From the old Deadspin crew
Aaron Loup had a good run at the very beginning of his career. That was with Toronto, the team that made him a ninth-round draft pick, and he excelled for a while as a sidearming lefty reliever who was not quite a specialist. He didn’t strike a ton of batters out, but didn’t walk many either, with the exception of two non-consecutive seasons in which he suddenly and abruptly did. After the first of those, Loup appeared to lose his job in the big-league bullpen before regaining it. During the season after the second, the Jays traded him to Philadelphia. The metrics that measure pitching success beyond and beneath the noise of variance and batted-ball luck suggest that Loup had always been pretty much the same guy in all of those seasons, although the squalls of flukery and randomness that afflict everyone in his line of work were sometimes much kinder to him than others. What is being described in this paragraph is “a Major League relief pitcher.”
Loup signed a one-year, $1.65 million deal with the Tampa Bay Rays before this season after missing nearly all of last year with an injury, which made the 32-year-old the best-paid piece in Tampa’s bullpen. He was not one of the 12 different Rays relievers to record a save for the team this year, which matched a big-league record over just 60 games. This was nothing against his performance, as Loup was once again his competent self and a vital part of the bullpen that is itself perhaps the most vital dimension of the American League champions. The other salient point is that Loup doesn’t walk anybody now.
If you inferred as much from the fact that Loup signed with the Rays, or further inferred that he was a notable tick better in his first season with the Rays than he’d been since the end of that early-career renaissance, you would not be inferring too much. Of all the things that the Rays do well as an organization, the most opaque and outwardly dullest and also in aggregate the most useful is this—they spot players that other organizations miss, and then they make those players better. Aaron Loup is not the best or most important pitcher in Tampa’s bullpen. He doesn’t have to be. No one does. That’s the point.