Expected to be a major strength for the team heading into the 2014 season, the Toronto Blue Jays’ bullpen has been very unreliable out of the gate.
Toronto has already lost several winnable games because of late-inning meltdowns. The Blue Jays relievers have picked up six of the team’s 15 losses, which were attributed to them after they were called in with a lead and ended up losing the game.
That’s not the only concerning stat. In fact, it’s not pretty whichever way you look at it.
The bullpen’s collective ERA of 4.90 ranks third to last in the American League. It has also surrendered the second-highest amount of walks in the AL with 52 and ranks third in most home runs allowed with 10.
From the seventh inning onward—when shutdown innings are required the most—the team’s ERA balloons to 5.33 and the WHIP grows to 1.55.
The most concerning part about the bullpen’s issues is that it’s not just a couple of relievers having problems, but rather, most of the unit is struggling at the moment.
Interim closer Sergio Santos has an 8.31 ERA in 8.2 innings pitched. He’s also given up nine hits and nine walks during that span.
Late-inning relievers Steve Delabar and Brett Cecil—who were both All-Stars last season—have posted ERAs of 4.22 and 5.23, respectively.
Long relievers Esmil Rogers and Todd Redmond have combined to give up 15 runs in 32.2 innings.
The struggle by the bullpen this season is a far cry from its performance last year, when it had posted a combined ERA of 3.37, fourth-best mark in the American League.
So why is the bullpen—consisting mostly of the same players as last season—struggling so badly this year?
One explanation could be related to the fact that Toronto’s starting pitchers have struggled to pitch deep into games, forcing the bullpen to throw extra innings.
The Blue Jays’ rotation ranks 11th in the AL in innings pitched with 153.2. On the flip side, the team’s relief corps has pitched 93.2 innings already, the fourth-highest total in the AL. So fatigue and overuse could definitely be an issue here.
Another explanation could be the spring training injury to Casey Janssen that has caused him to miss the entire season so far.
Losing Janssen—the team’s closer for the previous two seasons—has forced Santos into the closer’s role and has reduced the overall depth of the bullpen.
Janssen is scheduled to begin a rehab assignment next week and could be rejoining the team shortly after that if it goes well. The Blue Jays are hoping his return brings some much-needed stability during late-game situations.
Whatever the issues are, the Blue Jays simply need more from their bullpen at this point in order to have a chance of contending this season.
*All stats are from MLB.com.
*Stats reflect games played until May 1, 2014.