The Toronto Blue Jays pitching staff has been a sore spot for fans for the majority of the past couple of months.
The rotation has been dealt some blows with Hyun Jin Ryu being shut down due to Tommy John surgery, Yusei Kikuchi continuing to struggle on the mound, and the recent injury to Kevin Gausman forcing manager Charlie Montoyo to get creative with who starts in his absence these past two weeks. That’s not to say there haven’t been bright spots, as Gausman owns the highest fWAR amongst pitchers in the league, Alek Manoah dominates on a nightly basis, and Ross Stripling is turning in a great season as well, but the rotation plus the bullpen has accounted for some frustrating losses as of late.
After all that, the Jays pitching staff combined own a 4.08 ERA on the season, with the starting rotation sporting a 4.01 ERA by themselves. This is mostly impacted by Kikuchi and his 5.12 ERA but also because of Jose Berrios and his struggles to start the year, as he currently sports a 5.38 ERA on the campaign.
The 2022 campaign has not been kind to Berrios, fresh off a seven-year extension with the Jays’ this past offseason. The Opening Day starter could not get out of the first inning against the Texas Rangers back in early April and he has surrendered five or more earned runs in five different appearances this year, highlighted by an eight-run affair in Milwaukee back in late June. Contrary to those outings, Berrios also has some quality outings in him as well, with eight starts where he has gone 5.0+ innings and allowed two earned runs or less. He has also struck 13 batters on two separate occasions this season, tying his single-game career-high.
Blue Jays starter Jose Berrios has seen his fair share of struggles this year but has posted strong numbers in July, just what the club needed with so much uncertainty in the rotation.
Statcast-wise, opposing batters are seeing the ball well and are collecting hits off of him, as he sits below the tenth percentile in numerous categories like xSLG (2nd), xERA (3rd), xwOBA (3rd), and barrel % (8th).
While Berrios has not been the dominant pitcher Jays fans were hoping for, the reason for his high ERA attributes more to the fact that those five outings where he surrendered five or more earned runs are really dragging him down, as half of his starts have been deemed quality starts, tied for second on the team with Gausman behind Manoah.
Maybe he has turned a corner in July as well, as the Puerto Rican product has allowed just six earned runs through 17.0 innings of work with three walks and 22 strikeouts. He has given up his fair share of hits (18) through the month but this is a trend we have seen all year long, evident by his statcast page. The main thing is that these runners on base have not all translated into runs scored, which is why he sports a 3.18 ERA through the month while going at least five innings in each start.
For the Blue Jays to be successful in the latter half of the season, Jose Berrios needs to return to the form that fans and the front office experienced in the second half of the 2021 campaign. The Jays currently sit third in the AL Wild Card but have teams on their heels for their spot, and cannot afford to lose any close games. With Ryu out and Kikuchi not trustworthy, Berrios needs to step up and continue this hot stretch otherwise the importance of trading for a starting pitcher will keep going up for the Blue Jays as the trade deadline draws near.