As soon as the Nationals lost Saturday’s game against the Padres the internet burst to life with Soriano memes. Soriano blows too many saves, he lives on the edge, he gives up too many base runners, and all the other same old tripe. Soriano has done none of those things this season. He does have two blown saves, but he has only given up three runs all season and has a WHIP of 0.96. Soriano has been dominant this season. It just happens that the three runs he has allowed have been in two separate innings and both resulted in blown saves, but not blown games.
That brings us to the most puzzling aspect of the Nats bullpen. The Washington Nationals bullpen has the lowest ERA in the majors at 2.17. Four Nationals relievers have an ERA under 2.00, five under 3.00, and every one of the regular seven aside from Ross Detwiler has a FIP 3.00 or lower. When it comes to the Washington Nationals bullpen there are six relievers performing at a great to excellent level and with those types of numbers the Washington Nationals should perform far better in extra-inning games. Both times Soriano blew the save the Nationals were on the road and neither time did it result in a walk-off victory for the other team; that would happen later when another reliever would relinquish the tie.
The Washington Nationals are 28-2 when scoring at least four runs. That is a fantastic record in those situations and above league average, but all teams have a winning record with at least four runs just like the average team has a losing record with three runs or less. That is the flip side for the Washington Nationals. Not only do they have a great record when scoring at least four runs they have to score at least four runs to win. When the Nationals score three runs or less their record is 4-27, a .129 winning percentage. The average NL club has a winning percentage of .207. Not great but nearly double what the Nationals have and if they had that winning percentage they’d have a record of 6-25 in those low scoring games, and stand alone in first in the NL East.
This should come as no surprise as the Nationals 1-6 record in extra-inning games and 6-12 record in one run games is one of the reasons they’ve underperformed their expected record. The Washington Nationals have the second best run differential in the NL and an expected record of 35-26. Nine games over .500 and leading the NL East by three games instead of tied with the Braves and Marlins. Clubs that normally have the struggles that result in this disparity, particularly the struggles the Nats have had in extra innings and close games, have a bullpen that isn’t performing well. The Nationals bullpen has been nothing short of spectacular and yet the Nationals struggle in the exact types of games a great bullpen should be helping them to win.
Baseball is gonna baseball and there are times it makes no sense. Statistical anomalies are common less than halfway through a 162 game season. If the Nats bullpen keeps performing as they have then the Nationals results in one run and extra-inning games should turn around. The Nationals last ten losses have all been by a margin of three or less runs with six of them being by one run. The last one run game the Nationals won was on May seventh and since that time the Nationals have lost seven one run games.
Another way to look at this is in recent wins the Nationals have won big and in recent loses they’ve lost small. This is a sign of a team play tremendous baseball, and the fact that the Nationals still haven’t had that long winning streak should give fans hope. A winning streak of six or more games is coming and if the Nationals can continue to play as they have over the last week and a half it will be sooner rather than later, and if the bullpen keeps performing as they have they’ll start winning the Nationals some of these one run and extra-inning games.