3 reasons to believe in the Blue Jays' strong start this year
By Paul Taylor
The starting pitching
The Blue Jays' rotation entered the 2023 campaign with the potential to be one of the strongest in the game. And with good reason, especially with Alek Manoah and Kevin Gausman at the top of the order.
Manoah was coming off a first full season where he was named an All-Star and a AL Cy Young finalist. Meanwhile, Gausman had shown why the Blue Jays signed him to a five-year, $110M deal.
José Berríos had a tough 2022 campaign, but was expected to return to the form he showed a year earlier and during his time in Minnesota. Yusei Kikuchi was admittedly a disappointment during his first season with the Blue Jays, but this was still a talented pitcher who had been named an All-Star in 2021 for the Mariners.
Even the loss of Ross Stripling was not expected to be too much of an issue, after signing Chris Bassitt to replace him. Bassitt was an All-Star in 2021, with a career winning record and an ERA hovering around the 3.50 range.
With this all said, the Blue Jays rotation is off to a very strange start this season. Manoah and Kikuchi have effectively swapped places, with Manoah's mechanics failing him up to this point and Kikuchi leading all starters in team wins and ERA.
Berríos has yet to entirely bounce back from last year's struggles, although there is some encouragement. The quality of his pitches have improved across the board, but been compromised by just plain bad luck up to this point.
Bassitt's ERA is off purely because of his disastrous 10-hit, nine-run Jays debut, but he's pitched five quality outings out of six since and has the second-most wins among all starters. This leaves Gausman, who has been the one player to pitch at a level consistent with his success from last season.
As a collective, the Blue Jays starters rank 13th in the Majors in both ERA and WHIP entering Friday's slate of games, but they are capable of so much more. Assuming Manoah solves his mechanical issues and Berríos starts getting some good fortune, they should take their projected place as one of the top rotations in the Majors.