The Toronto Blue Jays have tipped their hand with regard to how they will be using their pitching staff in 2021
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The Toronto Blue Jays have had themselves an offseason. They’ve increased their chances of a postseason run in 2021 and put themselves directly in the MLB spotlight. Their lineup will be a force, which is interesting since their previously stated goal for the offseason was to improve pitching and defense. One could argue that they have addressed the latter, but the former remains a question mark.
To date, the lone addition to the starting rotation is in the form of Robbie Ray, which may or may not excite you, depending on if you believe he can return to his strike out machine form, or if he will continue to walk the league. All winter, we’ve been waiting to hear how the Blue Jays improve their group of starters with speculation running rampant. And, here we are at the beginning of February and the rotation looks to be made up of the ace, Hyun Jin Ryu, a future ace in Nate Pearson and some question marks.
Yet, this offseason, Ross Atkins & Co have focused on the lineup and the bullpen. The additions of Kirby Yates and Tyler Chatwood to a group that includes Jordan Romano, Rafael Dolis and others could be a rather nice group. However, the real take away is why the Blue Jays have done this. The starting pitching market has not exactly been stellar this winter and that may suit the Blue Jays just fine.
It may be a case of the chicken and the egg, here, but Toronto looks to be preparing for an altered approach to using their starters. Looking at the moves they’ve made, and who is available in house, it looks as though they are preparing to increase their usage of the opener/piggy back/short starts method that they dabbled with last season. As of right now, they do not have anyone you can pencil in for 7+ innings per start. They do have a rather long list of guys who fit this new approach, one that is not unique to Toronto since multiple teams are doing it.
With Anthony Kay, Trent Thornton, Thomas Hatch, newly acquired Steven Matz, and Ross Stripling all on the 40 man roster, it is very likely that starters may only be asked to go once, maybe twice, through the order and then give way to the bullpen. We saw signs of this last season. Staff ace, Ryu, made 12 starts for a total of 67 innings. Napkin math puts his average at 5.5 IP/GS. If the ace of the staff only averaged 5.5 innings a start, surely the others can’t be expected to do more. For what it’s worth, Roark collected 47.2 IP in 11 starts and some would argue that was plenty for him. But, with a bullpen better designed to take over earlier in the game, his starts may not feel as bad.
In the case of Ryu, one can squint and see the logic behind shortening his starts. The Blue Jays made an $80M investment and he has a history of injuries, so maybe this is the best way to get the most bang for their buck. And, when the rest of your rotation has as many questions marks as Toronto’s does, it certainly would behoove them to prepare this strategy.
Of course, there is still time for the Blue Jays to address their rotation with guys like James Paxton out there. The club could be waiting for the last possible moment to sign a starter of that ilk to save a few bucks, or someone like Paxton could be holding out for a better offer. Either way, the Blue Jays look to be better prepared to start the season without another addition. Does that mean they won’t sign another starter? No. Does it mean they won’t trade for another starter? No.
What it does mean is that the Toronto Blue Jays have hedged their bets and prepared for the ‘just in case’ scenario where they aren’t able to pull off a deal for a starter. There is lots of time in the offseason and there will be lots of time during the season to make further moves. But, as of right now, it looks as though the Toronto Blue Jays have prepared to shorten the time on the mound for their starters.
*Featured Image Courtesy Of DaveMe Images. Prints Available For Purchase.
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Shaun Doyle is a long time Blue Jays fan and writer! He decided to put those things together and create Jays From the Couch. Shaun is the host of Jays From the Couch Radio, which is highly ranked in iTunes, and he has appeared on TV and radio spots.