The Buffalo Bisons’ starting rotation featured a large number of veterans and just a few “youngsters” who were gone by the time the season was over.
We start with Randy Wolf, the veteran lefty pitching in his Age-38 season with the Bisons and, eventually, Tigers. Wolf was signed almost as a walk-on with the Blue Jays (as reported by Gideon Turk) but he went on to be one of the best pitchers for the Bisons, leading the club in innings (139 2/3) and posting a 2.58 ERA and 2.96 FIP with a 1.28 WHIP, 18.6% K-rate and 7.0% walk rate. As the Detroit Tigers’ lost pitcher after pitcher, Wolf was sent to Detroit where he threw 34 2/3 innings with a 6.23 ERA and 1.76 WHIP.
Coming in second in innings pitched for the Bisons was 27-year-old righty Scott Copeland. Acquired as a minor league free agent in 2012 (after he was released by the Baltimore Orioles), Copeland has been among the most durable and effective minor league pitchers for the Blue Jays ever since, steadily climbing through the ranks and made his major league debut in 2015. With the Bisons, Copeland threw 125 innings with a 2.95 ERA (and 3.92 FIP) enjoying a 1.25 WHIP. He walked only 7.1% of batters but struck out 12.7%, a low number. Copeland added 15 1/3 innings in the big leagues, with a 6.46 ERA but a 3.59 FIP and 3.80 xFIP with a 1.70 WHIP, an 8.7% strikeout rate and a 2.9% walk rate. Without a “plus” fastball (90.2 mph on average), Copeland is a sinker/slider type of pitcher (with his curve and change combining for only 16% of pitches at the major league level) who could be useful in the bullpen but is likely to be an “up-and-down” guy next year.
Daniel Norris made 16 starts for the Bisons in 2016 after having five uneven appearances with the big club. Norris was erratic in Buffalo, with a 4.27 ERA, 3.54 FIP and 1.51 WHIP while striking out 19.3% of batters and walking 10.1%. Norris was traded to Detroit as a part of the David Price deal and went on to improve his numbers, striking out 18.2% and walking just 4.7% with a 1.01 WHIP in eight starts with the Tigers. We recently found out that Norris spent a good part of the season pitching with thyroid cancer and so we wish Norris all the best for his health and for his pitching in 2016 with Detroit.
Andrew Albers finished his season where he started: in Buffalo but it wasn’t without a call up to the Blue Jays. The Saskatchewan-born lefty was hit hard in his return to North America from Korea and posted a 5.70 ERA, 4.05 FIP and 1.63 WHIP in 83 2/3 innings with the Bisons. Called up to the Blue Jays for just 2 2/3 innings, he gave up a hit, a run, a home run and two walks with just one strikeout before being sent outright back to Buffalo. Not on the 40-man, it’s unclear to me whether Albers can opt for free agency or whether he’s still signed on for the 2016 season.
The Blue Jays took a chance on a recovering Felix Doubront in his Age-27 season after flaming out with Boston despite a few strong seasons. Doubront threw 48 innings with Buffalo, posting a 2.44 ERA, 2.76 FIP, 1.13 WHIP, 22.2% K-rate and 9.3% BB-rate. In July, the Blue Jays called up Doubront and he pitched in five games (starting four) for 22 2/3 innings with a 4.76 ERA, 3.35 FIP and 3.82 xFIP while his peripherals of a 12.9% K-rate was low along with his 5.0% walk rate. Sold to the Oakland A’s at the end of July, he pitched another 52 2/3 innings for them, with worse numbers almost across the board (he did improve his strikeout rate).
Phillippe Aumont, the enigmatic, Quebec-born righty came to Buffalo and showed off his ability to confound management by being both dominating and perplexingly wild in turns (often within the same game). Aumont made five appearances with the Bisons, posting a 6.00 ERA and 5.71 FIP, walking 25.6% of batters and striking out 26.7%. He was released on August 20.
Drew Hutchison made one (much hyped) start for the Bisons, giving up two runs on three hits and three walks in four innings with four strikeouts.
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