Name: Casey Janssen
2013 Stat Line
For the last few seasons, the Toronto Blue Jays’ most consistent relief pitcher, by far, has been Casey Janssen. Last season, Janssen took over the role as closer after newly acquired Sergio Santos went down for the year. All Janssen did was excel in the role as he had his best season as a Blue Jay. By pitching his ass off in 2012, he became the favourite to be the closer for the 2013 season. Debate, however, started after Janssen had surgery to relieve stiffness on his troublesome right shoulder over the winter. Janssen then suffered a minor setback in mid-March. There were suddenly loud calls for the previously ineffective Santos to take over the role due to the uncertainty of how Janssen would return as a pitcher.
Despite the shoulder issue, Janssen spent no time on the DL this season. He was not involved in any transactions.
The game plan out of the gate seemed to be to limit Janssen’s innings and consecutive games until he was fully healthy. Only twice in the first two months of the season (April 3 & 4, May 6 & 7) did the Jays have Janssen throw in back-to-back games. Unfortunately, it also helped that Toronto stunk it up the first couple months, so his services were rarely needed. Due to the combination of caution and Blue Jay suckery, Janssen actually threw 11 less innings this season than last season.
When it comes to measuring a closer’s effectiveness, I don’t like to use ERA. It’s awfully easy for one bad outing to mess with it, since closers have a much smaller sample size (it’s the same argument I make as to why a closer should never be an MLB MVP.) To judge Janssen, or any closer, the stats to look at are Save Percentage (SV%) WHIP, K/9, Batters Faced (the REAL Maddux should be minimal batter’s faced in less than 100 pitches, but that eliminates too many pitchers. Another debate, another time), and, occasionally, Pitches Thrown (hitters can foul off many pitches, that’s why I say “occasionally.” I do it if I’m unsure about something I see in the aforementioned stats).
While his numbers were slightly down this season, to say they were actually “down” would be knit-picking. Janssen’s 2013 campaign was extremely good. He was so good and the Blue Jays were so bad, that there was debate whether or not he would be with Toronto after the trade deadline. Numbers wise, Janssen was one of the best in the business. Casey’s 94.4 SV% (34 Saves in 36 Save Ops) was tied for 1st in the entire MLB, which makes sense since his 2 Blown Saves were tied for the least in baseball. While his K/9 at 8.5 place him in the 20 spot out of 30 teams, his WHIP places him in 7th among all MLB closers. That stat is even more telling when you consider how poor Toronto’s overall defense (26th in Fld%) was this season. The stat that pops out to me is Batters Faced. He sees around 4 BF. That’s slightly up from last season (that may not seem significant, but it is significant. A definitive 4 BF means more pitches thrown and more baserunners allowed) and could be attributed to a couple of rough patches (4.02 BF in 2013. 3.82 BF in 2012) throughout the season. I know you Santos fans want to say “Sergio’s got a 0.583 WHIP, 9.8 K/9, 3.57 BF/IP! That makes him better.” While I won’t dispute the numbers, I will say 25 IP is a lot less than 52.2 IP, which is what Janssen did this season. Santos was also 1-3 in Save Ops. Even in 2011, his best season while with the Chicago White Sox, he owned an 83.0 SV% . That does not touch Janssen’s average 92.5 % SV% over his last 2 seasons.
It’s hard to imagine, with the substantial payroll increase from players like Mark Buehrle, Jose Reyes, and R.A. Dickey, that AA and Blue Jays’ management will not exercise Janssen’s 2014 Team Option. The $100K increase for one of the top closer’s in the game is justifiable compared to the average $7.7M bump up in payroll among the aforementioned players. ”But what about Delabar and Cecil? They could do it cheap and might be better at it!” But $4M for the best? Jonathan Papelbon, Mariano Rivera, and Jim Johnson all were not as good as Janssen and Janssen is a fraction of the cost. Craig Kimbrel, considered to be the most dominant reliever in baseball, is going into arbitration. He will more-than-likely get paid more than Janssen, but other than K/9 (13.2), his and Janssen’s numbers are not much different.
So Janssen should return, and I hate making 2014 predictions (too many variables for closers), but… a healthy, stronger Janssen should mean “better” numbers. It would not surprise me if Janssen is 37 of 40 in Save Ops, 2.55 ERA, 0.91 WHIP, 6.4 H/9, 9.4 K/9, 2.0 BB/9, in 69-70 innings pitched. I also think it’s highly unlikely that you’ll see Janssen traded during this season, even if Delabar, Cecil, and Santos all pitch to their abilities. Delabar and Cecil are still under team control. Santos, however, becomes quite pricey after the 2014 season. If he performs, I see the Jays trying to shed his contract, especially if Jays #6 prospect, John Stilson, really develops. Hopefully, Toronto makes the right moves this winter and improves enough to showcase why, I believe, Casey Janssen is a Top 5 closer.
*All stats were provided by www.baseball-reference.com.