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Midseason report card: Pitching

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Midseason report card: Pitching

Earlier today, we graded out the Nationals' lineup and bench. Now it's time to evaluate how the pitching staff performed over the season's first half.

Obviously, the staff as a whole was the best in baseball. Individually, there were a number of fantastic pitchers, both starters and relievers, along with a couple of significantly sub-par performances. (And you can't mention a lot of these guys without complimenting their ability to deliver at the plate; the entire pitching staff boasts a .199 batting average, two homers, 10 RBI and seven doubles.)

Here are the grades for each pitcher on the Nats' roster...

SEAN BURNETT -- A
Picking up right where he left off late last season, the lefty was dominant as Davey Johnson's primary setup man. His numbers would have looked even better if not for a rare, three-run meltdown in Sunday's first-half finale.

TYLER CLIPPARD -- A
Setup man. Fireman. Closer. It didn't matter what role he served, he got the job done time and again. And he was so good in the ninth inning, he'll likely remain as closer even after Drew Storen returns from the DL.

ROSS DETWILER -- B
The Nats went out of their way to make sure he made the Opening Day rotation, and he mostly justified that decision. He still needs to learn how to sustain success into the sixth and seventh innings, but he's made impressive strides.

GIO GONZALEZ -- A
Is anyone complaining about the four prospects Mike Rizzo gave up for him anymore? Didn't think so. The lefty is tied for the NL lead with 12 wins, second in hits per nine innings and fourth in strikeouts.

MICHAEL GONZALEZ -- B
The veteran lefty was signed to a minor-league deal in May and quickly wound up in the big-league bullpen. He's been very effective against left-handed hitters, holding them to just two hits in 20 at-bats.

TOM GORZELANNY -- B-
Unable to win a rotation spot, he's done a mostly nice job transitioning into a long relief role, though sometimes he's susceptible to the long ball. Only Chien-Ming Wang and Henry Rodriguez have served up more home runs per nine innings.

EDWIN JACKSON -- B
If not for his first-inning bugaboo (17 earned runs allowed in 16 starts) he'd be among the most dominant pitchers in the NL. As it is, he's still a durable workhorse and the best No. 4 starter in the game.

RYAN MATTHEUS -- B
The right-hander has given up earned runs in only five of 29 appearances and has shown a propensity for pitching his way out of jams.

HENRY RODRIGUEZ -- D
When he's on, he's as dominant as any reliever in the game. When he's off, he's as combustible as any reliever in the game. Unfortunately, he's been off way more than he's been on.

CRAIG STAMMEN -- A-
Who knew this former starter's sinker would translate so well into the bullpen? The right-hander was brilliant through the season's first six weeks, and though he's had a few hiccups recently, he's become a valuable asset for Davey Johnson.

DREW STOREN -- Inc.
The Nats had high hopes for their young closer after he saved 43 games last season. A bone spur in his right elbow, though, required surgery. He's expected to make his season debut Friday, though he'll probably do so as a setup man to Tyler Clippard.

STEPHEN STRASBURG -- A
Any lingering questions about the state of his arm post-Tommy John surgery have been quashed. The only thing holding him back now is the Nationals' plan to shut him down at some point in early September.

CHIEN-MING WANG -- F
A freak hamstring injury in spring training derailed his latest comeback attempt, and he's battled all kinds of mechanical issues since. He's back on the DL with a hip issue, but his window of opportunity has just about closed for good.

JORDAN ZIMMERMANN -- A
He doesn't get the attention or praise that Stephen Strasburg and Gio Gonzalez do, but he's been every bit as good as his rotation mates. The only hangup: He doesn't get much run support, leading to a 5-6 record that doesn't accurately reflect his performance.

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Nats option Giolito, Taylor to make room for Zimmerman and Solis

Nats option Giolito, Taylor to make room for Zimmerman and Solis

Less than 90 minutes after their 10-6 loss to the San Diego Padres, the Nationals wasted no time in making a pair of roster moves to pave the way for the expected returns of first baseman Ryan Zimmerman and reliever Sammy Solis from the disabled list.

The two casualties were starter Lucas Giolito, who struggled earlier in the day in his third MLB appearance, and outfielder Michael Taylor, who went 0-for-4 with two strikeouts in the loss. Both were optioned to Triple-A Syracuse.

Zimmerman and Solis are expected to return to the Nationals on Tuesday when they play at the Cleveland Indians. The Nats are off Monday before they begin an 11-day, nine-game road trip with stops also in San Francisco and Arizona.

Zimmerman will rejoin the Nats after rehabbing from a left rib cage strain. He has been on the disabled list since July 7. He went 5-for-12 with a homer and five RBI in three minor league rehab games with the Single-A Potomac Nationals.

Solis has been on the DL since July 8 with right knee inflammation. He pitched two rehab games, one with Potomac and one with Single-A Hagerstown. Solis gave up one run on a homer in his two total innings of work.

