08 May 2018

Richard Bleier's Run Continues (And A Look Back At Zach Britton's Dominant 2016)

Things are pretty bad in Birdland. But one thing that hasn't been bad: Richard Bleier. Every time Bleier pitches a scoreless inning, things get more ridiculous.

That's because of the following table from the Play Index, which I like to share as much as possible:

1Richard Bleier255106.030201.703.7011.3%4.6%
2Craig Kimbrel225485.0105961.781.8441.9%9.4%
3Mariano Rivera2051283.23403152.212.7623.0%5.6%
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Play Index Tool Used
Generated 5/8/2018.

In case you haven't seen it before, those are pitchers in major league history who have thrown at least 100 innings and have an ERA+ over 200. Yes, Bleier's workload isn't close to Kimbrel or Rivera, but it still seems absurd that he's anywhere near two of the greatest relievers of all time.

And even though Bleier's career workload is not large and no one should expect him to keep being this good, could he also at least have a tiny, tiny chance to approach arguably the greatest relief season of all time? That would be Zach Britton's 2016, when he threw 67 innings and posted an insane 0.54 ERA (and 803 ERA+). Those are both the best marks for any pitcher who's thrown at least 50 innings in a season.

In that record-breaking season, Britton had a 1.42 ERA through 20 innings. In 19.2 innings this season, Bleier has a 0.46 ERA and a 928 ERA+. Britton was much more dominant in how he retired opposing batters, with a GB% of 80 and a 29.1 K%. Bleier, meanwhile, has a 60.7 GB% and a 13.3 K%. Among all pitchers with at least 10 innings pitched this season, Bleier's ERA is second after a trio of pitchers (Andrew Miller, Fernando Romero, and Brian Duensing) who have thrown between 10-12 innings and have yet to allow an earned run.

Bleier will never wow anyone with those strikeout numbers. Somehow, he just keeps getting outs, and it's hard to keep counting on that to happen. It's basically a requirement to say that in every post about Bleier because it's baffling that he's been able to do this for 100+ innings.

Almost no one expects Bleier's run to continue. I don't. Do you? A massive regression has to be coming soon, right? That's how these things usually work. It doesn't make any sense for there not to be some bad performances around the corner. And yet, hopefully he keeps defying the odds, because Bleier's unlikely success is one of the only good things about this season.

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