Last week I posted a year in review piece about the Blue Jays starters, this week I take a look at the bullpen. The bullpen was an area of concern for the Blue Jays heading into the season, with a good amount of depth, but not much in the way of proven talent. Players like Steve Delabar, Brett Cecil, Aaron Loup, and Esmil Rogers had impressed in 2012 out of the bullpen for the Jays or other teams, but had little track record. In 2013 though, the Jays bullpen was a great surprise with Delabar and Cecil humorously making the all-star team (Humorous due to relievers making the all-star team, not that they were undeserving). Overall in 2013 the Jays bullpen posted a 3.37 ERA, good enough for 9th in baseball as well as posting a 3.42 bbFIP which ranked 8th overall thanks to the 6th highest GB rate and the third lowest LD rate in baseball.
BREAKING DOWN THE KEY MEMBERS
Sergio Santos (25.2 IP, 1.75 ERA, 1.84 FIP, 0.99 bbFIP)
Sergio Santos missed over half the season due to injury, but when he was healthy he was incredibly dominant. With the innings pitched minimum set at 25 IP, only Koji Uehara posted a lower bbFIP. Santos gave up a grand total of 5 line drives in 90 batters faced, which equals out to 8.6% of balls in play. In fact, Santos had a ridiculous 1:14 unintentional BB/K. If you look at the largest portion of bbFIP; Line Drives, Strikeouts, Unintentional Walks, Hit By Pitches and Infield Flyballs, Santos recorded a total of 7 negative events (2 UBB, 5 LD) and 30 positive events (28 K, 2 IFFB). His 4.29 Positive per Negative ratio was second in the league with the same 25 IP bar, again to Koji Uehara. The league average ratio for positive:negative events was 0.96.
Brett Cecil (60.2 IP, 2.82 ERA, 2.88 FIP, 2.60 bbFIP)
I know a few Jays fans who since 2011 have been calling for Brett Cecil to move to the pen. As a former college reliever whose stuff had taken a step back when moved to the rotation, there was some hope it would tick up in the pen, and did it ever. With a new, fantastic cut fastball, Brett Cecil’s strikeout rate hit rose to 28%, compared to his career 16.6% rate as a starter, as well as gaining a good 3-4 MPH on the fastball. Cecil’s Ground ball rate increased to over 50% for the first time in his career. The high GB rate combined with the solid positive to negative ratio (1.42), in large part due to an excellent 3.04 K/BB ratio lead to the second best bbFIP on the Blue Jays.
Juan Perez (31.2 IP, 3.69 ERA, 3.71 FIP, 2.66 bbFIP)
An unlikely hero at the beginning of the season, Juan Perez became a go too long man out of the bullpen for John Gibbons. While his unorthodox delivery lead to a partially torn UCL, Perez used it to cause deception, and went 22 innings before giving up his first earned run of the season. He imploded after that though, giving up 13 runs in 9.2 innings, and seeing his K/BB drop from 3.5 before, to 2.2 after those 9.2 innings. It wasn’t entirely surprising, Juan Perez was 35 and had never managed to stay on a team for a full major league season, and bullpens are a haven for small sample craziness. Perez was still legitimately good though. His 1.29 Positive to Negative ratio was solidly above average, but the smaller portion of bbFIP (Groundballs and Flyballs) is what really helped Perez. Perez induced 49 groundballs to a paltry 18 flyballs, and posted a nearly identical GB rate to Aaron Loup (59.9 to 59.8) for the best on the team.
Steve Delabar (58.2 IP, 3.22 ERA, 2.72 FIP, 2.86 bbFIP)
The man of steel, or at least the elbow of steel followed up his impressive audition with the Jays in 2012 with a full season of filth in 2013. He wasn’t able to match his 2.58 bbFIP of 2012, but his 2.86 bbFIP was still among the best relievers in baseball in 2013. Delabar’s strikeout rate stayed relatively the same from 2012 to 2013 and he saw an increase in popups, but the walk and line drive rates rose as well. Delabar still posted a 1.56 positive to negative ratio and in the end the biggest difference between him and Cecil was the latter’s ability to induce groundballs.
Aaron Loup (69.3 IP, 2.47 ERA, 3.32 FIP, 3.03 bbFIP)
There was much speculation among the sabermetric crowd as to whether Loup could repeat his terrific 30 innings sample from 2013, and the answer was a resounding yes as the sidearmer posted a sparkling 2.47 ERA and lead the Blue Jays with 69.1 IP on the season. Loup was an extreme groundball pitcher, with 44% of batters hitting groundballs in 2013, and as such didn’t record many outcomes that largely factor into bbFIP. His positive to negative ratio was 1.08, and his 124 GB to 47 FB rate was a massive factor for him.
