Baltimore Orioles reliever Richard Bleier has been pitching as well as the best relievers in the MLB—but no one seems to notice.
One of the more consistent strengths that the Baltimore Orioles have had has been their bullpen. In fact, it would probably not be surprising to learn that Zach Britton is one of four relievers to have over 100 innings pitched and an ERA below 2.00.
It also probably wouldn’t surprise you to learn that Andrew Miller and Kenley Jansen are on that list too. What might surprise you is the fact that Richard Bleier is also on that list, with a 1.84 ERA over 112.2 innings pitched.
Yea, Bleier has been that good, up in league with three of the best relievers in baseball. So why doesn’t he get the same notoriety? Mostly it’s due to his lack of strikeouts.
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During that timespan, Miller has a K/9 of 14.30, Jansen has a K/9 of 13.40, and Britton has a K/9 of 8.90. Bleier? His K/9 during that same timespan sits at a measly 4.10.
Bleier isn’t a strikeout pitcher—his stuff isn’t overwhelming in any sense of the word—but what he does is limit walks and limit hits by generating weak contact. So far this year, he’s generated a 57.3% groundball rate, and last year that number was at 68.8%.
Bleier throws three pitches for the most part—a sinker:
And a cutter that he added last year:
His sinker is his fastest pitch, and that comes in at just 88 MPH on average, but it’s really good at generating weak contact. While opposing hitters may have a .281 average against it, they have just a .109 ISO, so even though they may hit it, they don’t hit it hard (as also evidenced by its 64.4% groundball rate).
And with his slider, he’s got perhaps his best strikeout pitch (to the extent that he has one). So far this year, the pitch has generated an 11.5% whiff rate and a 46.3% chase rate. And similar to his sinker, despite the fact that opposing hitters have a .348 average against the pitch, they have just a .043 ISO—so even if they do hit it, they’re not hitting it hard.
Bleier has arguably been one of the best relievers for the Baltimore Orioles both this year and last year. What’s more, it looks legit, as his 1.37 ERA this year comes with a 2.76 FIP.
There’s a lot of talk about the Baltimore Orioles potentially dealing Britton and Brad Brach as bullpen pieces at the trade deadline, but Bleier might draw some significant interest as well, considering how good he’s been and how good he’ll likely continue to be.