Blue Jays’ Chris Bassitt aiming for improved consistency in second half
Photo credit:Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports
By Thomas Hall2 months ago
Halfway into right-hander Chris Bassitt’s inaugural campaign with the Toronto Blue Jays, the 34-year-old feels he left plenty to be desired during an up-and-down showing as the All-Star break began on Monday.
Bassitt, inking a three-year, $63-million contract over the off-season, entered the break with a 4.19 ERA and 4.81 FIP over 109.2 innings in 19 starts, worth 0.8 fWAR. It was a respectable performance, especially when you factor in his 3.42 ERA and 3.66 FIP in 30 starts with the New York Mets – who acquired him via trade from the Oakland Athletics last season.
For context, Bassitt ranks 67th out of 130 qualified big-league starting pitchers (min. 50 innings pitched) in ERA and is tied for 95th in FIP this season, according to FanGraphs. That puts him in a decent spot. It is also worth noting that he sits inside the top 15 in innings pitched, as well.
But, from the 2021 All-Star’s perspective, he was none-too-pleased with his first 19 outings as a member of the Blue Jays organization.
In terms of consistency, Bassitt nailed it right on the head with his comments following Sunday’s first-half finale versus the Detroit Tigers – a start in which he allowed three runs on nine hits, including Riley Greene’s solo blast, over four innings.
The 6-foot-5 hurler has looked excellent at times, surrendering two runs or fewer in nine of his 19 first-half starts, headlined by a complete game two-hitter against the Atlanta Braves on May 12. He also logged at least six innings – and often pitched deeper than that mark – in each of those stellar outings.
There have been outliers, too, as Bassitt has been tagged for seven runs or more in a trio of outings. Those were also three of his five shortest performances of the year, which saw him last no longer than four innings per start.
One common theme, though, has centred around Bassitt’s issues with the long ball. Since his hard-hit (38.5 per cent, up 5.7% from 2022) and fly-ball rates (38.2 per cent, up 4.2% from ’22) have soared in the wrong direction in 2023, so have his home runs allowed per nine innings (1.48, up 0.54 from ’22) and home-run-to-fly-ball ratio (15.0 per cent, up 4.1% from ’22).
Most of that damage has come against the veteran righty’s cutter (four home runs allowed), which surrendered five round-trippers all of last season. As a result, its run value has worsened from minus-three in 2022 to plus-four this season.
Bassitt’s four-seamer has also struggled to limit home runs, with its total rising from three in ’22 to four in ’23, causing its run value to fall to plus-six – the worst amongst his eight-pitch arsenal.
Left-handers, in particular, have proven most troublesome as they’re slugging .580 with a .290 ISO and 14 home runs, producing a 90.4 m.p.h. average exit velocity. Righties, meanwhile, are slashing .193/.255/.283 with just four home runs, a .090 ISO and an 85.9 m.p.h. average exit velocity.
For the Blue Jays to gain ground in the American League, Bassitt will need to conquer his demons versus lefties throughout the second half so that he doesn’t encounter a similar fate when facing opponents like the Texas Rangers and Tampa Bay Rays in September, both of whom feature several potent left-handed hitters.
But it also runs deeper than that, of course, as Toronto is counting on the long-time Athletic to play an integral role in October as the club seeks a second consecutive playoff berth.
Consistency has been Bassitt’s M.O. for much of his career, and he prides himself on maintaining that expectation each season. So you can bet he’ll be motivated to steer in that direction more effectively in the second half of his first season north of the border.
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