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Blake Treinen named AL Relief Pitcher of the Month

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The Oakland A’s closer was the league’s best in May 2018.

Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

Oakland A’s closer Blake Treinen was named the American League Relief Pitcher of the Month on Saturday, the team announced. In 14 appearances in May he posted an 0.59 ERA and converted all 10 of his save chances.

Treinen, May 2018: 0.59 ERA, 15⅓ ip, 19 Ks, 5 BB, 0 HR, 8 hits, 1.63 FIP

The only run Treinen allowed last month came in Boston, while protecting a three-run lead. The leadoff man struck out but reached on a wild pitch, then came around on a double and a groundout. Otherwise, the right-hander was untouchable, with a 32.3% strikeout rate and more Ks than baserunners (13 hits + walks).

Of the four games in May in which he didn’t record a save, once he earned a win with two scoreless frames in an eventual extra-inning victory, and thrice he threw a scoreless 9th to preserve a tie before the A’s ultimately lost in extras. Overall for the season he has an 0.99 ERA, 2.06 FIP, 10.9 K/9, and 13 saves in 15 tries.

Upon his acquisition last summer Treinen had a lot to prove as a full-time closer, and he’s since exceeded all reasonable expectations. Over at FanGraphs, Jeff Sullivan pointed out how Treinen is doing a better job of using his four-seam fastball to keep hitters from sitting on his excellent 98-99 mph sinker. On top of that, one of his past weaknesses was retiring left-handed hitters, but so far this year he’s held them in check (.538 OPS, 3 Ks per BB). Here are his numbers in 57 games since arriving last July, during which time he’s converted 31-of-36 save/hold chances (26 saves, 5 holds, 5 blown):

Treinen, ‘17-18 OAK: 1.65 ERA, 65⅓ ip, 75 Ks, 20 BB, 4 HR, 2.65 FIP

The Relief Pitcher of the Month distinction was introduced in 2017, so this is only the eighth month in which it’s been awarded. Treinen is the first A’s player to receive it, though Sean Doolittle earned the NL version last September after his trade to Washington. This month the NL honoree was Brad Hand of the Padres, who also won last July. The other multi-time winners so far are Seattle’s Edwin Diaz (July ‘17, April ‘18) and Greg Holland during his time with the Rockies (April/May ‘17). Here’s the full list.

Oakland’s entire bullpen was strong in May. Their 2.92 ERA ranked fifth in MLB, and their 3.48 FIP was sixth. They blew only one save/hold chance in 23 tries (10 saves, 12 holds, 1 blown), with Yusmeiro Petit surrendering a 6th-inning lead on May 4 in a game the A’s eventually won anyway. A few other relief standouts from the month:

  • Danny Coulombe: 3.12 ERA, 8⅔ ip, 15 Ks, 2 BB, 1.86 FIP
  • Emilio Pagan: 0.00 ERA, 6⅓ ip, 7 Ks, 3 BB, 2.34 FIP
  • Yusmeiro Petit: 3.26 ERA, 19⅓ ip, 15 Ks, 5 BB, 3.02 FIP
  • Lou Trivino: 1.26 ERA, 14⅓ ip, 12 Ks, 10 BB, 3.54 FIP
  • Chris Hatcher: 1.35 ERA, 13⅓ ip, 10 Ks, 5 BB, 3.73 FIP

That list doesn’t include Josh Lucas’ outing in Toronto on May 18, in which he fanned seven batters in 3⅔ innings of emergency duty in relief of injured starter Brett Anderson. Even Santiago Casilla managed to post a respectable 3.38 ERA last month despite walking 12 batters (and hitting another) in 10⅔ innings. On top of all these numbers, the bullpen also rid itself of Wilmer Font, who had been the weakest link so far.

Oakland’s pitching staff was expected to be its Achilles heel in 2018, but they’ve already received multiple pieces of hardware just in the first half of the season. Sean Manaea was named the AL Pitcher of the Month in April, highlighted by his no-hitter against the Red Sox. Fellow starter Daniel Mengden had a good case for that award in May (1.51 ERA in six starts), but Houston’s Justin Verlander was even better with half the ERA and twice the strikeouts (0.86 ERA in six starts, 50 Ks).

Congrats to Treinen on a well-deserved achievement! The next conversation to be had is whether he’ll earn his first career All-Star bid this summer.