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Jays Bullpen: Mo Innings, Mo Problems


A few days ago Kyle Franzoni took a look at  how some of the stalwarts of the Jays bullpen have been providing stability on an otherwise beleaguered pitching staff. But as Jerry Seinfeld learned with Golden Boy, even the best performers can only take so much, and the Jays bullpen is on pace for a huge number of innings in 2013 which may start taking it’s toll.

May 6, 2013; St. Petersburg, FL, USA; Toronto Blue Jays relief pitcher

Casey Janssen

(44) throws a pitch during the ninth inning against the Tampa Bay Rays at Tropicana Field. Toronto Blue Jays defeated the Tampa Bay Rays 8-7. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Going into last night’s game against the Giants the Jays’ pen had pitched 219 innings(42%), and the starters 297. At the current usage rate the Jays’ pen would pitch 612 innings. By comparison last year with all the injuries to the starting staff the bullpen pitched 527 innings.  Now adding 9 and a half complete games to an already absurdly high number of innings might not be so bad if you also added Roy Halladay to your bullpen, but as currently constructed a work load of this magnitude will start adding up and taking its toll on our bullpen parts.

Luckily so far the workload has been spread over a rather ridiculous 18 relievers as Alex Anthopoulos has played musical chairs with the final roster spot on the club swapping relievers in and out on a whim. Still the majority of the work has fallen on the four relievers Kyle mentioned: Casey Janssen, Brett Cecil, Steve Delabar and Aaron Loup.

So far the Jays’ bullpen has been saddled with 11 losses this season, although much of that can be attributed to the larger problem of the Jays starters exiting games early. Luckily for the Jays their may have help coming for the pen before, to stick with the Golden Boy analogy,  the collar begins to fray. Dustin McGowan appears to be coming to the end of his perpetual years of rehab and is slated for a job in the pen. Also in June and July Kyle Drabek and Luis Perez are expected to return from Tommy John surgery. Perez was having great success in the pen before going down with injury and Drabek might be able to plug a hole in the rotation which would in effect relieve strain on the bullpen.

While players coming back from injury seems to be the most surefire way to reenforce the bullpen it’s kind of boring so now I have a more shall we say “interesting” proposal for how to deal with the pen.

Darren Oliver

could provide trade value if the Jays fall out of contention. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

If the team keeps up it’s current poor play the season will likely be lost by the trade deadline. In that case the Jays may be able to cash in some bullpen pieces that will be in high demand to secure assets for the 2014 season. Although selling off everything is foolish with the core that the Jays still have locked up for the next couple of seasons there are some pieces that could be moved around.

The most obvious piece to move provided he’s back from the DL soon would be Darren “Black Magic” Oliver. Oliver is like a fine wine, or Shania Twain, and seems to get better and better with age, and playoff contenders are always looking to add another effective lefty to the pen, and especially one who can face right handed hitters with equal effectiveness.

There are a few other fringe bullpen pieces that could be moved. Jeremy Jeffress and Esmil Rogers are the two who immediately jump to mind. Both have been serviceable but will find themselves on the outside looking in as Perez and Drabek return, not to mention Sergio Santos and Darren Oliver, oh and Dustin McGownan and Drew Hutchison. The team also has Chad Jenkins, Sean Nolin and Marcus Stroman who will be knocking on the door soon.

So if the Jays are able to recoup any sort of value from these players would be a wise move, they could effectively count on those returning from injuries to shore up the bullpen and then deal from that depth for pitching depth for the next few years that the team still hopes to contend. Even if Oliver, Jeffress and Rodgers were all moved that would still leave a core of Santos, Janssen, Loup, Cecil, Delebar and Perez to build the pen around for both the remainder of this year and the coming years.

Ideally though the starting pitching will quit being so abysmal, as Andrew Stoeten pointed out at DJF, which would in turn lead to less stress on the pen and you know actually winning baseball games which I hear is still all the rage.