Let’s talk about two relievers.
Last season, Koji Uehara was a good if not spectacular reliever who joined the Boston Red Sox. He was not the first choice to be the closer. They brought in Joel Hanrahan to be the closer. Boston also had Andrew Bailey. But a combination of injuries and inconsistencies gave Uehara a shot. He responded with an epic season, one that saw Uehara emerge as a difference making reliever. He became unhittable and the Red Sox rode that wave all the way to the World Series.
Fast forward to 2014 and a similar scenario is unfolding in the East Bay.
Sean Doolittle began 2014 as a solid reliever and one who gave the A’s much needed bullpen depth. With the loss of Grant Balfour to free agency, the A’s imported Jim Johnson to close, similar to Boston’s trade of Hanrahan.
But Johnson struggled and manager Bob Melvin turned to a closer by committee of right hander Luke Gregerson and the lefty Doolittle. And while Gregerson pitched well, and still has an ERA of 1.96 with three saves, Doolittle responded by not only taking over the closer role, but has put up jaw dropping numbers that should earn him a spot on the All Star Team.
This is not simply a tally of his saves. Each team has a pitcher that piles up the saves if they can hold a 3 run lead in the 9th. But Doolittle has pitched at a level where it almost doesn’t seem fair to the opposing hitters.
A former first base prospect who turned to pitching while recovering from injuries in the minors, Doolittle has walked a single batter the entire season. One damn batter. In case you are wondering, it was Tampa’s Ryan Hanigan who walked with 2 out and nobody on in the 9th of an A’s 3-0 win.
After today’s win against Texas, he currently has 48 strikeouts in 34 innings. Because he still is on that single walk, Doolittle has the easiest strikeout to walk ratio to figure out in baseball. A 48 to 1 strikeout to walk ratio is unheard of. Ashley Hagewood of Fansided pointed out in an article that that ratio would be the greatest a reliever ever had in history if he could keep it going.
Ever. Name any reliever you want. He would beat that pitcher by a wide margin.
Doolittle has allowed 2 homers all season and one was by Mike Trout. There is no shame in surrendering a long ball to the best player in the game.
And as eye popping as Doolittle’s numbers are, plus his converting 9 out of 10 save chances and an ERA of 2.12, they are even better on closer examination.
On April 26, he had a bad game against Houston, letting up 4 hits and all of them came around to score. His ERA ballooned to 6.17.
He has not let up a run since. He has let up 6 hits, 1 walk and struck out 35 in 22 1/3 innings.
Take out the one appearance against Houston and his ERA would be 1.05.
And pay attention to the fact that Doolittle is on a streak of 22 1/3 shutout innings. The record is 59 by Orel Hershiser. Does he have 37 straight more in him?
So like the Red Sox with Uehara, the A’s have stumbled across a dominant force in the bullpen. And keep in mind each of the last three World Series and 5 of the last 9 Series were clinched by pitchers who did not begin the season as the team’s closer.
The A’s are currently the best team in baseball, so they should be well represented in Target Field this July. Make sure Sean Doolittle makes the trip.
It has been quite a year for Doolittle who has made the leap from set up man to closer and inked a lucrative contract extension along the way. What has been the difference?
I can not say for sure, but I DO know that since he was a guest on my podcast in the fall, his numbers have been through the roof.
I am not saying it is BECAUSE of my podcast, but other big leaguers should take the chance and join the show. Maybe you can be the next Sean Doolittle.
Enjoy Sean’s two appearances on the show…
November 11th, 2013
And November 12th, 2013