This past Friday, the Miami Marlins and reliever Anthony Bass reportedly agreed to a 2-year, $5 million contract with a 3rd-year team option. It’s the biggest acquisition the Marlins have made so far this offseason and it bolsters a bullpen that the Marlins themselves have said needs a lot of work.
Bass has a 4.32 career ERA, 4.12 FIP, 1.32 WHIP and 6.42 K/9, but the last three years Bass has been much better than those averages (3.44 ERA, 1.06 WHIP and 7.89 K/9). That gives the Marlins hope he can be a huge contributor to the ‘pen this year.
A good way to compare pitchers to league average is using ERA- and FIP-, which is basically the pitching version of wRC+. Every point below 100 is a point better than league average. In his past three seasons Bass has an ERA- 78 and an FIP- of 83. Last year, he had seven saves in 26 appearances for the Blue Jays.
Anthony Bass is a fastball/slider guy for the most part, but he also has this splitter as an extra weapon vs. LHB. Opponents are a combined 2-for-34 against it since 2018 https://t.co/y9iu1aJRr4 pic.twitter.com/bcXZkK8HG1— Fish Stripes (@fishstripes) January 22, 2021
The Marlins did some great business by getting Bass at just $2.5M per year over the next few seasons. Efficient as that is, it makes Bass the highest-paid reliever in their ‘pen (highest-paid pitcher on the entire 2021 major league roster, for that matter). Does this mean Bass is penciled in as the closer for next year? Should he be? Let’s take a look.
The other Marlins reliever who will most likely challenge Bass for the 9th is Yimi Garcia. Even though he only had one save—Brandon Kintzler usually got the 9th—Garcia was the Marlins’ most effective reliever last season and will be the most experienced reliever besides Bass on the Marlins roster (pending more signings.)
Garcia was tremendous last season allowing only 1 ER in 15 IP (0.60 ERA) and posting a 1.66 FIP and 0.93 WHIP as well as 11.40 K/9 and a 14 ERA-. He struck out batters at a 31.7% rate and recorded the highest ground ball rate of his career at 41.7%. Garcia stranded 92.9% of runners and recorded four holds in 14 appearances. Add that all up and Garcia was nothing short of elite in his small sample size last season.
Of course one year doesn’t determine how good a guy is, but Garcia’s track record is better than Bass’ over his career. Even when you take it down to Bass’s three years discussed earlier, Garcia’s numbers look better for his whole career. Garcia has a career 3.40 ERA, 9.53 K/9, 0.98 WHIP and an 86 ERA-.
Don't let the fact that Yimi Garcia isn't a huge name distract you, the @Marlins just added a great RP:— Alex Fast (@AlexFast8) December 12, 2019
13.9% SwSt on his FB (top 25)
98th percentile in FB spin, xBA, Hard Hit%
95th percentile in wOBA
While the SL doesn't put up elite whiff%, it pairs very well with the FB. pic.twitter.com/zG7ng51AzL
When you compare the numbers that make a closer very effective, Garcia has the clear advantage over Bass. Bass strikes batters out at a career clip of just 16.9% (his highest was 22.8% in 2019 and was just 21% last year), he had a LOB% of just 56% last season (his 68.1 career LOB% is 10 points lower than Garcia’s) and his ground ball rate was almost unsustainably high at 62.3% last year and 49.2% for his career.
What’s clear from the numbers is that Bass and Garcia are two very different kinds of pitchers. Garcia generates a lot of swing and miss while Bass will get outs with more contact and ground balls. There are multiple ways to be effective in the 9th inning, but to me Garcia has a better recipe for success in clutch situations. In the late innings you don’t want your pitchers dodging traffic or allowing runners to score by getting ground balls. You want a guy that will shut a lineup down, work efficiently and keep the bases clean. To me, getting guys to swing and miss is the most important job a reliever has and Garcia does that much more effectively than Bass.
It’s important to note that the Marlins are likely not done adding to their pen. Craig Mish and MLB.com’s Christina De Nicola have both reported that the Marlins are still likely to add one or two more arms to their bullpen.
I was told yesterday that the #Marlins are by no means finished after the Bass news. Multiple discussions are ongoing for a bat. And Miami is “not quite done” with the bullpen. https://t.co/2omkPSt1HP— Christina De Nicola (@CDeNicola13) January 24, 2021
For now, I think Yimi Garcia is the best option the Marlins have. He was easily their best ‘pen arm last year and I think he earned the right to be the leader in the clubhouse for the closing role this year. His style of pitching should play very well in the 9th and he has the track record to go along with it. I understand Bass is the Marlins highest-paid reliever, which may suggest they’re ready to trust him with huge responsibilities, but the way he pitches to me plays better in a middle relief or setup role.
The good news for the Marlins is they’re giving themselves options and will continue to add more. If the Marlins make a couple more key additions to their pen, they could be looking at a really solid and greatly improved bullpen. The Marlins front office has spoken all offseason about how they believe the bullpen could be the difference this season, and they’re setting themselves up nicely to have it be a contributor to a winning club.
Let us know in the poll who you think is the better option between the two, or leave a comment if you think there’s a better option on the roster. You can also discuss this and all other Marlins topics with me @ethanbudowsky on Twitter.
Who should get the ball in the 9th for the Marlins?
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