As it stands right now the Toronto Blue Jays have a
projected bullpen of:
Closer: B.J. Ryan
Set-up: Brandon League
Short: Jeremy Accardo
Short: Jason Frasor
Long: Scott Downs
Swing: Shaun Marcum
Lefty: Brian Tallet
The biggest issue with the bullpen is the lack of
experience. Only Ryan can be considered a true veteran, although Downs is probably knocking on that door. The depth is not
overly strong either.
Triple-A insurance likely would come in the form of
hard-throwers Ryan Houston or Tracy Thorpe, both of whom have no major league
experience. From the left side, Davis Romero will likely provide some insurance
for Tallet, whose lack of command could knock him out of the majors at any
Minor league free agents Beau Kemp, Jean Machi and Geremi
Gonzalez are other options, but Gonzalez is the only pitcher with MLB
experience. And though he tore up the winter league, Gonzalez is a
below-average major league pitcher. Neither Machi nor Kemp have spent time
Eventually, minor league starters Ismael Ramirez, Josh Banks
and Ty Taubenheim will find themselves in the bullpen in the major leagues,
given their repertoires and past history.
Most likely to exceed expectation:
1. Shaun Marcum
Marcum was the everyday shortstop for Southwest Missouri State, while also serving
as their closer. He had a solid debut for the Blue Jays in 2003 as a short
reliever. At Auburn,
Marcum averaged 12.44 strikeouts per nine innings (K/9) and only 1.85 walks
(BB/9). As well, he allowed only 3.97 hits per nine innings (H/9) during his 34-inning
After the season, the Jays decided to give Marcum, and his
four-pitch repertoire, a shot at the starting rotation. At worst, the
experiment would give Marcum valuable innings of experience, which he missed
out on as a two-way player in college. He began 2004 in full-season ball in Charleston. The low
minors continued to be no challenge for Marcum as he posted ratios of 9.46 K/9,
1.82 BB/9 and 7.29 H/9 in 79 innings. He was rewarded with a midseason promotion to Dunedin. Marcum again
dominated by posting ratios of 9.39 K/9, 0.52 BB/9 and 9.65 H/9 in 69 innings.
Interestingly enough, his strikeout ratio stayed pretty much the same but his
walk ratio decreased significantly to the point he had a mind-boggling 18.00 strikeout-to-walk
(K/BB) ratio. While his BB/9 ration decreased, Marcum’s H/9 ration increased,
no doubt because he was in the strike zone more often.
It was clear that Marcum was ready for an even bigger
challenge and he received that in 2005 with a promotion to double-A New
Hampshire. And it was clear that there were much better hitters in double-A
than in single-A ball as Marcum’s K/9 ration dropped to 6.75, while his BB/9
ration settled in at 1.69 and he allowed 7.43 H/9 in 53 innings or work. The
K/9 was below average, but both his walk and hits ratios were still
above-average and right around his career norm.
Despite some signs that the opposition was starting to catch
up to Marcum, the Jays challenged him again with a mid-season promotion to
triple-A. Marcum threw 103 innings in Syracuse and his numbers surprisingly improved: 7.81 K/9, 1.56 BB/9 and 8.20 H/9.
In September of 2005, the Jays again promoted Marcum, this time
for his first taste of the major leagues. Working out of the bullpen, he
struggled with his command. – something that had never happened to Marcum in
his pro career. In eight innings (five games) Marcum did not allow a run, but
his posted ratios of 4.50 K/9, 4.50 BB/9 and 6.75 H/9. The hits were down, but
the walks were way up – almost three BB/9 more than his minor league average.
When 2006 came around, Marcum found himself on the
Toronto-Syracuse shuttle. In April and May, he pitched infrequently in the
majors, making three appearances out of the bullpen he allowed eight hits and
six walks in 3.2 innings of work.
He then spent much of May and the entire month of June back
in the rotation in triple-A. At Syracuse,
Marcum got back on track and posted ratios of 10.25 K/9, 1.54 BB/9 and 8.20 H/9
in 55 innings of work.
