Kyle Finnegan Deserves More Respect

It is hard to knock a guy like Kyle Finnegan who will always take the ball no matter what, but Finnegan still does not get the credit he deserves.
Toronto Blue Jays v Washington Nationals
Toronto Blue Jays v Washington Nationals / Mitchell Layton/GettyImages

The life of a big leaguer. After being a 6th-round pick out of Texas State by the Oakland Athletics in 2013, Kyle Finnegan was a journeyman minor leaguer from 2013-2019. In 7 seasons he compiled a 4.03 ERA in 232 games, making 63 starts with 443 strikeouts and 207 walks in 529 innings. The Athletics had some successful stretches during that period, but for a small market ballclub that had its struggles, it's shocking that Finnegan never got a shot, especially after a monster 2019 season between double and triple-A. 

In 42 games for the Oakland Athletics minor league system in 2019, Finnegan had a 2.31 ERA, throwing 50 2/3 innings with 72 strikeouts and only 3 home runs allowed with 14 saves. Finnegan was establishing himself as a dominant reliever, entering the offseason as a minor league free agent as a 27-year-old who had never broken the big leagues. In December 2019, he finally got his shot, signing a major league contract with the Washington Nationals. 

After a dominant World Series run was achieved with an awful bullpen, the Nats knew they needed more relief arms heading into 2020, signing Will Harris, re-signing Daniel Hudson, trading for reliever Rhyne Harper, and re-signing Javy Guerra to a minor league deal. After Anthony Rendon left and with the news of Stephen Strasburg to the infamous monster 7-year deal, it was easy to forget about the Kyle Finnegan signing. Now it seems for most people it's just as easy to forget how good Kyle Finnegan has been since. 

With little to no expectations entering 2020, Finnegan became a primary back-of-the-bullpen arm, utilizing the splitter to get out of jams, pitching to a 2.92 ERA in 24 2/3 innings, with 27 strikeouts and a 154 ERA+. Finnegan continued his success into 2021, appearing in 68 games to the tune of a 3.55 ERA, getting 11 saves and 68 strikeouts. He continued this success into 2022 and then did it once again in 2023. 

His ERA in all four of his first major league seasons never eclipsed 4, with his career high of an ERA being 3.76 in 2023, and the career low of 2.92 in 2020. Finnegan racked up 50 saves, with a 3.53 ERA, and 228 strikeouts in 226 2/3 innings from 2020-2023. Outside of a blowup outing vs the Rays where he allowed 5 runs at the beginning of 2023, Finnegan was one of the most dominant relievers in baseball from May until the end of the season. 

To begin the 2024 season, Finnegann blew a pivotal save opportunity in Cincinnati which would have won the Nationals the series, allowing back-to-back home runs for a walk-off loss. Since then, he's been untouchable. 

Finnegan has implemented the sinker along with his revamped slider to get off to the best start of his career through his 15 games thus far, racking up a National League-leading 11 saves, with 14 strikeouts and 7 walks allowing only the 2 home runs allowed vs Cincinnati in his only blown save. His ERA is currently at 1.88, with a 217 ERA+. 

It's hard to believe it is already his 5th season in Washington, and how easily Nats fans will ridicule him the second he messes up. Finnegan is as solid as they come, and will always take the ball when asked. He has only been placed on the IL once, a 2-week stint in 2021 due to a hamstring issue, he has served as the setup man, a middle reliever, and now a dominant closer. Finnegan will never be a top reliever in baseball and is not even the best relief pitcher on the Nationals behind Hunter Harvey, but he deserves a lot more respect than he receives.