How A's reliever Yusmeiro Petit became baseball's version of a unicorn

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Most relievers throw in the mid 90s. Not Yusmeiro Petit. Most relievers decline in their mid 30s. Not Yusmeiro Petit. The 34-year-old continues to buck every trend.
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Yusmeiro Petit has bucked just about every trend of a major league relief pitcher.

Nowadays, most relievers come in throwing high-90s gas, yet Petit's fastball has never averaged 90 miles per hour in any of his 12 big-league seasons.

Most relievers can only throw one inning per appearance and must have their total innings limited throughout the season. Petit, on the other hand, has ranked in the top two for innings pitched among true relievers in each of the last three seasons.

Many relievers experience a sharp decline when they reach their mid-30s. Petit, 34, seems to just keep getting better with age.

In December of 2017, the A's signed Petit to a two-year, $10 million contract with a club option for a third year. That might seem like a high price to pay for a non-closer, but the right-hander has been worth every penny, and then some.

Last season, Petit went 7-3 with a 3.00 ERA and 1.01 WHIP, helping Oakland reach the postseason for the first time since 2014. He pitched 93 innings, second-most in the majors among true relievers.

This year, Petit has been even better, going 2-1 with a 2.45 ERA and 0.84 WHIP. His 51 innings again rank second among true relievers and his 45 appearances are tied for second. Petit is on pace to top 90 innings out of the bullpen for the third straight season.

"And it's not like he's 24 years old anymore," A's manager Bob Melvin noted. "Most guys coming out of the bullpen are throwing 96 miles an hour now too. He does it very uniquely. It seems like he gets better as the years go by. He's probably the one guy right now that we look to give multiple innings. He comes in, gets out of a jam, and then goes back out there again. I don't know how many times he's done that."

To Melvin's point, Petit has already accumulated 16 multiple-inning appearances this season. While he has only averaged 7.2 strikeouts per nine innings, he has walked just six batters the entire year, giving him a phenomenal 6.83 strikeout-to-walk ratio, seventh-best in the majors among pitchers with at least 50 innings.

As previously mentioned, Petit has remained effective without throwing hard -- his fastball sits at just 89 mph -- by mixing an effective curveball, slider, and changeup, all pitches he can throw for strikes. 

"The appearances, the games -- similar to last year -- there are very few guys that can do what he does and do it effectively without 95 miles an hour," Melvin said. "He was a great signing for us and continues to be."

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Petit's value also lies in his versatility. The Venezuela native began his career as a starter, as most pitchers do. He can still make a spot start if needed or follow an opener for a handful of innings. He can even serve as a closer, having recorded four saves for the Angels in 2017.

To put it simply, whatever you need, Yusmeiro Petit will provide it.

How A's reliever Yusmeiro Petit became baseball's version of a unicorn originally appeared on NBC Sports Bay Area