2011 Blue Jays: Bullpen

For all of the experience that the Jays rotation lacks, the bullpen has it in spades. This includes four pitchers with over 400 innings pitched in the Majors, and three with significant experience closing games. On paper, it looks to be stronger than the Jays pen’ in 2010.

The loss of Scott Downs to free agency is costly. Downs had been one of the premier left handed relievers in all of baseball over the past four seasons. Kevin Greggs’ departure, while not as salient, still represents the loss of a large number of high leverage innings from last season.

Restructuring the bullpen seemed to be a priority for Alex Antholopolous this off-season. Despite the in house availability of options for the replacement of Downs and Gregg, AA brought in four right handed relievers. Octavio Dotel and Jon Rauch were signed as free agents, while Frank Francisco and Carlos Villanueva were involved in trades. There has been some speculation as to the overall motive for these moves. Are these players potential trade bait? Or maybe a relatively inexpensive way to gain compensation picks in the 2012 draft? Regardless of the possible reasons as to why they are here, these players will help make the Blue Jays bullpen one of the strongest in the American League.

One more note, before moving onto the stats section. Without belaboring the point, the whole notion of a “closer,” is one of the silliest traditions in baseball. A teams best reliever should be used in the highest leverage situations (games within 1-2 runs). Whether it be the 7th, 8th or the 9th, the best pitcher in the bullpen should be used in situations that have the greatest potential impact on winning. Waiting to use the “closer” in the ninth is problematic, because the game may be essentially won or lost by that point (leads of 3 or more are statistically very safe in the late innings).

Image courtesy of Flickr

Here is the 2011 Blue Jay bullpen:

Jon Rauch: RHP

Career: GP 415/ IP 468.2/ ERA 3.71/ WHIP 1.24/ FIP 3.89/ xFIP 4.35/ K/9 7.3/ BB/9 2.80/ HR/9 0.98/ GB% 33.7

2010: GP 59/ IP 57.2/ ERA 3.12/ WHIP 1.30/ FIP 2.94/ xFIP 3.98/ K/9 7.18/ BB/9 2.18/ HR/9 0.47/ GB% 37.7

Jon Rauch filled in admirably in the closer role for the Twins last season. The tallest player in MLB history (6’11”) had a career year, bettering his career averages in nearly every statistical category. Rauch will likely start the season as the closer, and will need to pitch well in order to avoid being usurped by Francisco or Frasor. It will be interesting to see whether the move away from the pitcher friendly Target Field will have an impact on Rauch this season (note the HR/9 0.47 from 2010).

Vs. LHB

Career: IP 213.1/ WHIP 1.41/ FIP 4.58/ xFIP 4.85/ K/9 6.83/ BB/9 3.84/ HR/9 1.14

Frank Francisco: RHP

Career: GP 277/ IP 283.1/ ERA 3.75/ WHIP 1.28/ FIP 3.56/ xFIP 3.89/ K/9 10.01/ BB/9 4.04/ HR/9 0.86/ GB% 33.7

2010: GP 56/ IP 52.2/ ERA 3.76/ WHIP 1.27/ FIP 3.12/ xFIP 3.16/ K/9 10.25/ BB/9 3.08/ HR/9 0.85/ GB 39.4

Frank Francisco, acquired in exchange for Mike Napoli and cash considerations, is a hard throwing righty with closing experience. Francisco will start the season on the 15 DL (retroactive to March 22nd). When he comes back, he will miss bats at an impressive rate, and challenge Rauch for the closer role.

Jason Frasor: RHP

Career: GP 411/ IP 418.2/ ERA 3.76/ WHIP 1.30/ FIP 3.73/ xFIP 3.98/ K/9 8.36/ BB/9 3.85/ HR/9 0.75/ GB% 44.2%

2010: GP 69/ IP 63.2/ ERA 3.68/ WHIP 1.38/ FIP 3.31/ xFIP 3.71/ K/9 9.19/ BB/9 3.82/ HR/9 0.56/ GB% 46.4

In 2010 Jason Frasor took a step back towards his career averages, after a lights-out 2009 campaign. The seven year Jays veteran’s fastball may look straight as an arrow, but it is effective (9.19 K/9 in 2010). This pint-sized reliever will see his share of high leverage action late in games this season, potentially serving as the right handed set-up man.

Octavio Dotel: RHP

Career: GP 630/ IP 834.1/ ERA 3.75/ WHIP 1.26/ FIP 3.83/ xFIP 3.65/ K/9 10.95/ BB/9 4.09/ HR/9 1.16/ GB% 31.9

2010: GP 68/ IP 64/ ERA 4.08/ WHIP 1.31/ FIP 4.20/ xFIB 4.07/ K/9 10.55/ BB/9 4.50/ HR/9 1.27/ GB% 31.7

Vs. LHB

Career: IP 206/ WHIP 1.44/ FIP 4.66/ xFIP 4.68/ K/9 9.44/ BB/9 5.59/ HR/9 1.18

Another hard throwing righty brought in this off season, Octavio Dotel is in the twilight of his career. Already showing signs of regression (particularly against left handed hitters), Dotel should not be used in high leverage innings this season, nor should he be used against lefty’s.

