A 30,000-meter view of the Toronto Blue Jays this season would show no major problems. The offense, while it may not have torn a hole in Earth or time as predicted, still ranks 11th in the MLB. Bo Bichette is second in batting average, Vladito is throwing the ball, Matt Chapman is actually hitting better than Guerrero Jr. Kevin Kiermaier is on the good side of some diabolical BABIP betrayal, and though he missed a game due to injury, Brandon Belt is coming to life for the first time since San Francisco. Kevin Gausman is the clubhouse leader in the AL Cy Young race, and the bullpen has strengthened and is quite effective in front of closer Jordan Romano. The rotation remained remarkably healthy, with the original five starters taking all the turns on Opening Day.
So it makes one wonder what exactly they’re doing in fourth place, 9.5 games behind the Rays and three games out of the final playoff spot. One answer is that they play in by far the toughest division in the league. Another big thing is that Alek Manoah has been wearing a lot of blue these days.
Manoah could be out of the Toronto rotation
Manoah bowled an Astro last night while also giving up six runs. He listens to his manager hint that removal from rotation it’s on the table now, and it’s certainly quite a bump from a pitcher who was a Cy Young finalist last season. His ERA is a Bane-sized 6.36, and his FIP suggests he has no air in him, sitting at 6.52. His fWAR is -0.6. The Jays would have been better off releasing the inflatable guy with unusual wavy arms every fifth game on the mound.
So what’s the problem here? As with everything in life, it’s best to know how you got to where you came from. And while this kind of self-immolation was hard to spot, Manoah’s numbers last year had plenty of air. Manoah was also on the good side of some devilish BABIP betrayals, hitting .244 nearly 50 points below the league average. This year he had a vicious market correction, rising 80 points to .324. That number is closer to league average, albeit a bit bloated, and likely more indicative of the neighborhood Manoah will be in for the rest of his career. Manoah also benefited from staying on base at 82 percent last year, which isn’t really about skill, it’s about sequencing. The league average is usually around 75. This year, it fell below that by the same amount as last year, remaining at the base by 70 percent. There are more hits this year than last year.
That’s because Manoah’s stuff never sparkled. He hit about league average last year. He generated a ton of soft contact last year, ranking in the top 10 in the league with a 5.4 barrel rate. But he didn’t walk an abnormally high number of ground balls. That barrel interest nearly doubled this season.
Manoah is giving up the same amount of ballparks as last year (41.9 percent last year, 40 percent this year), just seeing twice as many fly over the wall (7.1 HR/FB percent to 14.9 this year). Maybe part of that is baseball, and the league average HR/FB is up and Manoah is only slightly above it, but either way, he’s giving up a lot more homers this year.
Still, luck and the vagaries of baseball cannot explain it all. Manoah’s slider last year was a real weapon. Hitters averaged just .190 against him and batted at him nearly a third of the time. The whiffs are only down about five percent, but the hitters are suddenly tuning in to a .328 average and .603 slugging percentage. Lefties in particular turned the offering into seven-course dinners (.385 average), and that’s because Manoah struggled to get the they tie their shoelaces as much this year as last year. It hangs low and in the strike zone more often, and most lefties describe it as a happy place.
Manoah’s escape point is present in all his courses dropped and became a bit more side-armed this year, although it did not make a significant difference in the movement of its tracks. However, everything may become more visible.
Loss of velocity on his fastball
Manoah’s fastball has lost a full MPH from last year and is giving up more of them instead of living in the hands of righties like last year. When you combine that with the arm drop angle, you might wonder if your shoulders aren’t a little crunched on this expression. Manoah didn’t pitch in 2020 thanks to COVID shutting down the minors, and pitched 129 innings in the minors and MLB in 2021. His workload jumped over 70 innings last year, including the start of the postseason, and that’s quite a lot to add. for someone who only pitched 35 innings in the minors.
The margin for error for the Jays isn’t that great. If the Texas Rangers are really serious about what they’ve done so far, that leaves room for the Texas team that doesn’t win the AL West, the entire AL East, and maybe if the Mariners or Angels clean up. their performance. The Jays sin for a month, but the shoot seems to be paying off, even with Manoah in the corner complaining about the DJ. They’ve had a nice bounce-back season from Jose Berrios so far, but Yusei Kikuchi and Chris Bassitt both have FIP and BABIP numbers, along with some bad luck, that suggest the second half of the season could be full. fire extinguishers. The Jays can’t catch the rest if only one or two starters fire.
A trade might be the answer (should Marcus Stroman be brought back?), but the Jays’ preseason plans included making Manoah not only serviceable, but also a plus starter. That should still be the plan, Manoah just has to deal with the luck that turned against him this time.
Follow Sam on Twitter @Felsgate.