Blue Jays: Why the bullpen is better than last season

May 27, 2017; Toronto, Ontario, CAN; Toronto Blue Jays relief pitcher Joe Smith (38) throws a pitch in the eighth inning against the Texas Rangers at Rogers Centre. Mandatory Credit: Nick Turchiaro-USA TODAY Sports
May 27, 2017; Toronto, Ontario, CAN; Toronto Blue Jays relief pitcher Joe Smith (38) throws a pitch in the eighth inning against the Texas Rangers at Rogers Centre. Mandatory Credit: Nick Turchiaro-USA TODAY Sports /
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The lack of bullpen depth showed significantly for the Toronto Blue Jays during their two trips to the postseason. Now, the Blue Jays can say they have a solidified bullpen that’s drastically improved from last season.

There were concerns in regards to the depth of the Toronto Blue Jays bullpen. The lack of depth came back to haunt them in the postseason. The Kansas City Royals and the Cleveland Indians had much stronger support in relief that it’s the reason why they went to the World Series in the last two seasons.

For the past few seasons, the Blue Jays have done very little to address the bullpen issue. Surprisingly enough, the bullpen was the club’s biggest strength that got in back into the postseason last fall.

With a combined 25 players used in relief, the Blue Jays bullpen finished 2016 with a 4.11 ERA (21st), 1.27 WHIP (12th), 3.47 K/BB (2nd), 9.16 K/9 (9th). On top of the that, the Jays only blew 22 saves. That’s 12 more than the 10 saves they blew this season.

Over the course of the 2016 season, they discarded Jesse Chavez, Brett Cecil, Joaquin Benoit, Scott Feldman, Pat Venditte, and Gavin Floyd.

With the 2017 season well underway, the Blue Jays bullpen has evolved into the depth the team needs. If you’ve noticed of late, the bullpen has been relied a lot on in the past week.

During the offseason, general manager Ross Atkins went out and signed relievers J.P. Howell and Joe Smith. Both pitchers have shown different results.

Howell has struggled with an 8.31 ERA along with two stints on the DL with left shoulder soreness. Smith, on the other hand, has emerged as the setup man for the Jays.

Smith, on the other hand, has emerged as the high-leverage setup man for the Jays. Before Smith, Jason Grilli was in that role before he began to struggle with his command in his pitches.

The relievers this season have contributed nicely with a 3.79 ERA (12th), 1.21 WHIP (9th), 3.15 K/BB (6th), 10.16 K/9 (4th). The bullpen has ben solidified with Ryan Tepera, Danny Barnes, Aaron Loup, Dominic Leone, and closer Roberto Osuna.

Barnes and Tepera have become the unexpected reliable pitchers that Jays need in order to have success down the road.

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Tepera has been productive as he is thriving in his role with a 2.86 ERA, 0.98 WHIP, and 36 strikeouts to his name. Barnes’ contribution has been important for the Blue Jays. He uses his changeup-slider combo before unleashing his fastball. His ERA is 2.60 with a 0.98 WHIP and 32 strikeouts.

Loup has resurged after he was sent down to Triple-A Buffalo last season. The 29-year old hasn’t looked back since as things seem to be working out well for the lefty. Meanwhile, Osuna has found his groove with 15 saves on the season after he struggled mightily in April.

Once a healthy Aaron Sanchez makes his return to the rotation, Joe Biagini will most likely head back to the pen. Adding much more depth that they already have.

Next: Blue Jays select Hagen Danner with the 61st pick

If the Blue Jays can climb back into a winning record, they could very well inquire about adding another left-handed arm to the bullpen at the trade deadline on July 31. That way, the bullpen will be balanced and filled with the depth as the Jays will do their best to push for a third straight postseason appearance.

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