You can’t talk Toronto Blue Jays without talking pitching.
On opening day 2008 their five man starting rotation consisted of Roy Halladay, AJ Burnett, Dustin McGowan, Shawn Marcum, and Jesse Litsch.
Fast-forward to opening day April 2009 and Burnett is a Yankee, McGowan, and Marcum were on the long term DL. Here we are coming up the trade deadline and according to the Blue Jays, McGowan is barely playing catch from 60 feet and Marcum is eyeing a return ahead of schedule from Tommy John Surgery.
So the starting five in 2009 was Roy Halladay, Jesse Litsch, David Purcey, Ricky Romero and Scott Richmond.
Since then Jesse Litsch has been sent to see Dr. James Andrews for Tommy John Surgery. David Purcey has been banished to Triple-A Las Vegas after posting a 7.01 ERA in five starts.
Since then, 48.4 percent of all games involving the Jays have been started by rookies as they have sent Halladay, Richmond, and Romero to the disabled list at one point or another.
So far in 2009, the Blue Jays started 12 different pitchers, Halladay and Brian Tallet over the age of 30.
We all know about the talk surrounding Halladay.
If the Blue Jays are to make a run, are they better served with Doc or trading him for talent?
Well let’s start with Halladay, because quite frankly, he is what he is. In league where six innings and three or less runs is now considered a quality start, Halladay has got seven complete or more in all, but two of his starts. In those other two starts, he had a six-inning effort and he left after three when he pulled his groin against the Marlins.
In his 18 starts, Halladay has given up more than three runs only four times. Of those four occasions, never did he go less than seven innings and one of those was a complete game victory.
So lets look forward to and project who could start for the Blue Jays in 2010. Rickey Romero, Shawn Marcum, and Brett Cecil look like they could eventually be joined by some of all of the following: Jesse Litsch, Shawn Marcum and Dustin McGowan, whose health or lack their of could ultimately play a role in the success or failure long term of the Jays pitching staff.
Since we all know the Halladay story, let’s look at three of the kids that we’ve seen show us something this year.
First is potential rookie of the year candidate Ricky Romero. The 24-year-old former first round pick has gone from back of the rotation hopeful this spring, to future staff Ace in a matter of 15 starts.
Romero looks to be making a strong case to be the 2009 MLB Rookie of the Year. As a rookie, Romero sports an impressive 3.44 ERA, and has yet to give up more than five earned runs in a single outing. He has been touched up for four earned in each of his last two starts, but an 8-4 record speaks the amount of progress Romero has already made as a first year Major League starter.
Brett Cecil is a 22-year-old that was like so many others rushed the Majors to cover injuries to several of the Blue Jays expected starters. Like so many Jays prospects before him you can’t help but like what you see.
Cecil has been touched up for 15 of his 26 earned runs in two of 10 appearance this year. (one vs. The Red Sox and one vs. The Yankees.) In his other eight starts thus far, the youngster has fashioned a 2.27 ERA over eight starts. He also gives up 1.4 home runs per nine innings pitched, but we must remember he has only given up eight home runs this year and five of them came that ill-fated start at Fenway in May. So, although the WHIP and ERA of the 22-year-old might be questionable, they are deceptively high, as he has managed six quality starts and has shown brilliance so far in his young career.
Final bright spot in the starting rotation doesn’t have a huge body of work so far, but say it with me, Marc Rzepczynski…the R is a silent, has been nothing short of a pleasant surprise. The 23-year-old from Yorba Linda, Calif. has managed to look very solid in three career starts. He went exactly six innings in each against quality competition in the Rays, Orioles, and Red Sox. Can we say he is can’t miss? Of course not, but the Polish hurler has definitely given the Blue Jays a reason to be optimistic.
The back end of the Jays Bullpen has bounced back of late with the likes of Scott Downs, a rejuvenated Jason Frasor, Jeremy Accardo, and a surprise in Dirk Hayhurst. Now that the BJ Ryan experiment has finally been put to rest, and seeing Brian Tallet go back to the long reliever role for next season should solidify a bullpen that through the 2007 and 2008 season was among the best in baseball.
Next year is full of several question marks. JP Ricciardi has indicated that Roy Halladay if not moved will go to free agency at the end of the 2010 season and has expressed as much to the GM already.
The health and return timelines for Shawn Marcum (possibly 2009?), Jesse Litsch (May-June 2010…based on regular Tommy John Rehab), and Dustin McGowan (hopefully?) will certainly play a part in the Blue Jays future.
Currently the present situation is not ideal, but has unveiled a couple of talented youngster and obviously the questions surround Halladay may be answered in the next week or may play out for as long as the next 14 months.
*since I started this the other day and just posted it, Dustin McGowan has been shut down and had knee surgery, clouding his future further*