The Toronto Blue Jays have one of the better lineups and starting rotations in baseball. How people see the bullpen is up in the air, though
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The Toronto Blue Jays have been the talk of the offseason. They are heavy favourites to make a postseason run thanks to their much heralded lineup and starting rotation. Many expect many things from this Blue Jays team. However, one area that either doesn’t get much attention, or could be labeled a weakness is their bullpen. But, are they as bad as some fear? Are they as good as some hope? Let’s take a look.
Recently, Fangraphs put out its MLB bullpen rankings (by fWAR) and, while the Blue Jays do not find themselves in the bottom half of the rankings, they are close. Toronto sits in 13th spot in a list of the top 15 bullpens in baseball, closer to Philly and KC than most of their playoff competition. Most of the logic behind this placement seems to be that Toronto does not possess the elite arms other teams do.
Looking at the top of the list, the Yankees, sitting in top spot do have elite arms like Aroldis Chapman and Jonathan Loáisiga. It is not a deep bullpen, but if healthy, these arms and a Chad Green could take the club a long way. The 2nd place Brewers have Josh Hader and Devin Williams carrying their value. For the Blue Jays, only Jordan Romano is described as elite in the rankings. For his part, Romano is projected to see 1.1 fWAR after putting up 1.2 fWAR last year. For comparison, Hader is projected to put up 2 fWAR after putting up 2.6 fWAR last year. After Romano, Tim Mayza is looking at 0.7 fWAR and the rest break down as follows:
The remaining arms (if they see action this year) are all projected at 0.0 fWAR to put the team total at 3.0 fWAR. The Yankees are expected to put up 5.3 fWAR and the Brewers 4.5 fWAR. It should be noted that there is just a 0.5 fWAR difference between the 13th place Blue Jays and the 7th place Mets.
The real question now becomes whether these expectations are realistic and, more importantly, is this group enough to help Toronto win a championship? I looked at last season’s fWAR totals for the current bullpen, particularly the pitchers the Blue Jays will likely rely on most, and found that only Julian Merryweather had am fWAR lower than his projections.
Over: Romano (1.2), Cimber (1.2), Mayza (0.9), Garcia (0.4), Stripling (0.2), Phelps (0.4), Saucedo (0.2)
Equal: Richards (0.3), Nate Pearson (0.0),
Under: Merryweather (-0.3),
Obviously, this is hardly a complete analysis, but past performance does give an indication of what to expect in the future. For this group, they were equal to their projections in two occasions, but put up higher fWAR values than this year’s projections. The quick napkin math says that the projections might be a bit low. Simply adding last year’s numbers for Romano, Cimber and Mayza gives you more than 3 fWAR. Sure, it isn’t quite that simple and lots can happen, but the Blue Jays bullpen could be better than everyone expects.
Well, almost everyone. In a recent piece by Rob Longley, it would appear that Toronto’s relievers don’t have such low expectations for themselves. Consider the words from Cimber: “I’ve got a biased opinion, but I think people see the bullpen as a weakness and I don’t necessarily see it that way. I think if you look at some of the arms we have, I think we’re a little underrated.” Or those from pitching coach, Pete Walker: “I’m very optimistic it can be a strong group for us. I think maybe they’re guys who are not talked about enough for us. There’s some depth there that we feel really good about.”
That depth could very well become a strength for the Blue Jays as the season progresses. We saw how last year’s depth didn’t quite cut it, so by adding the arms they did, both mid season last year and during the offseason, the club has insulated themselves more. Now, of course the pitching coach and one of the relievers in question would say what they said. But, if we go back to Fangraphs, there may be some truth to what they’re saying. Dan Szymborski says: “The Jays aren’t overloaded with dominant arms, but to quote Stalin for some odd reason, quantity has a quality of its own, and Toronto is likely to start the season with a nine-man bullpen that’s made up of relievers who are generally all known quantities.” Where other teams lack depth, Toronto may be able to rely on it on their way to competing for a championship.
So, where do you stand? Do you think the bullpen is a strength? A weakness? Somewhere in the middle? Or, do you want to see a month or two of games before deciding? Hopefully, we won’t have to sit through a start to the season like we did last year. But, like last year, we know that the front office can fill any gaps as the season progresses. We also know they are very clearly determined to win now, so maybe they won’t hesitate as long as they did. Or, maybe they will, hoping that their depth can weather any storms. At any rate, what say you?
*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.