From the beginning of 2013 until now, Rafael Soriano has been the closer for the Washington Nationals. After a rough start to the second half of the season, however, his future in this role appears to be in doubt.
After struggling to a save while allowing one run in Friday night’s victory over the Pittsburgh Pirates, Soriano gave up three runs in 1/3 of an inning on Sunday evening leaving the Nationals Park mound to a chorus of boos. Fans in Washington D.C. have grown tired of Soriano’s struggles in the ninth, but has manager Matt Williams seen enough to make a change?
Since the all-star break, Soriano has seen the mound 11 times. During these appearances, he has blown three saves while posting a 7.71 ERA. Though Soriano’s track record in the majors has shown that he can survive rough patches, the timing and previous struggles for Soriano do not bode well for his future in the closer role.
At some point, Williams is going to have to make a tough decision. Will he put his faith in the veteran closer with the possibility of postseason baseball on the line? Or, will he turn the job over to Drew Storen or Tyler Clippard, his seventh and eighth inning men?
I believe Storen should be named the closer for Washington for the remainder of the season. Storen has postseason experience as a closer, as he served in this role in 2012. Storen has been dominate in his set-up man role as well, cruising to a 1.60 ERA.
Don’t get me wrong, Clippard has been just as dominate as Storen in 2014, but because of his comfort and success in his current position I think he should stay there. Storen has pitched a variety of innings this year, as the starting pitcher has often made it into the seventh, making an adjustment to the ninth inning easier.
If Clippard was to pitch the eighth, and Storen pitched the ninth, Soriano would fall into a previously unfamiliar role in the bullpen. I would set Matt Thornton up for the seventh inning, as he has been top notch since his arrival to Washington, and allow Soriano to serve in a more versatile role. In the highest of pressure innings, the Nationals have to go with the guy who is most likely to put up a zero, and that may no longer be Soriano.