Aaron Loup had performed his way back into the good books of the Toronto Blue Jays and their fans
The Toronto Blue Jays have seen their fortunes turn around in the month of May. While some will point to the bats doing more damage than they did to start the season, perhaps the bullpen can be given some of the credit, if not most of it. After a start to forget, they have become a stabilizing force in the late innings.
If you need proof, take a look at this:
May has seen a dramatic change for the relief corp. In 13 more innings, they’ve given up fewer home runs, fewer hits and the best part: a lot fewer runs. They’ve struck out 40 more batters and walked two fewer. The K/BB rate has gone up and their WHIP has gone down. In short, it is a much better performance in a bit bigger sample size.
One of the more important contributors to this turn around is Aaron Loup. Hearing that might cause some readers to do a double take. After all, we remember the struggles that Loup has had over the last couple years. After a solid 2013 season, Loup would see his playing time in Toronto decline in effectiveness and quantity. It got to the point last season that management kept him down in AAA Buffalo, overlooking him for other bullpen arms. They wouldn’t touch him with a 10 ft pole, let alone call him up to take the mound in Toronto.
Circumstances being what they are, Loup found himself with an inside edge on a big league job as the 2017 season started. His time with the club and contract situation afforded him a bit of an extra look. And, right now, the Blue Jays are glad that things worked out the way they did.
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In his 20 innings of work, Loup has struck out 23 batters and given up only one home run. His ERA has shrunk to 2.25 this season. He’s found himself producing positive (0.2) fWAR for the first time since 2015. According to the projections on Fangraphs, Loup has surpassed where many thought he would be. But how?
Looking at his batted ball profile, we see that his line drive rate is down, his groundball rate is up. Now, his flyball rate is up, but check this out: his HR/FB rate is way low (for him) at 5.9%. He’s only giving up hard contact at 25.5%. He’s throwing his slider a lot less this year and using his change up more. Perhaps due to the change in pitch usage, his fastball has been worth more (wFB: 2.5) this season than in each of the last two. He’s in the zone 45.6% of the time, which is lower than 2015 and 2016.
When he is in the zone, Loup is seeing batters foul a lot of pitches off. Take a look at the following image via Baseball Savant. It indicates the results of balls hit into play off Loup
Being outside of the zone so much means that batters may not be prepared for those in the zone. It serves to expand the zone, which gives the pitcher the advantage, obviously. There are a lot of called strikes and fouls on pitches in the zone.
Loup is also seeing soft contact this year:
All of this combined has allowed Loup to increase his effectiveness as a lefty out of the bullpen. Considering that the next effective option for left handed batters just might be righty, Ryan Tepera – J.P. Howell hasn’t quite found his groove in Toronto yet – Blue Jays management just might be enjoying the return to effectiveness from Loup as much as we are.
Obviously, bullpen performance is fluid. It can change from one month to the next without much difficulty at all. So, a sample size of 20 innings is not exactly enough to definitively trust what Loup, or any other reliever is showing right now. Things could change for Loup and the Blue Jays as the season wears on.
But, for right now, having Aaron Loup in the bullpen is a blessing for the Blue Jays. That is a sentence that many of us will have to take for a test drive before we buy into. As hard as it may be to get used to hearing, Aaron Loup is in the midst of a resurgence for the Toronto Blue Jays.
*Featured Image Credit: Keith Allison UNDER CC BY-SA 2.0
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