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2021 Marlins Season Preview: Richard Bleier

An early August acquisition from Baltimore, Bleier proved more than effective in the shortened 2020 season. Can we expect a repeat performance in 2021?

MLB: NLDS-Miami Marlins at Atlanta Braves Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

LHP Richard Bleier

Opening Day age: 33 | Bats: left | Throws: left | Listed at 6-3, 215 lbs.

Acquired by the Marlins via trade from the Orioles (August 1, 2020)

If there were ever a stuff-based doppelgänger for longtime reliever Jerry Blevins, Richard Bleier would be that pitcher.

Never overpowering, Bleier has overcome his lack of velocity to become one of the more dependable relief arms in recent memory.

In 191 innings over parts of five seasons, the former Yankee and Oriole owns a career 2.97 ERA (151 ERA+). Among relievers with at least 150 appearances since 2016, Bleier’s ERA is tied with Mark Melancon for 17th in that span.

More impressive is the fact that Bleier’s overall body of work isn’t the product of one great season amidst a myriad of average-to-subpar seasons. Other than 2019, where he posted a 5.37 ERA in 55 13 innings pitched, Bleier has never posted an ERA higher than 2.16.

After being acquired from Baltimore on August 1st, Bleier continued his run of steady pitching, posting a 2.63 ERA in 13 23 innings with Miami. In the postseason, the left-hander worked 2 perfect innings across 3 appearances.

What has made the lefty so deceptive while possessing a fast less-fastball, is the sheer volume of pitches in his arsenal. In 2019, when the average big league fastball topped 93 mph, Bleier averaged just 88.9 with his four seamer, and 89.4 with his sinker, respectively.

A left-handed sinkerballer in an age when velocity is king, Bleier complements his signature pitch with a cutter, slider, changeup, and a seldom-thrown four-seam, which he used just 2.3 percent of the time in 2020.

Bleier’s 2020 Pitch Distribution

2021 ZiPS projection: 3.64 ERA, 3.85 FIP, 1.23 WHIP, 0.3 fWAR

2021 Steamer projection: 3.73 ERA, 3.94 FIP, 1.34 WHIP, 0.4 fWAR

The question here with Bleier is how long will his reign of run prevention really last?

Per the above projections, some regression is expected in 2021, though, suffice to say all 30 teams would take 50-60 innings of sub-4 ERA pitching out of the bullpen.

Never a huge strikeout pitcher, Bleier owns a K/9 of just 4.5 over the course of his career. In 2019, the last year in which Baseball Savant tracked his output and expected stats, Bleier was in the bottom 1 percent in K and whiff rates, and similarly in the 2nd percentile in fastball spin.

RP Richard Bleier’s 2019 MLB Percentile Rankings

Given his lack of propensity for putting hitters away by way of the K, it should come as no surprise that Bleier owns a career WHIP of 1.20, allowing 197 hits in 191 innings.

In a pitcher-friendly Marlins Park, though, Bleier’s career HR/9 of 0.6 and 1.6 BB/9 rates put him in good standing to beat opponents using below-average velocity combined with his five-pitch mix. Let’s just hope he stays as far away from the batter’s box as possible...