Casey Janssen (52.2 IP, 2.56 ERA, 2.74 FIP, 3.26 bbFIP)
A fan favourite, Janssen entered the season as a closer for the first time and didn’t disappoint. While Gibbons used Janssen very carefully due to injury concerns, Casey managed to post a 1.15 positive to negative ratio that was buoyed by a very good K/BB, which has become a Janssen trademark. Janssen did take a step backwards from 2013 in the K/BB department, which was a large reason as to why his bbFIP rose nearly a third of a run from 2012 to 13. After an abnormally low GB rate in 2012 (42.5%), Janssen saw more balls hit the dirt in 2013 (47.9%), which is much closer to his 48.5% career rate.
Dustin McGowan (25.2 IP, 2.45 ERA, 3.67 FIP, 3.37 bbFIP)
When it comes to Dustin McGowan, it’s usually just great to just see him on the field pitching. Though, when he is on the field pitching, he’s usually dominating hitters, and despite all the surgeries, he still has some of the best stuff in baseball. A 1.22 positve to negative ratio thanks to low line drive and high K rates helped McGowan post a 2.45 ERA. When McGowan has been at his best in the past an above average groundball rate usually accompanies the strikeouts which is what we saw somewhat in 2013, though it wasn’t anywhere close to where he was prior to his massive comeback.
Chad Jenkins (18.1 IP, 1.96 ERA, 3.81 FIP, 3.57 bbFIP)
All of you probably know that I’m a massive Chad Jenkins fanboy, and I have to say I was impressed with Chad Jenkins out of the bullpen. His normally heavy, groundball inducing fastball was somewhat less consistant in the rotation, but out of the pen Jenkins posted a groundball rate of basically 50%, more along the lines of what you would expect from him. Jenkins didn’t give up many line drives, and only posted a 1.11 positive to negative ratio, but as we see with someone like Aaron Loup, groundballs can make a huge difference. Jenkins’ home might be out of the bullpen for the future, and it looks like there is some hope from him to be an effective long man.
Darren Oliver (49 IP, 3.86 ERA, 4.05 FIP, 3.63 bbFIP)
On the surface, Oliver’s season doesn’t seem as good as 2o12, and well honestly it wasn’t truthfully. Oliver got off to a slow start with a 6.23 ERA over his first 4.1 IP, but followed that up with 26.2 IP of 2.36 ERA ball before finishing the season with a 5.50 ERA over his last 18 IP. When it came right down to it, his 3.63 bbFIP was nearly identical to the 3.60 bbFIP in 2012. His strikeouts dropped, as did his popup rate. On the flip side though, his line drive rate dropped and his ground ball rate rose to the highest it’s been since 2010. Overall Oliver had a fine season, but inconsistency did him in.
Neil Wagner (38 IP, 3.79 ERA, 4.13 FIP, 3.93 bbFIP)
Another surprise from spring training, Wagner came in and provided the Jays with adequate relief innings over the course of the season, which just goes to show you how fungible bullpens are. Wagner gave up a massive amount of line drives last year, which really negated his solid pop up and K/BB rates. He still managed to provide average innings, so there isn’t much more to say other than Wagner is a solid depth piece.
Brad Lincoln (31.2 IP, 3.98 ERA, 5.48 FIP, 4.36 bbFIP)
The recently departed
Travis Snider Brad Lincoln had what could only be considered a weird year when it comes to bbFIP. He posted horrid K/BB rates, gave up more flyballs than groundballs, but managed to not post an entirely horrible bbFIP. It surely isn’t good, or even average, but Lincoln limited line drives and induced a bunch of pop ups. All in all, Lincoln’s stay in Toronto was marginal and uninspiring, much like Travis Snider.
Esmil Rogers (31 IP, 4.35 ERA, 4.92 FIP, 5.73 bbFIP)
Simply put, Esmil Rogers was much better as a starter than a reliever last season. Rogers gave up 27 line drives in 31 innings, and posted an atrocious positive to negative ratio (0.47). Basically as a reliever, Rogers didn’t have any positives to take away even though in 2012 he posted a much better 3.56 bbFIP, with the strike out rate being the biggest difference between the two seasons.
For the last 59.1 IP out of the bullpen (Jeffress, Ortiz, Gonzalez, Redmond, Weber, Luis Perez, Storey, Bush, Romero, Drabek, Germano) posted a 4.21 bbFIP, and a 0.83 positive to negative ratio. The batted ball split was wholly unremarkable as were the K and BB rates. The craziest thing from this group was that in 9 innings out of the bullpen for Ramon Ortiz, he induced 6 pop ups. Luis Perez continued his awesomeness from 2012 and Mickey Storey continued to not get an opportunity despite good numbers. Why he keeps getting pushed off the 40 man is beyond me.
The Blue Jays bullpen performed extremely well in 2013 and has a bunch of talent and depth. With how inconsistent bullpens are from year to year nothing is guaranteed, but the Blue Jays should once again have a solid bullpen barring any upcoming moves that we haven’t seen yet.