Toronto Blue Jays: Starting Pitchers in the Playoffs


So now that the Toronto Blue Jays have clinched a playoff spot, one must wonder who will get the ball as starting pitcher on any given night?

Obviously, David Price will get the ball in Game 1, and predictably whenever he can start (within reason) because he is the Toronto Blue Jays’s ace and they went out and acquired him for just this case (and are paying him accordingly). The question becomes who would go behind him in the playoff rotation?

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The term “playoff rotation” is a faux term though, since the team goes to its best pitcher whenever they can. So, the typical five-man rotation gets reduced to, let’s say, three or, at the max, four.

The typical five-man rotation now: Price, R.A. Dickey, Marco Estrada, Marcus Stroman and Mark Buehrle, with Drew Hutchison — the Jays’ 2015 Opening Day starter — as next-in-line, or presumed sixth starter.

So, that rotation goes from Price, the unquestioned ace, to whom?

One could argue that Dickey has earned it. As reported by Baseball Reference, since July 18, where he gave up one earned run, Dickey has pitched to 10 consecutive Blue Jays’ victories (seven where he was the winning pitcher) before losing Sept. 13.

Dickey has assembled a 2.59 ERA in his past 13 starts according to The National Post. He has gone at least six in every start but one since July 4, as later reported by The Post.

His numbers since the break are too good for him not to pitch. As long as the matchup is suitable (along with the conditions for his knuckleball).

Sep 23, 2015; Toronto, Ontario, CAN; Toronto Blue Jays starting pitcher Marcus Stroman (6) reacts to catcher Russell Martin (55) on his three run home run in the seventh inning against the New York Yankees at Rogers Centre. Mandatory Credit: John E. Sokolowski-USA TODAY Sports

Some would say Stroman has stood tall enough in his short time back from ACL surgery. It is a small sample size, but his numbers since returning have been exceptional.

Stroman’s made three starts and has three wins, while allowing just four runs (his ERA is under two). Although irrelevant, prior to his injury before the season, he was not only going to be the Opening Day starter, but the team’s ace.

Perhaps the most intriguing factor from the young Stroman, 24, is the vibe he gives off, which portrays supreme confidence. It generates the feeling among people following the team that, yeah, this guy is ready. After his start on Wednesday, he is unquestionably in this playoff rotation, as number two or three, in my mind.

It’s very difficult to leave Estrada off the list of prospectus starters for this playoff rotation, so I won’t. However, it is possible that next in line after Stroman and Dickey (or Dickey and Stroman, whichever order you prefer) the Blue Jays would elect to go back to Price for Game 4 on just four days rest.

The projected schedule is posted here, via However, Estrada, has pitched very well this season — a stat I saw on Sportsnet’s Tim and Sid further exemplifies how well he has pitched:


I don’t think I need any more numbers to qualify Estrada for a postseason start. His 13-8 record and 3.13 ERA is steady.

However, I don’t think I’m alone in saying Estrada scare’s me as a Jays’ fan. I don’t know what it is — perhaps inconsistency — but I don’t trust him as much as I should.

I can’t quantify it, and this shouldn’t stand in the way of Estrada being in this rotation. However, if the Jays decide not to go back to Price in a Game 4, get some dip handy, because Marco is their man.

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The argument can also be made for Dickey pitching second as a change of pace pitcher between Price and Stroman – who are both flame-throwing pitchers. Well, power pitchers at the least.

Dickey is a knuckleballer, whose pitches come in around 15-20 miles per hour slower than his two teammates. So, if Price pitches first and Stroman goes second, the opposing hitters are already geared up for speed.

However, if Dickey goes in between them, the Jays can go fire, ice, fire, rather than fire, fire, ice, then somewhere in the middle. Dickey is a perfect change of pace pitcher, just like a fullback, like let’s say Mike Alstott was for Warrick Dunn in the Tampa Bay Buccaneers’ backfield back in the day.

If the Jays go Price, Stroman, Dickey, Estrada then they are almost adjusting the opponent’s bat speed down for them. If Dickey separates the two heaters, they have to gear up for speed, down for knuckleballs and then back up for fire.

It seems more ideal for the Jays to employ such a strategy, plus, if Game 2 is at home, they can close the Dome if Dickey prefers. They can control the atmosphere, whereas they will not be able to have that luxury on the road.

However, if the Jays go with Dickey, they best have someone long out of the bullpen ready to go in case the knuckleball isn’t cooperating somehow. This could include locating the pitch, or the knuckleball not moving enough.

Sep 13, 2015; Bronx, NY, USA; Toronto Blue Jays pitcher R.A. Dickey (43) delivers a pitch during the first inning of the game against the New York Yankees at Yankee Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Gregory J. Fisher-USA TODAY Sports

Traditionally, through this year, manager John Gibbons would typically leave Dickey out there to figure it out. A prime example of this was his start in Los Angeles, while taking on the Angels.

Dickey gave up five runs in the first inning and yet shook off the ruckus start before finally settling down to go six strong innings, giving nothing up after. Of course, in the meantime, the Jays’ bats bailed him out and helped him turn a potential loss into a win.

In the playoffs, though, there’s no way Gibby can afford to leave him in like he did against the Angels – there are many more capable pitchers. That game in LA was part of a large eight-game road trip for the Jays, with Gibbons likely not wanting to burn his bullpen up, hence why he gave R.A. the chance to eat up the innings.

Traditionally, through the season, the Jays would turn to long relievers, most likely Liam Hendriks, who has started in the past. Hendriks has the ability to throw multiple innings if called on (Bo Schultz, Ryan Tepera, and Jeff Francis have also been thrown in similar situations — although I’m not sure they are likely to be called on in the playoffs), although, he has shown he is also suited to throw shorter, pressure, shutdown stints out of the bullpen.

However, since the Jays’ starting rotation will be shortened for the playoffs, these long relievers may find work scarce. Most likely, in this case IF Dickey had to be lifted early (or any starting pitcher for that matter) the Jays will turn to one of their starters from the regular season rotation, who wasn’t among those selected for this playoff starting rotation, e.g. Buehrle, Hutchison, or even possibly Estrada.

I think it may be fair to think Hutchison eliminated himself from any postseason consideration when he came into the game on Sept. 22 at home versus the Yankees in the ninth inning with the Jays down one. Hutch started the ninth against the eight and nine hitters and immediately surrendered a walk and a hit, which promptly got him pulled.

Tepera and some stellar D (Jose Bautista teaching how to long-toss) cleaned up the ineffective Hutchison’s mess. One has to think that was the last work of Drew’s season, and possibly, his last in a Toronto uniform.

The main thing for the Jays is that the pitching just needs to keep them in the contest. Their offense is prolific enough to win any game despite how their pitcher does.

However, the postseason is not the time to test that theory. The hits and the runs will surely be much harder to come by than they have in the regular season, where they are by far the highest scoring team in the league.

The pitchers must hold the Jays in the game to let the hitters do their thing. That recipe could propel the Jays to a place they haven’t been since 1993.

The postseason starts October 6 with the American League Wild-Card Playoff, a one-game winner takes all. This winner will take on the top-seeded team in the American League Division Series – you can figure out where this game is, and who potentially they will be playing.

Next: Blue Jays: Up to Rogers to Convince David Price to Stay