The Toronto Blue Jays are believed to be looking at further additions to their 2022 roster, including an upgrade over Ross Stripling
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The Toronto Blue Jays are preparing for the 2022 season with high expectations, both from the fan base and from within. After splurging on George Springer, Kevin Gausman and extending Jose Berrios, there is a very clear message coming from the club’s front office and that is that they expect to be in the hunt for a playoff run. Their starting rotation is sure set up that way. But, as of right now, it would appear that they are not content with Ross Stripling as their 5th starter.
If the season were to start tomorrow (because the lockout magically ended), the Blue Jays would be running with a starting five of Berrios, Gausman, Alek Manoah, Hyun Jin Ryu and Stripling. That is a very good group of starters to run out there. One could not blame Toronto if they were satisfied with that group and the likes of Anthony Kay, Trent Thornton et al as depth starters should the need arise. It’s not a perfect group, but it is pretty darn good. However, it is clear that Ross Arkins & Co are not yet satisfied.
According to Scott Mitchell of TSN, the Blue Jays were “very interested” in Tyler Mahle of the Reds. Sadly, Mitchell doesn’t give any more detail than that, but he has a source. It isn’t a crazy idea since the Reds are likely to trade one of Mahle, Sonny Gray or Luis Castillo, each coming with varying degrees of cost, etc. Rather than explore which of the three would be best for the blue birds to land, I choose to focus on the general message that this sends. Ross Stripling is not the 5th starter the Blue Jays want.
|6 Yr||6 Yr||28||34||3.97||80||537.2||527||237||85||139||511||4.14||1.239|
|NL (||NL (||23||25||3.68||59||420.2||410||172||61||102||404||3.90||1.217|
|AL (||AL (||5||9||5.00||21||117.0||117||65||24||37||107||5.01||1.316|
Before this comes off as a piece slagging on Stripling (it isn’t), we need to acknowledge that the front office crew always talks about getting better and that means constantly looking at what you have and deciding if it is worth the cost to explore better. So, the fact that they’re looking at an option other than Stripling doesn’t necessarily mean he’s trash. He isn’t. That said, they are not looking to replace Manoah or any of the other 4 starters, so it is reasonable to think that, while they may be happy to start the season with him (at least that’s what they’ll definitely say if they swing and miss on an upgrade), they are exploring better options.
The 32 yr old Stripling is coming off a rather inconsistent season where he put up a 5-7 record, a 4.80 ERA (5.21 FIP) and 0.2 fWAR in 101.1 innings (19 starts in 24 games). The ERA alone isn’t all that scary in the context of a 5th starter, but the FIP being so high means that it could have gone much worse for the starter. That in and of itself is enough reason to explore better options.
But, there are a couple of other things that cause concern. For example, in 2018, the season where he was an All Star and had a career best ERA (3.02), he also managed a GB% of 45.4%. In 2019, it climbed to 50.2%. 2020 saw it slip to 39.9% and last year, it hit a new career low of 35.5%. That is not an alarming rate if it were his career norm, but it is 10% lower than his career average and 15% his best mark. He also saw a career high FB% at 44.5% last year. Batters pulled the ball at a higher rate (43.9%), the highest HardHit% (40%) of his career and a K% of 21.8%, which is down from his 2018 rate of 27%.
Looking at his pitch usage, there is an interesting change in Stripling since he came to Toronto. It is not clear if the elbow injury that landed him on the IL in April of 2019 is behind the changes, or if it has more to do with a change in game plan. But, using 2018 as his base, his 2021 season saw a different usage breakdown:
2018: FB%: 41.4% SL%: 26.5% CB%: 21.7% CH%: 10.8%
2021: FB%: 51.5% SL%: 18.3% CB%: 15.4% CH%: 15.2%
Stripling has been relying on his fastball/change more and his slider/curve less. That’s an odd decision, since Fangraphs shows that his best pitch by value (wFB, etc) is his curveball followed by the change up, slider and fastball, respectively. It’s odd that the Blue Jays would ask him to deviate from using his most valuable pitches most often. Regardless, whatever the reason, it hasn’t been working for him. Stripling finds himself less effective than he was in 2018 with the Dodgers.
And, it is for that reason that the Blue Jays are looking to add a starter. If they felt comfortable with Stripling, they wouldn’t be looking at guys like Mahle or Gray. Instead, they might simply be looking to add depth as they go about addressing the rest of their needs once the lockout ends.
It wouldn’t be the end of the world if Stripling were the 5th starter for the Toronto Blue Jays, but it could be the starting of something special if they are able to find an upgrade. There is certainly reason to believe they should be looking.
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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.