Atlanta Braves Bring Back Right-Handed Relief Pitcher Blaine Boyer
Today the Atlanta Braves brought back Georgia native Blaine Boyer for another tour.
Blaine Boyer is returning to the Braves with a Minor League deal. Boyer has a good chance to open the season in Atlanta’s bullpen.
— Mark Bowman (@mlbbowman) January 17, 2017
I’m not sure Bowman’s optimism is well founded as the Braves pen looks to be well stocked already but Boyer will get a chance to prove his worth during spring training.
Boyer signed with the Braves at 18 years old and made him major league debut with other ‘Baby Braves’ in June of 2005. Former Braves manager Bobby Cox leaned heavily on Boyer running him out of the pen 43 times in the 113 days after he arrived. Boyer did good work in his 37 2/3 IP posting a 3.11 ERA – 3.13 FIP – striking out 33 and walking 17. The price for all of that work was a balky shoulder that limited him to two appearances in 2006.
At the beginning of the 2007 the Braves sent him back to Gwinnett to work as a starter. He appeared 21 times for the G-Braves including 12 starts and finished with a 4-3 record and 4.30 ERA – 1.718 WHIP – in 43 1/3 innings. He had also had a cup of coffee in Atlanta in June making five one inning appearances.
In 2008 Boyer returned to the pen for Atlanta and became a guy Cox called on regularly. He made the trek from the pen 76 times throwing 72 innings, striking out 67 and walking 25 to finish with a 5.88 ERA, 4.20 FIP and 1.361 WHIP.
Boyer made just three appearances for Atlanta in 2009 before being traded to the St. Louis Cardinals for Brian Barton. The Cardinals used him 15 times for 16 1/3 innings before putting him on waivers where he was grabbed by the Diamondbacks.
Define Journeyman: Boyer
The D’Backs used him often over the next two seasons – 84 appearances and 94 innings – but nontendered him after that season and he signed with the Mets in January. The Mets released him in April and from that point through 2011 Boyer bounced around the league. The Cardinals finally released in August and he was out of baseball completely until signing with the Royals in January of 2013.
Call to the Pen 6d
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It looked like a repeat of his previous history as KC released him in May and he ended up in Japan for the remainder of that year. He apparently made some corrections in Japan that improved his performance because since returning he’s been a solid if unspectacular reliever.
He spent 2014 with the Padres, 2015 with Twins and 2016 with the Brewers. Over that time he appeared in 161 games, threw 171 1/3 innings, struck out 88, walked 44, posted a 3.31 ERA – 3.73 FIP – and 1.284 WHIP. That boiled down to an ERA+ of 121, a significant improvement to his pre-Japan performance.
His performance is indeed better but still it’s not exactly eye-popping leading Travis Sawchik at Fangraphs to try to figure out why teams keep hiring him – aside from him being inexpensive of course. Sawchick described him this way.
(Boyer) had the lowest strikeout percentage – 9.2 % – in all of baseball . . .(is) one of two pitchers to throw at least 50 innings last season and strike out fewer than 10% of batters faced. . . Since 2014, Boyer has the eighth-lowest strikeout percentage. . .(isn’t) an elite ground-ball pitcher.. . (or) command-and-control artist. . .(and) fastball velocity, and modest strikeout rates, have declined three straight seasons. . .
Why Sign Boyer?
Boyer is a local guy (Marietta) and brings a lot of experience in handling the ups and downs of life in the bullpen. According to Andrew Simon on MLB.com, there’s a baseball reason too. While he has no special tool, nobody was barreled up less often than Boyer.
Out of 265 pitchers who had at least 150 balls put in play . . . Boyer allowed the lowest rate of barrels (1.0 percent. . .(with) an average 86.2 mph exit velocity that ranked 11th. . . .avoidance of solid contact is how a pitcher with a fastball averaging less than 93 mph and with MLB’s lowest strikeout rate . . .(survives).
As I said at the top, Bowman suggests Boyer is likely to earn a job out of spring training and that statistic is likely why he feels that way.
That’s A Wrap
Boyer isn’t a sexy choice but he costs little and provides a completely different look from everyone else. Pitchers and catchers report in 27 days; let the jostling for jobs begin!
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