To save or not to save? That is the question!
The Miami Marlins signed free agent RHP Anthony Bass on January 27, 2021, hoping to fill the much-needed role of “shut-down closer.” Bass was coming off a 2020 season with the Toronto Blue Jays in which he recorded seven saves in 9 opportunities while posting an ERA of 3.51 in 25 2⁄3 innings pitched.
Although Bass did not become the closer the Marlins needed—posting a 7.50 ERA in save situations—he did pitch well in non-save opportunities, recording a strong 2.13 ERA in those non-save situations. At times, he served as a very valuable 7th/8th inning bridge.
Let’s break this down by inning!
When pitching in the ninth inning this season, Bass pitched to a woeful ERA of 14.21 (yikes) over a combined 6 1⁄3 innings. That included the infamous “Hit By Pitch Heard Round the World,” where a pitch that was in the strike zone came into contact with the outstretched elbow of Mets Outfielder Michael Conforto, resulting in a horrific walk-off hit-by-pitch.
Despite his ninth-inning woes, however, Bass pitched effectively in the seventh and eighth innings. Bass posted ERAs of 1.00(!!!!) over 27 innings pitched in the seventh and 4.95 over 20 innings pitched in the eighth. In the 7th inning specifically, Bass recorded 5.20 strikeouts for every walk (26 SO compared to 5 BB) while holding opposing hitters to a batting average of .165 and an OPS of .498! These are incredible numbers. I think it’s safe to say that Anthony Bass was comfortable in that role.
Expanding on the topic of exaggerated splits, Anthony Bass, a Right-Handed Pitcher, held opposing Right-Handed Hitters to a paltry .195 BA and .538 OPS while allowing Left-Handed Batters to record a .300 BA and 1.004 OPS.
During Spring Training prior to this season, while chatting with Marlins Radio Host Kyle Sielaff on the Beyond the Bases podcast, Bass mentioned how he would like to “fine-tune” his splitter and throw it a bit more to lefties to try and give them a “different look” instead of his usual Slider/Sinker arsenal. But something must’ve changed his philosophy along the way—his regular season pitch usage was 49.9% Sliders, 41.9% Sinkers, 7.3% 4-Seam Fastballs…and 0.8% Splitters (only 8 pitches thrown).
Bass’ Splitters resulted in 4 balls, one swinging strike, two foul balls, and a 385-foot 2-run home run off the bat of Joey Wendle in the top of the ninth(!) inning way back on April 2, 2021. In that appearance (coincidentally his Miami debut), the Marlins had a 4-2 lead entering the ninth inning, with Bass coming on in to convert the save. The Rays scored four runs, all of them earned, and went on to win the game 6-4, handing Bass the Blown Save and the Loss.
Anthony Bass has another guaranteed year remaining on his contract, with the club holding an option for 2023. The ideal spot for him would clearly be as a 7th and 8th inning setup man. Looking at the platoon splits, he could be used as a righty specialist if he can get more control over his slider. However, with the three-batter minimum rule in effect, he’ll need to seriously consider upping his splitter usage when inevitably matched up with lefties.
As long as Manager Don Mattingly is patient enough to give Bass an extended opportunity to be a setup man, to allow him to develop consistency and control over his pitches, the Marlins can get a more valuable version of the player who was frustrating to watch in 2021.