In trading for Drew Storen from the Washington Nationals, the Blue Jays have theoretically begun to solidify their bullpen. Yet, Storen’s second half numbers were not good. What have the Blue Jays actually acquired?
It is easy to look at the numbers and notice that Drew Storen struggled last season. Even though his overall performance for 2015 appears to be rather solid, as he posted a 3.44 ERA and a 1.109 WHiP, those numbers paled in comparison to his performance in 2014. That season, when he took over as closer in the latter half of the year, Storen posted a 1.12 ERA and a 0.976 WHiP, setting himself up as someone who could potentially dominate in the ninth inning.
As the Nationals were desperately attempting to catch the New York Mets for the National League East, they acquired Jonathan Papelbon, making Storen the setup man. In theory, this should have given the Nationals a solid 1-2 punch to close out games. However, from the moment that Papelbon was acquired on July 28th, Storen saw his ERA climb from 1.73 to 3.44, as he allowed 16 runs, 14 earned, in 18.2 innings.
In looking deeper, that performance by Storen was skewed by four horrendous outings. During his 3.2 innings from August 7th through August 15th, Storen allowed twelve baserunners, with nine hits, a walk and two hit batters. Ten of those base runners came around to score as the opposition posted an incredible .450/.522/.700 batting line against Storen, fueled by a .571 batting average on balls in play.
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If those four games are removed from Storen’s second half, he would have allowed six runs, four earned, on eight hits and six walks in 15 innings. Those numbers are far more reflective of the pitcher that he had been in the first half of 2015, as well as during his dominant 2014 season, where he posted a 1.12 ERA and a 0.976 WHiP in 56.1 innings.
Even if the 2015 season was considered disappointing for Storen, there were positives. His fastball averaged 94.66 MPH last season, his highest mark since 2012. This helped Storen strike out 67 batters in 55 innings, the first time in his major league career where he averaged more than one strikeout per inning. In doing so, he still displayed solid control, walking only 2.6 batters per nine.
Essentially, in looking at Storen’s 2015 campaign, he had one bad week. Given the timing of his struggles, as they were shortly after the acquisition of Papelbon, that week stands out in the memory banks. Yet, without that, Storen was almost he same pitcher he had been the year before.
Even though the Nationals were shopping Drew Storen at the nadir of his value, and that he desperately needed a change of scenery, he is not the reclamation project one may think when looking at his second half ERA. Instead, the Blue Jays have acquired a reliever with a solid track record who will help strengthen the bullpen in 2016.