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Potential Twins Bullpen Target: Sean Doolittle, LHP, Nationals

Each passing day that goes by gives us another opportunity to see that the Minnesota Twins bullpen could use some help. Trevor May picked up his first save of the season last night as Taylor Rogers was on the shelf. Needing the back-end guys to get a break, acquiring a quality upgrade is a must for the front office. Today’s target is Nationals closer Sean Doolittle.
Image courtesy of © Orlando Ramirez-USA TODAY Sports
*You're going to see a lot of speculation and analysis on potential bullpen additions at the site over the coming weeks. Cody led things off earlier this week with a great overview of 10 potential trade targets. We'll continue to explore the reliever market by running profiles on specific pitchers each day.

Sean Doolittle, LHP, 32-years-old
Washington Nationals (31-36, 4th in NL East)
$6.5MM team option for 2020

2019: 3.58 ERA, 1.337 WHIP, 11.4 K/9, 2.3 BB/9 in 27.2 IP
2018: 1.60 ERA, 0.600 WHIP, 12.0 K/9, 1.2 BB/9 in 45.0 IP

What’s to Like?
Doolittle has been a model of consistency over the entirety of his big-league career. He’s worked as a reliever for eight years and has operated in high leverage or save situations for a vast majority of it. It remains to be seen whether the Nationals sell, but they’re certainly fighting an uphill battle in the NL East right now.

Over the course of his career Doolittle’s 2.88 ERA is paired with a 2.44 FIP. He’s been a double-digit strikeout pitcher on a yearly basis and has displayed a level of command that keeps his walks well into the manageable range.

Washington has really scuffled in 2019, especially considering their expectations, but it wasn’t the fault of Doolittle out of the gate. In his first 18 games Doolittle owned a 0.95 ERA and a 22/5 K/BB. The Nats were 15-3 in games he pitches, and he recorded six saves (against just one blown save.) Another lefty is something Baldelli could certainly use, and a hard thrower would be the ideal variety.

Concerns
There’s more here than I’d like to see for a target the Twins should have some interest in. The 2.89 FIP is fine, but the 4.48 xFIP is not a great sign. Pair that with velocity that has dropped a full mph on his fastball, and a whiff rate that’s 3% below where he was a season ago.

Doolittle started out the year on a great note as referenced above, but it’s been anything but smooth sledding since. He owns a 9.35 ERA and 1.019 OPS against in his last 8.2 IP. The 13/2 K/BB is still plenty good, but with 15 hits in that span pitches simply aren’t missing bats.



Worth mentioning is that Sean Doolittle removed the toe tap from mechanics after a protest by the Chicago Cubs. That game took place on May 18, and his next outing (May 22nd) saw him surrender four runs on two hits without recording an out against the Mets. He has a 9.45 ERA and 1.039 OPS against since that point. There could be some mechanical tweaks in order to restore him to previous form.

See Also
Kirby Yates, RHP, Padres
10 Relievers Minnesota Could Target


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14 Comments

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diehardtwinsfan
Jun 12 2019 02:50 PM

His WHIP is way up this season. He's still productive, but I'm not sure I'd give up much for him.

    • Twins33 likes this
Too many red flags with the drop in velocity, mechanical flaws, and heavy workload in the past. Pass.
    • Twins33 likes this
No.
    • ChrisKnutson likes this
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nicksaviking
Jun 12 2019 03:26 PM

I liked the fact that he had plenty of success in the AL prior to moving to the NL, so I wanted him earlier in the year, but yeah those red flags are getting to be concerning. If toe taps and velocity are his biggest issues, it does seem like Wes Johnson might be the right man to get him straightened out, but it's not like we've seen enough to do anything better than cross our fingers, so I'd look at other targets first.

 

Though I'd still probably circle back after getting someone of more significance.

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jorgenswest
Jun 12 2019 03:44 PM
He seems like an inexpensive option. I would prefer they pay up in prospects to get a better reliever.
    • diehardtwinsfan likes this
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puckstopper1
Jun 12 2019 04:22 PM

Hmmmm.We still hear about the LAST time the Twins traded for the Senator's closer!

His 2-0 record and 16 saves helped the Twins win the division in 2010.

 

If Doolittle can do that, I'm all for adding him to the pen.Another solid lefty out there would be nice.

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ChrisKnutson
Jun 12 2019 06:49 PM
Despite the value in his name, I really don’t think Doolittle would be all that expensive. I imagine he’d probably cost us both Celestino and Thorpe, at the most (more than fair, imo). And if we do happen to acquire him, I would really prefer it if he wasn’t the ‘big move’ this deadline. While I’d love to have a reliable workhorse like Doolittle, who’d compliment Rogers nicely as the 2nd lefty in our bullpen, what we really need is that shutdown guy at the backend of our bullpen, our very own Craig Kimbrel, anything more (like Stroman and or Doolittle) would be a welcomed bonus to my honest expectations of the FO.

