Most of the panic around the Blue Jays and their major-league-worst record of 4-12 has focused on their offense, and rightfully so—they’ve been the worst in baseball, with a collective slash line of .215./.283/.323. Three weeks into the season, their team offensive WAR is a negative number. (There are many valid reasons to be highly skeptical of any early-season WAR figures, but there is no valid reason to be excited about a team whose component pieces are so weak at this point that they can’t cross the threshold of zero.)
By comparison, the rotation has been largely fine. Not spectacular, but generally adequate and doomed mostly by the team’s failure to give them any sort of run support. Now, however, the pitching staff’s greatest weakness is being exposed—its lack of depth. With J.A. Happ on the disabled list with an elbow strain and Aaron Sanchez temporarily out with a blister, Toronto has had to scramble for other rotation options.
Last night was Mat Latos, signed in late February after playing for five teams in two years. Tonight will be 29-year-old rookie Casey Lawrence, who’s been bouncing through the minor leagues as a non-prospect since 2010 without ever seeing major-league time before this season.
This lack of depth isn’t a new problem this season, but it didn’t matter so much last year—when the starting five combined for 152 games and only two more were needed to cover the rest. But that sort of good luck with health is never a given, and now the Blue Jays have been forced to match last year’s total number of starting pitchers just a month into the season.
There’s still reason to believe that the Blue Jays are a far better team than their record so far has shown. It’s just getting harder and harder to see.