The 2016 season was more or less a do-over for Jerry Blevins and the Mets. The lefty relief pitcher had been acquired just before the beginning of the 2015 season in a trade that sent outfielder Matt den Dekker to the Nationals, and he quickly endeared himself to this site when he used Steve Schreiber’s excellent MS Paint work as his new avatar on Twitter. But that April, Blevins was struck by a line drive that broke his left forearm.
As he was working to come back from that injury, he left his iPad in his car in the Port St. Lucie heat and tripped on a curb after going to the parking lot to retrieve it, breaking his arm again and ending his season in the process. Blevins hit free agency for the first time in his career, but in mid-December, he agreed to return to the Mets on a one-year, $4 million contract. In short, it worked out well.
Having made his major league debut with the A’s in 2007, Blevins spent at least some time in the big leagues with the team from 2008 through 2013. He had a 3.30 ERA and 3.88 FIP in 267.0 innings in Oakland, and the A’s traded him to the Nationals following the 2013 season. In his lone year in Washington, his strikeout rate spiked to 10.36 per nine innings, but had a 4.87 ERA in 57.1 innings, the worst full single-season ERA of his career. In his brief 2015 stint with the Mets, he fared well, but he only threw a grand total of five innings before suffering the broken arm.
Coming into this year, expectations for Blevins were pretty reasonable, but he pitched better than the major projection systems expected. In 73 appearances—the third-highest mark among Mets relievers after Addison Reed and Jeurys Familia—Blevins pitched 42.0 innings. He finished the year with a 2.79 ERA, the second-best single-season mark in his career, and a 3.05 FIP that was his third-best. His strikeout rate—11.14 per nine or 29.2 percent, depending on you preferred metric—was the best of his career, and his walk rate—3.21 per nine, 8.4 percent—wasn’t his best but was good enough. And he notched a couple of saves, both of which came in September as the Mets were very much fighting to win a spot in the Wild Card game.
Rightfully known as a lefty specialist, Blevins dominated left-handed hitters as per usual. With 12.12 strikeouts, 2.77 walks, and 0.35 home runs per nine innings, he had a 1.99 FIP against them. That wasn’t quite the best mark in baseball, but it was right up there among the best.
As for right-handed hitters, it was a bit of a unique year for Blevins. Often praised for his work against them during the season, he struck out 26.2 percent of the righties he faced, a big jump from his career norms. And right-handed hitters hit just .172/.266/.345 against him this year, while they have a .238/.332/.387 line against him for his career, including this year. But the big caveat there is that Blevins allowed three home runs to right-handed hitters—1.69 per nine innings—and he wound up with a 4.77 FIP against them because of it and despite the increase in strikeouts.
Overall, though, Blevins’s season was clearly a success, and he pitched well despite averaging the slowest fastball of his major league career at 89.6 miles per hour.
As for usage, Blevins was very much a fastball-curveball pitcher, using those two pitches 62.52 and 31.19 percent of the time, respectively. He occasionally threw a changeup, which accounted for the remaining 6.29 percent of his pitches.
In terms of strikeouts, the curve was largely responsible. Opposing hitters swung and missed 23.32 percent of the time when he threw it. Lefties fared a bit worse at 25.61 percent, but righties still struggled to make contact with it with a 16.95 percent rate. Combine those good rates, which weren’t out of line with his norms, with his frequent use of the pitch, which was, and it makes sense that Blevins struck out more hitters than usual this year.
On top of the good results on the mound, Blevins partook in an entertaining Q&A series over the course of the season and was one of the players on the team to join Asdrubal Cabrera in dying his hair blonde.
Looking ahead, it makes sense for the Mets to bring Blevins back for the 2017 season. While he wasn’t the only left-handed reliever who pitched for the team this year, he was definitely the best, particularly against same-handed hitters. If Blevins, who recently turned 33 years old, were to accept another one-year, $4 million deal, that would seem to be a no-brainer for the Mets. Even if it took a bit more, either in years or dollars, it would probably be a worthwhile investment for the team.