Almost a year ago today (well, technically eleven months), I declared that Casey Janssen should be the Toronto Blue Jays closer in 2012. At the time of the article, Janssen only had three save opportunities (and two saves), as both Jon Rauch and Frank Francisco were ahead of him on the depth chart.
Needless to say, Janssen was and is a far superior reliever than either of those two guys (and that’s coming from a New York Mets fan). The point of this article is not to slap myself on the back (although I would take a slap or two), but rather, to make a case for Janssen to continue to his closer-hood into next season.
When the Blue Jays prudently let Rauch and Francisco go to free agency, it appeared as though Janssen would finally get his turn to close full-time. In total, during 2011, the righty posted a terrific 2.26 ERA (vs. 3.04 xFIP), 1.10 WHIP, 3.78 K/BB, and 2 Saves in 55.6 IP. Aside from the very slight disparity between his ERA and xFIP, his .296 BABIP (vs. career 2.98 BABIP) supported a very under the radar breakout season.
Despite this, it didn’t stop the Blue Jays from inking former-Reds closer Francisco Cordero and trading for former-White Sox closer Sergio Santos. It’s one thing to create some bullpen depth, but it’s another thing to deprive a perfectly good potential closer of said duties.
It took a season-ending injury to Santos and predictable ineffectiveness of Cordero to rightfully place the ninth inning ball in Janssen’s hands. So far, Janssen has been sensational. In 36.6 innings, the 30 year-old has posted a 2.21 ERA (vs. 2.86 xFIP), 0.87 WHIP, 7.4 K/BB, and 13 Saves (in 14 opportunities). Janssen’s five-pitch repertoire has more or less been dominant, with just his slider posting a negative RAA (-0.4 RAA)–but then again, he only throws the pitch 5.4% of the time.
With increased dominance (from 8.57 K/9 to 9.08 K/9), and improved control (from 2.26 BB/9 to 1.23 BB/9), Janssen has arguably cracked the elite group of closers. Only Craig Kimbrel (1.10 xFIP), Aroldis Chapman (1.40 xFIP), Joe Nathan (2.24 xFIP), Fernando Rodney (2.62 xFIP), Kenley Jansen (2.83 xFIP), and Jonathan Papelbon (2.86 xFIP) arguably best Janssen. To go from third-string closer of a team to top of the heap in the entire league is pretty indicative of the growing–and rightfully exposed–talent that Casey Janssen has long possessed.