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Favourite Player: Closer

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Tell us who your favourite closer was

Tom Henke

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We’ve made it to the end of the favourite player game here, and it’s time to bring in the Closer. The players on this list are in the top 6 in franchise history in saves, which is a pretty easy cutoff point.

Tom Henke (1985-1992)

The Blue Jays added the Terminator from the Rangers prior to the 1985 season, as compensation for losing Free Agent Cliff Johnson (who the Jays later re-added that summer). The compensation draft was a very strange beast where teams got Major League ready players as compensation instead of draft picks, which became the norm shortly after.

Henke started the 1985 season down in Syracuse, and actually pitched in 39 games with them that season. His chance to make the big league club came at the end of July, making his way straight to the back of the bullpen. He finished the 1985 season with a 3-3 record, a 2.03 ERA and 13 saves. He won 2 more games in the ALCS against the Royals, allowing 3 runs on 5 hits over his 6.1 innings.

Henke’s highest ERA as a Blue Jay came in 1986, where he posted a 3.35 mark over 91.1 innings. Aside from that season, he was well under a 3.00 ERA his entire time as a Blue Jay, dipping to a low of 1.92 in 89 innings in 1989. Overall, his numbers as a Blue Jay came to a 29-29 record with a 2.48 ERA and a team high 217 saves. In the playoffs, he was 2-0 with a 1.83 ERA over 19.2 innings, collecting another 5 saves and a World Series ring in 1992.

(This video even includes his song, which I didn’t know existed)

Duane Ward (1986-1995)

The Blue Jays added Ward in a mid-season trade with Atlanta that sent long time starter Doyle Alexander the other way. Ward spent most of his time in 1986 and 1987 in the minors, finally breaking through into the bullpen for the 1988 season. With Henke fully entrenched in the official Closers role, Ward slid into a setup role, picking up 66 holds in front of him from 1988 to 1992.

However, even though Henke was the full time Closer didn’t mean Ward didn’t get some opportunities of his own. In that same 1988-1992 time span, Ward picked up 76 saves, filling in for Henke when he was injured or overworked. Many of Ward’s saves spanned more than 1 inning, as relievers tended to do at the time.

After Henke left following the 1992 World Series win, Ward slid into the role for the 1993 Champions, but biceps tendinitis caused him to miss the entirety of the 1994 season, and he retired after just 5 more games in 1995.

Ward struggled in the playoffs, particularly the 4 ALCS that he was apart of. Through 16.2 innings of play, he allowed 10 runs on 20 hits, pitching to a 6.48 ERA. He was much better in the World Series though, with a 3-0 record, 3 saves and a 1.13 ERA over 8 innings. In his regular season career as a Blue Jay, he went 32-36 with a 3.18 ERA, placing second in team history with 121 saves and a franchise high 670 strikeouts out of the bullpen in his franchise high 648.1 innings of relief.

Billy Koch (1999-2001)

The Blue Jays drafted the flame throwing Koch with the 4th overall selection in the 1996 draft, trying him exclusively as a starter throughout his Minor League career. But he never made a start in the Majors, moving directly into the Closer’s role after his callup in May of 1999.

Koch spent 3 years in Toronto, collecting over 30 saves in all 3. While known for his overpowering fastball which frequently reached 100 mph, he also had a good slider and a very underused but devastating curveball. Surprisingly, however, he was not able to turn those two pitches into a lot of strikeouts, punching out 172 batters in his 211.2 innings.

But that didn’t matter too much for Koch. The goateed hurler racked up 100 saves as a Blue Jay, going 11-13 with a 3.57 ERA in his 3 seasons. He was then traded to the Athletics for Eric Hinske and Justin Miller, and had a great season for the Moneyball A’s.

B.J. Ryan (2006-2009)

The Blue Jays signed Ryan away from the rival Orioles prior to the 2006 season, giving him a then record for a reliever 5 years, $47m contract. Ryan had just emerged as the Orioles closer the previous season, pitching to a 2.43 ERA and collecting 36 saves. He immediately bested those two numbers with Toronto, picking up 38 saves over 71.1 innings, and setting a Blue Jays’ reliever record with a 1.37 ERA.

Ryan struggled out of the gate in 2007, but it was quickly revealed he had a torn UCL, and required Tommy John Surgery. He came back strong in 2008, making it back to the mound less than a year post-surgery, and saved 32 games while posting a 2.95 ERA. However, his 2009 season was marred by a shoulder injury, which sapped his velocity and effectiveness. The Jays released him in July, and he never pitched in the Majors after that.

His career totals as a Blue Jay are watered down by his injuries and criticized because of his contract, but he was really good when he was healthy. Over 155.1 innings, he went 5-9 with a 2.95 ERA, collecting 75 saves along the way.

Casey Janssen (2006-2014)

Janssen was drafted in the 4th round of the 2004 draft, and made his way to the Majors as a starter in time for the 2006 season. He made 17 starts and a pair of relief appearances in 2006, pitching to a 5.07 ERA. In 2007, he was relegated to the bullpen, where he shined. He threw 72.2 innings with a 2.35 ERA, setting up for interim closer Jeremy Accordo while Ryan was down, and even picking up a few saves along the way.

His 2008 season was lost due to a torn labrum, and when he worked his way back in 2009, it was originally as a starter again. However, that experiment lasted 5 starts, and he made his last career start on June 13 of that season. He went back down to the Minors, moved to the bullpen, and came back a couple months later to finish the season in the bullpen.

He spent the next couple seasons still in a setup role, before seizing the Closer’s role in 2012, which he held through 2014. In total, as a reliever, Janssen went 21-11 with a 2.92 ERA over 375.2 innings, picking up 90 saves.

Roberto Osuna (2015-2018)

Osuna made the Jays’ bullpen out of the gate in 2015 thanks to a dearth of right handed options. He won the Closer’s role by mid-season, and held on to it through to his domestic assault in 2018.

In total, his numbers are excellent. He went 8-13 with a 2.87 ERA and 104 saves. He was also great in the playoffs, pitching 17.1 innings for the Jays, allowing just 2 runs on 7 hits.

In May of 2018, Osuna was arrested for domestic violence, put on administrative leave by the Jays, eventually suspended by the league, and never pitched for the Jays again.


Poll

Who was your favourite closer?

This poll is closed

  • 64%
    Tom Henke
    (192 votes)
  • 5%
    Duane Ward
    (17 votes)
  • 4%
    Billy Koch
    (13 votes)
  • 3%
    B.J. Ryan
    (11 votes)
  • 12%
    Casey Janssen
    (38 votes)
  • 9%
    Roberto Osuna
    (28 votes)
299 votes total Vote Now