This is a post from bauxite Mike D.
An analysis of whether the Blue Jays’ bullpen has succeeded or failed this season is surprisingly complex.
Looking at the most basic mainstream measure of saves, the Jays have been an atrocious 6-for-16 in save situations (while the first-overall Cardinals have been a tidy 25-for-29). On the other hand, the Jays’ reliever ERA is better than that of eight other teams’ bullpens, and the bullpen’s K/BB ratio is second-best in the majors while holding opponents to the tenth-lowest opposing OPS.
So what gives? It turns out that the Jays’ bullpen has in fact been very good – except in high-leverage situations, where they’ve been utterly horrible.
Ahead by 4+ runs (47 2/3 IP): 3.59 ERA, 70% strand rate
Ahead by 3 runs (11 IP): 0.00 ERA, 100% strand rate
Ahead by 2 runs (7 2/3 IP): 8.22 ERA, 58% strand rate
Ahead by 1 run (9 1/3 IP): 15.43 ERA, 42% strand rate
Tied (13 1/3 IP): 5.40 ERA, 40% strand rate
Down by 1 run (21 1/3 IP): 0.84 ERA, 86% strand rate
Down by 2 runs (11 IP): 5.73 ERA, 50% strand rate
Down by 3 runs (15 2/3 IP): 2.87 ERA, 100% strand rate
Down by 4+ runs (31 1/3 IP): 1.44 ERA, 80% strand rate
In the aggregate and by my calculations, the Jays’ bullpen has put up a 2.91 ERA with a 71% strand rate with a lead of three or more runs. And they’ve posted an excellent 2.07 ERA when trailing by any score, with a 74% strand rate. But their performance when tied, or ahead by two runs or fewer, is ghastly: a 9.20 ERA and a 48% strand rate. They have given up 16 earned runs in 9 1/3 IP with a one-run lead – and 10 earned runs in 47 IP facing a deficit of three runs or more.
So the bullpen has been a key contributor to the Jays’ AL-best run differential, because they have consistently prevented inherited deficits from getting any worse. They’ve also been solid with a significant lead (after some early season problems in that department).
The Jays’ bullpen has been consistently effective in mop-up duty, but the bullpen is crying out for an experienced arm for higher-leverage situations. Aaron Loup ranks second in the Jays’ pen with both his 2.083 years of service time and his $527,000 salary. Speaking of Loup, he actually dramatically improved the bullpen’s strand rate with one-run leads (from 22% to 42%) when he struck out Hank Conger on the weekend with three inherited runners aboard, before Bo Schultz coughed up the lead an inning later.
Apropos of nothing, Jonathan Papelbon has a 1.50 ERA and has stranded all three of his inherited baserunners in situations where the game is tied or his team is ahead by one or two runs.
Thanks to Mike D.