In the first year of his three-year deal, Shawn Kelley made some great contributions to the Washington Nationals bullpen in 2016
Last offseason, the Washington Nationals signed Shawn Kelley to a three-year, $15 million deal as part of their bullpen makeover. While Daniel Murphy ended up being the Nats best free agent signing last winter, Kelley is not that far behind as he filled in during the season as closer and he was one of their best relievers down the stretch.
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This past season, Kelley appeared in 67 games and went 3-2 with a 2.64 ERA and had seven saves in nine opportunities. His 12.41 strikeouts per nine innings was the highest total of his career (80 strikeouts) and his 11 walks were the second lowest he has had in a single season (nine with the Seattle Mariners in 2009).
If there was one weakness to Kelley’s game this season, it was giving up the long ball. The 32-year-old right-hander gave up nine home runs, which was tied for the most he’s allowed in a single season (2009). According to Brooks Baseball, seven of those nine home runs came when Kelley threw a slider.
When Jonathan Papelbon went on the disabled last on June 14 because of a left intercostal strain, Kelley became the team’s new closer. June happened to be Kelley’s worst month of the season as he blew one save and had a 5.25 ERA in 11 appearances.
In the second half of the season, opponents hit .174 against Kelley. During the month of September, opponents only had one hit in 11 games (.034 average). As the season went along, Kelley was strong in the eighth inning of games, posting a 1.01 ERA, a WHIP of 0.67, and had 41 strikeouts to four walks.
During the NLDS against the Dodgers, Kelley only appeared in two games for the Washington Nationals. He struck out three of the five batters he faced in Game 3. Three days later, he gave up a two-run triple to Justin Turner in the seventh before leaving the game due to injury.
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Kelley only used two pitches this season (fastball and slider), but the average velocity of 92.4 miles per hour on his fastball was the fastest it’s been since he reached that mark with the Mariners in 2012 (Fangraphs).
The Washington Nationals will be looking for a closer this winter, but Kelley figures to be a key piece to the bullpen in 2017. While it may have been somewhat of a surprise that Kelley got a three-year deal last winter, year one of this deal has to be considered a success.