TORONTO — The biggest tribute to the MLB bullpen in July is “We don’t talk much about them.”
At this time two years ago, the Blue Jays’ bullpen was giving away free wins to anyone who wanted it, and it was enough of a weakness to keep MLB’s most prolific line-up out of the postseason. It briefly became the talk of the season, but it’s never good news when the relief staff is the big story.
However, this 2023 group is very different. “Consistent” isn’t the best description of the 2022 bullpen, Toronto’s relievers have stubbornly kept the door open on offense, and some patience is required in a season when games feel so close. I needed it. They did it again Saturday afternoon in a 5-2 win over the D-backs at the Rogers Center. It was enough time for the bat to catch a second wind and secure the club’s seventh win in eight games.
“They feed each other,” manager John Schneider said. “They are very aware of what they are doing and are proud of what they are doing. We love our starting pitchers, but we also love how they lift each other up.”
Era: 3.58 (5th place)
K/9: 10.09 (3rd time)
BB/9: 2.87 (1st place)
all of the above.
The Blue Jays’ bullpen ERA shows how good this group is overall, but it’s the number of walks and strikeouts that impresses most. For years, the group lagged behind the rest of MLB in speed and swing-and-miss, but they’ve closed the gap.
Jordan Romano is on the verge of Duane Ward’s franchise record of 45 saves in 1993, but the Blue Jays have recently been feeling some discomfort in their left lower back after Jordan Romano on a “every day. ‘, but was unable to participate in Saturday’s victory. The Swanson trade also worked as planned by adding a top-end bullpen arm as well as further expanding the back-end group to cover a day like this.
Then there was Trevor Richards’ terrific season, Garcia’s recent comeback, and the rise of Pearson, who, apart from a few setbacks, dominated. In many ways, Pearson represents what the Blue Jays were looking for.
But let’s not forget the most underrated contributor on this roster, Tim Mayza.
Meza has served as the sole left-hander in the bullpen this season, striking out 32 in 30 2/3 innings and walking just five with a 1.17 ERA. Most of these innings also come in the close 7th and 8th in which every out counts.
“I feel like a left-handed reliever. Unless they’re a closer, they’re often overlooked,” Schneider said. “There are a handful of people in the league who are really good at that job. Timmy is having an elite year. I can’t stress enough how important he is to us.”
There is no “good enough” bullpen, especially once the postseason begins. A good team has one closer. There are several such teams in the World Series team.
The Blue Jays need to get Chad Green back this month, as he quickly adjusts to live games after Tommy John surgery a year ago. But there is room for more. Toronto could aim higher with his backend arm, or he could find another left-hander and pick a balance. Swanson can neutralize left-handed hitters with a splitter and Richards with a changeup, but Mayza was the lone left-handed hitter all season.
“A lot of teams build differently by having multiple left-handers,” Schneider said. “If that happens, it’s such a luxury. You could put a player in the sixth and then Tim Mayza in the eighth. We’ll see how that changes. “But for now I feel comfortable. Of course, as with Swanson, the workload will catch up at some point, but we’re ready to handle any additions.”
Any upgrade would be a luxury addition to the rare Blue Jays bullpen, which is being talked about for good reason.