With Opening Day less than three weeks away, we’ll take a look at a member of the 2018 Orioles every day as they try to bounce back from a disappointing last-place finish a year ago.
March 5 – Manny Machado
March 6 – Kevin Gausman
March 7 – Trey Mancini
March 8 – Brad Brach
March 9 – Tim Beckham
March 10 – Andrew Cashner
March 11 – Adam Jones
March 12 – Mychal Givens
March 14 – Jonathan Schoop
RP Richard Bleier
Opening Day age: 30
Contract status: Under club control through the 2022 season
2017 stats: 2-1, 0 saves, 1.99 ERA, 1.18 WHIP, 3.7 K/9, 1.8 BB/9, 6 HR, 63 1/3 innings
Why to be impressed: Not making his Orioles debut until early May, the left-hander finished 2017 with the best ERA on the club and the fifth-best mark in the American League among pitchers throwing at least 60 innings. Perhaps even more impressive was Bleier’s “Britton-light” 68.8 percent ground-ball rate, which ranked second in the majors among pitchers with 60 or more innings.
Why to be concerned: Bleier induced the second-lowest hard contact rate of any Orioles pitcher, but his strikeout rate was the worst of any major league pitcher (min. 60 innings), making his success even more remarkable. Taking that a step further, his .259 batting average on balls in play will be very difficult to repeat, making the southpaw reliever a natural regression candidate as opponents become more familiar.
2018 outlook: The Orioles love Bleier’s deceptive delivery and effective sinker, but it’s difficult imagining him posting another sub-2.00 ERA with such an inability to miss bats. However, his pitch-to-contact style of inducing ground balls should continue to give him a reasonable chance to be a solid middle reliever in the Baltimore bullpen if the revamped infield defense lives up to expectations.
Not-so-scientific projections for 2018: 2-4, 0 saves, 3.52 ERA, 1.27 WHIP, 4.4 K/9, 2.2 BB/9, 7 HR, 61 1/3 innings