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Dodgers: Could Sean Doolittle be the Latest Buy-Low Relief Option for LA?



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.

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.

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Written by Eric Eulau

Born and raised in Ventura, not "Ven-CH-ura", California. Favorite Dodger Stadium food is the old school chocolate malt with the wooden spoon. Host of The Series Sweep Podcast (@EEulau).

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  1. Interesting how injuries inhibit ones performance. And, its not just pitchers. Look at Seager two years ago. The key here is “after he came back” he looked like his old self. THAT’S what Friedman is looking at. At $2-3 mil, good risk/reward.

    The Dodgers are going over the tax threshold, however. Even on a two year deal, what you think Turner is going to be paid? Only a one-year tax as they’ll be under in 2022 even with the extensions for Seager, Buehler, Bellinger and Urias.

  2. Doolittle has used his fastball almost 89% of his pitches and the velocity has been declining in each of the last 4 seasons. I would rather have Jake McGee back, or Justin Wilson.

  3. We’ve let the top two names – the only ones in the reliever pool that still seem to be at the top of the their game – go elsewhere, maybe Doolittle is a flyer. Or maybe we just keep running Jansen out there until…..well, I don’t know until what.

  4. Why the “side note” shade on Scott Alexander? He actually had a 1.54 ERA last season before closing out a game with a 7 run lead on the last day of the season. He isn’t healthy very often, but when he is he’s been consistently decent over his career.

  5. We should have signed Hand for 1 yr $10.5. That would have fixed closer hole for a year and given Graterol more time to develop. The walking wounded aquisitions for the bullpen aren’t addressing the hole at the closer spot.

    • I thought Friedman made a mistake in not claiming Hand when Indians put him on waivers. $10M contract for claiming him on waivers.

  6. Yep. I agree. It could have been $10M right off the bat. And money well spent with no long term commitment. That’s usually what Friedman leans toward. I think he whiffed on that one.

    • How about the $20M we’re going to pay Jansen this season. Is that better? He can’t even close the door behind him when he walks into a room any more.

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