The Toronto Blue Jays have suffered through an inconsistent bullpen, but there are the makings of a group that could be rather special
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The Toronto Blue Jays are still fighting for a playoff spot this season, a fight made more difficult for them by a bullpen that has been inconsistent at best. Poor performances from the relievers will go down as the number one issue with this team whenever their season ends. However, there is reason to believe that all could be forgotten with a late season combination of some very talented arms.
The early struggles of this bullpen has somewhat clouded our thinking and our perception of just how good they are. It might surprise you to know that (at the time of writing) Toronto’s bullpen is not among the worst in baseball. Their bullpen ERA of 4.07 is better than 17 other teams, including the Houston Astros and Chicago White Sox and just a hair worse than the Red Sox’ 4.04. When it comes to WHIP (1.29), they are ahead of 20 other teams, including the Milwaukee Brewers, Houston Astros and the Boston Red Sox.
When you look at box scores that include something like we saw against the Oakland A’s on Saturday night – 5 runs in the 9th inning – the rankings above may cause some head scratching. Unfortunately, we’ve been seeing things like that for most of the season. That is not to say that the bullpen is complete garbage, but they definitely have caused more losses than any of us feel comfortable with.
In fact, GM, Ross Atkins felt strongly enough that bullpen help was needed that he swung a couple trades earlier than he probably would have liked (even if you think it wasn’t early enough) and brought in Adam Cimber and Trevor Richards. He also traded for Brad Hand and Joakim Soria at the trade deadline. Hand obviously didn’t work out and Soria got hurt, but you can’t say Ross didn’t try.
For his part, Cimber has been better than he was in Miami, which was pretty good. He had a 2.88 ERA in Miami and is enjoying a 1.85 mark after coming North. His WHIP went from 1.19 to 1.03 as well. Richards has tossed a 3.22 ERA and a WHIP of 0.761. No one is talking about Tim Mayza who has tossed 44 innings and is striking guys out at a rate of nearly 26% while walking them just 5.7% of the time and has a GB% of almost 64%. He’s collected 0.6 fWAR for his efforts.
As good as these three have been, there is even more potential waiting at the back end of the bullpen. Jordan Romano is 7-1 with 15 saves, 5 holds, a 2.60 ERA and 0.7 fWAR. He’s striking out a third of the batters he faces thanks to the most fastball velocity he’s seen in his short career.
The Blue Jays also just added Nate Pearson to the mix as well. Long thought to be a starter, he will be of more use to the team, at least for the rest of this season, in the ‘pen. He struck out the side on Sunday in his only inning of work after giving up 3 hits and two runs, one of which was earned. Having improved in each outing has to make you excited about watching him in a relief role, where he can come out and throw his elite starter stuff in short stints.
In fact, if you add all of these guys together (Cimber, Richards, Mayza, Soria, Pearson and Romano), you have a rather impressive group of talent, one that is capable of good things. And, we haven’t even mentioned Julian Merryweather who is making his way back from injury. There’s an outside chance that he joins this group. He just pitched on Sunday and it wasn’t pretty: 0.1 IP, 1 H, 2 ER, 1 K an a blown save. In fact, he’s looked rather rusty in his return from injury, so he may not be ready yet. But, if he bounces back and can join the above group…oh, man.
If the Toronto Blue Jays are going to reach the postseason in 2021, they will need their bullpen to be sharp. They can’t expect the bats to win every game for them. Look at August. There hasn’t been a point this season as important as the final weeks of the season. The good news is that there is some serious talent coming together at the right time. Thinking about what could be has me excited. It may not pan out, but the combination of talent is there and this could be a very different few weeks than the ones we saw earlier in the season.
*Featured Image Courtesy Of DaveMe Images. Prints Available For Purchase.
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Shaun Doyle is a long time Blue Jays fan and writer! He decided to put those things together and create Jays From the Couch. Shaun is the host of Jays From the Couch Radio, which is highly ranked in iTunes, and he has appeared on TV and radio spots.