I learned an interesting and hard lesson during Easter dinner with my folks on Sunday. Well, actually I learned two. The first is that there are many decent ways to cook asparagus, and "put it in the microwave with some butter on top" isn't one of them. The second is that my father is not an infallible compendium of baseball and Brewers knowledge.
The first lesson might seem obvious to some, and to you folks I say, "Well, you could have said something earlier, now we've got soggy vegetables." The second lesson, to me, was somewhat Earth shattering. You see I grew up believing that my pop had an encyclopedic level of knowledge of the game of the baseball and more specifically about our local nine. This belief was born of the fact that I was nine, and my favorite player was I Don't Know Whoever Hit The Last Home Run Was it Vaughn Okay I Like Him Best. When trivia questions about the Brewers were asked by sports talk radio hosts, my father knew the answers. When I had a question about the game in our seats at old County Stadium, he set me straight.
This belief began to fade as I grew older. Perhaps the first chink in the armor appeared in 2007 when my father predicted that the 23-year-old third baseman who got off to a hot start after his debut in May would probably be back in the minors within a month. As it turned out, Ryan Braun ended up sticking around a bit longer than that. The illusion was dashed perhaps for good and all on Sunday though, as I calmly explained who would be starting at first and third base, what the rotation would look like, and how the competition for the bullpen was shaping up.
And so in the very longest way possible, we come to the subject of today's lesson: RHP Blaine Boyer, who was informed by the Brewers that he had made the Opening Day roster on Easter Sunday. When I told my father that news, he responded with a one word question that it occurred to us many of you might have as well: "Who?"
Boyer is a 34-year-old reliever who debuted with Atlanta, the team that drafted him, in 2005. Boyer's career has taken him literally around the world: dealt from the Braves to St. Louis in 2009, Boyer spent the next three seasons with five teams, also popping up on the major league rosters of the Diamondbacks and Mets, finding himself in the Pirates minor league system, and finally returning to the Cardinals on a minor league deal. After allowing 26 runs over 16 innings with Triple-A Memphis to end his 2011 season, Boyer hung up his cleats.
Obviously, the decision to retire didn't stick, and Boyer returned to baseball in 2013 on a minor league deal with Kansas City. The Royals released Boyer in May, so he packed up and went to Japan, where he threw 27 innings out of the Hanshin Tigers bullpen to help them advance to the Climax Series, which is absolutely a better name for the playoffs than the MLB Postseason.
Boyer wasn't finished with his dream to return to the big leagues, however, and after signing a minor league deal with the Paders in January of 2014, Boyer finally found his way back when he contract was purchased by San Diego on May 22nd. Boyer signed another minor league with the Twins last season, making the Opening Day roster and pitching a very solid 65 innings, recording an ERA of 2.49. Boyer has already repeated the first part of the 2015 line in his biography, making the Brewers Opening Day roster after signing an minor league deal, and fans should be ecstatic if he's able to pitch as effectively as he did last season as well.
Boyer is a ground ball pitcher (career 52.5% GB rate) who pitches to contact, as he recorded just a 4.57 K/9 last season with Minnesota. He has a three fastball mix: a four-seamer that sits in the low- to mid-90s; a sinker that actually ticks up a bit faster that he picked up during his season with former Cardinals' pitching wizard and very possible servant to the Dark Lord Dave Duncan; and a hybrid cutter/slider that he mixes in with some regularity. He also has a curveball that he uses somewhat sparingly and a change-up that he started sprinkling in when he was feeling particularly saucy last season.
Let's hammer out some expectations. Boyer isn't really a "sign-and-trade" type of candidate: he's strictly a front of the bullpen arm with decent but not spectacular stuff, a very low strikeout rate and he'll be on the wrong side of 35 come July. Boyer is a decent pitcher, but there are a dozen Blaine Boyers on the waiver wire at any given time. I happen to like ours, but another team probably won't feel the same attachment. What Boyer will provide, at least for now, is a steady, veteran presence on a very young pitching staff -- pending a decision on Chris Capuano, who would supplant him, Boyer is the oldest player on the Brewers roster. PECOTA predicts a replacement level season from Boyer in 2016, with a 4.49 ERA, 1.40 WHIP 5.7 K/9 and 2.8 BB/9. Those numbers were calculated prior to his signing with Milwaukee, so they reflect projections under the assumption that he'd play for the Twins, but the change isn't significant there.
With four younger pitchers with higher upside sitting on the DL to start the season, Boyer will be looking over his shoulder once the likes of Will Smith, Sean Nolin, Yhonathan Barrios and Zack Jones begin to heal and are ready to return to action. For now, however, Boyer will get to do exactly what drew him back after a year away -- pitch in the major leagues.