The Washington Nationals made the decision today to non-tender both Scott Olsen and Mike MacDougal. As a result, neither of the Nationals pitchers will receive arbitration, and both will become free agents.
Finally for a change Washington has had the guts to get rid of players who have overachieved while on their team. For too long the Nationals have overpaid payers in order to not lose what they have, instead of being smart and shopping for the best values.
The most notable move of the two was the Nationals decision to cut their closer Mike MacDougal.
MacDougal, 32, saved 20 of 21 games for Washington last season, and served as the savior of a bullpen that was in dire straits for the first half of the season. For the Nationals MacDougal had a 3.60 ERA to go with 31 strikeouts and 31 walks. He tossed one pitch effectively, a 98 MPH fastball that possessed a ton of movement. When it was on it was electric, when it wasn't, it was as flat as a table.
The problem with MacDougal is just that. He is incredibly streaky. As I wrote this summer:
"Yet, clearly, anyone who looks at a Mike MacDougal baseball card can see his career has not gone the way of a Mariano Rivera…or even a B.J Ryan for that matter. This is because while MacDougal has incredible stuff he is marred by incredible inconsistency. His one pitch is great, when its on.
What’s so fascinating about MacDougal however is that unlike most streaky pitchers, it isn’t a matter of the closer being on one night and off the next. For MacDougal when he is on he is one of the more dominant bullpen pitchers in baseball, when he’s not, he’s a borderline AAA reliever.
Right now he is one what I at first glance thought must have been the best streak of his career. In the month of August he has an MLB leading six saves, and has looked unhittable. But after looking back into his career, this isn’t even close to his best streak.
2009: August 2nd-present, 6 IP, 5K/4BB, 6 Saves, 0 blown saves.
2005: June 29th-July 22, 11 IP, 9K/4BB, 7 Saves, 0 blown saves.
2003: May 31st-April 20, 9 IP, 8K/6BB, 7 Saves, 0 blown saves.
2003: June 18th-July 13, 11 IP, 8K/5BB, 10 Saves, 0 blown saves.
As you can see one thing remains constant, his walk rate. It seems MacDougal doesn’t get into that much trouble unless his fastball straightens out, or the batter gets a good read on it. It’s like the old adage says, if it comes in hard it leaves hard.
These streaks are the reason MacDougal has stuck around so long as a potential closer in the majors. They’ve made him the kind of guy every team will take a last chance on, as the Nationals did this year. They are also however, the reason he has never been able to keep a closer job."
Olsen, 26, was traded to the Nationals in the 2009 offseason in the same deal that brought Washington Josh Willingham. The left-handed starter had a disappointing year plagued by injuries and just flat out terrible pitching. Olsen went 2-4 in 11 starts for the Nationals to go with a terrible 6.03 ERA and 1.71 WHIP. In 2009 he made $2.8 million and would have likely made around the same amount had he gone to arbitration this offseason. The Nationals may still attempt to resign Olsen, at a reduced rate.