For much of the 2023 season, many have thought that starting pitching for the Toronto Blue Jays have been inconsistent at times, and the fact that other than team ace Kevin Gausman, everyone else seemed to have some struggles at one time or another over the course of the season and even in the season prior. The fact that the Jays are still currently in the playoff hunt may be surprising to some as a result.
Well, apparently the Jays are probably even better than one would think, as Dan Plesac from the MLB Network had just recently named the Top 25 starting pitchers in all of baseball and believe or not, three Blue Jays gracefully find themselves with the prestigious honours.
New York Yankees’ ace Gerrit Cole heads the list in top spot with an impressive 2023 season to date, going 10-2 with a 2.64 ERA, 1.04 WHIP and 157 strikeouts in 143.1 innings pitched. To no one’s surprise, the Jays’ very own Gausman is among the league’s top 10 starting pitchers, coming in at No. 7 on the list, as he has posted an 8-6 record with a 3.20 ERA, 1.17 WHIP, with a whopping 177 strikeouts in just 132 innings of work.
However, more shockingly are the two other Blue Jays’ pitchers that find themselves on the list. Heading into the season, if one would have predicted ahead of time, one would have probably expected to see Alek Manoah and Chris Bassitt to be those candidates. But with some of their struggles they have encountered this season, particularly for Manoah, we find instead none other than José Berríos in the No. 16 spot and the revitalized Yusei Kikuchi rounding out the No. 25 spot.
Berríos, as one would recall, entered the 2023 season as one of the question marks in the Jays’ rotation, after enduring one of his worst seasons ever in his career in 2022. It didn’t start off pretty for him either this year as he resembled his 2022 form after two starts. However, he somehow was able to regroup and regather himself to have a complete 180 degree turnaround for the rest of the season, rediscovering his dominant form from prior seasons in the process. As a result, inadvertently, he has become the ballclub’s second most reliable starter behind Gausman, compiling an 8-7 record with a 3.31 ERA, 1.20 WHIP and 123 strikeouts in 130.1 innings pitched.
Similarly for Kikuchi, he had a season to forget in 2022, as it was so bad that he was relegated to bullpen duties towards the end of the season. Going into the 2023 season, some were even wondering if he would even have a chance to pitch in the starting rotation due to his lack of consistency, along with being hit hard at times. But Kikuchi has certainly showed that nothing was impossible, as he has produced an impressive bounce back season to date, going a strong 9-3 with a 3.67 ERA, 1.27 WHIP, along with 119 punchouts in 115.1 innings of work. He attributed his success towards being able to work faster with the implementation of the pitch clock this year.
To be honest, no one was probably expected this rapid improvement by both pitchers, but as their stellar play has shown, nothing is impossible. Both turnaround seasons have helped fuelled the Jays in maintaining a positive winning record for 2023. If both Manoah and Bassitt can suddenly do the same, along with some unexpected effective production from the recently activated Hyun Jin Ryu, it is totally possible that the Jays could suddenly have one of the most dominant six-men starting rotations down the stretch. But for now, we should be more than happy to see that we have three top quality starting pitchers on the squad and to give them more of the credit and appreciation that they truly deserve in helping the team to success this season.