2023 Blue Jays mid-season report cards with letter grades: Pitchers

How well have the Blue Jays' pitching done so far for 2023 as we hit the halfway mark of the season?
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Jordan Romano: 39 GP, 4-4 W-L, 26 SV, 2.87 ERA, 1.12 WHIP, 11 BB, 48 K

Jordan Romano has proven once again that he is one of the elite closers in MLB. Romano leads the AL in saves with 26, and is tied with both Alexis Diaz and Camilo Duval for the MLB lead. He may elicit some fear in the fans the moment he emerges from the bullpen, as they worry that he will give up some runs, but in fact, he has actually shut the door more than 89.7% of the time, which is among the top 10 in all of baseball with a minimum of 15 save opportunities presented. What actually may be more worrisome at this moment was his sudden removal from the All-Star Game due to lower back tightness. Hopefully, the minor injury isn’t anything serious enough that would jeopardize his availability and performance for the Jays’ pursuit of the playoffs.

Grade: A

Erik Swanson: 42 GP, 2-2 W-L, 21 HLD, 3.16 ERA, 0.98 WHIP, 15 BB, 48 K

Acquired in the trade with the Seattle Mariners along with Adam Macko for Teoscar Hernández, Erik Swanson has been everything the Jays expected him to be all year. Looking to bolster the bullpen with someone that was reliable and could handle high leverage situations, Swanson has passed the test with flying colours, forming a strong one-two punch with Romano at the back end of ballgames. Not surprisingly, with his dominance and dependability, he currently leads the entire league in holds with 21, to go hand-and-hand with Romano’s corresponding lead in saves. Fans may still have some lingering frustrations with respect to losing the power production by Hernández, but if taking a look at the big picture, the number of games Swanson has helped to preserve Jays’ wins certainly has more than made up for the difference.

Grade: A

Yimi García: 40 GP, 3-3 W-L, 9 HLD, 4.66 ERA, 1.42 WHIP, 10 BB, 45 K

If this assessment was done a little earlier in the season, Yimi García probably would have deserved a letter grade below a C. After all, he had a very, very slow start to the season after coming off a solid campaign in 2022, serving mainly as Romano’s setup man. His poor performance to start 2023 quickly removed him from that role, with worries extending beyond whether he could still manage high leverage situations for the ballclub. Fortunately, he has had a huge turnaround since the beginning of June, as he is now more back in line with his usual career standards, posting a miniscule 1.50 ERA with two wins, one save, one hold, and giving up only two earned runs, one walk and 15 strikeouts over the last 14 games. The Jays will definitely need this version of García for the second half if they are to have any chance at reaching the postseason once again.

Grade: B

Trevor Richards: 30 GP, 0-1 W-L, 4 HLD, 3.02 ERA, 1.10 WHIP, 17 BB, 67 K

Trevor Richards has had a turbulent season so far in 2023, with no one word that could really summarize it. Not very often do you have someone that would go from good, to bad, back to good, back to bad once again, and then super good for a long time, but somehow, some way, Richards made it happen. After a miserable start to the season, with many even thinking about his days with the ballclub being numbered, he totally flipped around his season 180 degrees to become one of the most flexible and reliable Jays’ pitcher out of the pen. Richards has been steady as a rock since the middle of May and has performed admirably as an opener, short and long man out of the bullpen, basically whatever was asked of him while at the same time recapturing his once devastating strikeout ability. If both García and Richards can keep this up, the Jays may not have to look for that many bullpen arms for help at the trade deadline after all.

Grade: A-

Tim Mayza: 41 GP, 1-1 W-L, 11 HLD, 1.17 ERA, 1.08 WHIP, 5 BB, 32 K

One of the more underrated relievers at the Jays’ disposal for the 2023 season, Tim Mayza has quietly put together a brilliant career year. As the sole lefthanded pitcher in the Jays’ bullpen, he has been lights out whether he faced a lefthanded batter or righthanded batter, giving up only four earned runs all year. If he was more in a closer role for the ballclub, he may have gotten potentially more recognition for his outstanding performance thus far and probably would have garnered some All-Star votes as well. Nevertheless, this unexpected hidden gem could be the X-factor that could lead the Jays back to the playoffs.

