Following the 2022 season, the Jays had an incredibly difficult decision to make. Ross Stripling was entering the first free agency of his career coming off a season where he produced a 3.01 ERA and was the unsung hero of the rotation. From this, his value was at an all-time high and one the Jays were not willing to match. Instead, the club pivoted and chose to sign Chris Bassitt to a three-year, $63 million contract to fill the void.
His debut was much anticipated by fans everywhere, they wanted to see exactly how their new toy would fare. However, his first start could not have gone much worse. By the end of the first inning, he already allowed four earned runs off three homers, and finished the night with a stat line that made Jays fans everywhere question, was his contract going to be a big mistake?
After his disastrous debut, things started to settle down, since then he has only had two outings with over three earned runs and has quality starts in eight of his last 10. During this time, he has posted a 2.71 ERA in 63.0 IP, with batters only hitting .179 off him. But what has been most impressive from Bassitt's season, was a recent three-game stretch where he became only the third Blue Jay ever behind Roger Clemens (1998) and Dave Stieb (1988) to throw three straight outings of seven innings or more without allowing a run.
But what has caused him to become so dominant? When we look, we may uncover a new approach to exploit his effectiveness with the sinker. So far this year he is throwing it 40.1% of the time, a massive increase from 33.5% which was his usage just last year. It is clear why he has decided to throw it more often: batters cannot hit it, they are averaging just .196 against it. This is by far the best he has fared with the sinker in his career, and it is all from the weak contact he induces with it. More often than not, the sinker either allows a sky-high fly ball or a ground ball. Pair that with the Jays elite defense, and it is no wonder the BABIP on this pitch is just .207, far below the league average.
Without Bassitt, the Blue Jays would be in a far worse spot, you could even argue a below-.500 ball club. He has undoubtedly been the Jays' best pitcher and has lowered his ERA from 24.30 after his first outing to 3.80 following outing number 11. It has truly been a remarkable turnaround so far in the early going of his season and has solidified himself as cornerstone in the Jays rotation.