Toronto Blue Jays vs A.L. East: Comparing Bullpens


Jays From the Couch compares the Toronto Blue Jays bullpen to the other bullpens in the American League East



Teams continue to place an emphasis on shortening the game. Once it was expected that a starter finished what he started. Then it was expected that he give his club 7 strong innings, turn it over to a pair of strong relievers.


The makeup of today’s bullpen is expected to possess more than three relief pitchers capable of preserving a lead. Now, you look for a pitcher to get his team to the 6th inning and have his coach turn to his bullpen, thus turning the game into a 3 inning game.


Jays From the Couch will go around the American League East with a review of each ALE team’s top 5 relief pitchers. Average fastball velocity, along with wins above replace (WAR), K/9, and runners left on base percentage (LOB%) from 2016 will be used to compare each team’s bullpen.


First, let’s look at the Toronto Blue Jays top 5 relief pitchers as we enter Spring Training.


Toronto Blue Jays

 Avg. FB Velocity WARK/9LOB%
Roberto Osuna95.7mph1.89.9782.5
Jason Grilli92.6mph0.112.4384.2
Joe Biagini94.4mph1.28.2573.2
Joe Smith88.6mph-0.46.9285.3
JP Howell85.3mph0.37.8274.6
Averages91.32mph3.0 (total)9.0879.96


Long-time Blue Jay LHP Brett Cecil and veteran RHP Joaquin Benoit were lost from their 2016 bullpen, heading to St.Louis and Philadelphia. The Front Office replaced the pair with LHP J.P. Howell and RHP Joe Smith. While neither were impact signings, the veteran relievers appear to be better than internal options.


Blue Jays 40-man RP Options

Mat Latos, Mike Bolsinger, Glenn Sparkman, Bo Schultz, Aaron Loup, Dominic Leone, Ryan Tepera, Chris Smith, Matt Dermody, Ryan Borucki, and Danny Barnes.



Boston Red Sox

 Avg. FB VelocityWARK/9LOB%
Craig Kimbrel97.8mph1.214.0970.9
Tyler Thornburg94.4mph2.012.0981.3
Matt Barnes96.6mph0.49.5973.1
Joe Kelly98.2mph0.510.7096.4
Robbie Ross Jr.93.3mph0.79.1175.5
Average96.06mph4.8 (total)11.1279.44


The Red Sox made a huge splash when they acquired Chris Sale from the Chicago White Sox this offseason. The addition of another starter will have a trickle down effect, forcing one of Boston’s 2016 starter to the bullpen or to the minor leagues. One option is to have Drew Pomeranz return to the bullpen, a role he held with Oakland in 2015.


Boston will be without Junichi Tazawa (Miami), Koji Uehara (Chicago Cubs), and Brad Ziegler (Miami). Clay Buchholz might have been a fit in Boston’s bullpen, but in the bullpen he posted a 3.57 ERA in 22.2IP versus a 5.01 ERA in 116.2 as a starter. This and his high price tag had him shipped to Philadelphia.


The addition of Tyler Thornburg was an under-the-radar pick that will pay big dividends in the late innings, as he should help fill the void left by Uehara. The Red Sox are deep with quality BP arms and should have little trouble replacing Tazawa and Ziegler.


Red Sox 40-man RP Options

Fernando Abad, Roenis Elias, Heath Hembree, Kyle Martin, Noe Ramirez, Carson Smith, Robby Scott, Brandon Workman, and Luis Ysla



Tampa Bay Rays

 Avg. FB VelocityWARK/9LOB%
Alex Colome94.6mph1.111.2893.0
Brad Boxberger92.0mph-0.38.1477.9
Xavier Cedeno88.1mph0.99.3669.3
Erasmo Ramirez91.4mph-0.66.2579.9
Shawn Tolleson92.9mph-0.37.1859.9


The Tampa Bay Rays churn out quality arms year after year. They also have a habit of taking reclamation projects and turning them into valuable bullpen pieces. They hope that former Texas Rangers closer Shawn Tolleson will be their next such project.


Tampa traded Enny Romero, while Steve Geltz and Kevin Jepsen signed minor league deals elsewhere. There’s been talk that the Rays are looking at veterans Tommy Hunter and Brian Wilson as depth pieces. Dana Eveland, Danny Farquhar, and Ryan Garton will battle for the final 2 bullpen spots.


Matt Andriese will have to compete for the Rays final rotation spot but will slide into the bullpen nicely if Tampa decides to go with a younger option….Jose De Leon maybe?


