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Meet The New Guy: Richard Bleier

He’s one of the last of a dying breed: a pitch-to-contact reliever.

Who is he and where did he come from?

He’s Richard Bleier, dude who played for 10 different minor league baseball teams in 4 different organizations before he finally made the show as a 29-year-old rookie in 2016. The Red Sox just acquired him from the Miami Marlins in exchange for Matt Barnes and $5 million, designating Franklin German for assignment in the process.

What position does he play?

He’s a left-handed middle reliever.

Is he any good?

He’s not bad! Honest! And that's true even considering the fact that, in today’s age of flame-throwing relievers, he’s a total unicorn.

Bleier does not strike out hitters — like, at all. He’s a pitch-to-contact guy who excels at keeping the ball on the ground, with the fifth-highest ground ball rate amongst all relievers since 2020, and the tenth-lowest home run rate. He complements that approach with pinpoint control, walking just 1.5 batters-per-nine over the course of his seven-year career. He’s also, unsurprisingly, very good against lefties, having yielded just a .225/.260/.313 slash line against them.

One thing to keep in mind, however, is that the shift ban is going into effect this season. Intuitively, it would seem that ground ball pitchers will be hurt by this rule change more than anyone else. Over the course of his career, Bleier’s given up a .279 wOBA with the shift behind him, compared to .301 without it. However, there is probably some righty/lefty noise in there, in light of the fact that right-handed hitters are less likely to be shifted on in general. It’ll certainly be something to keep an eye on early in the season.

What’s he doing in his picture up there?

Pretending to be Jazz Chisholm on picture day last year. This isn’t a joke, that’s actually what he was doing:

Show me a cool highlight.

Even if you don’t remember the name Richard Bleier, I bet you remember this. Bleier was the guy who balked three times in a single at-bat against the Mets last year.

What’s his role on the 2023 Red Sox?

Bleier is one of just two lefties in the Red Sox bullpen right now. The other one, Joely Rodriguez, doesn’t really perform significantly better against lefties than righties, and tends to struggle with control. In all likelihood, then, Bleier is going to be the guy called upon to face tough lefties in medium-to-high leverage situations.