared in this month’s Futures Game. Even if one is skeptical of that prospect, as I am, acquiring a tooled-up middle infielder for two pieces you acquired at next to no cost represents a success for the rebuilding Braves. The newly acquired Travis Demeritte has an interesting set of tools undermined by one potentially fatal flaw that, if remedied, could make him a valuable everyday player.

Demeritte, who turns 22 in September, is hitting .272/.352/.583 with 25 home runs at High-A High Desert. He was suspended for 80 games in 2015 for use of a banned substance, the masking agent Furosemide. He also had a 25-homer season at Hickory in 2014. Both Hickory and High Desert, along with most of the rest of the Cal League, are power paradises. A study done by Baseball America’s Matt Eddy in 2015 found those two affiliates to be the most homer-friendly parks in there respective leagues. Though Demeritte has plus raw power projection, I think it’s fair to be skeptical of his in-game power performance’s sustainability.

The raw pop comes primarily from Demeritte’s plus bat speed and a big back-side collapse that creates uppercut in his swing. His footwork is aggressive and noisy and at times he strides down the third-base side, leaving him vulnerable on the outer half, though he’s still able to take the ball the other way exclusively with his hands. He has 11 opposite-field home runs so far this season, according to

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Projecting New Braves Prospect Travis Demeritte

A cursory glance at Travis Demeritte‘s stat line might lead one to think the he’s an offensive beast. He’s hit a powerful .272/.352/.583 at High-A this year, on the strength of an impressive 25 homers. In addition to his offensive exploits, he’s also swiped 13 bases and played solid defense at second base.

But there’s one bad attribute that largely outweighs all the good stuff: his 33% strikeout rate. Demeritte suffers from chronic contact problems, which have led to problematic strikeout rates ever since the Rangers took him in the first round back in 2013. Though he has the eighth-best wRC+ in High-A this year, he also has the fourth-worst strikeout rate. The latter suggests he’ll have a tough time replicating the former against more advanced pitching.

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NERD Game Scores for Thursday, July 28, 2016

Devised originally in response to a challenge issued by sabermetric nobleman Rob Neyer, and expanded at the request of nobody, NERD scores represent an attempt to summarize in one number (and on a scale of 0-10) the likely aesthetic appeal or watchability, for the learned fan, of a player or team or game. Read more about the components of and formulae for NERD scores here.


Most Highly Rated Game
St. Louis at Miami | 19:10 ET
Wacha (115.1 IP, 97 xFIP-) vs. Fernandez (120.2 IP, 56 xFIP-)
Probably an irresponsible way to evaluate a pitcher is to cite his WAR per games started. The author cites it here, however, as an attempt to answer a question poorly. The question: at what point is someone likely to tie and/or pass the injured Clayton Kershaw on the WAR pitching leaderboard. The answer: probably mid-August.

First, regard:

Qualified Starters by WAR per Start
Clayton Kershaw Dodgers 16 5.5 0.34
Jose Fernandez Marlins 19 4.5 0.24
Noah Syndergaard Mets 19 4.2 0.22
Johnny Cueto Giants 20 3.7 0.19
Corey Kluber Indians 20 3.7 0.19
Note 1: Only data from starts (not relief appearances) considered.
Note 2: Likely irresponsible, this method.

Those are the top-five qualified pitchers this year by WAR per game started. As noted, only the data from starts has been considered. Although, it doesn’t really matter: this is basically identical to the top-five pitchers by WAR without any additional criteria. It appears here, however, to provide a sense of how many more starts a pitcher might need — how many Jose Fernandez, in particular, might need — to catch Kershaw.

Fortunately, the math is pretty simple. Fernandez sits roughly a win behind Kershaw and produces roughly a quarter win per start. So, “four starts” would appear to be the answer. Accounting for today’s start and assuming that Fernandez appears for Miami every fifth day, he’s likely to have tied Kershaw following his start against the White Sox on Friday, August 12th. If Miami preserves a five-man rotation through a couple days off, Fernandez is still likely to appear in that White Sox series, just a day or two later.

Reason, is what has been exhibited here. But reason in the most frightening quantity.

Readers’ Preferred Broadcast: St. Louis Radio.

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Kyle Gibson on His Best Outing of the Season

Kyle Gibson starts tonight against Baltimore. He pitched his best game of the season on Friday. The Minnesota Twins right-hander gave up a home run to the first batter he faced, but that was the lone blemish in a 2-1 win. Matching up against the Red Sox at Fenway Park, Gibson fanned six and allowed just three base-runners over eight innings of work.

He mixed his pitches proficiently. Per Brooks Baseball, the 29-year-old sinker-baller threw 37 two-seamers, 24 sliders, 18 changeups, nine curveballs and eight four-seamers. His sequencing induced a 38.8% swing rate on pitches outside the zone (O-Swing%) against one of baseball’s most patient lineups.

