Jays From the Couch brings you the 2016 Toronto Blue Jays Player Highlights & Lowlights. This time: Roberto Osuna
On June 22nd, 2015, Blue Jays manager John Gibbons sent a 20-year old Mexican reliever to the mound for the eighth and ninth innings of a three-run game. After a walk, a ground ball and five strikeouts, young Roberto Osuna had his first save in the MLB, and the Blue Jays have had a closer ever since. Osuna finished 2015 with 20 saves and added another 36 in 2016 to establish himself as one of the top closers in baseball, and he’s under Blue Jays control until at least 2020.
When looking at Osuna’s 2015 versus his 2016, one word comes to mind: consistency. In a few extra innings this season, Osuna put up remarkably similar numbers in ERA, R/ER, BB and HR/9. That alone is great, but Osuna improved in many categories including ERA+, FIP, K and K/9. Consistency is enough to ask from your young closer, but consistency plus improvements is also welcomed. And while we’re going on about improvements, let’s look at some velocity.
Part of the explanation for Osuna’s slight improvements can be that little uptick in velocity in his four seam fastball. While only +.4 MPH on a fastball doesn’t seem like much, when you lack the devastating movement of a closer like, say, Kenley Jansen, that extra velocity helps. Osuna also added a tick (+.9 MPH) on his change-up in 2016, which supplemented his extra fastball velocity.
While Osuna’s regular season was excellent, the hurler came into the multi-national spotlight this October with some dominant performances versus Texas and Cleveland. He was most impressive in a five-out save versus the Rangers on October 7 and again on October 9th with a two-inning appearance which resulted in an extra-inning win for Toronto:
Those two scoreless innings were just part of his tremendous October stretch where Osuna threw nine innings allowing just four hits, no walks and struck out 10.
Of course, Osuna wouldn’t be closing in autumn if he wasn’t great through the summer, and he was certainly that. Through July alone, Osuna faced 42 batters over 11 2/3 innings, allowing just five the reach base. He struck out 11 of them, and coaxed the remainder to either ground out or loft a week fly ball in play. Of course, it wasn’t all perfect.
Osuna is young and prone to ups and downs you won’t see in his final line of the season. Take a step back and look at his ERA/month, things get a little weird:
Between May, July and October, Osuna gave up zero runs and struck out 37. Away from those months, though, he allowed 22 runs and struck out 44. Is there a correlation between Osuna’s strikeouts and giving up more runs? Perhaps, but that’s a topic for someone who can relate spin rates, Ks and contact in a better narrative than I can right now.
What does seem like a potential issue for Osuna is his striking ability to groove a fastball here and there and manage to not throw it past light-hitting guys like Tyler Naquin, as was evidenced in his worst appearance of 2016 when he allowed a pair of dingers to Cleveland at a time when they were missing nothing:
So, there might be something there worth looking into. But as of right now, Osuna has been incredibly successful at the MLB level at a seriously young age, and there’s no use messing with something that’s not broken.
The Jays fans love Osuna and the stability he’s brought to the back up the bullpen, and we found out recently that he’ll have his veteran set-up man Jason Grilli back for 2017 as well. So why not predict more of the same? His injury history is clean aside from a scare near the end of the 2016 season, and at only 21 years old he still has some time to grow and mature into that 6’2″, 215-lb frame. Some still question his long-term usage and extra value in converting him to a starter, but with Osuna’s own desire to pitch every day and his successes in that role, we come back to it: why mess with it?
The best part of this winter is that Osuna superfans won’t even have to wait until spring training to watch their young tosser, as he’s accepted a place on Mexico’s 2017 World Baseball Classic roster:
My organization has let me know that (they) support my decision and I will not have any problem playing for Mexico in this tournament, so we just have to wait. I did not want to tour to Japan because I preferred to rest a bit more, but in March will be ready to play for my country.
Forgive my intelligent translation there, but it seems as though Osuna will be very happy to represent his country in this year’s classic. Osuna is a very important contemporary figure in baseball in Mexico, having pitched there professionally at the young age of 16. For Blue Jays fans, it will be just another early opportunity to watch a fan favorite.
*Featured Image Credit: Arturo Pardavila III UNDER CC BY-SA 2.0
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Roy’s earliest memories all involve baseball from the early 90’s and the Blue Jays dream teams. He became a Blue Jays fan while watching Carlos Delgado and Shawn Green evolve in Syracuse, NY at the run-down confines of MacArthur Stadium, nestled between highway and swamp. A lifelong baseball player, Roy still plays (P, C, 2B, 3B) in the 25+ Syracuse MSBL for the Liverpool Mets. He watches almost all games with his best buddy Sebastian, a five year old Pug, who could care less.