Blue Jays Make or Break Season: Steve Delabar

Steve Delabar is out of options. Will the Blue Jays hang on to him? Is 2016 a Make or Break season for the righty?

 

If it is one thing the Toronto Blue Jays were obviously focused on this winter, it was (and is) adding pitching depth. They’ve done that. Whether you like the moves or not, you can’t argue that they haven’t done something. for the longest time, that was the case in Toronto.

But, now there is depth. The rotation has depth. The bullpen has depth. That depth is exactly what calls into question the future of reliever Steve Delabar.

The moment you add names to the depth chart, you push guys up or down. For example, adding Drew Storen (most likely) moves Roberto Osuna into a setup role, which pushes others further down. Right now, Delabar could be one of those who get pushed far enough down that the club is forced to make a serious decision. They avoided arbitration with the former teacher with a $835K deal. But, if he does not make the club, things get a bit more interesting.

Delabar is out of options. He would have to accept an assignment to AAA Buffalo in order for the club to avoid possibly losing him on waivers. In the past, we’ve seen the Blue Jays keep guys on the roster based on how many options they had left. They held on to guys who were out of them. Talent (or need) was secondary sometimes. With a new regime in place, and the club defending an AL East championship, things could be different. If he does not make the team out of Spring Training, there is a chance Steve Delabar could be playing elsewhere.

This may not amount to a “Make or Break” situation for his career, but it very well could be for his tenure with the Blue Jays. After all, you have to believe that there is a market for a  reliever of Delabar’s skill set.

He offers a fastball, slider, splitter combo and in 2015 threw a changeup 20% of the time. According to Fangraphs.com, his fastball averages 93-94 mph while his change didn’t offer much difference, sitting at 86.7 mph. His fastball has life to it and was worth 1.4 runs above average (wFB) last season. But, if he’s going to have success in 2016, he’ll need to be more like his 2013 self; the one that landed him on the All Star team.

In order to see what that means, I’m comparing his 2015 performance with that of his #RaisetheBar year. Obviously, before we do that, we have to acknowledge that the sample sizes are different. In 2013, he threw 58.2 innings at the big league level. 2015 saw 29.1, or half. But, a general idea can still be formed.

At first glance, your memory might tell you that he just couldn’t find the strike zone. But, in actuality, he only walked 10.9% in 2015, which is not that different than his 2013 rate of 11.5%. He did strike out more batters in 2013, though: 32.4% compared to 23.3% in 2015. In 2013, his fastball averaged 94 mph (92.8 in 2015) and he threw it just over 10% more. But, its wFB value was just 0.1.

The bigger difference is in his slider usage. Pitchf/x says he used it more in 2015 (13.4%, which is up from 10.9% in 2013). But, the value of it has fallen off the table dramatically. In 2013 his slider value (wSL) was 2.6, while in 2015, it was -3.5!

So, what happened? In an attempt to answer that, I went to Brooks Baseball. Here’s what I found:

DelabarMovement2013 DelabarMovement2015

On the left, we see the movement he was able to get on his offerings in 2013. On the left, 2015. You’ll notice that in 2013, he was producing more horizontal movement on his pitches. In 2015, he was sitting at a 5″ movement almost without variant. While in 2013, he’d get anywhere from 5″ to 10″. That’s a huge difference when you consider the distance from one side of the zone to the other. In 2015, the ball was not moving much at all. You’ll also notice that his slider had much more of a varying spin during his All Star run. In 2015, his pitches were coming in more flat. If he’s to be successful, he’ll need to make adjustments to this.

Want more? OK, how about combining horizontal and vertical movement?

VerticalMovement2013 VerticalMovement2015

Once again, in 2013 (on the left), Delabar was seeing more movement on his offerings. In 2015, he wasn’t getting much movement in any direction. When you serve up pitches that appear more like batting practice, you’re going to see results like a 2015 HR/FB rate that is more than double his 2013 mark at 14.3%, an 83.1% rate of medium to hard hit balls and 28 hits in 29 innings.

That said, there is room for optimism with Delabar. Even with a disappointing run, he still struck out more than a batter an inning and had his highest ground ball rate since 2012 (42.2%, which is likely a byproduct of being more hittable overall- batters pulled nearly 52% of his pitches). with the defense the Blue Jays have in place right now, more groundball might be helpful for Delabar.

One can only hope that Delabar can figure out his woes. As a reliever, you want to see better than 2/3 or 66.7% left on base (as he did in 2015). If he can figure out his movement, he could get back to his 2013 form. His velocity, etc hasn’t changed. One could argue that he’s still the same pitcher. He’ll need to be if he’s going to stick with the Blue Jays. He’s already starting at a bit of a disadvantage given that he was overlooked for a September promotion last season. That might be a clue as to how the club sees him. But, the willingness to tender him a, $800K contract rather than cut him loose says something also.

It says that Steve Delabar has a chance; a chance to make the big league roster in 2016. In order to do so, he’ll need to show that the movement is back. Otherwise, he could see himself slipping in the depth charts and facing a possible demotion. If that is the case, the Blue Jays will have to expose him to waivers and this conversation will be had by another blog about another team. For Steve Delabar’s time with the Toronto Blue Jays, the early part of 2016 very well could be “Make or Break”.

 

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Visiting Jays From the Couch? Why not check out what you’ve missed over the last week? We’ve got great Jays Nest Podcast episodes, some Blue Jays ‘Make or Break’ candidates, ranking the pitching staff, an interview and so much more! Here’s The Week that Was at JFtC!

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*Featured Image Credit: James G UNDER CC BY-SA 2.0

 

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Shaun Doyle

Shaun Doyle is a long time Blue Jays fan and writer! He decided to put those things together and create Jays From the Couch. Shaun is the host of Jays From the Couch Radio, which is highly ranked in iTunes, and he has appeared on TV and radio spots.