Friday, October 12, 2012

Starting Pitching Possibilities

As many of you know, the Blue Jays starting pitching this year was for the most part, a disaster. Things were looking really promising early on. All was well until the Washington Nationals strolled into town. What happened that week was absolutely unthinkable. First, our true ace, Brandon Morrow went down with an oblique injury, which would sideline him until late August. You could say that he was gone for the rest of the season, as when he returned, the Blue Jays were well out of contention. It was 2 days later when the centrepiece from the Roy Halladay trade, Kyle Drabek suffered a torn ulnar collateral ligament, otherwise known, as the "Tommy John ligament." It was immediately decided that he is going to be missing in action until at least June of 2013. Then, 2 days later, Drew Hutchison, a player who showed much promise, went down with a sprained UCL of his own! We probably won't see Hutchison until 2014, as it was a late decision to resort to Tommy John. In those 5 days, the Blue Jays season went down the toilet. There is no recovering from losing 3 of your 5 starting pitchers, especially when all 3 of them were having pretty good seasons.

"Ace" Ricky Romero had one of the worst seasons in the MLB of the last decade, and there's no way to explain that. We need help on the mound, and we need it fast. AA has said recently that he is looking to add 1 or 2 starting pitchers, which is about the most specific AA will ever get. 1 starting pitcher is not good enough. A contender doesn't have a rotation of 1. Morrow 2. Blank 3. Romero 4. Alvarez 5. Happ, and I can prove that, using the combined WAR of a playoff team's rotation, vs. the combined WAR of the Blue Jays rotation this year, plus the WAR of (for example) James Shields. Take the Yankees, for example. Their starting pitching isn't known to be superior to other playoff teams', yet their combined WAR this year was 12.2. If James Shields was on the Blue Jays this year, the combined WAR of their starting pitchers would be 5.5! Not even half of the Yankees! And you're lucky I counted Aaron Laffey, and J.A. Happ! I know that things could change, but with just one addition, it's absurd (even with improvements from this year, as we should expect) to think that we will become a legitimate playoff contender. It won't come close to 12.2. I will be discussing what our possibilities are, when it comes to adding 2 solid starting pitchers.

Some people say that bringing back Carlos Villanueva as a starter would be a good idea, as he had some success this year. I don't like this idea, and here's why: Villanueva has indicated that he doesn't like the way that AA has talked about him, saying “I don't really love the advertisement being put out there. GMs are influential and somebody else might listen to them and think, ‘Hey, maybe they know something we don’t know." 

I like Villanueva in the bullpen, but the rotation isn't the right fit. He hasn't pitched in more than 125 innings in the big leagues, which is something that you should expect out of a starting pitcher. Although he has never had the opportunity to pitch 200 innings, indications like struggling in the second half the last 2 years would suggest that he's not capable. Villanueva should not start next year, end of story. 

Mike Wilner, of whom I cannot view his tweets, has suggested interest in Alexi Ogando, being our number 2 starting pitcher. I must say, the amount of stupidity in that statement is absolutely unbearable. Alexi Ogando is a great relief pitcher. He started in 2011, and in the first half, he was an All-Star, he was great, an ace, some may say. Then, as soon as the second half hit, his arm got tired. Ogando wasn't the same pitcher at all, and it even forced a move to the bullpen. The Rangers, and their very smart management, took this into account, and labeled him as a relief pitcher, as his arm cannot support him for a full season. Ogando has been great since then, with less of a work load. If the Rangers thought he was a starter, they would have started him well ahead of Roy Oswalt and Martin Perez this season. Not only that, but the Rangers would probably ask for one of the Lansing 3, along with a top tier offensive prospect. On top of all this, Ogando is injury prone! Way too much for a project that will inevitably fail. If Ogando is a Blue Jay next season, he better be pitching in relief. 

James punches out more than just batters!

Now, on to the 2 pitchers that I'd like to see in the rotation next year. 

One of them is James Shields. James Shields is lights out. He strikes out guys when he needs to, but is also very efficient with his pitches. This year started out badly for Shields, but he has gotten on the right track, as he finished the year with a WHIP of 1.17, and a K/9 of 8.8, helped out by his final start of the year, where he pitched a 15 strikeout masterpiece. We do not yet know whether the Rays will exercise Shields' 12 million dollar option, but I would highly doubt it. Shields will demand a lot of money, but with AA's comments about raising payroll "significantly," I think he's prepared. Something along the lines of 4 Years, $80 000 000 would be within reason. 

The other player I would like to see the Jays sign through free agency is Anibal Sanchez. Sanchez has shined in Detroit, prior to the playoffs, I really like what I have seen from him. He has pitched over 190 innings in the last 3 years, which would be a huge breath of fresh air for Jays fans, with all of the injuries. He strikes out batters, but isn't overpowering. He has great stuff. His fastball averages about 91-92 MPH, but has a pretty wide range of velocity. He will often drop into the 87-88 range, but also regularly dials it up to 95 MPH.   Sanchez mostly works with a four-seam fastball, but mixes in a two-seamer with decent tailing movement as well. His main secondary pitch is an 83-86 MPH slider that has been pretty effective the past couple years. Sanchez has an above average 83-86 MPH changeup, a pitch that has very nice of sink.  He also mixes in a slow curve on occasion, yet it's not his strongest pitch.

Although these signings will help, they will not put our rotation over the hump. What will make our rotation look like one you would see in the playoffs, would be the re-arrival of Ricky Romero. Ricky being Ricky again would put 4 top tier starting pitchers in the same rotation. It would be a spectacle to watch.

To finish, here is what I think the starting rotation should look like for the 2013 Toronto Blue Jays: 

3. Ricky Romero
4. Anibal Sanchez
5. J.A. Happ 
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