Drew Storen is a closer no more

Rob Carr

Wednesday night I was watching the Nationals-Phillies games, and heard this exchanges between Philadelphia broadcasters Tom McCarthy and Chris "Wheels" Wheeler:

McCarthy: Now as we go to the bottom of the 10th, Drew Storen, former closer for the Nats, now kind of floating in no-man's land in their bullpen --

Wheeler: -- and 34 hits, Tom, in 28 innings. And the other thing that's pretty significant are those four home-run balls allowed. Any time you're in a game late and the pitcher is prone to a home run, that's never a good thing.

McCarthy: The other part of it, and this is one of the reasons why he has struggled, is that when they do get basserunners, he has a very difficult time holding those runners on. That's one of the reasons why Davey Johnson, at times, Davey Johnson has shied away from using him in these kind of situations.

Wheeler: Yeah, only three baserunners have run on him this year, but three are successful.

Okay, so there you've got three reasons why Drew Storen's floating around in the bullpen:

1. Gives up too many hits
2. Gives up too many homers
3. Gives up too many steals

But wait, there's more! Storen struck out John Mayberry and Freddy Galvis, which led to this exchange:

McCarthy: Well, whatever they don't like about Storen, he has struck out the first two batters.

Wheeler: Yeah, well maybe they don't like him closing. Because that takes a different person to do this kind of thing. This guy still has great stuff. Although his stats are not that good.

McCarthy: Davey Johnson did say that, when asked about Storen closing, because he did have 40-plus saves a couple of years ago. He said, "Well, that was 40-plus saves for a not-very-good team."

Wheeler: All of a sudden you're a team in contention and it's very different.

4. Storen doesn't have the guts to close for a good team.

With all due respect to everyone involved, I'm not really buying any of this.

Does Storen give up too many hits? This season, yes. Before this season, no. It sure looks like this season's .365 BABiP allowed is a three-month fluke, considering he entered this season with a .272 career mark.

Does Storen give up too many home runs? This season, yes. He's given up four. Before this season, no. Before this season, he'd given up 11 home runs in 161 innings, which isn't great for a closer but is perfectly acceptable. Relative to his career rate, Storen's essentially given up two "extra" homers this season. Two.

Does Storen give up too many steals? Hey, you'd like zero. But in Storen's entire career, spanning (now) 190 innings, he's been on the mound for 14 stolen bases. Fourteen. That's not enough to cost a guy a job.

Does Storen have the guts to close for a good team?

Davey Johnson's a great manager, been around for a long time. We're "analyzing" a second-hand quote, and Johnson has looked into Drew Storen's eyes, while I have not. But I will humbly submit that most pitchers with Storen's stuff, statistics, and track record are perfectly capable of serving as a closer for just about any team, good or otherwise.

Two years ago, Storen converted 43 of 48 save opportunities while pitching for a .500 team.

Last year, he opened the season on the Disabled List and didn't rejoin the Nationals until after the All-Star Game. By then, the Nationals were winning and Tyler Clippard was faring well enough as the closer. It wasn't until the last few days of the season, with Clippard struggling a little, that Storen got his old job back.

In their National League Division Series, Storen pitched four times against the Cardinals. He was lights-out three times, then got hammered in a decisive Game 5 loss. And with that, Davey Johnson seems to have lost confidence in Storen, which might well have led to the signing of Rafael Soriano over the winter.

That's actually worked out plenty well, as Soriano is certainly not one of the reasons for the Nationals' terribly disappointing season. But among the club's top relievers, Storen's 4-to-1 strikeout-to-walk ratio ranks second only to Soriano. While Storen's stuff might be a tick less impressive than in past seasons, it's still pretty good.

If I needed a closer, I would happily pluck him from the Nationals' no-man's land and hand him the job.

For much more about the Nationals, please visit SB Nation's Federal Baseball.

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