Grade: A+

Nate Pearson: 25 GP, 5-1 W-L, 3.69 ERA, 1.07 WHIP, 8 BB, 32 K

For the once heralded top prospect in the Jays’ organization, Nate Pearson had to face numerous adversity the past few years, having several setbacks due to injuries. For once, Pearson had a clean bill of health for 2023, and was finally called up back in late April and has never looked back since. As one of the rare flamethrowers in the Jays’ bullpen, Pearson has excelled in his role this year, giving the Jays the added “feared” strikeout weapon in their arsenal. Taking away his two blips in the middle of June in which he gave up eight runs in two games, he has basically been an unstoppable force so far this year and will play a large role in the Jays’ success down the stretch.

Grade: A-

Zach Pop: 15 GP, 1-1 W-L, 6.59 ERA, 1.24 WHIP, 6 BB, 14 K

Zach Pop was one of the key returns in the trade the Jays made with the Miami Marlins last year at the trade deadline. Pop was vital in the Jays’ success down the stretch in 2022 by going 2-0 with a 1.89 ERA, 1.05 WHIP, giving up only four earned runs in 19 innings pitched. But for 2023, it has been a completely different story. It hasn’t been as bad as his numbers show, as he started off the season strong, with most of his ballooning in stats occurring in the outings just prior to being placed on the IL in early May due to a right hamstring strain. However, Pop has also struggled mightily in his rehab assignment, leading the Jays to make the harsh decision to keep him in Triple-A Buffalo when he was activated off the injured list in early July to work up his game. So it has definitely been disappointing that Pop hasn’t been able to replicate his success he had with the ballclub from last year.

Grade: C-

Adam Cimber: 22 GP, 0-2 W-L, 7.40 ERA, 1.55 WHIP, 7 BB, 12 K

2023 is certainly a year to forget for the usually reliable and steady Adam Cimber. What began as a slow start to the season has turned out to be an absolute nightmare for Cimber as the season progressed. To make matters worse, he has been plagued by injuries as well, having to go on the IL for two separate stints, including one currently for shoulder impingement. Whether or not he may get a spot back on the major league roster when he comes off the injured list could be anyone’s guess, but if the Jays are looking to seriously contend for the playoffs, they may have to do what they did with Pop, which is keeping him in the minors to let him work on improving his game from there.

Grade: F

Mitch White: 7 GP, 0-0 W-L, 3.72 ERA, 1.45 WHIP, 3 BB, 11 K

Mitch White was acquired last year in a trade with the Los Angeles Dodgers as pitching depth, but his tenure with the Jays so far hasn’t been all that impressive. This year was suppose to be his year for redemption; however, he had been out for the bulk of the 2023 season due to an elbow injury, which followed his shoulder impingement injury earlier in the year prior to Spring Training. In his rehab assignment prior to being reinstated from the IL, he had performed poorly as well, casting many doubts on whether he could actually help the Jays this year or not. Upon returning to the big leagues in early June, White has actually fared quite well, despite a less-than-stellar season debut. He has been used mainly as a reliever ever since, and his stats at least were beginning to mirror the success he had with the Dodgers prior to the trade in 2022. What his specific role will be in the coming months will be dictated by the amount of action the Jays take on at the trade deadline.

Grade: B-

Bowden Francis: 6 GP, 1-0 W-L, 2.63 ERA, 1.10 WHIP, 4 BB, 12 K

As one may have forgotten, Bowden Francis was part of the trade that also brought in Trevor Richards from the Milwaukee Brewers in exchange for Rowdy Tellez back in 2021. Francis became one of the main arms to be called up for bullpen help after Manoah was optioned to the Florida Complex League to work on his game. Since then, he has bounced up and down between the minors and majors due to roster management, but has shown great consistency and dependability during his brief stints with the ballclub. Many believed that he deserved the chance to stick with the team for an extended look. He was sent down to Buffalo once again on Monday during the MLB All-Star break, so whether he will be recalled following the break and be in the Jays’ long-term plans still awaits to be seen. But if the Jays are wise, Francis definitely deserves the chance to build upon what he had done so far to show that he is what the team exactly needs.

Grade: B

Thomas Hatch/Trent Thornton/Jay Jackson

For this trio, they have been mainly called up from the minors whenever they were needed to help provide a fresh arm in the bullpen, and to serve as insurance when a pitcher went down due to injury. Thomas Hatch has been lucky, despite having some control issues, as he has more or less limited the amount of runs to score in his five appearances to date. Trent Thornton has been just slightly better than Hatch in his four appearances, while Jay Jackson has actually been the best of the three, showing consistency and reliability in his pitches in his five appearances with the ballclub. It would be interesting if the Jays can have an extended look with these three arms to see if they could provide the impact needed to help the ballclub in the long run. But if they are looking for massive bullpen upgrades, these three unfortunately will be the odd man out.

Grade: Incomplete