Bullpen construction and usage have changed over the years. While some teams now opt to close by committee, and others employ their best high-leverage reliever as a "fireman," teams with high-end talent at the back of their bullpen still use a traditional closer in tight games.
What hasn't changed is the need for a solidly built relief corps with a unit of dependable pitchers who thrive and succeed in high-leverage situations.
The Blue Jays have had a number of top closers and high-leverage relievers over the years, but who has been the best hurler to come out of the bullpen since the team's inception in 1977?
Wins Above Replacement (WAR) is the go-to formula for deciphering a player's overall value. Using FanGraphs' WAR data, we have put together the all-time best bullpen the Blue Jays franchise has ever assembled.
Before we get into the list of top relievers in franchise history, let's give some honorable mentions to pitchers that made an impact while in Toronto but didn't crack the top eight.
Current closer Jordan Romano deserves an honorable mention. He recently secured his major league-leading 23rd save of the season and 84th of his career, which puts him sixth all-time among Blue Jays relievers.
He has accumulated a 3.9 fWAR in only 189 2/3 innings and is the only player in the top eleven in fWAR and top six in saves who has thrown fewer than 200 innings. Despite some early-season hand-wringing over his ability to close out games, the Markham product is undoubtedly one of the Jays' best and a top-tier MLB closer.
Also just missing the list with a 4.3 fWAR is Scott Downs, who pitched in Toronto for six seasons from 2005 to 2010. The lefty jumped into a starter's role partway through his first season with the Jays but found a home in the bullpen for the remainder of his tenure.
Downs wasn't a closer, only securing 16 saves in a Blue Jays uniform, while his 90 holds remain the team record. His value lay in his dependability and durability. He led the American League with 81 appearances in 2007, and of the top 25 Blue Jays relievers by fWAR, his 2.59 ERA over 323 1/3 innings ranks third.
A few of the other well-known names who just missed the cut include Brett Cecil (4.0 fWAR), Dan Plesac (3.7 fWAR), Aaron Loup (3.0 fWAR) and David Wells (3.0 fWAR). Plus, don't forget fireballers Billy Koch (100 saves, 3.0 fWAR) and B.J. Ryan (75 saves, 2.8 fWAR).
Next: The first name on the list ranks fifth all-time in saves for the Blue Jays