Entering yesterday, the Toronto Blue Jays were 63-58, 6.5 games back of the division-leading Baltimore Orioles and two games back of the second Wild Card, being shared by the Seattle Mariners and the Detroit Tigers. While the Jays are struggling, posting a 3-8 record so far in August, not counting last night’s game, it’s becoming more apparent they have no hope of catching the Orioles.
That means if the Jays plan to make the playoffs, it’s going to be in a Wild Card position, likely against the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim. The two Wild Card teams will meet in a one-game playoff. So if the Jays make it that far, who should they start in a must-win game with the season on the line? That’s the question manager John Gibbons may have to answer as the season comes to a close.
9-11, 1.28 WHIP, 3.99 ERA
The Case For: Out of Toronto’s starters, Dickey has the second best strikeout rate per game at 7.69 and leads the team in Ks. He also has the lowest WHIP despite posting the most innings. He’s tied with Mark Buehrle for the most quality starts on the team. When his knuckleball is dancing, Dickey can be near unhittable. He’s a veteran pitcher who is unlikely to get rattled. Dickey was brought here to be an ace and you want your ace pitching in a one-game playoff.
The Case Against: He’s never pitched in the post-season in his career. He leads the team in earned runs, home runs and walks. When the knuckleball is on, it’s on, but when it’s off, the game can be over very quickly and the Jays haven’t shown the offence to dig out of a hole. Do you want to trust someone whose career record with the Jays is 23-24?
11-8, 1.41 WHIP, 3.31 ERA
The Case For: Buehrle was one of the best pitchers in the majors for the first half of the season. He’s allowed fewer earned runs than Dickey and Drew Hutchinson and only four more than J.A. Happ, who has 40 fewer innings pitched. He’s also got the second lowest walks on the team behind Marcus Stroman, who has started 11 fewer games. He’s tied with Dickey for the most quality starts on the team. Buehrle is a veteran with playoff pitching experience.
The Case Against: He’s only pitched in five playoff games and the most recent one was in 2008, which he lost. His last playoff win was in 2005, almost a decade ago. While his walk numbers are low, so are his strikeouts. On the other side, he’s given up the most hits by a Jays starter by a significant number. Since the end of June, Buehrle has only been a .500 pitcher.
8-10, 1.29 WHIP, 4.60 ERA
The Case For: Hutchinson leads the Jays in strikeouts per nine innings. He eats up innings despite using fewer pitches than any other starter, so he’d be able to fall back into the rotation without an issue. He’s hot right now, winning three of his last four including a one hitter against the Orioles.
The Case Against: He’s only 23 and in his first full season with the Jays. While he’s been good, Buehrle and Dickey have significantly more experience. He’s given up the same amount of runs in 21 fewer innings than Dickey.
7-3, 1.12 WHIP, 3.34 ERA
The Case For: With four more wins than losses, Stroman has the highest record over .500 of any Jays starter. The Jays have won four of the last five games he’s started, with him going 3-1 over that span. He has the lowest WHIP of the starters and the third best strikeout rate per nine innings. He has more quality starts than Happ or Hutchinson despite five fewer starts than Happ and 11 fewer starts than Hutchinson. He’s only faced the Angels twice in his career, one of which was back on May 11th, so they haven’t seen much of his stuff.
The Case Against: How can you make the call to put the season on the line with a rookie who has fewer than 90 innings pitched in the majors? While he cruised through June and July, he’s been roughed up a bit in August and has an ERA over five for the month. While it’s never been stated what innings limit he’s under, the Jays would likely have to shut him down at or before the playoffs anyways.
8-7, 1.39 WHIP, 4.20 ERA
The Case For: In his last ten starts, he’s shutout the Boston Red Sox and allowed two or fewer runs against the New York Yankees, Orioles, Houston Astros, Tampa Bay Rays and Chicago White Sox. He’s started 132 games in his career, giving him veteran status and has more playoff games pitched than the rest of the rotation combined, albeit in relief.
The Case Against: In his last ten starts, he’s 2-4, including lasting only 2/3rds of an inning against Tampa (in a relief appearance). He has the second worst WHIP and ERA among starters. He’s tied with Hutchinson for the fewest quality starts among the starters.
So those are the options facing Blue Jays manager John Gibbons. With Adam Lind back in the lineup and Edwin Encarnacion poised to return, the Jays may be able to string a few wins together and climb back into a Wild Card spot with the season winding down. If that happens, Gibbons will have to turn to one of these five men to start the Wild Card game, presumably against the Angels.
Who should he choose? Who would you choose and why? Tell us in the comments section below.