With a revolving door of late inning options, Rule 5 rookie, Joe Biagini, has emerged as the go to guy for the Toronto Blue Jays.
When the Toronto Blue Jays picked up Joe Biagini as a Rule 5 addition, they were taking a chance on a could start or relieve. It wasn’t exactly clear what the Blue Jays were going to do with him. All we know was that they would have to keep him on the big league roster or risk losing him back to the Giants. More precisely, what we weren’t sure of was whether that would be a big loss or not.
Most of Blue Jays Land (and media) has been caught up in the quirky sense of humor that Biagini offers, especially early on. His kind of uncomfortable, yet snappy quips endeared him to a
media fan base that didn’t really know much about him. While that was going on, he was quietly putting together an April that saw him with a LOB rate of 83% and a K rate of 22%. His walk totals were still high, but he’d only given up one earned run in April. There were not many members of the Blue Jays bullpen who could say that. Biagini didn’t need to light the world on fire. He just needed to not be as bad as everyone else and he’d look good.
As the calendar changed to May, the bullpen still found itself unreliable. Manager, John Gibbons, was forced to abandon his plans for the makeup of the ‘pen and look for whatever would work. Regardless of roles that should work, or were expected to stick, Gibby was put in a trial and error situation where he was hoping just anyone would step up to get the game to Roberto Osuna. Drew Storen seems to have fallen out of favor completely. Gavin Floyd was used as an option late in games. But, he too, would surrender some ill timed runs.
While this was all going on, Biagini continued to do his thing under the radar. In May, his ERA is 0.79 (his overall ERA for the year sits at 1). Now, if you listened to the latest episode of the Jays Nest Podcast, you would have heard our discussion on ERA as a useful stat. If you haven’t, I’ll wait while you go ahead and do that…
Now that you have, we should look at some numbers other than ERA to explain Biagini’s success. In May, he’s held opponents to a .175 average, he’s walked just one batter, his K/BB ratio is 6 (!) and his FIP sits at 2.29.
When he first started the season, Gibby would use him in low leverage situations because he was basically an unknown product. We see that when we look at the bulk of his time is in those kind of appearances. But, what we’re seeing lately that Gibby is showing more faith in his 25 year old righty.
If we look back at his last 3 appearances, they’ve come late in the game and in situations of importance. On May 24, Biagini came in the bottom of the 7th to face the Yankees’ Brett Gardner and Jacoby Ellsbury in a 4-0 game. The next night, he came out in the bottom of the 8th to face Carlos Beltran and Brian McCann. That time, the score was 8-3 in favor of the Blue Jays. One could argue that this is not exactly a high leverage kind of situation. But, it does reflect the confidence in the righty to face some big hitters late in a game. And, we’re always reminded about leads in Yankee stadium, so…
If you’re not convinced by that, how about his appearance against the Boston Red Sox on Friday night? With his team up 5-4, and a threat looming in the top of the 7th, John Gibbons went to Biagini to end the 2 out threat. And, he did. He came back out for the 8th inning and picked up the win. This suggests the possible shift in the belief in Joe Biagini. It appears that he is going to get more opportunities to be the bridge to Osuna. That seems like a major shift in responsibility from the beginning of the season.
Once a bullpen inclusion who was really on a trial basis, Joe Biagini has gone from low leverage, safe outings to being relied on in late, close situations. This is likely equal parts struggles by others and him proving himself, of course. Whatever the reason, we are seeing the emergence of what looks to be an effective arm. Whether this confidence is simply the club going with the hot hand, or it signifies a long term belief in the reliever remains to be seen. But, for now, Joe Biagini is the Blue Jays ‘Go To’ Guy.
*Featured Image Credit: PJ Mixer UNDER CC BY-SA 2.0
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