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How to Improve the Blue Jays Rotation in 2021

The Toronto Blue Jays rotation needs to be improved. In 2020, the Blue Jays rotation ranked 29th per Baseball-Reference. Despite the addition of Taijuan Walker during the trade deadline, the Blue Jay’s rotation lacked depth. Outside of Ryu and Walker, the Blue Jays had to turn to the bullpen in the early stages of the game. The Blue Jays rotation needs to be solid if they are to compete.

Taijuan Walker Needs to be a Blue Jay

Taijuan Walker was fantastic for the Blue Jays. Coming to the Blue Jays with an ERA of 4.00, Walker lowered his ERA to 2.70. Walker’s ERA in six starts with the Blue Jays was 1.37, immediately becoming Toronto’s second ace.

Going into free agency, Walker can be an addition to the Blue Jays who will help solidify the rotation. Despite an injury-riddled past, Walker is heading into the prime of his career. Turning 29 in the 2021 season, signing Walker to a three to four-year deal will help strengthen the Blue Jays rotation.

Walker saw success this season with the help of his slider/cutter, as well as his sinker. In 2017, Walker threw his slider/cutter 27.3 percent of the time, while in 2020 Walker threw it 31.6 percent of the time. Walker in 2017 threw his sinker only two percent of the time, while in 2020 he threw it 12.2 percent of the time. This has allowed his exit velocity average to drop from 88.7 mph to 88.4 mph on average. In addition, the contact rate on pitches outside the zone dropped from 67.3 percent to 63.3 percent.

Kevin Gausman Needs to be in the Blue Jays Rotation

Kevin Gausman’s addition to the Blue Jays rotation will provide a solid number 3.

Most likely one of the most sought after starters this offseason, the Blue Jays need to go after Kevin Gausman. Posting a 3.62 ERA in 2020 with a WHIP of 1.11, Gausman is a solid middle rotation arm. Per stat cast, Gausman is in the 84th percentile in whiff percentage and in the 88th percentile in strikeout percentage.

Gausman saw an increase in his swing and miss percentage from last season, going from 14.8 percent to 15.2 percent. In addition, the overall contact percentage went down from 71.7 percent to 70.0 percent.

Gausman’s pitch distribution is a key way he found success this year. Gausman threw his fastball 51.1 percent of the time, with his fastball averaging 95.4 mph. In addition, his fastball velocity ranks in the 81st percentile. Gausman utilized his splitter much less this season, throwing it only 29.2 percent of the time, as opposed to last season where he threw his splitter 40.2 percent of the time. Gausman’s changeup was utilized more as well, 12.9 percent as opposed to only 1.3 percent in 2019. He threw his slider 6.4 percent, an increase from 2.0 percent in 2019. Finally, his curveball saw an increase from 0.1 percent in 2019 to 0.4 percent in 2020.

The Blue Jays should try to sign Gausman to a two or three year deal.

How the Rotation Would Look

With these additions, the Blue Jays 2021 rotation will go from one of the worst in the league to a formidable rotation. With Ryu at the top, he would be followed by Walker, Gausman, Pearson and Zeuch. With three solid starters, Nate Pearson will be able to develop without having the spotlight solely on him. In addition, having T.J. Zeuch as the fifth starter will allow him to develop, and offer a different look to the rotation.

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