If you want to get a sense of how dominant and collegial the top of the Blue Jays rotation was this year, it’s pretty much encapsulated by the tweet below. Ace Kevin Gausman was praising ‘Hound’ Chris Bassitt for a 7.2 scoreless masterpiece - with 12 strikeouts - in a 6-0 win over the Yankees in perhaps the biggest game of the Jays regular season, one that took Bassitt to the 200.0 innings pitched level for the first time in his career. Gausman wrote: “Such a competitor, such a great teammate.”
Indeed, it was a career year for the 34-year old Bassitt. He tied for the AL lead in wins at 16 with Rays starter Zach Eflin, was tied for the AL lead in games started at 33, trailed only likely Cy Young winner Gerrit Cole on innings pitched, and ranked 9th among qualified starters in the AL on ERA at 3.60.
The 200 innings pitched are a new career-high for Bassitt, and he reached the milestone with an emphatic strikeout of Yankees slugger Aaron Judge before walking off the field to a loud, standing ovation. Afterwards he said, “I’m going to try not to get emotional tonight, but I think it’s the benchmark for the elite pitchers, 200 innings. I get throwing 160, I’ve done it. I get throwing 180, I’ve done it. To get to 200 innings, you have to have so many people to trust you, you have to have so much work behind the scenes that people don’t see. It’s been my only goal forever. To get it and to have this organization believe in me like they do, it means the world to me.”
As Gausman noted, he’s such a competitor and such a great teammate. And he thanked the organization and team behind him, while humbly saying he was “just trying to keep up” with Gausman. Needless to say, Bassitt’s grade for the 2023 season is an A+. Blue Jays fans all wish we could have seen him start game three in the AL Wild Card series, and are left only with “what ifs?”
Signing Bassitt last December 16th to a 3-year, $63 million contract to solidify the Blue Jays rotation was one of the best free agent signings of the offseason. He was an excellent replacement for Ross Stripling, who’d signed with the San Francisco Giants on December 13th. Bassit pitched to an fWAR of 2.6 in 2023, which was similar to Stripling’s fWAR of 3.1 in 2022.
And given the well-documented struggles of Alek Manoah in 2023, Bassitt certainly stepped up and filled a major void. He was a clear leader amongst the rotation of Gausman, José Berríos, Yusei Kikuchi and Hyun Jin Ryu, who combined for 139 of the Jays 162 starts in 2023.
He offers a completely different look to hitters than Gausman, Berrios and Kikuchi, setting up his wicked off-speed arsenal with a sinker that averaged 91.9mph in 2023. He threw that pitch 39.3% of the time this year, up from 33.5% in 2022, and then mixed in pitches like his 70.7mph curveball and an 84.1mph changeup to keep hitters off-balance and guessing, leading to a career high 186 strikeouts.
To convince you further of his value to teammates and to this organization, also note the following:
1. Here he is below consoling a dejected José Berríos after the 2-0 loss last week in game two of the ALWC to Berrios’ old teammates and to the organization that traded him to Toronto. Berrios had been pulled after only 47 pitches and three innings of - to that point - scoreless baseball in the biggest start of his career, with five strikeouts. Bassitt knew exactly how he felt, having lost game three of the NLWC last year starting for the Mets, and also the adrenaline rush of pitching against a former team.
2. Recall an early June night when the Jays were at Citi Field in Queens, NY and Bassitt was starting against the team he’d won 15 games for in 2022. His wife Jessica was back in Toronto in labor, expecting their second child. After 7.2 innings of four-hit shutout ball with eight strikeouts against his old teammates, Bassitt flew back to Toronto to be with his wife. We can be sure his teammates were awed by his performance and dedication to his craft with such an important life event happening at home!
3. And to highlight what a generous member of the community Bassitt is, let’s all applaud him and his wife Jessica for giving back and donating US$10,000 for every win in a Bassitt start this season to support Jays Care’s RBI Summer Edition Program. In fact, with his 200 innings pitched, he topped up the donation to US$200,000. For more information on “Bassitts Pitch In”, check out the link here.
Jays fans are surely feeling lucky to have him for another two years as a pillar of the rotation.
Chris Bassitt’s 2023 player grade: A+