Saturday, May 19th, the Blue Jays will try to defeat Sean Manaea of the Oakland Athletics. Sam Gagivlio will oppose the Oakland ace for the Blue Jays.
Sean Manaea was drafted by the Kansas City Royals 34th overall before making his way to the Athletics midway through the 2015 season. The 26-year-old has shown promising numbers in the minors, but it seems this season may be a breakout year for the young left-hander.
Sean Manaea already has a no hitter under his belt, despite making less than 65 starts in his major league career. The no-no came against the Red Sox in late April. Amazingly, this complete game no-hitter forced Manaea to make just 108 pitches.
Coming into May, Manaea had a stellar 1.03 ERA and 37 strikeouts across six starts. Since then, the Oakland ace has started to come back down to earth a little bit. Across nine starts this season, Manaea has been worth 1.1 fWAR, while holding a 2.35 ERA, 5-4 record, 0.799 WHIP, and an insane 180 ERA+.
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The southpaw’s pitch mix is classic and simple. Manaea will primarily throw a fastball, while mixing in a change-up and an occasional slider.
A physical presence on the mound, standing at 6 foot 5 and 245 pounds, Manaea’s fastball is surprisingly slow. The big lefty has used his heater 51.9% of the time, while averaging a velocity of 90.3 mph. He has allowed a minuscule .173 BA against the four seamer, despite its slow velocity. However, this should be taken with a grain of salt, as the BABIP against the fastball is currently an unsustainable .170.
The left-hander uses the change-up fairly often to upset the timing of hitters. The off-speed pitch is featured 30.6% of the time. Clearly Manaea has found something in the change as he has bumped up usage from 24.3% last year, to 30.6% this year. Manaea’s change has been great at producing ground balls this year. Across nine starts, the change has produced ground balls on 57.78% of balls in play.
The lefty will also mix in a slider 15.2% of the time. The slider averages a slow velocity of 78.9 mph, but it has some good glove-side sweeping action. As a result of this movement, the slider has produced whiffs on 33.93% of swings and produced 12 strikeouts.
Manaea has been great at limiting home runs and walks this year. Currently, the lefthander has allowed a great HR/9 of 1.03. As well, his BB/9 is a great 1.17 while holding an amazing BB% of 3.4%.
Manaea is not really a strikeout pitcher, producing a K/9 of 7.19 and a K% of 20.9%. Nonetheless, the southpaw has kept batters off-base this year. Currently, across nine starts, opposing batters hold a .185 AVG against Manaea. However, his miniscule .205 BABIP suggests that this will change in the future. For reference, Manaea’s BABIP last year was a much more realistic .318.
The Blue Jays have a fair amount of experience against the Oakland starter. Most notably, Josh Donaldson has a 1.232 OPS against Manaea and Kevin Pillar has a great .946 OPS against the lefty. However, Justin Smoak and Gio Urshella have each struggled to a .500 and .333 OPS, respectively.
Manaea has been dominant this year. There is no question that this will be a difficult start for the Blue Jays batters. However, encouragingly for the Blue Jays, Manaea has been more human over his May starts—likely the start of a negative regression due for the Indiana native.