Apr 13, 2014; Baltimore, MD, USA; Toronto Blue Jays starting pitcher Mark Buehrle (56) throws the ball in the third inning against the Baltimore Orioles at Oriole Park at Camden Yards. Mandatory Credit: Joy R. Absalon-USA TODAY Sports

Blue Jays Finding Balance Between Rotation and Relief

After a winter of the entire fan base pining for the team to make a move to better the rotation and nothing being done, the Toronto Blue Jays came into the season with a plethora of questions revolving around the staff. However, the enouraging early season results from the pitching staff indicate one of two things: either the front office was on to something when it chose to stand pat or we’ve been extremely lucky to date.

After an impressive performance by the staff over the weekend in Baltimore, the Blue Jays pitching staff has shown some solid signs of improvement this season. Yes, they have taken a couple of knocks on the chin, but overall the staff has recovered and pitched well, and not just he bullpen either.

Entering play on Tuesday, the Blue Jays will hold the 13th-ranked team ERA in the game, with a mark of 3.61. That mark is 3.63 when you take just the starting staff, which ranks 14th in the game, while the bullpen has a 3.56 ERA. Also impressive is the team’s ranks in strike-outs (5th), runs allowed (11th), home runs allowed (4th), and shut-outs (1st).

That’s quite a bit better than I think most of us were assuming the Blue Jays pitching staff would fair in the early goings, especially considering their heavy American League East schedule to date. In fact, with the exception of Brandon Morrow, each of the Blue Jays starters have contributed their best game score performances of the season against their AL East rivals.

Blue Jays Top Game Scores of 2014

  1. Mark Buehrle – 86 – April 2nd vs Rays
  2. R.A Dickey – 69 – April 5th vs Yankees
  3. Drew Hutchison – 67 – April 12th vs Orioles
  4. Mark Buehrle – 65 – April 13th vs Orioles
  5. Dustin McGowan – 64 – April 11th vs Orioles
  6. Drew Hutchison – 61 – April 1st vs Rays
  7. Brandon Morrow – 58 – April 9th vs Astros

As mentioned earlier, the bullpen has also been exceptional. Despite the loss of closer Casey Janssen prior to the start of the season, the rest of the pen has stepped up nicely as well. In fact of the players contributing a positive Win Probability Added (WPA) for Toronto, only Mark Buehrle and Drew Hutchison are not members of the bullpen

Blue Jays WPA Rankings – Pitching

  1. Mark Buehrle – 0.8
  2. Brett Cecil – 0.3
  3. Sergio Santos – 0.3
  4. Drew Hutchison – 0.2
  5. Todd Redmon – 0.2
  6. Steve Delabar – 0.1
  7. Aaron Loup – 0.1

The biggest surprise on that list has been Todd Redmond. He’s been invaluable for the Blue Jays in mop-up duty, as well as the positive innings he threw on Saturday night in the extra inning loss. In 9.2 innings this season, Redmond has surrendered just 1 run on 3 hits while walking 4 and striking out 8.

Sergio Santos has been equally impressive in place of the injured Casey Janssen. Despite looking shaky in his first few outings, Santos has converted all four of his save opportunities. His slider has been downright filthy, contributing to an absolutely disgusting K/9 ratio of 20.8. Both that number and his astronomical 6.2 BB/9 will come down over the course of the season, but he’s been impressive nonetheless.

With the hitting of the Jays having been extremely cold prior to Sunday, it’s easy to see that the pitching has done the heavy lifting while keeping the team at 7-6 and tied atop the American League East. If they can continue to shine when the offense comes back around, this could be the team we have been waiting for.

Of course, that’s a big “if”, but we’re nothing if not optimistic.

 

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