Blake Treinen is a great high-leverage reliever. This was a well established fact even as the Oakland A’s let him go after a 2019 season that was as much of an outlier as his previous campaign, only on the other side of that spectrum. That move said more about the Athletics tight budget and thus the absence of any wiggle room than anything else.
The Dodgers saw an opportunity and they took advantage of it; as we’ve now seen, it doesn’t always pan out, but for a ballclub with the largest budget in the sport it’s a gamble worth taking (after all, you cannot underestimate the importance of trustable relievers in October).
After a successful season under a one year deal, Andrew Friedman rewarded Blake Treinen with a 2 year, $17 million deal that also contains a club option for 2023.
It’s still early in 2021, but it appears as though Blake Treinen has made an adjustment and for all intents and purposes it seems like it’s working.
Take a look at these two at pitches:
Two strikeouts against Fernando Tatis Jr., both on the slider: one during last year’s NLDS and the other during a four-game set between these two ball clubs in Los Angeles this season. The difference is clear.
After hovering around from 3 to 5 inches of break on the slider since his debut as a Washington National, Treinen has improved that number by roughly 400%. Looking at his final number (14.8 inches) Treinen is still only number 29 in all of baseball in this measure, but given that his slider is significantly faster than literally everyone ahead of him that’s not as much of a hindrance as it seems.
Because not every pitch is the same speed, you have to account for that when analyzing movement. That’s why we have horizontal movement vs AVG and horizontal movement % break vs AVG. Where does Treienen rank in those two categories?
Vs AVG: 3rd (10.8)
% Beak vs AVG 1st by a mile (.279) (Next closest is Dillon Maples (.212))
It must be stressed that this is still a small sample size, but it’s one thing to talk about that when you’re looking exclusively at results and that’s not what we’re doing here; in fact, we haven’t even gotten to that part yet. This is about the change in the pitch itself; now let’s see the results.
Treinen has thrown 74 sliders so far in 2021, the opposition is 1 for 23 against the pitch with 15 strikeouts and a 50.0 Whiff%. The xwOBA is a mere .132 on the pitch, so it’s hard to see things getting much better for opposing hitters.
That’s not the only change that we’ve seen so far. Treinen is really staying off the sinker against left handed hitters and focusing primarily on the cutter and slider as you can see down below
That was the trend for his career up until last year, but given the shortness of the season we shouldn’t put too much stock into that.
These changes have put Treinen on the red in basically every percentile ranking for the 2021 season including significant increases from where he was last year:
23rd to 75th percentile in Whiff%
33rd to 81st percentile in K%
All of this has been instrumental in helping Treinen navigate some truly horrendous batted ball luck so far: his BABIP is a whopping .364, way above his career number (.306) and higher than is to be expected for a pitcher that’s in the 99th percentile in both Average Exit Velocity and HardHit% (it goes without saying that those two go hand in hand).
LAD fans should be really excited about the back end of that bullpen with both Kenley Jansen and a revitalized Blake Treinen moving forward.