Nationals Baseball: If you hate Treinen the closer, he must stay as closer

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

If you hate Treinen the closer, he must stay as closer

Blake Treiene has been terrible.

There isn't any objective way to say any thing else. He's pitched in 8 games. He's allowed a baserunner in the last 7. He's allowed runs in half. His WHIP is a god awful 2.526. This is because he is getting hit (14.2 H/9) and he's walking guys like crazy (8.5 BB/9). He's come in for 5 save opportunities* and he's blown 2. He doesn't look like he will succeed as closer.

And yet, if you want Blake out of there you need to keep him in there. At least for now.

I know that may sound counter intuitive but let's look at the facts. Before the season started. Hell, right now, its very likely that you would say that 6.1 IP tells you nothing. You would say that 2 BS in 5 attempts is bad but not change worthy (certainly so for an established closer). You would say a closer needs at least a month to really figure out if he can hack it. You would not be wrong. Pulling Treinen now would be an admittedly quick hook.

If you pull Treinen now you set up two scenarios. The first thing you do is you set up the return. Treinen gets pulled. Kelley or Glover come in. They aren't good. Maybe they get injured. Treinen is lights out in the 7th/8th. The clamoring begins. Maybe not from fans, but from the same supporters who wanted him in the closer role in the first place. "He's got his head on straight now" "He's figured it out" "It was only 6 innings!" These aren't arguable points. Treinen would have gotten a very brief chance so a second one seems more reasonable. 

The second thing you do is you set the base amount of time you need to evaluate a closer. Whoever comes in next; Glover, Kelley or whoever, has about 8 games to not stink or else you have to make another change right? I mean you pulled your first choice after that time frame, are you saying that if one of these guys blows 2 saves and has a 5.00 ERA over 8 games that you won't pull him? Doesn't make sense. These guys enter with a clock ticking on them, ratcheting up any pressure they may feel.

The short of it is - you create a situation where if the replacement for Treinen doesn't succeed, then you've made an absolute mess out of the pen by mid May.

What would make more sense would be to let Treinen keep going. Let him have his month (or really nine more games) to be the official closer and see what happens. Most likely he'll do middling and the team will say it's time to move on, but the decision will be definitive. No one could say Treinen didn't have a fair shot, that the team stuck by him when they could have bailed. You also set-up  a situation where the next guy understands he'll get leeway. He'll have a shot that includes maybe stumbling a bit and ample time. He'll fell he has a fair shot at succeeding.

I understand the pressure to change, but it's not as if the Nats have suffered much because of Treinen the closer. They are in first place in the East 1.5 games ahead of the team they believe will most likely be a rival. Those eight games Treinen has pitched in? The Nats are 7-1 in them. I suppose you could say using Treinen in other games, in another role, may have created more success. I suppose.  But the reality is the Nats are not in panic mode. They have the leeway to let this play out as everyone thinks a closer trial should, before they are in the midst of a failing one.

Let Treinen close. Let Treinen probably fail. It's for the best.

*The Nats actually haven't had many save opportunities since the first week of the season. A lot of blowouts and ties into the 9th.


BxJaycobb said...

Harper. I understand the logic of what you're saying. But I just really disagree. There's no way if you bail on treinen that you're going to eventually have to return to him. You can try Kelley. And if for some reason you are dissatisfied with Kelley before the trade deadline I suppose u can try glover. There's no way glover AND Kelley is going to fail to the extent Treinen has and in the way Treinen has. There's just no way. It's not the number or blown saves. The number of blown saves wildly understand how bad he is. One of his "saves" he gave up 2 runs with a 3 run lead. Multiple times somebody has rescued. He basically has been a disaster every single appearance except opening day if we're being honest. And it's not that people are just stringing together hits some of which are cheap grounders and flares that are dropping. That really would be totally different. It's the walks that distinguish how heinous this has been. Nobody likes closers blowing saves by giving up hits and bombs. But it happens. But walks...lots and lots of walks...where even the ABs that don't end in walks start off 2-0 and end in a player bailing out Blake on a 3-1 inexcusable and can't go on. You say the Nats haven't been hurt by this. That should have nothing to do with it honestly. The smart move is to take advantage of the good fortune and nip this in the bad before it costs the Nats 2-3 games in standings. And you say well the Nats are up in the division. That also is irrelevant. We know this is going to be a close division race. It may be decided by a game or two. This is a guy that literally...when he NEEDS to simply throw a strike. A down the middle strike. He can't do it. Whether it's nerves or simply the return of 2014-2015 can't allow this to continue. Every game matters. And I bet you literally anything that Kelley will not walk people like this and give games away without forcing hitters to at least earn their way aboard. Maybe he will blow a bunch of saves and get hit around. Fine. I prefer it to walks, and frankly don't think he will anyway given his track record. And look. Even if he does, you can then try gloves. There's no chance a single nat fan will be clamoring for Treinen to replace BOTH of those guys. plus this guy is best used as a "we need a ground ball right now" type. It's sort of all he is good for....he doesn't get Ks and he doesn't avoid walks. Even last year. I think this whole "maybe glover and Kelley will both be as bad as Treinen within a month and you'll have nowhere to go but back to Blake!" is just really out there as a possibility.

