On Sunday against the Twins, it’s very possible that the Jays will send their thirteenth starter of the 2013 season to the hill. There’s Todd Redmond, who John Gibbons has already indicated is lightly penciled in; Juan Perez could get the call as the front end of a Charley Wholestaff outing; and another possibility is Marcus Stroman, who pitched well for the sixth straight time at New Hampshire on Tuesday.
There are other options, none particularly enthralling– hello, Ricky Romero!– but it seems like there’s at least a decent chance the club will hit on lucky number thirteen within the week, and there’s more than a good chance that, more than anything else this season, that’s been the key to all the misery and unmet expectations the Jays and their fans have suffered this year. So… because I’m, apparently, feeling a bit masochistic, let’s have a look at everyone the club has run out there so far this year, and for shits and giggles, let’s rank them!
1. R.A. Dickey
Dickey has allowed six or more earned runs in six of his eighteen starts this year. His 0.7 fWAR is a shade less, in twenty more innings, than Joe Blanton and Jeff Locke. At Baseball Reference, his 0.9 WAR puts him in the same ballpark as Kevin Correia and Erik Bedard. He has been the Jays best pitcher this season, mostly because he’s taken the ball consistently every fifth day, has logged more innings than Mark Buehrle (and is a half win better by rWAR, and better by RA9, though a shade behind him in fWAR, FIP and xFIP), and… um… no, that’s pretty much it. The good outings seem to be showing up more reliably than the bad of late, at least, right? Seriously, though, think about it: this list is all downhill from the guy who has provided less value by those metrics than Joe fucking Blanton.
2. Mark Buehrle
Mark Buehrle has, after a slow start, looked pretty much like you’d expect 2013 Mark Buehrle to look. Unfortunately, instead of being the fourth- or fifth-best pitcher in the Jays’ rotation, he’s been the second-best, and the only one besides Dickey to be remotely reliable. Reliably mediocre, yes, but shit, at least his fielding independent numbers, which he normally outpitches, are better than his ERA, so what if they’re, y’know, worse than all but one season in his career? He’s come back to earth in his last couple of starts, after a very nice stretch starting in mid-to-late May, but at least he’s racking up innings.
3. Esmil Rogers
It doesn’t make a lick of goddamn sense, but here it is: Esmil Rogers has been the third-best Jays starting pitcher so far this season, and with a 2.18 ERA (albeit with worse peripherals), and a rotation-leading 1.2 rWAR, there’s not much of a case for anyone else. Crazier still: were it not for a lack of opportunity– Rogers has logged just 33 innings as a starter– he’d probably be higher. Which… actually, that isn’t so crazy when you think of how fantastic he’s been. It’s just… y’know… fucking crazy.
4. Josh Johnson
Ask anybody and they’ll tell you that Josh Johnson has been a disappointment for the Jays. That’s because it’s true, in terms of results. He’s mostly been hurt and ineffective, but with nine starts through half a season, he’s somehow logged the fourth-most innings on the staff. He’s also got the best K/9 among starters, some surprisingly good fielding independent peripherals– 3.82 FIP, 3.64 xFIP– and a rWAR better than Brandon Morrow’s, so… sure, why not?
5. J.A. Happ
Happ had such a good spring, and succumbed to such a freak injury that it’s a little bit too easy to forget that he wasn’t anything particularly special while he was regularly taking his turn earlier in the season. He walked seven batters and didn’t get through the fourth inning in the start prior to his injury in Tampa. In the fateful game itself he gave up four earned runs through less than two innings, though three of those were due to the Desmond Jennings “triple” that ricocheted off his head. Heading into the start his ERA was at 3.98, so… that’s OK. And he’s produced as much fWAR as Rogers, in exactly as many innings (33)– though, by rWAR, he’s been exactly replacement level.
6. Brandon Morrow
It’s a sorry place the Jays’ game-two starter and the pitcher with the twelfth-best ERA in the Majors last year (minimum 120 IP) holds on this list, but nothing has gone right for Brandon Morrow this season, save for a May 5th gem against Seattle and a couple of decent no-decisions in early April. He’s been worth a half win below replacement per Baseball Reference, and below replacement by FanGraphs too– though, for what it’s worth, his xFIP looks halfway reasonable, thanks to its adjusting for a HR/FB ratio that, at 15.6%, is easily a career high. That, plus everything else we’ve ever known about Morrow, says he’ll be better, but to do so he’s got to get on the damn field, and reports Tuesday suggest that’s not going to happen until August. Ugh.
7. Chad Jenkins
He seemed to ride a wave of luck to three half-decent starts, and he managed just six strikeouts over 15 innings, but with a neat 3.60 ERA, the third-best FIP among the club’s starters, and half as much value by rWAR as Buehrle in a little over a tenth of the innings pitched, all while giving up hits on balls in play at an above average rate, in his brief turn in the rotation, Jenkins actually stacks up pretty nicely against the dreadful performance of his rotation peers. You could make the argument to put him above Morrow and Happ, even, though I think his fifteen innings are just a bit too low to honestly say that, bad and hurt as those two have been.
8. Chien-Ming Wang
Yes, despite getting second-inning-shitcanned for two straight starts and getting himself D’d FA, Wang gets the edge over Ramon Ortiz in my book because of the innings he’s logged (24 as a starter, versus 16.1 for Ortiz), and the fact that the two starts before he was figured out were absolutely sparkling, giving up just one earned run over 13.1 innings. Even with the groundball tendencies and, y’know, the shitcanning, he still has better numbers by FIP and xFIP than Ortiz, too. Though… that’s largely due to a 23.5% HR/FB rate, which may not be so much luck-related as it is related to the fact that he’s kinda brutal.
9. Ramon Ortiz
Ortiz lands above a few Jays starters thanks to his… um… “ability” to smoke-and-mirrors his way through three-plus not-godawful starts, despite a K/9 rate of 1.65 and a BB/9 of 4.41. He was a great story for a little while, and like Wang, pitched in with a couple of surprisingly good starts, but… yeah… not good. You could make the case to put him ahead of Wang, I think, but… why would you want to bother?
10. Ricky Romero
Yes, two Jays starters this season have been worse than Ricky Romero, who pitched an OK-ish four innings in a loss to Seattle before failing to get out of the first inning in a disasterpiece against Tampa in his next rotation turn, then subsequently getting outrighted off the roster, clearing waivers, and landing in Buffalo. Ugh.
11. Aaron Laffey
Romero edges out Laffey for the fact that he actually managed to get out of the third inning in one of his two starts. Laffey went just two-and-two-thirds in his lone start of the season for the Jays, hitting the Yankee Stadium showers after a four-walk inning that Brad Lincoln managed to clean up, keeping Laffey at a respectable-ish two earned runs through 2.2. Fifty-five pitches thrown, twenty-three strikes.
12. Sean Nolin
Poor Sean Nolin. Lauded as something of a sleeper prospect at the start of the year– and, realistically, still considered as one– he was pressed into action too soon, following just 30.2 innings above High-A. In his May 24th start against the Orioles, Nolin got somewhat unlucky in the first inning, with a number of balls sneaking through the infield before J.J. Hardy took him deep to put Baltimore on the board, but in his second inning he came completely undone. Double. Walk. Single. Double. All of them hard hit, the last one with Ramon Ortiz already warming in the pen. His big league debut lasted 35 pitches and left him with a 40.50 ERA.