The Toronto Blue Jays are having to lean on the efforts of Danny Barnes and Ryan Tepera for more innings than they planned
The Toronto Blue Jays” bullpen has been a revolving door with guys traveling back and forth to Buffalo with 15+ arms logging relief innings. We are at the half way point of the season and injuries and poor performances have necessitated this many relievers. In a baseball season, things don’t always go according to plan. There is no way we could have predicted last year’s performance from Joe Biagini.
This year, Toronto’s front office acknowledged that the bullpen would have a fluid consistency. They knew they would be going through the season having to make the bullpen up as they went along. And, in that regard they were correct. Despite adding J.P. Howell and Joe Smith to the mix, this bullpen has been far from settled.
Danny Barnes was not supposed to see this much time at the big league level. But, here we are. After appearing in 13.2 innings last year, he has seen his contributions increase dramatically this season. Currently sitting on 35 innings of work, Barnes is finding himself being called upon more and more.
|2 Yr||2 Yr||2 Yr||1||2||2.96||40||11||48.2||37||16||4||16||53||3.02||1.089|
Barnes is well on his way to the highest inning total of his career, and he’s doing so at the big league level. This step forward in his development is buoyed by an increased reliance on the fastball/change combination. His slider usage has decreased as a result, which is a good thing since it is the offering that has the least value for the righty.
According to Fangraphs, his fastball is worth 2.09 wFB/C and his change is worth 2.08 wCH/C. He’s seeing swing rate of nearly 50% and striking batters out at a rate of over 28%. He’s been worth 0.6 fWAR. His success has led him to be called upon more and more. While he hasn’t quite seen his time turn into straight up high leverage situations, we are seeing that change. His 3.55 K/BB rate and nearly 85% LOB rate make him a solid answer in to turn to.
Having spent the 2016 season going back and forth to Buffalo, Tepera looked to be addition to this year’s bullpen, rather than a core piece. Yet, half way through the season Tepera has more than doubled last year’s major league time.
Tepera is relying on his sinker less often and his slider even less. His fastball is better than it has been since he made his big league debut. According to Fangraphs, his fastball has a value of 1.17 wFB/C and his cutter has been even better: wCR/C = 3.14. All of this is leading to him putting up a WPA of 1.57, the first positive value of his career. His FIP of 2.90 has him worth 0.9 fWAR. The biggest improvement that fans will notice from the ever popular ‘eye test’ is that he is giving up fewer home runs. He’s given up just one this season.
Perhaps, the best sign of his success, and the reason for him being relied upon so much is how good he has been in high leverage situations:
Holding batters to a .170 average in these situations is far from perfect, but in a season where the Blue Jays are scrounging for any semblance of effectiveness, this is certainly a welcome sight. It is definitely a step up for Tepera. It is this kind of showing that leads ot manager, John Gibbons, turning to Tepera more and more. The 29 yr old righty is working his way toward becoming one of Gibby’s Guys.
Tepera’s 2017 success has him being relied on more than ever. His 41.2 innings is the highest of his big league career and approaching his early minor league totals when he was a starter. Normally, when you’re talking about bullpen arms, such a high inning total in the first half of a season might be cause for concern. Given the fact that Tepera has seen 100+ innings in the past, perhaps his workload may not be a concern. OF course, the flip side of that is that he hasn’t seen that many innings since 2013.
Of course, the context of the Blue Jays’ 2017 season may mean that management can’t afford to worry about workload at this point. If things continue, though, this line of thinking will have to be front and center. Aaron Sanchez returning to the rotation means that Joe Biagini will see a decrease in his workload, which has reached 73.1. Now, he’s thrown as many as 130 as recently as 2015, but the club has to be monitoring his totals.
When a team struggles the way the Blue Jays have, they look to anyone who is having success in order to keep them afloat. Ryan Tepera and Danny Barnes have been two key contributors and have seen their workload increase as a result. We all know that when Gibby finds a player that is working out, he rides them as much as he can. Time will tell how much longer this duo can maintain their success as their innings continue to mount.
*Featured Image Credit: Keith Allison UNDER CC BY-SA 2.0
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