Wilner on Jays: Bullpen blunders

September 30, 2012, 10:00 PM

The Blue Jays were close to having their first double-digit winner of the season, but a bullpen that has been very reliable since being rebuilt mid-year wasn’t up to the task, allowing the Yankees to come back for a win and a series split.

Steve Delabar, Aaron Loup, Darren Oliver and Brandon Lyon combined to allow four runs on four hits, walking two and throwing a wild pitch over two innings without striking anybody out. The wild pitch, by Loup, allowed Alex Rodriguez to score the tying run in the seventh — it was the first blown save of the rookie’s young career and the first blown save for the Blue Jays in the month of September.

For Alvarez, his season ends not only on a high note, but with him having seriously bolstered his chances to maintain his spot in the Jays’ rotation into next season. He’s been terrific in four of his last five starts, save for one poor one against the Orioles in which he dominated early but faded. Over those five starts, he’s posted a 3.94 ERA and 1.156 WHIP, and the strikeout has finally appeared as a weapon for him, with 17 over his last three starts, totaling 18 2/3 innings.

A month ago, Alvarez was ticketed to start the 2013 season in Buffalo. Now, maybe not so much anymore. The blown save behind him, though, means that Brandon Morrow is the last man standing as far as an opportunity for a 10-game winner is concerned. He’ll get the ball in Wednesday night’s season finale. Regardless of the value or the meaning of pitcher wins, the Blue Jays have had a double-digit winner in every season in the history of the franchise save for 1979, a year in which they lost 109 times. Even in strike-shortened 1981, when the Jays only played 106 games and went 37-69, they got 11 wins out of Dave Stieb.

At the end of every season, I take a poll of all the Blue Jays uniformed personnel — players and coaches — and ask them to vote anonymously in four categories: MVP, Pitcher of the Year, Rookie of the Year and Most Pleasant Surprise of the season.

With so much roster turnover this season, not every player voted — guys like Chad Beck, Bobby Korecky and Shawn Hill, who were barely here, for example. And injured players who are not with the team such as Jose Bautista, J.A. Happ, David Cooper and the Tommy John Squad didn’t take part in the voting either.

What I have always enjoyed about this exercise is just how seriously the players and coaches take it. Voting for a team MVP this season was easy like cake, and Edwin Encarnacion was a near-unanimous winner, but the balloting was tight in every other category and people really thought hard about their votes before making a decision. That was especially true in voting for Rookie of the Year, what with 16 eligible candidates.

Most of the players and coaches either laughed or rolled their eyes upon being asked to name the club’s MVP before either pointing to Encarnacion’s locker or just saying “Edwin” (though one guy said “Edward”, I’m not saying who), but the decision was a lot tougher when deciding who was the Blue Jays’ Pitcher of the Year.

It was the first time I can remember that the award wasn’t won by a starter, but this year only two of those managed to stay healthy, neither of whom warranted consideration. It was clearly between Casey Janssen and Darren Oliver, the two mainstays of the bullpen, each of whom had a sensational season. Janssen stabilized the back end of the ‘pen in early May and has been a phenomenal closer ever since, while Oliver had run through his age-41 season with a WHIP under 1.00 until Sunday’s loss and is close to a strikeout an inning despite never breaking 90 on the radar gun.

Surprisingly (to me, anyway), Oliver was the people’s choice — winning by the slimmest margin of any of the categories, just 2.5 votes over Janssen. Voters were allowed to split their ballots.

Rookie of the Year voting was difficult for a couple of reasons. First of all, the sheer number of freshmen who suited up in Blue Jays Blue gave people a lot of options, though a few of them could be easily eliminated, like Sam Dyson, Robert Coello and the Carpenter brothers, Drew and David (no relation). It really came down to five guys who were late-season additions to the roster — relievers Delabar and Loup, infielder Adeiny Hechavarria and outfielders Anthony Gose and Moises Sierra, though I would have given Drew Hutchison some consideration, as well.

In all, eight different players garnered votes for Rookie of the Year, and it was Loup who came out on top.

Here’s the full voting breakdown for every category:

MVP

Encarnacion – 36 votes

Oliver – 1

Pitcher of the Year

Oliver – 15

Janssen – 12.5

Villanueva – 5.5

(Also receiving votes: Morrow 4, Alvarez 1, Perez 1)

Rookie of the Year

Loup – 17.5

Delabar – 9.5

Sierra – 3.5

(Also receiving votes: Hutchison 3, Cooper 2, Gose 2, Hechavarria 1, Jenkins 1)

Most Pleasant Surprise of the Season

Loup – 11

Encarnacion – 6

Janssen – 6

(Also receiving votes: Hechavarria 5, Gose 2, Lyon 1, Oliver 1, Sierra 1, Strong finish to bad year 1)

Thank you all so much for continuing to do such a great job of voting for Tom Cheek in the first round of fan balloting for the Ford C. Frick Award for Broadcasting Excellence. The second round, which cuts the remaining group of 41 down to just three, has less than a week remaining, so it’s even more imperative now to keep voting — once a day, every day, until voting closes at 5:00 PM Eastern on October 5th — to make sure those who elect the Frick winner are well aware of just how much Tom deserves to be honoured in Cooperstown among other broadcasting legends, how much he continues to mean to Blue Jays fans all across the world, and how important his contributions were to baseball fandom across this country.

So please, be even more diligent than you have been so far and make sure to go to www.facebook.com/baseballhall, then click on ’13 Frick Voting and cast your vote for Tom. He’s on the first page now, so it’s even easier! You can vote once every 24 hours, so please do so as often as you can. For more reminders, follow @VoteTomCheek on Twitter and like the “Send Tom Cheek To Cooperstown” page on Facebook. Thank you, you’re doing a wonderful thing for a wonderful man.

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