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Don’t look now: Nationals’ reliever Blake Treinen seems like himself again...

Getting Blake Treinen back to 2016 Blake Treinen is one easy way for the Nationals to improve their bullpen...

MLB: Baltimore Orioles at Washington Nationals Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

On June 14th, Blake Treinen entered what could be delicately described as a complete onslaught; in the top of the seventh inning, with two outs, the Nationals were behind the Atlanta Braves by a score of 12-2.

Treinen had enjoyed an up-and-down month of June to that point, with good outings interspersed between bad outings.

However, up-and-down would be an understatement when describing Treinen’s season up to that point; due to some combination of being unable to locate, bad pitches, and bad luck (Treinen has the seventh-worst batting average on balls in play in the majors, a good measure for how lucky batters are getting against a pitcher), the Nats’ righty had yet to put together three straight scoreless outings in the 2017 season.

Compared to last season, when the sinker-baller allowed all of one run in the month of July, and went 13 straight appearances (between August 27th and September 24th) without allowing a run, 2017 had been a severe disappointment, and looked like it was only getting worse.

In the two innings he pitched, Treinen allowed 1 walk, an earned run, two hits, and was only able to record two outs on twenty pitches.

The lanky right-hander, once one of Dusty Baker’s primary weapons, the seventh-inning man, and at one point the team’s closer, had been relegated to late-inning cleanup in a blowout loss.

But, sometimes, players can turn a corner. Treinen seems to have taken the first step in that process; after that outing against the Braves, the righty has pitched a total of 3.1 innings in 3 appearances, taking the extent to which his numbers in the month of June improved from mild to significant.

In those 3.1 innings, Treinen has allowed two hits, no runs, and zero walks.

Yes, the consecutive outings without runs part is quite encouraging—in fact, it’s more than encouraging; it’s the first sign of life in what looked to be a lost season for the righty that the Nats had, and still have, such high expectations for.

More encouraging, however, are the lack of hits and walks.

Command was Treinen’s enemy for the early part of the season; in April, the righty walked 14.8% of the batters he saw, good for a 7.20 BB/9.

In May, the walks subsided (the sinker-baller’s walk rate went down to 5.6%), but Treinen had a .320 average against, allowing 16 hits—although he may have been unlucky, seeing as his 3.38 FIP (a more refined version of ERA) was considerably lower than his 5.79 ERA.

In June, it seems as if all of the missing pieces have finally come together; the walk rate has remained the same, and nearly all of the way through June, Treinen has only allowed 8 hits, as opponents have hit .242 off of him. Moreover, he seems to have finally caught a few breaks, given that his 2.79 ERA during the month is lower than his 3.96 FIP.

Blake Treinen Stats by Month

Month IP ER allowed Walks allowed Hits allowed BABIP ERA FIP
Month IP ER allowed Walks allowed Hits allowed BABIP ERA FIP
April 10 10 8 17 0.444 9 5.04
May 12.1 7 3 16 0.395 5.11 3.38
June (as of 6/26) 9.2 3 2 8 0.28 2.79 3.96

By no means are the stats that Treinen has posted in June “elite,” nor do they push him remotely close to the top tier of relievers of the majors.

However, they do make Treinen a formidable option for the Nats—something Mike Rizzo and Dusty Baker will happily take at the moment—in addition to bringing him one step closer to his career-best form from 2016.

A formidable Treinen is one of the best pitchers in the Nationals’ bullpen, without question. The numbers in the month of June posted above qualify him for higher-leverage situations, at least compared to everyone else sitting in the pen.

When the Nationals do inevitably make personnel changes at the trade deadline, Treinen will lose his job in high-leverage situations. He’ll be replaced by the new relievers the Nats acquire, as well as Koda Glover and potentially Sammy Solis.

Even so, if his numbers continue to trend in this direction, Treinen’s ERA should dip below 4.00 by the end of July, and he could very well finish the year with numbers that resemble his 2016 season (2.28 ERA, 3.62 FIP) or his 2015 season (3.86 ERA, 3.49 FIP) instead of the numbers that look like they should belong to someone who needs to be in the minors instead of the majors.

With those numbers, Treinen would also almost assuredly keep a spot on the major-league roster—something that was in question earlier in the season—and most likely a spot on the playoff roster. Which, for a guy who had a 9.00 ERA in the month of April, isn’t half-bad.