For Blue Jays reliever Aaron Loup, more has been less


Aaron Loup‘s 2015 struggles out of the Blue Jays bullpen came to a boil on Sunday, when the once-reliable lefty surrendered a walk-off home run to the Seattle Mariners. While his peripheral statistics tell a confusing story, a look at Loup’s change in velocity suggests that his offseason adjustments were unnecessary, and ultimately, have worked against him.

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Loup’s unique delivery has masked the fact that he’s been pumping his fastball harder than ever in 2015. According to FanGraphs, Loup’s fastball has averaged 93.4 MPH this season, up 1.1 MPH from a 92.3 mark in 2014 and nearly 2.0 MPH harder than his 2013 average. He’s also seen his fastball usage decline slightly in 2015 (65.5%), leading to an increased use of a changeup and slider that have undergone a noticeable uptick in velocity.

His changeup has increased 1.8 MPH from 2014 to sit at 82.5, but it is Loup’s slider that has me especially confused. After an average slider velocity of 77.5 MPH in 2014, Loup has pumped the bender in at 82.1 through the first four months of 2015. His slider has produced an opponent batting average of .303, a significant spike from marks of .133 and .182 against the same pitch over the past two seasons.

While these changes have resulted in solid statistics in several areas, they’ve made Loup into a pitcher who is no longer himself. In a job where success is earned by repeating short bursts of skill on a nightly basis, any variance from what comes natural to a reliever can be extremely dangerous.

Looking past the ERA of 5.19, which should be due for improvement alongside a FIP of 3.99 and xFIP of 2.75, Loup has strangely posted some career bests. His 9.87 K/9 soars well above his career average, and is nearly 3.00 higher than 2013, his strongest full season with the Blue Jays. Loup’s 1.56 BB/9 is also much better than his career average. A combination of a monstrous HR/FB%, poor situational usage, and simply poor execution, have caused these numbers to fall flat.

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Much like Drew Hutchison, Loup’s season has gone past the point of waiting for water to find its level. This might be something that needs to be addressed from the ground up in the offseason, but this new version of Aaron Loup has not turned his pitching adjustments into results.

Baseball is a game of adjustments, but it’s possible to go too far, which Loup appears to be guilty of here. If you’re good at something, keep doing it. Tinker, but stay on the road. I trust Loup to return to his old form at some point, but this 2015 campaign continues to be a lost cause for the lefty.

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