Blue Jays Opposing Pitcher Report: Blaine Hardy

MINNEAPOLIS, MN - MAY 21: Blaine Hardy #36 of the Detroit Tigers delivers a pitch against the Minnesota Twins during the first inning of the game on May 21, 2018 at Target Field in Minneapolis, Minnesota. (Photo by Hannah Foslien/Getty Images)
MINNEAPOLIS, MN - MAY 21: Blaine Hardy #36 of the Detroit Tigers delivers a pitch against the Minnesota Twins during the first inning of the game on May 21, 2018 at Target Field in Minneapolis, Minnesota. (Photo by Hannah Foslien/Getty Images) /

On Friday, June 1, the Blue Jays finish their nine game road trip with a three-game set against the Detroit Tigers. Blaine Hardy, a career reliever, will start for the Tigers. Jaime Garcia will take the hill for the Blue Jays.

Yes, you read that correctly—31-year-old Blaine Hardy is now a starting pitcher for the Detroit Tigers. His fifth year in the majors, and tenth in professional baseball, the veteran made his first start on May 13. After 167 appearances out of the bullpen, the Tigers finally gave the lefty a shot in the rotation.

The veteran left-hander began his season with the Triple-A Toledo Mud Hens before he was selected to replace an injured Miguel Cabrera in early May. Through seven appearances on the Tigers, including three starts, Hardy has been worth 0.5 fWAR, posting a 1-0 record, 2.70 ERA, 1.150 WHIP, and great 167 ERA+. As well, through three starts, the southpaw has pitched 16 1/3 innings, leading to a 1-0 record and 2.36 ERA. It should be noted, however, that these starts came against Seattle, Minnesota, and the White Sox. While Seattle is a great team, the Twins and Sox are both below .500.

Most recently, Hardy pitched seven complete innings against the White Sox, requiring just 85 pitches. Working with incredible efficiency, the left-hander allowed just one earned run on three hits. As well, he walked just one batter, while striking out six. The ability to move through a line up this efficiently is remarkable given his limited experience as a starter—even if it was the White Sox, who sit 12.5 games back in the worst division in baseball.

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Predictably, the career bullpen arm keeps his pitch selection quite simple. The southpaw will alternate between a four-seam fastball, slider, change-up, and curveball. The left-hander is primarily fastball-slider, almost using the pitches interchangeably.

Hardy has offered heaters 36.9% of the time this season. Averaging a poor 88.4 mph, the fastball runs across the plate to the glove side. As well, the lefty’s movement is extenuated by his placement on the first base side of the rubber. However, if the fastball isn’t spotted well, it’s just not that good of a pitch. Case in point, the four-seamer has allowed four extra base hits, a terrible .556 SLGA, and an even worse .259 ISO against.

The left-hander uses his slider 34.9% of the time, averaging a velocity of 83.1 mph. Despite holding minimal movement, the slider has produced whiffs at a decent rate of 32.61% of swings. As a result, it has been responsible for seven of the veteran’s 18 strikeouts.

Hardy uses his change-up 22.2% of the time, while averaging a velocity of 79.8 mph. The off-speed pitch does not have much movement, just a little arm-side fade. The offering has allowed a great .167 BA against, but, it has also been responsible for half of the lefty’s home runs against.

The left-hander rarely breaks off curves, using the big breaker just 6% of the time. Interestingly, the veteran has used the curve less as a starter than he did as a reliever. In limited usage, the curve has not produced many whiffs—just 16.67% of swings—but it has never allowed a hit.

While Hardy’s surface numbers are strong, they are misleading. The lefty’s FIP sits almost a full run higher than his ERA, at 3.47. Furthermore, his xFIP sits at an even worse 4.51. Overall, these numbers suggest that he has not been as good as his surface numbers show.

The southpaw also has a dangerously high fly ball rate for a starter. Hardy has allowed a massive 50% fly ball rate, while his ground ball rate is a tiny 24.1%. Eventually some of these fly balls are going to start going out, as his xFIP suggests. Also, his line drive rate, 25.9%, is higher than his ground ball rate—another bad sign. While these numbers could be ignored for a reliever, they are likely to be exposed as a starter.

Blue Jays batters do not have a large body of experience against Hardy. However, Kendrys Morales, who has opposed Hardy the most, has three hits, including a double and home run, in nine at-bats. As well, all of Randal Grichuk, Russell Martin, and Kevin Pillar each have one walk in one plate appearance.

Next: Randal Grichuk has a real chance to redeem himself

The Blue Jays look to bounce back from the sweep at Boston with a win against Blaine Hardy Friday night in Detroit. Also, Jaime Garcia could do a lot for himself and the team if he can match his last start at Philadelphia.