After a tense spring battle, the Washington Nationals settle on Blake Treinen as their closer
The back-end of the Nationals bullpen has proven to be something of a problem over the last few seasons. In 2015, with questions about their potential closers, the Nats brought in former relief ace Jonathan Papelbon – an affair which lead to the aforementioned Paplebon choking would be MVP, Bryce Harper in the dugout. In 2016, the Nationals nabbed Pittsburgh Pirates closer Mark Melancon at the trade deadline to again address a shaky bullpen. That acquisition went much better for the Nationals as Melancon would go on to earn 17 saves and 1.82 ERA to finish out the season.
However, the end of the 2016 season saw Melancon depart in free agency and the Nationals bullpen was once again thrown into flux. As a result, Washington entered spring training with a three-way closer battle between Shawn Kelley, Koda Glover and Blake Treinen.
Speaking of Treinen, do you like power sinkers? Of course you do – they’re just so damn pretty.
Let’s watch some.
First the infamous sinker featured byZach Britton
(GIF: Baseball America)
And theJeurys Familia
sinker (GIF: Jeff Sullivan)
But here’s one you may not know so much about… (GIF: Eno Sarris)
That sinker, as I’m sure you have already worked out by the name on the jersey, belongs to new Nationals closer, Blake Treinen. Watching this it’s no surprise that Treinen’s 65.9% groundball rate was the second best mark in baseball among pitchers who threw more than 50 innings last year. It averages 95.3 mph and has 9.7 inches of horizontal break – both elite. Relievers in the recent past have shown us that one pitch is enough to work your way into baseball’s upper echelon with Kenley Jansen, Mariano Rivera and Zach Britton all relying heavily on a singular pitch.
But Treinen is more than a one-trick-pony, complementing his mid-90’s sinker with a slider that shouldn’t exactly be scoffed at. Treinen’s slider sits in the mid 90’s and just elicited 20.8% swinging strikes. To put that in context,Andrew Miller
‘s slider just earned 24.6% whiffs. That’s enough with the numbers, let’s see it.
With those two pitches at his disposal, Treinen went 4-1 with a 2.28 ERA and 63 strikeouts in 73 innings last season. Those are closer-type numbers.
Treinen has secured the closing job for Opening Day and he should hold it for a while. However, with quality right-handers Shawn Kelley and Koda Glover waiting in the wings, there’s a real chance that a couple of false moves leads to Treinen being impeached. Further, with the Nationals squarely in win-now mode, the possibility of yet another July acquisition puts the longevity of Treinen’s title in jeopardy.
Nonetheless, with those two pitches at his disposal, Treinen just went 4-1 with a 2.28 ERA and 63 strike outs in 73. Those are closer type numbers.