Throughout the first month of the season, Sean Doolittle seemed lost on the mound, but it looks like the doctor has finally found himself
Sean Doolittle arrived in D.C. at the 2017 trade deadline and immediately locked down the closer role. Since that trade, Sean Doolittle is eighth in the league in saves and has bailed the team out of countless jams.
It wasn’t until last season that he started to show signs of wear and tear due to overuse. He threw 60 innings last season which was the most for him since 2014 and 20 innings over his average of 39.5. The team’s bullpen was a dumpster fire and Doolittle was the only consistent option. Due to this, he was handed the ball way more than anyone would have liked and his body wore out as a result. By August 18, he was placed on the IL when his body started to fall apart. The extended rest played dividends for the veteran and he was able to return in time for the team’s World Series run. He finished 2019, 6-5, with a 4.05 ERA, and 66 strikeouts, while recording 29 saves in 35 opportunities. In the playoffs, Doolittle returned to form and in nine games, went 0-0, with a 1.74 ERA, and eight strikeouts, while going 2 for 2 in save opportunities.
After the season was delayed due to COVID, there was hope that the extended rest would benefit Doolittle and give him enough time to recuperate for the 2020 season. Instead, at Spring Training, Doolittle’s velocity on his fastball was down from 93.5 in 2019 to 89 and that was just the beginning. Through his first five appearances, Doolittle had a 15.00 ERA and was placed on the IL. He returned in late August and has made five appearances since then. The IL trip was beneficial for Doolittle because since making his return he has yet to allow a run. He has retired the last seven batters he’s faced and finally looks like the Doolittle of old. In fact, in his last outing, his velocity was up to 92.
While the Nat’s are very unlikely to reach the playoffs at this point, having the doctor back at full strength is wonderful news for the bullpen moving forward.