Believe it or not, it’s been almost three years since the Mets got Jerry Blevins in a trade with the Nationals that sent Matt den Dekker to Washington. That makes the 2018 season Blevins’s fourth with the team, one of the longest tenures any reliever acquired by Sandy Alderson has had with the team.
The first of those seasons was abbreviated, as Blevins’s arm was broken by a line drive and re-broken in a slip and fall at the Mets’ complex in Port St. Lucie later that summer. But in total, he’s been very good as a member of the team: 155 appearances, 96.0 innings, 2.72 ERA, 3.01 FIP, 11.7 K/9, and 3.7 BB/9. Among the 165 relief pitchers who have thrown at least 80 innings in the past two regular seasons, Belvins’s 2.87 ERA ranks 38th-best.
As is often the case with lefties, Blevins is particularly good against same-handed hitters, but he’s been really, really good. Among all relievers who have faced at least 50 left-handed hitters over the past two seasons, his 1.50 FIP is the fourth-best mark in all of baseball, trailing only Mike Minor, Chad Green, and Dellin Betances. That’s a better mark than some of the game’s very best relievers—including Kenley Jansen, Aroldis Chapman, Andrew Miller, and Craig Kimbrel—have against left-handed hitters. Obviously the overall numbers don’t put Blevins on par with those guys, most of whom are right-handed, but it illustrates how good he’s been in that split.
As far as the data on his pitches goes, Blevins has averaged just a bit below 90 mile per hour with his fastball in each of the past two seasons, according to Brooks Baseball. That’s down just a tad from what he was throwing a few years ago, but clearly it hasn’t had a negative effect on his results. The more interesting change, though, was that the 2017 season saw Blevins throw more curveballs than fastballs, continuing a trend that had seen him throw the curve more over the past several seasons.
The pitch has gotten a lot of love across baseball recently, with the 24 consecutive curves thrown by Lance McCullers in the ALCS last year a prime example of its use. And it’s worked well for Blevins, who got a 21.66% swinging strike rate with it last year, by far the highest rate from any of his pitches. He ad registered rates in the low-to-mid 20s with the pitch in previous years, too, but the fact that he threw it even more and still got results in that range is impressive.
The projection systems all seem to be particularly conservative when it comes to what Blevins will do this year. He’s 34, which probably factors into that somewhat significantly, but of the projections listed at Fangraphs, only ZiPS has him in the low-3s with a 3.18 ERA. Several others are in the 3.4-something range, with some bringing him up closer to 4.00. Over at Baseball Prospectus, PECOTA projects a 3.86 ERA. I’d take the under on just about all of those, though a season in line with the ZiPS projection would still be good.
Having made 148 appearances over the last two years, Blevins didn’t quite hit Pedro Feliciano levels of use, but it’ll be interesting to see if that work takes any toll on his performance. He’s also working under a new manager, and how—and how often—Mickey Callaway deploys him could have an impact on his results. Blevins is in the last year of a deal he signed before the 2017 season that included a $7 million team option for 2018, which the Mets exercised. Assuming he puts up a season similar to the last two, it’d be nice to see him stick around beyond this year, especially since he’s just one of three of the Mets’ top four relievers set to hit free agency after the season.