Gibson, who is suffering through a subpar year, discussed the game and his overall pitch usage the following day.


Gibson on his July 22 outing: “The homer to [Mookie] Betts was on a four-seamer. There are times I’ll throw a first-pitch four-seamer to righties, but it’s usually all sinkers. Most of the four-seamers I throw are in to lefties and I haven’t been beaten too many times on that. One that comes to mind is a Jackie Bradley home run in our ballpark [on June 11]. It’s a pitch I’m normally trying to elevate and throw for effect.

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Rangers Land Potential Relief Ace

An afternoon trade went down between the Rangers and the Braves. One very much legitimate way of thinking about it: Lucas Harrell isn’t very good, but the back of the Rangers’ rotation lately has been terrible, and this just goes to show how the market for any half-decent starting pitcher right now is inflated. While Travis Demeritte isn’t a top-10 prospect or anything, he is a former first-rounder having a breakthrough season in High-A. Not a lot of available 21-year-olds with that sort of power. Good get for the Braves, considering they just added Harrell for practically nothing a couple months ago.

Another very much legitimate way of thinking about it: The Rangers didn’t want to pay the high price for an established relief arm, so they found an alternative route, landing in Dario Alvarez a potential front-line lefty bullpen weapon. Harrell gets attention as the starter with experience, and Demeritte gets attention as the prospect stepping forward, but Alvarez might be a hell of a pitcher, considering you might not have ever heard of him.

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Luck Has Not Been Jason Heyward’s Problem

The worst hitter on the Cubs has also been their most expensive. For Jason Heyward, there are two silver linings. One, he’s impossibly rich, and he can provide for himself and his family without ever feeling a great deal of concern. He’s living and shall live a privileged existence. Two, the Cubs are so good Heyward hasn’t yet been the focus. People have noticed his numbers, sure, and everyone would prefer him to be more successful, but there isn’t that angst. Heyward has mostly avoided the spotlight, which is something, given the contract he signed.

That was a controversial contract, you’ll remember. One totally justified by WAR, but one that needed for WAR to be accurate, defensive metrics and all. The attack on Heyward was that he wasn’t a good enough hitter, and only excellent hitters should get that kind of money. I can say this: Even the Heyward skeptics wouldn’t have expected him to be this bad. He’s hit like an infield backup. Last year’s wRC+ was 121.

What’s the matter with the Cubs’ Gold Glove outfielder? If you listen to them tell it, a big component has been straight-up bad luck. It can happen — the public always underestimates the importance of luck. I don’t think Jason Heyward has gotten much of any good luck. But there has been a bigger issue.

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Projecting Royals Call-Up Raul Mondesi

Raul Mondesi’s calling card has always been his shortstop defense, while his hitting — or lack thereof — left something to be desired. He hit .243/.279/.372 in his age-19 season at Double-A last year, and was similarly underwhelming in the lower levels of the minor leagues. In fairness to Mondesi, he was always exceptionally young for his level. But still: sub-.300 OBPs are never good.

Despite his paltry batting lines, scouts always maintained that Mondesi’s tools suggested some offensive upside. Here in 2016, he’s finally begun to tap into that upside. He slashed an encouraging .259/.331/.448 in Double-A around a 50-game PED suspension, and followed it up with a .304/.328/.536 mark in two weeks at Triple-A. Read the rest of this entry »

The Post That Ryan Schimpf Made Necessary

Twenty-eight year old rookies on non-contending teams tend not to generate a great deal of attention. Maybe free agents from Japan who are technically rookies might get some publicity, but guys like Ryan Schimpf? Not so much.

Nevertheless, the San Diego Padres second baseman has had a debut worth noticing. Schimpf has recorded just 115 plate appearances as a major leaguer, but has already produced nine homers and .371 isolated-slugging mark — or, about 40 points higher than David Ortiz‘s league-leading number right now. Will it continue? Of course not. But it could be an interesting exercise to figure out exactly how Schimpf got here.

In 2009, Schimpf was on a Louisiana State University team that won the College World Series. That team included future major leaguers Louis Coleman and DJ LeMahieu — as well as first-round picks Mikie Mahtook, Jared Mitchell, and Anthony Ranaudo. Schimpf was taken in the fifth round by the Blue Jays in 2009 and given a low-six-figure bonus. He hit pretty well in the New York-Penn league.

At the conclusion of the 2009 season, Schimpf, a 5-foot-9 second baseman with some power, drew a Dustin Pedroia comp from Baseball America, who ranked him as the Blue Jays’ 16th-best prospect in the organization:

He has a short stroke and surprising power for a guy his size. He projects to hit lots of doubles, and the Jays think he could produce 15 or more homers per season. He should also steal 15 or more bases annually with his tick above-average speed. Schimpf is reliable if not spectacular at second base. He has a fringy arm and needs to get a better feel for the position, starting with turning double plays. He could open his first full pro season in high Class A.

