Today the Jays signed former Reds closer Francisco Cordero to a one year deal. There are those who are cynical about the deal and overall are comparing this years bullpen to last years. This years acquisitions have very subtle differences, and ones that show either a changed philosophy from AA (stocking draft picks to contending) or that AA has just improved his judgement. Either way, its a good deal. Lets look at the key acquisitions from this and last year.
2011: Jon Rauch, Octavio Dotel, Frank Francisco
2012: Sergio Santos, Francisco Cordero, Jason Frasor, Darren Oliver
Lets look at the biggest 2011 bust Jon Rauch's 3 years prior to signing.
2008 - Washington/Arizona
2009 - Washington/Minnesota
2010 - Minnesota
Looking at the teams he played for, you see Washington and Minnesota where he pitched 176 out of 199 1/3 innings over the 3 seasons. Washington and Minnesota are both pitchers parks, posting Park Factors of 98 overall for Minnesota (65 for Homeruns) and 99 overall for Washington (96 for Homeruns).
NOTE: 100 rating means an average major league park with no difference for pitchers/hitters.
2008 - 4.14/3.96/3.71
2009 - 3.60/3.88/4.57
2010 - 3.12/2.94/3.98
As you can see, in 2008 he posted his worst season due to his trade to hitter friendly Arizona. Prior to moving to Arizona his ERA/FIP/xFIP was 2.98/3.09/3.44. Which shows us alot more consistancy in the data for those 3 seasons.
Rauch has never been a ground ball pitcher and has always had extreme flyball tendencies (2008 - 45.9%, 2009 - 43.6% and 2010 - 44.3%). Despite these high flyball rates, he managed to keep his HR/FB quite low in Washington and Minnesota (2008 WAS - 8.1%, 2009 - 6.3%, 2010 - 3.7%).
NOTE: Average HR/FB is usually around 10% (9.7% in 2011)
As all Jays fans know, Rauch was plagued by the longball last season posting HR/FB rate of 12.9% well above his rates in 2008-2010.
Rauch was never a fit in the Rogers Center for this main fact (Rogers Center has a 135 Homerun Park Factor) .
While Dotel and Francisco had their struggles at times, overall they pitched quite well and both had plenty of experience in pitchers parks (Dotel has had every park as a home park pretty much and Francisco was used to playing in Arlington).
If we look at the 2012 acquisitions we can see a huge pattern forming. Anthopolous is targeting pitchers who are proven (Santos maybe not quite "proven" yet) performers in hitter friendly ballparks.
Cordero has posted great seasons in Cincy consistantly. His ever improving GB rate is proof that he's learned to pitch in these situation and thrive, trading strikeouts for soft contact.
Darren Oliver has played in many places, but definitely knows how to pitch in small parks as he posted incredible seasons in Texas. Another ground ball pitcher Oliver had a weird season last year, but his career track record shows he's a ground ball pitcher who enduces a tonne of pop ups.
Jason Frasor knows the Rogers Center, I don't think I need to explain that one. The Jays all time leader in appearances.
And lastly, Sergio Santos. Santos played in a great hitters park in Chicago. While he had a ridiculous 2010 in terms of HR/FB, it came back to earth in 2011 and he showed that he can be dominant in a hitters park. His HR/FB being in line with league averages, and even a bit higher bodes well for his move to Toronto where in 2010 both parks posted identical HR Park Factors of 135.
To say that these bullpen moves are of a different breed from last year would be an understatement. Something has changed with AA's targeting of relief pitchers, and by god, his moves look even greater when you really get down to the nitty gritty of the advanced numbers. Here is to a greatly improved bullpen in 2012!