If you were to ask Blue Jays fans before the season who would be one of the top starters on the club this year, I would imagine not many would be saying Ross Stripling’s name.
That’s not to say he isn’t a talented pitcher, but coming into the 2022 campaign, he wasn’t even in the rotation and after a busy offseason, the Jays rotation was shaping up to be one of the most well-rounded in all of the American League.
After letting Robbie Ray and Steven Matz walk during free agency, the Blue Jays went out and made moves of their own, signing 2021 NL Cy Young finalist Kevin Gausman to a long-term contract, while also bringing in 2021 All-Star Yusei Kikuchi on a three-year deal. Combined with veteran Hyun-jin Ryu, promising right-hander Alek Manoah, and newly extended Jose Berrios, it is easy to see why the Jays rotation was considered one of the strongest across the league.
Yet here we are in September and Stripling has become essential to the Blue Jays rotation and is a big reason they are in the thick of the playoff race.
Looking at the Blue Jays Rotation
From Opening Day to now, an entirely different picture has been painted compared to what fans were expecting. Manoah and Gausman have lived up to the expectations, creating one of the best 1-2 punches at the top of the rotation, while both have been flirting with the Cy Young conversation for most of the season.
Berrios has shown flashes of the top-end starter the Jays were expecting, but has also given up his fair share of blown games, considered widely inconsistent this season. Kikuchi hasn’t found his fastball all season long and has been moved to the bullpen, with the fifth starter role really dragging the Blue Jays down this year and to top it all off, Ryu is out for the season (and potentially all of next year) after undergoing Tommy John surgery back in mid-June.
Ryu’s injury troubles forced the Jays to move Stripling to the rotation, a role the swingman is used to given his time with the Los Angeles Dodgers and the Blue Jays.
Ross Stripling as a Starter
Since June 6th (when he became a full-time starter), Stripling has been absolutely dominant in the rotation, crafting a 2.56 ERA through 81.0 innings of work. He currently owns a 3.01 FIP and has struck out 69 batters compared to 11 walks, limiting opponents to a .209 batting average.
When Stripling is on the mound, the Jays keep finding ways to win, as the club is currently 11-4 since he took Ryu’s spot in the rotation and has won seven of the last eight games he has started. He did miss some time on the IL back in early August, but overall, Ross Stripling is having a fantastic season, currently authoring a 90th percentile chase rate and sitting in the 96th percentile in BB%.
If the Blue Jays make the playoffs as a Wild Card team (which they are currently projected to do) it will be interesting to see if Stripling would be considered the third starter in the rotation behind Manoah and Gausman, or if the club would rather have Berrios in that role. Stripling could then be waiting in the wings in the event the game needs to be saved.
Some would argue he should earn the third starter role in the postseason and at this point in time, I am fully on board with that idea. He is riding a hot streak right now and Berrios can’t be counted on just yet given his inconsistencies all year.
Furthermore, Stripling is one of the three players who will become free agents this year from the Blue Jays squad and is starting to enter the qualifying offer territory. The Jays didn’t present one to Matz last year and he ended up signing elsewhere, but if the Jays can get Stripling back on a multi-year deal, I imagine a lot of fans would be on board.
Regardless of what the future holds, Stripling has answered the bell all season long and has really become an unsung hero for this Blue Jays team.