On Sunday, the Dodgers officially announced the signing of reliever Blake Treinen to a one-year deal.
The Los Angeles Dodgers today signed right-handed pitcher Blake Treinen to a one-year contract. pic.twitter.com/6chFFO6dHY
— Los Angeles Dodgers (@Dodgers) December 15, 2019
For those unfamiliar with Treinen, you surely heard his name at some point in 2018, when he posted arguably one of the best seasons for a reliever in baseball history. However, in 2019, he fell off a cliff.
|Treinen (2018)||Treinen (2019)|
Clearly, the discrepancy between these two sets of numbers are staggering. Those who follow baseball closely are aware that relievers are volatile and their year-to-year value changes often, but rarely do we see a drop-off as large as this.
Of course, the Dodgers signed Treinen with the intent of getting the 2018 version, but what exactly went wrong last season and what do the Dodgers need to fix to allow Treinen to break out again?
Let’s take a look.
When looking at Treinen’s numbers last season it’s important to note he wasn’t quite pitching at full health. He battled a shoulder strain in June which kept him out for several weeks. Eventually, he went down in September with a stress reaction in his back.
Treinen says he’s had the back issue a little more than three weeks. He thought he could pitch through it, thought just regular sort of back soreness but MRI showed stress reaction.
— Susan Slusser (@susanslusser) September 18, 2019
Both of these injuries are difficult to pitch with as a hard-throwing reliever, and predictably his velocity took a dip.
Even with this velocity decline, Treinen was still throwing hard, averaging just shy of 96 MPH on his fastball. There is a different facet of Treinen’s game where his injuries may have taken a more significant toll.
On the left is Treinen’s sinker location in 2018, on the right is 2019.
While not entirely far off, his primary pitch was clearly finding the zone better two years ago. This is also illustrated in his walk rate, which jumped from 6.7% to 13.9%.
Wild command is usually just dismissed by uttering the broad term “mechanical issue”, but in Treinen’s case, there’s a clear cause.
This is Treinen’s average horizontal movement each month for the past two seasons. The trend is pretty linear: as time went on, so did the movement on his two fastballs. As a general rule, more movement is good, but Treinen essentially outdid himself. By continuing to add movement to what was already working, he couldn’t command what he was surplussing and his attempt to improve himself backfired.
The average horizontal movement of about -3.5 inches worked terrific in 2018, and when Treinen tried to double that to -6.0 and -7.0, things went off the rails. Surely, new Dodgers pitching coach Mark Prior will look to bring Treinen back to what made him so successful in 2018: less movement, more command.
Blake Treinen, a pair of Wicked 97mph Sinkers. ? pic.twitter.com/VyQAgxVlpa
— Rob Friedman (@PitchingNinja) August 31, 2019
At the end of the day, Treinen is a high-upside, low-risk signing that can only benefit the Dodgers. While Treinen probably isn’t as good as his 2018, he definitely isn’t as bad as his 2019. Realistically, with a full season of health, Treinen can solidify himself as a nightmare against right-handed batters and reliable bridge to Kenley Jansen.