Blue Jays bullpen, not as bad as it looks


The Toronto Blue Jays are an enigma.

The latest manifestation, Sunday afternoon’s wild loss to the Baltimore Orioles, exemplified this to astounding fashion. In the same nine inning game, the Jays demonstrated their top of the league offence scoring nine runs– six in one inning–in unison with a pitching performance worthy of making fans want to pull their own hair out.

But this isn’t new. It’s been a problem the entire world has known about since losing Marcus Stroman to the DL in Spring Training. The starting rotation, despite it’s gradual improvement from daily mediocrity, still ranks 28th in WAR according to Fangraphs.

However, the other side of the pitching coin seems to be what fans are most concerned about as witnessed in Sunday’s public shaming on closer Brett Cecil.

Despite Sunday’s loss, and being fourth in the majors in blown saves, the bullpen isn’t nearly as bad as its public perception and isn’t the only reason their 82 plus run differential hasn’t produced a better record than 37-34.

Unquestionably, there are some elements within the pen that haven’t lived up to expectations. Leading the train of disappointment is closer Cecil who’s ERA ballooned to a lofty 5.96 with a costly value of -0.1 WAR.

But there are also some bright spots as well. Roberto Osuna and the rebirth of Steve Delabar have helped significantly with Liam Hendriks new bullpen role furthering the improvement.

According to Fangraphs, the Blue Jays’ bullpen has combined for some 1.5 WAR, good for a 12th place MLB wide tie. Their ERA, sitting at 3.56 also sits comfortably among the top half of the league and with a FIP of 3.52, there’s no reason to worry about future regression either.

Ultimately, it’s difficult to understand why fans are so enraged with this year’s pen. After the first half of last year the pen combined for a 0.4 WAR and a 4.39 ERA, notably worse than the current situation.

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Admittedly, the Jays could slip to those numbers if the late inning collapses continue but where they are now isn’t completely tragic either.

With that said, this post isn’t to say Alex Anthopoulos shouldn’t be shopping around for a reliever he can employ in high leverage situations because he should. Obviously, there’s still plenty of room for improvement to supplement what is likely the league’s strongest offence.

But the pitching as a whole needs a breath of fresh air. While the highlights serve as a constant reminder of how things can drastically falter in the back-half of a game, it’s not the only reason the Jays are on the wrong side of the Tampa Bay Rays and New York Yankees in the AL East.