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Midseason Report Card, Part III: the Bullpen

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Actually, that's not too far from how this segment of midseason report card looks! Bully for the Jays' pen as a whole!

Jeremy Accardo: A
When B.J. Ryan fell to ligament replacement surgery and Jason Frasor proved ineffective as the stand-in closer, the job fell to Jeremy Accardo, and he ran with it. Accardo has used his fastball-slider-split finger combo to fine effect, striking out 38 and walking 16 in 35 1/3 innings. Accardo, who was acquired for Shea Hillenbrand and Vinny Chulk after the sinking ship affair, has put up a 163 ERA+ this season and has managed 11 saves while blowing only 2. After an unbelievable start to the season (didn't surrender a run through his first 21 innings) he has seen his ERA rise steadily, though (8 ER in 11 innings since June 1). However, it's hard to find fault with someone who has stepped into the closer's role when no one else seemed able and who has, by and large, pitched well enough to keep it. Something to watch is that he's had a lot of trouble against righties this season (1.62 Whip v. RHB / 0.91 v. LHB) but that looks to be some weird batted ball luck as his peripherals against righties (23/7 K/BB in 16.2 IP) are actually better than against lefties (15/9 in 18.2).

Casey Janssen: A
Janssen has been even more effective than Accardo, putting up a 190 ERA+ over 45 innings and a svelte 1.13 WHIP. Although Janssen's K rate has been low (just over 4.5K/9 IP), his walk rate has been correspondingly low enough (2.2/9 IP) for him to have success, without extravagant luck on balls-in-play (.266), although he's had some fortune with runners on (LOB 79.3%). Casey's been good at limiting walks and the long-ball, and his K rate has normalized after only striking out 2 batters in 13 2/3 innings in April (since then, he has fanned 21 in 31 1/3 IP, still low, but not out of the realm of all effectiveness (6.04/9 IP). I'm not going to obsess about his low K rates anymore, since everyone knows my opinion of what should be done with Tek. Still, he has been very effective in his 8th inning role.

Scott Downs: A-
Downs has been another huge contributor to the Jays' bullpen thusfar, equaling Tek's ERA+ of 190. Downs, who has been deployed almost equally against lefties and righties (72 PA v. LHB, 70 PA v. RHB), has been quite adept with the strikeout, racking up 38 K's in 33 2/3 innings (10.2/9 IP). Unfortunately, he has been a bit too generous with the free pass, allowing 20 walks over that same time. Still, his overall ratio is only a little higher than Casey's. Since many Downs appearances are only for parts of an inning, whether the walks hurt him often depends on other relievers, Janssen and Accardo. Since the two have been effective, the walks haven't hurt Downs, which is one reason his ERA is so good. (2.41). He also helps himself with a very good GB% (65.4%). Downs is certainly more effective against lefties (.525 OPS against), but he's good enough against righties (.721 OPS against) to be more than a simple LOOGY. His curve is a potent weapon and if he can just limit the walks a bit more, he'll continue to enjoy significant success. His walk rate has declined a bit as the season's gone on (6 in his last 14 innings) so he should be fine.

Jason Frasor: B
Jason has really had his ups and downs this season. As it is, he stands with an ERA+ of 102 and a K/BB of exactly 2/1 (9K/4.5BB/9IP), but that doesn't tell the whole story. He had problems early on in high pressure situations, including a very brief stint in the closer role, and was demoted to a mop-up role. Then, he worked himself out of that role and back into a more high-profile assignment, only to suffer some more bad outings in high pressure situations. Troublingly, it is not as though he has had exceptionally bad luck with either balls in play or with home runs. However, his line drive rate has been low, which suggests future success is in store, and he has been very effective at certain times this season.

Brian Tallet: A-
Tallet has been very effective this season in both long-relief and LOOGY roles (ERA+ of 166). What's more, his peripherals have actually been steady (37 K/31 BB over 39 1/3 IP) after a total smoke-and-mirrors show last season (123 ERA+ despite a lousy 37/31 K/BB over 54 innings). He really doesn't have much of a track record, since last season was his first full season in the bigs, but he looks a ton better than last year. Crazily, his FIP is actually lower than his real ERA after being a full run higher last season, suggesting that it hasn't been luck. Of course, that doesn't mean it's not variation, and I'm not sure I expect it to continue (as in, he'll probably give up a HR at some point), but Tallet has earned his spot with the club and has been very helpful. The minus is only because he hasn't been used in many high-leverage situations.

Brian Wolfe: B
Wolfe's been decent enough over his 10 1/3 IP, with a 3.48 ERA. He hasn't looked dominating (4 Ks) but he hasn't beaten himself, and hasn't looked overmatched either. I think he's earned the right to stay up for a while.

Jordan DeJong/Gronkiewiecz/Vermilyea: B-
DeJong hasn't been very good 8.00 ERA, 7/5 K/BB ratio and has really only gotten mop-up work. He's already 28 and so the innings might as well go to Gronkiewiecz, who is just as old but who at least has dominated at each level in the minors and who looked good in his one MLB appearance (4 IP, 2 hits, 1 run). Gronk's earned the right to pitch some more, I would say. Vermilyea is the strangest case, he's the youngest of these (including Wolfe) at 25, has 6 scoreless innings to his credit (not to mention no walks), and has a record of not beating himself (good BB and HR numbers in the minors) but the Jays show no signs of giving him another shot. He must be injured, one would think.

Soon to come: Management and the team as a whole!