Aaron Loup has been optioned to the Buffalo Bisons. The move ends the 8 man bullpen experiment and represents the nadir of Loup’s major league career so far. It seems very likely that the club will call up a 4th outfielder in his place. The Blue Jays will announce specifics tomorrow.
Alex Hassan, Ezequiel Carrera and Chris Heisey could all be considered for the call up. Hassan and Heisey look to have the inside track as they are both righties and are optionable. They would serve as compliments to the left handed Ben Revere. All three are not on the 40-man and room would have to be made for them.
Loup had been a great tool the previous three seasons but struggled mightily in 2015. His track record of success from 2012-2014 was the main reason why this move was delayed for so long. Another reason was that the Blue Jays have little if any depth in terms of lefty relievers and a Loup demotion leaves only one lefty in the ‘pen. Colt Hynes, Jeff Francis, Scott Barnes, Andrew Albers and Luis Perez were the uninspiring alternatives. This move also displays a large degree of trust in the Blue Jays’ six righty relievers to be able to retire dangerous lefties.
Loup struggles were perplexing as his peripherals were solid. Normally when you see a 3.88 FIP, 9.91 K/9 and 1.49 BB/9 you assume things are going fairly well for that pitcher. Not so for the unfortunate Loup. In spite of that excellent K/BB ratio and the reasonable FIP, Loup sports an ugly 5.20 ERA and an uncharacteristic 1.49 HR/9. The HR/9 is fuelled by a 23.1% HR/FB (more than twice his career average). Loup’s suffered from just plain poor luck as well considering his .333 BABIP (career average: .284). Going by SIERA (2.33) xFIP (2.75) and K/BB, Loup should be having the best season of his career. Unfortunately it’s been a disaster.
Loup’s thrown his fastball 5% less and about 1 MPH faster than last year. Loup slider usage has remained the same but he’s been throwing it 4.4 MPH faster than last year. His slider pitch value has gone down to -4.6 runs above average from 0.7 last year. The value of his fastball has also gone down. Perhaps with the additional velocity on the slider, Loup’s not getting enough separation between it and the fastball and the slider’s coming in too straight. This could be the culprit behind Loup abnormal HR/FB. His harder stuff is getting Ks but is also more susceptible to being crushed.
Additionally, Loup was also miscast for much of the season. For a long stretch, he was continually utilized for whole innings against lefties and righties. If he had been used more as LOOGY, at least until he got his mojo back, his numbers would have looked much better. His ERA against lefties this season is 2.03 with no home runs and 16 Ks in 13.1 IP.
Aaron will almost certainly return to the Blue Jays this season—at least when the rosters expand and perhaps before if there’s an injury or someone else falls apart. The goal for Loup in AAA should be to clear his head, rework his slider and regain his confidence in a much lower pressure environment. Loup’s track record and his underlying numbers suggest that this demotion is only a temporary setback. We should be able to “Clap for the Wolfman” again soon.
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