Nearly three years after he threw his last pitch in The Show, Steven Okert returned and flourished for a fourth-place Fish team.
- February 27: Signs minor-league deal with Miami.
- June 29: Recalled from AAA Jacksonville after striking out 29 and pitching to a 1.80 ERA over 20 innings.
- June 30: Throws a scoreless 1.2 IP in 11-6 win over Philadelphia in return to the bigs.
- July 28: Takes loss against Baltimore following 4 walks in 0.1 IP.
By the Numbers
Steven Okert gave Miami 36 innings out of the bullpen, pitching to a 2.75 ERA whilst striking out 40 hitters (10.0 K/9).
The left-hander’s out-pitch was a low-80’s slider that he threw 59.6% of the time in 2021, limiting hitters to .141 BA and xBA of .110. It was even a bigger component of his strategy against fellow southpaws—he allowed only two extra-base hits when working with the platoon advantage.
Manager Don Mattingly got good use out of the 30-year-old reliever entering the game in the middle of innings, as Okert only allowed 3 of 20 inherited runners to score this season. His 15.0% inherited score rate was best on the club among those with regular reps in those situations.
Let’s consider average leverage index (aLI), a metric that defines 1.0 as average pressure, under 1.0 as low pressure, and anything over 1.0 as high pressure. In 12 appearances when the aLI was above 1.0, Okert threw 8 innings, allowed just 3 hits and 2 earned runs, striking out 7. One of the two earned runs allowed in said outings came in Okert’s first and only loss of the season when he walked 4 Orioles in an eventual 7-6 defeat.
Overall, though, Okert was an undisputed success story for the Marlins. How did he do it, and why did seemingly nobody see it coming?
This can’t be attributed to power stuff: Okert finished in the 33rd percentile in average fastball velocity. It wasn’t about precision either, as he frequently fell behind in counts.
While his 2.75 ERA may indicate exceptional work on the mound, metrics such as FIP imply that a bit of good luck was thrown his way. Okert’s 4.34 FIP was higher than the Marlins pitching staff as a whole. Walks can be seen as a bit of hindrance to his sustainability (3.8 BB/9 this year).
Will Okert Be Back?
Okert has two more years to go until he’s even eligible for arbitration. His trade value might never get any higher than it is right now, if the Marlins choose to capitalize on his strong performance in 2021. Despite having exhausted his minor league options, he figures to be attractive to any team that needs help neutralizing lefty batters.
A bit of regression is expected as the Okert enters 2022. After exploring all options, though, he should open the regular season on Miami’s roster.