The Insidious Six

Wednesday, September 21 2005 @ 09:20 AM EDT

Contributed by: Jordan

Wasn't it nice to see a two-run ninth-inning lead protected without the usual hammering tension? Jason Frasor might have just been filling in for Miguel Batista, but I'd personally be happy to see him fill in a few more times before the season's done.

It's Pinch-Hit Wednesday again, and coming off the bench today is longtime Bauxite and Blue Jay Way regular MatthewE, with some further reflections on the Toronto bullpen. Take it away, Matthew!


Something happened here that you may not have noticed. We're now most of the way through September, and the Jays still have the same bullpen they started the year with. Scott Schoeneweis, Miguel Batista, Vinny Chulk, Jason Frasor, Justin Speier and Pete Walker were on the roster Opening Day, and they're still here today. They haven't been sent down. They haven't been injured. They've just pitched and pitched and pitched. And they're the reason why the Jays have a better bullpen than anyone else in the division:

Team ERA

Toronto 3.95
New York 4.03
Baltimore 4.22
Tampa Bay 4.99
Boston 5.38

To be sure, it hasn't been a six-man pen the whole way. League, Gaudin, Whiteside and other pitchers have shown up to take their lumps. But those guys were always at the back of the line to come out and pitch. And of course, Walker (and more recently, Scott Downs) took a few turns as a starter. All of that is just details.

When was the last time this happened for the Jays? To have the same six relievers, day in and day out, all year? I guess the closest recent comparison was the 2001 pen, with Koch, Quantrill, Borbon, Plesac, File and Escobar. Anyway, next time someone blames injuries for what looks like a disappointing finish to 2005, don't buy it. These Jays have been unusually healthy in some ways.

One thing I've always liked to pay attention to is the Jays' career saves list. Henke and Ward are almost uncatchable, for all intents and purposes, at the top of the list. But lower down, it's not hard to move up quite a bit. Coming into this season, Jason Frasor held down the # 10 spot with 17 saves, but over the past few months Miguel Batista has blown past him with his 28 saves. That ties him with Randy Myers for 8th place, knocking Darren Hall down to 10th and Frasor out of the top ten altogether.

That brings us to tonight's game. With Batista either unavailable or undesirable, Frasor pitched a very comfortable ninth inning to pick up his first save of the year. Only a couple more, Jason! Darren Hall is in your sights!

Yuniesky Betancourt and Yorvit Torrealba hit back-to-back for the Mariners tonight. I know they're the only Yunieskys and Yorvits to play major-league baseball. But I don't know whether, as seems likely to me, they're the only guys with first names starting with "Y" to hit back-to-back in the majors.

Josh Towers picked up his 12th win despite not striking anybody out. I've decided that Josh Towers is John Cerutti. We've had almost three decades of Toronto baseball; that's enough to start looking for parallels. Who else should we compare Towers to -- the homer-prone swingman, good for about ten wins a year, who eventually graduated to a full-time spot in the rotation? The only thing spoiling the Cerutti comparison, of course, is that Towers isn't left-handed. And, I guess, Towers has better control. Neither of them struck out a whole lot of guys; Towers' K numbers are up this year, but Cerutti had a couple of years like that, too. Roger Angell, to the best of my knowledge, never wrote about Towers.

Anyway, Josh is probably hoping that this similarity doesn't last (not that I think he's aware of it), as Cerutti only had about five decent seasons, and Towers is currently on his fourth. There's some hope, however: Cerutti's best strikeout years were his first couple, and Towers' best is right now. It looks like he's getting better.

Where would this team be without Towers? A full season for a starting pitcher is 32 starts. Since J.P. Ricciardi took over, almost four years ago, only three guys have had significantly more starts than that--Halladay (110), Towers (60) and Lilly (55). Only three guys have had any starts at all in more than two of those four years--Halladay and Towers again, and Walker. That's an important contribution for a guy who really wasn't supposed to make it at all. There was a perception in '03, when the Jays picked him up, that Brandon Lyon had been dumped to make room for Towers, and I didn't like it at the time. I'm okay with it now.

I think I'm on to something with these comparisons. Only problem is, you think there ought to be a good comparison for a guy, and it turns out there isn't. Look at Orlando Hudson. Who else have the Jays had who's a defensive standout second baseman who hits just enough to get by? Damaso Garcia? Can't be -- I'll take Hudson's glove over Garcia's any day of the week, and I can't see Hudson ever burning his uniform.

What other veteran switch-hitting iron men have the Jays had at catcher? Is Alex Rios the new Junior Felix? Is Miguel Batista the new Paul Quantrill? Here's one I kind of like: Ted Lilly is a talented but inconsistent lefty, came up with the Yankees and gets hurt a lot. Sounds like Al Leiter to me, vintage 1993-1995.

Try to come up with your own -- it's easy and fun!