Aug 8, 2014; Toronto, Ontario, CAN; Toronto Blue Jays relief pitcher Casey Janssen reacts after giving up a home run in the ninth inning of the Jays 5-4 loss to Detroit Tigers at Rogers Centre. Mandatory Credit: Dan Hamilton-USA TODAY Sports

Casey Janssen choosing wrong time to struggle, both for him and for Blue Jays

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Over his previous two seasons as the closer for the Toronto Blue Jays, Casey Janssen has been a model of consistency at the backend of the Blue Jays’ bullpen. Now in his “walk-year”, one would have expected Janssen to remain as such, and parlay that into a decent contract this offseason.

Of course, one would have been wrong in that regard.

For the 33-year-old Janssen, the 2014 has proven to be a season of ups and downs. The right-hander was unable to start his season until May 12th due to an abdominal strain, but came back strong, converting 11 of his first 12 save opportunities and not allowing an earned run until his 14th appearance on June 9th.

Janssen would allow just one more earned run prior to the All-Star break, holding a 3-0 record with a 1.23 ERA, and 14 saves in 16 opportunities during the season’s first half. Unfortunately for Janssen, the season did not end there.

The case has been completely different since Janssen and the Blue Jays have returned from the All-Star break. Like the rest of the team, the closer has struggled down the stretch, holding a 7.98 ERA and blowing two saves in the process.

Never an overpowering pitcher to begin with, Janssen has made his living on deception, offering a wider arsenal than that of a normal closer. However, as Gregor Chisholm at MLB.com noted, Janssen has struggled of late to locate his fastball, allowing hitters to sit on his breaking pitches. Without the fastball control, Janssen is putting up a five-year low 5.6 K/9 ratio and a career-worst 35.8% fly-ball ratio.

The increase in fly balls has also been detrimental to Janssen, resulting in 5 second-half home runs allowed in 14.2 innings of work, good enough for a .607 slugging percentage against Janssen in the second half.

Now with just months before he hits the free agent market or enters a position to negotiate an extension with the Blue Jays, Casey Janssen finds himself in an awkward position. His 3.93 ERA and 4.14 FIP are at their highest since 2009, and his 9.3 H/9 are at their highest since 2010.

For a 33-year-old closer entering free agency, those are trends you’d rather be seeing go the other way. With just over a month to go in the season, Janssen will be hoping to regain some of that value with some more consistent play, hoping to increase his desirability in a market that will include Huston Street, Rafael Soriano, David Robertson, and Koji Uehara among others.

That will mean putting his last 3 appearances behind him and trying to rebuild again, hoping that his recovery will also help spark the Blue Jays down the stretch run.

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