Josh Higham said...

Couldn't agree more, as much as it pains me to hear "Treinen warming up for the 9th." The Nats are winning games in spite of him and there is nothing I want less than a Storen-ish months or years long debacle: "Oh, you're the closer! Nvm we don't trust you. JK though, you're the closer again cause everyone else sucks too. But we're replacing you ASAP. Until you're the best option again."

Josh Higham said...

I had the bad fortune to submit that comment just moments after a strong counterargument. I stand by it all the same.

BxJaycobb said...

by the way I think I should apologize for posting some egregiously long comments the last couple days. I'll keep it brief next time.

Bjd1207 said...

I think I'm with Bx (and dont worry about post length, at least as far as my vote goes lol)

If these were bad luck things then I'd be amenable to Harper's position. But like Bx outlined, there's a very apparent, correctable problem. And the Nats can easily stake Blake's "return" on that entirely. He gets moved to lower leverage situations until he brings down the walks (and like Bx also said, that when he's faced with a "must throw a strike" situation that he's able to do that) and then you can start building up the leverage again. That seems to me to be a perfectly reasonable, results driven metric to use.

And that only even matters if Kelley/Glover similarly sucks. So the only way it's a total mess is if Kelley/Glover suck and Treinen CAN"T reign in the walks. In which case I think I (and most reasonable GM's) would be looking elsewhere for another closer

Fries said...

I'm stuck somewhere in the middle of what Harper/Josh are saying and what Bx is saying. Treinen clearly isn't the closer of the future. He works best out of the zone, but when you come into the beginning of a frame, nobody's going to be chasing. You have to throw strikes. If he learns to locate the sinker at the bottom of the zone instead of outside the zone, maybe he's got a chance at sticking. But his fastball is only okay and his slider hangs like 80% of the time he throws it for a strike.

All in all I think the Nats' closer come September isn't currently on the roster (though I guess there's a chance Koda sticks. Kelley's just too fragile to trust on too regular a basis unfortunately). Stick Romero back in AAA and bring up Gott or Grace and see what they can do. As is always said on this blog, relievers are fungible. Just find the guy that sticks. I'd love to make a trade, but I don't think the Nats have the resources to bring in someone like Roberston

PhthePhillies said...

The pen is going to kill this team. I take back all the nice things I said about it in March.
There's a very real possibility that what we're going through right now with Treinen, will happen with Koda, or Blanton, or Solis, or Perez, or any one in the pen right now. I know the latter guys aren't closers but none have pitched very well.
Someone please kick me in the butt when it's safe to take my head out of the ground.

PotomacFan said...

I agree with BX and disagree with Harper (not usually the case). Treinen has been putrid. It's not simply whether he blows a save. It's the huge number of base runners that he has allowed, and the number of walks, and the fact that he has looked bad in all but one outing.

Winning games now is just as important as winning games in September. They all count the same.

But it's more than that. Twice now Kelley has had to come in to bail out Treinen. That means that Kelley is not available the next day to pitch in the 8th. There is a snow ball effect here. The entire bullpen gets out of sync because the Nats need two pitchers in the ninth, even with a freaking 3 run lead.

And there is something else. Along the lines of Rick Ankiel. This has got to be unnerving to Treinen. His psyche is getting messed up. He has great stuff and an important role to play in high leverage situations. Let's not mess up his whole career by keeping him in a role he cannot handle.

I think Dusty made it clear yesterday that a change is needed. I expect Kelley to be the Closer A, and Glover to be Closer B (if Kelley is not available because he worked the previous game or two). That kind of leaves us without an 8th inning guy, but we'll have to work around that for now.

Lou said...

Really agree with PotomacFan. The problem isn't just the hits and walks -- he's not getting three outs, resulting in burning Kelley.