Unfortunately, most of these dominant relief arms are either on contenders, or fringe teams like the Reds, Pirates, Mets, Padres, Cardinals, Angels, and Indians who may, or may not, even sell this summer. And if by chance that none of those teams sell, that would ultimately leave Will Smith, Tayron Guerrero, Mychal Givens, Shane Greene, Alex Colome, Jake Diekman, and Ken Giles as the best options available at this season’s trade deadline. Other than Smith, I wouldn’t bet on any of those guys being ‘sure things’ for the rest of the regular season, let alone the postseason.

I feel like he's on the IL every year.

 

I'd take him if he's not the only addition, but otherwise he seems like a risk.

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diehardtwinsfan
Jun 13 2019 05:26 AM

 

He seems like an inexpensive option. I would prefer they pay up in prospects to get a better reliever.

 

This... so much this. they have a deep system. Spend some assets and get some impact assets. No reason to putz around with more guys to fix. 

    • Tomj14 likes this

They way I look at him is he would probably be the second or third best bullpen option behind Rogers and Harper, so go get him, use a couple 10 - 20 level prospects and look for even better pitchers.

 

He seems like an inexpensive option. I would prefer they pay up in prospects to get a better reliever.

Inexpensive, only if the Nationals decide to sell non-expiring contracts.

 

Hmmmm.We still hear about the LAST time the Twins traded for the Senator's closer!

His 2-0 record and 16 saves helped the Twins win the division in 2010.

If Doolittle can do that, I'm all for adding him to the pen.

I'm not sure how much Capps really helped in 2010. Between acquiring him and clinching the division, we went 35-14, and the White Sox went 22-28. In that time, Thome hit 13 HR; Mauer batted .375; our top 5 SP had ERAs ranging from 2.09 to 3.64; the Twins accumulated 13 WAR according to Fangraphs, with Capps responsible for 0.5. His performance during that time was largely indistinguishable from that of Rauch or Crain.

 

And foreshadowing his effect on the postseason, Capps was almost a complete non-factor vs the White Sox head to head -- his 2nd save conversion vs them (after allowing a run in his first save vs. them, and blowing another save opp vs. them) came with a 3 run lead and wasn't until we were already 8 games up with only 17 to play.

 

That's not to say we don't need pen help in 2019, of course. But Capps circa 2010 may not be the best template!

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yarnivek1972
Jun 14 2019 07:37 PM
Is his wife’s name Eliza?

 

If Mauer did not have a concussion that trade would not have hurt the Twins. One cannot predict future injuries when trading to win now.And if Ramos was not traded, the Twins could have not made the post season that year.Capps was lights out.2.00 ERA and 16/18 saves.That trade worked for the Twins.Got them to the postseason.The issue was Ryan re-signing Capps for no reason afterwards when he was not that good.

 

I know you are a defender of the Capps trade, but I feel it is my sacred duty to correct this mis-information. Allow myself to quote... myself:

 

I'm not sure how much Capps really helped in 2010. Between acquiring him and clinching the division, we went 35-14, and the White Sox went 22-28. In that time, Thome hit 13 HR; Mauer batted .375; our top 5 SP had ERAs ranging from 2.09 to 3.64; the Twins accumulated 13 WAR according to Fangraphs, with Capps responsible for 0.5. His performance during that time was largely indistinguishable from that of Rauch or Crain.

 

And foreshadowing his effect on the postseason, Capps was almost a complete non-factor vs the White Sox head to head -- his 2nd save conversion vs them (after allowing a run in his first save vs. them, and blowing another save opp vs. them) came with a 3 run lead and wasn't until we were already 8 games up with only 17 to play.

 

Short version: Capps performed well for us in 2010, but was almost entirely a non-factor in the Twins beating the White Sox for the division title that year.

 

As far as Mauer/Ramos, even before the concussion, remember it was "bilateral leg weakness" that sunk Mauer's 2011 season, a season where we had contention aspirations but had to start Butera and sign catchers off the street. The Twins had the worst catcher performance in baseball in 2011 (-3.0 WAA per B-Ref, and even worse WAR) while Ramos did quite well (113 OPS+) in 435 PA for the Nationals in 2011, with zero days on the DL.

 

We were bad enough in 2011 that I don't know if even Ramos would have saved the season, but it clearly was a bigger factor than TR re-signing Capps as you complain about (Capps wasn't great but did manage 1.0 bWAR in 95 IP from 2011-2012).

    • USAFChief and 70charger like this

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