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2021 Marlins Season Review: Richard Bleier

There are three guarantees in this world: death, taxes, and sub-3 ERA’s from Richard Bleier.

MLB: Game Two-Miami Marlins at Philadelphia Phillies Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports

For all of the inconsistencies that plagued the 2021 Miami Marlins, Richard Bleier was among the few exceptions.

2021 Timeline

  • April 14-17: Allows home runs in consecutive outings.
  • October 3: Completed 5th season since 2016 of an ERA below 3.00.

By the Numbers

Richard Bleier’s 2021 season turned out to be business as usual. This, among the slew of numbers that outline this borderline-clinical consistency, is what made his season timeline among the briefer in our dissection of player seasons thus far into the Marlins’ offseason.

That isn’t to say that Bleier’s season was devoid of performative wrongdoing. Through his 12 appearances, the league appeared to have no troubles picking up Bleier, as noted through a 6.97 ERA (7.04 FIP) over 10 23 innings pitched.

But, with the small sample size fodder that clogs chat rooms and Twitter feeds in early season discussions, comes the sport’s way of righting itself, with player performance stabilizing as the season further takes shape.

Following a 7th inning home run allowed to San Francisco’s Austin Slater on April 17, the day after his 34th birthday, Bleier reclaimed his propensity for limiting the long ball, not allowing a single one over his final 59 appearances. In that stretch of time, in which he threw 50 23 innings, Bleier posted a 2.13 ERA to a Mary Kate and Ashley-esque 2.12 FIP. In other words, the soft tosser didn’t get cheated.

Bleier would finish the 2021 season with a 2.95 ERA and 3.01 FIP. He became the first pitcher since Robbie Erlin in 2018 to finish a season with dual HR/9 and BB/9 rates below 1.00.

How? Bleier achieved this thanks to finishing in the 98th percentile in chase rate, according to Baseball Savant, enticing opponents to swing-and-miss or miss-hit his offerings when he leaves the strike zone.

Richard Bleier’s percentile rankings, 2021
Baseball-Savant

A lot of this, too, can be attributed to what we’ll dub the “meatball effect,” or a preemptive deception tactic Bleier possess given his above-noted lack of velocity. Utilizing three different fastballs—a sinker (Bleier’s primary pitch), a cutter, and the more traditional four-seamer—none of which register above 90.5 mph, Bleier finished in the 9th percentile in average fastball velocity in 2021.

Highlights

Will Bleier Be Back?

With one year of arbitration eligibility before he hits free agency, Bleier is a safe bet to remain on the roster come Opening Day 2022. MLB Trade Rumors projects a $2.5 million salary for him. Entering his age-35 campaign, he could turn out to be the oldest player on that roster.

No reliever is completely off limits, though. Miami could shift course and dangle the veteran on the trade market, exploring options to flip him for more controllable players who can aid their anemic offense.

For now, let us bask in how privileged we are to call Richard Bleier a Miami Marlin.