Blue Jays: A season ruined by blisters

TORONTO, ON - JULY 7: Aaron Sanchez
TORONTO, ON - JULY 7: Aaron Sanchez /

The Blue Jays dropped another significant game to the Boston Red Sox on Wednesday in a game started by Aaron Sanchez. Sanchez had to leave the outing after four innings pitched, dealing with a recurring blister issue yet again. Those blisters have cost Sanchez and the Blue Jays dearly in 2017.

I’m getting very tired of writing this sentence this year, but here goes: Aaron Sanchez had to be removed from another start with blister issues. He hit the bump against the Red Sox on Wednesday evening and only lasted four innings, giving up five earned runs and throwing just 79 pitches in the process.

This is his third start since coming off the DL prior to the All-Star break, and by now the team had hoped he could put the issue completely behind him. Instead, they had to remove him in hopes that they’ll be able to get it under control before it requires another lengthy DL stint. It’s been a recurring theme this season for last year’s AL ERA leader.

"“It just started forming midway through the game and I kept going and it got worse. The right thing to do is to kind of catch it before things get worse”"

Hopefully that’ll be the case and he won’t have to miss any more time, as he’s already missed most of the season with the issue. And with that in mind, it got me thinking about how significantly the blister issues have impacted the Blue Jays’ season, and obviously Sanchez’s as well.

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The club is currently 43-51, eight games under .500, and 10 games back of the Red Sox after Wednesday’s loss. Sanchez has made just eight starts this year, and thrown just 36 innings, largely because he’s had to come out early so much. By comparison, Marco Estrada has made 19 starts and thrown 104.2 innings pitched, as he’s avoided the DL thus far this year.

In Sanchez’s absence from the rotation they’ve had to turn to names like Mat Latos, Casey Lawrence, Mike Bolsinger, and converted Joe Biagini back to a starter, something he hadn’t done since reaching the big leagues. Latos had a 6.60 ERA in three starts, Lawrence had a 8.78 in four appearances, Bolsinger struggled mightily as a starter, and Biagini was solid at first, before faltering in his last several starts.

Obviously all of those starts aren’t to cover for only Sanchez, as Francisco Liriano has spent time on the DL as well, as has J.A. Happ. However, it made me wonder how significant Sanchez’s absence is in particular, especially because he’s been the victim of chronic blister issues. It’s been a hot topic around baseball, especially since Marcus Stroman spoke out about his frustrations prior to the All-Star break.

For argument’s sake, Sanchez was among the best in the game last year, sitting with a 2.87 ERA after his July 19th start, and a record of 10-1. Currently, he’s 1-3 with a 4.25 ERA this year. This is playing with a lot of “ifs” here, but hear me out. That’s nine less wins at this stage of the season than he had a year ago. Granted it’s not quite that simple, as the team was also 2-6 in his no decisions by July 19th, but almost none of those losses could be blamed on Sanchez. He could have been 13 or 14-1 by then.

If Sanchez had been able to pitch the 70 or more innings he’s missed out on, how much further ahead would the team be? He’s 11 starts behind where he was at this point last year, and you could probably add a couple more on with having to leave early in games this year. Even if the Blue Jays win 1/3 of those starts (so say, four more games), we’re looking at a team that’s 47-47.

Every team in baseball deals with injuries, so there are no excuses for the Blue Jays or anyone else, but Sanchez’s absence has been a gigantic blow to the team rotation. Their problems run deeper than just one starting pitcher, but a .500 ball team wouldn’t be sellers, and could even be in hot pursuit as buyers at the trade deadline. Instead, we’re seeing daily rumours of other GMs keeping an eye out for the white flag from Ross Atkins and Mark Shapiro.

Next: Dissecting where it went wrong in 2017

Many baseball writers expected Sanchez to be among the best in baseball again this year, especially without innings restrictions, and a full season as a starter. When you’re missing that type of arm all season to bunch of blisters and cracked nails, it’s hard not to join Stroman in looking for some answers. The impact is pretty significant.