If we were told during the offseason that the Toronto Blue Jays would be on the cusp of playing .500 baseball by this point in the regular season, most of us would have believed it.
If we were also told that their hitting would have been decent but the pitching would struggled, we would also have believed that. Yet we would also have been concerned, because last season, while Toronto’s starting pitching was generally good, the bullpen was not. Now, overall, the Blue Jays’ pitching has gone cold, and that’s never a good thing for any team.
One could say it started with Marcus Stroman’s freak injury during spring training, which created an early hole in the team’s rotation. This forced the Jays to slot two rookie pitchers (Daniel Norris and Aaron Sanchez) into the rotation. And moving Sanchez thinned out the bullpen, leaving the team with no choice but to bring in two more rookies in Miguel Castro and Roberto Osuna.
It is always risky to depend heavily on rookies when it comes to pitching, and unfortunately Castro and Norris were both sent down due to recent struggles. As of Thursday, the Blue Jays have used a total of 18 pitchers to fill out the rotation and bullpen, and may have to bring up more if they can’t right the ship.
Statistically speaking, the Blue Jays’ pitchers have simply been bad this year; they are 28th in the league in ERA, at 4.83, and they are 29th in the league with 9 quality starts. They have allowed the second most earned runs (136), rank 20th with 192 strikeouts, have allowed 109 walks, which once again places them second in the league, and opposing hitters hold a .269 average against them, which ranks amongst the worst batting-averages-against in the league.
The Blue Jays are now in year three of win-now mode, and so far they have missed the playoffs twice. If their problems don’t get fixed sooner rather than later, this team could be looking at one more missed opportunity. General manager Alex Anthopolous needs to solve the team’s pitching woes; the Jays don’t have a true closer, which will cause big problems down the road, and they could use a veteran starter who can eat up innings so the bullpen doesn’t fall apart from exhaustion.
If the Jays truly have a shot at Jonathan Papelbon, they should take it. He would bolster the bullpen and perhaps prevent a repeat of last season, when the Jays fizzled out after Anthopolous declined to make any moves at the deadline. Rogers may have to loosen their purse strings a bit more as well, because bringing some of these guys will cost a lot. But if they care about the Blue Jays, they should give the green light.
If no changes are made, hopefully starters like R.A. Dickey, Mark Buehrle, and Drew Hutchison can find some of last year’s magic and somehow turn this team’s pitching around.
The season is nowhere near over, but the longer the pitching struggles, the less likely a playoff berth becomes, and this little win-now experiment could start to draw to a close.