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Better Know Your Blue Jays 40-Man: Erik Swanson

Toronto Blue Jays v Seattle Mariners Photo by Stephen Brashear/Getty Images

Erik Swanson is a 29-year-old right-handed reliever.

The Blue Jays picked him up in a trade from the Mariners, along with minor leaguer Adam Macko, in exchange for Teoscar Hernandez. Generally, I hate trading an everyday player for a relief pitcher. I know there are reasons for this one. Mainly that Hernandez is going into his last season of team control.

But ignoring that we traded an all-star outfielder for a guy who might throw 60 innings this year, what do we have in Swanson?

Well, he’s pitched four seasons for the Mariners. He made 8 starts for them in 2019 but was quickly moved to the pen. He only made it into 9 games in 2020, but 2020 was a very short season. In 2021 he pitched in 33 games, making 2 starts (both of the ‘opener’ variety.

Last year he was very good. Pitched in 57 games (one start), 53.2 innings, 39 hits, 10 walks and 70 strikeouts. Batters hit just .202/.245/.290 against him. He was equally good against LHB (.514 OPS) and RHB (.555). The 34.0% strikeout rate is what really stands out.

What did he do to get so good last year? Well, Zach Mason, at Lookout Landing said:

When he first arrived in 2019, he was throwing his four-seamer more than two-thirds of the time. It’s not uncommon for a pitcher to rely on his fastball in his first tour of the bigs, and it made all the more sense for Swanson, since it’s long been his best pitch. The distinguishing feature of Swanson’s four-seamer is that he throws it with almost perfect backspin, creating 99% spin efficiency. If you’re new to pitch spin, backspin is a good thing on a four-seamer because it doesn’t drop on the way to the plate as much as a hitter expects. Particularly when located up in the zone, this’ll cause hitters to swing under the pitch, like this:

And then, in 2021, he paired that with a splitter:

Where Swanson could only get 24 inches of drop on his changeup, his splitter got 33. Having found a better secondary, he started relying on it more, dropping his fastball usage from 67.2% in 2019 to 60% in 2021. It got his bad contact under control, but his strikeout-minus-walk rate was still around where it had been before, at just 17.4%.

Erik also used a slider last year.

Last year he threw the fastball 55% of the time (averaging 93.7 MPH), the Splitter 25% of the time and the slider 20% of the time.

The question is, can he be as good this year? I’ve very curious to see him pitch.

Steamer doesn’t think he’ll be quite as good. They have him pitching in 65 games, with a 3.89 ERA and just a 25% strikeout rate. That would be going back to his pre-2022 rate. I can understand they wouldn’t trust that he could keep up the same rate, but I think he stays closer to that 34% of last year. ERA I can see rising, going from the rather large Petco T-Mobile Park and moving to the smaller (and shrinking) Rogers Centre.

The strikeout rate will be important because fly balls might be murder for our pitchers. Last year 7.5% of his fly balls left the park. It might be a little higher this year. But then, he gave up 3 home runs at home last year and none on the road.


What inning will Swanson get the most work?

This poll is closed

  • 6%
    (35 votes)
  • 41%
    (221 votes)
  • 50%
    (272 votes)
  • 1%
    (8 votes)
536 votes total Vote Now


Who leads the Jays in holds this year?

This poll is closed

  • 25%
    Yimi Garcia
    (127 votes)
  • 5%
    Tim Mayza
    (27 votes)
  • 23%
    Adam Cimber
    (121 votes)
  • 15%
    Anthony Bas
    (79 votes)
  • 29%
    Erik Swanson
    (151 votes)
505 votes total Vote Now


If the over/under on Swanson’s strikeout rate is 30% I’d take the

This poll is closed

  • 57%
    (271 votes)
  • 42%
    (204 votes)
475 votes total Vote Now