Blake Treinen entered into the 2015 season having only made 16 appearances as a September call up last year and the Washington Nationals hoped this would be his breakout year. It is no secret that Treinen has electric stuff. He can touch 98 on his sinking fastball with a ridiculous amount of movement and his slider is almost unhittable when he has it working. Blake, like the rest of his teammates, did not live up to the expectations for his 2015 season, but he has a bright future and he should be a key part of the Nationals bullpen heading into next season.
Treinen appeared in 60 games this year, with 67.2 IP, a 3.86 ERA and a 2-5 record. Not steller numbers, but when you dig a bit deeper, it seems that Blake is masterful against right-handed hitters and is just plain awful against lefties.
His slash line against righties is .249/.311/.402, which is around Dallas Keuchel territory against righties. That is pretty good company, but his slash against lefties puts him towards the bottom of the league at .336/.425/.509. Treinen has to be able to face left-handed batters if he is going to succeed in this league. The good news for Blake, and the Nationals, is his numbers are so good against righties that even league average against lefties would make Blake Treinen a phenomenal reliever.
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Part of his success comes from his great sinker and his ability to induce ground-ball outs. His ground ball rate is 62.7%, which ranks him in the top ten among qualified relievers. The flip side of that is coin is if he is reliant on the fielding behind him and, to some extent, blind luck to have those grounders find gloves. This year, Blake may have been a bit unlucky with a .328 BABIP, which ranks in the top 20 for all relievers. Next year, that number will probably regress to the mean a bit more and you will see his overall numbers drop a tick.
Blake’s other achilles heel has been his control. He often doesn’t know where that sinker is going to end up and that causes a higher than average walk rate, at 4.26 BB/9, and a lot of hitter’s counts as he falls behind. It doesn’t matter if you are spitting 98 if a hitter knows it is coming. Blake still hasn’t developed a reliable third pitch, which allows Major League hitters to hit the fastball.
I am a big Blake Treinen fan. I think he has shown flashes of brilliance this year and can be an effective reliever at this level, and, worst case, he is a right-handed relief specialist who the Nats can use him in specialized situations to produce ground-ball outs. But, I think he has a bright future with this team. Look for a better year next year from Treinen as his numbers improve with a bit more luck and he plays a key role in middle relief for the Washington Nationals.