Player Preview: Blake Treinen

Who is Blake Treinen? 

Earlier this offseason, the 27-year-old right-hander joined the likes of Major League Baseball Hall of Famers in a rare category for athletes – a Jeopardy category, that is. 

Recognized for the velocity of his sinker – which, as the clue stated, has been known to hit the 100 MPH mark – Treinen’s name has been tossed around a bit this offseason as a possibility to fill a hole in the starting rotation.  Recently, however, that has looked less and less likely, as manager Dusty Baker has all but declared Treinen will start the season out of the bullpen.

Setting aside what the current starting rotation might be, there are a number of reasons Washington should delay any moves to transition Treinen to a starting role. 

For one, Treinen has notoriously struggled against lefty batters. So much so that, last year, righties batted just .209 against him, while lefties had a completely different experience – batting .337. 

Secondly, Treinen still needs to refine a secondary pitch. While he has reportedly done some work with his change-up this spring, it’s likely he can’t be considered a real contender for a starting role until he proves he can add the pitch to his repertoire. Additionally, Treinen’s mid-80s slider has carried more promise against lefty batters than his lightning-fast sinker.

And such raises the third point. The fact that Treinen can hit 98, 99, or higher with his sinker matters little if batters are still following the ball. In fact, one might argue that the speed at which Treinen fires his sinker has actually helped lefty batters produce with minimal contact.

Nevertheless, Treinen’s overall line last year was par for the course – 3.86 ERA through 67.2 IP. He allowed 29 earned runs and four homers while walking 32 and striking out 65. 

Those numbers were largely impacted by performances such as his July 19th outing against the L.A. Dodgers, during which he retired just one of seven batters faced. After starting the ninth down one run, Treinen got absolutely rocked with five hits, a walk, and four earned runs.  

On the bright side, it was essentially his messiest stint of the season. He suffered through some shaky outings against the New York Mets and Baltimore Orioles in September, when basically everything that could go wrong for Nats’ pitching had gone wrong. But, there is little reason to rule out the possibility of Treinen bouncing back with improved numbers in 2016.

If Treinen really can diversify his pitching arsenal – and in such a way that doesn’t evolve throwing erratic change-ups and sinkers to lefties – his heat could still be valuable. 

As much as Nats fans will want to avoid any further discussion of the injury bug, a new breakout in the 2016 season could feasibly reopen discussion of Treinen in a starter role. But, it’s still somewhat of a long shot, at least until Treinen shows greater consistency pitching to both sides of the plate. 

Maybe he simply needs more mileage but, consequently, he’ll need to upgrade his other pitches as batters grow more familiar with the flame-thrower.

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