Let's talk about Drew Storen today.
It's been something of a roller-coaster career for Storen as a closer (or "closer"). He sort of fell into the role in 2011 when the team didn't have anyone else. He saved 43 games in 48 chances, struck out almost a batter an inning and had a 3.32 FIP. He wasn't vintage Mariano Rivera, but he was very good.
Elbow surgery in 2012 kept him from pitching much, and then somehow, he wasn't good enough to be a closer anymore, and the Nationals felt the need to go out and get a real "bona-fide" closer in Rafael Soriano. Still recovering from injury, Storen struggled in 2013 to a 4.52 ERA, but was again elite last year, with a 1.12 ERA. On the back of success as a setup guy and some (largely injury-related) struggles as a closer), Storen built a reputation as one of those guys who couldn't succeed as a closer, who didn't have that one factor that made the ninth inning doable.
Regardless, when Soriano became a free agent after 2014, the Nationals let him go, and installed Storen back as the closer.
It went well. Great, in fact. As of the last week of July, Storen had a 1.73 ERA, 44 strikeouts in 36.1 innings and 29 saves in 31 chances. For a team that was in line for a playoff spot, he was pitching crazy well.
Even with that, the Nationals went out and got Jonathan Papelbon. Now, I don't think this was a Rafael Soriano situation. If the Nationals had had their way, odds are good they would have left Storen in the ninth inning and made Papelbon the setup guy. But Papelbon had conditions for the trade, and with a contract that rewards him for finishing games, he wasn't going to let the closer role go. So I don't blame the Nationals for not trusting Storen, but the facts remain that he lost the job for no real reason.
And since? Well, Storen's been one of the worst relievers in the game. He pitched five scoreless innings to start his tenure as Papelbon's teammate, but in his last four games (3.2 innings), Storen has given up 10 earned runs. Since Papelbon joined the Nationals, Storen has a 10.38 ERA, bringing his season number to 3.40, almost double where it was when he was the closer.
Now, help me out with the narrative here. If Storen was the kind of guy who couldn't succeed in the closer role, why was he so good to start the year? If the ninth inning is different, why was he good in 2011 before struggling in 2012-13? If he lost confidence by being removed from the role this year, why did he have a 1.12 ERA in 2014?
The simple answer here is that these confidence/soft factors/mythical inning narratives are shenanigans, red herrings tossed out there because analysts aren't allowed to shrug their shoulders and say "sometimes things are weird." But really, that's the answer. Maybe Storen struggled in 2013 because his injury was still dogging him, or maybe it was the .319 BABIP. Maybe he has struggled the last couple weeks because he's tired or because he's hurt, or because bad luck happens.
It's no fun to be an analyst sometimes, when the answer to a question is a shrug and an indeterminate noise. But so often, particularly in the small samples, that's what we should do, even if it isn't what we ever actually do do.
Just some thoughts. Now, on to this week's closer rankings. After that comes "What they're talking about."
What they're talking about
- On Kenley Jansen:
Congrats to @kenleyjansen74 on the birth of his baby boy, Kaden Isaiah Jansen! Born at 9:58am, Kaden comes in at 19.5", 8 pounds, 9oz.— Los Angeles Dodgers (@Dodgers) August 16, 2015
- On Aroldis Chapman:
- On Jonathan Papelbon:
Jonathan Papelbon, saved for god knows what in two key losses against the Mets, has pitched in one non-mop-up situation in two weeks.— Joe Sheehan (@joe_sheehan) August 13, 2015
- On Greg Holland:
In 2 of his last 3 outings, Greg Holland K'ed the side. Obviously, we should still be concerned. Just as obviously, he ain't washed up yet.— Rany Jazayerli (@jazayerli) August 15, 2015
- On Roberto Osuna:
Blue Jays Stats (@Blue_JaysStats) August 16, 2015
- On Dellin Betances:
<blockquote class="twitter-tweet" lang="en"><p lang="en" dir="ltr"><a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/Yankees?src=hash">#Yankees</a> Dellin Betances leads baseball with 83 multi-K relief appearances since 2014. Only Chapman has even 70; no other pitcher has 60.</p>— Ace of MLB Stats (@AceballStats) <a href="https://twitter.com/AceballStats/status/631545642582568960">August 12, 2015</a></blockquote>
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On Shawn Tolleson:
Rangers Shawn Tolleson leads the AL in saves since May 20. His third overall in baseball in that span.— Anthony Andro (@aandro) August 15, 2015
- On Santiago Casilla:
Reminder that Santiago Casilla has the best ERA in SF Giants history, minimum 200 innings.— Nathan (@nmccurley1) August 14, 2015
- On Wade Davis:
Kole Calhoun with a go-ahead HR vs Wade Davis. Davis had allowed only 1 HR in 118 2/3 IP in last 2 seasons combined— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) August 17, 2015
- On Edward Mujica: