Good post the other day from Harper Gordek at Nationals Baseball on Drew Storen: Storen paying for Davey's mistakes. Yes, I stole the headline. Anyway, Storen isn't having a great spring with 14 hits and five runs allowed in nine innings, and Nationals fans are apparently in full panic mode.
Harper points out how Davey Johnson messed up in last year's playoffs, unnecessarily using Storen in Game 3, an 8-0 Cardinals victory. In the end, it meant Storen pitched three straight days -- which he hadn't done since returning from his injury (he'd only pitched back-to-back games twice). We all know what happened in that third game. Harper concludes his piece:
In the last game, he was set up to fail by a series of dumb decisions by Davey Johnson leading up to Game 5, leading up to the last inning of Game 5, and in the last inning of Game 5. If you told me Davey's ultimate goal was that he wanted Storen to lose this game, I could almost believe you. And eventually, after almost getting out of it, Storen did lose it.
I can't argue with picking up an arm like Soriano. They lost Burnett. Clippard labored at the end of last year. Bullpens are notoriously fickle. They needed another arm. They got a great one. But adding Soriano as the closer doesn't mean Storen should be disrespected. He's not a bad pitcher. He's a damn good one that had one bad game in the worst of circumstances and he's taking far too much heat from fans that should be directed at the manager.
I hadn't realized Storen had pitched three straight days, and in retrospect it seems painfully strange that Johnson used him trailing 8-0. Storen threw 11 pitches that game, 26 in Game 4 and then 33 in Game 5. He hadn't thrown 26 pitches in one outing all season, so it's certainly possible he was a bit fatigued in Game 5.
I liked the pickup of Rafael Soriano for all the reasons Harper mentioned above. Tyler Clippard has labored at the end of the season in 2011 and 2012. There's nothing wrong with too many good bullpen arms. And even if Storen pitched great as the closer in 2013, he would head into the postseason with the cloud of 2012 hanging over him.
Nationals fans are reading too much into nine spring training innings -- especially when Storen has 13 strikeouts in those nine innings. He's no longer the closer, but it's not because he's no longer a good pitcher.