Doolittle joins Nats' staff as pitching strategist

Sean Doolittle surely had no shortage of options when deciding what to do first in his post-playing career. The 37-year-old reliever, who retired from the Nationals in September after a knee injury prevented him from returning from the elbow procedure he underwent the previous season, could do just about anything he wanted.

Broadcaster? Sure, he has the knowledge and the personality. Coach? Absolutely, he has always enjoyed imparting his wisdom on teammates. Community relations representative? Most definitely, given his longstanding passion for making a difference off the field in a number of important areas. Mayor of Washington? Well, even though it was the running joke on his retirement day, Doolittle was quick to shoot down that notion. Grateful Dead roadie? Don’t tempt him.

He may wind up doing any or all of those things during the remainder of his time on Earth, or something completely different nobody has thought of yet. For his first post-retirement act, though, Doolittle has decided to stick around Nationals Park and offer the organization something it hasn’t had before: a hybrid coach/analytics guru.

The Nats announced Tuesday they’ve hired Doolittle to be their pitching strategist, a newly created position that will allow the lefty to work directly with pitchers, the coaching staff and the front office in an attempt to bring out the best in all of them.

According to the club’s press release, Doolittle will serve “as a liaison between the analytics department and pitching staff, while assisting the manager and pitching coach with strategy, mental preparation and mechanics.”

In practical terms, Doolittle will meet with the Nationals’ analytics staff on a regular basis, then take the information he gleans from that group and convey it to the coaching staff and pitchers in a way that simplifies everything and allows them to implement it in that evening’s ballgame.

“Sean Doolittle was always an extremely talented pitcher, but he is also one of the most intelligent baseball minds you can find,” general manager Mike Rizzo said. “We’re incredibly excited to have him on our staff to help guide our talented group of young pitchers.”

Doolittle’s role is not unlike another former Nationals pitcher has held the last four years with the Diamondbacks: Dan Haren. Haren is Arizona’s pitching strategist, and the right-hander was given significant credit for his role in helping that young team reach the World Series last season.

It makes plenty of sense for both the Nats (who are trying to implement more analytics into their daily game prep) and for Doolittle (who didn’t want to leave the sport entirely and certainly didn’t want to leave Washington).

Though he spent more time (six seasons vs. five seasons) and pitching in more games (254 to 153) for the Athletics than the Nationals, Doolittle’s connection to the Nats and this city is forever. He immediately endeared himself to the organization and fans alike upon his arrival after a July 2017 trade with the A’s, and that bond only grew stronger over the rest of his career.

Of the 22 relievers who have thrown at least 100 innings for the Nationals since 2005, Doolittle ranks fourth in ERA (2.92), first in WHIP (1.007), third in strikeouts per nine innings (10.3), first in strikeout-to-walk ratio (5.12) and third in saves (75).

And he delivered on the big stage as well as anyone else who has worn a curly W cap: In 12 postseason appearances for the Nats, he sported a 1.35 ERA, 0.600 WHIP, 12 strikeouts, one walk and zero blown leads, culminating with a dominant performance during the team’s championship run in October 2019.

Now he’ll try to impart what he learned along the way to a new generation of Nationals pitchers, hoping they might have the opportunity to shine on the same big stage in the near future.

“I can’t thank the Lerner family, Mike Rizzo and Davey Martinez enough for all they’ve done for me and my family,” Doolittle said. “I love the Nationals and Washington D.C. and look forward to this new challenge while remaining an active member of an organization that means so much to me.”

Friday morning Nats Q&A
Nats hope they found future stars in large interna...

By accepting you will be accessing a service provided by a third-party external to