Two rough starts and one nice start in to the season, the most reassuring thing we've seen so far from Dustin McGowan is the fact that he is actually back, and healthy, so far.
For a Blue Jays team that has been plagued by all sorts of ridiculous injuries over the past year plus, McGowan being able to return and earn his first win since 2008 gives some semblance of hope that maybe this team can actually...be okay?
McGowan's injury history is long, exhausting, and makes you appreciate his battling back to the majors even more:
- July 2008: Pulled from a games with shoulder soreness, placed on 15-day DL, year end shoulder surgery
- Early 2009: While rehabbing that same shoulder, McGowan underwent surgery on his knee to repair cartilage. He did not pitch professionally in 2009.
- 2010: More issues and discomfort in the shoulder - and another surgery. Six months lost. Like 2009, no professional pitching in 2010.
- In 2011: McGowan was actually able to pitch in the minors, and made it to the Blue Jays in September to pitch in four games.
- 2012: Shoulder problems! Did not pitch in a game all year and underwent arthroscopic shoulder surgery in August.
(h/t Jays Journal)
That's five years of shoulder and knee problems. Five years! That's an incredible amount of time.
McGowan finally made it back to the Jays in 2013 and pitched out of the bullpen, doing very well - 2.45 ERA, 170 ERA+, and a 2.17 SO/BB ratio (9.1 SO/9!).
This year, he has had three starts - the first was the home opener against the Yankees, and McGowan did not do well. The second, against the Orioles, was much better, and the third, against the Twins, was closer to the first than the second.
Here's something Andrew Stoeten of Drunk Jays Fans tweeted out - a bit of discouraging news about McGowan, just before his start against the Twins.
SSS, but if qualified, McGowan would be bottom 10 in GB%, FB%, and SwSt% right now, and it's not all from that Yankees start.— Andrew Stoeten (@AndrewStoeten) April 15, 2014
As it stands right now, in three starts McGowan has pitched 13 innings to a 4.86 ERA and 4.66 FIP.
Going back to before the injuries, McGowan always showed signs of promise - a powerful fastball, huge curve, slider and sinker with a ton of movement, and a nice looking changeup. Unfortunately the ERA never really reflected the great pitches - his best was 4.08 in 2007.
The entire pitching rotation in 2008 was insanely good. Halladay (2.78 ERA, 152 ERA+), Burnett (4.07, 104), Jesse Litsch (3.58, 118), Shaun Marcum (3.39, 125), and McGowan (4.37, 97) combined for 66 wins and were one of the better rotations in baseball.
Just for comparison's sake, last year's rotation had zero pitchers with an ERA+ above 100, the best were RA Dickey's 98 and Mark Buehrle's 99. So, the Blue Jays' top four guys in the rotation in 2008 were better than any Blue Jays starter last year.
Anyway, back to McGowan, and the entire point of this post -
Here, courtesy of the wonderful Brooks Baseball, is the data on McGowan's pitches:
I was able to go back and find video of some of McGowan's starts in 2008, and wanted to show some of his pitches just to appreciate how dominant he could have been.
Averaged 95 mph, threw the pitch 34.42% of the time
Averaged 95 mph, 23.74% frequency
Avg 87 mph, 11.62% freq
I couldn't find this pitch so here is another splitter. Hnngggg
Avg 88 mph, 20.13% freq
Avg 81 mph, 10.10% freq
We're never going to get the McGowan back who could start games and touch 98 with his fastball. Being injured for five years in a row will do that. Let's just hope that he can be a solid fifth starter and not get hurt. Again.