What to make of the Blue Jays' rotation after strong outings from Kikuchi, Bassitt and Berríos
The Toronto Blue Jays have gotten off to a red-hot start this season and a lot of this can be attributed to how good the starting pitching has been. The bottom end of the rotation last year consisting of José Berríos and Yusei Kikuchi was a major downfall for the team, but this year they have been far more consistent in their results leading to more consistent results as a team. Since adding Chris Bassitt to the rotation, they have looked even stronger and are starting to look like one of the most dangerous rotations in all of baseball.
Now that the back end is coming around, this Blue Jays rotation is lethal.
After a lackluster 2022, Berríos has come back this season looking for revenge. Although he had a couple of rough starts at the beginning of the season he has looked like his old self in his last three appearances. Against two top tier teams in the Tampa Bay Rays and the Houston Astros, he put up an impressive three earned runs and seven hits in 12 innings of work. Berríos has brought his earned run average all the way down to 4.71 after starting at 12.71 after his first appearance this season. If he can continue at this high level, he could be one of the best No. 4 starters in baseball.
Like Berríos, Kikuchi also found himself with a troublesome 2022 campaign. He finished last season with an earned run average of 5.19 and a WHIP of 1.50. Ever since Spring Training, there has been a different look to him with a new found confidence that we never saw last season. Other than a rough start against the Los Angeles Angels (which could be blamed on a two out dropped ball by Daulton Varsho which led to a three-run home run), he has been rock solid as the fifth starter in the rotation. He currently has a 3.00 earned run average with a 1.11 WHIP. If he can continue to keep up numbers anywhere near this the Jays will be in a fantastic position.
Another key piece to the success of the starting rotation has been Bassitt. He was signed this offseason to become the third starter in the rotation and to be the replacement for Ross Stripling after he departed via free agency. Other than a rough first start against the St.Louis Cardinals, he has settled in nicely. The struggle in his first start could be attributed to his issue with the pitchcom. He appeared very uncomfortable with pitchcom in that outing but has since figured that out and has become a very solid addition to this rotation. In his last three starts he has only given up six earned runs and eight hits in 17.2 innings pitched. Four of those runs came after a missed two out strike three call which ended up leading to a grand slam vs. Seattle. His earned run average of 5.18 is quite misleading particularly because he gave up nine runs in three innings pitched in his first start.
According to FanGraphs, in the last two weeks the Blue Jays rotation ranks second in all of baseball and first in the American league with an earned run average of 2.19 in 74 innings pitched. The back half of the rotation of Bassitt, Berríos, and Kikuchi have been instrumental in this transformation. Although he has had a little bit of a rocky start, Alek Manoah will eventually come back to being his old self and Kevin Gausman has been even better than the form he showed last season. Not only does the rotation help the team by keeping runs off the board, but their high number of innings pitched helps the bullpen considerably and keeps them much sharper. The improvements to the rotation really cuts down on the workload of the bullpen allowing rest day for all the relievers. If the rotation continues on this trajectory it could definitely lead to a deep October run for the Jays.