TORONTO BLUE JAYS
Our confused neighbors to the north. They haven’t been able to figure out whether they want to compete or rebuild. I kind of feel sorry for John Gibbons. It has to be tough freezing your butt off in Toronto while knowing full well you aren’t good enough to win anything, but a tanked season gets you fired. They lost Bautista, signed an aging Curtis Granderson, and, of course, Troy Tulowitzki is hurt. Poor Jays. Anywho, here’s a breakdown of their staff.
Blue Jays Projected Rotation
|Other Potential Starters|
In all honesty though, the Jays aren’t that bad; especially when it comes to front-end starting pitchers. Marcus Stroman, Team USA hero and the AL Gold Glove winner for pitchers last year, is a legit ace with the potential to shut ANY team down on a given day. His insane 62.1% ground ball rate last year always plays well, and if you do manage to get on against him, he recorded a 78.1% left-on-base rate as well.
The Jays #2, Aaron Sanchez, also has elite stuff when he is healthy. He recorded only 36 innings last year due to finger blisters, but in 2016, he finished seventh in the AL Cy Young Award voting. In other years, he might have won it, but the competition was off the charts (go take a look for yourself). Assuming Stroman and Sanchez stay healthy, it’s fair to say the Yankees could struggle to put up runs against them if they can’t produce long balls.
Numbers 3 and 4 for the Blue Jays, J.A. Happ and Marco Estrada, seem to be on the back end of their careers. After a 20-win season in 2016, Happ struggled to keep guys from scoring. His stats weren’t awful, and he even maintained a sub .200 batting average against lefties. In other scenarios, I might say he had some bad luck, but even the advanced metrics aren’t on his side. With an ERA of 3.53, his FIP was 3.76 and xFIP was 3.94 – which basically means he should have done worse. With an average fastball of around 92, his slider and changeup hover at 86. This means if those off-speed pitches don’t bite, there isn’t a lot of adjustments needed on the hitter’s end. If Happ can’t get that bite back, look for his ERA to head upwards of 4.00
Marco Estrada also struggled mightily in 2017, especially against right-handed hitters. Posting a 4.98 ERA, the highest of his career, the usually plus changeup he features could not avoid those right-handed bats. While the numbers still look OK against lefties (.215 BAA), righties walloped him for a .286 average and .864 OPS. This plays right into what I discussed in the previous article with the Orioles.
After these four, Joe Biagini or Jaime Garcia will round out the rotation. Unfortunately for Biagini, his stuff should place him more so in a setup or middle relief role. Toronto simply has no one else. While the advanced metrics show he got the bad end on some bounces, the 5.34 ERA and 3-13 record are difficult to overlook. Maybe he can settle into a starter role, but until I see an adjustment to where he isn’t trying to throw 100 mph every pitch until he bottoms out in the 2nd inning, I’ll happily sit back and enjoy the fireworks show whenever Geoffrey the Giraffe (look that up) trots out there.
As for our old friend, Jaime Garcia, none of us should be concerned about him.
**Stats from Fangraphs and Baseball Reference