The Toronto Blue Jays have had issues with their current closer this year.
BJ Ryan, a formerly established closer, has not done very well to date this season. Ryan blew his second save of the season last Tuesday, and there is chatter that his job could be on the line.
Ryan has also had velocity issues, with his fastball speed down to the 85-87 range. If Cito Gaston makes a change at the closer role, who will he turn to?
There are two established relief pitchers in the Toronto bullpen that could potentially take the job from Ryan. Scott Downs and Jason Frasor are the favorites in this bullpen, while Brandon League could possibly see some saves himself.
What can Downs and Frasor contribute from the closer role?
Downs is a 33-year-old southpaw who has had stellar 2007 and 2008 seasons. In 2007, Downs had a K/BB ratio of 8.8/3.7, which is fairly strong and closer-worthy. While the strikeout rate dropped slightly in 2008, his control slightly improved. His K/BB ratio was 7.3/3.4 in 2008.
With these outstanding skills, Downs was able to post ERAs of 2.17 and 1.78—obviously a bit lower than should be expected, but strong nonetheless. Downs looks like a great add as a middle relief pitcher in any league, as he will deliver great middle relief numbers at a real value.
Upon close examination, Frasor has the potential to be better than Downs, but his recent stats don’t lead us to believe that he is a better overall pitcher. While Frasor had a stellar 2007 season (9.3/3.6 K/BB ratio), his 2008 season was not nearly as good as that.
The one stat you need to take from 2008: 6.1 walks/9 innings. If he cannot harness his control, his excellent stuff really doesn’t mean much. In fact, it could lead to a lot of blown saves.
Another thing to consider with Frasor is his propensity to give up the longball. About 38 percent of the hits off Frasor were flyballs—not good news for a potential closer. Likewise, Downs had a stellar 65-66 percent groundball rate—a great indicator that Downs has the advantage in this situation.
Both pitchers have got off to great starts this season, but Downs is the guy you want to roster if you are trolling your waiver wire for saves.
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