We already looked at the Toronto Blue Jays offensive ZIPS projections and see a lineup that is very deep with an improved bench. Today let’s look at one of the most improved pitching staffs in baseball and how they project for 2013.
The starting rotation has been improved by leaps and bounds there is no way around that. However it is definitely not without some question marks. First and foremost health is going to be a major factor for this pitching staff. It is nice we have increased depth with JA Happ and Brett Cecil both capable of logging innings if needed.
If either Happ or Cecil make any more than a few starts each this season I think it’s fair to say the season probably isn’t going as planned.
ZIPS does see some regression from R.A. Dickey in 2013 from his Cy Young award winning 2012 form. I think his projections are definitely at the lower range of expectations for him. As a knuckleballer he should be more than capable of logging major innings again barring a fluke injury. I would also expect his strikeout numbers to be above 7.5 K/9 though I can see him having a mid 3.00 ERA in his first full season in the AL East.
Another thing that struck me was “Oh yeah, we forgot Brandon Morrow is pretty good”. If he can stay healthy (a huge if) he has all the potential in the world and is possibly our best starting pitcher. ZIPS isn’t confident in his ability to stay healthy all season.
Mark Buehrle is a big name and a lot of people are probably expecting an ace however his stat set just doesn’t support that notion. He is an innings eater and a guy who will give up his fair share of hits but he should provide solid depth and a mid 4.00 ERA if everything goes well.
If Ricky Romero can return to his past form this has the potential to be a dominant rotation. ZIPS doesn’t project the lofty levels he attained in 2011 but thankfully doesn’t see another 2012 either. If he meets those rather pedestrian projections I think Blue Jays fans will be happy.
Last but certainly not least is another newcomer big Josh Johnson. Again I think fans will be surprised to see such an average strikeout rate but unfortunately Johnson has seen his overall numbers fall over the past couple seasons while dealing with injuries. If healthy he is another Blue Jay hurler that could be a top ten arm in the American League.
Overall these projections are solid and ZIPS is always the least optimistic of the various systems but it does make you take pause. The rotation has a lot of injury possibilities (if not probabilities) with Josh Johnson and Brandon Morrow having a history of problems. Ricky Romero is coming off a terrible 2012 campaign as well as offseason surgery.
Mark Buehrle is steady but very unspectacular and if the Jays defense doesn’t give him help to suppress his BABIP could give up a ton of base-hits. Finally the Jays opening day starting pitcher is a 37-year old knuckleball pitcher coming into the lions den known as the AL East.
For the Blue Jays to put it all together this season and make a run at the postseason they are going to need a good amount of luck just like any other team with hopes of contention. This is an improved team, especially on the mound, but this isn’t one of the most dominant rotations ever assembled.
All in all the rotation is definitely solid, with the potential to be very good with a little good fortune and health.