The Braves bullpen was in pretty desperate need of bullpen help at times during the 2019 season. While the bullpen overhaul at the trade deadline still gets the most attention (and rightfully so), the Braves did periodically make moves before that to try to get some help. Such was the case when the Braves acquired Jerry Blevins from Oakland for cash considerations at the end of April. Blevins wasn’t a sexy acquisition, but as a guy that can get lefties out and has experience, any team could do far worse than him.
What went right in 2019?
One thing remains true about Blevins even though his best days are behind him and that is that he is still good against opposing lefty hitters. Southpaws had just a .540 OPS against him in 2019 and Blevins had a 10.59 K/9 against them versus just 3.71 BB/9. He was also adept at limiting the long ball against lefties as well as he gave up just 0.53 homers per nine innings against them. Again, as a lefty specialist, the Braves could do far worse than him.
One other thing that Jerry had go right was that he in the majors at all. At the age of 36, Blevins did not have a job in the major leagues when the Braves acquired him from Oakland as he was toiling away on the Athletics’ Triple-A roster. While the numbers are often what drives the good/bad of a player’s season most of the time, it is worth remembering that, for guys like Jerry in the twilight of their careers, getting one more shot at the big leagues is all they could ever want and he got it.
What went wrong in 2019?
While Blevins was really good against lefties, he was next to unplayable against right handed hitters. Righties had an .830 OPS against him in 2019 which is really not good and every peripheral of his against them (HR/9, BB/9, FIP, etc.) screamed that he should not be utilized against them.
Unfortunately, that is not how he was used and despite a propensity for giving up the long ball against right-handers (2.35 HR/9) in addition to a drastically increased walk rate against them (5.28 BB/9 against righties), Blevins actually faced more righties in 2019 than lefties in terms of batters faced. This is more of a usage problem than anything he did wrong, but at this point in his career...putting him against anyone other than lefties is very much “do so at your own risk”.
What to expect in 2020?
Blevins is a free agent yet again, but one has to think that he will be employed in the major leagues somewhere in 2020. Again, as a lefty specialist and if he is used that way, he can be effective. It wouldn’t be a crazy notion for the Braves to try and keep him around in the bullpen if he were to be used in that role. He isn’t going to be a big money deal regardless of where he ends up and, at his age, there are no guarantees that he will continue to maintain even this level of production. However, if an aging guy with a limited skillset is going to at least get an opportunity with a big league club especially when he throws with his left arm, it is going to be a reliever.