Monday, July 26, 2021

Washington Nationals Player Profile: Sean Doolittle

Sean Doolittle is an American professional baseball pitcher for the Washington Nationals of Major League Baseball. He previously played for the Oakland Athletics. The Athletics selected Doolittle in the first round in the 2007 MLB draft, as a first baseman and outfielder.

Welcome To The Law Firm Of Kintzler, Doolittle, And Madson.

Let’s rewind the tape a bit and go back to the 2017 Washington Nationals season, right before the trade deadline. The Washington Nationals were in playoff contention, making them a “buyer” during the trading deadline. When the Nationals were missing, the one piece of the puzzle was what the pitching staff would look like towards the bullpen’s back end. 

On July 16, 2017, Sean Doolittle got traded to the Washington Nationals and Ryan Madson for RHP Blake Treinen, Infielder Sheldon Neuse, and LHP Jesus Luzardo. 

Two short days, later on, July 18, Doolittle recorded his first save for the Nationals in a 4-3 win over the Los Angeles Angels.

Mike Rizzo also went out and got another setup man for the later inning by acquiring RHP Ryan Kintzler from the Minnesota Twins, and the famous: “Law firm of Kintzler, Doolittle and Madson” was formed. 

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The results of the “Law firm” were almost immediate. In 75.2 combined innings, the three relievers: Kintzler, Doolittle, and Madson converted 23 saves, struck out 71 hitters, walked 16, and gave up just four home runs. 

With these four players, the rest of the bullpen back in 2017 immediately stabilized and gave the Nationals the second-best bullpen ERA in the NL with 3.36 after the trade deadline. 

While in the end, the Nationals didn’t reach the World Series that year, and wouldn’t reach the World Series until two years later, the Nationals did find a reliable closer to build the bullpen around.

“…It’s rightfully a big part of who he was a person and as a player. I’ll never, ever come close to his on-the-field legacy, but to be associated with him in a small way, it means a lot to me. I’m really appreciative.”

Sean Doolittle on being nominated for the 2020 Roberto Clemente Award

2019 Washington Nationals Season

It wasn’t until the 2019 season that we started to see Doolittle’s wear and tear due to his overuse in the bullpen. Many were concerned about Doolittle’s overuse early on in 2019. Last season, Doolittle threw a total of 60 innings, which was the most for him since 2014.

Before the trade deadline last year, Doolittle was considered the only consistent option Dave Martinez had in the late-innings or even to close out a game. Doolittle’s overuse led him to a stint on the IL starting on August 18 with right knee tendinitis and admitted to knee pain, but it was mostly to rest his arm and mind before the pennant race heated up.

After Doolittle returned from the IL in early September, Doolittle was assigned to low leverage situations to gain confidence after hitting a low point before he went on the IL. Doolittle believed that what was best for the team was most important than what’s best for himself.

Doolittle was quoted saying in April of 2019 when Washington Post Nationals writer Jesse Dougherty asked Doolittle after a game in Philadelphia, about entering in the eighth inning instead of the ninth: “You can’t have an ego in the bullpen. At the end of the day, we’re a group… We’re only as good as the sum of our parts. Whatever you’re called on to do that day, you’ve got to be willing to do it for the boys. I’ve pitched in a lot of different roles in my career. I’ve been the middle-inning guy. I’ve been a lefty matchup guy. I’ve closed. I’ve kind of done a little bit of everything. So I feel like I have that experience of doing that and being able to get hot and ready to go”.

When Sean returned to the bullpen for the Nationals during the playoffs, he had his best stuff. During the playoffs and nine games, went 0-0, with a 1.74 ERA, and eight strikeouts, while going 2 for 2 in save opportunities.

A leader on and off the field 

Sean Doolittle has not only helped the Washington Nationals on the field; he has also helped improve the greater Washington D.C. community. Doolittle has supported the LGBTQ community by donating $12,000 to Nationals Night OUT, held workshops at the Nationals Youth Baseball Academy as part of MLB’s Shred Hate bullying-prevention program, and he participated in the UN Refugee Agency’s gameday experience.

These activities off the field have led him to be the recipient of the Team DC Community Service Award, which honors local sports leaders advocacy in the D.C. region and this year, Sean Doolittle was the Washington Nationals nominee for the 2020 Roberto Clemente Award — Major League Baseball’s most prestigious individual award recognizing its philanthropic and humanitarian players.

“Just to be associated in a really small way with Roberto Clemente’s legacy is something I’m extremely humbled by, and I’m just incredibly grateful to be nominated and to be recognized… That’s not something that is on your mind when you’re doing some of the work in the community, but it does feel really nice to be recognized for it. .. I think about Clemente and his legacy and how important his activism was… His charity work off the field, that was something he was incredibly passionate about. It’s rightfully a big part of who he was as a person and as a player. I’ll never, ever come close to his on-the-field legacy, but to be associated with him in a small way, it means a lot to me. I’m really appreciative.”

Time to Say Goodbye?

Doolittle’s impact since joining the Washington Nationals has been very successful. One could argue that Rizzo won the trade back in 2017. Since joining the Washington Nationals in 2017, Sean Doolittle has 

  • the 8th most saves in the Major League 
  • Set an MLB record for consecutive appearances of 1+ IP and 0 BB
  • and had a 1.35 Postseason ERA (in 12 of those games, the Nationals went 10-2)

Doolittle’s time in a Washington Nationals uniform might be coming to an end; watching him pitch and close out a game has been enjoyable. Doolittle’s presence on and off the field can not be understated.

His passion for the sport of baseball, Star Wars, and most importantly, his dedication to the Washington Nationals over the past three years, has made him a National fan favorite and a player that we are sure everyone will miss watching him play.

Sean Doolittle celebrating the NL Wild Card Game in 2019. Photo via USA Today/AP
Sean Doolittle celebrating the NL Wild Card Game in 2019. Photo via USA Today/AP

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