With a healthy Aaron Sanchez joining Marcus Stroman, the Toronto Blue Jays could have a worm burning duo, making things very interesting in 2018
The Toronto Blue Jays missed Aaron Sanchez last season. We all did. But, the blister monster reared its ugly head and Sanchez hit the DL again and again, pitching just 36 innings (8 starts). After leading the American League in ERA in 2016 (30 starts), Sanchez was clearly impacted by his finger and saw his ERA jump to 4.25. After putting up 3.8 fWAR in 2016, he put up 0 in 2017.
Indeed we missed the Aaron Sanchez that has the “stuff” to compete for a Cy Young Award. The movement on his fastball and the absolute filth on his curve made him a pleasure to watch. Part of his success came from his ability to keep the ball on the ground. In 2015, he saw a GB% of 60.6%. In 2016 it was 54.4%. Last season, it dropped to 47.5% as he was clearly no ton top of his game.
By all accounts, Sanchez is right on track to return on schedule in 2018. With a return to his previous form, the Toronto Blue Jays very well could see a few more ticks in the win column next season. He is a definite upgrade over the list of ‘replacements’ the Blue Jays had to rely on. Interestingly, the wins will pile up with a return to the ground ball. Should Sanchez be able to provide something between his 2015 and 2016 totals, his ground ball rate will be a nice pairing with his rotation mate, Marcus Stroman.
Stroman is among the yearly leaders in ground ball rate. In 2016, he found himself in 2nd in all of MLB (min 140 IP) with 379 worm burners, which translated to a rate of 62.1%. With two starters hovering around 60% GB%, the Blue Jays should find themselves in decent shape since the AL East is known for being rather homer friendly. If we add Joe Biagini, who is projected to be the team’s 5th starter, and his 55.7%, the rotation is looking rather fearsome for Rogers Centre worms. Now, it should be noted that Marco Estrada at 30.3% and J.A. Happ at 46.9% are not going to contribute on the same level.
Where this really comes into play is when you consider the Blue Jays’ middle infield defense. Stroman led MLB in GDP (34) last season, putting a lot of action into the gloves of his infielders. This means that the combination of Troy Tulowitzki and Devon Travis are that much more important. The Blue Jays will need Tulo’s 25 double plays started (They came in limited time. He started 39 in 2016 in 128 games) and 11 double plays turned (31 in 2016). They will need his positive DRS, DPR (doube play runs above average) and his surprising range for someone who continues to be called “aging”. Devon Travis, whose numbers over three seasons equal just over a season’s worth of data, provides 10 double plays started, 24 doubles plays turned, 6 DRS and 2.1 DPR.
But, there is no guarantee that these two will provide a full season together, let alone each. It is for that reason that Toronto had to be sure to provide some sort of stability in their absence. The argument can be made that Ryan Goins and Darwin Barney provided reliable defense in 2017. But, their offense was not nearly adequate enough to keep their gloves around. While GM, Ross Atkins, did upgrade the middle infield offense, it remains to be seen whether the defense can keep up with all the grounders from the pitching staff.
Using Diaz’ career totals makes more sense since he has little time at the positions. These numbers account for the number of double plays the new guy shave been part of, but let’s take a look at their overall career defensive value: Solarte: 2B: -3 DRS/ -1.7 UZR/150, SS: 0 DRS/ 7.9 UZR/150 Diaz: 2B: 0 DRS/ 6.5 UZR/150, SS
What we have here is a starting rotation that could see a major uptick in the amount of groundballs induced. We have a defense that sees an offensive upgrade without giving up much with the glove(s). All of this combined could lead to increased success for the Toronto Blue Jays. Any time you can add a starter with the talent of Aaron Sanchez, you’re going to improve your team.
A lot of the improvements will hinge on the success of using the groundball. That puts pressure on the Blue Jays’ defense. Perhaps addressing this during the offseason will prove to be more important than we thought.
*Featured Image Courtesy Of DaveMe Images. Prints Available For Purchase.
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