It is impressive to see the respect Nationals closer Sean Doolittle gets on a national stage. The latest MLB.com list of the top relievers in the game on the “Right Now!” segment has him at No. 2 behind currently unsigned free agent Craig Kimbrel.
1. Craig Kimbrel, Free Agent
2. Sean Doolittle, Washington Nationals
3. Josh Hader, Milwaukee Brewers
4. Edwin Díaz, New York Mets
5. Blake Treinen, Oakland Athletics
6. Felipe Vázquez, Pittsburgh Pirates
7. Chad Green, New York Yankees
8. Aroldis Chapman, New York Yankees
9. José Leclerc, Texas Rangers
10. Brandon Morrow, Chicago Cubs
MLB Network analyst and former major leaguer Dan Plesac said of Doolittle: “I think he’s a prime example of guys that have learned how to go against launch angle, that uppercut swing. He’s throwing that fastball up in the zone, the guys try to get on top and elevate, and they just can’t seem to get to it.
“Down in the zone early, getting strike one, strike two and with two strikes. (He also can go) ... up in the strike zone, riding that four-seam fastball. It looks good to hit, but it’s hard to center and hard to put in play. He’s turned himself again, back into a dominant reliever in baseball.”
It’s also very good to see former Nats reliever Blake Treinen on this list at No. 5. The Yankees have two in the top 10 at No. 7 and No. 8. Doolittle is the only National League East closer on this list. He has 49 combined saves the last two seasons.
And with his toe injury slowing him down, Doolittle appeared in only 43 games in 2018, down from 53 in 2017 when he split time between the A’s and Nats. When the Nats needed him to solidify the back of their bullpen during their attempt to catch the Braves, they did not have Doolittle - and that made a huge difference. When he was available to pitch last season, he put together a 3-3 record with a 1.60 ERA.
The rest of the bullpen is far from a guarantee, but if Doolittle can return to form in 2019, that will go a long way to pairing up with their starting pitching in a quest to return to the top of the division.