“How well did you do when you came to Toronto” Uneasy eyes on RYU, push to trade starters?
With the All-Star Game ending the National League’s (NL) nine-game losing streak, the second half of the season begins today with 15 games through Oct. 2.
The biggest storylines of the second half will be those of the playoff contenders. The Toronto Blue Jays are a prime example. Toronto finished the first half with a 50-41 record, good for third place in the American League (AL) East and the third wild card spot. If the regular season ends now, Toronto will enter the playoffs with a pull-up and begin fall baseball with a wild-card series.
By the trade deadline (August 2), when it’s “stand your ground or fall,” the Jays are expected to make some form of reinforcements. As we’ve seen in the first half of the season, Toronto has a number of weaknesses across the pitching staff.
One of those areas is the fifth starter. Through 91 games in the first half, Toronto used six starters. That’s the fewest among the 30 teams. Four of them – Kevin Gausman, Jose Berrios, Chris Bassett, and Yusei Kikuchi – never missed a rotation. However, Trevor Richards temporarily took over as the fifth starter while Alec Manoa went through an unexplained 13-game slump and spent time in the minors.
Manoa returned on Aug. 8 and pitched six innings of five-hit, one-run ball against the Detroit Tigers, allowing Toronto to start the second half of the season with its normal five-man rotation.
However, there are still plenty of question marks. For starters, Manoa’s opponent, Detroit, is far from a playoff team at 39-50, third in the AL Central and ninth in the wild card. The offense is weak, ranking 28th in team OPS (.667), 25th in team home runs (82), and 28th in runs per game (3.89). The jury is still out on whether they’ve found their groove in the minors.안전놀이터
Chris Bassitt has been shaky in his last six starts, with a 6.83 ERA. USATODAYYonline
Yusei Kikuchi has allowed nine runs in 9 1/3 innings in two games in July. USATODAYYonline
The No. 3 and 4 starters, Bassett and Kikuchi, are also worrisome. Bassitt was relatively durable in the first half with 12 quality starts and a 4.19 ERA in 19 appearances, but he went 1-1 with a 6.83 ERA in the final six games of the first half. Kikuchi also gave up nine runs on 15 hits and two walks in 9 1/3 innings in two games in July.
But the team isn’t without its fair share of concerns. Toronto has been steady in the first half, ranking ninth in team ERA (3.85) and ninth in starting ERA (3.98). Their 499⅔ innings pitched were fifth overall. In other words, Toronto’s rotation has both strengths and concerns.
It’s good to see that Hyun-jin Ryu is pitching well in his rehab assignment. On the 5th and 10th of this month, he pitched in Rookie League and Single-A games respectively, totaling seven innings and allowing one run on seven hits. The team is hopeful that Ryu will make two more minor league appearances to improve his pitch count and velocity before returning to the rotation later this month.
However, it’s hard to imagine that Toronto has 100% faith in Ryu. They’re not sure of his health, and they can’t ignore his 13-month absence. He’s also in his late 30s. As the Jays’ fan site Jays Journal wrote on Wednesday, “Ryu is a potential starter, but how much can they rely on a pitcher who has been a major disappointment for most of his time in a Blue Jays uniform?
Since coming to Toronto in 2020, Ryu has gone 21-12 with a 4.07 ERA in 49 games. He was the ace of 2020 and the first half of 2021, but injuries and poor performances have kept him out of the lineup since, and he was designated for assignment last June.
That means he’ll have to look to the trade market. The media should be looking at a number of trade scenarios ahead of the deadline. There are a few starting pitchers that Toronto could target. Shane Bieber (Cleveland), Eduardo Rodriguez (Detroit) and Marcus Stroman (Cubs) could be considered.