Now that the regular season is basically over for the Blue Jays’ top three starters, let’s have a look at their rotation by the regular season numbers.
It’s all but guaranteed at this point that Alek Manoah, Kevin Gausman, and Ross Stripling will be the three starters as the Jays head into the Wild Card round later this week. They haven’t gone as far as announcing their rotation plans, which makes sense given that they don’t even know their opponent yet, but I think most of us would agree that things are laid out pretty obviously at this point.
With that in mind, I thought it would be worthwhile and even encouraging for us to take a look at the regular season that just was for the Blue Jays’ top three, and remind ourselves that this team is in a strong place heading into the first round.
Projected Game 1 starter- Alek Manoah
The sophomore right-hander has emerged as one of the best starters in the American League, and he should garner legitimate Cy Young award consideration for the performance he just put on. Manoah finishes the year with a 16-in 7 record, a 2.24 ERA, and a 0.992 WHIP across 31 starts, striking out 180 batters over 196.2 innings.
The Florida native leads the AL in innings pitched, is second in bWAR (6.0) behind only Dylan Cease, third in ERA beyond Cease and Justin Verlander, and fifth in WHIP, among others. He’s shown composure far beyond his years or experience, and the Blue Jays are extremely fortunate to have him not only on their roster, but still going strong heading into the playoffs. Even John Schneider finally talked about his comfort with Manoah as their Game 1 starter, and it makes all the sense in the world.
Projected Game 2 starter- Kevin Gausman
No pitcher in baseball started the year on a better note than Gausman, and while there have been some ups and downs over the course of 162 games, he’s had a very solid first year as a Blue Jay.
After leaving the game early on Sunday thanks to a cut on his finger (and to make sure it didn’t turn into an issue that would impact his playoff availability), the 31 year old finished the year with a 12-10 record, a 3.35 ERA, and a 1.24 WHIP over 31 starts that covered 174.2 innings, striking out 205 batters in the process.
While Gausman isn’t going to finish in the top 10 in the same pitching categories that Manoah is in the mix for, he was still among the better starters in the AL. He’s provided crucial veteran leadership and stability in a rotation that lost Hyun Jin Ryu for the year, and saw disappointing seasons for Jose Berrios and Yusei Kikuchi.
All things consider the Blue Jays have to be thrilled with what Gausman gave them in his first year in Toronto, and I imagine they feel really confident with someone of his calibre slotting in for Game 2.
Projected Game 3 starter- Ross Stripling
The unsung hero the 2022 season for the Blue Jays has to be Stripling, who stepped into the rotation for an injured Ryu and delivered far more than most of us even hoped for.
Stripling finishes the regular season with all kinds of career-best numbers including a 10-4 record, a 3.01 ERA, and a 1.020 WHIP across 32 appearances that included 24 starts. He posted the highest innings total of his career at 134.1, and as a pending free agent he’s likely pitched his way into being a very rich man in the not so distant future. In the short-term, the Blue Jays are seeing the best performance of the 32 year old’s career, and hopefully he’ll continue that trend as they head into the postseason.
When the season began Stripling wasn’t really in the rotation plans other than serving as depth in case of injury. When that happened he stepped up in a big way, pitching even better as a starter with a 2.92 ERA and a 0.981 WHIP over those 24 starts. I never would have predicted that he’d pass Jose Berrios on the depth chart, between Stripling’s dominance and Berrios’ struggles, it’s a no-brainer decision for John Schneider about who should get the ball should they need a starter in Game 3.
Of course, a real tale of the tape would show you a comparison of the starters the Blue Jays will face off against in the opening round, but at this stage we still don’t know which team that will be. It’s looking likely that they’ll host the Mariners, who would bring a pitching staff led by Robbie Ray and Luis Castillo. In any event, we’ll talk about that later this week once we know for sure who the Blue Jays are playing, and where.
In a perfect world the Blue Jays would beat up on their first round opponent and take care of business in two games, whether that’s the Mariners or the Rays, but fortunately they’re at least three strong starters deep as they look ahead to the first round. Most of us had hoped for greater depth in the rotation this year, but thankfully a few of the top arms have more than held up their end of the bargain, which puts the Blue Jays in a pretty strong position.