Aaron Laffey made a start for the 2013 Jays. Ugh.
Josh Johnson pitched well in his return to the mound in San Francisco last night, failing to get a win thanks more to an offence neutralized by Tim Lincecum and a pair of defensive miscues that led to an extra baserunner being on when Andres Torres homered to centre in the bottom of the second. He hadn’t pitched particularly well in his first four starts of the season– though his numbers were blown apart by an atrocious rain soaked outing in Detroit– but his return to the rotation for the first time since April 21st was a welcome sight, given what we’ve seen in his absence.
Just how bad has it been for a rotation vaunted all winter for it’s elite pitchers– R.A. Dickey, the reigning N.L. Cy Young winner; Brandon Morrow, whose 2012 ERA was 12th in baseball among those with 120 innings or more; Mark Buehrle, with twelve straight years of 200-plus innings and only three season ERAs above 3.90 on his resume; and Johnson, who many thought would round into pre-injury form after a solid 2012 return following a lengthy layoff that ended his two-and-a-third year run as one of the game’s absolute best pitchers– and, with J.A. Happ and Ricky Romero battling for the last spot, for having too much depth?
About as bad as that run-on sentence.
Scott MacArthur of TSN tweeted yesterday that for every one inning thrown by a Blue Jays reliever this year, they’ve received just 1.36 innings from a starter. From there, I decided to look deeper– though I kinda wish I hadn’t.
Looking at MacArthur’s stat in total, we see that the Jays have got 297.2 innings from starters, 219.2 from relievers, or just a shade under five-and-a-third innings per start.
Granted, disasters from Aaron Laffey, Ricky Romero, Sean Nolin, J.A. Happ when he got hit in the head, Brandon Morrow when his forearm tightened, Ramon Ortiz when he felt his elbow go, and the time they had to give the ball to Esmil Rogers– who, to his credit, pitched well, but only into the fourth– haven’t exactly helped the average, but still. Still. Only Twins starters have logged fewer innings in total, yet only ten teams (nine with one more, and one with two more) have played more games than the Jays at this point.
It’s really only been Chad Jenkins (in three starts), Buehrle (who’s failed to reach the fifth only once and the sixth just twice), and Dickey (who’s pitched fewer than six just once) who’ve been dependable, in terms of logging innings… which would be great, y’know, if the two guys expected to be stalwarts hadn’t been so damn shitty.
The overall rotational issues are not entirely their fault, of course– the too-many blow-ups and the injuries and the Romeros are skewing the numbers a bit– but holy fuck, check out the gory details:
- Heading into last night’s contest, as a group, Jays starters were 25th in terms of K/9 (27th by percentage), they had issued the second-most walks per nine innings (fourth-most by percentage), and the third most home runs per nine.
- As a group they sported the second-worst ERA in the Majors, and were dead last in terms of FIP and xFIP.
- They were third-worst in both tERA and SIERA.
- They sat second last in terms of win probability added.
- They were dead last in first pitch strike percentage, second last in percentage of pitches in the zone, and 24th of 30 in their percentage of swinging strikes generated.
- In terms of fWAR provided, only the Twins’, Astros’, Brewers’ and Padres’ staffs ranked worse– and the Jays’ group flips spots with Minnesota, dropping to fourth-worst in baseball, if you go by RA9-wins.
By damn close to literally every measure, the starting pitching this club has received has been simply awful, taken as a whole.
But hey! Fire the manager! Can the hitting coach! Shit on the fucking hopeless defence and the one-dimensional catcher! Those things aren’t entirely overblown as fatal flaws due to the fact that this team– albeit with rare exceptions like last night– apparently can’t get starting pitching to save its life, righhhhht???
Which isn’t to say that those other issues don’t exist, it’s just that’s sort of the whole thing right there.
And this: the Jays have used eleven fucking starters through just over a third of a season, so… you have to expect that the numbers aren’t going to be good. Yet, you also have to expect that, with a guy like Johnson getting healthy, a guy like Buehrle rounding into form, and one like Dickey surely-to-fucking-god having some kind of a corner-turning in his very near future, things are going to get better. And better still when Morrow and Happ make their way back, or someone truly steps up in their absence.
Of course, understanding all that makes so much of the finger pointing and vitriol pretty thoroughly pointless, which I understand is a wholly unsatisfying thought as we watch frustrating result after frustrating result pile up. It’s just… it’s true. Knowing it won’t keep the season from continuing to slip away, but I guess it’s a much better feeling that believing this roster is suddenly, hopelessly, irrevocably fucked. With even just average starting pitching, I suspect things would look much, much better. Y’know, for whatever little that’s worth.