The Toronto Blue Jays don’t have a lot of room for error these days, making Drew Hutchison a liability
Drew Hutchison stinks right now – it may sound harsh, but it’s true. There’s no other way to put it.
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Over his last seven starts, the youngest member of the rotation has allowed 31 runs (22 earned) in just 35.1 innings of work. To put that in perspective, R.A. Dickey – the oldest member of the rotation – has allowed just 27 runs (24 earned) over his last 80 innings of work.
Hutchison has only escaped the sixth inning in two of his last 12 starts, putting the Jays in early holes and forcing the bullpen to pick up the slack. That was fine when the Jays had games to burn, but in a tight race to reach the playoffs, the team’s margin for error and it’s acceptance of risk have shrunk considerably. We saw this last night when John Gibbons was quick to put Bo Schultz on alert from the bullpen as Hutchison laboured through the second inning.
Jul 9, 2015; Chicago, IL, USA; Toronto Blue Jays starting pitcher R.A. Dickey (43) looks on after giving up a home run to Chicago White Sox left fielder Melky Cabrera (not pictured) in the sixth inning at U.S Cellular Field. Mandatory Credit: Matt Marton-USA TODAY Sports
Defenders of Hutchison will likely point out that last night’s final scorecard wasn’t reflective of his performance. Despite surrendering seven runs, Hutchison was only responsible for three of them. The other four runs were the result of a throwing error by Josh Donaldson.
This is true in a technical sense, but it ignores the fact Hutchison wasn’t able to bail out his third baseman. He promptly gave up a double, a single and a home run after the one-out error by Donaldson to let the Minnesota Twins right back into the game. The error simply masks Hutchison’s repeated inability to shut things down in big innings; he seems to lose his focus when the opposition presses.
The Jays have an off-day on August 10 and it’s been speculated that the Jays might skip Hutchison’s spot in the rotation to give him some rest. On the one hand, this sounds like a doable and reasonable move in order to take some of the heat off Hutchison, but it would also take David Price out of alignment for one of his four scheduled starts against the New York Yankees so I doubt it’ll happen. Price’s effectiveness against the Yankees is more important right now than finding a way around Hutchison’s general ineffectiveness.
Mar 28, 2015; Bradenton, FL, USA; Toronto Blue Jays pitcher Randy Wolf (7) warms up before the start of the spring training game against the Pittsburgh Pirates at McKechnie Field. Mandatory Credit: Jonathan Dyer-USA TODAY Sports
Alternatively, the Jays could tap a relief arm like Aaron Sanchez for a spot start. This would help explain the eight-man bullpen, but it would also risk upsetting the balance in a bullpen that’s finally starting to click. Thus, I doubt the Jays will do this either.
There is another possibility, of course – one tossed around on Twitter and in online forums over the past few months. The Jays don’t have much pitching depth in the organization these days, but Randy Wolf is there. At 38 years of age, Wolf has proven effective this season pitching for the Buffalo Bisons in Triple-A baseball. He’s gone 7-1 in 20 starts with a 2.48 ERA and a 1.28 WHIP. He’s also pitched in 120 innings – two more innings than Hutchison.
If the Jays want to give Hutchison a rest or send him down on a conditioning stint, the availability of Wolf grants them this flexibility. Given Hutchison’s dismal performance this season, there isn’t really any risk to calling on Wolf. In fact, I’d say there’s only potential upside to this idea.
It’s worth a try anyway – things can’t really get any worse, right?
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