3:38pm: Both Doolittle and fellow lefty Roenis Elias came away from simulated games feeling strong today and could be activated as early as Friday, tweets Mark Zuckerman of MASNsports.com.
9:47am: The Nationals have been on a lengthy and remarkable run in spite of an ongoing bullpen malaise that has shown no signs of abating. While the team is now in strong position, it seems inevitable that its roller-coaster bullpen will be a key factor in any postseason run. The availability — and form — of injured closer Sean Doolittle is therefore of paramount importance to the D.C. org.
Doolittle tells reporters including Byron Kerr of MASNsports.com that he’s working out hard while sidelined with right knee tendinitis. The idea, he says, is to “kick start the engine a little bit” and “develop that trust” in his joint. He has been throwing bullpen sessions and is now readying for a sim game today, which could lead to a quick return. Doolittle says he’s hoping to be activated during the club’s next series.
Of course, when he hit the injured list ten days ago, it seemed Doolittle was in need of a break for multiple reasons — including the knee issue that technically led to the placement. He was being called upon to rescue the Nats with unaccustomed frequency, with his performance clearly suffering.
Doolittle has mostly maintained his arm speed, but has back-slid in swinging-strike rate (from 16.8% in 2018 to 12.1%), home runs (from 0.60 to 1.73 per nine), and exit velocity (from 83.8 mph to 89.8 mph). He has already exceeded his workload from the prior two campaigns, managing only a 4.33 ERA in 52 frames.
The veteran southpaw acknowledged the wider issues in his comments. Doolittle says he has worked on cleaning up his mechanics, allowing him to “stay on top of, and behind the baseball” and to regain “extension” and “deception.” Some time away has left his arm feeling “a lot better,” as well.
That all sounds promising for the Nats, who have opened a nice Wild Card lead but will need a big final month to track down the Braves in the NL East. It’d be a huge boon down the stretch and into a hopeful postseason run if Doolittle is able to jump back into the closer’s seat and regain his 2018 form.
Good to know that you can do little and still make progress.
This is great.
So I read this this way… The Nats have been overusing Doolittle because he is the most important and valuable piece in their pen. This caused overwork, tendinitis, drop in overall performance, requiring him to go on the IL for a break, and costing him a chance to enter free agency next year.
Does he have a grievance case here? The misuse by his employers lead directly his losing his ability to increase his earnings. This is akin to the team holding him back the last few games to keep his option team-only, rather than mutual.
Aren’t teams allowed to do that?
Incompetence or mismanagement isn’t against the rules. It would have to be malicious.
True. I’m just pointing out the irony of a player being so valued by a team, he gets broken, leading to his personal ability to take advantage of that value to decrease. If that makes sense. Just too bad this is happening to such a good dude.
He’s got a club option for 2020. Unless he’s broken, he’ll be back w the Nats
I’m surprised nobody has brought up the fact that pretty much most teams have bullpen and pitching issues. I would attribute this to be an effect of the juiced baseball. Flyball pitchers are now giving up a ton of homeruns. Less margin for error with pitching now more than ever.
It’s cause of fossil fuels
Vandals Took The Handles
It’s not the juiced baseball……
It’s that literally every single batter is now working counts by hitting endless foul balls. Starting pitchers are usually only allowed somewhere between 90-115 pitches per game. The result is that only TOR pitchers make it through 7 innings some of the time, usually make it through 6, and often less then that. Other starters don’t even make it that far.
So teams have to carry 13 pitchers to pack their bullpens, meaning that all teams now have at least one position player that can play multiple positions as their benches are so short. Unfortunately, there aren’t enough decent relief pitchers around to stock major league bullpens, so teams are calling up and sending down pitchers from the high minors multiple times a week, as well as putting them on the IL. Most back-end bullpen guys are running out of steam from being used too much.
Games are no longer decided by highly-paid starters or “superstar” (every team is now said to have at least 2 or 3) position players – games are decided by the bullpens….particularly those that bridge from the starter to the closer.
This is not good for the sport. But that’s what happened when a bunch of Business and Law majors took over the teams and based their teams actions and style of play on analytics.