Blue Jays' ZiPS projections suggests the offense might not be the problem in 2024

Could things get any worse for the Jays?

Chicago White Sox v Toronto Blue Jays
Chicago White Sox v Toronto Blue Jays / Vaughn Ridley/GettyImages
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Last season, the Toronto Blue Jays often found themselves struggling with their offence, especially when trying to come through in clutch situations. If it hadn’t been the play of their strong defence and pitching, there was a good chance that they wouldn’t have made the postseason at all.

With the departures of multiple bats including Matt Chapman, Whit Merrifield and Brandon Belt, many may predict the Jays’ offence could be even worse off for the 2024 season. If that wasn’t worrisome enough, the Jays may now have more than the offence to worry about as ZiPS projections for 2024 suggest their starting pitching could be in for a big surprise this coming season. Specifically, all four main cogs from last year's starting rotation have been tabbed as regression candidates. This includes each of Chris Bassitt, José Berríos, Yusei Kikuchi and Kevin Gausman.

Bassitt signed with the Jays last offseason with hope to become a key member toward the front end of their rotation. Where Alek Manoah failed in producing, Bassitt picked up the slack considerably by going a solid 16-8 with a 3.60 ERA and an 8.37 K/9 ratio. More importantly, he reached 200 innings in just 33 starts, providing valuable length for the Jays as he averaged greater than 6 innings each time out. However, ZiPS projections has his record falling to 12-9 in 2024, along with an increase in ERA to 3.84 and a decrease in K/9 to 7.83.

In the case for Berríos, he had a huge bounce back last year after a miserable 2022 with the Jays where he posted his worst marks in ERA, WHIP, strikeout rate, home run rate and WAR since his debut in 2016. Following a couple of subpar outings to begin this past season, Berríos was stellar the rest of the way as he amassed 11 wins along with a 3.65 ERA, 1.19 WHIP and a 3.0 WAR. But ZiPS predicted that Berríos will regress a lot more than Bassitt as his ERA will balloon back over 4 to 4.12, along with his WAR falling to 2.5. On the good side, he is still expected to produce the same amount of wins, which can also be a bad thing if people are looking for improved results this upcoming season.

For Kikuchi, he also had a huge rebound year after struggling mightily in his first year with the ballclub in 2022. Last year, Kikuchi put together his best season in his career by putting up personal bests in wins (11), ERA (3.86), innings pitched (167.2), BB/9 ratio (2.58), and WAR (2.6). However, he will be in for the biggest regression of the three mentioned so far as ZiPS projections has his ERA jumping back up to 4.38, wins falling to just 7 in 26 starts, and WAR dropping down to 1.4. On top of that, Kikuchi is expected to be less durable, managing only a little more than 135 innings, along with encountering more trouble in his command with his BB/9 ratio ballooning up to 3.52.

Finally for team ace Kevin Gausman, even the best of the best will be in for a down season according to ZiPS. His K/9 will fall from 11.53 to 9.80, his HR/9 will increase from 0.92 to 1.17, his ERA will increase from 3.16 to 3.46, and his WAR will drop from a formidable 5.3 down to a just solid 3.8.

As a result, if these projections indeed hold true to some extent in the end, the Jays may soon find out that they have a lot more than just scoring runs to worry about for this upcoming season. With practically the entire pitching rotation due for a regression in 2024, if the offence doesn’t end up doing their part, they could be in for a long, long season ahead.