Ted Youngling: Late-inning sigh of relief with Storen

Monday afternoon in The Bronx was yet another momentous day for the New York Yankees, as Mariano Rivera passed Trevor Hoffman as baseball’s all-time leader in saves collecting his 602nd in victory over the Minnesota Twins.

In the spirit of that historic accomplishment, the Washington Nationals sure hope they have a future Rivera on their hands in 24-year-old Drew Storen.

Amazingly, in just his first full season in the bigs, Storen has 40 saves for a team that’s been in next-to-last place virtually all year. With an impressive 2.86 ERA and 3.50 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 70 games, there’s no reason to believe why Storen isn’t on his way towards a few hundred saves.

Naturally, he’s had his shaky moments late in the game, but even invincible rookie closer Craig Kimbrel showed us that even he is mortal, and if there’s anything the great teams in baseball have taught us, it’s that the importance of a reliable and consistent closer is an essential part in being a winning team.

Already in his short career, Storen is considered one of the best in the game and that’s hard to argue, considering the numbers he’s been putting up this year, virtually guaranteeing him a healthy contract in the future. It will be interesting to see what type of contract Storen thinks he deserves for his early success.

What’s set Storen apart from the other young pitchers in the game is that the Nationals did not abandon the plan they had set for him. The classic case of this is the Joba Chamberlain experiment that failed miserably when he bounced from the bullpen to the starting rotation back to the bullpen. With Storen, there wasn’t a question what he would be doing in a Nationals uniform. Washington plugged him into a relieving role in 2010 where he was the closer in waiting behind Matt Capps until a midseason trade sent the latter to the Twins. That trade left Storen to inherit the closing duties, where he converted five of seven saves, which is laughable, considering he’s converted 40 of 45 in 2011.

Its hard to find a good closer these days - just take the New York Mets, for example, who have been using a closer by committee ever since they traded Francisco Rodriquez midseason. Guys like Rivera, Brian Wilson, Jonathan Papelbon, Heath Bell and Houston Street are all some of the more consistent closers the past few years. Maybe Storen’s name will someday be on that list.

Ted Youngling blogs about the Nationals for The Nats Blog, and offers his viewpoints as part of MASNsports.com’s season-long initiative of welcoming guest bloggers to our little corner of cyberspace. All opinions expressed are those of the guest bloggers, who are not employed by MASNsports.com but are just as passionate about their baseball as our roster of writers.

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