In 2018, Marco Estrada led the Blue Jays pitching staff with 143.2 innings pitched. This is perhaps surprising, considering the injuries and ineffectiveness he experienced, but in the end he made 28 starts averaging just shy of six innings apiece.
There is something even more significant about that: it’s the first time in franchise history that no pitcher has thrown at least 150 innings for the Jays. The closest that had come to happening was in 1981 and 1994, when only one pitcher reached the threshold. But even that’s a misnomer as both seasons were (significantly) strike shortened seasons. Two more exceeded 125 innings in 1981 and in 1994 Juan Guzman and Todd Stottlemyre were above 140 when the season ended prematurely, with Dave Stewart and Al Leiter having reasonable shots as well at exceeding 150 innings.
Of course, some of this is the changing nature of the starting pitching role, and some of it is circumstances. J.A. Happ pitched over 175 innings this season, but the midseason trade meant only 114 of that was for the Jays. As recently as 2016, five Blue Jays threw 150+ innings, matching 1993 for the franchise high, shown in the chart below. And four did it in each of the two season before that; the total of 13 is the highest for any three consecutive years in franchise history. So it’s not just starting pitchers throwing less generally.
We are now 15 years removed from Roy Halladay throwing 266 innings in 2003, the last time a Blue Jays starter exceeded 250 innings. It’s safe to say 250 inning season have gone the way of the dodo bird, as even before the only instances since 1987 occurring were Pat Hentgen in 1996 and 1997 (that’s right, over 500 innings across two season), with Rogers Clemens joining him in 1997. It happened 10 times in the first 11 Blue Jays seasons, with Dave Stieb accounting for four of those in 1982-85 (and just missing in 1980).
200+ inning seasons have declined as well. The team has 25 in the 1980s, 16 in the 1990s, and just 11 in the 2000s. The decline did seem to have been arrested, with nine in the 2010s and one year to go. That may turn out be have been a team-specific blip: in 2018, just 14 pitchers threw 200 innings, less than half as many as just five years earlier. It generally feels like 150 innings is the new 200 innings.
It was not until 2004 that no Blue Jays pitcher threw less than 200 innings in a non-strike shortened season. It happened again in the 2012, the nightmare for pitching injuries. 2018 is the just the third time it’s happened in franchise history but one wonders if in 25 years we’ll talking about 200 inning seasons the way 250 inning seasons were discussed above.
The Blue Jays will have how many 150+ inning seasons in 2019?
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