Spring's over, baseball is really here, Kendrys Morales is still at home, and Nick Franklin is in Tacoma. Most of the things we wrote about in spring were about events that never happened, games that didn't matter, and stats that may or may not have been an indication of anything real. Meanwhile, a fairly quiet bullpen battle went on, and guys like Ramon Ramirez and Zach Minor just sort of faded away. Nobody ran away with a job, Carson Smith or Dominic Leone didn't make an unexpected leap, and as a result, the final spot pretty much came down to two lefties.
Last year, I wrote a profile on Kameron Loe. He was promptly one of the worst Mariner relievers in recent years, and barely lasted two weeks. Few players have ever left more of a sour impression than Loe, who gave up six bombs in 6.2 innings. That's it, 6.2 innings. Let in Mariners infamy and wondering why I wasted words and time researching him.
I say this because I'm fully aware the same thing might happen to Joe Beimel, who very quietly made the Mariners bullpen as a lefty/holy shit the last two guys of this bullpen might be terrible/who is this guy specialist. Beimel beat out Lucas Luetge for the role, and if you don't know much about him, you shouldn't be faulted. The last article linked to him on Fangraphs is from 2009, and it's just a FIP/ERA "regression is coming" kind of post. We've now used the same picture of him multiple times because there's nothing else in the photo tool. And there are hundreds of thousands of recent pictures in that thing.
Beimel ended up being pretty ok after that article in 2009, but hasn't pitched in the majors since 2011, where he LOOGY'd himself out of career after struggling with the Pirates. A WHIP of 1.69, ERA of 5.33, and a busted elbow forced him to spend 2012 out of baseball recovering from Tommy John, only to return to have a pretty terrible season with the Braves organization in 2013, posting a 5.75 FIP and a middling 1.50 K/BB ratio.
Despite that, the Mariners offered him a minor league contract after hearing that his velocity was back. Sometimes it takes a while to ramp it back up, and for a finesse LOOGY like Beimel who never struck many guys out, not having it seemed to be important. He didn't really strike a bunch of guys out in spring training either (5 K, 3 BB in 7.1 innings), but it's not far off from where he used to be. Beimel's career rate is only 5.1 K/9, and like a lot of LOOGYs, he's spent his career walking a lot of guys (3.7 BB/9) and allowing a lot of baserunners in general (1.49 WHIP). But if you take away his early years where he was a failed starter, his career (as it is now) truly began in 2006, and until 2010 he posted a 3.20 ERA. He's done it throwing a fairly basic arsenal of pitches: Fourseam, sinker, curve, change.
All with that same skillset -- not missing many bats, walking a lot of guys, but still effective. Constantly defying his FIP, xFIP, and SIERA, his batted ball types didn't love his chances going forward, but he still made it work, at least to the tune of his ERA. But it's not as if he has done so by allowing a bunch of inherited runners to score either, as his RRA is lower than his ERA (formula here). Beimel's been one of those guys who has consistently stuck his middle finger up to a certain set of peripherals (Chris Young also says hello), and now the Mariners are giving him a run to see if he can get back to dancing around the luck dragon now that his elbow is healthy again. If it isn't luck (which is fair to say it probably wasn't, since he sustained success for so long), then it's the mysterious ability to generate weaker-than-usual contact on his line drives and home runs. Now he's 36, and looking to get back to something we don't have a great ability to measure, at least not yet (come on, MLBAM!). Relievers are an odd bunch. Jason Grilli is dominant now. Jason Grilli.
To recap and add some more -- Joe Beimel, lefty reliever who throws 86-88, doesn't miss bats, walks a lot of guys, has an unimpressive batted ball profile, returning from Tommy John surgery, implausibly effective when healthy.
Beimel is the last man standing from this year's group of minor league invite arms, and hardly anybody talked about him in spring training, and that hasn't changed. Joe Beimel is a Seattle Mariner, but he's currently almost as innocuous as Jeff Grey once was. This post was meant to provide some insight into what kind of production to expect from Beimel, but I've realized that if I can't explain things when he was good, I certainly can't explain them now. Cross your fingers and hope whatever magic he's used in the past works wonders once again, because he certainly won't be good by traditional effective reliever methods.