Steve Delabar entered 2014 as a cornerstone in the Toronto Blue Jays bullpen. Coming off an All-Star campaign in 2013, Delabar’s overpowering fastball and devastating split-finger set him up perfectly for a role in the back of the bullpen, which was expected to shine as a unit. Delabar’s season quickly turned into one of the year’s biggest disappointments, though, as he lost his control, and soon lost his spot on the roster.
When compared to his statistics from the year prior, Delabar clearly lost his way in 2014. His ERA jumped over a point and a half, while his FIP, WHIP, and per-nine statistics all shot off into the wrong direction. On June 20th, Delabar was sent down to the AAA Buffalo Bisons, where he would remain for the rest of the season.
Delabar’s season was littered with disappointment, but Blue Jays fans may find some hope in his AAA performance, which saw him begin to right the ship through 24 appearances. Delabar was sent down with the primary task of refining his control, which he did, but not to a point that warranted his return to the Major League roster.
Steve Delabar’s time in Buffalo clearly allowed him to rekindle his lethal strikeout totals, but his struggles with control did persist as his BB/9 was still higher than the Blue Jays would like to see. This represented a move in the right direction, however, and could help Delabar’s confidence entering an important offseason for his career. Proving that he has the ability to change his game and improve his issues in some capacity, this should give Blue Jays fans hope that he can return to an impact bullpen arm in the near future.
Delabar’s disappointing season was not one that the Blue Jays could afford. Toronto’s bullpen was supposed to be one of the more certain and stable positions on the roster, and losing an All-Star quality arm was a huge blow to a team with enough talent to contend in the AL East.
Struggling with his control early in counts prevented Steve Delabar from being able to turn to his dominant split-finger fastball. Throwing this pitch often requires an 0-2 or 1-2 count, as it rarely stays in the strike zone and often finds the dirt in a swing-and-miss. Consistently finding himself behind 2-0 or 3-1, Delabar was forced to throw his wild fastball, which, when it found the strike zone, was very hittable.
Despite his down year and unpredictable potential, I expect the Blue Jays to bring back Steve Delabar in 2015 and give him every opportunity to contribute to the Major League bullpen. This offseason, though, will be critical for Delabar as he should be entering Spring Training fighting for a job. Much of the reasoning behind not adding him to the roster on the 1st of September was to allow him to build towards 2015, and you have to believe that the Blue Jays intended that to be as part of their team.
Delabar will be a cheap option, and Alex Anthopoulos would have to feel very strongly not to bring him back for a shot. The Blue Jays GM will be looking to add as many quality arms as he can to create depth and competition. Although Delabar may begin the season in AAA unless he shows that he has righted his control issues, he should continue his career as a member of the Blue Jays organization.