In 2010, the Nationals bullpen was the diamond in the rough during another sub-par season, but the stars of the 7 men in the 'pen were Tyler Clippard and Sean Burnett. Sure, Drew Storen had a strong season and looks to be figuring out his issues from the spring this year, but he hasn't set himself apart from the crowd yet. Clipp and Burn have.
Tyler Clippard led the Nats in wins in 2010, though that's not something that's always good for a bullpen guy. In a few of those wins, Clippard was bailed out by his offense. But he's started out this season better than anyone could have possibly imagined. In 6 games, Clippard has thrown 8.2 innings, giving up just 3 hits and 2 walks while striking out 10. His ERA is 0.00.
Sean Burnett had a staggeringly impressive 2nd half of 2010. After the All-Star break, batters hit just .196 off of him and he posted an incredible 1.67 ERA in 32.1 innings. This year he's continued right where he left off, leading us to believe he will, in fact, lead the Nats in saves this year. In 4 games in 2011, Burnett has 2 saves, none blown. He's given up 3 hits and 0 runs.
There's a lot of talk of building the Nats bullpen around Drew Storen, and for good reason. Storen is consistently hitting 96 on the gun now, and his command is just getting better. He's getting more comfortable with his fastball and with himself. But let's not forget about the two guys that continue to be among the best under-the-radar relievers in all of baseball: Tyler Clippard and Sean Burnett.
Without Clipp and Burn, the Nats easily lose another 5 games last year, and who knows how it changes their win total this season. But one thing's for sure, if they both continue on this pace, we might actually be talking about some more Nats relievers making the All-Star Game in 2011.