It’s an issue on the mind of Blue Jays fans everywhere — how can we fix the bullpen?
But before fixing the problem, it has to be identified, and the issue with the bullpen is that there are so many issues with the bullpen.
We’re all well aware of the man-games lost to injury in the pen already this season, and given the recent history with pitchers in general, it’s not likely to correct itself any time soon. Pitchers are going to spend time on the IL, especially when they’re throwing triple-digit fastballs every other night. It’s unavoidable. Still, when you add up the IL stints from Yates, Phelps, Merryweather, Romano, Dolis, Castro, Milone, Borucki, Cole, and Bergen it’s tough to ignore it as the leading symptom for what ails the back end of Toronto’s pitching staff.
Still, as serviceable as Ryu, Ray and Matz have been, the Blue Jays need more from their starting rotation. They’re currently third-worst at IP per start ahead of Baltimore and San Diego. Taxing your bullpen when you’re already down a closer and two high leverage guys, at the very least, is not a recipe for success. To compound that, they have the 5th fewest average pitches per start. And without using a true opener more than a couple of times, that’s a number that should be much higher than 80. Starters need to get deeper into games.
The Blue Jays have also had the fourth most appearances in which a reliever has pitched more than one inning. This is likely a direct result of starters not getting through 6 innings, but it also shows that there are no reliable long relievers available. You can’t blame Charlie Montoyo for trying to get 4 or 5 outs from a guy who had to come on in the 5th inning, but when that guy is Jeremy Beasley who never held down a major league job before this season or Carl Edwards Jr. who hasn’t been able to keep a job for the last five seasons, it’s inevitable that games are going to get away from them.
What’s compounded matters is that previously reliable major league arms like Rafael Dolis and Tyler Chatwood, who have been healthy for most of the season, haven’t been good. Chatwood came out of the gate strong but has shown an inability to pitch in high leverage situations. And Dolis has been a roll of the dice on any given night.
So where does Nate Pearson, the crowned No. 2 starter of this rotation before the season started, fit into this mess? The short answer is; no one really knows. Pearson continues to work on his mechanics at AAA Buffalo(Trenton, actually) and hasn’t shown a whole lot of improvement compared to his performances early in the season with the big club.
The issue with Pearson’s delivery is his inconsistency with his landing spot. I posted a few gifs earlier today to try and demonstrate how he’s attempting to correct the issue.
Here are two examples of him falling out of his delivery before he’s completely finished. You can see his front foot fall out and turn away from the batter. It creates inconsistencies in his release point and makes it difficult for him to locate his pitches. Part of the reason why he’s got this far while still having this habit is because he gets away with it so much. You can see in the second clip, he hits his spot and the batter has no chance of catching up to it.
When he’s driving through his delivery, his mechanics stay quiet and he locates his pitches. If he does this, he’ll not only be effective against the best hitters in the world, but I think he’ll manage to stay on the field a lot more as well.
I don’t think there’s a need to rush him back to the majors just because the pitching staff is in such dire need of help right now, but I do believe there will come a time, sooner than later, when Pearson will have to leave AAA behind him for good, simply because he’s too good, even with bad habits, to continue to grow there. The solution might be to bring him to the big club and manage his appearances in order to set him up for success until he’s comfortable throwing more and more pitches.
When we do see him in a Blue Jays uniform again, I don’t believe it will be as a starting pitcher, at least not to start with. While the team needs more length and consistency from their starters, I don’t believe Pearson is the guy to give that to you, even if he wasn’t struggling with his mechanics.
He’ll get there eventually, but we’ll have to be patient as he continues to develop and learn how to get outs at the big league level.