Let me know if this sounds familiar.
We have a starting pitcher for our beloved Toronto Blue Jays that has an enormous amount of potential. Along with this potential, this individual was much hyped and relied on for much of the off-season and Spring Training to develop into the leader of the rotation once the veterans were to either retire or move on from the Jays. Unfortunately, our expectations turned out to be a bit high and overestimated, and this individual’s performances as a starting pitcher left much to be desired.
Who am I describing?
The reason I am drawing this parallel is because I believe many of the issues that plagued Romero’s career may be what are becoming a detriment to Hutchison’s in the present. With so much pressure for the Jays to reach the post-season after 22 years, it’s easy to believe that one of the main hurdles that Hutchison is facing is one that rests between the ears.
This is not to say that there aren’t mechanical issues or perhaps even physical issues that are ailing Hutchison’s season; I’m willing to bet that there are. However, with so much talk about how Hutchison’s road vs. home record are polarizing both this season and last, along with conversations questioning his place in the current rotation and whether or not he can contribute well enough in the post-season, I can see how this may take a mental toll on him.
As I have mentioned, we’ve seen this before with Ricky Romero. Granted, Romero’s struggles were not all mental, as he was also struggling with various physical ailments. However, Romero himself has expressed that a large part of his struggles can be traced back to how he was feeling mentally, as he was lacking confidence in himself and his ability to pitch at the major league level (as he told Richard Griffin of the Toronto Star).
The primary reason that I compare Romero’s struggles with Hutchison’s is due to the lack of reports regarding a potential injury or physical ailment that Hutchison may be experiencing. Without such a report, it is easy to conclude that a lack of confidence is contributing to his poor performances, while not being the only factor. Yet, to be narrow minded and simply concluding, “Ah! This guy just sucks!” doesn’t make much sense to me. It seems like a rather hasty and oversimplified conclusion to believe that he is simply solid at home, and extremely poor on the road. I believe Hutchison’s talent and potential rests somewhere in the middle.
Feb 18, 2014; Dunedin, FL, USA; Toronto Blue Jays starting pitcher Ricky Romero (24) throws as the Blue Jays workout atBobby Mattick
Training Center. Mandatory Credit:David Manning
-USA TODAY Sports
With the talks regarding Hutchison’s road/home splits and how his struggles seem to be amplified after each start, it’s hard to imagine that he’s able to completely tune it out. I’m not sure that we can conclude that it’s a “comfort” thing when it comes to Hutchison being better at home, simply because it was the exact opposite last season. Are we to assume that it’s completely changed? I think it’s much more likely that, once the word gets out about his struggles in any situation (home, away, dome, hot, cold, whatever), it affects him negatively and becomes a focal point for him.
If the problem really does rest between the ears for Hutchison, can we conceivably rely on him to pitch well in the post-season (assuming the Jays get there, which…. c’mon…) and help lead them to victory as a starter? I, personally, am not comfortable with a post-season rotation that includes Hutchison and perhaps he’s better suited in a relief role. In doing so, perhaps it would relieve much of the pressure that has been put on him to contribute to the degree that he was expected to. This, in theory, would allow him to pitch better in situations that would help secure a victory for the Jays.
But again, this is assuming that the problem is mental and not mechanical. I’m sure these types of topics only exasperate the issue with Hutchison, but they can’t linger much longer without examination.