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Hard-Hitting Baseball Analysis

Nationals name Blake Treinen closer

On December 5th, closer Mark Melancon signed a 4-year, $62 million deal with the San Francisco Giants, leaving the Washington Nationals with a vacancy at their closer position. In the midst of a flurry of blockbuster moves by the Chicago White Sox, speculation ran rampant that Washington would replace Melancon with White Sox RHP David Robertson. A Robertson trade never came to fruition, and the Nationals forwent acquiring other big-name relievers, obtaining supplementary arms like veteran RHP Joe Blanton and hard-throwing LHP Enny Romero instead.

blake treinen closerEntering Spring Training, it was uncertain who would win the Nats’ closer competition but most pundits figured it would be either veteran RHP Shawn Kelley or young RHP Koda Glover.

So naturally Nationals manager Dusty Baker chose neither, naming RHP Blake Treinen the team’s closer Thursday afternoon.

Treinen, 28, certainly possesses the stuff to thrive in the role. Treinen can make a claim to having the world’s best sinker for a human being (this statement relies on the postulate that Zach Britton is not human). The pitch, which tops out around 97 MPH with a sharp downward break, carried Treinen to a 65.9% ground ball rate in 2016, good for 2nd in the majors behind Britton.

Treinen’s prolific ground ball rate allows him to be a successful reliever in spite of a middling strikeout rate.

While Koda Glover offered more strikeout upside than Treinen, Baker was possibly dissuaded from Glover due to his inexperience. But what advantage Treinen has in pedigree over Glover, he lacks compared to 32-year-old Shawn Kelley.  Baker likely passed on naming Kelley his closer due to health concerns. Last year, Kelley was dominant for Washington and even closed seven games. However, he is also a two-time Tommy John surgery patient, and might not be equipped to pitch in back-to-back games as a result. In theory, keeping Kelley as the set-up man allows Baker to better conserve his arm.

Blake Treinen sinker dot gif

Perhaps another factor in Baker’s decision-making was the off-season addition of catcher Matt Wieters. In Baltimore, Wieters oversaw the emergence of Britton from successful reliever to dominant closer. Maybe Baker is thinking Wieters’ previous success with unproven sinkerballers will pay dividends in Washington with Treinen at the helm. At the very least, Wieters’ experience with power sinkers can only help Treinen in his transition.

With just one career save on his resume, Treinen must start strong to keep his job with Glover and Kelley — and the specter of a trade for a closer — looming. While Treinen’s leash will be short, he won’t feel much of a tug on his collar if he follows the blueprint that made him successful in 2016.

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Updated: March 31, 2017 — 10:11 pm

1 Comment

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  1. Treinen is gonna do so well!

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