Erik Swanson has been just what the Blue Jays were hoping for
By Henry Wright
Giving up a staple of the franchise in Teoscar Hernández in exchange for a reliever who just recently broke out at age 28 in Erik Swanson seemed like a risky move, to say the least. For this move to pay off, Swanson would have to be a top-tier reliever, and one of the best setup men in the game, but luckily for the Toronto Blue Jays, he has been to this point in the 2023 season.
Swanson was one of baseball's biggest breakout relievers last season, posting a 1.68 in 53.2 innings, and had one of the best baseball savant pages you'll find, with elite expected and rate stats. While some of the advanced metrics have taken a dip so far this season, his raw numbers have been just as good, with a 1.74 ERA over 10.1 innings pitched, with a league-leading seven holds. His strikeouts per nine have dropped by three and his walks per nine has almost tripled from last season, which obviously isn't ideal, but it shows that he's been able to succeed in multiple ways, as his xBA sits in the 96th percentile in MLB.
Similar to Kevin Gausman, Swanson's bread and butter is his fastball and splitter, although he does mix in a slider over 20% of the time. All of these pitches have a batting average of .125 or lower so far this year, and despite the low strikeout numbers, he's consistently getting outs. His lower advanced stats certainly aren't great, but the stuff is there, and you'd have to expect them to tick back up sooner or later.
With how much some Jays relievers have struggled in high leverage situations, Swanson should probably be used even more in the future. He hasn't allowed a hit in eight of his 11 appearances while pitching in high leverage situations, with all but one of his appearances being in the seventh inning or later. It's still early in the season, but Erik Swanson has been the Blue Jays best reliever and appears to be exactly what they were hoping for when he was acquired back in November.