Erica Lay - Jerry Blevins and the Case of the Missing Curveball


As I watch the 2018 Mets nosedive into oblivion, I start to wonder about the various aspects of the team that are failing consistently. For example, our inability to hit left handed pitching. Part of this is because Yoenis Cespedes and Todd Frazier, our two big right handed bats, have been on the DL for a large chunk of the season. Wilmer Flores is out, too. Of course, the other part is that we just can’t seem to hit, period.

But, we can’t pitch to lefties either. Especially in a big spot. In the late innings, this has been a huge failing of this bullpen and, specifically, Jerry Blevins. So, what’s the difference between the dominant Blevins of the last two seasons and this new, less improved version?

The obvious answer is his seeming unwillingness to throw his curveball. The same curveball that helped him dominate left handed hitters in 2017 has been missing in action in 2018. Why?

I took a look at his career numbers and this is what I found:

Prior to 2016, Blevins didn’t actually rely on his curve all that much. From 2008 to 2014, he threw his curve roughly 24% of the time to left handed hitters. I was also surprised to find out that he used to lean pretty heavily on his cutter. Did you know that he threw a cutter? Me either.

Blevins missed most of 2015 with a broken arm. He only pitched 5 innings in 2015. In a very shortened season, he threw his curve 43% of the time and didn’t use the cutter at all. I’m not sure if the cutter was dropped due to some mechanical changes forced by the broken arm, but he hasn’t used that pitch since 2014.

Once healthy and back in the swing of things, Jerry’s curveball usage increased to 36% against left handed hitters in 2016 and bumped up to 53% in 2017. His ERA in these years was 2.79 and 2.94, respectively.

In 2018, he’s thrown his curve to left handed hitters 36% of the time and his ERA is sitting at an unsightly 5.40. It’s not that he’s using the curve so much less in 2018. In reality, he’s actually using it more inline with his career norms and 2017’s significant increase in usage was the outlier.

But it still begs the question – after having so much success throwing the curve in 2017, why the drop off?

Looking at the numbers, there’s only one reason I can come up with – it just hasn’t been a good pitch for him in 2018.

In 2016 and 2017, he averaged a 22% whiff rate on his curve. In 2018, that number is down to 13%. Similarly, the BAA was .160 on the pitch in 2016 and 2017. In 2018, the BAA on his curve is .318. If you want to talk about SLG, it doesn’t get any better – .204 in 2016 and 2017; .409 in 2018.

For whatever reason, he doesn’t seem to have a feel for the pitch this year. Is it a fluke? Is there some underlying injury he’s nursing? Who knows? But until he can command the pitch and utilize it as the weapon it used to be, we have no viable option against a big left handed bat in a critical spot.

Add this to the list, Sandy.


Reese Kaplan said...

Oh, but Sandy is taking decisive action. Didn't you see over the weekend he inked Ian Krol? When the Yankees needed a lefty reliever they paid for Aroldis Chapman. Krol came off the Angels' scrap heap.

Actually it's somewhat unfair to Krol who has a 3.25 ERA for his minor league career and is still young enough that he'll never get a shot with this regime.

Erica Lay said...

Instead of letting young players develop, it seems like we just keep inking veterans and hoping that everyone on the roster puts up a career year all at the same time.

Mack Ade said...

Erika/Reese -

My guess is that the Mets have chosen to play out the string in Legas with pitching. Their young pitchers are getting killed.

Don't look this up... when was the last time Vegas gave up less than 10 runs in one game?

Look what's going on with Joseph Zanghi.

I expect more of this AAAA pitching this season there.

Regarding Krol, he's 27... pitched well for the Braves in 2016 and is 1.71-ERA in 18 appearances this year in the PCL (yes, the PCL).

Why not?

Thomas Brennan said...

PJ Conlon seemed a good lefty pen choice prior to this season, but...

Sometimes, there are no good answers within the organization.

Reese Kaplan said...

As Pogo once famously said, "We have met the enemy and he is us."


Mike Freire said...

I wonder if Jerry has an issue with his arm?

If you peek at his career stats, his usage is in line with past years so it would be hard to argue that he is tired (physically anyway, mentally is another question with this team).

Mack's Mets © 2012