Name: Jerry Richard Blevins
DOB: September 6, 1983
From: Johnson City, Tennessee
Position: Relief Pitcher Bullpen Role: All-Around Lefty-Reliever
With the Nats Since: Dec. 11, 2013 (acquired via trade with Oakland Athletics)
Just Who Is This Guy?: Jerry Blevins is a tall, left-handed reliever who, up until the December trade, had spent the past seven seasons with the Oakland Athletics. Blevins made his major league debut on Sept. 16, 2007, when he pitched a scoreless inning in relief during an 11-9 loss against the Texas Rangers. He has a career record of 13-6 with a 3.30 ERA in 281 games at the Major League level.
Blevins pitching repertoire features a sinker, curveball, cutter and a changeup – all of which he can throw anywhere in the zone for strikes. Not known for having blazing fast pitches, Blevins tends to work hitters down in the zone in order to induce more ground ball outs. His best season came in 2012 where he went 5-1 with a 2.48 ERA in 63 games. Blevins struck out 54 and limited lefties to a .182 batting average against him.
What Happened in 2013: The 2013 season was kind of an anomaly for Blevins in terms of how batters fared against him. Known as a lefty-specialist, 2013 saw right-handed batters hit .190 off of him while lefties hit .253. His ERA shot up a little bit in 2013 (from 2.48 in ’12 to 3.15 in ’13), but he pitched in more games (67) and struck out 52 batters. Blevins gave up 47 hits and only walked 17, giving him a WHIP of 1.07.
Blevins did have one hiccup during the 2013 season. From June 11 to July 26, he posted a 10.61 ERA, giving up 11 earned runs in 15 games. His ERA jumped to 3.86, his highest total during the season. However, he rebounded nicely, giving up two runs (one earned) in 10 appearances dating from July 29 to Aug. 17. That nice stretch of games lowered his ERA to 3.26 on the season. Finally, Blevins closed out September and solidified his ERA at 3.15 by not allowing a run in his final nine appearances (7.2 innings) of the season.
What’s expected in 2014?: What’s expected is that Blevins will turn back into the pitcher who only allowed lefties to hit .182 against him. His career average against lefties is .224, which is great, considering how many left-handed hitters there are in the National League East. Blevins will be called upon to face left-handed, NL East foes such as Freddie Freeman and Jason Heyward of the Atlanta Braves, Chase Utley (switch hitter) and Domonic Brown of the Philadelphia Phillies, Christian Yelich of the Miami Marlins and Curtis Granderson of the New York Mets. The lefty versus lefty matchup is more favorable for a pitcher, like Blevins, when facing a power hitter because of how he focuses on hitting his spots at the bottom of the strike zone.
Another thing that Blevins brings to the bullpen is his ability to pitch more than just one inning. In 2013, he threw 1+ inning 15 times and 2+ innings five times, with his longest outing being 2.2 innings pitched. That alone is a huge benefit to the functionality of the bullpen because it allows other pitchers more rest days.
The bottom line is that Blevins isn’t just your average relief/specialist pitcher. He can get both righties and lefties out, pitch an inning or two if needed AND he is a controllable, somewhat cheap ($1.675 million-cheap) pitcher who won’t become a free agent until 2016 at the earliest. That sounds like a pretty solid anchor in the bullpen to me.
If It All Goes Right: Blevins will be a lights-out reliever for the Nationals and go back to dominating lefties. He will pitch 60-70 innings, allowing other relievers, such as Tyler Clippard, to get some extra rest. Since Clippard has had successes against lefties in the past, he was relied upon heavily to face them in high leverage situations during the 2013 season. With the addition of Blevins to the bullpen mix, Clippard’s innings pitched should decrease, taking some strain off of his arm and allow him to focus more on his set-up role in the pen.
Pitching in the National League should have a bit of an effect on Blevins since he won’t be facing the tougher American League lineups on a game-to-game basis. Because of this, we might see Blevins’ ERA around the 2.50 mark like it was in 2012. Blevins will also notch a couple holds and win a few games for the Nats. In a pinch, he could even save a game or two (he does have two career saves), although that’s not very likely with how much bullpen depth the Nationals have.
If It All Goes Wrong: We may see more regression with Blevins in terms of his ERA and see his strikeout numbers decrease because of how much he relies on inducing groundball outs. He will be entering his age 31-season, which could contribute to some lower numbers as well. However, according to his ZiPS projection, Blevins’ ERA will spike, with everything else pretty much staying the same as it was in 2013. He is projected to go 3-2 with a 3.40 ERA in 61 games while striking out 52 batters and issuing 18 walks. Even with a 3.40 ERA, I don’t think you could go wrong with having a guy like Blevins be a vital piece of the bullpen.