On Saturday, August 11, the Blue Jays will play the second game of a three-game set against the Tampa Bay Rays. The Blue Jays will start Sam Gaviglio while the Rays will open with Ryne Stanek.
Ryne Stanek is the product of Tampa’s new “opener” strategy—and he has been incredible. As a starter, the righty has held batters to a tidy .165/.250/.320 slash line in 97 at-bats. Also, he has struck out 38 batters as an opener.
The Blue Jays already experienced playing against the right-hander and his opening ways. On June 12, the right-handed hurler pitched two innings, allowed no earned runs, gave up no hits, and stuck out three batters. Eventually, Tampa would go on to win the game 4-1.
While the Arkansas product has been very good for the Rays this season, he’ll have to pitch outside of his comfort zone on Saturday afternoon. While pitching at home, the 27-year-old has posted a 1.08 ERA and 38 strikeouts in 21 games. However, on the road, he has allowed a 4.35 ERA and 22 strikeouts in 22 games.
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Despite his struggles on the road, Stanek has compiled excellent numbers this season. Through 37 games he has posted a 2.56 ERA, 3.49 FIP, 157 ERA+, and 1.007 WHIP. Through 45 2/3 innings pitched, the opener has been worth a decent 0.8 fWAR.
As a reliever by trade and opener by necessity, the pitcher does not have a wide range of pitches. So far this season he has simply switched between a four-seam fastball, slider, and splitter.
The right-hander has fired home four-seam fastballs 59.68% of the time this season. The heater is very fast, maintaining an average velocity of 98.75 mph. The pitch has been virtually untouchable, as well, giving up a .177 BAA. However, the pitch has still allowed four home runs on the season.
Stanek has thrown his slider 25.33% of the time this season. The breaking ball is quite hard, posting an average speed of 89.40 mph. However, the pitch does not maintain much vertical drop, mostly just sweeping out of the strike zone. This movement has fooled batters well, producing whiffs at a crazy 48.35% of swings.
The right-handed hurler completes his pitching repertoire with a splitter that he uses 14.99% of the time this season. The split has been by far his best pitch, maintaining an unbelievable 58.93% whiff rate and .056 BAA. So far this season the splitter has allowed just two hits while striking out 26 batters.
The opener has had a great season for strikeouts this year. At this point in the season, he has posted an insane 33.2% K-rate and 11.82 K/9. However, he has also walked a fair amount of batters, to the tune of a 10.5% BB-rate and 3.74 BB/9.
As the last game that Stanek pitched against them was the Blue Jays only experience against the righty, Toronto does not have good career numbers against him. Each of the six batters faced in that game had no hits, while three of them have a strikeout against them.
The Blue Jays have drawn a difficult match-up against the opener on Saturday afternoon. Toronto will need to compile more offence and run support than the last time that they took on the starter. As well, Sam Gaviglio will look to back up his last good start.