The Los Angeles Dodgers bullpen was stellar throughout the 2021 season, and a big reason for that was Blake Treinen, who established himself as one of manager Dave Roberts’ most trusted relievers in high-leverage situations.
Treinen pitched to an excellent 1.99 ERA, 2.88 FIP and 0.98 WHIP in 72.1 innings across 72 appearances this year, which all mark improvements from his first season with the Dodgers.
Treinen additionally struck out significantly more batters from a year ago as he raised his strikeouts per nine innings from 7.7 to 10.6. “I think he’s mixing much better,” Roberts recently explained of Treinen’s increase in strikeouts.
“In years past he was very heavy sinker, then he started mixing in the cutter. The slider is certainly a part of his arsenal, I think getting strike one, and I just think he’s mixing a lot better than he did last year.”
As Roberts noted, Treinen’s pitch usage changed dramatically this season. His most-thrown pitch was a slider at 35.1% of the time — an increase from 26.3% a year ago.
Treinen also threw his cutter significantly more, whereas his former go-to pitch, the sinker, has significantly dropped in usage (56.3% in 2020 to 27.4% this season).
Treinen’s ability to strike out batters at an above-average clip, in addition to still inducing plenty of ground balls, made him a different kind of weapon. “I think last year we saw a pretty dang good Blake,” Roberts began.
“But this year, the consistency, how he’s feeling, how he’s throwing the baseball, his three-pitch mix, those three pitches are all elite and how he’s using them is another layer to his success. Blake is going to be a big part of what we’re doing through October.”
Why Treinen didn’t replace Jansen as Dodgers closer
Along with occasionally closing out games this season, Treinen stepped up big for the Dodgers in the seventh and eighth innings. His versatility out of the bullpen explained why Roberts had been reluctant to promote him to Dodgers closer when Kenley Jansen occasionally stumbled.
“With Blake, we’ve used him in leverage — call it the fifth inning, sixth inning, seventh inning — and a certain part of the lineup,” Roberts said. “Being a fireman and be able to go one-plus, I think has allowed us to win a lot of ballgames.”
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