Jays From the Couch presents which Toronto Blue Jays are going into the 2nd half hot…and which are not
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Going in to the 2021 season, the Blue Jays’ rotation was thought to be an area for improvement. Now that the pre-all star game portion of the schedule has finished, it’s a good time to look at how things have shaped up for the Jays.
Red hot – Robbie Ray
The Jays traded for Ray at the 2020 trade deadline, knowing that he was a work in progress. There has never been a question about the southpaw’s talent, he has posted double digit numbers in strikeouts per nine innings every season since 2016. Ray’s biggest challenge has been walks. When Toronto traded for him, he had an MLB worst 9.0 free passes per 9 innings that season. While that improved considerably with the 2020 Jays, 6.1/9 was still far too many.
When Ray re-signed with the Jays on November 7, 2020 on a one year, $8 deal, not many people could have envisioned what a bargain he would be. He has drastically cut down on the base on balls (2.31/9 innings) which has helped him become the Jays most consistent starter. With a 3.36 era, he could easily have been an all star if the Jays didn’t already have 4 all stars and every team needing to be represented.
Ray finished the pre-all star schedule taking a no hitter in to the 7th inning vs the Tampa Bay Rays, earning a 3-1 victory to avoid being swept. With his strong performance, the 29 year old could be a candidate for a contract extension.
Cold (lately) – Hyun-Jin Ryu
When the Jays signed the veteran lefty to a 4 year, $80 contract prior to the 2020 season, the expectation was that he would be their staff ace. He delivered in 2020, with a 2.69 era and top three finish in AL Cy Young voting.
He started off the season very well for the Jays with a 2.62 era in April and 2.64 in May. Since then, however he has struggled. His era in June was close to 5 (4.88) and so far in July it is an even 5.00. With his salary, if Ryu is healthy, he will be in Toronto’s rotation. The Jays hope that his most recent start (5 ip, 1 run on 5 hits, 2 walks and 7 strikeouts on July 7th vs BAL) is a step in the right direction.
Hot – Alek Manoah
After a dominant spring training, some Jays fans wanted the 23 RHP prospect to start the season with the big club. The Jays opted for him to start the season at AAA instead. He continued his dominant pitching and the Jays were very much in need of help in the rotation, so Manoah got the call to the majors.
Manoah made his MLB debut on May 27th. While some inconsistency is to be expected as a rookie adjusts to the highest level of professional opponents, Manoah’s overall performance has been very good. His era in 8 starts is a very fine 2.90.
The all star break might have come at a good time for the rookie who is coming off of a sub-par performance vs the Rays (3.2 innings, giving up 3 runs, 2 earned). In his previous two outings, he did not give up an earned run. With a total of 58.1 innings pitched in 2021 between MLB and AAA, it is worth keeping an eye on his outings. Jays management may choose to limit his innings so a move to the bullpen later in the season is possible.
Cold – Steven Matz
January 27, 2021, the Jays acquired Matz in a trade with the New York Mets. Matz had an up and down career with the Mets, he was dominant in 2015 and 2016 but struggled to find consistency after that. He was coming off of a down season in 2020 with a 9.68 era in 9 games. The Jays had another project.
Things seemed to be going well in spring training where he dominated and early on in the regular season. Unfortunately each month has been worse than the last:
Era by month – April 4.00. May 4.41. June 6.39. July 6.75. The Jays have stated their intention to add to the team and in fact have already done so, trading for relief pitchers Adam Cimber and Trevor Richards. If they manage a trade for a front of the rotation arm, Matz could be a candidate to move to the bullpen.
Hot (lately) – Ross Stripling
It was late May. Stripling had an era over 7. He knew that something needed to change if he was going to pitch effectively and help the Jays win games.
He made an adjustment, partly to stop tipping pitches. From his final start in May until present, he has looked like a different pitcher.
In 9 games since late May, Stripling has a 2.90 era and has been one of the better pitchers in the league.
The Blue Jays have put together a better overall starting rotation than many people expected. Still there is work to be done. If they are serious about contending in 2020, in addition to more bullpen help, they would be wise to consider an upgrade to the rotation. If they can manage this without “giving up the farm”, the second half will be very exciting for Blue Jays fans!
*Featured Image Courtesy Of DaveMe Images. Prints Available For Purchase.
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