Why You Should Have Optimism About the Blue Jays' Bullpen
The Toronto Blue Jays currently have the 7th best run differential in MLB at +46. However, they are only two games above .500, with a record of 37-35. They have been winning big but, far too frequently, they have also been letting games slip away near the end and losing by just one or two runs. The Blue Jays have lost twenty games this year by one or two runs, and thirteen of these losses have been earned by relievers. This means that in these games, the Blue Jays’ offense has given them the lead or put them within striking distance, only for the relievers to blow it. The bullpen has not been good recently, but there is still reason for optimism.
In April of this year, the Blue Jays were 3rd in the league in bullpen ERA. Once the calendar turned, however, the regression began. In May, they were 17th in ERA, and so far, in June, they have the 7th worst bullpen ERA in baseball. However, recently, some key relievers have begun to look like they did at the start of the year. These are Tim Mayza and Tyler Chatwood.
Tim Mayza did not give up an earned run in his first 8.1 innings of the year. In his next 5.1 innings, though, he gave up 12, ballooning his ERA from 0.00 to 7.90. Since this stretch, he has gotten back to being effective, giving up just one earned run in 8.2 innings. Expecting him to keep this up for the rest of the year is unrealistic, but it is not unrealistic to expect Mayza to be an effective, maybe even an elite reliever for the rest of the year. The Blue Jays have a massive need for high-leverage relievers, and if Mayza continues this streak, the Jays may not have to give up as much for one at the trade deadline.
Tyler Chatwood, like Tim Mayza, was elite at the start of the year. Through his first 17 innings of the year, he gave up just one earned run. Then, he lost all of his command. In his next four appearances, totaling 3.1 innings, he gave up 11 earned runs with 9 walks. He was able to rebound after this, however. In his last 6.2 innings, he has not given up an earned run and has given up only two walks. Chatwood’s horrible stretch was shorter-lived than Mayza’s, meaning that it is perhaps more realistic to expect Tyler Chatwood to continue to be a very effective reliever.
If Mayza and Chatwood are able to continue pitching well, and can finish the year as above average relievers, the Blue Jays will have at least three very quality relievers, as Jordan Romano is undoubtedly an elite reliever. The Oakland A’s, who have the 15th best bullpen ERA, have four relievers with an ERA under 4, minimum 10 innings. The Blue Jays could have at least three by the end of the year if everything goes well. Adding on to this, Julian Merryweather will come back from the 60-day IL at some time, and it is not crazy to expect him to be above-average. Furthermore, the trade deadline is coming soon, and it is realistic to expect the front office to go after some big-name relievers. If they are able to get a good relief pitcher without giving up one of the previously mentioned relievers, they could end the year with five above average relievers, putting their bullpen above average compared to the rest of MLB, and possibly pushing them over the line and into the playoffs.