Rays 40-man RP Options

Jose Alvarado, Jacob Faria, Kevin Gadea, Ryne Stanek, Chase Whitley, and Hunter Wood



Baltimore Orioles

NameAvg. FB VelcoityWARK/9LOB%
Zach Britton95.4mph2.59.9489.7
Darren O'Day86.40.111.0385.0
Brad Brach94.51.610.4881.7
Mychal Givens94.21.211.5778.8
Donnie Hart88.10.25.89100.0
Average91.725.6 (total)9.78287.04


The O’s bullpen will look much like it did in 2016, with the exception of Vance Worley (Washington Nationals) and Tommy Hunter (FA).


Baltimore will once again lean heavily on their bullpen but will need a reliever outside of Brad Brach (71G), Zach Britton (69G), and Mychal Givens (66G) to step up or risk overworking the trio.


The rotation will continue to be a question mark. One that will greatly impact the bullpen’s workload. Chris Tillman is a question mark in every way possible, will be healthy (likely starting the year on the DL) and will be the 2016 Tillman or the 2015 Tillman? Will Dylan Bundy and Kevin Gausman build on strong 2016 season? A year where they showed flashes of why the O’s selected them in the 1st round of the 2011 and 2012 drafts.


Orioles 40-man RP Options

Oliver Drake, Parker Bridwell, Jason Garcia, Jayson Aquino, Tyler Wilson, Mike Wright, Logan Verrett, Chris Lee, Jesus Liranzo, T.J. McFarland, Logan Ondrusek, and Gabriel Ynoa



New York Yankees

 Avg. FB VelocityWARK/9LOB%
Aroldis Chapman100mph1.412.6479.4
Dellin Betances97.6mph2.915.5368.4
Tyler Clippard91.5mph0.49.2482.7
Tommy Layne89.5mph-0.17.3180.3
Chase Shreve91.5mph-0.49.0076.9
Average94.02mph4.2 (total)9.1477.54


How the New York Yankees fill out their bullpen depends entirely on how their starting rotation looks on April 1st.


After Masahiro Tanaka, Michael Pineda (if he can stay healthy), and CC Sabathia (if he can hold off father time for one more season) the Yanks have an assortment of starters with bullpen experience to pick over. Phenom 22-yr-old RHP Luis Severino struggled in 2016 as a starter (0-8, 8.50 ERA). He looked much much better in the pen (3-0, 0.39 ERA) but it may be too early to usher him into a bullpen role. On the other hand, Severino would look really good alongside Dellin Betances and Aroldis Chapman.


Along with Severino, the Yankees could use Chad Green, Adam Warren, Bryan Mitchell, and Luis Cessa in the rotation or bullpen. Word on the street is that Adam Warren has the inside edge on the 5th spot, hence his exclusion from the above table.


Yankees 40-man RP Options

Johnny Barbato, Dietrich Enns, Giovanny Gallegos, Domingo German, Ben Heller, Ronald Herrera, Jonathan Holder, and Yefrey Ramirez




Having a good bullpen is just part of the equation. The Yankees started the 2016 season with Andrew Miller, Aroldis Chapman, and Betances, yet they finished out of the playoffs. However, when considering the Yankees 2016 starting rotation, it was the strength of their bullpen which allowed them to remain in wildcard contention far longer than anyone expected.


While on paper it appears the Blue Jays bullpen is not the best in the American League East, they are also not the worst. Roberto Osuna is quickly becoming one of the games top closers but the cast of relievers the Blue Jays have ahead of him are not on par with Boston, New York or Baltimore.


Boston’s bullpen ranks first in all categories except LOB% which belongs to the O’s. Toronto’s decision to go with ‘proven’ RP rather than harder throwing ‘unproven’ internal candidates lowered their average fastball velocity and K/9, but may have helped them achieve better WAR and LOB% numbers.


The bullpen the Blue Jays field on Opening Day will go through many a change as the season progresses. There will be injuries, waiver claims, regression and progression, there might even be a trade or minor league arm that comes from the abyss to claim a spot in Toronto’s bullpen. The same goes for every other team in Major League Baseball.






*Featured Image Credit: Joel Dinda UNDER CC BY-SA 2.0










Lover of all things Toronto Blue Jays. Blue Jays MiLB fanatic. I strive for average while stumbling onto above average. Rogers isn’t cheap. Baseball is a business. Your right, but I’m more right.

Ryan Mueller

Lover of all things Toronto Blue Jays. Blue Jays MiLB fanatic. I strive for average while stumbling onto above average. Rogers isn't cheap. Baseball is a business. Your right, but I'm more right.