When the Nationals moved Matt Capps before the trade deadline to the Minnesota Twins, the question that circled around Nationals Park was if right-handed pitching prospect Drew Storen was ready for the pressure of the ninth inning role.
This is the role GM Mike Rizzo and manager Jim Riggleman had long hoped Storen would end up in. Once it became clear the Nationals could get maximum returns on Capps, the front office decided a move needed to be made. And locking up Twins top-catching prospect Wilson Ramos was too good to pass on.
Let's look at Storen's numbers. In his 33 innings this season, he has allowed 26 hits while walking another 14 batters, which equals out to a 1.21 WHIP. WHIP is a very important stat to look at when considering a closer because the best relievers keep runners off the basepaths. Putting runners on base is the easiest way to allow runs, even if your stuff is dominant.
Top Closers Career WHIP In The Last Decade
Jonathan Papelbon: 0.99 WHIP
Mariano Rivera: 1.00 WHIP
Billy Wagner: 1.00 WHIP
Francisco Rodriguez: 1.15 WHIP
Storen has surrendered only nine earned runs on the season and has punched out 28 batters, allowing only four doubles, which represent all of his extra base hits allowed. Apart from allowing base runners, avoiding the long ball is also another strong sign of a great closer. While he has only pitched 33 innings, his ability to keep the ball in the park has been very solid.
Watching Storen pitch, it is clear that he has the "stuff" necessary to command the closer's role, especially with his hard slider that bites away from righties and his mid-90s fastball. Currently his fastball which he throws only 59% of the time, ranks as 3.2 runs above average, his slider, thrown 28.5 percent of the time, ranks as his best pitch at 3.5 runs above average. He also offers the teams' best curve which he throws 11 percent of the time, andranks 2.6 runs above average.
The last two months of this season are a perfect time to see if Storen can hold up to the challenge, and all indications are that Storen should be able to. With the trade of an extra part in Matt Capps, the Nationals may have clinched themselves a closer they can control for the next five to six years with outstanding potential and a potential franchise catcher to manage the staff.
So while it has taken time, it is clear the pieces are starting to come together. They have the franchise third baseman, a pitcher who has once-in-a-generation stuff, a budding closer, a young, projectable catcher and a power hitting shortstop. And with the Bryce Harper negotiations starting to take focus in Nats Blog land, things are certainly looking up.