The 2016 season has been the year of the starting pitcher for the Toronto Blue Jays thus far. No rotation across the entire major leagues has pitched as many innings as the Blue Jays' staff has which owns a laudable 3.58 ERA. The problem, if you're modest enough to admit there is one, is that when manager John Gibbons hands the ball to a reliever to finish the game, all you can do is close your eyes and hope for the best.
That is, if you're giving the ball to anyone who's name isn't Roberto Osuna. On the season, Osuna has been the Blue Jays bullpen. Period. In 27.1 innings pitched, he owns a 1.65 ERA with 13 saves and is sixth in the entire league among relievers WAR with 1.1. It's become manifestly clear that even Gibbons knows there are few reliable options at the back-end of the pen, often overusing Osuna to the point where he needs additional days off to handle the workload. No doubt most Jays fans can remember the tired Osuna from last season down the stretch, pitching only 29 innings in the second half while nearly abandoning his unhittable slider. It could be dangerous for the Jays future plans if they allow his current workload to create a similar situation this year.
This isn't to say that everyone beside Osuna has been abominable.There is Joe Biagini, the rule 5 draft pick, who has received his fair share of outings with 21.2 innings and an even better 1.64 ERA. His wipeout curveball has transformed him into one of the top relievers in the game and a potential option for a starting pitcher some day, according to Gibbons anyways. Even newcomer Gavin Floyd has his moments in high-leverage situations for the Jays this year.
But it's no doubt difficult to make the case for anyone outside of the Osuna--Biagini combination. Add up all the WAR of anyone not named Osuna who's pitched in the Jays pen this year (including Biagini) and you not only don't equal Osuna, you take away from the value he's put forward thus far.That's including 0.2 WAR from Brett Cecil who has been out for nearly a month now with a tricep strain.
It should come as no surprise to you then that the Jays own a 6-11 record in one-run games and are 2-5 when games go to extra innings. Quite simply, the bullpen hasn't been there to stand up when the team has needed it, while waiting for the offence to take over to win close games.
The increased reliance on Osuna is going to have an effect on his performance at some point this season, if it hasn't already. His ERA for the month of June has more than doubled from the month of April, although we are looking at an objectively minuscule sample size. If the Jays rely on him too much out of the gate, there won't be any gas left in the tank for when the club really needs to make the hunt for red October.
Whether it's through the improvement of someone currently on the roster, or the addition of a reliever to the pen, the warning signs have been signalled that this bullpen needs help.
The only question now is whether they'll be answered.