Blue Jays Pitchers Who Found Success Thanks to Peter Walker

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Toronto Blue Jays pitchers gel together quite well with pitching coach Pete Walker. Walker, who used to be a big-league pitcher, played for four different teams in 12 seasons. From 2002-2006 he was a member of the Blue Jays pitching staff who seemed to have found his footing thereafter his career. For the last decade, Walker has been the team’s pitching coach. He even guided the 2016 pitching staff to a league-best 3.00 ERA. It’s one of the many things Walker has the ability to do. He knows how to get the most out of pitchers, and it shows how much success he has worked with certain pitchers.

Blue Jays Pitchers Pete Walker Worked With

Some of the Blue Jays pitchers listed below had strong if not career seasons under Pete Walker.

J.A. Happ

J.A. Happ’s first go with the Blue Jays wasn’t so great. But, his second go with the team saw the southpaw return to Toronto with improvements to his game. He posted the only 20-win season of his career, joining Roy Halladay, Roger Clemens, Pat Hentgen, David Wells, and Jack Morris as the only pitchers to win 20 games or more in franchise history. His 168 strikeouts and 3.18 ERA helped a pitching staff take the team to a second straight playoff run. Happ was named an All-Star before being dealt to the New York Yankees in the two seasons following. 

Marco Estrada

When Marco Estrada joined the Blue Jays in 2015, he was seen as a swingman pitcher. He came into spring training competing for the fifth starter role with Aaron Sanchez. Estrada started the season in the bullpen only to transition into the starting rotation. From there on, Walker’s next assignment was Estrada, who continued his strong play all season. He had a career season, going 13-8 with 3.13 ERA and 131 strikeouts. Estrada posted a 2.01 ERA the following year compared to Marcus Stroman’s 4.76 ERA. Estrada was the quiet hero of the Blue Jays’ postseason runs, pitching in six starts with 34 strikeouts in 2015 and 2016.

Aaron Sanchez

The big right-hander blossomed under Walker. Aaron Sanchez quickly fulfilled his potential, becoming an All-Star and winning the AL ERA title in his first entire season as a starter. He finished seventh in voting for the 2016 AL Cy Young Award, receiving one third-place vote and three fifth-place votes. In Toronto, the final two years of Sanchez saw nothing but blisters and finger injuries, who was ultimately traded to the Houston Astros in 2019.

Joe Biagini

Joe Biagini came to the Blue Jays as a Rule 5 draft pick. Under Walker’s watch, Biagini became a successful, high-leverage reliever for Toronto in 2016. At the end of May, he had an ERA of 0.86 who threw 95-mph fastballs. Over the next two seasons, Biagini’s effectiveness slowly wore off. By the end of the 2018 season, he was sporting a 6.00 ERA. That was partially due to the coaching staff playing with his usage as a reliever in a starter. But, a 3.06 ERA out of the bullpen for a playoff team was a great necessity.

Steven Matz

The 30-year-old discovered more of himself with the Blue Jays during the 2021 season. Steven Matz turned out to be a valuable part of the team’s rotation. Matz pitched more than 150 innings as he posted a 14-7 record with a 3.82 ERA, 144 strikeouts, and 43 walks. In April, he went 4-0 with a 2.31 ERA in his first four starts. In August, his 1.30 ERA was the lowest among pitchers, with at least 25 innings pitched. There’s no denying that Matz had a breakthrough season with Toronto, this coming after a woeful 2020 season with the New York Mets.

Robbie Ray

When the Blue Jays acquired Robbie Ray from the Arizona Diamondbacks, he was a pitching mess. Ray had a 7.84 ERA who averaged a walk per inning through seven starts. He was averaging more than 12 strikeouts per nine innings. In the offseason, Ray re-worked his delivery and mechanics on his way to an incredible 2021 season. Ray put up career numbers as he was one of the best pitchers in the AL. His 248 strikeouts are third-most in a season in Blue Jays history. He capped off his campaign by becoming the only fourth Blue Jays pitcher to win the AL Cy Young Award. 

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