Let the great experiment begin. Or end. I’m not really sure.
After weeks of instituting the headless closer by committee, followed by a brief but failed return by the incumbent Jim Johnson – the Oakland Athletics have finally settled on Sean Doolittle in the penultimate ninth inning role. Confirmed by manager Bob Melvin after Tuesday’s 3-0 win, in which the facially hirsute southpaw sealed the victory without incident – and in the process walked his first batter since Robin Thicke ruled the airwaves.
Melvin acknowledges Doolittle in closer role now.
— Susan Slusser (@susanslusser) May 21, 2014
On the strength of his masterful strikeout-to-walk ratio, 3.27 ERA (largely attributed by a four-run explosion courtesy of the Houston Astros), 1.65 FIP,and ability to adequately hold his own against right-hand hitters, Doolittle has earned the promotion through his catalogue of strong work in the back of the Oakland bullpen. While many will point at his occasional dumpster fires, and bemoan the fact that he’s essentially a one-pitch pitcher – there’s no denying that he has found big league success despite a limited pitch selection. According to fangraphs.com, Doolittle has thrown his fastball approximately 80% of the time in 2014, which is slightly below the 87% ratio that he boasted last season. Mixing in a curveball which functions more like a slurve and has yet to be put in play for a hit this season, as well as a brief taste of a change – Doolittle’s bag of tricks holds some hope for the future.
In a best case scenario, the 27-year old takes this opportunity and never looks back. He joins the pantheon of converted lefty closers such as B.J. Ryan, Randy Myers, and John Franco, establishing himself as a force to be reckoned with and solidifying a position of great uncertainty for the 2014 Oakland Athletics.
In many ways as a converted position player, Doolittle is a great experiment in of which himself. His accomplishments on the mound, both detailed and noteworthy have made his career renaissance a fascinating and uplifting story of perseverance and change. So why stop there? For now it appears that long after Grant Balfour has departed, Metallica will again rock the speakers of late inning Oakland baseball at the Coliseum and the Athletics will finally have a face to serve as the securer of future victories.
It just happens to be heavily obscured by facial hair.