Toronto Blue Jays Pitching Review: Are the Starters to Blame?


Apr 4, 2014; Toronto, Ontario, CAN; Toronto Blue Jays former player Joe Carter talks with New York Yankees shortstop Derek Jeter (2) before the game at Rogers Centre. Mandatory Credit: Nick Turchiaro-USA TODAY Sports

The Toronto Blue Jays are falling fast.

During the sunshiny days of late May and June, the Blue Jays tore through their schedule. On June 9th, the Blue Jays were 13 games above .500.

Parade route suggestions were considered. Joe Carter contemplated running for city council. Rob Ford was… well, he was acting like Rob Ford. But he was probably feeling pretty swell about the Jays.

Then, kaboom.

The Jays have fallen to just 5 games above .500 and they’ve officially lost possession of the second Wild Card spot. The Jays are now mired in a dog fight for a post-season berth.

So, who’s to blame?

Aug 5, 2014; Bronx, NY, USA; Detroit Tigers starting pitcher David Price (14) pitches during the first inning against the New York Yankees at Yankee Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Anthony Gruppuso-USA TODAY Sports

If you follow Toronto Blue Jays rumours closely, most commentators claim that starting pitching is the big issue. The Jays were linked to Jeff Samardzija, Jon Lester, David Price, and virtually every other available starting pitcher. But, was this focus fair? Is starting pitching the biggest concern for the Toronto Blue Jays?

Nope… The Blue Jays’ Rotation is Fine

The Toronto Blue Jays’ starting rotation has remained largely intact for much of the season, including Mark Buehrle, Drew Hutchison, Marcus Stroman (new but very steady rotation addition), R.A. Dickey, and J.A. Happ.

Here are the facts about this group:

1. Strikeouts – Four of these five starters have K/9 rates above 7.5 (Buehrle is the only exception at 5.5 K/9 but his low K-rate is part of his style, not a knock against him). Generally, a K/9 rate of 7.5 is considered above average, so strikeouts aren’t a concern for this group as a whole.

2. Health – Aside from the forever injured Brandon Morrow and J.A. Happ’s early season injury, this group has enjoyed tremendous health.

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Aug 3, 2014; Houston, TX, USA; Toronto Blue Jays starting pitcher Marcus Stroman (54) pitches against the Houston Astros during the third inning at Minute Maid Park. Mandatory Credit: Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

3. FIP – Though the fielding independent pitching (FIP) stats won’t knock you off of your couch, this group of starters has been reasonable.

Stroman’s FIP of 3.00 is strong, though his sample size is small.

Hutchison ranks 56th among starters with a FIP of 3.88.

Buehrle ranks 63rd with a FIP of 3.99.

Dickey’s FIP is 4.29 and Happ’s is 4.12.

A FIP of 4.00 is considered average, so the Jays’ rotation gives up only a reasonable number of runs, independent of fielding.

So, Toronto’s starters have been healthy, notched an above average level of strikeouts, and have (at worst) a league average FIP. I’m not saying David Price wouldn’t have helped (especially as his price tag was unbelievably, inexplicably, are-you-kidding-me low) but the starters aren’t the big problem here.

Hypothetical and Reasonable Question: “If it isn’t the starting pitchers, then who am I supposed to blame for the Jays’ precipitous fall from grace?”

Well, I’m no Ken Rosenthal, so I don’t have all the answers. And I’m not John Gibbons, so I don’t have any down-home, folksy, vague pseudo responses.

But I can tell you this.

1. The Blue Jays hitters are not to blame.

Jul 31, 2014; Houston, TX, USA; Toronto Blue Jays right fielder Jose Bautista (19) hits a home run during the first inning against the Houston Astros at Minute Maid Park. Mandatory Credit: Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

The Jays have an absolutely average BABIP as a team (.299 BABIP, 14th in the league) meaning that they haven’t been victimized by bad luck or helped by good luck. Just totally, completely average.

With their average team BABIP, the Jays are 4th in the majors in team average and 4th in total runs scored. So, there’s really no pointing the finger at the offense.

2. The relief pitchers have been awful and deserve the blame.

In FIP, Todd Redmond‘s 3.11 ranks 90th amongst all qualified relievers. He’s the highest rated Jays reliever. 90th. Ugh.

As a team, the Blue Jays have blown 14 saves. That ranks t-11th most. That’s bad.

Aug 8, 2014; Toronto, Ontario, CAN; Toronto Blue Jays relief pitcher Casey Janssen reacts after giving up a home run in the ninth inning of the Jays 5-4 loss to Detroit Tigers at Rogers Centre. Mandatory Credit: Dan Hamilton-USA TODAY Sports

Finally, the Jays relievers have surrendered 170 runs, which is 5th worst in baseball.

Maybe it’s a little easier to assign blame than I thought. And maybe Casey Janssen should’ve been more careful when requesting a deal to help his Jays push for the playoffs. The Jays might have been best off if one of those deals including shipping him out.

What are your thoughts? Let us known in the comments section below.