I also think it has to affect the other players to know that no lead is safe. Makes those 7th and 8th innings with a 3 run lead feel a lot more high leverage than they ought to be. That can wear on a team

Sammy Kent said...

A true legend was born on Tuesday night during the game between the Washington Nationals and the Atlanta Braves. It wasn’t the legend of Max Scherzer or Freddie Freeman or Bryce Harper. It was the legend of CB Bucknor, terrible umpire.

JW said...

I actually agree with Harper about keeping Blake in the closer role a little longer. I think he's been really bad, but it is a limited sample size.

But I think Dusty last night made that almost impossible. Coming out and saying that in public only increases the pressure beyond what it already was. You almost have to do it now because Blake knows he's on borrowed time. Unless Blake mentally is a good bit stronger than anything he's shown so far in his career. It was absolutely boneheaded.

Using Kelly as the closer is not a great idea, even if he is the best pitcher in the pen. His arm won't last. Let's hope Blake can adjust to being back in the 7th and 8th and turn back into an effective reliever. Maybe you switch to using a closer-by-committee with Glover and Kelley to try to limit the number of consecutive games for Kelley. I don't know.

G Cracka X said...

Small sample size. Give the man more time. Anyone can be atrocious in 6ish innings. That's like one start for a starting pitcher

Flapjack said...

Well, as of this morning the Nats are 8-5, a 101 win pace. This is despite horribly shaky performances by practically all of the relievers -- including those whose career stats predict improvement. Small sample size and all that. I think the bullpen will improve, but the lineup's top to bottom strengths are probably real.

Treinen is a case study of the Peter Principle: he was promoted to the level of his incompetence (in this case, the inability to channel the psychic pressure of closing). If he'd performed as advertised, the Nats would have only about three losses -- the fewest in MLB (kudos to the O's, with 4). BTW, I'm happy to keep rolling him out there, so long as it's a short leash.

Generally speaking, the teams that spent heavily on their closers are not doing all that well. The Dodgers (Jansen) and Giants (Melancon) have 8 and 9 losses, respectively. The Cubbies (Davis) have 7 losses and the Yanks (Chapman) have 6. The point being that every team has its priorities and, since nothing is free, a budget. It's too soon to say Rizzo and Dusty blew it.

Anonymous said...

I think Svrluga makes a fair team-oriented point in his article that sure you risk losing Treinen's confidence if you pull him from closer duties now...but if you leave him in, you risk the confidence of the whole team. This whole situation begins and ends at managements feet. I hear what you are saying harp, but I have to agree with Svrluga and Bx.

BxJaycobb said...

Here is Svurluga's take, basically echoing what Lou said.
And respectfully, no. Not all pitchers can perform as Blake has. He has walked--what--7 people in 6 innings? What starters do that? Again, if he had merely blown like 3 of 5 saves because he's getting hit with a high BABIP and misses in the zone, that is entirely a different story. This is a guy who, for whatever reason, whether he's back to pre 2016 Blake or simply could not handle the nerves, CANNOT be dependent upon to throw strikes. That is a predictive stat/skill...not luck. And it's not that his mechanics are suddenly out of wack as a fluke. He's always been a guy who is super wild. Can't have that. One thing to note re deadline closer acquisitions....the Nats won't be giving up Robles, so the question is, who can they get for non-Robles prospects. Nobody super elite and probably nobody who is a non-rental. Not sure who that leaves....but maybe Koda will seize the opportunity.

Froggy said...

Did you see the pitchcast for Werth's AB?

They need to drug test Bucknor.

Froggy said...

Why are we worried about Treinen having a snowflake meltdown again? Really? That kind of illogic is an extension of the PC version of everyone gets a trophy.

...and what would be wrong with 'setting up his return'? Probably the best thing you could do to build his confidence would be to remove him from high leverage situations and let him focus on mechanics.

Sample size is large enough for me, pull him.

Harper said...

Anon @10:00AM - This is something I can get behind. If the clubhouse would rebel over it - you do have to pull him. In that case circumstances warrant it. However I'm not sure that's the read I get. I think Dusty wants it (he wanted GLover all along). I think the clubhouse is more having lingering anger over the failure to get a true closer (TM) during the offseason bubble over seeing the failures of now. It's not about Treinen so much and whether he closes or not isn't the issue.

Of course that's my like 3rd hand reading of it. Janes, Castillo and the column guys should know more. If they state it with conviction (Barry wasnt quite there yet) I'd have to buy it

PotomacFan said...

