Despite last night’s loss in Cleveland, the Blue Jays’ Roberto Osuna is having an unprecedented start to his young career
Roberto Osuna is having a remarkable season, but his numbers are even more shocking when considering he’s 21 years old. Osuna has placed himself in elite company with his early career success.
For starters, no Jay has ever had more success at such a young age than Roberto.
Osuna is the Blue Jays franchise leader in WAR amongst players aged 21 and younger. Through almost 2 full seasons Osuna has amassed a 3.2 fWAR in just 123.1 innings. Brett Lawrie is 2nd with 2.6 fWAR in his debut season. 2nd among pitchers is Jerry Garvin who collected 1.9 fWAR in a full year of starting during the Jays’ inaugural season.
League wide, since that first Jays’ season, Osuna is 30th in fWAR amongst pitchers aged 21 and younger and is the only reliever on that list.
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Going back further, Osuna has the most WAR of any pure reliever in MLB history, with the same age parameters as above. The White Sox’ Terry Forster (similar story with Billy McCool as well) posted 5.9 fWAR in 322.1 innings but started 15 games (So yes, he’s much more of a reliever than a starter but it makes Osuna look better..so shh! And yes, dedicated relievers were pretty much unheard of until the post-war era but again, shh!). Osuna’s 3.2 WAR in 123.1 innings is a much better pace than 5.9 in 322.1 innings.
It’s justifiable to say that Osuna is the best under-22 reliever that there’s ever been. And he been getting better the more he pitches.
Many of the all time great relievers moved in the ‘pen somewhat later in their careers. Mariano Rivera didn’t even make his MLB debut until he was 25.
Most relievers need time to develop the maturity and nerves of steel needed to pitch with the game on the line. This is why Osuna is such an outlier. He was apparently born with those skills. Relying on such a young man in such crucial situations is almost unprecedented.
We could also point at Osuna’s 47 saves (recently breaking Terry Forster’s under-22 record) as further evidence but his career 10.29 K/9, 1.97 BB/9, 0.80 HR/9, 2.26 ERA and 2.77 FIP are much more important.
It’s far too early to say whether Osuna will become one of the all time great relievers, especially since a return to starting hasn’t entirely been ruled out, but he’s off to a historic start. With Osuna’s dominance and poise out of the bullpen, it’s hard to imagine him as a starter—at least currently.
Best of all, wherever he ends up, the Blue Jays have this remarkable young man under team control until at least 2021.