Throughout the offseason, The Nats Blog will look back at every player’s 2012 season to summarize and analyze his performance, and we’ll look ahead to his possible role in 2013. We’ll go from #1 Steve Lombardozzi all the way to #63 Henry Rodriguez with about two posts per week until Spring Training. Enjoy.
Drew Storen has been the topic for many, many offseason conversations because of his complete meltdown in the ninth inning of Game 5 in the NLDS with the Washington Nationals just two outs away from advancing to the NLCS. Even as I type that, it still makes me nauseous.
Nonetheless, Storen is still considered an integral part of this team for years to come, and for good reason. Why? Because you can't judge a player on one game, even if it was a crucial one, and Storen is still really, really good. It's easy to focus on just that one inning that caused many of us to avoid baseball for several weeks or even shed a few tears. But look at his body of work after returning from his elbow surgery during the regular season, and it tells the real story.
Storen struggled a bit after he came back as he got used to pitching with his newly sewn up elbow, but boy did he ever settle in quickly. He finished the 2012 campaign with 30.1 innings under his belt, an impressive 2.37 ERA, and an even better 0.989 WHIP. Both are marked improvements over his 2011 numbers, a season in which he earned 43 saves and was considered among the closers in baseball.
In the wake of the NLDS disaster, I spoke with many friends, family, and fellow fans who had some terrible things to say about Drew Storen. I understood the overall feeling of frustration, even though some of the comments crossed a line. I didn't watch an inning of baseball until the World Series after the Nats were unceremoniously ousted. However, when people asked me what the Nats would do with Storen on Opening Day 2013, the answer was simple. If the Nats have the lead in the ninth inning on Opening Day, Drew Storen will be in to close. And Nationals Park should erupt with support.
Next year: Drew Storen will be the Nats closer from Opening Day until their season ends. Period. Obviously that assumes health, but Storen is the only true closer the Nats have had since Chad Cordero.
Next up: #23 Jhonatan "The Onion" Solano
Blaming Storen for anything is ridiculous. The team with the best record in baseball should have been able to beat the second Wild Card team handedly. Gonzalez struggled in both starts. Zimmermann struggled in his only start. The offense struggled in all but one or two games. The home plate umpire called borderline pitches strikes rather than forcing the visiting Wild Card team to actually swing the bat to win. You can blame anyone. Storen just happened to have the ball last. He'll be fine.