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The season that was: Joe Biagini

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A look back at Biagini’s 2017 season

MLB: New York Yankees at Toronto Blue Jays Dan Hamilton-USA TODAY Sports

I hate this time of year, no decent Blue Jays new or rumors to be had, though we have been getting some great baseball. The Nationals are signing Dave Martinez to be their manager. He seems like a good choice, but not something I can turn into a post.

Joe Biagini was a rule 5 pick up before the 2016 season. And he had a surprisingly terrific season in our bullpen. Someone that hadn’t pitched above Double A and he comes in and becomes a very good major league reliever. I wonder how many guys there are in Double A that could come in a have a good season in a major league bullpen? Likely many. Why do teams spend so much on free agent relievers?

Coming into the 2017 season the question was: Do we keep him in the bullpen or do we have him start the season in Buffalo’s rotation?

I thought they were going to go with the latter, but our bullpen didn’t come together during spring training and they really needed Joe’s arm down there.

And, I think, the team was feeling a false sense of security, since we made it through the 2016 season without a lost time injury in the starting rotation.

This season, well, we were so lucky, and Biagini went from the pen to the rotation, with not the pretties of results.

                                                              
Year   Age W  L  ERA  G GS SV    IP   H ER HR BB SO HBP WP SO9
2017    27 3 13 5.34 44 18  1 119.2 125 71 15 42 97   2  6 7.3

He had 3 blown saves and 10 holds.

Base Reference has him at a -0.1 WAR. FanGraphs at a 1.4 WAR. That’s a large difference of opinion. FanGraphs has him at a $11.1 value to the Jays. FanGraphs uses FIP for it’s WAR. It’s up to you which number you think better describes his season.

Joe had a 4.27 FIP and a 4.11 xFIP, both far better than his 5.34 ERA. It does make sense, Joe’s troubles seem to come in the big bad single innings, and the rest of the time he was very good. You look at his numbers and you’d think he ought to have a better ERA.

As a starter: 5.73 ERA, 2-12, batters hit .279/.332/.451, in 88 innings over 18 starts.

As a reliever: 4.26 ERA, 1-1, 1 save, batters hit .223/.310/.339, in 31.2 innings, over 26 relief appearances.

Joe had a .305 BABIP, down from .320 last year.

Compared to last year, his strikeout rate was down a bit (18.8%, down from 21.0) and his walk rate was up (8.1%, up from 6.4).

Line drives were down (17.6%, from 21.5), ground balls up (55.7% from 52.2) and fly balls up slightly (26.8%, from 26.3). Many more of his fly balls left the park (15.2%, up from 5.6). That’s the huge difference in his two seasons, in 2016 he allowed 0.4 homers per 9 innings, 2017 1.14 per 9.

He was better vs RHB (.256/.324/.400) than LHB (.279/.330/.458).

He was a better ERA at home, despite batters hitting him slightly better (5.07 ERA, batters hit .260/.324/.445) than on the road (5.61, 271/.329/.409).

Last year he was very good with RISP, this year, not so much (Batters hit .325/.427/.577).

FanGraph shows his fastball average speed at 93.8 mph, not much of a difference from the 94.3 from last year.

He was much the same in the first half (5.52 ERA, batters hit .262/.318/.409) as the second (5.04, .272/.342/.451).

Biagini by month:

  • April: 2.12 ERA, batters hit .193/.258/.263 in 17 innings, 13 relief games.
  • May: 4.68 ERA, batters hit .245/.287/.333 in 25 innings, 5 starts, 1 relief.
  • June: 5.88 ERA, batters hit .276/.330/.457 in 26 innings, 5 starts.
  • July: 7.50 ERA, batters hit .261/.363/.473 in 18 innings, 1 start, 11 relief.
  • August: 11.25 ERA, batters hit .478/.538/.783 in 4 innings, 1 start, 1 relief.
  • September: 5.16 ERA, batters hit .270/.325/.443 in 29.2 innings, 6 starts.

I had forgot that Joe went down to Buffalo in August to stretch out.


It’s still an open question on whether he should end up a starter or a reliever. Whatever happens, I hope they don’t do what they did this year, start him in the bullpen then move him to the rotation. I don’t think that’s fair to him. Pick one and stick to it.

Or I don’t think it’s fair to go from the bullpen to the rotation. The other way around is ok, as long as they don’t shift him back again. Starters get about 2 months to stretch out to where they can go 6-7 innings a start in spring training. Asking someone to go from 1-2 innings to 6 to 7 in a hurry really isn’t fair.

It seemed like much of his troubles was that one bad inning. He seemed to lose focus when something went wrong. His first 3 starts went very well, then in his fourth start, he made that error throwing to second on a ground ball, after that things went downhill. That seemed to be how things went for him, he had a hard time getting past that one bad moment of the game.

I’m thinking he should be able to get past that.

Last year I said:

Personally, I’d be ok with putting him in the closer role and moving Osuna to a more Andrew Miller type role. Bring Osuna into the game when it is on the line, no matter what inning it is and allow him to pitch more than a single inning when needed, but I very much like much doubt the Jays are likely to do that.

Yeah, it’s never going to happen. Being fair, they seemed to be using Ryan Tepera and Danny Barnes in that sort of role, which is ok.

He seems like a fun guy, sometimes I think he tries too hard to be funny, but then, don’t we all have moments like that? I’ve grown to like him. I’m a fan, I’m hoping we get to watch him for several years.