Yesterday was a historic night at Rogers Centre, as right-hander Kevin Gausman reached an impressive personal milestone, tossing the 1,500th strikeout of his MLB career.
The big moment came in the fourth inning against the San Francisco Giants, as the fastball/splitter-dominant starter struck out leadoff hitter LaMonte Wade Jr. on a high outside fastball, his seventh strikeout on the day and the second time Wade went back to the dugout via the strikeout.
Gausman becomes the 230th pitcher in MLB history to accomplish the feat, joining former teammate Robbie Ray in the prestigious group.
Career-wise, Gausman got his start with the Baltimore Orioles, spending parts of six seasons on the East Coast and amassing 697 strikeouts through 763.2 innings. Following his time in Baltimore, Gausman spent time with the Atlanta Braves and the Cincinnati Reds before ending up on the West Coast with the Giants, where he was able to establish himself as a premium rotation option during the condensed 2020 season.
Between the Braves and Reds, Gausman also added 158 strikeouts to his career total before he made his way to San Francisco.
With the Giants, the Colorado product pitched to a combined 3.00 ERA through 45 outings across two seasons, picking up 306 strikeouts along the way. The right-hander posted a 1.057 WHIP through 251.2 innings and earned his first All-Star selection while also earning votes for the NL Cy Young Award following the 2021 campaign.
Gausman Heads North
After signing with the Blue Jays on a five-year deal during the 2021-’22 offseason, Gausman continued to pitch well in his inaugural campaign with Toronto. He led the American League with a 2.38 FIP and added 205 strikeouts to his total.
His numbers have only improved in 2023, as the former first-round pick currently sports a 3.01 ERA and leads the AL in Ks with 139 on the season. He boasts seven double-digit strikeout games this season alone.
While opponents have hit the ball well against Gausman when they connect (15th-percentile HardHit%, 90-MPH average exit velocity), he is generating a high chase rate (89th percentile) by locating his fastball and splitter well while also mixing in a slider. He has left his breaking ball over the plate on a few different occasions, leading to some damage, but as his 3.01 ERA can attest, the damage hasn’t been too severe.
The splitter currently generates a 43.3 whiff rate and is his best pitch, with opponents mustering just a .182 average against the offering.
As the season starts to creep toward the halfway mark, Gausman is ranking well in the American League compared to other starters. He ranks first in fWAR and FIP at 3.1 and 2.70, respectively, narrowly edging out Astros hurler Framber Valdez (3.0 and 2.71). As I mentioned earlier, the Blue Jays righty leads the AL in strikeouts, seven ahead of Twins pitcher Pablo López.
His 3.01 ERA sits eighth in the AL, while his 104.2 innings rank third behind Nathan Eovaldi and Valdez – although Gausman has one more start than Eovaldi and Valdez. His 1.13 WHIP ranks 14th in the Junior Circuit, one spot ahead of Yankees ace Gerrit Cole, and his opponents are batting .232 against him this season, which is tied for 17th-best with Lopez and Astros pitcher Hunter Brown.
Gausman and the Cy Young Conversation
While there is still lots of season left to play, Gausman has definitely entered the early Cy Young conversation, sitting there with the likes of Valdez, Cole, Eovaldi, and Shane McClanahan (amongst others).
If the 32-year-old is able to continue the current trend he is on, not only will he help the Blue Jays in their quest to reach the postseason, but Gausman might just take home some personal hardware by the end of the year.