Blue Jays First Half Disappointments

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Jul 3, 2015; Detroit, MI, USA; Toronto Blue Jays starting pitcher Drew Hutchison (36) walks off the field after being relieved in the fifth inning against the Detroit Tigers at Comerica Park. Mandatory Credit: Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

Drew Hutchison

Hutchison poses as an interesting player to pick on here, as he’s kind of the opposite of Edwin in a sense. Edwin, who clearly had a disappointing first half, still produced 18 HR and 54 RBI. By traditional standards, that’s not something to scoff at. But his underlying numbers, peripherals and advanced stats suggested something completely different.

With Hutch, it’s the other way around. His 5.33 ERA and 1.49 WHIP are an eye sore, yet his peripherals, and the advanced stats suggest he’s actually improving. Mind you, there are some numbers suggesting he has a lot of work to do.

Of course, that 5.33 ERA and 1.49 WHIP are unacceptable, especially for the guy who needed to be the team’s best pitcher after Marcus Stroman went down in spring training. Deservedly, or undeservedly so, he was given that title, and he’s failed to come close to expectations. 

Toronto Blue Jays
Toronto Blue Jays /

Toronto Blue Jays

He entered the year coming off a relatively strong 24-year-old season, and a very strong end to that season. He seemed ready to take the next step and become a mainstay in the Jays rotation, but he’s done far from that.

The aforementioned peripheral and advanced stats show some light at the end of the tunnel. His K/9 hasn’t gone up, but it’s a strong 8.36, BB/9 has gone down to 2.76, and his HR/9 has gone down as well to 0.92/9. This has led a FIP of 3.65 and an xFIP of 3.78, suggesting he’s due for some success in the second half. If his ERA were around that number, no one would be complaining. But, it’s not.

His BABIP has inflated from .293 last year to .358 this year. Part of that can be attributed to luck, but you also need to consider a number of different things when looking that number.

His line drive rate is sitting 25.6%, up from 18.6% a year ago. That’s far too many line drives, and when coupled with a hard contact rate of 31.4%, your BABIP is bound to be inflated. Respectively, that line drive rate and hard contact rate rank him 95th and 78th out of 97 qualified starting pitchers. Those simply aren’t good enough and won’t lead to success despite the strong walk and strikeout numbers.

It would take a deeper look into pitch usage vs situation, pitch location, pitch movement, etc. to be able to identify why those rates are where they’re currently at, but in terms of judging based on what you see, he’s catching far too much of the plate and he’s getting burnt for it time and time again.

Another issue leading to inconsistent results is his repertoire. He’s essentially a two pitch pitcher against right-handed hitters, which is fine when his good stuff is on and his slider is a legit swing and miss offering like it was late last year. But when it isn’t, he’s getting hammered. Against left-handed hitters he mixes a change, but it hasn’t been as effective as his whiff percentage on the change is down over five percentage points. 

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His repertoire isn’t diverse enough to be able to handle his inconsistency so far. Craig Edwards from Fangraphs outlined his inconsistent performance and pitch repertoire earlier in the year, and as he explained, Hutch needs his good fastball to effective. If he can’t consistency with that pitch the struggles will continue, unless he can regain the slider he had late last year that allowed him to strikeout hitters in bunches, or become confident in his changeup to use it more often.

Another thing to note from Hutch is that his RHH/LHH and Home/Road splits have flipped this year. It’s rather perplexing, and something to keep an eye on in the second half.

There are some good signs from Hutch, but those only go so far. After a very disappointing first half he needs to rebound and start delivering consistent quality starts for the Jays. He’s gone 6 IP or more in only 7 of his 18 starts, unacceptable for a starter on a team that wants to contend. He doesn’t need to dominate every start, but 6-7 IP while allowing 2-4 runs will allow this offence to win the majority of his starts, and that’s all they need from him.

Next: The Van Guy is Struggling