As we let you know earlier, the Marlins acquired righty reliever John Curtiss from the Tampa Bay Rays to bolster their bullpen, a transaction that might easily lock in their relief staff for the upcoming 2021 season.
And even though Curtiss hasn’t had a long track of success in the Majors, he was fantastic for the Rays last year out of the ‘pen. By taking a look at his 2020 stats, we found some interesting numbers that will make you feel excited about this trade.
Baseball America's report on John Curtiss from 2019: "Command and confidence appear to be the only things holding Curtiss back from a permanent spot near the back end of the bullpen."— Fish Stripes (@fishstripes) February 17, 2021
The Marlins are buying in after he checked both those boxes last season https://t.co/3CXCtUlb5q pic.twitter.com/f3R99vFjlK
1. Masterful control
For you Marlins fans, it’ll be rare to see Curtiss walking anybody. In 25 innings for the Rays in ‘20, he gave up only three bases on balls, good for a 3.0 BB% that was better than 99 percent of the league according to Baseball Savant. The MLB average, in fact, was a 8.3 BB%.
In terms of walks per nine, Curtiss finished the regular season with a 1.08 BB/9. Among MLB pitchers with at least 25 frames last year, that ratio was the fifth-best:
· Kyle Hendricks: 0.89
· Marco Gonzales: 0.90
· Zach Plesac: 0.98
· Liam Hendriks: 1.07
· John Curtiss: 1.08
Curtiss threw 68.8% of his total pitches for strikes. He fell behind in the count 3-0 in one plate appearance all season!
2. Great help against lefties
Although the Marlins bullpen was sneaky good last year, it didn’t shine against left-handed hitters. Their relievers ranked 29th in batting average (.296), on-base percentage (.379), and slugging percentage (.522) allowed to LHH, along with the fifth-worst ERA (5.89).
That’s where Curtiss comes in. Despite being a righty, he was fantastic facing lefty hitters in 2020: .184/.225/.211/.436 across 40 plate appearances, with no home runs and 11 strikeouts. That trend carried over to the postseason, too. Those outcomes might be hard to maintain over an expanded sample size, but the Fish would appreciate it if he has at least similar numbers.
3. Pressure? No problem!
Curtiss seems to be an ideal option to handle difficult scenarios and get the Marlins out of jams. Last year, Nick Vincent, Yimi García, and James Hoyt were the only relievers on the team who had good performances in high-leverage circumstances.
This time, Curtiss will try to remain as effective as he was last year with the Rays in those environments, where he allowed a .176/.176/.353 opponent slash line in 17 total trips to the plate.
I don’t know how the Marlins plan to use Curtiss yet. But if there’s any chance they experiment with a closer by committee, they need to know that between innings seven and nine, their newest hurler pitched to a 1.42 ERA last year (12 2⁄3 innings) and saw his opponents record a poor .136/.174/.227/.401 slash line.
So far, the Curtiss one seems like a good trade. However, they designated Harold Ramirez for assignment to create space for him on the 40-man roster, so it’ll be important to flip Ramirez for something valuable to justify this.
Will it pay off for the team? We’ll figure it out soon!