As the Blue Jays prepare for game 101 of the 162-game baseball season grind in San Diego, the team’s rotation has certainly satisfied, maybe even surpassed fan expectations to this point in the season.
After losing David Price in free agency to the Boston Red Sox, many fans felt that the gap left in the rotation from his departure could not be filled. The Jays ability to fill the rotation’s void became dependent upon youngsters Aaron Sanchez and Marcus Stroman taking the next step in their respective developments, while hoping that veteran pitcher Marco Estrada could repeat the success he experienced during the 2015 campaign. The free agent signings of J.A. Happ; a former Jay who struggled mightily in his previous tenure with the club; as well as Jesse Chavez were overlooked, with all the attention focused on the trade that brought former Washington National reliever Drew Storen to Toronto to compete for the team’s closing role
At this point in the season, the rotation has significantly exceeded expectations. Aaron Sanchez after last night’s start has an astounding 11-1 record, to go along with a 2.72 ERA and 1.15 WHIP. Sanchez has won his last 10 starts, becoming the first Jays pitcher since Roy Halladay to do so. Sitting firmly in the American League Cy Young conversation, Sanchez has finally reached his sky-high potential in his 3rd big league season to help the Blue Jays rotation sore to new heights. Talks of maintaining his innings limit have halted given his stellar play; there are no indicators suggesting his play will begin to diminish as the season enters the final stretch.
Sanchez’s good friend Marcus Stroman has not experienced quite the same success this season after his miraculous September 2015 and playoff run, struggling with his command earlier on in the season and currently owning a 4.90 ERA, the highest among starters on the team. The team’s supposed ace still owns a respectable 8-4 record and has really bounced back in his last few starts, pitching deeper into ball games and commanding the strike zone the way fans know he can. Even with Stroman’s early/mid season struggles, the team is still positioned right in the thick of things atop the AL East.
Aside from the Jays’ young hurlers, the team’s position in the standings is largely attributed to the pitching of Marco Estrada and J.A. Haap.
Estrada has excelled in his second full season with the Blue Jays, despite a stint on the disabled list with back pain, earning a 2.94 ERA and keeping his home runs allowed down as he did last season. The biggest surprise in the Blue Jays rotation has to be J.A. Happ. Whatever adjustments Haap made in Pittsburgh with pitching guru Ray Searage, they are paying dividends for him in the 2016 season. Haap has collected a team-high 13 wins on the season, with only 3 losses on his record; his impressive hurling has translated into an impressive 3.27 ERA and is coming off a start in which he allowed only one hit over six innings. It’s safe to say Haap has helped filled Price’s void and has become arguably the Jays most reliable starter.
The team’s fifth starter, R.A. Dickey, has had a typical season for his standards since joining the Blue Jays. Normally one to pick it up towards the latter half of the season, Dickey has yet to enter a groove with his knuckleball, as he allowed 6 earned runs over just three innings. I love Dickey as a locker room presence and high character guy, it just makes my skin boil when I recall that former GM Alex Anthopoulous traded away highly-touted prospect and current ace of the New York Mets, Noah Syndergaard, as well as the Mets current catcher, Travis D’Arnaud for a 38 year old knuckleballer. That certainly should go down as AA’s most short-sighted trade, but you can’t fully blame him given that Dickey was coming off an NL Cy Young season in 2012 and the Jays were in “win-now” mode.
With just over sixty games remaining in the 2016 regular season, look for the Jays rotation to continue its success and help lead the team into the postseason. As long as the Jays offense remains formidable and produces consistently, the team should be posed for its second consecutive playoff run.