The 2015 Blue Jays season has been full of conversations that we would have laughed at one year ago. Jose Reyes in a package for Troy Tulowitzki. Josh Donaldson leading the MVP race in a Toronto uniform. David Price in blue and white.
With the Blue Jays playoff bound, the necessary construction of a 25-man playoff roster has us arriving at a conversation we would have laughed at one month ago. Could Aaron Loup make a late run at a spot in the bullpen?
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Expected to be one of the few certainties in the Blue Jays 2015 ‘pen, Loup was anything but. Prior to his demotion in mid-August, the left-hander had appeared in 48 games and recorded a 5.20 ERA. That’s over double his 2013 total of 2.47, and has raised his career mark to the still-respectable level of 3.15.
Much like we saw with the treatment of Drew Hutchison, Loup was given a long leash by manager John Gibbons. Too long, you could argue, as Gibbons continued to throw Loup against the wall, hoping without much reason that he would finally stick. Since returning to the MLB roster, however, Loup has pitched 3.1 scoreless innings across six appearances.
This number is beyond microscopic, but the important part is how he’s been used. Gibbons has used Loup in a much more situational manner as opposed to giving him full innings. Loup’s 2015 splits have been outliers, but his career numbers point towards him being a lefty specialist. If there’s any way for him to surprise us all and grab the final roster spot, there it is.
Loup’s career slash line against left-handed batters sits at .206 / .268 / .283. Along with his unique release point from the left side, his success against batters of the same hand can be traced to his slider, a pitch that went completely awry throughout his early struggles this season.
Upon his promotion to the Jays, Loup made a point in saying that his slider had finally turned the corner in AAA, and I’d assume that tinkering with this pitch was his homework when he was demoted to Buffalo. The playoffs offer increased value for situational advantages given the fragile nature and amplified spotlight of the games, which again, is another card falling in Loup’s favor.
With Aaron Sanchez and Roberto Osuna at the back end of the bullpen, Brett Cecil, Mark Lowe and LaTroy Hawkins are sure to join them. Liam Hendriks has certainly done enough to earn a spot, but with Bo Schultz or Ryan Tepera, would the Blue Jays be adding something they don’t already have in the names above? Would Loup’s potential ability to do one thing very well push him ahead of someone like Schultz, who despite his success in 2015, appears to be a man without a home?
Loup, of course, must finish the final weeks of the season in his 2012-2014 form, pitching especially well against lefties. I’m not ready to advocate for him earning that final roster spot yet, but I am, against my wildest expectations, ready to admit that this conversation needs to exist. It’s 2015 in Toronto, and frankly, stranger things have happened.