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Washington Nationals news & notes: Sean Doolittle talks new job on MLB Network

Notes and quotes from the Nationals’ Pitching Strategist’s recent appearance on the MLB Network,,,

Sean Doolittle’s first post-playing career gig in baseball is as a Pitching Strategist with the Washington Nationals.

In a recent MLB Network interview, the now-37-year-old veteran of eleven seasons in the majors summed up the job description fairly succinctly.

“Pitching strategist,” Doolittle explained, “… which I think is just a fancy title for, ‘We’re not gonna let the other team score more runs than us.’

“It’s not hard.”

There’s more to it than that, of course.

The club he pitched for between 2017-2020 and 2022-23, (winning a World Series in 2019, then returning for a second go-round in ‘22-’23 before all of the injuries caught up with him), defined his role as, “... a liaison between the analytics department and pitching staff, [who will assist] [Nats’ manager Davey Martinez] and pitching coach [Jim Hickey] with strategy, mental preparation, and mechanics,” when the Nats announced they’d hired Doolittle earlier this month.

“Sean Doolittle was always an extremely talented pitcher,” Nationals’ President of Baseball Ops and GM Mike Rizzo said in the press release on Doolittle’s new role in the organization.

“But he is also one of the most intelligent baseball minds you can find. We’re incredibly excited to have him on our staff to help guide our talented group of young pitchers.”

Doolittle, in his eleven seasons in the majors, made 463 appearances and saved 112 games, with a 3.20 ERA and 2.94 FIP for his career.

He told the MLB Network’s hosts he thinks he has a lot to offer the next generation Nationals as he moves into another phase of his career in the game.

“I think over the course of my career, I’ve experienced so much positive and negative in this game, good times, bad times,” he said. “I can relate to players a lot of different ways, I think. And I’m excited to learn from them, too. This game is constantly evolving, and if we’re going to stay on the cutting edge, if we’re going to continue to help these guys, then I have to continue to learn and grow as the game continues to develop, too.”

The new role was something the club brought to him once he made the decision to call it a career late this past season.

“The way this job came about — even when I retired, I hadn’t even thought of this,” Doolittle said. “[GM] Mike Rizzo came to me shortly after I informed them of my decision to hang’em up, and I couldn’t be more excited about this opportunity. I’m not really looking that far ahead yet.

“I think this is a really important time for the Nats’ organization. We took a big step forward last year with the youngest team in baseball. We have some exciting, exciting talent coming up through the Minor Leagues. So I don’t know what it’s going to look like moving forward for me, but I’m really excited to be in this role and I hope there’s a way that I can continue to help the team move forward and get another trophy in that trophy case at Nats Park.”

One pitcher in particular Doolittle is looking forward to working with is left-handed starter MacKenzie Gore, who’s coming off his first full season in the majors (after he debuted and dealt with injuries before the trade to the Nats in 2022) and trying to take the next step as a 24-year-old in his third go-round in the big leagues.

Atlanta Braves v Washington Nationals Photo by G Fiume/Getty Images

“I’m stoked to work with MacKenzie and watch him take another step forward in his career and his development,” Doolittle said.

“[T]he four-seam fastball: He’s got one of those fastballs that does have the good, induced vertical break. But because of the way he throws and his arm slot, it plays up when it’s up in the zone. He’s got that nice, flat approach angle on it. The breaking ball combo that he’s working with is pretty special. He can spin the ball, he has the curveball and the slider. I think for him, getting a full year under his belt last year is going to be the biggest thing for him moving forward. He has that experience now, he knows how to manage his body over the course of the full season. Now it’s about fine-tuning some things and maybe being a little bit more consistent. But he’s an exciting young talent for sure.”