Toronto Blue Jays 2023 Season Preview: RHP Mitch White
Next up in our Toronto Blue Jays 2023 season preview series is right-handed pitcher Mitch White.
Addison Barger, Anthony Bass, Chris Bassitt, Brandon Belt, José Berríos, Bo Bichette, Cavan Biggio, Matt Chapman, Adam Cimber, Hagen Danner, Santiago Espinal, Matt Gage, Yimi García, Kevin Gausman, Chad Green, Vladimir Guerrero Jr., Thomas Hatch, Spencer Horwitz, Danny Jansen, Leo Jimenez, Kevin Kiermaier, Yusei Kikuchi, Alejandro Kirk, Otto Lopez, Nathan Lukes, Alek Manoah, Orelvis Martinez, Tim Mayza, Whit Merrifield, Nate Pearson, Zach Pop, Trevor Richards, Jordan Romano, Hyun Jin Ryu, Erik Swanson, Zach Thompson, Trent Thornton, Daulton Varsho
Before we get started, here's a quick refresher on the projection models we'll be looking at.
STEAMER: 42 G (8 starts), 4-4 record, 4.38 ERA, 64 SO, 25 BB in 77 innings pitched
ZiPS: 26 G (17 starts), 4-4 record, 4.49 ERA, 82 SO, 31 BB in 96.1 innings pitched
2022 stats: 25 G (18 starts), 1-7 record, 5.45 ERA, 78 SO, 35 BB in 99 innings pitched
Prior to being traded to the Blue Jays at the deadline, White was having a bit of a breakout season. He had a 3.70 ERA with the Dodgers in 56 innings, but the second he got north of the border, things went south (pun not intended). In 43 innings with the Jays, White had a 7.74 ERA and became public enemy number one in some fans' eyes. Thankfully for him, 2023 is a new year, and he's got a chance to change the narrative in his first full season in Toronto.
The best way to start to try and understand White is by looking at what led to his problems in 2022. His issues aren't as clear as other pitchers like Yusei Kikuchi, who struggled immensely with control, but there were still a number of problems that plagued him. The biggest seems to be his inability to generate swing and miss. While his strikeouts per nine of 7.1 is a pretty respectable number, right around guys like Ross Stripling and Tyler Anderson, his overall strikeout and whiff rates were concerning. Per baseball savant, his strikeout rate was in the 17th percentile in MLB, while his whiff rate was in the 7th. It's hard to pinpoint exactly where this issue stems from, but it seems likely that it's some combination of poor pitch location and lack of any standout pitches. However, there may be a much simpler explanation for his struggles with the Jays.
When Mitch White went from the Dodgers to the Blue Jays, his only advanced metric that saw any significant change was his BABIP, which jumped from .276 to .368. This might be an oversimplification, but it's possible that White started to get unlucky with the contact he was allowing, and everything fell apart from there. This leads to where White could find success, in his proficiency at allowing weak contact. The one area where White remained strong all season was in his hard hit and barrel rates, which were in the 79th and 77th percentile, respectively. For a pitcher like White, who doesn't create lots of swing and miss but also limits hard contact, some luck is required, and this is very reminiscent of a former Jays starter.
In Marcus Stroman's best seasons in Toronto, he excelled at limiting hard contact and letting his fielders get easy outs. While this isn't meant to make it seem as though White can become the pitcher Stroman was (because he most likely won't), with some better luck, he could start to see much more success in his second year with the Jays. Judging by the STEAMER and ZiPS projections, it seems like White is bound for some improvement.