Jays From the Couch looks into the value of having Roberto Osuna at the back end of the Toronto Blue Jays bullpen
The Toronto Blue Jays have one of the best closers in baseball. Don’t @ me. There is no debating this. His value can be measured in performance and in dollars and cents, depending upon how your mind works. He has presented an obscene amount of value for the Blue Jays over the last three seasons and is building his case for a rather hefty pay day in the offseason.
Before Roberto Osuna took over the everyday closer job in Toronto, I would have been the first to tell you that that role is very overrated and people were making too much out of the Blue Jays not having a set answer for the position. A guy who gets outs was all I was looking for. Then along comes this youngster, throwing gas and making hitters look foolish and completely changed my mind. Let me be clear, the save statistic is still an overused, somewhat empty stat, but having a strong, shut down arm at the back end of the bullpen is something I no longer doubt.
Unfortunately, for closers, the save stat is the ultimate measurement of their effectiveness. Fortunately for Osuna, his 2017 total prove the first statement of this piece: he is one of the best. At the time of writing, Osuna has 30 saves, which is good for 4th in all of baseball. It also happens to be two more than that Kimbrel guy in Boston, thank you very much. Now, some will point to his seven blown saves (tied for 3rd in MLB) in an attempt to disprove Osuna’s effectiveness, but it doesn’t hold much water when you consider his other metrics.
If you go back to 2015, Osuna has collected a total of 86 saves, which is impressive. But, it certainly is not the sum total of his performance(s). Osuna has a career strike out rate of 29.9% to go along with a nifty little walk rate of 4.9%, which are both helped out by career best marks in both categories this season. His 2017 ERA may be higher than we’re used to, but unless we’re Buck and Tabby, we know that a career best WHIP of 0.86, FIP of 1.47 and xFIP of 2.52 are indicative of a much better showing.
Osuna’s groundball rates are up, his hard contact rate is down, as is his HR/FB rate. While his velocity is down, the values on his offerings are still quite brilliant: wFB: 2.0 (a marked drop), wSL: 9.1 (a marked increase), wCT: 3 (thanks to a major increase in usage), wCH: .4 (slight drop in usage).
Considering the overall ineffectiveness of the relief corps in Toronto – yes, they’ve been overworked – can we really understate the value of having Osuna as the anchor. Some may be frustrated at a blown save, or seven, but they need to ask themselves where this team would be if Osuna weren’t the closer. Removing a player certainly highlights his value.
But, if that doesn’t convince you, there is a more understandable way to think about this. Consider money. For people who understand the financial value of a player’s WAR, the following will make a whole lot of sense. We know that the Toronto Blue Jays place a value of $9M on every win a player presents. So, a guy who puts up 1 WAR, is worth $9M that year.
Look back at Osuna’s fWAR for the last 3 seasons: 2015: 1.3 fWAR ($11.7M), 2016: 1.8 fWAR ($16.2M), 2017: 2.5 fWAR ($22.5M) and counting. Due to his contract situation, Osuna has been making the league minimum, but producing well beyond that. In essence, the Blue Jays have been getting a heavy discount on Osuna’s arm. That is not an accusation of shady business, but the reality of a young player in MLB. Getting such a performance for minimal money is the definition of value, no?
Of course, that all could change by next season. Osuna is set to enter arbitration for the first time. MLBTR suggests that he is likely to see a major increase in his bank deposits. The arbitration process more closely resembles an ‘old school’ approach to a player’s value. They look at the basic stats like saves, strike outs, etc. Osuna’s 86 will look nice. As will his 225 strike outs since the start of 2015. MLBTR says that Trevor Rosenthal‘s $5.6M case is a good comparison. Rosenthal had slightly better numbers in roughly 40 more innings.
If this pay jump is even close to accurate, it will represent a healthy raise for one of the best closers in baseball. Yet, it will still represent a discounted salary for the Blue Jays. No matter how you look at it, Roberto Osuna brings a value to Toronto that often goes forgotten. As it stands now, there isn’t a way for him to be any more valuable…unless of course, the club wants to move him into the rotation…
*Featured Image Credit: Keith Allison UNDER CC BY-SA 2.0
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