For discussion another day, why is Dusty leaving Werth in the game in late innings with a lead. Nats had a 3 run lead last night, and there was Werth -- the bearded statue (TM) -- out there in left field. MAT pinch hit in the 9th, and then went back to the bench.

Ole PBN said...

Its pretty simple really: Hitters who draw walks? Good. Hitters who strikeout? Pitchers who strike out a lot of hitters? Good.Bad. Pitchers who give up walks? Bad.

An old coach of mine used to say that a leadoff walk score 38% of time. Strike #1 and out #1 are the most important things for a pitcher to do. Is Blake Treinen really the best guy at getting strike 1 and a quick out? No. He falls behind every hitter, and lets the leadoff hitter on base. NEXT!

Alan Wiecking said...

I think Blake stays in the spot until at least the Mets series. I have a feeling if he were to blow one of those games, his rope is cut.


Josh Higham said...

Turns out Dusty listens to Bx, not me and Harper.

Bjd1207 said...

@PotomacFan - Yea I thought for sure Taylor was staying in after he pinch hit. Dunno

JE34 said...

Pretty small sample size for Jeremy Guthrie too... but I didn't hear much clamoring to give him another start.

They will continue to use Treinen, so he has the opportunity to rebuild some confidence. Thankfully they will get him the heck out of the 9th inning for a while.

Robot said...

So this Bryce Harper kid...I like his hustle

Froggy said...

NL Comeback PoTY Zimmerman with a grand salami.

BxJaycobb said...

Just to start another debate.... Nats should offer Bryce 10 years, 400 million, with two option years in there. It's more than his on field value (which would need to average 5 WAR over those years to justify the contract, which is a fair projection for ages 25-35 I think)....Harper enhances the value of the franchise immeasurably. Even if the Nats stop being a perennial postseason contender, as is's so hard to sustain a run like this....Harper gives the Nats exposure and appeal and national attention the way Griffey made the Mariners relevant all those years (not comparing Harper to Griffey just saying). Given how boring Trout is as a personality, I would say he and Bryant are most likely "face of baseball" types over next decade....there is almost no way to put a price on having a player like this. Again. This is beyond fact that he has a very good chance of being worth 40 million a year. Plus everybody knows the Lerners can afford it. I hope they realize the backlash from fans they would generate by not at least meeting the highest bidder. If they offer the most money and he still leaves, well nothing u can do.

Robot said...

If he goes to the Yanks, Philly, or LA, the bad will generated by the Lerners will damage the franchise for a generation.

Truth of the matter is, wherever he goes, he'll get the highest contract in history, which makes me think a team has to offer him something more than that. Most likely, that means one or more rings. If Bryce doesn't at least get close to one with the Nats as stacked as they've been since 2012, I think there's a high risk he walks (even though he could be the face of Washington baseball for forever-ish).

Dusty's Toothpick said...

The thing that is baffling to me is that there is not a holistic approach across baseball to solve the problem that is selecting a closer. To me, a baseball coach who watches, reads, and thinks way too much about baseball it is simple. Does he have the right mentality, stuff and numbers to be the closer? Mentality is the most important of those 3 things that make your 9th inning guy a closer. I feel like the writing is on the wall!!! Look at Chapman, Look at Melancon, Look at Kimbrel (when he was KIMBREL), and of coure Mariano. Those guys have/had a swagger about them when they take the mound. These guys are not just arms, they are a walking holistic shutdown machines that must give the batter in the box a doubt in there mind and that the D behind them has a chance to win.

I called into Nats talk and I basically explained to Mike and Phil the closer needs to be the guy who could win (or get into) a bar fight. Treinen is at church while Glover/Kelley would be out late in bar fights. There is nothing wrong with church and I'm not advocating for idiotic bar fights but it's just a "barometer" that I use to measure up a closer. The numbers and stuff has to be there but I am calling it right now, Blake Treinen will never be a closer in the MLB. He is much better suited to a 7th/8th guy that you use when you really need a DP. A rally killer, for that he is good. Harper, you make an excellent point on his sample size, and record but did those outings feel particularity good? They didn't to me and it just seemed like he was always going to spoil a great game played by the rest of the team. I think it is wise that Dusty didn't name either guy yet.

Enny Romero throws gas.....a little better last night?.....Harper I would like to hear your thoughts on him as he is just so wild and almost shattered some jaws last night but seemed less terrible than usual.