Reds: Sean Doolittle isn’t fooling anyone with his fastball

PITTSBURGH, PA - MAY 12: Sean Doolittle #63 of the Cincinnati Reds in action. (Photo by Joe Sargent/Getty Images)
PITTSBURGH, PA - MAY 12: Sean Doolittle #63 of the Cincinnati Reds in action. (Photo by Joe Sargent/Getty Images) /

The Cincinnati Reds signed reliever Sean Doolittle to a one-year contract this past offseason, hoping he’d return to the pitcher he was in 2018 and 2019. That hasn’t happened, and Doolittle is not fooling anyone with his fastball.

The Reds bullpen will be the Achilles heel of this team until the front office does something to fix it. Tejay Antone is the only reliable arm that David Bell can turn to late in games, and he’s currently on the IL. Lucas Sims has been solid as well, but he’s also had his struggles. With Doolittle carrying a 4.76 ERA and 5.05 FIP, the left-hander can’t be counted on late in games.

Reds reliever Sean Doolittle is too reliant on an ineffective fastball.

Sean Doolittle goes to his fastball nearly 90% of the time. According to FanGraphs, Doolittle throws his fastball 89.8% of the time he’s on the bump. Furthermore, it’s not an elite-level fastball, as he’s averaging about 93-MPH when he throws the heater.

If your name is Aroldis Chapman or Josh Hader, you can afford to go to your fastball more often than not. Chapman goes to his fastball about 66% of the time and it averages 99-MPH. Hader’s heater sits at about 96-MPH and the Brewers’ lefty throws it about 63% of the time.

Doolittle, who in the past relied on a three-pitch mix of fastball/ slider/ changeup, has abandoned his changeup this season and he’s lost some velocity on his slider. When you look at the runs above average that Doolittle’s fastball is worth, the lefty registers a -4.8. Last season, it was worth -2.3 runs above average.

This is a disturbing trend, as the previous eight major league seasons in which Doolittle has pitched, the southpaw had registered at least a positive number with his greatest success coming in 2018 when he posted 17.7 runs above average with his fastball.

Sean Doolittle’s time with the Reds may be coming to an end.

Sean Doolittle seems like a great person and a great teammate, but when it comes to execution on the field, 34-year-old just doesn’t have it this season. The Reds were hoping to see Doolittle return to form and help solidify the backend of the bullpen.

Instead, Doolittle has joined Amir Garrett as one of the more unreliable arms in the bullpen. We’ve seen Cincinnati turn to the likes of Brad Brach and Hembree instead. With other potential left-handed relievers present at Triple-A Louisville, Doolittle’s time in the Queen City may be coming to an end.

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Over the last 11 games, Sean Doolittle has thrown 9.2 innings and allowed at least one base runner to reach either via walk or a base hit. His K/9 is an impressive 10.24, but his 4.66 BB/9 is disturbing, as is the 2.79 HR/9. Doolittle has an xFIP of 5.82 during those 11 games. Those are not numbers that scream late-inning reliever, but may instead lead to Doolittle being designated for assignment.