Manoah vs. Gausman: Who should be the Opening Day starter for the Blue Jays?
By Eric Treuden
Over the course of the 2022-2023 offseason, Alek Manoah has seemed like a lock to be the Toronto Blue Jays' Opening Day starter in the upcoming season. He has the talent, of course, but is he guaranteed that spot?
I'd say no, he hasn't locked himself into that role just yet.
Manoah, 25, had a well documented rise to prominence last year, dominating the opposition and posting an incredible 2.24 ERA and 174 ERA+ across 31 starts and 196+ innings. He finished third in the AL Cy Young Award voting and made what will undoubtedly be the first of many All-Star Game appearances as well.
He's an exceptional pitcher, he's young, he's cool and he's already a beloved figure amongst your average Blue Jays faithful.
But then there's Kevin Gausman, the second true ace on this Blue Jays staff. There is a legitimate case for him to be the Opening Day starter as well. He's much more experienced, has better control and has also seen himself rise into the conversation of one of the game's best starting pitchers.
In 31 starts of his own last year, Gausman had a 3.35 ERA paired with a league-leading 2.38 FIP. He struck out 205 batters while walking only 28 in 174+ innings. This performance earned him his second consecutive top 10 finish in Cy Young voting.
In the grand scheme of things, this is just one single game in a long, grueling season that consists of at least 162 games. But this one game signals which pitcher the Blue Jays think is the best one on their staff. Where one pitcher excelled last year, the other struggled. Take a look at how the two hurlers' Baseball Savant percentile rankings look from last year.
HARD HIT %
AVG EXIT VELOCITY
It's a tough decision that could truly go either way. Gausman is playing out a massive five-year, $110M deal, so one would think that he should earn it since he's already being paid so handsomely. Manoah will get there one day, but he is still on a rookie contract ($780K in the upcoming season).
There's also Spring Training performances to take into consideration. Yes, spring stats shouldn't carry too much weight, but they do matter to an extent. Manoah has struck out 15 batters and walked six through 14.1 spring innings across four starts.
Gausman on the other hand, has seemingly reached another level. He has also made four starts but he, shockingly, has yet to allow a single earned run. In 13.2 innings, the 32-year-old has 18 strikeouts against just three walks and has only surrendered eight hits. It seems like the best bet is to go with the pitcher who is the hottest and right now?
That would be Kevin Gausman.