Marc Rzepczynski: LHP

Career: GP 24/ IP 125/ ERA 4.32/ WHIP 1.46/ FIP 4.36/ xFIP 3.91/ K/9 8.42/ BB/9 4.32/ HR/9 1.08/ GB% 51.1

2010: GP 14/ IP 63.2/ ERA 4.95/ WHIP 1.60/ FIP 4.57/ xFIP 4.15/ K/9 8.06/ BB/9 4.24/ HR/9 1.13/ GB% 51%

Vs RHB

Career: IP 94/ WHIP 1.54/ FIP 4.77/ xFIP 4.12/ K/9 8.14/ BB/9 4.69/ HR/9 1.24

Marc Rzepczynski hasn’t quite put it all together yet. He was solid during his debut season in 2009, but regressed after injury in 2010. Zep can be very effective at inducing ground balls (career GB% 51.1), and should battle David Purcey for high leverage lefty outs.

Shawn Camp: RHP

Career: GP 365/ IP 422/ ERA 4.44/ WHIP 1.44/ FIP 4.20/ xFIP 3.93/ K/9 6.46/ BB/9 2.64/ HR/9 1.0/ GB% 55.2

2010: GP 70/ IP 72.1/ ERA 2.99/ WHIP 1.23/ FIP 4.16/ xFIP 3.93/ K/9 5.72/ BB/9 2.24/ HR/9 1.00/ GB% 52

Vs. LHB

Career: IP 162.1/ WHIP 1.72/ FIP 4.54/ xFIP 4.35/ K/9 5.60/ BB/9 3.44/ HR/9 0.94

Camp, an extreme ground ball pitcher, experienced a career year in 2010. He will be a steady presence for the Jays during the middle innings.

David Purcey: LHP

Career: GP 54/ IP 147/ ERA 5.33/ WHIP 1.50/ FIP 4.56/ xFIP 4.82/ K/9 7.90/ BB/9 4.53/ HR/9 1.10/ GB% 31.1

2010: GP 33/ IP 34/ ERA 3.71/ WHIP 1.21/ FIP 3.67/ xFIP 4.35/ K/9 8.47/ BB/9 3.97/ GB% 29

Another lefty starter turned reliever, David Purcey has great “stuff,” and will be a very good reliever if/ when he gains control. As mentioned, there should be a competition between Purcey and Rzepczynski for the left handed set-up role.

Carlos Villanueva: RHP

Career: GP 230/ IP 425/ ERA 4.34/ WHIP 1.31/ FIP 4.43/ xFIP 4.04/ K/9 8.07/ BB/9 3.20/ HR/9 1.31/ GB% 40.4

2010: GP 50/ IP 52.2/ ERA 4.61/ WHIP 1.33/ FIP 3.74/ xFIP 3.24/ K/9 11.45/ BB/9 3.76/ HR/9 1.20/ GB% 33.8

Carlos Villanueva’s numbers make him look like a marginal middle reliever. However, he was acquired for only a player to be named later, and is still just 27 years old. He also had a phenomenal K/9 of 11.45 in 2010 with the Brewers.

Casey Janssen: RHP

Career: GP 166/ IP 275.1/ ERA 4.12/ WHIP 1.38/ FIP 4.28/ xFIP 4.26/ K/9 5.56/ BB/9 2.48/ HR/9 0.95/ GB% 49.9

2010: GP 56/ IP 68.2/ ERA 3.67/ WHIP 1.38/ FIP 3.85/ xFIP 3.49/ K/9 8.26/ BB/9 2.75/ HR/9 1.05/ GB% 46.6

Vs. LHB

Career: IP 115/ WHIP 1.56/ FIP 4.64/ xFIP 4.57/ K/9 5.24/ BB/9 3.60/ HR/9 0.94

This is truly a make or break season for Janssen. He will start the season with the big club, and will have to pitch well to keep his place as a middle innings righty. It should be mentioned, that his numbers in 2010 were stronger than that of both Dotel and Villanueva.

-SB

Like what you read and want to stay informed on all updates here at Jays Journal? Follow Mat and Jared on Twitter (@JaysJournal and @bigja12) or “Like” our Facebook page

Topics: Carlos Villanueva, Casey Janssen, David Purcey, Frank Francisco, Jason Frasor, Jon Rauch, Kevin Gregg, Marc Rzepczynski, Octavio Dotel, Scott Downs, Shawn Camp

Want more from Jays Journal?  
Subscribe to FanSided Daily for your morning fix. Enter your email and stay in the know.
  • Andy Telford

    Great point Scott, a save situation
    could come much earlier then the 9th
    inning. Agreed that your best reliever
    or “Closer” does not have to be only a
    9th inning guy.

TEAMFeed More Blue Jays news from the Fansided Network

Hot on the Web From golf.com