Blake Treinen isn’t exactly the spry young man of day’s past. At 29 years old, the chances of massive growth at the major league level are slim, but with his nasty arsenal and history, nothing can be ruled out. The idea for this article came from the guys at Effectively Wild, Ben Lindbergh of The Ringer and Jeff Sullivan of Fangraphs, who made a comment on episode 1085 that the Oakland A’s may look at stretching Treinen back out as a starter. The idea was unfortunately not elaborated but I got curious and decided to research Treinen’s chances of becoming an effective starter in the bay.
Trienen last started for the Nationals in 2014 as a fill in player picking up 50.2 innings over 7 starts and 8 relief outings. Over those 7 starts, he threw 36 innings with a 3.00 ERA, a 3.60 FIP, and a 1.31 WHIP while allowing just three runs or fewer in six of those seven games. The appeal of Treinen as a reliever came from his 8 relief outings where he totaled a 1.23 ERA, a 1.84 FIP, and a 1.57 WHIP in 14.2 innings. That 2014 season, in which Treinen finished with a 151 ERA+, allowed him to cement a place in the Nationals staff with the potential to shine in either pitching role.
The Nationals opened up the 2017 season with the hopes that Treinen would emerge as the elite bullpen arm they were missing, but the tale of the tape has been quite discouraging. Trienen posted just a 5.73 ERA, a 3.75 FIP, and a 1.619 WHIP in 37.2 innings as a National in the first half leading them to seek additional bullpen help. All of this despite the absolutely nasty pitches showing up on PitcherList every week (Just google Treinen Slider if you want to see something nasty) which is exactly why I can see the a taeam wanting to pick him up and potentially convert him back into a starter. So let’s get a more in depth look on what a 2017 starting Blake Treinen would look like and why the A’s are the team he would most likely start on.
“Small school senior signs don’t typically have the stuff South Dakota State RHP Blake Treinen has, but his is an unusual case. He has the size and stuff to start, but could be a late inning possibility if he stays in the bullpen. Either way, his inexperience means he’ll take some time to develop. On the plus side, however, said inexperience means he has plenty of bullets left in his right arm.”
– Blake Treinen Scouting Report 2011
Billy Beane and the Oakland A’s drafted Treinen in the 7th round in 2011 before shipping him to Washington a little later, but in his time in the Oakland system, he saw a lot of action as a starter. Treinen started 15 games in the Oakland A ball affiliate in 2012 meaning that the A’s liked him as a guy who could potentially start. The Nationals then ran Treinen out as a starter in the following two minor league seasons prior to the 2014 call up, lending to the narrative of his stuff. The overall picture being that two organizations looked as his raw ability and saw a starter with a good multi-pitch mix, so let’s analyze Treinen’s pitch mix to see if it would hold up in s starting role.
Treinen has 4 main pitches: the Fastball, Sinker, Changeup, and Slider each paired with a lot of movement
Treinen has thrown in fastball 21.3 % of the time this season, making it his 2nd most used pitch. The pitch comes in at a hearty 97.4mph, making it one of the consistantly hardest pitches in the majors. This got me thinking to compare Treinen with Joe Kelly to see what Treinen’s fastball could could look like in a starting role, where velocities are typically lower. Kelly averaged around a 95mph fastball as a stater with the Red Sox and Cardinals from 2012 to 2016 and a 99mph average as a reliever in 2017 with the Red Sox. Using this as a baseline, thus making Treinen a reverse Joe Kelly, Treinen’s fastball would probably come in around 94-95mph as a starter, making it still a consistently hard pitch.
Treinen’s most used pitch at 51.8% is also his most popular amongst fans leading to a wealth of gifs. The pitch sits at a pretty 97.2mph on average and can top out around 100. The pitch has a ton of movement and deception to it as well. It is the top aid in Treinen’s 66% GB rate in 2017 having produced at 68.5% and can also generate a ton of swings and misses with its 49.1 swing %.
If you consistently throw in the upper 90’s, a deadly changeup can be your best friend, but Treinen has only thrown the pitch 7.2% of the time in 2017. If moved into a starting role, that pitch would have to become more developed if Treinen wants to keep hitters guessing. The pitch average around 89mph meaning that hitters will have to deal with a decent drop off in velocity if they want to barrel the ball.
Treinen’s slider is absolutely filthy. He throws the breaking pitch 19.8 % of the time to much success. Treinen has thrown the pitch as fast as 92mph and as slow as 84mph in 2017 and it has a career strikeout rate of 49.4% and a 22.6% swinging strike rate. The movement on the pitch can be electric with Treinen’s career averages at 1.7,/-2.2/ 2.6 xMov/zMov/Mov.
^Here you can see Treinen’s Horizontal and Vertical movements as a starter and reliever
In essence, Treinen has 3 above average pitches with the potential for a 4th if he works on his changeup. Based off of his past as a semi-effective starter and a potential lockdown releiver, I see Treinen as a reverse Joe Kelly. The Oakland A’s could move Treinen into the rotation considering and injury or trade (cough Sonny Gray cough) and allow him to revitalize his career at 29.