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The season that was: Sam Gaviglio

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Toronto Blue Jays v Tampa Bay Rays Photo by Brian Blanco/Getty Images

Here’s something I would have never guessed before the season: Which Blue Jays pitcher faced the second most batters this year? Sam Gaviglio.

We picked up Sam in trade from the Royals, back on March 21, for a player to be named later or cash. I don’t know which it turned out to be.

At the time I said:

I’m guessing he’s going pick up the innings opened up because of Thomas Pannone’s suspension. He’s been optioned to the minor league camp already.

He didn’t stay in Buffalo long, he was called up, along with Joe Biagini, on May 11th. Marcus Stroman went on the DL with shoulder fatigue and Tim Mayza, well he pitched 2 innings on May 10 so he went back to Buffalo.

Much to my surprise, Sam stayed with the team the rest of the season, minus 3 days on the paternity list.

His first appearance went very well. He pitched 3 (extra) innings, and got the win in a 5-3, 12 inning win over the Red Sox. As always, a good first impression goes a long way. He would make one more relief appearance and then he went into the starting rotation and stayed on it for the rest of the season.

Standard Pitching
W L ERA G GS GF IP H ER HR BB SO HBP BK WP ERA+
3 10 5.31 26 24 1 123.2 140 73 21 38 105 4 2 6 79
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 10/3/2018.

Baseball Reference has him at a 0.5 WAR. FanGraphs at 0.9, giving him a value of $6.9 million to the Jays.

He had a BABIP of .313, higher than last year’s .274 (in limited innings). His left on base percentage was 68.8. The team average was 70.0%.

Sam’s FIP (4.69) and xFIP (4.16) were much better than his ERA, so maybe he was getting unlucky.

His strikeout rate was 19.2% (team average 20.7). Walk rate 6.9% (team average 8.8).

His line drive rate was 19.1 (team 19.2). Ground ball 48.9% (team 42.5). Fly ball 32.1 (team 38.2). His fly balls left the part 16.7% of the time (team 12.7).

Hard contact rate 32.9% (team 32.0). Soft contact 17.7% (team 19.5).

Sam’s left/right splits were pretty even (RHB hit .283/.333/.474, LHB hit .279/.336/.465).

Sam was much much better at home (2-3, 3.41 ERA, batters hit .237/.296/.388 in 71.1 innings) than on the road (1-7, 7.91 ERA, batters hit .301/.348/.496 in 52.1 innings). I’m not sure if that means anything or if it was just a random occurrence.

As you likely remember, he was better in the first half (2-3, 4.58, batters hit 257/.318/.437 in 57 innings), than in the second half (1-7, 5.94, batters hit .301/.348/.496 in 66 innings).

Sam by month:

  • May: 2-1, 3.32, batters hit .220/.264/.415 in 5 games, 3 starts.
  • June: 0-1, 4.50, batters hit .253/.324/.414 in 5 starts.
  • July: 0-2, 7.30, batters hit .327/.392/.533 in 6 starts.
  • August: 1-3, 4.82, batters hit .296/.336/.470 in 5 starts.
  • Sept: 0-3, 6.56, batters hit .293/.337/.505 in 5 starts.

I don’t know if he was fooling people early and they figured him out. Or if he started doing something different.

The Jays had a 8-16 record in his starts. His longest win streak was 2 games. Longest losing streak was 6 games, May 30 to Aug 16.

Sam’s best start by GameScore was a 72, June 6 at home against the Yankees. He went 7 innings, allowed 3 hits, no runs, 3 walks with 4 strikeouts.

His worst start by GameScore was a 19, July 11 at Atlanta. He went 1.2m allowed 6 hits, 6 earned, 0 walks, 0 strikeouts.


Sam averaged 4.97 innings per start.

I don’t know what Sam’s future is with the team. He didn't exactly end the season on a hot streak. He has an option year left so they might keep him around as depth. But then, there is a 40-man roster crunch coming. Is he deserving of one of those 40 spots?

I guess what I’d like to do is sign him to a minor league contract. He’d be a good insurance policy, and like most insurance policies, we'd be best off not to use him.

I’m sure if you told me that Sam would make 24 starts, I’d have guessed the season didn’t go well. And I’d be right. We came into the season thinking the starting rotation would be the strength of the club. If it was, we wouldn’t have seen so much of Sam.

The Sportsnet writers talked to the Jays pitchers at the end of the season. Sam said:

It’s been a good experience, a lot of learning. I wish I could be a little bit more consistent at times. It’s been a fun group of guys to play with. (I’ve learned) what allows me to have better mechanics and stay with mechanics, especially late in the game. My slider, especially early on when I got called up, was really good. I kind of lost feel for that. That’s something that I’ve got to have every time I’m out there. It plays off my fastball where if I have a good fastball working I can get away with not as good of secondary stuff.

FanGraphs tells us that Sam averaged 88.5 MPH on his fastball, but he topped out about 93-94. So he’s right, some consistency would be nice.


It is hard to find that perfect play to highlight for pitchers. I guess it should be the end of his win against the Red Sox in his first appearance with the team, but this tag out of Jackie Bradley (from a different game, one we wouldn’t win) is pretty cool.