Toronto Blue Jays Third-Season Review: Pitching
Yesterday, I wrote an article reviewing the Blue Jays' position players, and how they have performed up till now in the 2010 season. As always, there were a few surprises, but also several disappointments. Today, I'll be taking a look at each individual pitcher, and how they have fared up until now this year.
When GM Alex Anthopolous traded away long-time ace Roy Halladay this past offseason, manager Cito Gaston was left with two candidates to take over the No. 1 spot in the pitching rotation: Ricky Romero and Shaun Marcum. I think it is safe to say Cito made the right choice.
Marcum has become the true ace of this young staff, compiling a 5-1 record to go along with a stellar 2.59 ERA. He has given up only 58 hits through his 73 innings of work, while striking out 60 and walking only 17.
Pessimistic baseball fans would have thought that Marcum could not carry this load since he missed all of 2009 while recovering from Tommy John surgery, but his performance so far would make a believer out of even the toughest skeptic. If he can continue his red-hot season, he may be in contention for AL Comeback Player of the Year Award. Grade- A
Jays fans first got a glimpse of 24-year-old Brett Cecil last season, where he compiled a 7-4 record, with a balooned 5.30 ERA. This year has proven quite different however, as he is now a healthy 5-2 with a respectable 3.81 ERA.
Not to say Cecil hasn't had his troubles though, as he has laboured through a few of his starts, but he always seems to bounce back with a stellar performance, even after a rough outing.
Cecil took over the No. 2 spot in the rotation after Brian Tallet went down with a left-forearm strain, and he doesn't look like he is in any danger of losing his spot anytime soon with only 40 hits and 12 walks given up through 49.2 innings, to go along with 40 strikeouts. Grade- B
After having spent his career bouncing between the bullpen and rotation in Seattle, Morrow finally found a consistent job after being dealt to Toronto in the offseason for fireballer Brandon League and outfield prospect Johermyn Chavez.
Unfortunately for Morrow, he has been anything but consistent. His 6.66 ERA represents the highest of any current pitcher on the team, and he has had his troubles finding the strike zone throughout his 10 starts this year.
Through 50 innings, he has issued a team-high 32 free passes, to go along with 53 hits. He has also plunked four batters and served up five long-balls.
The bright spot for Morrow though is his fastball. He is consistently able to touch 96 mph, and has an impressive 65 strikeouts already this year. To be effective and stick around all season though, Morrow needs to limit the hits and base on balls, so he is able to last past the fifth inning (he is averaging just five innings per start). Grade- C
With the injury to Shaun Marcum last season, Ricky Romero took the No. 2 spot in the rotation, and finished the season at a respectable 13-9 with a 4.30 ERA. This season has not been without its problems for Romero so far, but the positives far outweigh the negatives to this point in 2010.
He currently stands at 4-2 with a great 3.42 ERA. His ERA through his first half-dozen starts was 1.80, but a few bad outings launched it back to a more realistic number. He has thrown 68.1 innings so far, only giving up 58 hits while striking out a team-high 72. His problem at times, like Morrow, has been control.
He has walked 27, and thrown 12 wild pitches, which doubles his total from the entire 2009 season. When Romero is on, he is lights-out, but when he falters, he gets into trouble. However, he is a pitcher who will go out and give you six innings everytime, and will usually pitch well-enough to win. Grade- B+
Acquired from Oakland for cash considerations, the Jays didn't take a major risk in putting Eveland in the five-man rotation, and thank God for that. Now granted, he was terrific through his first four starts, going 3-0 with an ERA around 3.00.
It was his final five starts that prompted the Jays to finally pull the plug and designate him for assignment. He finished his brief season with a 3-4 record with a 6.45 ERA. In just 44.2 innings, he allowed 57 hits while serving up 27 base on balls. The Dana Eveland experiment did not work out for the team, and it appears as if he will be heading to AAA Las Vegas. Grade- D
Gregg has a reputation for blowing saves, having done so with apparent ease over the last three seasons. He even lost his closing job to Carlos Marmol in Chicago last year. This year has been a different story so far. He is 13-15 in conversion opportunities with a 3.22 ERA.
He has only given up 20 hits through his 22.1 innings, while striking out 26. His only problem is the free pass, as he has issued 9 so far. Gregg took over the closer's role after Jason Frasor blew two of his first five opportunities, and it doesn't appear as if he will be losing his job anytime soon. Grade- A-.
Only considered a left-handed specialist when he joined the Jays several years ago, Scott Downs has become one of the more reliable setup men in the major leagues. After a rough start to the year, Downs has lowered his ERA from 4.60 down to 2.66 through 23.2 innings in a team-high 24 appearances.
He has only surrendered 19 hits and six walks, which is a testament to the way he pitches around the plate. He also holds the record for longest scoreless streak by a Jays pitcher this year, at 13.2 innings. If Downs and Gregg continue their stellar years, then the Jays will have one of the best 1-2 punches in the eighth and ninth innings (only behind Washington's Tyler Clippard and Matt Capps). Grade- B+
Known throughout his career as a slider-pitcher, Jays pitching coach Bruce Walton has introduced Camp to a sinker and changeup, both of which have contributed to his ongoing success this season out of the Jays' 'pen.
He is second on the team with 23 appearances, and has given up only 22 hits and seven walks throughout his 27.1 innings. Add his 17 Ks and a 2.63 ERA on top of that, and the Jays have a pretty good seventh-inning man in their already good bullpen. Grade- B+
Janssen emerged as one of the best setup men in the AL in 2007, mostly due to BJ Ryan's Tommy John surgery, which thrust Jeremy Accardo into the closer's role. Since the marvelous season though, Janssen has had his troubles.
In 2008, he faced a torn labrum, and sat out all year. He returned in '09, only to struggle in the rotation and 'pen, and keep being bothered by nagging arm problems. He started out great this year, going 3-0 in the first week of the season out of the pen, but then everything fell apart as he had bad outing after bad outing until he was relegated to more of an emergency role in the 'pen.
He has calmed down as of late though, and his ERA has dropped to 4.22 over 21.1 innings. In that time, he has given up 21 hits and eight walks, while striking out 18. If Janssen can return to his '07 form, then the Jays 'pen will once again be a force to be reckoned with like in years past. Grade- C+
After a career year in 2009, Frasor was handed the closer's role to start the 2010 season, needless to say, it didn't last. After blowing two of his first five chances, Frasor was moved into middle-relief, where he didn't fare much better until recently.
His ERA is now down to a better 4.35, after spending time in the range of 6.00+. He has walked 10 and given up 23 hits in only 20.2 innings, but has struck out 23. If Frasor ever hopes to regain that closer's role, then he has to get ahead in counts, and not allow the first man to reach base. Grade- C-
So folks, that is it for my review of the team thus far this year. They have been doing much more than any of us could've expected, and here's hoping they continue it for the whole season, so maybe we could see a playoff berth.
I am aware that I left Brian Tallet, Rommie Lewis, and Josh Roenicke off the list, but they simply haven't pitched enough yet to warrant consideration. Maybe at the halfway review...
Thanks for reading.
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