Blue Jays 2017 projections vs reality – Pitching

TORONTO, ON - SEPTEMBER 24: Marcus Stroman
TORONTO, ON - SEPTEMBER 24: Marcus Stroman /

The 2017 Toronto Blue Jays were full of expectations that were slowly deflated over a long and pressing season. How did some of the Blue Jays regulars stack up vs their Spring Training projections? Today we will be taking a look at the performance of the pitching staff compared to their projections.

After two incredible seasons of World Series near misses, the Toronto Blue Jays thought they were locked and loaded for another chance at play off glory. As everyone knows under-performance, injuries, and a laundry list of unforeseen flaws doomed the 2017 campaign. Heading into the season it was thought that the Blue Jays had one of the best pitching staffs in baseball and would bring enough offense to the table to support it. We will be taking a look at the ZiPS projections in terms of WAR (Wins Above Replacement).

On the pitching side of the ball things definitely did not go as planned for the Blue Jays. The projected rotation at the end of spring training looked solid with Marcus Stroman, Aaron Sanchez, J.A. Happ, Marco Estrada, and Francisco Liriano. That group was projected to have a 12.8 WAR for the season. The collective that actually pitched for the Blue Jays over the 2017 season produced a mere 16.9 WAR and this was between seven different pitchers and does not include Aaron Sanchez. Sanchez pretty much missed the entire season with blister issues and pitched just 36 innings. Sanchez was projected to have a 3.6 WAR on the year and due to lack of playing time produced a zero.

The leader of the staff was Marcus Stroman who continued the dominance that he showed off in the World Baseball Classic throughout the MLB season. He had a solid 3.4 WAR on the year, but was projected to have a 2.6 WAR. He exceeded those expectations pretty handily. Happ had another great season and produced a 2.9 WAR. Marco Estrada had an awful middle of the season, but still managed a 2.6 WAR. Estrada and Happ pretty much hit their projections on the year head on (Estrada 2.5 WAR, Happ 2.4 WAR). The rest of the rotation was a mess.

Liriano was expected to fill a big role but struggled after having an electric spring training. Liriano was projected to hit 1.7 but came up with just a 0.8 WAR on the season and was traded to the Astros for Teoscar Hernandez. Hernandez produced a 0.7 WAR in just the month of September.

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Joe Biagini was flip flopped back and forth from the bullpen to the starting rotation multiple times throughout the year to help eat up the innings that would have been Aaron Sanchez’s. Biagini produced a 1.1 WAR and was projected to be a 0.5 WAR. This is mostly because of the amount of innings that he threw as a starter rather then a reliever. He was projected to throw about 67 innings out of the pen but instead pitched 88 innings, which included eighteen starts.

The group of other starters were a mess and were barely above replacement. Brett Anderson picked up a 0.8 WAR for the season and had a few solid starts down the stretch. There was the failed Matt Latos experiment that provided a -0.3 WAR. Latos was joined by Casey Lawrence and Nick Tepesch with a below replacement level mark in the Blue Jays failed starting options.

The plethora of starters that were right at replacement level shows how hard the Jays season was on the hill. As they struggled to get quality innings, players like Mike Bolsinger and Cesar Valdez were given chances as John Gibbons looked to find the flavor of the week. There were also chances given to rookies like Chris Rowley who showed moments of brilliance before showing a lack of experience. Rowley’s first start as a Blue Jay was more than likely one of the underrated highlights of the season

The Toronto Blue Jays used fourteen different pitchers on their pitching staff for the 2017 season. This in a very high amount and clearly needs to be an improvement area heading into the offseason. The Blue Jays have plenty of young talent on the way, but is it ready to jump in? Looking at the above one might wonder how can it get much worse. The Jays should be getting a full season from Sanchez and hopefully they will have more MLB ready depth ready to go for the 2018 season.

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