Multiple Blue Jays pitchers had bounce-back seasons in 2023, which should lead to optimism about Alek Manoah

Photo credit:Nathan Ray Seebeck-USA TODAY Sports
Ryley Delaney
2 months ago
It’s no secret that Alek Manoah had a rough 2023 season.
After finishing third in American League Cy Young voting in 2022, Manoah put together the worst season of his young career in 2023. The 26-year-old had a 5.87 ERA and a 6.01 FIP in 87.1 innings pitched, with a K% that dropped from 22.9% in 2022 to 19% in 2023. On top of that, Manoah’s BB% rose from 6.5% to an incredibly bad 14.2%.
Seen as the ace heading into the season, the Blue Jays sent Manoah down to the Florida Complex League on June 6, where uh, things didn’t go his way. Against literal teenagers, Manoah gave up 11 earned runs in 2 and two third innings of work, striking out just three batters and walking two. 
Now, it’s entirely possible that the Jays just got him to work stuff out and ignore results, but it isn’t an encouraging look for a former Cy Young nominee to get shelled against the lowest ladder of the minor leagues. His start with the New Hampshire Fisher Cats was more encouraging, giving up a single earned run in five innings, while striking out 10 and walking three.
After returning to the big leagues on July 7, Manoah had a 4.91 ERA and a 5.06 FIP in 29.1 innings pitched, along with a 23.3 K% and a 12.8 BB%. Still not great, but an improvement on the first part of his season. He was optioned once again, and didn’t pitch again after August 10.
Of course the 2023 season wasn’t good, but not all hope is lost. Look no further than what a year did for both José Berríos and Yusei Kikuchi.

José Berríos’ 2022 and 2023:

After the Jays acquired the right-handed pitcher at the 2021 trade deadline, he put up some solid numbers to end the year and help the Jays push for a playoff spot. Berríos was named as the Jays’ opening starter for the 2022 season, where he was absolutely shelled. He didn’t even get through the first inning, giving up four earned runs and pitching just a third of an inning.
All in all, Berríos finished the 2022 season with a 5.23 ERA and a 4.55 FIP in 172 innings pitched, along with a 19.8 K% and a 6 BB%. It’s not totally identical to Manoah’s 2023, as Berríos pitched a full season and had more good starts than bad, but the ERA was equally as high and the K% dropped.
It looked as if the 2023 season would be similar, as Berríos gave up 12 earned runs in his first two games for an 11.17 ERA in 9.2 innings pitched. However, from April 14 to the end of the season, Berríos had a 3.25 ERA and a 4.04 FIP in 180 innings pitched, along with a 23.4 K% and a 6.7 BB%.
After a dismal 2022, Berríos finished 2023 with a 3.65 ERA and a 3.99 FIP in 189.2 innings pitched, along with a 23.5 K% and a 6.6 BB%, wiping away any worries moving forward.

Yusei Kikuchi’s 2022 and 2023:

The Jays signed Kikuchi to a three-year, $36 million deal shortly after the lockout ended in early 2022. Unlike Berríos, Kikuchi didn’t have much of a track record of success as his best season featured a 4.41 ERA and a 5.62 FIP in 157 innings pitched. The lefty started the season off well and even earned a trip to the All-Star game, but fell apart in the second half.
Kikuchi’s 2022 season wasn’t great, as he finished the season with a 5.19 ERA and a 5.62 FIP in 100.2 innings pitched. While he had a career-high 27.3 K%, his BB% ballooned to 12.8%, the highest mark in his career. In the middle of August, the Blue Jays moved Kikuchi to the bullpen where he found some success, especially with the strikeouts, but still struggled overall.
The left-handed pitcher had a career-year in 2023, posting a 3.86 ERA and a 4.12 FIP in 167.2 innings pitched. His ERA and innings pitched were the best of his career, while his FIP was his second best season for that statistic, aside from the 47 innings he pitched during the 2020 season.
Kikuchi’s K% dropped from 27.3% to 25.9% in 2023, but his BB% of 6.9% was a significant improvement and helped fuel his impressive 2023. Moreover, Kikuchi kept the ball in the park better than he did in 2022, as his home runs per 9 innings dropped from 2.06 to 1.45, the second lowest mark in his career.

So what about Manoah’s future:

Manoah only pitched 35 innings in the minor leagues between 2019 and 2021. This is to say he didn’t face a ton of baseball-related adversity throughout his first four years as a professional, aside from the cancelled 2020 minor league season. It’s also worth noting that Manoah pitched 308.1 innings in 2021 and 2022, so he could’ve just run out of gas.
The Jays need Manoah to have a better season. It doesn’t need to end with him finishing third in American League Cy Young voting, but he has to be able to eat innings and pitch solidly.
With two starters being able to go from an awful season to a good one, I wouldn’t be against Manoah doing the same in 2024.

As always, you can follow me on Twitter, Instagram, and Threads @Brennan_L_D.


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