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The Season That Was: Kevin Gausman

Wild Card Series - Seattle Mariners v Toronto Blue Jays - Game Two Photo by Vaughn Ridley/Getty Images

Kevin Gausman was our big free agent signing this past off-season. The Jays gave him a five-year, $110 million contract.

He was coming off his best MLB season, going 14-6 with a 2.81 ERA and a 5.1 bWAR with the Giants. It was enough to get him Cy Young votes, finishing sixth and he was 21st in NL MVP voting. A nice season to have before becoming a free agent.

In Kate’s post announcing the signing she put in a poll and we were happy with the deal:

He didn’t disappoint:

Standard Pitching
12 10 3.35 31 31 0 0 174.2 188 72 65 15 28 0 205 1 2 2 116 2.38
Provided by View Original Table
Generated 10/17/2022.

Baseball Reference has him at a 3.0 WAR, FanGraphs at 5.7, giving him a value of $45.7 million to the Jays.

He had a 2.38 FIP and a 2.76 xFIP, better than his ERA, which explains why his fWAR was so much better.

Kevin’s BABIP was .363, much worse than his .274 of last year. 74.0% of baserunners were stranded, down a bit from the 78.4 of last year.

His line drive rate was up a little (24.6%, from 21.6), ground ball rate down a tiny bit (.39.2%, from 41.9) and fly ball rate was much the same (36.1%, from 36.5).

His strikeout rate was down just a bit (28.3%, from 29.3), and walk rate was way down (3.9%, from 6.5).

Kevin’s soft contact was much the same as last years’ (15.9%, from 16.2) and hard contact was down a bit 30.3%, from 34.2).

Right-handed hitters (.292.328/.435) hit him better than left-handers (.244/.258/.350).

Gausman was much better on the road (2.30, batters hit .243/.273/.332) than at home (4.57, batters hit .305/.330/.476).

And his first half (2.87, .276/.307/.373) was better than his second half (3.90, .268/.291/.423) even if batters hit him much the same in the two halves.

Gausman by month:

  • April: 4 starts, 1-1. Batters hit .266/263/.298.
  • May: 6 starts, 4-2. Batters hit .239/.269/.352.
  • June: 5 starts, 1-3, 3.96. Batters hit .311/.362/.425.
  • July: 4 starts, 1-2, 5.09. Batters hit .356/.390/.630.
  • August: 6 starts, 3-1, 2.70. Batters hit .246/.271/348.
  • September: 6 starts, 2-1, 4.19. Batters hit .263/.287/.431.

The wheels fell off in June and July but he figured things out after.

The Jays were 18-13 in his starts. The offense averaged 4.75 runs per start in his game. They scored 3 or less 16 times and 2 or less 10 times.

Days of rest:

  • 4 days, 15 games: 3.74, .289/.311/.441.
  • 5 days, 10 games: 1.92, .221/.261/.281.
  • 6 or more days, 6 games: 4.54, .321/.340/.504.

Times through the order:

  • 1st: Batters hit .273/.298/.382.
  • 2nd: Batters hit .266/.297/.423.
  • 3rd: Batters hit .269/.298/.386.
  • And he faced 3 batters in the fourth time through giving up 2 singles.

He didn’t seem to tire was the game went on.

If you are interested, he did best with Kirk behind the plate (batters hit .244/.271/.326 in 10 starts). With Jansen (.307/.332/.489 13 starts). I think that’s sample size. Actually he did great, in four games, Zack Collins caught (.196/.210/.227).

Kevin’s best start, by GameScore, was a 89. August 2nd at Tampa Bay, 1 hit, 1 walk, 10 strikes in 8 innings. He pitched 8 innings twice.

His worst start was a 21. June 16th, at home against the Orioles. 2.1, 7 hits, 7 runs, 5 earned, 1 walk and 3 strikeouts.

He averaged 5.6 innings per start.

It was a pretty good season, abet for a bit of a stumble around mid-season. There were lots of theories. Tipping pitches or the league figured him out. I doubt it was tipping pitches, but who knows? But it did seem like teams had figured out something about him.

He led the league in FIP.

I’m never sure where I stand on FIP. It is what “should have happened” but not what happened. If a guy gets beat on little ground balls that just went past the fielders. If he doesn’t get lucky, then well, FIP shows it.

Kevin doesn’t walk, guys. And he doesn’t give up a lot of home runs. So his FIP is good.

But, at times, there were sequencing issues. He would give up a few hits in a row. But then, if one of them would find a glove.....

So it is a question for each of us. If you believe FIP is the stat, he was the league’s best starter. If you think ERA is the better stat, he was an excellent starter.

Kevin had the most fantastic start to the season. He didn’t give up a walk until his sixth start. He didn’t give up more than one walk until his ninth game. For that matter, he only had one game all season where he gave up more than two walks, three on June 11th.

And he didn’t give up a home run until his eighth start of the season.

We were thinking Cy Young early (of course, if the reporters believe in FIP, he should get some votes). Perhaps, when he had his little downturn, teams just stopped trying to ‘work the count’ against him and decided to start swinging earlier because he was going to get ahead in the count. When Kevin was ahead in the count batters, hit .236/.235/.332. On his first pitch, batters hit .358/.349/.568 (guys always hit well on the first pitch). Why not go up there swinging?

A fairer way of looking at it:

  • When they swung at the first pitch batters hit .303/.311/.448.
  • When they took the first pitch batters hit .254/.293/.371.

So why wouldn’t you go after the first pitch (especially since his BABIP was so high).

The BABIP (.363) suggests he was, perhaps, having some bad luck. However, he did seem to (no, not seems, he did) have more hits go against the shift than any other Jays pitcher. The Jays have an off-season to look at that and see what adjustments should be made.

Before the season, we asked if he would throw more than the 169 innings PECOTA expected. 79% of us were correct.

We asked who would be the number one pitcher by the end of the season. Gausman got 11% of the vote. Alek Manoah got 25%. But, showing how gifted we are at judging baseball, Berrios won the poll at 59% (and not one of us will admit to voting for him).

It was a good season, and he did great in his playoff start (and he, with the benefit of hindsight, should have stayed in longer). I’m looking forward to seeing how things go next season.


For his 2022 season I’d give Kevin Gausman an

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386 votes total Vote Now