The ERA stat is generally misleading for most relievers, and that is especially the case with Nationals left-handed situational reliever Doug Slaten. He has a respectable 2.25 ERA, but his primary job is retiring left-handed hitters in tough spots, and in that role he is struggling mightily.
Slaten has inherited 24 runners this season and allowed 12 of them to score. Slaten has allowed more inherited runners to score than any major league reliever this season, and the 50 percent rate ranks 9th highest in the majors.
Yesterday, Slaten relieved Yunesky Maya with men on first and second, and he promptly yielded an RBI single through the left side. “I think he made a good pitch there,” Riggleman said. “He just went down and got it. I can’t question anything about the quality of the pitch.”
Riggleman said he will stick with Slaten in those positions. Really, he doesn’t have too much choice – Slaten is one of two left-handed relievers in the Nationals’ bullpen, and Riggleman usually needs to save Burnett for later in the game if it’s a spot where Slaten may be used.
“You can’t do that,” Riggleman said. “Slaten is more a situational left-hander. That’s when they pitch, when you need to get a left-hander out with runners on base.”
Last season, it should be noted, Slaten was excellent at stranding runners. He inherited 26 runners, and four of them scored. And left-handers hit .151 off him – 11 hits, all singles, in 73 at-bats. He didn’t allow a single extra-base hit against lefties. So Riggleman has reason to hope Slaten will turn it around.