September 21, 2019

Treinen sent to minors because team doesn’t know how to use him

The Washington Nationals sent struggling right-handed reliever Blake Treinen to AAA-Syracuse and recalled fellow righty Abel de los Santos from AA-Harrisburg to make his MLB debut. de los Santos was acquired (along with SS Chris Bostick) in the Ross Detwiler trade with the Texas Rangers. Detwiler, meanwhile, was DFA’d by the Rangers two weeks ago and has resurfaced with the Atlanta Braves.

But we digress.

The Nats are sending Treinen down to Triple-A with the hope that he can reduce his walks and figure out how to get lefties out. The big problem with that is his age. He’s 27, and whatever he is as a pitcher is pretty much cemented by now. Players in the physical prime of their careers are who they are. It’s up to the team to put him in positions to succeed, and the Nats — to this point in Treinen’s career — have been pretty poor at it.

Treinen has pitched to a 4.39 ERA and 1.561 WHIP this season, getting hit at an overall clip at .276/.363/.378 in 180 plate appearances against. That’s solidly mediocre taken at first blush. He’s given up two home runs and 21 walks in 41 innings pitched. The first number (HR) is very, very good. The second number, not so much.

It’s when we dig deeper that we see the problem in his utilization.

Treinen has been exceptional (and I don’t use that word lightly) against right handed batters, limiting those hitters to a .205/.300/.244 slash line. Look again: the type of batter most prevalent in baseball slugs .244 against Treinen this season. For his career, righties hit .223/.303/.251, so this year’s no fluke. If you’ve got a right-handed batter up in a high leverage situation, you want Treinen to face him.

ON THE OTHER HAND (see what I did there?):

In his career, Treinen allows lefties to hit .341/.396/.466 against him in a statistically equal number of plate appearances as righties (202 career PAs against righties/192 PAs against lefties). That’s “Barry Bonds in the prime of his career” numbers. His numbers this year are even worse at .346/.427/.513, meaning with scouting other teams have figured him out. His BABiP to lefties this season is .413. That’s no joke. He ain’t fooling anyone.

If I can look up these numbers, you can bet the Nats can too.

What if boils down to is this: Treinen has a big league arm, and can get right-handed batters out with the best of any short relievers. What he can’t do is get lefties out. At all. The Nats can send Treinen down to Syracuse and wait for him to figure it out (he won’t, and likely waste any remaining value to his career) or they can admit what he is and utilize him at the big league level in situations that will put him in a position to succeed.

The question is thus: Can the Nats afford to carry a ROOGY (Right-handed One Out Guy) in the current iteration of the bullpen? Now, there are more right-handed batters than left, so he’s more useful than that.

But in no way should he be sent into a one-run game with the reasonable expectation that he’d face very good left-handed hitting batters in two of the first four batters he’d face, exactly what he was tasked with in Sunday’s ninth inning debacle.

That’s not putting the player into a position he can succeed. That’s dooming him to utter failure. And it’s not the player’s fault.

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