Just How Bad is the Toronto Blue Jays’ Bullpen?

Jays From the Couch looks at the effectiveness of the Toronto Blue Jays’ bullpen using the Shutdown and Meltdown stats

 

How do you know a good reliever when you see one? Heading into 2016, we thought the Blue Jays had built themselves a fairly promising group of arms to come out of that left field wall. Here we are a month in and we have the exact opposite feeling. People are raging about the job done from, not just one or two guys, but essentially, the whole group of relievers. In the midst of all this ranting and raving, one has to begin to ask: are they as bad as all that? They can’t be that bad, can they? But, how would we know? Saves, blown saves, holds all would be numbers that could be pointed to in determining just how bad this group has been. But, what might be better is looking at Shutdowns and Meltdowns.

It was the following tweet that started me on this line of thinking:

https://twitter.com/KennedyKr_is/status/726807182113693696

 

It struck me that I’d forgotten all about SD and MD numbers. It is such an easy way to answer the question of the Blue Jays bullpen quality. Thanks to Kennedy for reminding me.

Rather than look at the number of saves or holds, what we really want to know is just how much of an impact are Toronto’s relievers having on their club. And, Fangraphs provides this information: “Shutdowns and Meltdowns give you a way to glance at a reliever’s stat line and determine how often they register a good or bad outing. They don’t necessarily tell you if a pitcher pitched well, but they do tell you if the team had good outcomes when the pitcher was on the mound in a particular game.” Anecdotally, we think we know. But, do the numbers support our gut feelings?

I compiled a list of those who’ve spent a significant amount of time in the Blue Jays’ bullpen (as significant amount of time as one can in a month sample size) and listed their SD & MD numbers as well as the LOB (left on base) rate. I think that a reliever’s job is to leave runners on base and not let them score. Even though a reliever could be coming in to start an inning fresh, or could have allowed the runner to get on in the first place, I think it helps round out a look at their effectiveness. I also wanted to look at how many batters they’ve faced. Obviously, fewer is better. That said, SD/MD are the main focus, here.

Brett Cecil: SD: 3, MD: 6 – In just 9.1 innings of work, Cecil has already compiled 5 losses to his name. In one month. That is the first sign of struggle. But, win/loss record should not be relied on to judge a pitcher’s effectiveness. So many outside forces impact a loss. Though, in Cecil’s case, he is the only force. In the 9.1 innings, he has faced an eye popping 46 batters. His LOB rate is 66.3%.

Drew Storen: SD: 3, MD:1 – This is somewhat surprising. Watching Storen has been downright frustrating thus far. One would think that his negative impact would be higher. In 8 innings, he’s faced 37 batters. His LOB rate is 55.6%. One could make the argument that, even though he has fewer MD, he’s been even less effective than Cecil.

Gavin Floyd: SD: 1, MD: 1 – In 10.1 innings, he’s faced 40 batters and has a LOB rate of 77.8. All of these are much better than the above two and can be considered acceptable. An average number of MD for a season is 8, so if Floyd maintains this kind of performance, he’d be right around that, which we’d be happy with.

Roberto Osuna: SD: 4, MD: 1 – This really isn’t that surprising. Many would not even point to Osuna as part of the problem with the bullpen. But, we’d be remiss if we didn’t mention him. In 10.1 IP, he’s faced 40 batters and left 65.8% on base. It’s not been perfect for Osuna, but certainly good.

Jesse Chavez: SD: 2, MD: 2 – Chavez has been an interesting arm in the ‘pen. Once considered as a starting option, Chavez now comes into a game later and throws 43% fastballs at 93.5mph, which is up 2 mph from last season. In fact, it is his highest velocity since 2010. In 9.1 IP, he’s faced 37 batters and left 100% on base. Despite MD numbers that suggest struggles, Chavez seems to have settled in to his new role. It’s early, but he projects to be effective, depending on how much the club uses him.

Ryan Tepera: SD: 0, MD: 0 – Tepera hasn’t had enough innings to really accumulate anything. He’s faced 6 batters this year. He’s held 4 of them from scoring (66.67% LOB). In 2015, Tepera had 4 SD and 5 MD. That may not give you a whole lot of confidence moving forward.

Pat Venditte: SD: 0, MD: 1 – Venditte has had very little time to have an impact on the Blue Jays at all. His 3.2 IP yielded a Meltdown. He faced 21 batters, which is not a good ratio. His LOB rate is 70%. Of course, he is not even with the big league club at the moment. He was included here in an attempt to be thorough in discussing the bullpen as a whole.

Joe Biagini: SD: 0, MD: 1 – Perhaps one of the better surprises the Blue Jays bullpen has yielded is Biagini. His 6.2 innings of work don’t show that he’s quite won over the manager just yet. He’s faced 31 batters in that time. But, his 71.8% LOB is encouraging as is his nearly 58% ground ball rate. Given the other performers in this group, Biagini can fly under the radar as he continues to establish himself. He doesn’t have the stuff to move into a late inning, high leverage role, but is proving to be a good piece in rounding out this bullpen.

Aaron Loup: 2015 SD: 10, MD: 11 – Loup has been on the DL since Spring Training, so he hasn’t impacted the bullpen performance at all in 2016. However, he is going to come back in a couple weeks, so it would be worth looking at what he would bring to the table. His 2015 performance would put him between “below average” and “poor” for Meltdowns, according to Fangraphs rating scale. As for Shutdowns, he would rank “poor”. While the boost of another lefty in the ‘pen is encouraging, these numbers are not.

None of these numbers are encouraging. They back up what good old fashioned paying attention and game watching leads us to believe. This group of relievers has been fairly disappointing in the early goings. But, that is just it. It is early. And, I’m not just saying this to dismiss any kind of worry. There has been reason for concern. But, with any small, early sample, things are skewed one way or another. A really good outing or two makes things look better than they actually are. Vice versa for a bad one.

Adding more evidence to the sample will help paint an overall picture. That said, the picture we have in front of us looks like a preschool finger painting. Manager, John Gibbons has his work cut out for him. Thus far, there have been times of questionable judgement when putting certain guys in certain situations. Perhaps, as he sorts this out, the number of potential Meltdowns will adjust. Of course, regardless of when they’re called upon, the players have to do well. Thus far, they have not.

 

 

 

 

*Featured Image Credit: Keith Allison 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.