Baseball is a sport steeped in tradition, and one of its most reliable customs is the April overreaction. Every year we find ourselves forming strong opinions based on tiny samples because that’s all we’ve seen. That's especially true when what we see fits with existing spring training narratives.
Sometimes they’re spot on, but more often than not what we see at the beginning of the season isn’t any more meaningful than what happens in the middle of June, it’s just under an electron microscope.
In the case of the Toronto Blue Jays, despite the evidence we’ve seen thus far, this lineup will score runs, Randal Grichuk isn’t ready to show he should’ve been drafted a spot above Mike Trout after all, and Rowdy Tellez isn’t going to go hitless all year.
With those caveats out of the way, one area where very small samples can tell us something is how pitchers’ repertoires look. If a pitcher has added a new pitch, radically altered his mix, or found additional velocity that meaningfully affect his season-long outlook, and those changes often show up early.
For example, last year Tanner Roark pitched five innings of one-run ball in his Blue Jays debut. That wasn’t reflective of the season to come for the veteran — but the fact his fastball and sinker were both more than a tick slower than his 2019 averages was a harbinger of his diminished stuff.
Keeping that in mind, here’s a rundown of what we’ve learned about the Blue Jays’ staff in the early going.
Hyun-Jin Ryu: Throwing 12.1 innings of 2.92 ERA ball in his first two starts is exceedingly on brand for Ryu. The 34-year-old’s stuff looks the same as last year, and he’s as reliable as they come from a performance standpoint. So long as he stays healthy the Blue Jays have an ace.
Ross Stripling: One rough outing against a formidable New York Yankees lineup isn’t particularly telling, and Stripling's repertoire looks similar to what he featured in 2019. His slider in his first start came in a little harder than he threw it last year (+1.5 mph) while his changeup was slower (-1.8 mph), but because his fastball was relatively flat (-0.5 mph) that looks like tinkering as opposed to a change in his capabilities.