Does Sean Doolittle's fastball rise? That and much more with the Nats closer


Lots on Sean Doolittle’s plate at this point: He’s navigating the penetrating midwest winters of Chicago; he’s starting earnest preparations for the season; he’s even working around the house in an attempt to improve his first home.

The Nationals All-Star closer also took time to call The Racing Presidents podcast to discuss those things and much more.

Just a few days ago, two pitchers -- Roy Halladay and Mariano Rivera -- were among those inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame. Doolittle has a correlation to both. First, he used some of the same mental tactics Halladay drew from after being sent to the minors. Doolittle was in a different position while converting from a hitter to full-time pitcher before the start of his professional career. But, he drew on some of Halladay’s approach to get his mind right.

“One of the biggest challenges that gets presented whenever you have to deal with a setback of getting sent down or any sort of circumstance where you have to go back to the beginning, back to square one, do you have the humility to accept your circumstances?” Doolittle said.

Rivera relates to Doolittle because of his pitch selection. The first unanimous selection to the Baseball Hall of Fame only threw fastballs -- almost exclusively throwing a cut fastball -- on his way to becoming the most dominant closer in history. Doolittle’s fastball is his top weapon. He throws it 88 percent of the time. Why? Early advice from Oakland Executive Vice President of Baseball Operations Billy Beane and former MLB pitcher Bob Welch convinced him to use his best pitch as often as possible. Also, his past as a hitter made him think about his approach as a pitcher.

And, there’s a weird thing about Doolittle’s fastball. It’s not 98 mph, everyone in the stadium knows it’s coming, yet it’s such a difficult pitch to handle. That’s in part because it appears from the hitter’s view to be rising.

“The way that it spins out of my hand with the backspin, what it really just does is it holds its plane a lot longer than most fastballs,” Doolittle said. “But hitters have been so conditioned to see the ball coming into the strike zone at a downward trajectory, to them, it looks like the ball rises.”

No need to limit a conversation with Doolittle to baseball. We wanted to check on two other crucial things in his life: handiwork around the house and Star Wars.

Doolittle is a first-time homeowner who is attempting to fix things himself. That has produced mixed results. No HGTV series is pending.

He is also a lifelong Star Wars addict who watched “The Last Jedi” roughly nine times. That’s not hyperbole. He has thoughts on characters, plots, offshoots and the future of the franchise. By thoughts, we mean extended, philosophical ideas.

You can hear all that below.