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Who should fill in for Jonathan Papelbon as the Nationals' closer?

Who should fill in for Jonathan Papelbon as the Nationals' closer?

When Jonathan Papelbon landed on the DL for the first time in his career, the Nationals faced a tricky question.

With the team reportedly looking for bullpen help already, the injury to their closer -- albeit one who was struggling of late -- was a blow to an already shaky bullpen.

Two games have passed, and the Nats went with Shawn Kelley, who has experience closing games with the Yankees. 

Here are Kelley's splits:

After Kelley, the Nats best options are, in no particular order, Felipe Rivero, Sammy Solis, and Blake Treinen. Who's the best option? Is there a best option?

Rivero's splits:

And now Solis:

And finally, Treinen:

So, the Nats have some intriguing options.

On the surface, Kelley looks like the best option. His 13.11 K/9 is best among the group, as is his K%, BB%, WHIP and FIP, just to name a few. All four of these relievers have thrown somewhere between 21-28 innings this season, so their numbers are comparable.

For those who are into such things, Kelley's fastball (91.9) averages about 4 mph slower than Treinen and Rivero (95.0 and 95.3, respectively) and 2 mph slower than Solis (93.5). 

How are batters hitting against the four of these guys? Here are Kelley's contact numbers:

And Rivero:



Considering both Treinen and Solis have Z-Contact%'s in the high 80s, the two lowest SwStr% and BB% above 12 percent, it's not terribly risky to assume that neither are going to be the first choice. Blowing a tie-game in the top of the 9th and taking the loss on Tuesday night probably doesn't do wonders for Solis' chances, either. 

Rivero and Kelley's contact numbers are fairly similar, with Kelley taking the slight edge. 

In your perfect world, your closer throws hard and Rivero does just that. Despite having a fastball in the mid-90's, he's actually throwing it less: he threw it 76% of the time last year vs 59% of the time this year. He's sacraficing that fastball usage for a new changeup, which he's increased usage of by almost 18% (4% to 22%).

Despite adding another pitch, the Rivero's numbers have actually taken a step back this year. His Hard% has gone up almost 10%, and his HR/FB ration skyrocketed from 4% to 20%. Rivero's contact % is down, but when batters are hitting Rivero, they're doing more damage than they did last year. He stranded 73% of batters last year; this year he's hovering at around 56%. 

Kelley only throws fastballs and sliders, and he throws each about 50% of the time. At 17%, his SwStr% is three percentage points higher than at any point in his career. Because of that, naturally, his Contact% is also pacing to be the best of his career.

For the first time in his career, batters are swinging at over 50% of his pitches, and they're doing it mostly by chasing pitches outside the zone. While his Z-Swing% has stayed relatively consistent in the 67-68% range, his O-Swing% has gone from 32% last year to 38% this year. Batters are also hitting only 18% of his pitches for line drives, the lowest since 2010. 

In the end, minus some sort of trade for an Andrew Miller or Aroldis Chapman type pitcher, Jonathan Papelbon is the Nats closer when he returns from the DL. Papelbon has been consistently good in the role and durable up until now.

Even despite his recent struggles, there's no one else in the Nats bullpen who has the makings of someone who would repalce Papelbon going forward. As a stopgap, Shawn Kelley looks to be the smart pick -- not just because of his "experience" closing games in the past, but because the numbers say he's the best choice. 

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Did Max Scherzer's dance moves cause the Junkies' broadcast to lose power?

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Did Max Scherzer's dance moves cause the Junkies' broadcast to lose power?

Watching Max Scherzrer rack up Ks during a game is a usual sight for fans.

Dancing is not.

On Wednesday while the Sports Junkies were broadcasting at Nats Spring Training in West Palm Beach, we got a taste of what the back-to-back Cy Young Award winner has to offer on the dance floor. 

With just about a week left until their season kicks off, manager Dave Martinez hired a DJ for the day's workout, saying he wanted to "turn it up a notch." 

Well he turned it up a few too many notches, causing the back end of the complex where the Junkies were broadcasting to lose power.

While the Junkies were put in a pickle because of said DJ, we were able to get a glance of Scherzer dancing to Drakes' "God's Plan."


It's nice to see the usually lazer-focused pitcher let loose.

While Scherzer's dance moves didn't actually cause the Junkies to lose power, it's nice to think they were too much for the ballpark to handle. 

106.7 The Fans Sports Junkies simulcasts on NBC Sports Washington every weekday morning from 6:00 to 10:00 am ET. You can stream the Sports Junkies right here

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The sound of Bryce Harper's first spring training HR is beautiful


The sound of Bryce Harper's first spring training HR is beautiful

It's that wonderful time of year again — when baseball teams flock to warmer climates for spring training and the regular season is practically around the corner — and Bryce Harper is already killing it.

It took the Washington Nationals a few games to brush away their offseason cobwebs and get back into gear, but since the beginning of March, they're riding a five-game win streak as of Sunday the 4th.

They are 6-4-1 in spring training going into Monday's matchup against the St. Louis Cardinals.

Since Thursday, the Nats have taken down — in order — the Atlanta Braves, New York Mets, defending World Series champion Houston Astros, the Detroit Tigers and the Mets again. Sunday's 6-2 win against the Tigers was in large part thanks to Harper's bat, as the star of the team drilled his first home run of spring training. 


Turn up the volume for this one because the sound of Harper's contact with the ball is just beautiful — and perhaps enough to get you pumped for the March 29 opener.

Harper blew this ball away in the bottom of the third for a two-run homer with Howie Kendrick on base. He also had a single in the fourth and finished the game with three RBI.

Gio Gonzalez was the winning pitcher for the Nats.