Jerry Blevins:National League Ranking

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Oct 3, 2014; Washington, DC, USA; Washington Nationals relief pitcher Jerry Blevins (13) pitches against the San Francisco Giants in the sixth inning during game one of the 2014 NLDS playoff baseball game at Nationals Park. Mandatory Credit: H.Darr Beiser-USA TODAY Sports

Throughout the month, we will be ranking each Nationals starter and a couple of relief pitchers to see where they rank at their positions in the National League. Earlier this week, we ranked Jordan Zimmermann and Tyler Clippard. Today we will be continuing our series with one of the Nationals relief pitchers, Jerry Blevins.

In this ranking for Blevins, we will be using statistics from the last season only because Blevins pitched in the AL in 2013 with the Oakland A’s. Therefore, to compare him to other NL relievers for 2014, we can only use last season’s statistics. With the other posts in this series, we are trying to use two years of stats to give us a bigger sample size.

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In this effort, we will see which parts of the team need to be fixed and which are solid compared to the rest of the league. The first step for the Nationals is to win the division, so if any National League East player comes across in our findings, we will be sure to point it out. If not, the main goal is winning the National League Pennant and going to the World Series.

I will analyze standard pitching statistics, as well as advanced statistics. This will give us a full picture of who the best players are at that position. To put the players in some type of order, we will be using WAR. That gives us a baseline to start the analysis.

The top-five National League relief pitchers according to FanGraphs by WAR last year are Aroldis Chapman (WAR 2.7), Craig Kimbrel (2.2), Steve Cishek (WAR 2.0), Kenley Jansen (2.0) and Mark Melancon (1.9). All are closers. Kimbrel (Atlanta Braves) and Cishek (Marlins) pitch in the NL East.

Blevins ranked number 24 on the WAR list, with a WAR of 0.7. However, only two Nationals relief pitchers are ahead of him on last year’s WAR list: Tyler Clippard with a WAR of 1.5 and a ranking of number 9 on the list, and Drew Storen with a WAR of 0.9 ranked number 17 on the list. Clippard’s WAR is pretty incredible considering that he is not a closer and doesn’t get the saves advantage when calculating WAR. Storen’s WAR may be a bit inflated because he did log 11 saves after replacing Rafael Soriano in the Nats closer role.

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As pointed out by my colleague Brandon Conner in his post on Tyler Clippard, closers have an advantage in the WAR statistics because of the saves category. WAR is not a particularly helpful statistic to look at when evaluating relievers. We need to look at other statistics to assess the value of a reliever that is not also a closer.

Percentages of walks, strikeouts, home runs allowed, ERA, ground balls, left on base, BABIP (batting average on balls in play) and FIP (fielder independent pitching) are the current statistics used to try to compare pitchers to each other and parse out performance.

In terms of walk percentage, the top six relievers in the NL last year were Pat Neshek (1.20), Seth Maness (1.23), Mark Melancon (1.39), Craig Stammen (1.73), Tony Watson (1.75) and Drew Storen (1.76). Blevins’ walk percentage was 3.61, which quite frankly was not good. That ranks 50 out of 72 qualified relievers on the list. That was the worst ratio for any Nationals reliever who pitched at least fifty innings last year. This is clearly an area in which Blevins needs some work.

The home runs per nine innings contest last year was won by Brandon League of the Dodgers, who in 63 innings gave up no home runs. His percentage was 0.00. He is followed by A.J. Ramos (0.14), Jeremy Affeldt (0.16), Aroldis Chapman (0.17) and Yusmeiro Petit (0.18). Blevins ranks 23rd on the list, with a percentage of 0.47, which is not a bad number. He’s in the top third of NL relievers in this category.

In terms of strikeouts per nine innings, the NL relief leaders last year were (surprise) Aroldis Chapman (17.67 K’s per nine innings), Kenley Jansen (13.91), Craig Kimbrel (13.86), Jake Diekman of the Phillies (12.68) and Will Smith (11.79). Blevins’ ratio last year was 10.36, good for 20th in the league.

Left on Base percentage tells us who can get out of trouble if runners get on. In 2014, tops for NL relievers in this category was Francisco Rodriguez at 93.0%, Drew Storen at 90.6%, Dale Thayer at 89.0%, Bryan Morris at 88.9% and Tony Watson at 88.5%. Blevins ranks number 71 out of 72 relievers on the list, with a percentage of 60.5%. Obviously another area where Blevins needs to concentrate. I expect the high walks per nine innings number factors into this statistic also to drag Blevins’ number down.

Blevins ranking in ground ball percentage is not high. He ranks 54th out of 72 on the list, with a percentage of 38.8. Tops in this category in the league were Brandon League (67.5, and hence no home runs given up?), Jeremy Affeldt (66.7 and third on the home run percentage list), Jared Hughes (64.6), Brad Ziegler (63.8) and David Hale of the Braves (60.9).

ERA is a pitching statistic with which everyone is familiar. Unfortunately, the walks that Blevins gave up and his left on base percentage really hurt him in this category. Blevins was the fourth worst reliever in the NL last year in terms of ERA, with a number of 4.87. Last year’s NL ERA leaders among relief pitchers were Drew Storen (1.12), Joaquin Benoit (1.49), Craig Kimbrel (1.61), Tony Watson (1.63) and Santiago Castilla (1.70).

BABIP leaders for last year were Joaquin Benoit with a number of .203, Santiago Castilla (.211), Francisco Rodriguez (.216), Jean Machi (.230) and Pat Neshek (.233). Blevins’ BABIP for last year was .306, ranking him number 49 on the list.

FIP measures what a pitcher can control. It includes walks, hit by pitch, strikeouts and home runs. It’s a measure of a pitcher’s overall performance. The FIP leader list for last year was Aroldis Chapman (0.89), Yusmeiro Petit (1.66), Craig Kimbrel (1.83), Kenley Jansen (1.91) and Mark Melancon (2.09). Blevins ranks number 18 on this list with a number of 2.77, just behind Tyler Clippard and Drew Storen in this statistical category.

Notice that on the lists of the relievers with best statistics, the only NL East reliever we see again and again is Craig Kimbrel. Nats fans aren’t surprised by this, having seen enough of Kimbrel over the last several years.

Blevins’ 2014 season was the tale of two seasons. He really was quite dreadful until August. His ERA in June was 7.56, and in July was 6.48. His ERA declined in August to 4.35, and was down to 4.87 overall at the end of the season.

He was one of the Nats most reliable relievers in the post-season. He pitched 3.2 innings against the Giants, and posted an ERA of 0.00, gave up no hits and struck out two. He came in and saved an inning several times when another pitcher had put runners on and got into a jam.

The September and post-season Jerry Blevins is the pitcher that the Nationals hoped they had traded for when they got him from the A’s. I have no idea if his issues for two-thirds of 2014 were mechanical or mental or some combination of both, but I hope that the pitcher the Nats get in 2015 is the post-season Blevins and not the guy with the 7.56 ERA.

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