Blue Jays pitcher Alek Manoah is far from the only ace struggling this season

Houston Astros v Toronto Blue Jays - Alek Manoah
Houston Astros v Toronto Blue Jays - Alek Manoah / Mark Blinch/GettyImages
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Nestor Cortes, New York Yankees

This time, the scuffling front-end starter is one found in the same division as the Jays, Nestor Cortes of the New York Yankees. Cortes was just coming off a stellar season in 2022 where he was in contention for the AL Cy Young award until he tailed off near the end of the season. Nevertheless, he was still an All-Star and one of the Yankees best starters last year, even more so than suppose-to-be ace Gerrit Cole. However, Cortes has been off to a slow start for 2023 despite a winning record, as he has the Yankees’ offence to thank for that. In eleven starts, he has given up 34 earned runs, 10 home runs, 19 walks and 59 strikeouts for a 5.16 ERA, 82 ERA+, and a 1.30 WHIP. These numbers were approaching more of those from his rookie campaign, and have been very uncharacteristic of him based on his strong performance the past two years. The news has gotten even worse for Cortes as he has just been placed on the IL due to a left shoulder strain to add to his already miserable season.

Zack Wheeler, Philadelphia Phillies

For Philadelphia Phillies’ co-ace Zack Wheeler, more or less the same story can be said for the veteran star pitcher. After posting a sub-3 ERA in each of the past three seasons, along with being an All-Star and NL Cy Young finalist just two years ago, Wheeler has struggled to find his groove thus far in 2023. He has given up a lot more contact this year and in doing so, has led to his 4.33 ERA (his highest since 2017), 1.21 WHIP, 99 ERA+, giving up 33 earned runs, five home runs, 16 walks and 79 strikeouts in 68.2 innings pitched. When things appeared to have started to turn around in the game against the Atlanta Braves recently where he went eight strong innings of shutout ball, he followed it up with a stinker against the lowly Washington Nationals, giving up seven runs in just 3.2 innings.

These are just a few notable pitchers among a long list that have encountered immense adversity in their 2023 seasons. Elite pitchers don’t just go from superstar one year to scrap heap the next, as there usually is a reason behind their struggles other than just a loss of focus or a string of bad luck. When it is happening all around the league to so many elite pitchers with a sound track record at the same time, it’s becoming harder to neglect the potential effect of the pitch clock on these players. Consequently, some adjustments should be done soon before it goes beyond control, as more and more pitchers can be affected as the season wears on.

Overall, Manoah shouldn’t worry too much now that he is in a less stress environment to work with. He should just focus on getting back his mojo, his pitching ability and his game, because if he wasn’t aware of it before, he should be now as there have been many others that are currently on the same boat as him this year. The main difference is that he is still young, so his chances of being able to readjust and readapt his mechanics to become an effective elite pitcher again will be a lot better than most others. So here we wish him all the best and hope that he comes back even hungrier than ever.