The Toronto Blue Jays are off to an excellent start to their 2018 season, and a key part behind this early success is their closer, Roberto Osuna. A successful team relies on a shutdown closer to ensure those one run victories and Toronto has that. When Toronto won back-to-back World Series in 1992 and 1993 the first one came largely due to the impressive arm of Tom Henke. In that post season he went 5/6 in save opportunities. He was the shutdown closer for the Blue Jays through the eighties and early nineties, and today this franchise has a similar pitcher in Osuna.
Roberto Osuna is the Toronto Blue Jays next Tom Henke
Roberto Osuna made his MLB debut in April of 2015, just a couple short months after his twentieth birthday. In his rookie year, he converted on 20 of 23 save opportunists, striking out 75 batters while walking only 16. He threw 69.2 innings that season and finished with an impressive 2.58 ERA, further highlighting that he was mature beyond his years and capable of competing in the challenge of the AL East.
The AL East is regarded as one of, if not the, toughest in baseball. The New York Yankees pose a threat every game you face them, but Osuna was not rattled in his rookie campaign when facing them. In 36 at bats versus New York, he gave up only five hits and struck out eight. 2016 went in similar fashion, surrendering only six hits over 30 at bats with no walks and eight strikeouts. Follow that up with one hit over 28 at bats last year with 17 K’s and Osuna has had the Yankees number. Combined in his short career, including this season, he has given up a mere 12 hits over 100 at bats and struck out 34 Yankees batters. Lastly, and the most impressive stat against New York, Osuna has only given up three runs in his career against the Yankees.
The other AL East powerhouse Boston Red Sox have faired slightly better against Osuna, but not by much. Boston has had 105 at bats with Osuna on the mound and mustered 29 hits, good for a respectable .276 average, but they have also struck out 27 times and walked a mere eight. In 2017 they tallied ten hits on 36 at bats with ten K’s and will look to continue to be a team that can find success, though limited, against the Blue Jays closer. Unlike their division rival, Boston has found a way to score runs when facing Osuna, having put up sixteen. Blown saves can hurt a team and a players confidence and for Osuna, he’ll need to avoid this happening against the Red Sox this year.
He has pitched effectively against the other two AL East teams as well, the Baltimore Orioles and Tampa Bay Rays. The O’s have managed 22 hits in 88 at bats scoring ten runs. However they have also only worked one walk to go with 28 strikeouts. The Rays have struggled by far the most of any AL East team against Osuna. They have a mere sixteen hits over 100 at bats and struck out 34 times. When you add up all the numbers when facing AL East teams Osuna has been effective. In 413 at bats he has given up 79 hits while walking only 21 and striking out 123. That works out to a 5.85/1 ratio for strikeouts to walks and a miserable .191 batting average.
How you perform against your divisional opponents is a key factor when assessing the value of a pitcher to their franchise. With that in mind, Osuna has intense value and responsibility to the success of baseball in Toronto. He recently became the teams 3rd all time leader in saves with 100 and the youngest player to reach that mark in league history. He has blown nineteen saves in his career, but the guy regarded as the Blue Jays best closer in team history also blew 37 saves in 254 opportunities. Osuna is one of the leagues best closers, and at only 23 years old can be for many more years. His 246 K’s to 39 BB mark is outstanding, he only walked nine batters in all of 2017. He now sits 21 saves behind Duane Ward for second in Blue Jays team history and even a mediocre 2018 can see him reach that mark.