The Blue Jays and Their Bullpen: Depth Will Be Tested

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The Toronto Blue Jays will have four new faces joining their team. The front made several moves to address the pitching and offensive depth in the long term. But what most people don’t realize is that they added some good pitching to their relief core. Relievers Anthony Bass and Zach Pop should help a Blue Jays back end in desperate need of high-leverage arms. Toronto acquired both pitchers by trading away Jordan Groshans, a prospect hitting .247/.341/.293 with one home run in 72 games this season.

Blue Jays Bullpen

Toronto has one of the better bullpens in the AL. Since July 1, the Blue Jays have had a 2.80 ERA with 123 strikeouts in 122 innings. This season, opposing hitters are hitting .234/.307/.393 against Blue Jays relievers. Toronto is 22-20 with 386 strikeouts and 144 walks in 402 2/3 innings. Their 31 saves are tied for second in the AL with the Chicago White Sox, Houston Astros, and Tampa Bay Rays.

The Blue Jays missing Tim Mayza to injury will be a major blow to the relief corps. Neither Bass nor Pop brings dominant bat-missing skills, but they are much more effective than that. Here’s how they can benefit from an already decent backend.

Anthony Bass

Bass is a bit of a different reliever than he was last time as a Blue Jay. He throws his slider more and his fastball less—a noticeable change for someone who can get quality strikes when necessary. The veteran is having quite the season, as hitters are .185/.250/.246 against him in high-leverage moments. Batters are .157 against him when the game is late and close. His ERA-minus drastically decreased from his last stint with Toronto. The right-hander’s 36 ERA-minus (taking a pitcher’s ERA and comparing it to the league average) is 20 points lower than it was in 2020. He’s 2-3 with a 2.43 ERA in 17 relief appearances. Most people might not know he’s tied for third with 37 scoreless outings (a pitcher with no runs charged to him, earned or unearned)— two higher than Adam Cimber, who has 35.

He has 21 goose eggs (throwing a scoreless inning in the seventh inning or later, and the game is tied or the team leads by no more than two runs), tied for ninth in the NL with Wil Crowe and Luis García.

Zach Pop

Pop is a young pitcher who comes with even more team control. He will likely appear as another option with Trevor Richards for middle relief appearances. It’s a homecoming of sorts as the 25-year-old is from Brampton, Ont. There is a reason for optimism with Pop as hitters are .250/.294/.250 when Pop is in high-leverage situations. However, hitters are .455 and .208, respectively, in the fifth and sixth innings.

He can pitch in either high or medium situations. Although he may not be a big strikeout guy, his high-velocity stuff will be necessary for the Blue Jays’ relief corps. The Canadian has a high ground ball rate (percentage of balls hit into the field of play) of 62.1%. He leans heavily on a 97-mph sinker pitch, and he’s only given up four home runs in 74 2/3 innings.

The acquisitions of Bass and Pop hopefully deepen the back end. Some relievers will move around in their roles as Bass will move ahead regarding leverage situations. Toronto will play a lot close the last two months of the season. The Blue Jays have their eyes on greater things if they reach the playoffs.

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Players Mentioned:

Anthony BassZach Pop, Jordan GroshansAdam Cimber, Wil CroweLuis García, Tim MayzaYimi García, Trevor Richards