Toronto Blue Jays’ 2015 Steamer Projections: Starting Pitchers

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Aug 16, 2014; Chicago, IL, USA; Toronto Blue Jays starting pitcher Mark Buehrle (56) acknowledges the cheers from fans during the sixth inning against the Chicago White Sox at U.S Cellular Field. Mandatory Credit: Dennis Wierzbicki-USA TODAY Sports

The Toronto Blue Jays have slowed their pace after an aggressive start to the offseason which has seen the addition of Russell Martin at Catcher, Josh Donaldson at 3B and Michael Saunders in the Outfield.  While the bullpen is still likely to be altered before Spring Training, the starting rotation may have a very similar look to 2014, with the exception of the 5th spot.

Barring the possibility of a trade, veteran starters R.A. Dickey and Mark Buehrle will retain their workhorse roles atop the Blue Jays’ rotation, with Marcus Stroman and Drew Hutchison representing the next generation behind them.  Following the trade of J.A. Happ, the 5th spot may be Aaron Sanchez‘s to lose, but competition from Daniel Norris or Marco Estrada could force Sanchez back into a bullpen role.

With the current starting pitchers on the Toronto Blue Jays, a look at Steamer projections (courtesy of Fangraphs) helps to shed some light on the direction their performances may take in 2015.  Earlier this week, Shaun Doyle previewed the 2015 Steamer projections for the Blue Jays lineup, and Jays Journal has also detailed the projections for the candidates at Second Base.

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For those still unfamiliar with Steamer projections, they compile a number of advanced statistics from a baseball player’s recent performance, and use these to project their likely level of production in the season to come.  This is far from a certainty, and far from an exact science, but Steamers offer an educated projection that is well worth discussion.

Toronto Blue Jays’ projected Starting Pitchers, 2015:  (Note:  Each player name contains a link to their Fangraphs page, where you can view their full statistical breakdown)

R.A. Dickey  –  (12-10)  –  30 GS, 192.0 IP

4.23 ERA  –  1.32 WHIP  –  1.5 WAR

Dickey is projected to take a slight step back in 2015, which shouldn’t come as a surprise given his age.  Although Steamer believes that his BB and K rates will remain relatively on par with his 2014 season, the spike in Dickey’s WHIP and ERA both suggest that he will be throwing a more hittable ball.

The title of “staff ace” has been tagged to Dickey largely by default.  He is not a dominant, shut-down pitcher that teams covet at the top of their rotation, but he is not expected to be.  What the Blue Jays need from R.A. Dickey is quality starts that keep a very strong offense within striking distance.  If Dickey can heat up before mid-season, this offense could feed him a few extra wins.

Of note here is the projection of just 30 games started.  Dickey has battled some minor ailments over the past two seasons, most often muscle strains, so his health will be a factor to keep an eye on come the Spring of 2015.

Mark Buehrle  –  (12-11)  –  32GS, 189.0 IP

4.43 ERA  –  1.38 WHIP  –  1.5 WAR

Much like Dickey, Mark Buehrle’s greatest value to the Blue Jays will be in his ability to take the ball every fifth day and give the team a chance at winning.  Buehrle got off to a magical start in 2014 before slowing down later in the season, and Steamer projects that his numbers will be less impressive entering 2015.

His ERA is projected to jump a full point from the 3.39 that he posted in 2014, which would be a cause for worry in Toronto.  With some level of uncertainty still resting on the young arms towards the back of the rotation, any falter by Dickey or Buehrle could prove very costly, and put a great deal of pressure on a questionable bullpen.

It is interesting that Steamer actually projects his WHIP to stay similar to last season’s.  The projection of an inflated ERA is largely due to a projection that sees Buehrle surrendering almost twice as many home runs in 2015.

The 200.0 IP streak could also be in jeopardy after almost falling this past season.  Buehrle has not topped the mark by more than 5.1IP in the past four seasons, so don’t be surprised to see that come down to the wire.

(On Page 2:  The Kids.  Marcus Stroman, Drew Hutchison, Aaron Sanchez and Daniel Norris)