Blue Jays Starting Pitching Among Worst In Baseball: Makeshift Rotation Making For Misery


Sep 28, 2012; Toronto, ON, Canada; Toronto Blue Jays catcher J.P. Arencibia (9) talks to starting pitcher Chad Jenkins (64) on the mound against the New York Yankees at the Rogers Centre. The Yankees beat the Blue Jays 11-4. Mandatory Credit: Tom Szczerbowski-USA TODAY Sports

Remember when the Toronto Blue Jays were supposed to have one of the best rotations in baseball?

Back in January, Richard Griffin of the Toronto Star rated the starting five of R.A. Dickey, Brandon Morrow, Mark Buehrle, Josh Johnson and Ricky Romero as the third best rotation in the American League, behind only the mighty arms of the Detroit Tigers and Tampa Bay Rays. Even after Romero showed he couldn’t hit the broad side of a barn in Spring Training things looked more than okay with J.A. Happ holding down the fifth spot. Unlike 2012 when Carlos Villanueva was probably Toronto’s best starter outside of Morrow, this year was supposed to be different. Most agreed that the Blue Jays rotation had finally been stabilized. Sure we had to give up the young talent of Henderson Alvarez, Justin Nicolino, Noah Syndergaard and Anthony DeSclafani but it seemed a relatively small price to pay considering the amount of established big league talent the Jays picked up.

Only it hasn’t worked out that way. Injuries, indecision and inconsistency have plagued the Blue Jays pitching staff this season, which has led to eleven different starting pitchers in the first 54 games. Overall only the starters from the Houston Astros and Minnesota Twins have a worse ERA than the Blue Jays who sit at 5.53. So who is to blame?

How about the entire starting rotation. Sure you can blame injuries and spot starts but things like that happen during the course of a baseball season. The Jays desperately need more from the top of the rotation. The spot-starters have been spotty as you would expect but other than a few stink bombs (ahem… Romero) they haven’t been all that terrible.

Ladies and gentlemen, your 2013 Toronto Blue Jays starting pitchers:

R.A. Dickey

GS: 12
W/L: 4-7
ERA: 5.18
WHIP: 1.41
WAR: 0.3

While Dickey has shown occasional flashes of brilliance he has been far from the dominating pitcher that torched the National League in 2012. He struggled again last night allowing 11 hits and 6 earned runs. He can still shut teams down on occasion (eg. San Francisco Giants) but he hasn’t had a consistent stretch of good starts. Maybe it’s still something with his neck and back? I’ll give him credit for battling and making all of his starts to date but overall he has been average at best. We need more from our “ace”.

Mark Buehrle

GS: 11
W/L: 2-3
ERA: 5.51
WHIP: 1.39
WAR: -0.1

Buehrle has caught the wrath of many Blue Jays fans early. A heavy AL East schedule didn’t help as he found himself in some tough pitcher’s parks against some hot lineups. He continues to eat innings and his home run rate has started to come back down to Earth so there’s still hope but at this point in his career Buehrle looks like a number four starter, at best.

Brandon Morrow

GS: 10
W/L: 2-3
ERA: 5.63
WHIP: 1.49
WAR: 0.0

Morrow left after 47 pitches his last start after supposed forearm tightness so concerns remain about his health. He hasn’t officially hit the DL but did have a fairly mysterious 13-day layoff before his most recent setback. The most disappointing thing is all of this happened after one of the best starts of his career when he pitched for eight strong innings against the Seattle Mariners, striking out eight and allowing only two runs. Now since the layoff he can’t seem to find his velocity and John Gibbons has coddled him a bit by not allowing him to run past 100 pitches (75, 98, 47) since his return. Another question mark for the Blue Jays rotation, like Dickey he could be a top end starter but something seems to be missing lately.

J.A. Happ

GS: 7
W/L: 2-2
ERA: 4.91
WHIP: 1.55
WAR: 0.4

Happ was arguably the best Blue Jays starter before he went down on a very scary play. He was moved to the 60-day DL a week ago and is eligible to return in early July. His head seems fine but he injured his knee falling on the play. At this point fans everywhere are just hoping for a speedy recovery. Despite being a fly ball pitcher his HR/9 is a surprising low 0.82 but his HR/FB ratio is at a possibly unsustainable 5.6%. However he’s got the job done when called upon and still holds the lowest ERA among the Jays initial rotation.

Josh Johnson
GS: 4
W/L: 0-1
ERA: 6.86
WHIP: 1.88
WAR: 0.2

Johnson hasn’t done much to help himself for his upcoming free agency this coming offseason. He is expected to start again for the Jays on June 4 after making an extra rehab start in Triple-A Buffalo last night. He’s only appeared in four games and has been generally awful but he does have the benefit of a small sample size and was possibly injured. Hopefully he can turn it around but needs to be much better if he wants to cash in (or even get signed at this point).

Ramon Ortiz*

GS: 3
W/L: 1-2
ERA: 3.77
WHIP: 1.60
WAR: -0.3

If Ramon Ortiz never starts another game for the Toronto Blue Jays I would die a happy man. The asterisk denotes I’ve only included his starting stats, which actually aren’t all that horrible. But he is. He had one good game against the Giants where he only allowed one run so his ERA is skewed. Fans in Toronto are notorious for cheering for the underdog so there was a slight ruckus on Twitter when the Jays designated him for assignment but let’s be serious, he has no business being a major league starter. Long reliever maybe, if very desperate. I’ve already wasted enough time talking about him so I’m moving on.

Chad Jenkins

GS: 2
W/L: 1-0
ERA: 3.60
WHIP: 1.90
WAR: 0.0

I don’t understand why Jenkins doesn’t get run out more frequently. He pitched great at Fenway against the Boston Red Sox allowing only two runs but then John Gibbons didn’t start him again for two weeks while at the same time running out the aforementioned Ortiz twice. Jenkins has been as consistent as is possible for two starts, both times pitching five innings and allowing two earned runs each game. After toiling in the minors for some time with the state of the current Blue Jays rotation I have no problems with seeing more Chad Jenkins, as we will tonight against the San Diego Padres.

Ricky Romero

GS: 2
W/L: 0-2
ERA: 12.46
WHIP: 2.77
WAR: -0.1

Can we please just move on? Thanks.

Esmil Rogers*

GS: 1
W/L: 0-0
ERA: 0.00
WHIP: 1.50
WAR: 0.1

Rogers made me and most other people look foolish (Nick Ashbourne at Bluebird Banter excepted) after he led the Blue Jays to a win-by-committee approach after the dream team of Rogers, Juan Perez, Neil Wagner and Casey Janssen shut out the Braves on Wednesday night. I’m not convinced this long relief approach will work long-term but I’m not going to be any more cynicle for now and just bask in the glory the lasted until Dickey took the mound again last night.

Aaron Laffey*
GS: 1
W/L: 0-0
ERA: 6.75
WHIP: 2.63
WAR: -0.1

He didn’t want to be a part of the Blue Jays organization. And that’s fine by me. The Dodgers can have him.

Sean Nolin
GS: 1
W/L: 0-1
ERA: 40.50
WHIP: 6.00
WAR: -0.1

Poor Sean Nolin. He has been the ultimate sacrificial lamb and all we can hope is his brief MLB stint won’t ruin his future. He looked okay his last start in New Hampshire but make sure to stay up to date on his progress with the Jays Journal Minor League Report brought to you daily by Jay Blue.

*Denotes only includes games started

All stats are courtesy of FanGraphs and Baseball Reference.