The choice of who should start behind Kevin Gausman and Alek Manoah isn’t one that should be dictated by a $15-million US difference in salary, but instead by a 1.5 difference in xERA among other statistics.
Without question, Ross Stripling should be the third starter for the Toronto Blue Jays in the postseason.
Don’t overthink it. How many times can that be said at the behest of a manager’s choice when it comes to pitching.
The simple question is this: who has been more reliable this season? The simple answer is this: Ross Stripling.
On a surface level, the bullpen-arm turned starter, and vice-versa at points in his career, has been a more steady pitcher for the Jays this season. In his 23 starts, only once has he been yanked before pitching four innings.
Jose Berrios on the other hand has been taken out of the game prior to the fourth inning five times, with his most recent shellacking coming only two weeks ago on Sept. 22 when he gave up six runs on seven hits in two innings against the Rays.
When every game counts for that much more, the Blue Jays can’t afford to risk a potential implosion from Berrios as the third starter. Toronto has been a team plagued by inconsistency all season, playing it safe when it matters most is the right choice when it comes to bucking that trend.
Moreover, the Jays are a young team. This core hasn’t truly been to the playoffs before other than the quick elimination they received in 2020 at the hands of the Tampa Bay Rays. Looking over this roster, it’s hard to pinpoint where that big game experience comes from, especially as it concerns the pitching staff.
Stripling is the outlier in that case, having spent time with the Dodgers during their recent run of success. Though he didn’t log a start in any of the Dodgers’ postseason runs, he came out of the bullpen three times in the World Series against the Houston Astros in 2017. He didn’t give up a run in any of those appearances.
People can point out that the upside with Berrios is higher. He’s a more proven starter than Stripling has been in recent years, and is truly tabbed as a starting pitcher.
Strategically, it could also make sense for Schneider to start the former Minnesota Twin but give him a short leash and deploy Stripling out of the bullpen in case of emergencies, a role he’s just as comfortable in.
However, this Jays team can’t risk jumping out to a quick deficit against the Mariners. Berrios can absolutely pitch a gem, in fact he threw one in his last outing against the Mariners on May 17 when he threw seven innings of shutout ball with four strikeouts.
But that one performance is absolutely not indicative of how he’s pitched this season as a whole.
Berrios’ game log is one marred with inconsistency. When looking at the earned runs he gives up on a game-to-game basis, it’s almost hard to find a repeating number.
He has as many eight run games (2) as Stripling has games where he gave up four or more runs.
After missing the post-season last year by one game, the team extended the star pitcher they acquired at the deadline, José Berrios, to what looked like a solid 7 year/$131-million dollar contract.
But to decide who should pitch based on the role they were expected to play at the start of the season is a sunk cost fallacy, and a product of dwelling on past disappointments, hoping something gives.
Stripling is the better, and more importantly safer pitcher right now. Though he wasn’t signed to be the one in this position at the start of the season, he’s proven that he’s capable of being that guy now.
Overthinking has cost teams wins too often in the past, the Jays should play it safe, they should play Stripling.