Toronto Blue Jays News

Blue Jays: On the bright side, the rotation has improved recently

PHILADELPHIA, PA - MAY 25: Starting pitcher Sam Gaviglio #43 of the Toronto Blue Jays throws a pitch in the second inning during a game against the Philadelphia Phillies at Citizens Bank Park on May 25, 2018 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Hunter Martin/Getty Images)
PHILADELPHIA, PA - MAY 25: Starting pitcher Sam Gaviglio #43 of the Toronto Blue Jays throws a pitch in the second inning during a game against the Philadelphia Phillies at Citizens Bank Park on May 25, 2018 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Hunter Martin/Getty Images) /
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The Blue Jays’ bats may be ice cold, but there have been encouraging signs from the rotation recently, and hopefully the trend will continue.

When the 2018 season began the expectation and hope was that the Blue Jays rotation would be a strength of the team, and would hopefully rank among the elite groups in the American League. With a healthy Aaron Sanchez and free agent Jaime Garcia joining Marcus Stroman, J.A. Happ, and Marco Estrada, things looked as encouraging as they have in awhile, at least on paper.

Unfortunately it hasn’t worked out that way at all so far this season. After Saturday’s loss they have dropped to 24-28 and will need to turn things around in a hurry if they plan on being serious contenders. For as frustrating as the offence has been to watch for most of May, the biggest improvement needs to come from the rotation.

The only starter who has performed to expectation or better would be Happ, who is 6-3 with a 3.97 ERA in his first 10 starts, earning 1.2 bWAR thus far. His strikeout numbers have been particularly impressive, as he’s already fanned 71 in 59 innings pitched. Unfortunately there’s a drop off after Happ, and in some cases it’s pretty steep.

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Marcus Stroman was one of the best pitchers in the AL last season, but 2018 has been been nothing short of a disaster for the former first round pick. He’s on the disabled list at the moment, and there hasn’t been a lot of information about when he’ll be back on the roster. He was 0-5 with a 7.71 ERA through his first eight starts, and has been arguably the biggest disappointment so far this year at -0.8 bWAR.

Aaron Sanchez has managed to stay healthy, but hasn’t returned to the form that fans got to enjoy in 2016. There are constant reminders of his immense talent, but at this stage he hasn’t been as good as most of us had hoped. He’s 2-5 with a 4.07 ERA and 0.8 bWAR, but his WHIP sits at 1.518, and he’s struggled to go deep into games. I have no doubt that we’ll see improvements this year, but it hasn’t been an ideal comeback season thus far.

Marco Estrada has been somewhere in between Stroman and Sanchez, but his numbers aren’t so hot overall. He’s 2-5 with a 5.40 ERA through 10 starts. and his WHIP is an ugly 1.436. That said,  he’s still earned 0.3 bWAR, mostly due to being healthy and providing some innings. Lastly, Garcia hasn’t really even been good enough to warrant even a fifth starter’s spot, at least if you’re examining the numbers anyway. He currently sits with a 5.52 ERA. a -0.3 bWAR, and a 1.511 WHIP too.

Now that we’ve all been reminded just how disappointing things been so far for Canada’s only MLB team, there is a bit of good news. Slowly but surely the rotation has improved, even if it’s unfortunately coincided with the recent skid from the batting lineup.

Obviously Estrada’s outing wasn’t as good as the rest, but overall that’s a lot better than what John Gibbons has been getting out of his rotation, especially in terms of the length of an outing. The Blue Jays also activated Garcia from the disabled list on Saturday in order to make the start, and moved Joe Biagini to the bullpen, at least for now. They’ve also received a surprisingly good performance out of Sam Gaviglio too, who will ideally hold down the fort until Stroman can get healthy and back to his near-elite performance.

It’s a small sample size, but if the rotation can start performing anywhere close to expectations, things will be a lot different for this team. The bullpen has been heavily leaned on so far, and the overuse is really starting to show more recently. A more consistent contribution from the rotation won’t just positively affect the first five or so innings, but also the back half of the game too. That’s what this team needs as much as anything, and thankfully they’ve received just that through the last turn in the rotation.

The Jays will need more than just a consistent effort from the starters in order to be true contenders, but it’s definitely a huge part of the puzzle. Fortunately things are looking a little more positive in that direction recently, and hopefully that trend will continue.

Next: Blue Jays could learn a thing or two from the Sox

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