That was the last time Schimpf ever appeared in Baseball America’s organizational rankings. He started the next season in Low-A and didn’t really distinguish himself, recording a .240/.332/.418 line over 395 plate appearances. He walked a lot (10% BB rate), but also struck out a lot (24% K rate), and when he did receive a promotion to High-A that August, he struck out in 27 of 74 plate appearances. This left him off the radar as a 23-year-old in High-A and, radar-wise, that’s basically where he has been the last half-decade.

To recap his seasons briefly:

Started the season on the disabled list and, in 228 plate appearances at High-A, hit a lot of homers (10), walked a lot (10%), and struck out a lot (23%).

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Scouting Newly Acquired Padres Prospect Hansel Rodriguez

San Diego’s sole return for Melvin Upton Jr. is 19-year old Dominican righty, Hansel Rodriguez. This trade’s roots run back to 2013, when the Blue Jays selected LHP Brian Moran in the 2013 Rule 5 draft and immediately flipped him to the Angels for $240,000 worth of international pool money, which was added to the yet-to-be-spent $127,000 they had remaining from that year’s original pool amount. Early in 2014, Toronto signed Rodriguez for $330,000. Moran is currently pitching in Indy ball.

Rodriguez spent the early portion of 2016 in extended spring training before moving on to Toronto’s Appalachian League affiliate in Bluefield, where he had thrown 32.1 innings over six starts. He allowed 25 hits and 11 walks while striking out 26 hitters during that span, sporting a 3.06 ERA.

The strikeout totals aren’t mind-blowing because Rodriguez’s stuff simply isn’t very good yet. Instead, this is San Diego betting on a body and delivery. Rodriguez has a solid pitcher’s frame at 6-foot-2 and a listed 170 pounds. He’ll likely fill out a bit more — at least enough to counterbalance the increased workload he’ll undertake as his pro career moves forward. He has a loose, quick arm and incorporates his hips into his delivery, though he can fly open a little too hard at times and loose some command. It’s possible we see Rodriguez makes some changes to become more direct to the plate and create better extension, but his arm speed is impressive.

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The J.A. Happ from Last Season’s Second Half Has Returned

Although I’m a hardened cynic at heart thanks to my upbringing in the world of Philadelphia sports, even I can freely admit it’s always more fun to talk about a player who is doing well than one who is struggling. It’s even more fun to talk about a player who’s doing well and made a noticeable change prior to a stretch of success. Today, the player that fits that bill is Blue Jays left-hander J.A. Happ.

When Happ signed his three-year, $36 million deal with the Blue Jays this past winter, it raised a few eyebrows. You’d think we’d understand now that any player who can provide even moderate utility on a major-league roster is able to pull in spectacular amounts of money on the free-agent market. That said, the prospect of a 33-year-old pitcher who has rarely been more than a #4 during his career signing a multi-year deal of this magnitude still might require some getting used to. Any reflexive shock at all those zeros next to Happ’s name wore off pretty quickly, though. He was coming off a phenomenal second half with Pittsburgh and was exactly the sort of rotation stabilizer the Blue Jays needed.

Through the first three months of the season, Happ prevented runs at a reasonably efficient rate (3.70 ERA, 86 ERA-) but his peripherals depicted him as a more middling pitcher. His 16.9 strikeout and 7.6 walk rate — combined with a .270 BABIP — resulted in a slightly below league average 4.47 FIP (104 FIP-). It was difficult to find much optimism that Happ would be able to build upon his superficial success. But then something changed when the calendar flipped to July. Before we get to what’s different, let’s take a look at his numbers over his four starts this month:

J.A. Happ July 2016
4 24.1 1.48 32.6% 6.3% 0.95 .286 1.99

That’ll do. It’s worth noting that these four starts weren’t against woefully inept offenses. His opponents were Cleveland, Detroit, Oakland, and Seattle. Oakland is clearly the weakest of those four and, for whatever it’s worth, he didn’t pad his numbers when he faced them. In fact, his outing against Oakland was his worst over this stretch by far.

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Players’ View: What It’s Like to Get Traded

Trade-deadline hysteria can lead to a dehumanization of players. In our effort to feverishly re-imagine our favorite team’s roster, all of us can be guilty of rooting to exchange this piece for that piece without considering all of the havoc that a trade can create for the people concerned.

I don’t mean to be a wet blanket. It’s fun to dream on that big acquisition that will put our teams over the top, and let’s please continue to do so.