As July rolled around, Marcum received the major league call
once again and this time he would spend the majority of the remainder of the
season in The Show. In July, Marcum worked four games out of the bullpen and
also started three games. In 20.2 innings, he allowed 19 hits, walked nine and
struck out 20.
The Jays then slid Marcum into the No. 5 spot in the
rotation for August and September. He struggled with his command in August,
allowing 17 walks in 31 innings, while striking out 19 and allowing 33 hits. In
September, Marcum rebounded a bit by cutting his walks to only six in 23
innings, but he allowed 27 hits. He also stuck out 22 batters. His major league
ratios for the year were 7.22 K/9, 4.22 BB/9 and 10.67 H/9. His WHIP (walks +
hits / innings) was very high at 1.60 (Roy Halladay’s WHIP was 1.10). The most
alarming statistic of Marcum’s was definitely the BB/9. He was averaging more
than 2.5 more walks per nine innings than he did in the minors. Any pitcher can
expect to walk a few more batters in the majors, compared to the minors, but
2.5 is a lot.
Depending on the health of Tomo Ohka and John Thomson,
Marcum could very well start the 2007 season in the bullpen. And it seems clear
that he has little left to prove in the minors. But continuing to swing between
the bullpen and the rotation will likely be a detriment to Marcum’s career. By
plugging him into the pen – and leaving him there – the Jays will allow Marcum
to focus on one role, which could allow him to improve his control. As well,
his 89-92 mph fastball should hit 91-92 more consistently and he could consider
scrapping his curveball and focusing more on his plus slider (his out-pitch)
and his above-average change-up. Those three pitches would give Marcum the
makings of an above-average repertoire for a middle or long reliever. If he can
reduce his BB/9 ratio in the majors to 2 or 2.5, he could become down right
Most likely to disappoint:
1. Jeremy Accardo
Accardo was somewhat of a disappointment after coming over
from San Francisco in the Shea Hillenbrand/Vinny Chulk trade. Accardo, who was originally signed
as a non-drafted free agent out of Illinois State University in 2003, gave up a lot of hits and struck out few batters while with the Jays.
Jays 5.97 ERA
28.2 IP 38 H 9/14 BB/K 4.40 K/9 2.83 BB/9 11.93 BB/9
Giants 4.91 ERA 40.1
IP 38 H 11/40 BB/K 8.93 K/9 2.45 BB/9 8.48 BB/9
Accardo appeared to lack confidence while facing the better
hitters in the American League East and he appeared to have little desire in
throwing anything but his fastball. His K/9 ration is not respectable,
especially for a power reliever. And almost 12 hits per inning is far too many.
I will be shocked if he is in a big league uniform by May, having spent no time
in the minors in early 2007. At this point, Accardo is clearly more of a
thrower, than a pitcher and he needs more instruction… before he regresses into
Adam Peterson. Accardo has the potential to be an above-average reliever if
handled properly, but I highly doubt it will be in 2007.
2. Brian Tallet
One quick look at Tallent and you see a 3.81 ERA, which isn’t
bad at all, However, upon closer inspection, you also see 31 walks in 54.1
innings, which equates to 5.13 BB/9. And he only strikes out batters at a ratio
of 6.13 K/9. On the positive side, he did allow only 7.45 hits per nine
innings. Tallet is OK, but not great, against left-handers, which makes him a
fringe LOOGY. He had a 3.18 ERA against lefties and a 4.10 ERA against
righties. On the plus side, lefties hit 2.55 ground balls per fly ball against
Tallet, while righties actually hit more fly balls against him, than ground
balls. Against left-handed batters, Tallet had ratios of 5.82 K/9, 4.24 BB/9
and 6.88 H/9. Against righties, he posted ratios of 6.27 K/9, 5.54 BB/9 and 7.71.Tallet’s
numbers, no matter how you look at them, are bland, which leaves him on that perpetual
middle reliever tightrope between the majors and the minors.