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The Season That Was: Trent Thornton

Looking back at Trent’s 2019 season

Tampa Bay Rays v Toronto Blue Jays Photo by Cole Burston/Getty Images

We picked up Trent Thornton from the Astros last November, in exchange for Aledmys Diaz (who we picked up the year before in exchange for J.B. Woodman (I always put an ‘s’ in his name)). Woodman is out of baseball now. The comment thread in the post on the trade was mixed, some liked the trade, some didn’t.

Diaz had a pretty good season for us in 2018, hitting .263/.303/.453 with 18 home runs, good for a 1.4 bWAR, so you can understand some would be sad about losing him. This year he hit .271/.256/.467 with 9 home runs in 69 games (he missed a fair bit of time with various injuries, including missing time after being in hospital for dizziness).

We understood it to be a trade from an area of excess (we had a few middle infielders), but then, later in the off-season, we picked up Freddy Galvis, so we were a bit confused.

We weren’t really sure what we were getting with Thornton, though we were intrigued by his high leg kick. He had a 4.42 ERA in 24 games, 22 starts at Fresno in the PCL. Since the PCL inflates offense, it is hard to get a feel for

Matt and I placed him 27th on our Top 40 Prospect list, before the start of the 2019 season. I wrote:

In 2018 Trent had a 4.42 ERA in Triple A Fresno in the Pacific Coast League. In 24 games, 22 starts, he pitched 124.1 innings, with 118 hits, 13 home runs, 31 walks and 122 strikeouts. Fresno ballpark isn’t as strong a hitter’s park as most of parks in the PCL, but it does allow about 10% more home runs than the average PCL park. Trent was pretty good at keeping the ball in the park. He didn’t give up a lot of walks and he struck out almost a batter an inning.

Keith Law tells us that he throws 4 pitches and 3 of them have “spin rates near the top of the range for those pitch types.”

He throws mid-90s and can hit 97, so if he doesn’t make it as a starter, he might be a good choice for the bullpen. Talking about his pitches Trent himself said: “Four-seam fastball (91-95 mph), cutter (87-90), split change (77-80), curveball (77-81), and slider (79-84).”

I’m curious to watch him this spring. He has an outside shot at a spot in our rotation out of spring training, but it’s far more likely he’ll start the season in Buffalo and wait for an opening.

As it turned out, he started the season in the Jays rotation, starting game 4 (he went 5 innings, allowing just 2 hits, no walks and 8 strikeouts, we hoped it was a sign of things to come).

Standard Pitching
6 9 4.84 32 29 154.1 156 87 83 24 61 149 5 5 677 94 4.59 1.4 3.6 8.7
Provided by View Original Table
Generated 9/30/2019.

Baseball Reference has him at a 1.7 WAR. FanGraphs 1.9, giving him a value of $15.4 million to the Jays.

Batters had a .301 BABIP against him (team average .300). He had a left on base percentage of 71.7% (team average 71.8%).

His FIP was 4.59. His xFIP was 4.94.

Trent’s line drive rate was 27.4% (team average 21.1%). Ground ball rate 32.4% (team average 43.1% ). Fly ball rate 40.3 (team average 35.8%). 13% of his fly balls left the park (team average 10.5%.).

His strikeout rate was 22.0% (team average 21.1%) . Walk rate 9.0% (team average 9.6%).

His soft contact rate was 20.3% (team average 18.1% ). Hard contact 36.1% (team average 38.0%).

Lefties hit him (.248/.321/.455) about the same as right-handers (.270/.336/.423).

And Trent did much the same on the road (3-3, 4.83, batters hit .269/.339/.442) as at home (3-6, 4.86, batters hit .256/.314/.436). .

He was pretty much the same in the first half (3-6, 4.85, batters hit .265/.337/.444) as in the second half (3-3, 4.83, batters hit .249/.314/.432).

Trent by month:

  • April: 0-3, 5.08, batters hit .245/.320/.464 in 6 starts.
  • May: 1-1, 4.02, batters hit .217/.316/.383 in 6 starts.
  • June: 1-1, 4.78. batters hit .303/.369/.459 in 5 starts.
  • July: 1-2, 11.08, batters hit .355/.403/.597 in 4 starts.
  • August: 1-2, 4.99, batters hit .293/.336/.520 in 6 starts.
  • Sept: 2-0, 2.19, batters hit .155/.245/.226 in 5 games, 2 starts, 3 ‘bulk guy’ games.

He had a really rough time of it in July. Take that month out and it is a really good season. It did seem like he figured something out late in the season. He said it was talking to Clay Buchholz. 4 of his 5 September appearances went well. I’d like to hope that carries over to next year.

The Jays were 12-20 in his games, including the games he followed the opener. His longest win streak was 2 games, in September. His longest losing streak was 4 games, at the start of the season. He had some good starts in there, but sometimes the offense didn’t show up and sometimes the bullpen lost the game for him.

His best start by GameScore was a 78 on May 3rd against the Rangers in Texas. He went 7 innings, allowed 1 hits, 2 walks with 5 strikeouts. And he didn’t get the win, we won it in the 12th inning. He had 10 starts with a GameScore of 60 or better.

He also had the 5 innings of no-hit ball against the Red Sox on September 11th. He didn’t start that game, Wilmer Font was the opener, going two innings. Trent threw the next 5 innings, allowing just 1 walk with 7 strikeouts. Considering the opponent, that was as good an outing as he had all season.

His worst start, by GameScore was an 8 on July 2nd, at home vs. the Red Sox. Trent gave up 11 hits, 7 earned, 1 walk, 1 strikeout, 1 k in 2.2 innings. It was a game we lost 10-6.

Trent averaged 4.8 innings per start.

If you had wanted to bet that Trent would a) make the most starts and b) pitch the most innings for the Blue Jays, I’m pretty sure you could have gotten pretty terrific odds.

Trent averaged 93.2 mph on his fast ball. By FanGraphs he also threw a cutter, slider, curve, splitter and sinker.

By bWAR, Thornton’s season was tied for the 6th best rookie season for a Blue Jays starter. The only Jays rookies to do better were Jerry Garvin (3.6 bWAR in 1977), Juan Guzman (3.2 in 1991), Gustavo Chacin (3.2 in 2005), Ricky Romero (2.2 in 2009) and Marcus Stroman (1.9 in 2014).

He’s also 7th in most innings pitched by a Blue Jays rookie pitcher. Jerry Garvin is at the top of this list too, pitching 244.2 innings. Mark Eichhorn also pitched more innings than Trent did, all of his inning were in relief.

You know, really it was a pretty good season for Trent. It would be nice if he could smooth out some of the lows. He had a 9.61 ERA in his losses. But then, he was a rookie, we can forgive some ups and downs. Well, we only have to forgive the downs.

And it would be nice if he could be a little more economical with his pitches. A starter that doesn’t average 5 innings a start isn’t what I’d like to see. Trent’s longest outing was the 7 innings against the Rangers mentioned above. If he is going to be a mid to back of the rotation starter, I’d really like him to eat more innings.

Let’s do a poll:


Trent Thornton threw 154 innings this year, next year he well

This poll is closed

  • 66%
    Throw more innings
    (170 votes)
  • 29%
    Throw 100 to 154 innings
    (76 votes)
  • 3%
    Throw less than 100 innings
    (10 votes)
256 votes total Vote Now

I want to include video of a good moment in each player’s season, but for pitchers, it is harder to find a ‘moment’. But here is a look at Trent’s 5 hitless innings against the Red Sox: