Blue Jays Splits: Drew Hutchison’s House of Horrors

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The Toronto Blue Jays have a decision to make with Drew Hutchison. The 24-year old has been downright  in his eleven road starts of 2015, allowing 51 earned runs over 51.0 innings. Hutchison’s performance at home has clouded the picture, however, leaving the Blue Jays in a position that is unique, and quite frankly, one that is extremely confusing.

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Hutchison allowed five earned runs on seven hits over 4.0 innings against the Mariners on Saturday, and his velocity suggested that he wasn’t back to 100% following a flu bug that caused his start to be pushed back. The outing left his road ERA at 9.00 with a WHIP of 2.000, and marked the seventh time in his last eight starts that Hutchison has failed to complete six innings.

We spend the early months of any season waiting for outlying statistics to regress to their norm. Hutchison has been scorched by an opponent BABIP of .420 on the road compared to just .277 at home, which has played a leading role in these obscene splits.

The results have remained the same, though, and while I’m usually the last to peg one’s struggles on the “mental side”, it’s gone past that point with Hutch. John Gibbons would agree, as he suggested the same to Sportsnet’s Shi Davidi following Saturday’s game. “It’s got to be between his ears because he’s a totally different guy at home, it’s just something he’s got to overcome.” 

Lopsided splits are a part of baseball. Aaron Loup shows us this as a lefty specialist out of the bullpen, while Danny Valencia does the same as a lefty-masher at the plate. What makes Hutchison’s splits so frustrating, though, is that they don’t make sense. They don’t even follow his own pattern.

In 2014, Hutchison was the antithesis of his current self. His 4.33 road ERA bested his 4.73 mark at home, while his opponent OPS was 0.042 points lower away from the Rogers Centre. These numbers aren’t enough to indicate a great divide, but they show a pitcher that was not plagued by issues of geography.

His 2014 splits also showed a pitcher who performed better against right-handed batters. Righties held a slash line of .223 / .272 / .333 against Hutchison, while lefties had the advantage with ..264 / .334 / .483. Even these numbers have flipped in 2015.

Hutchison has been dominated by right-handed hitting this season, allowing them to produce an .891 OPS, a full .170 points higher than his numbers against lefties. He’s also see his home run totals skyrocket when he leaves the hitter-freindly confines of the Rogers Centre. If this is giving you a headache already, you’re not alone.

Back to the million dollar question: What are the Blue Jays to do? Thankfully, the current schedule could see Hutchison make his next four starts at home, which buys the club some time and could potentially rebuild his crumbling confidence. Looking at the numbers, he’s pitched like an All Star in Toronto.

On the homestretch, though, especially with a heavy dose of divisional play, Hutchison is not the pitcher that Toronto wants to roll out with their playoff hopes on the line. He’s prone to the one thing that can sink even the mightiest offense: a blowup outing from the starting pitcher.

Felix Doubront is likely still first in line to be replaced by either Daniel Norris or the addition of a starter ahead of the trade deadline, but at this point, Hutchison needs to be standing right alongside him. This is a very young, very talented pitcher, regardless of what we’ve seen on the road in 2015. I’m not storming the gates, pitchfork in hand to call for his demotion (yet..), but doing so would neither hurt Hutchison’s long-term development or significantly worsen the 25-man roster.

The date on the calendar has as much to do with this as anything. Hutchison is long, long overdue for a regression towards the norm, but Toronto has reached a point in the schedule where they no longer have the luxury of waiting.

Next: Blue Jays continue to strike gold with Pillar

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