Blue Jays Have Bulls In The Pen
The 2014 season began with a lot of promise for the Blue Jays, having taken a commanding lead of the AL East division. However, it ended with the Jays on the outside looking in, finishing behind the Baltimore Orioles and New York Yankees. General Manager Alex Anthopoulos publicly blamed the bullpen, a strength for the team in 2013, as the reason for their downfall.
High expectations were set by fans and media alike but, for whatever reason, Anthopolous mostly failed to bolster the bullpen from the free agent crop. The list of big names — among them David Robertson, Andrew Miller, and Luke Gregerson — slowly shortened until it became clear the Blue Jays would enter the season using the assets at hand. A-ball rookies Miguel Castro and Roberto Osuna were both handed high leverage roles, Brett Cecil was given the closer’s role, reacquired Liam Hendriks from Kansas City Royals and newly acquired Marco Estrada from Milwaukee Brewers filled in for mid- to late-relief.
Due in large part to the performances of Hendriks and surprise rookie sensation Roberto Osuna, the Jays currently rank 8th in the league in bullpen Wins Above Replacement (WAR) at 3.5. In terms of Expected Fielding Independent Pitching (xFIP), a statistic that estimates a pitcher’s expected run prevention independent of the performance of their defense, the Jays pen ranks 4th at 3.42 and due to some luck as well as much improved defensive team behind them, the pen’s ERA at 3.18 has outperformed their xFIP.
This has pushed the Jays far, near the top of the league for an elite bullpen.
Individually the Blue Jays top relievers Osuna, Hendriks, Cecil and newly acquired reinforcement Marke Lowe and LaTroy Hawkins, rank low in xFIP. All below the league average for qualified relievers at 3.60. Thus the Jays have members in the pen that have high individual ability to shut down the other team without needing much assistance.
Blue Jays xFIP rank in the league among relievers with 30IP:
10. Mark Lowe: 2.51
18. Liam Hendriks: 2.75
19. Aaron Loup: 2.78
23. LaTroy Hawkins: 2.85
37. Brett Cecil: 3.22
55. Roberto Osuna: 3.3
117. Bo Schultz: 3.89
Our own Spencer Estey already broke down why swinging strikes are important. The Jays have had hitters look silly, ranking 11th best in the league at 11.4%.
For a reliever, the league average SwStr% is 9.5%. The Jays have 6 that are ahead of that mark with 2-3 at or approaching elite levels.
Blue Jays SwStr% rank in the league among relievers with 30IP:
28. Mark Lowe: 14.40%
30. Roberto Osuna: 14.40%
43. Brett Cecil: 13.20%
97. Bo Schultz: 11.00%
117. Liam Hendriks: 10.30%
130. Aaron Loup: 9.60%
148. LaTroy Hawkins: 8.30%
Comparing their SwStr% against xFIP- (xFIP park and league adjusted) there is a relationship between how effective a reliever will be regardless of the park or league they pitch in. Lower the xFIP- the better as the park and league played in have no effect in the quality of the pitcher’s performance.
Blue Jays xFIP- rank in the league among relievers with 30IP:
10. Mark Lowe: 63
17. Liam Hendriks: 69
18. Aaron Loup: 70
24. LaTroy Hawkins: 73
34. Brett Cecil: 77
49. Roberto Osuan: 83
111. Bo Schultz: 98
While the Blue Jays may have missed out in 2014 in part due to their pen, the Bulls In The Pen they have this year will not be a limiting factor rather a contribution for this team’s push into the post season and more.