Washington Nationals: Midseason trades may have saved the season

WASHINGTON, DC - SEPTEMBER 07: Sean Doolittle /

By midseason, the bullpen situation for the Washington Nationals was in shambles. But with playoffs around the corner, the relief corps looks as strong as ever thanks to a few players.

It’s difficult to determine who the winners of the trade deadline are until the end of the season. Tim Beckham has crushed the ball since moving to Baltimore, while Sonny Gray and Yu Darvish have both flummoxed hitters as usual for their new ball clubs.

But as of right now, the Washington Nationals may have claimed the crown with their acquisition of Sean Doolittle and Ryan Madson.

Manager Dusty Baker frequently expressed his frustration with the closing situation in the nation’s capital. Koda Glover and Blake Treinen both seemed like viable options until the season actually began.

Treinen earned the nod in the ninth early on, but scuffled in the limelight. Through April alone, he boasted a 9.00 ERA. Before he could get settled, the right-handed fireballer was relieved of his duties – no pun intended.

But the Nationals didn’t have a deep bullpen to lean on. Shawn Kelley and Glover were both inconsistent, yet they were the best options for Baker.

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Glover, a rookie, made his mark throughout May, pitching 8 2/3 scoreless innings and snatching the closing job. Then he got hurt.

Following a bad incident in the shower and a severe rotator cuff injury, Glover’s season ended before his potential could come into fruition. Few serviceable relievers remained in Baker’s bullpen.

Finally, after suffering from a carousel of closing changes, the front office made several moves to bolster the weakest part of the club. At that point, analysts and fans questioned whether Washington could be considered a contender because its relief corps was so poor.

Doolittle and Madson had their own stints of greatness in Oakland, but also stretches of downright horrible pitching. The change of scene truly paid off.

Now both have thrived for the Nats, Doolittle as the team’s go-to closer and Madson the lockdown setup guy. In just 25 appearances, Doolittle racked up 18 saves without recording a blown save. Madson has contributed with seven holds thus far.

Both relievers sit atop the ERA rankings on the team, along with Matt Albers, who has pitched well with an astounding 1.63 ERA. But in his stint at closer, he couldn’t slam the door shut.

Maybe the most interesting aspect of all this is that Doolittle and Madson are getting more effective as the season comes to a closer. Neither pitcher has allowed a run thus far in September, compiling 11 innings together with 14 strikeouts and seven hits allowed.

All of this goes without mentioning how well the Brandon Kintzler deal played out as well. The ground ball expert sports a 2.79 ERA and nine holds for the Nats.

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Considering the Washington Nationals didn’t part ways with any supposed future stars in those trades, it looks like the Nationals could earn awards for “steal of the year” in terms of trades.

But nothing can be awarded until the end of the postseason, I suppose.