Livescore Thursday, April 25

Alek Manoah appeared poised to be a face of baseball for a long time.

The Blue Jays hurler was an All-Star in 2022, and his personality shined through during the game when he was mic’d up. His rivalry with the Yankees injected another element of excitement to the AL East foes, and his stuff — as evidenced by a 2022 Baseball Savant percentile rankings all in the red — appeared to indicate the 24-year-old ace was here to stay.

But the 2023 season has not gone according to plan for Manoah. Entering Monday’s game against the Astros, Manoah had a 5.46 ERA in 57 2/3 innings with a 17.6 percent strikeout rate and 15 percent walk rate, marking the worst K-BB% (2.6 percent) among pitchers with at least 50 innings in baseball.

Exiting Monday’s game, his inning total increased only to 58, and the ERA jumped to 6.36 as he was shelled for six earned runs on seven hits and one walk while recording just one out. His biggest highlight from the game might have been his trying to blow a bunt attempt from Jeremy Pena foul.

He was unsuccessful.

And that Baseball Savant page that once looked red-hot now is nearly all ice-cold blue, with every stat but his fastball spin and extension ranking at or below the 40th percentile in baseball.

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Before Monday’s game, Blue Jays manager John Schneider was asked about whether Manoah could be sent down to the minors to try and correct some of his issues, according to The Athletic’s Kaitlyn McGrath. He didn’t exactly dispel the idea.

“We’ll see. I mean, we haven’t brought it up. Again, we’re talking about a really good pitcher who’s going through a little bit of a tough time,” Schneider said. “The cool thing about, I think, this team and organization is we’re willing to do anything that we feel like we need to do to help you, and players understand that too. So but as of now, no.”

Following the contest, Schneider reiterated that the team will consider anything to try and fix his problems.

“I think what we’re concerned about is just really trying to do whatever we need to do to get him better,” Schneider said after the game, per’s Keegan Matheson. “When I say that everything is on the table, yeah, everything is. We’re just trying to help him get back to the caliber of pitcher that he was.”

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Monday’s loss will undoubtedly fuel the notion that Manoah needs to head back to the minors for the first time since he was promoted in 2021. So far this season, the Blue Jays are just 4-8 in games started by Manoah, including losses in eight of his past nine starts.

Manoah has given up at least five runs in five starts this season (though not all of them have been earned). Over his previous 51 career starts from the past two campaigns, he had four such starts.

There have been a litany of issues for Manoah to explain his dropoff.

For starters, he’s not getting batters to chase his pitches outside the zone nearly as much. Per Baseball Savant, his chase rate has taken a nose dive from 30.9 percent in 2022 to 26.1 percent in 2023, and the whiff rate is down from 24.8 percent to 21.2 percent. Those have led to both a drastic increase in his walk rate (6.5 percent in 2022 to 15 percent in 2023) and a distinct decrease in his strikeout rate (22.9 percent in 2022 to 17.6 percent in 2023).

And when batters are making contact, they’re teeing off. Batters had a hard hit rate of just 31.2 percent in 2021 and 31.5 percent in 2022. In 2023? It has sky-rocketed up to 42.5 percent.

There are other reasons for concern as well. His fastball velocity is down 1.2 mph from 93.9 to 92.7. The only pitch in his arsenal with a negative run value this year is his sinker at minus-7, while all others have been positive (including his slider, which has a run value of plus-11).

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Manoah isn’t his usual self. The one-time All-Star has taken a steep dip from his age-24 campaign to his age-25 season. And with the Blue Jays at 33-28 and 9.5 games back of the Rays in the AL East, they can’t afford to allow him to figure out his issues during a playoff chase.

Could he be headed to the minors? Every rocky start gets him one step closer to a return to Buffalo.

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