The Nationals and reliever Brad Hand officially agreed to a one-year deal this week, ending the Dodgers’ reported pursuit of the left-hander this winter. If the club is still aiming to add a lefty to the bullpen mix before the season, there’s one former All-Star LA might want to kick the tires on.
The Dodgers and Andrew Friedman love to buy-low on veteran relievers. Could free agent lefty Sean Doolittle be next?
The 34-year-old Doolittle is coming off his worst season in the majors (5.87 ERA), but could pitching coach Mark Prior and the Dodgers return him to his 2018 All-Star form?
Sean Doolittle 2020 Stats
- ERA: 5.87 (3.07 Career ERA)
- WHIP: 1.70 (0.97 Career WHIP)
- ERA+: 81 (Career 134)
- SO/9: 7.0 (Career 10.5)
- FIP: 8.28 (Career 2.79)
- Barrel%: 15.4 (Career 6.6)
- Average Fastball Velocity: 91.2 MPH (Career 94.7)
Doolittle’s 2020, no matter the statistic, was nothing short of an unmitigated disaster. His fastball velocity slipped, his strikeouts plummeted, and he struggled with control (4.7 BB/9). Doolittle’s FIP (Fielding Independent Pitching), a stat used to estimate a pitcher’s run prevention by removing the performance of the defense, skyrocketed to 8.28.
Sounds like a bargain Mr. Friedman!
However, the 2020 sample size for Doolittle is tiny – only 36 batters faced. Due to the shortened season, a knee injury, and an oblique strain, Doolittle appeared in just 11 games. After he returned from the knee injury in August, the lefty starting looking like his old self.
— Washington Nationals (@Nationals) May 29, 2019
2020 Split Stats
- Games 1-5: 15.00 ERA/1.563 OPS
- Games 6-11: 0.00 ERA/0.378 OPS
If the medicals on his right oblique check out, Doolittle could be worth at least a flyer. Not long ago, he was one of the most coveted relievers at the trade deadline. More recently, he posted a 1.79 ERA in the 2019 playoffs.
He could join Blake Treinen, J.P. Howell, and Brandon Morrow among others as relievers who rekindled their careers in Los Angeles.
Even when you’re the reigning champions, you can never have too much pitching. Including left-handed relief. This isn’t to say that Adam Kolarek, and especially Julio Urias and Victor Gonzalez, haven’t earned their salt. Side note, Scott Alexander has not. But, signing Doolittle on the cheap couldn’t hurt.
According to Spotrac, the Dodgers can spend $4.2M while still staying beneath the omnipresent Competitive Balance Tax. Doolittle has upside on a small, one-year contract in the $2-$3M range.
If 2020 is the new norm for Doolittle, the Dodgers can cut bait easily. But if 2020 was just an outlier, the Dodgers might have reeled in a surprise keeper.