While Sean Doolittle was already an All-Star when he joined the Nationals, he’ll leave town with something on his finger he didn’t come with. A ring.
A big fish in a small pond is what Sean Doolittle had become in Oakland. This was nothing new for a franchise who developed players and sold them off before the player was able to walk away on their own. Doolittle was an up and coming left-hander, being groomed for the closer’s role, who signed a five year contract extension worth $10.5M early in his career. Either a gamble on an unproven player, or a team friendly contract which pays incredible dividends was what the A’s were getting into. The contract paid out alright, just not for the A’s.
During the season Doolittle signed his contract extension, he was selected to the All-Star Game, and finished the season with 22 saves and 12.8 strikeouts per nine innings. A partial tear in his rotator cuff sidelined Doolittle for a good portion of the 2015 season and Ryan Madson served as the closer for the 2016 season.
Both ’15 and ’16 ended with the A’s in last place of the division and as the 2017 season went on, the trend was continuing. Always in need of bullpen help, the Washington Nationals put together a package headlined by Jesus Luzardo, and acquired both Doolittle and Madson in an attempt to bolster the relief unit.
Doolittle took over immediately as the ninth inning guy, replacing Matt Grace as the closer (Grace had nailed the previous two save opportunities, though all told, ten Nationals other than Doolittle would record a save in 2017). He would go on to save 21/22 opportunities in the regular season and pitch three shutout innings, saving one game, in the NLDS loss to the Chicago Cubs.
Improving upon his numbers, Doolittle would earn an All-Star selection in 2018, and finish the year saving 25 games with a 1.60 ERA.
The World Series year of 2019 is where Sean Doolittle would earn his stripes for the Nationals. A constantly revolving door in the bullpen saw Doolittle take the mound 63 times (second most on the team), finishing a league high 55 games. He was one of the few arms manager Davey Martinez trusted, and the overuse wore on him as the year went on.
Knee tendinitis late in the season would send Doolittle to the injured list and he would cede full-time control of the closer’s role to Daniel Hudson. Doo would appear in nine games during the postseason and record two saves, one coming in Game 1 of the World Series.
Sean Doolittle was a World Champion, and regardless of oblique strains, blown saves, and lack in clarity of his role the following season, he’ll always be remembered as such by Nationals fans.