Mission ’13: Pitching: Whatever Went Wrong, It Wasn’t the ‘Pen’s Fault…

Welcome to installment #2 in our end-of-season-mop-up-with-a-view-to-2014 look at the pitching staff. I knew installment #1 was long, but I didn’t realize how long. Hopefully in keeping with their relative length of stay in a game, our overview of the relief corps will be shorter. No promises, though.

We’ll use the same motif to try to get a handle on what the bullpen did, and perhaps even what it can offer in 2014. Without further ado, here’s our table:

RP

G

ERA

FIP

xFIP

fWAR

Delabar

55

3.22

2.72

3.35

1.4

Janssen

56

2.56

2.74

3.09

1.3

Cecil

60

2.82

2.88

2.99

1.0

Santos

29

1.75

1.84

2.61

0.9

Loup

64

2.47

3.32

3.31

0.8

J Perez

19

3.69

3.71

3.39

0.2

Jenkins

10

2.70

3.95

4.25

0.2

McGowan

25

2.45

3.67

4.20

0.2

Wagner

36

3.79

4.13

3.53

0.2

L Perez

6

5.40

1.85

2.67

0.1

Jeffress

10

0.87

3.43

2.44

0.1

Lincoln

22

3.98

5.48

5.91

-0.3

By the way, the TP samples handed out with this material by Fangraphs weren’t used: http://www.fangraphs.com/leaders.aspx?pos=all&stats=pit&lg=all&qual=0&type=8&season=2013&month=0&season1=2013&ind=0&team=14&rost=0&age=0&filter=&players=0

  • minimum 10 appearances (except L Perez);
  • notable exclusions: the recently-retired Darren Oliver, Ricky Romero, & Kyle Drabek;
  • using our parameters the ‘pen produced 6.1 fWAR (the starters produced 7.1 fWAR);
  • 2 All Stars and a solid-if-unspectacular Closer led Hentgen’s boys in the ‘pen;
  • this table is ranked according to fWAR, but if you peruse the FIP/xFIP columns, they confirm that the Jays’ ‘pen was pretty strong;
  • AA’s desire to get RP who miss bats was successful, as 9 RP recorded 9.0 K/9 or higher;
  • at 0.85, Juan Perez recorded the highest HR/9 rate among the top 7 RP;
  • Steve Delabar made me think of Tom Henke in his early days: if Delabar wasn’t striking batters out (12.58 K/9), they hit their way on (.338 Babip) or walked (4.45 BB/9);
  • aside from Delabar, walks weren’t much of a problem with the guys who made the most appearances: of the 9 guys with at least 30 IP, only Cecil, J Perez, and Lincoln were above 3.25 BB/9;
  • of those 3 RP, 9 of Cecil’s 23 BB came in 11 July APP (9.1 IP), and 9 of Juan Perez’s 15 BB came in his last 5 APP (9.2 IP): not surprisingly, Cecil’s ERA rose from 1.47 to 2.81 and Perez’s ERA spiked from 0.00 to 3.69;

Okay, now to the tie some of this info together. We’ll use the same process as with the starters, but having 3 groups instead of 4: Keepers, On the Bubble, and Goner(s).

Keepers

  1. Steve Delabar
    • Re-sign this guy, and as soon as the ink’s dry get him in touch with the heavy ball program co-ordinator (who’s now an instructor with the Jays);
    • he has shut down stuff and was recognized with an All Star selection;
    • there’s no hint of complaint that he isn’t the Closer or desiring a more prominent role, more money, etc.;
    • he tired and was injured later in the season, but there’s no (major) concern;
    • he’s a high-quality set-up man: perhaps the Jays’ best since Duane Ward;
  1. Casey Janssen
    • Who would have thought that the Jays would get 2 high-quality seasons as the Closer from Casey Janssen?;
    • he has 117 SO, a 2.55 ERA and is 56-61 in save opportunities in his last 2 seasons as the CL, covering 116.1 IP, but he’s been terrific since the start of 2011;
    • It’s a lead pipe cinch that the Jays pick up his $4MM option for 2014;
  1. Brett Cecil
    • Cecil broke out as a RP after using the heavy ball program recommended to him by Steve Delabar;
    • an All Star selection highlighted a solid all-round season;
    • two wrenches have been thrown in the works, though: he ended the season on the DL, and he expressed a desire to move back into the rotation;
    • he’s arbitration-eligible and mlbtraderumors.com guesses that he’ll get ~$900K;
    • get him signed, give him a shot at starting in ST, then move him into the BP where his real value is found;
  1. Sergio Santos
    • 2 long, injury-filled seasons gave way to a successful recovery and a brilliant 29-game stint in 2013 (25.2 IP, 11 H, 5 ER, 1 HR, 4 BB, 28 SO);
    • an effective, healthy Santos combined with an effective, healthy Delabar giving way to an effective Janssen is the stuff of dreams;
  1. Aaron Loup
    • Loup was barely on the radar prior to his initial call-up in 2012;
    • Darren Oliver’s last 2 seasons allowed Loup time to develop into a good LHP out of the ‘pen, effectively replacing Oliver;
    • owing to his tendency to pound the zone (1.69 BB/9), he can get hit a little hard (.299 Babip; 10.6% HR/FB), but it’s a small price to pay for a LHRP of his quality;
  1. Dustin McGowan
    • he spent some time on the DL in 2013 but, as he pointed out, it’s the first time that he’s gone on the DL with something other than an arm/shoulder injury;
    • that said, like Cecil, he’s expressed a desire to return to the rotation;
    • he was effective without being stellar in 25.2 IP: he still has a high-90s fastball and can get hitters out pretty well (2.45 ERA) but the question is, and always has been, his durability/fragility;
    • I like him out of the ‘pen but drool at the prospect of having him offer legitimate rotation depth: he may be the perfect swingman;
  1. Luis Perez
    • I’ve always liked Perez, and sometimes that’s been a little irrational: he tends to be inconsistent;
    • he has 45 SO and 18 BB in his last 47 IP, covering 2012-2013: the BB rate is high(er) but the 2.5:1 ratio is nice;
    • I like his fastball, he seems to be fully recovered from Tommy John surgery, and a surplus of LHP is like having too much ice cream: it’s a nice problem to have;

