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2021 Marlins Season Review: Anthony Bender

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From the bowels of independent ball to being one of Miami’s most impactful relievers, Anthony Bender opened a lot of eyes in 2021.

MLB: New York Mets at Miami Marlins Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports

In a season that started with promised and ended with a familiar sense of disappointment, Anthony Bender was among the few bright spots in another losing effort for the Fish.

2021 Timeline

  • March 29: Club informs Bender he won’t break camp with big league club out of spring training.
  • May 4: Contract selected by Miami.
  • May 5: Strikes out in scoreless inning of relief in his Major League debut.
  • June 29: Allows first two earned runs following 21.2 innings without doing so.
  • July 5: Earns first career save in 5-4 victory against the Dodgers.

By The Numbers

Bender’s first rodeo against big league hitters was, for the most part, a one-sided affair.

He posted a 2.79 ERA over 61 13 innings pitched, finishing with 10.4 K/9, including a near-historic streak of 21 consecutive appearances to begin his career without allowing an earned run. Bender managed to do so despite a slightly below-average swinging strike rate (45th percentile).

We’re in an era when metrics such as FIP and xERA (Expected Earned Run Average) have taken more precedent in evaluating pitchers. They approve of Bender’s rookie campaign, too—he finished with a 3.19 FIP and in the 88th percentile in xERA.

Anthony Bender’s percentile rankings (2021)
Baseball-Savant

Bender’s heavy sinker-slider tandem makes him something of a poor man’s Blake Treinen, who at this stage of his career, posted similar ERA/FIP splits (2.49/3.09) for the 2014 Nationals over a comparable sample of 50 23 innings.

Highlights

Will Bender Be Back?

MLB organizations have generally adopted a “What have you done for me lately?” mindset toward relief pitching. It’s among the most volatile positions in all of professional baseball.

With that said, given his six remaining years of club control and the fact that the team finished 28 games below .500, Bender is as close to a lock to be on the Opening Day roster in 2022 as any non-starting player that the Marlins have. It’s a remarkable turn of events for the right-hander who posted a 5.48 ERA and 1.64 WHIP in independent ball the year prior.

Bender’s specific role within Miami’s ‘pen is difficult to project, however. Dylan Floro has the clear leg up in the closer’s competition and it would be unsurprising to see the front office make a strong push to acquire another veteran presence with even more overpowering stuff.