The Blue Jays Opening Day Curse

Photo credit:Nathan Ray Seebeck-USA TODAY Sports
Ryley Delaney
1 month ago
You may not know it, but there’s a curse brewing for the Blue Jays.
Let me take you back April 1, 2021. The Blue Jays are in New York to take on the Yankees with Hyun Jin Ryu as their opening day starter. The season prior, the Blue Jays signed him to a four-year, $80 million deal and he just went on to post a 2.69 ERA and a 3.01 FIP in 67 innings pitched for a Cy Young nomination.
This game was nothing special, Ryu finished with a line of 5.1 IP, 4 H, 2 ER, 1 BB, 5 K with a home run allowed for a 3.38 ERA. Jordan Romano picked up the win, while Julian Merryweather, yes, picked up a save by striking out the side in the bottom of the tenth. It’s what happened the rest of the season where we begin to see the curse.
Ryu to this point had a career ERA of 2.95 and a career FIP of 3.30 in 807.1 innings pitched in the big leagues. The 2021 season was his worst though, as he had a 4.37 ERA and a 4.02 FIP in 169 innings pitched, along with a 20.4 K% and a 5.3 BB%. By no means was this a “bad” season, but it’s not the type of season you’d expect from your ace.
In fact, the entire Blue Jays rotation to start the 2021 season was something, to say the least. The four pitchers in the rotation to follow Ryu were Ross Stripling, T.J. Zeuch, Steven Matz, and Tanner Roark, with Robbie Ray eventually joining the rotation after an early season injury. 
They eventually added rookie sensation Alek Manoah, who finished that campaign with a 3.22 ERA and a 3.80 FIP in 111.2 innings pitched. Moreover, Ross Atkins made his biggest move as the Blue Jays general manager at that season’s trade deadline, trading two top 100 prospects in Austin Martin and Simeon Woods Richardson for José Berríos.
Berríos had a good season with the Minnesota Twins and Blue Jays in 2021, posting a 3.52 ERA and a 3.47 FIP in 192 innings pitched, finishing with a 26.1 K% and a 5.8 BB%. Unfortunately, Berríos was the next victim of the Blue Jays Opening Day Curse.
Fast forward to the start of the 2022 season after a weird off-season that included a lockout, and you land on April 8, 2022. Ryu had a good game the prior season, Berríos did not, to put it simply. In fact, he didn’t even make it out of the first inning, as he finished with a line of 0.1 IP, 3 H, 4 ER, 2 BB, 0 K and gave up a homer for a 108 ERA. Interestingly, this was the second straight opening day that Julian Merryweather pitched in, but Jordan Romano picked up the save as the Blue Jays came back from a 7-0 deficit.
Like Ryu, Berríos struggled mightily compared to the past season. Overall, he posted a 5.23 ERA and a 4.55 FIP in 172 innings pitched, along with a 19.8 K% and a 6 BB%. There were flashes of brilliance, as two thirds of his starts were actually good, but the remaining third was similar to nine Babe Ruth’s hitting teeing off on a little league team.
In the end, Berríos sorted it out after a rough Spring Training and first two games of the next season, as he finished the season posting a 3.65 ERA and a 3.99 FIP. At the end of the day, the Blue Jays Opening Day Curse had its grasp on another pitcher, but Berríos was able to defeat it.
A big part of that 2022 rotation was Alek Manoah, as he finished with a 2.24 ERA and a 3.35 FIP in 196.2 innings pitched, with a 22.9 K% and a 6.5 BB% to finish third in American League Cy Young voting. With that season, you bet he was the Opening Day Starter. You can also bet he suffered the Blue Jays Opening Day Curse.
There was a lot of excitement heading into the 2023 season regarding Manoah, but the Opening Day Curse made its signs clear immediately. Manoah finished the outing with a line of 3.1 IP, 9 H, 5 ER, 2 BB, 3 K with two home runs given up. For the second straight season, Jordan Romano picked up the save. Yes, they won all three games.
Manoah’s 2023 season is well documented, but he went from looking like an ace to a pitcher who was getting hit hard against teenagers in the Florida Complex League. For the season, Manoah had a 5.87 ERA and a 6.01 FIP in 87.1 innings pitched, while his K% dropped to 19% and his BB% rose to 14.2%.
Unlike Berríos who had success the following season, or even Ryu, who’ll be pitching until he’s 44 in his home country, Manoah has yet to move past the curse. In his one and only Spring Training game in 2024, he allowed  four earned runs, hit three batters, and walked a guy in an inning and a third.
To make matters worse, the 26-year-old likely won’t be ready for Opening Day, as he’s had some shoulder soreness that has kept him out of action since that start. There were certainly positives from that outing, such as his velocity being around 93-94 mph, compared to the high-80s he had during last season’s Spring Training. He’s also worked on himself and has gotten into better shape, so that’s an encouraging sign.
Time will tell if Manoah can shake off the curse and return to dominant form, but if anyone can do it, it’s him. 

Who’s next

That begs the question, who will be the Blue Jays Opening Day starter in 2024? It appeared to be Kevin Gausman as he was also nominated for an American League Cy Young, but he has yet to throw a pitch in Grapefruit League action. Perhaps they’ll go back and give Berríos the Opening Day start, but who knows how it works. Chris Bassitt is another candidate, as he had a good Spring Training that included nine strikeouts Wednesday afternoon.
All I know is for the past three seasons, the starting pitcher on Opening Day has gone on to have subpar to downright terrible seasons for the Blue Jays. So maybe use an opener or Paolo Espino to break the curse.

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


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