Blue Jays Scapegoats: 1 to fire, 1 to put on the hot seat, 1 to be patient with

Who should be responsible for the Blue Jays performance to date?
Seattle Mariners v Toronto Blue Jays
Seattle Mariners v Toronto Blue Jays / Cole Burston/GettyImages
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For much of the 2023 season when the Toronto Blue Jays have been struggling, much news has been made with regards to players that have been underperforming, as well as failing to come through in the clutch in key situations, whether hitting or pitching. However, how much has coaching been a key to the Jays’ success, as well as their failures so far this year?

Here, we take a look at the Jays’ key coaching staff members, and their possible effect so far this year on the team’s competence and performance.

We should be patient with Pete Walker (Blue Jays pitching coach)

After retiring from professional baseball after 2007, which included a four-year stint with the Jays between 2002-2006, Pete Walker joined the Jays’ coaching staff in 2011 as a bullpen coach. From there, he was promoted to become the Jays’ full-time pitching coach in 2012 and has maintained the position ever since. Over the years, he had done some  great work with the team’s pitching staff, helping many to effective pitchers and achieve success in their tenure with the Jays, leading to many people attributing it to “Pete Walker’s Magic”.

In particular, the ones that have really stood out recently included Robbie Ray, Steven Matz, and Ross Stripling. For Ray, after struggling in his latter years with the Arizona Diamondbacks, he was able to turn his career around with the Jays with the help of Walker to post elite numbers en route to his first ever Cy Young award in 2021. For both Matz and Stripling, under the same watch of Walker, both had career years with the Jays prior to their departure in free agency, netting them big multi-year contracts with their new clubs. Lo and behold, it’s been no coincidence that all three have struggled ever since leaving town.

For the 2023 season, many have voiced their displeasure that the Jays’ pitching have been so-so at best, as they currently rank 11th in ERA, 15th in WHIP, 26th in home runs given up and 14th in opponents batting average in all of MLB. But taking a deeper look at the stats, the Jays actually have been doing quite well, as they lead the league in shutouts (10) as well as for save conversion % (77.1%), along with being in the top five in strikeouts (807) and K/BB ratio (3.14). A few blowout games may have skewed some of it a bit, but in general, they have held their own, even when they have been forced into using a four-man rotation recently, along with a somewhat taxed bullpen as a result.

Most importantly, both Yusei Kikuchi and José Berríos appeared to have finally figured things out and have had huge bounce back seasons so far this year, with Walker most likely playing a hand in it. So by eye, their pitching may appear to be in shambles, but in reality, they have done a decent job in keeping the Jays afloat and in the running for the most part of the year. As a result, we should be patient with Walker to let him continue to mould the pitching staff to be that much better as the year goes on.