By Cole Shelton
Canadian Baseball Network
When the Toronto Blue Jays traded for Sam Gaviglio in March, many people thought he was going to be starting in triple-A, and that is what initially happened.
However, with injuries to the Blue Jays' pitching staff, Gaviglio was called up and he has excelled in the starting rotation.
He boasts a 3.98 ERA and a 1.23 WHIP in 40 2/3 innings appearing in nine appearances, including seven starts. While on the mound, he is employing his four pitches effectively and getting opposing hitters to swing and miss on a regular basis. According to baseball-savant, he is enticing hitters to swing 43.8% of the time and getting hitters to whiff on 21.7%.
Gaviglio has also not allowed many fly balls, which has been a huge part of his success in the hitter-friendly Rogers Centre. In fact, the 6-foot-2 right-hander has yet to allow a home run at the Rogers Centre and has only permitted six all season.
Hitters are also not making hard contact off him. He is limiting hitters to an 87.9 exit velocity and a very impressive 10.8 launch angle on his pitches.
The right-hander is also pitching better than southpaw Jaime Garcia, the club's fifth starter who is currently on the disabled list with tenderness in his shoulder. Garcia was signed to a one-year contract in the off-season to help anchor the bottom of the rotation, but he has struggled and owns a 6.16 ERA and a 1.61 WHIP in 13 starts.
Prior to his injury, Garcia was also not pitching deep enough into games and surrendering too many hard hit balls. So far, in 2018, Garcia is allowing a hard hit ball 44.5% of the time way up from the 37.2% he allowed in 2017. Not only are hitters hitting the ball harder against Garcia, they are also belting more home runs and getting the ball up more. In previous seasons, Garcia was known as a ground ball pitcher. In 2017, the launch angle by hitters against him was 4.6 while in 2015 it was 1.4, now in 2018 that number has skyrocketed to 12.4.
Garcia has simply not been putting the Blue Jays in a position to win which reflects his 2-6 record and a -0.7 WAR compared to Gaviglio’s 2-2 record and a 0.7 WAR.
With Garcia's struggles, manager John Gibbons should continue to ride the hot hand in Gaviglio and keep him in the starting rotation even when Garcia returns from his injury.
Gaviglio has gone from unknown to one of the most consistent pitchers in the Blue Jays' rotation. He has given the Blue Jays a chance to win in almost every game he has started and that is all you can ask for out of a starter.