Celebrating the legend of Sean Doolittle

Sean Doolittle’s rapid rise from minor league first baseman to hard-throwing Major League reliever has been one of the few highlights in a tough season for the A’s.

As of today, and for at least the next 12 months, Junkball is the proud, shameless sponsor of first-base-prospect-turned-nasty-relief-pitcher Sean Doolittle’s Baseball Reference player page. Doolittle’s page is that special place where dorky, impulsive self promotion intersects with genuine enthusiasm for one of the best sports stories of the season for this die-hard A’s fan.

I’ve kicked around the idea of sponsoring a page at Baseball Reference for a long time but was too lazy to dig very deep into the site to find a sentimental favorite to put my name and money behind. But Doolittle’s sudden emergence and my recent move from Swingin’ A’s back to Junkball seemed like the perfect time to promote my little corner of the blogosphere while showing some love for Doolittle’s amazing ascent to the big leagues.

It also feels good to support one of the most indispensible Web sites for any self-respecting baseball junkie. I was a little too cheap to also pony up a few bucks to put my stamp on Doolittle’s page at The Baseball Cube but that’s also a site that’s certainly worth your time if you can’t get enough baseball stats. The nice thing about the Cube is that it provides you with a player’s college stats which can be fun to check out, especially in Doolittle’s case.

Don’t ask me why, but for some odd reason I briefly entertained the idea of sponsoring former A’s reliever Joe Klink’s Baseball Reference page. I think Doolittle was a far wiser choice.

Even though Doolittle was drafted as a first baseman by the A’s his track record as a college pitcher was impressive (22-7, 2.23 ERA, 1.03 WHIP, 243 strikeouts vs 58 walks in 222 innings for Virginia) and probably worthy of a draft pick if that’s where he initially wanted to go with his pro career. The fact that he didn’t competitively throw a pitch from the end of his college career in 2007 until 2011 in the Arizona Fall League but still managed to earn a spot in the Major Leagues after working just 24 innings is simply amazing. Between the AFL and his time in the minors this season Doolittle struck out 50 batters in 26 innings which is ridiculous in the best possible way.

If Doolittle was wearing orange and black instead of green and gold he could be generating a lot more buzz in the Bay Area and if he wore pinstripes with a big NY across the front of his cap he might be a minor celebrity or cult hero by now. For the moment, he’s just one hell of a story for A’s fans and baseball junkies.

With Jordan Norberto nearing a return from the disabled list Oakland’s bullpen is going to be crowded with left handers and there’s certainly a chance that Doolittle could be sent back to Sacramento while Norberto, Jerry Blevins, and Brian Fuentes enjoy life in the bigs. Then again, Doolittle hasn’t done anything to warrant a return trip to Sacramento so far. He’s struck out 10 while walking just one batter in five innings and appears to be quickly earning manager Bob Melvin’s confidence.

Maybe Doolittle’s wild ride lasts for several years as a dominant setup man for the A’s.  Maybe hitters catch up to him and he fades back into the minor leagues.  Or maybe his arm blows up he spends the next few seasons bouncing between the disabled list, rehab assignments, and Oakland. I hate to even mention that last scenario but baseball can be downright brutal on pitchers and it’s naïve to ignore the possibility considering the bad luck the A’s have had with the injury bug over the past several years.

Even in a season that’s quickly fading into oblivion for the A’s, I dare to dream that Doolittle’s legend will continue to grow and he’ll be part of a vicious 1-2 punch with Ryan Cook at the back of Oakland’s bullpen for several years. I even entertain the crazy idea that sometime in the next several years the A’s will buck the odds and return to the playoffs.

Sometimes the team you root for drafts a first baseman and ends up with a power-armed reliever which is as highly unlikely as it is awesomely entertaining. When something that special happens you just sit back and enjoy the show.

So here’s to you Sean Doolittle. Thanks for making this season a lot more memorable as you keep racking up strikeouts with your min-90s fastball and wipeout slider. Keep on filling your Baseball Reference page with impressive stats, I look forward to being along for the ride in my own incredibly obscure way for at least the next 12 months of my sponsorship.

Follow me on Twitter at @JunkballBlogger or get in touch via e-mail at junkball99@gmail.com and we’ll kick some stuff around for the sake of amusement.

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