Sarris: Pitching the eighth is different from pitching the ninth

From SABR member Eno Sarris at FanGraphs on June 5, 2017:

I was talking to Nationals reliever Blake Treinen the other day and the topic of command came up. I had to ask what happened earlier this year. He graciously addressed the early-season issues that cost him the closer’s role, and it opened my eyes to how the ninth might be different than the eighth — at least when it comes to typical reliever usage and the way batters act — particularly for a guy like Treinen. Hint: the difference has nothing to do with the pitcher’s demeanor.

 First, what Treinen said, in sum:

“When I used to come into situations in my old role, there would be batters on base and the hitters would be aggressive and want to swing. When I came in as a closer, they didn’t swing as much and I didn’t make the adjustment to get strike one in the zone quick enough.”

What’s particular to Treinen here is that he’s a super-sinkerballer with a top-10 ground-ball rate over the last two years. As a reliever, he was brought into situations with men on base late in the game. That’s a recipe for aggressive batters. Take a look at the swing rate with men on base as the game progresses.

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Originally published: June 5, 2017. Last Updated: June 5, 2017.