On the Bubble

  1. Juan Perez
    • I honestly thought they should have dealt Juan at the deadline: he’s 34 years old and was having a career year, but alas…;
    • His injury status clouds his future as a part of the Jays’ organization;
    • If he’s healthy, I’d like to see them sign him to a Minor League deal, send him for rehab, then let him excel at Buffalo;
  1. Chad Jenkins
    • he’s a young guy who pitched well regardless of the role they gave him;
    • the problem is that his stuff doesn’t really “play” over the long haul: his BB/9 was super-low (0.98) in his brief stint (7 APP; 18.1 IP), thereby obscuring his very low K/9 rate (4.42);
    • Frankly, I think this guy would be solid in a big park with long grass or lots of foul territory, like O.co or Safeco;
    • otherwise, I’d like to see him in Buffalo for depth;
  1. Neal Wagner
    • I like Wagner: he put it all together in his age-29 season, was rewarded with a call-up, and pitched effectively;
    • he has a good, live fastball and dominated AAA;
    • if he’s willing, sign him to another minor league deal and have him start the year in AAA;
  1. Jeremy Jeffress
    • my oldest daughter has epilepsy so I have a soft spot for Jeffress;
    • the news that it was diagnosed this season and is being treated effectively with a medication regimen is very good: this may be the first time in his career that he has a realistic chance to reach, or even surpass, his potential and I think we got a glimpse of that after his call-up;
    • this means that I’d like to see him signed to a minor league deal, and send him to AAA to get established;

Goner(s)

  1. Brad Lincoln
    • I don’t care if he goes to Buffalo or is run over by a herd of buffalo: if I see him pitching in Toronto again, I may throw something through my screen. Seriously though, my arm’s not strong enough to do anything like that, but I think the disdain-fueled adrenaline rush gives me the extra MPH to get the job done. Think ‘Edsel’.

Okay, this is longer than I thought but you had nothing better to do anyways, right? Since we’re so many words into it (I confess to using some more than once), we might as well finish it. Here’s what I see from my admittedly-flawed perspective, based on a 13-man pitching staff:

Starters

Bullpen

Potential Swingmen

On the Bubble

1. ???

1. C Janssen, CL

JA Happ, LHP

J Perez, LHP

2. RA Dickey

2. S Delabar

T Redmond

C Jenkins

3. ???

3. S Santos

E Rogers

N Wagner

4. M Buehrle, LHP

4. B Cecil, LHP

C Jenkins

J Jeffress

5. J Johnson

5. A Loup, LHP

D McGowan

B Morrow (inj.)

6. L Perez, LHP

B Cecil, LHP

JA Happ

7. D McGowan

K Drabek

E Rogers

8.

T Redmond

D Hutchison

K Drabek

Obviously there’s room for pitchers to be moved around in this scheme and we haven’t given contractual status much consideration, but this is merely a skeletal framework based on the past. Equally as obvious is that some pitchers potentially fill more than one role. In that case, as you’ve probably noticed, I put them into all the categories into which I believe they fit. Other than AA’s stated desire to acquire at least a mid-rotation starter I have very little idea what the Jays plan to do, so I can comment meaningfully but I lack conviction.

Hopefully this serves as a decent guide or reference point for you as we look forward to the 2013-2014 offseason. The Jays have work to do, yes, but as you can see, there are a lot of pieces (20) with which to work and many of these pieces are high(er) quality. How many other teams have 5 quality LHP from which to choose? At the very least, their ML-calibre depth is encouraging: even the guys ‘on the bubble’ are pretty good options.

Wes Kepstro

It is with gratitude that I acknowledge that files from http://www.fangraphs.com, http://www.baseball-reference.com, http://www.mlbtraderumors.com and http://www.baseballprospectus.com/compensation/cots/al-east/toronto-blue-jays/ were used in the creation of this and the previous piece about the Toronto Blue jays’ pitching staff.

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