It’s no secret that the biggest setback so far for the Toronto Blue Jays has been the starting rotation. The starters for the Jays are 24th compared to all MLB starters in ERA (4.43), 21st in opponent’s batting average (.266), and 21st in strikeouts (119). The biggest stat to me at least, is innings pitched, where the Jays have the fourth most innings by starters in the league with 134 total innings. When you take the total games played by the Jays so far (25), you can get that the average starting pitcher for the Jays goes about 5.36 innings per start. When the starting pitchers can’t get through the innings required of them, it strains the rest of the team greatly, especially in the bullpen.
Relief pitchers are called on too often, and their quality drops over time. While they are expected to perform when called in around halfway through a game, you can’t expect them to constantly clean up perfectly and not give up any runs after being put in that same scenario so many times. The Jays relievers have pitched a combined total of 88.1 innings, putting them at the third most innings pitched in the majors. The average team has used their bullpen 77 innings, resulting in roughly three innings per game by the pen. This is a reasonable expectation of a bullpen, considering a quality start for a starting pitcher needs a minimum of six innings. Taking away those six innings from the nine in a game, the bullpen can come in and cover for the remaining three innings of a game. While the Jays are only 0.64 innings under the average, that still adds up over time.
Since relievers have less stamina in them than your average starting pitcher, they can’t be worked nearly as hard as a starter. It’s not like manager John Gibbons can control the length of how long a starter deserves to stay in for. He does decide when pitchers come and go in a game, but once a pitcher gets around 100 pitches, or gives up five runs before the end of the third inning, you wouldn’t leave the starter in any longer just so you could rest your bullpen. What’s the most unfortunate part in all of this is that we saw this coming ever since the end of last season.
While I’m sure AA had his eyes on starting pitchers throughout the offseason, he did fall up short of bringing in any new talent to help out the cause. If the Jays want to last the rest of the season still being able to compete, they should try to bring in someone to replace Dustin McGowan, as he is clearly not able to play at a major league level after being out for many years with numerous injuries. Otherwise, the rest of the season will stay along this track off poor starting pitching, and injured relievers after being worked too hard.