Toronto Blue Jays right-hander Steve Delabar is heading into spring training looking to bounce back from what was a difficult season last year.
After breaking out in 2013 and getting selected to the American League All-Star team, Delabar’s 2014 numbers significantly fell off. He posted a 4.91 ERA in 25.1 innings pitched before being demoted to Triple-A Buffalo for most of the season.
Delabar’s two biggest issues last year were a lack of control and a decline of velocity. The 31-year-old gave up a whopping 19 walks and hit three batters in 2014. This was a huge increase when compared to his 2013 season, during which he gave up 29 walks in 58.2 innings of work.
According to FanGraphs’ PITCHf/x, the average velocity on Delabar’s fastball also decreased during the 2014 season. After averaging 94.1 mph on his heater and topping out at 97.8 mph in 2013, Delabar averaged 93.0 mph with his fastball and topped out at 95.6 mph in 2014.
Delabar traces his problems last season to multiple factors. He told John Lott of the National Post that a shoulder injury prevented him from properly working out on his conditioning during the 2013-14 offseason. Then, later in the 2014 season, Delabar’s struggles were further compounded by a jammed left knee and a hyper-extended right knee. These injuries negatively affected both his delivery and control.
After having a healthy offseason this time around, Delabar claims that his velocity numbers are "back up." It remains to be seen if his control has also improved.
If Delabar can return to the same level he was at during the 2013 season, it could end up being a huge boost to the Blue Jays. Toronto’s bullpen was one of the team’s major weaknesses last season and finished 25th in the majors in ERA.
During the offseason, Blue Jays general manager Alex Anthopoulos opted not to make any major moves toward upgrading the bullpen. The team also lost several relievers from last season, such as Casey Janssen, Dustin McGowan and Sergio Santos.
With Aaron Sanchez and Marco Estrada both set to compete for a spot in the rotation, the only guaranteed spots in the bullpen right now belong to Brett Cecil, Aaron Loup and Todd Redmond. Even if one or both of Sanchez and Estrada end up as relievers, it still leaves multiple spots open in the bullpen.
Toronto wants to hold an open competition for those open bullpen spots during spring training. This should open the door for a pitcher like Delabar to impress the front office and win back his former role with the team with a good showing this spring.
All stats are from FanGraphs.