But! We can also appreciate how difficult it must be to weather the constant speculation about your status, and then, if the trade is consummated, to then figure out how to move your life to another city — quickly.

So David Laurila and I set out to ask players about the experience. How did they find out? What were the conversations with the family like? What was the emotional roller coaster like? Thanks to the players that opened up, we can get a better sense of the human side of the trade deadline.


Jeff Samardzija, Giants starting pitcher: “The first time, I watched all the rumors, and it ended up being Oakland, which wasn’t even on the radar, anywhere. The second time around I just ignored it all, and then I almost went to the White Sox and it fell through, and then a few days later it actually happened. Following for entertainment purposes is kinda fun.

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Dave Cameron FanGraphs Chat – 7/27/16

Dave Cameron: Happy Wednesday, everyone. We’re a few days away from the trade deadline, so I imagine most of the questions will revolve around whether we’ll see any interesting deals in the next few days.
Guest: Do the giants still make a bullpen move in your view in light of rising prices for relievers?
Dave Cameron: Yep. I don’t know that they’ll land a closer, necessarily, but I think they’ll get someone. Maybe Will Smith?
EC: So do Nats need a RP? Good case that Shawn Kelly should be better used, and maybe Reynaldo moved to the pen for the rest of the year. Outside of that, worth raiding the farm?
Dave Cameron: I think trusting Baker to use Kelley/Lopez correctly is probably too much to ask. So if they can get another good arm at a reasonable price, it’s worth doing. I can see why they didn’t think the price for Chapman was reasonable, though.
CamdenWarehouse: Javy Baez is outhitting Montero, Russell and Heyward, but usually is hitting behind them when he plays. Any idea on Maddon’s thought process there?

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NERD Game Scores for Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Devised originally in response to a challenge issued by sabermetric nobleman Rob Neyer, and expanded at the request of nobody, NERD scores represent an attempt to summarize in one number (and on a scale of 0-10) the likely aesthetic appeal or watchability, for the learned fan, of a player or team or game. Read more about the components of and formulae for NERD scores here.


Most Highly Rated Game
Washington at Cleveland | 12:10 ET
Strasburg (120.2 IP, 74 xFIP-) vs. Carrasco (85.2 IP, 84 xFIP-)
As noted by August Fagerstrom less than a half-hour ago, Washington has lost each of its last two games by way of a Jonathan Papelbon blown save. Over his last two appearances, the Nationals’ closer has recorded just 0.2 innings while also facing 12 batters, producing merely a single strikeout during that interval. He’s also compiled a -1.34 win probability added (WPA) — which, when on considers that a club needs only to compile a 0.5 WPA to win a game, suggests that Papelbon has lost nearly three games by himself in just two appearances. Paradox? Yes. But also: no. Which, this is another fitting illustration of how truth or whatever doesn’t exist.

Readers’ Preferred Broadcast: Washington Radio.

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The Most Simple Fix for the Nationals Bullpen

Jonathan Papelbon walked off the mound in Cleveland on Tuesday night with the bases loaded in the ninth inning and no outs. That’s not what you want from your closer. Papelbon put the game in jeopardy by walking Jose Ramirez and giving up a double to Tyler Naquin to begin the inning, which led to a comedy of errors that tied the score and forced a pitching change. Papelbon then watched from the bench as Francisco Lindor beat a ground ball through the right side of the infield against Oliver Perez, completing the second ninth-inning meltdown by the Nationals bullpen in as many games, each initiated by Papelbon.

On the heels of a fruitless pursuit of Aroldis Chapman and amidst continued trade rumors targeting a high-profile relief pitcher, Jon Heyman tweeted the following after Tuesday night’s blowup:

And, yeah. Papelbon probably isn’t the greatest high-leverage relief option for a contending team. Among the 32 relievers who’ve recorded at least 10 save opportunities this season, Papelbon’s ERA- ranks 28th, and while that figure did look fine just a few days ago, we can’t pretend that these last two games didn’t happen, and we can’t pretend like the red flags don’t exist either. Papelbon’s lost another half-tick off his velocity from last year, and is now down to averaging under 91 mph on his fastball. The walk rate is higher than it’s been in five years. He’s posting the worst K-BB% of his career and his lowest ground-ball rate since his early days in Boston. More and more of Papelbon’s age is showing, and he now projects as something like the fifth-best reliever on his own team moving forward.

Papelbon projects as something like Washington’s fifth-best reliever, and he’s pitched as something like Washington’s fifth-best reliever, and yet he’s also pitched Washington’s most important innings. Hence, the Nationals looking for outside help regarding their closer role. But, do they really need to go outside the organization? Don’t they already have an elite closer, worthy of trusting in high-leverage innings down the stretch and into the postseason? Don’t they already have Shawn Kelley?

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