It’s been a magical start to the big league career of Alek Manoah, and during Tuesday night’s All-Star game the world got to see why Blue Jays fans are so excited.
The loveable young right-hander was on full display for baseball fans during his one-inning appearance during the All-Star, and the sophomore did not disappoint.
Manoah struck out Willson Contreras of the Atlanta Braves to open his appearance, and followed that up with the same fate for Joc Pederson of the San Francisco Giants. He might have struck out the side on just three batters, but after taking some advice from John Smoltz during the broadcast, Manoah hit the Mets’ Jeff McNeil with a back-foot slider. It didn’t matter though, because the 24 year old still struck out the side anyway by fanning Ronald Acuna Jr.
Fans also had the added treat of getting to hear Manoah talking throughout his appearance, in a special All-Star game “mic’d up” feature that I’m sure baseball fans would love to hear more often. I know I would, and it also gave Manoah the perfect opportunity to showcase his infectious personality. I’m sure you’ve already seen a few memes with the phrase “three punchies”, and I wouldn’t be surprised if that followed Manoah for a while. It certainly won’t be the last time we witness him striking out three batters in an inning.
His All-Star appearance was just a continuation of what’s been a breakout year for Manoah. He was fantastic right out of the gate as a rookie in 2021, but I think at this point you’d be hard pressed to find anyone arguing that he’s the Blue Jays’ ace. It’s possible that the coaching staff would still start Kevin Gausman to begin a playoff series, but I think there’s an even stronger case for Manoah getting the ball in that scenario.
The Florida native finished the first half with a record of 10-4, an ERA of 2.28, and a WHIP of 0.959 over 18 starts. He’s also struck out 103 batters while covering 114.2 innings, and has walked just 25 thus far. While those numbers represent a ridiculously good performance from a relatively inexperienced big leaguer, Manoah has always made it easy to forget that he’s only made 38 MLB starts so far.
What’s been arguably the most important trait from Manoah is the fact that he’s a workhorse, consistently giving the Blue Jays innings and quality starts. The fact that he’s provided 15 quality starts over his 18 outings has been a huge lift for the team, and especially for a bullpen that’s been beaten up at times in 2022. When you add in the injury to Hyun Jin Ryu, the troubles for Yusei Kikuchi that landed him on the IL and in the minor leagues to find his form, and the up and down year for Jose Berrios, Manoah has arguably been the Blue Jays most valuable player over the first half of the season.
I’ve been a huge fan of his since long before he made his MLB debut, and while I was very high on him when he debuted last year, I never dreamed that he’d be this good, this fast. He already has an All-Star appearance on his resume, and it surely won’t be his last, and he’s firmly in the conversation for the American League Cy Young award because of his first half performance. He brings so much joy to the mound, and it was on full display for the world to see on Tuesday night.
To put it simply, the Blue Jays are very lucky to have a young starter that is already emerging as one of the best in the game, and after his All-Star debut baseball fans everywhere got to see why he’s quickly becoming of the more beloved sports figures in Canada.