In 2018 during his time with the Oakland Athletics, the team which drafted him in the seventh round of the 2011 MLB Draft, Blake Treinen pieced together one of the greatest relief pitching seasons in the history of Major League Baseball. Treinen posted a 0.78 earned run average over 80.1 innings pitched in 2018, which is the lowest ERA of a pitcher to throw at least 80 innings since 1871. Treinen was awarded an all-star game appearance and a top-fifteen finish in American League Most Valuable Player Award voting.
Entering 2019, Treinen had high expectations from fans and analysts to repeat his historic 2018 performance. However, compounding a career-worst walk rate, a 4.91 ERA, and an IL stint in late June due to a shoulder injury, Treinen eventually lost his closing job in Oakland to Liam Hendriks, who would eventually go on to be named a member of MLB’s inaugural All-MLB second team in 2019.
On December 11th of 2019, Blake Treinen signed a one-year deal with the Los Angeles Dodgers worth $10M, joining forces with MLB’s highest-paid relief pitcher by cash earnings, Kenley Jansen. The market for Treinen certainly would have been more active if not for his disappointing 2019 performance, but his deal with L.A. has given him a chance to reestablish his worth in free agency this upcoming winter.
So far this season, despite recording zero saves due to his position in the Dodgers’ heavily stacked bullpen, Blake Treinen has looked far better in his relief appearances than he did a year ago. Below is a table giving a side-by-side look at Treinen’s numbers this season compared to last season.
|2019 Blake Treinen||2020 Blake Treinen|
|EV||88.0 MPH||87.6 MPH|
An interesting change Treinen has made while transitioning from 2019 to 2020 is a significant drop in four-seam fastball usage, which is down 11.5% from where it was a year ago. Last season, opposing hitters slugged .472 against Treinen’s four-seam fastball. So far in 2020, not a single hit has been recorded against Treinen when using his four-seamer.
Despite ranking in just the 14th percentile for walk rate in 2020, Treinen has only surrendered two earned runs in his 13.0 innings pitched thus far. The key contributor to keeping his earned run total as low as it has been this season is Treinen’s elite ability to force hitters into making playable contact, otherwise known as avoiding barrels. In 2019, Treinen allowed a career-high 13 barrels, which has been followed in 2020 by allowing no barrels.
Due to the pandemic-shortened 60-game season, Treinen’s sample sizes surely will not reach equivalency with that of 2019. However, seeing Treinen make easy work of opposing hitters and keep runs off the board, even in a small sample such as this, is encouraging and should bode well for the Dodgers as they attempt to end their World Series drought and hoist the Commissioner’s Trophy for the first time since 1988.
Featured Photo: Jon SooHoo/Los Angeles Dodgers