Giolito goes back down to Triple-A after making one start with the Nats. He allowed four runs, two of them earned, in 3 2/3 innings against San Diego. Giolito has given up six earned runs in 11 total big league innings this season.

Taylor also returns to Syracuse. He was called up on July 8 when Zimmerman was placed on the DL. Taylor is hitting .222 with seven homers and 14 RBI in 66 games this season.

With Zimmerman back in the infield, Trea Turner is expected to be the odd man out. That could mean a return to the Nats' bench, or an experiment with him in center field. Turner began learning the position several weeks ago by playing six games at center in Triple-A. With Taylor now out of the mix, he could be at the very least the team's backup option at the position.

Whether they will start him there soon, though, is hard to tell. 

"I got to get Zim back in the lineup. He’s a big part of our offense," manager Dusty Baker said. "We just got to try to find a place with Zim coming back, find a place for [Turner] to play."

"I did it in Syracuse and I'll do it here if they need me to," Turner said of playing center.

"It's something that I've embraced. It's something that I'll do if they need me to."

[RELATED: Aaron Barrett suffers major setback in TJ recovery]

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Baker wonders if fatigue played role in Papelbon's collapse vs. Padres

Baker wonders if fatigue played role in Papelbon's collapse vs. Padres

Sunday was not a banner day for a Nationals bullpen that has for the most part exceeded expectations this season.

First, setup man Shawn Kelley - who has been reliable for most of this year - allowed two solo home runs in the top of the eighth. That vanished a two-run lead for the Nats, allowing the Padres to tie it at 6-6.

Then, in the ninth inning it was Jonathan Papelbon, who hadn't allowed a run in eight straight outings since returning from the DL. His luck run out with a four-run frame, one that sunk the Nats with a 10-6 deficit.

That Kelley-Papelbon combination looked mighty good just one night before against the same team. But they couldn't close the deal in a game the Nationals held a two-run advantage entering the eighth inning.

Both pitchers blamed location for their problems. Manager Dusty Baker, though, offered one theory for Papelbon.

"I don’t like to make excuses, but I don’t like to use my closer three days in a row. And this was three days in a row for Pap," he said. "But we didn’t have a choice. The ball wasn’t coming out today the way it had been since he came back from the injury."

Papelbon shot down the premise that he was running out of gas.

"No, I was not tired," he said matter of factly.

It was, to be fair, just the second time this season he's been used for three straight days.

For Papelbon, his trouble started with a one-out walk to Wil Myers. From there, Yangervis Solarte landed an RBI single, and Alex Dickerson and Ryan Schimpf then singled to load the bases. That set up a bases-clearing double by Alexei Ramirez to end Papelbon's day.

The closer, soaked in sweat on a 96-degree day, walked slowly off the mound and to the dugout to a cascade of boos from Nationals fans. It was his first uneven outing in a while, but it was an ugly one and the crowd let him hear all about it.

"It boiled down to location. Coming in there in a situation where we've gotta preserve everything we can, every pitch matters in that situation," Papelbon said.

Kelley's homers were hit by Dickerson and Schimpf. Both players took advantage of similar mistakes.

"Just two pitches that weren't up enough," Kelley said. "Both balls were on the corners in the right direction, I just wanted them a few balls higher. I just didn't get them there. I was just looking at them and talking to some people. They were not bad pitches, but to those two guys, they like the ball in those spots. Just gotta be better right off the bat and execute better with the heater."

Kelley and Papelbon have both enjoyed solid seasons and have formed an above average late-innings duo. But that may not stop the Nationals from pulling off an aggressive move before the trade deadline. They have already shown strong interest in Yankees closer Aroldis Chapman and seem intent on adding at least something to their relief corps.

How Kelley and Papelbon will be affected is unclear. It will depend, of course, on what caliber pitcher they acquire, if they choose to bring one in.

For now, however, the Nats bullpen is focused on bouncing back Tuesday when the team travels to Cleveland to play the first-place Indians.

"We come out and whip their butts. That's what we do," Kelley said. This is a great team. We've got a resilient bullpen. A little blip today, but we'll be right back out there on Tuesday."

[RELATED: Aaron Barrett suffers major setback in TJ recovery]

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Ken Griffey Jr. wears impressive suit to Hall of Fame induction

Ken Griffey Jr. wears impressive suit to Hall of Fame induction

Ken Griffey Jr. was inducted into the baseball Hall of Fame Sunday. If there was a suit Hall of Fame, Griffey's getup for the occasion would be first-ballot worthy. 

HOF 2016

A photo posted by Ken Griffey Jr (@therealkengriffeyjr) on

Check out the pinstripes on the jacket. If you look closely, you'll see they read "Hall of Fame Class of 2016."

Now examine the tie. There's the outline of Griffey, backwards hat and all, taking a swing in the gold pattern. 

That hat made another appearance in Cooperstown Sunday. 

The look Junior made famous. #HOFWKND

A video posted by MLB ⚾ (@mlb) on

What else would you expect from the Kid?