Having a strong starting pitching rotation is an important thing for a contending team. Obviously, a weaker starting crew will put more pressure on your fielders to make more difficult plays, your batters to produce more runs and your relievers to take on more innings pitched.
This was the case last year with Toronto’s injured starters. The bullpen had to pitch 53.2 more innings than the league average. That was third highest in the major leagues. It was no surprise the bullpen looked tired and beat up by end of the season. The Jays’ pen did a great job last year, but can they be counted on to take another heavy workload like 2013? Who knows, but they most likely will have to do it again with the Jays’ projected starting rotation.
Can the Jays present starting rotation be expected to take more of the marathon workload this year than last? The answer is no. Mark Buehrle and R. A. Dickey most likely can pitch 200 innings each. If Brandon Morrow, and J. A. Happ are healthy they might pitch about 150 innings. Happ’s highest innings pitched in one season was 166. Morrow was above 150 only once in his career. Drew Hutchison, who was out for 2013 recovering from Tommy John surgery and who is not far removed from rookie status may reach 150. His highest IP, in the minors, was 149. For the sake of argument, let’s say he can reach 150 too. With all five starting pitchers the total innings pitched reaches 850. That is 100 less than last year’s MLB starting average. It is about 50 less than what the Blue Jays starters threw last year.
So, that means the following things. The Jays will have to go to their second stringer starters waiting in the minors and/or buy a starter that can throw more than say 180 innings. As it stands now, the Toronto Blue Jays starting rotation will not come close to pitching 950 to 1000 innings that contending teams did last year. If the Jays do not get another inning eater starter this season then they may not contend. Who is this man? Here are four free agent starting pitchers who could help.
Bronson Arroyo, 37, is projected to pitch slightly over 205 innings for 2014. His ERA stands around 4 even. His velocity is slow, pitches to contact which for him means a lot of fly outs. That is not a good thing for the a place like Rogers Centre. He allows a lot of hits to boot but he is durable. You can depend on him to make over 30 starts a year.
Ervin Santana, 31, has excellent control and throws heat. Unfortunately, he gives up a lot of home runs (career 1.22 per 9 innings). He walks about two and strikes out six a game. Higher metrics show him to be a 3.90 ERA pitcher. He is dependable as well. His average of innings pitched over 162 games is 215.
Ubaldo Jimenez, 30, throws heat, striking out about 8 to 9 a game. He walks about four and gives up about eight hits a game. He might be the best option as his ground ball out-rate is pretty good (43.9%). He gave up only 16 home runs last year. His ERA after eight years in the majors is 3.92. His average of innings pitched over 162 games is 205.
Matt Garza, 30, walks about two and strikes out about eight batters per game. He has a career average of 205 innings per season. He will give up one home run every nine innings pitched. Garza has a 3.76 ERA for the past six seasons. He appears to be healthy since his injurious 2012 season.
Will the Toronto Blue Jays get another 200-inning eater? Who knows? This writer argues they should as the 162 game season is a marathon.