Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Continuing the theme: Looking at the Blue Jays Rotation

Continuing the theme, I’d like to look at the Toronto Blue Jays rotation, and what it means to their team going forward this season. Much like the Orioles, Toronto has a very young rotation, lead by the two 27 year olds Ricky Romero and Brandon Morrow, the staff is very green, but of the 6 pitchers that have recorded starts for Toronto this year, there are only 2 total question marks there, both of whom are vying for the 5th starters job.

Looking at Ricky Romero’s stats, he looks very legitimate, His strikeout rate is down from the last two season, but his walk rate is right in line with the two previous seasons. He’s consistently lowered his hits per 9 each season since he came into the fold in 09, but I can’t expect that to last for too much longer. His Ground ball to fly ball rate has been consistent, but his BABIP is progressively getting lower, that’s unsustainable, but even if it normalizes he’s been able to keep the ball down, which has helped him to a lot of double plays, even with a very solid career WHIP sitting at 1.292 (over the past 2 years it has been 1.129). Romero has been very good, and at 27 he’s been a very dominant pitcher for the Blue Jays and with very little changing over the past few years I don’t see why that can’t continue.

Brandon Morrow has been effective as well, though holding onto a career ERA about .8 runs higher than Romeros. Morrow has only been a full time starter for the past two seasons, and may finally be looking to hit the 200 inning barrier. He has been more or less league average over his career, but that doesn’t mean he’s not an effective innings eater. I don’t see Morrow regressing significantly, though his strikeout rate is down and he’s already given up 7 home runs (1/3 of his total from last season). I can’t say I expect Morrow to keep up his current pace, his BABIP is an outstanding .192, and while his career BABIP is a bit higher than league average, this screams luck to me as much as anything else. He does appear to be inducing many more ground balls this season than he has in the past, and whether that’s by design or by small sample size it has been a huge boon to his overall stat line, though when the ball is put into the air, it’s been traveling.

Henderson Alvarez has only 10 major league starts under his belt prior to this season, but has been able to put together a pretty good stat line so far. His biggest points of concern are a much lower strikeout rate (3.7/9 this year vs 5.7 last) and giving up almost 2 hr/9 so far. These are correctable stats that will balance out over the season to give us a better idea of who Alvarez is. Did his stat line last year come more from the small sample size, or was that the Alvarez that the Jays will get over the course of this season? Only time will tell.

Kyle Drabek has a very appealing stat line so far. He’s walking about 5 per 9, which isn’t good news, but that number is significantly better than the 6.3 per 9 he had last season. He’s getting 7.5 strikeouts per 9 as well, which is significantly higher than last year’s 5.8. I expect these numbers to normalize somewhat, but aside from a ridiculous change in BABIP (.239 this season against .314 last year) he’s not doing much differently. Once his BABIP comes back up a little bit, he’ll start to look a bit less impressive, but likely better than last year’s 6.06 ERA. His FIP (5.52) and xFIP(5.13) indicated that he was somewhat victimized by bad luck last year, but still well below league average. His FIP(4.37) and xFIP(3.97) so far this season indicate the same thing as the drastic change in his BABIP, he’s got better luck this year than the folks that won the mega millions a few weeks ago. Drabek will likely come back down to earth over his next few starts, but he may well be a much improved version of last year’s pitcher.

Joel Carreno & Drew Hutchison have each gotten a start for Toronto so far, but neither has got enough of a history at the major league level to really speculate on.

Overall, while their offense may be underperforming, the rotation appears to be due for an overall slight regression, and with no clear cut 5th starter, the Blue Jays will more than likely be battling more with the Orioles than with the Rays, Yankees, or Red Sox.

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