By Jay Blue
Blue Jays from Away
Now that the season is over, the crew at Blue Jays from Away will take a look at the Blue Jays one by one and review how each player’s season went, whether he met expectations (or not) and look at how he fits into (what we think of) the Blue Jays’ plans going forward.
Aaron Loup, in his sixth season with the Blue Jays, rebounded somewhat, in his overall stats but looking closer we see a pitcher who struggled with walks while also failing to get left-handed batters out with anymore regularity than right-handed hitters.
Since breaking in as a lefty reliever, Loup has had his ups and downs but the intriguing thing about him is that he's survived injuries and demotions but has managed to stick with the big league club. He's always been the second lefty reliever while Brett Cecil was around and when he wasn't, he became the "go to" lefty, except when John Gibbons couldn't be confident in going to him. The only problem is that the Jays, while having some promising lefty relievers, haven't had any to wrest the job of primary LOOGY away from Loup.
In 2017, Loup was definitely better in the second half as he lowered his OPS against by 71 points and increased his strikeouts per nine inning rate by almost two and a half. That said, it wasn't a clean split as he had a strong April and May (1.04 ERA and 3.27 ERA, respectively). Loup had a horrible June, giving up eight runs in 8 1/3 innings over 12 games, but three of those eight runs came from his last outing of the month. Loup was better in July, posting a .607 OPS (even better than in March/April) but still had an ERA of 5.73 despite a strong 13-to-4 strikeout to walk ratio. Take away an outing against Houston (in a 19-0 loss) on July 9 in which he gave up four runs (three earned) without retiring a batter and the situation improves. Take away his next outing, in which he gave up three runs on July 15 (in an 11-1 loss to Detroit) would obviously make things even better but we can't exactly do that, can we?
Loup's August was on the down side but his ERA didn't reflect it. He had an .833 OPS against, walking seven and striking out 15 in 11 innings but had a 2.45 ERA, allowing runs in only two of his outings and getting lucky enough that the hits and walks didn't score on a monumental scale. Finally, in September/October, the peripherals and main stats all lined up as he tossed 7 2/3 innings, walking four and striking out seven but allowing only four hits in his 10 appearances and had a .500 OPS against and a 1.17 ERA.
So in the months that he allowed fewer hits and walks, he gave up runs (possibly from guys relieving for him allowing inherited runners to score) and in the months that he was hit harder, he had a low ERA.
Overall, Loup threw 57 2/3 innings with a 3.75 ERA and 1.53 WHIP, striking out 24.2% of batters (exactly the same as the year before and just 0.5% down from 2015) but he walked 10.9% of batters, the most he's walked since 2014 and the highest rate of his major league career. One quirk of his season is that Loup's OPS against lefties and righties was exactly the same (.721) with a slight bump in OBP against righties and slight bump in SLG against lefties.
With a $1.8125 million contract for 2018, Loup is hardly expensive. I'm sure the Blue Jays would love for one of Matt Dermody or Tim Mayza to emerge as a legitimate LOOGY since Loup isn't one at all.
The Blue Jays avoided arbitration with Loup, signing him to a one-year deal worth $1,812,500 for 2018. He currently has just over four years of MLB service time under his belt and will be eligible for free agency after the 2019 season at the earliest.
2017 Regular Season Grades
Jay Blue: C
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