The Toronto Blue Jays made a rather odd, though some would argue necessary, move this past week by optioning Alek Manoah to the Florida Complex League.
For those who don't know, Manoah was in the hunt for the American League Cy Young Award a year ago and was the supposed ace of the Blue Jays pitching staff this season.
To say Manoah had been struggling would be an understatement. Manoah has 13 starts under his belt and owns a win-loss record of 1-7 with an ERA of 6.36 and a 6.52 FIP. Yikes. No wonder the Toronto brass made such a bold move.
Will the Reds follow the Blue Jays lead and hit the rest button on Graham Ashcraft?
Might the Cincinnati Reds do the same thing with their struggling starting pitcher Graham Ashcraft? Let's face it, Ashcraft has not had a good beginning to his sophomore season in the major leagues.
Ashcraft, who'll go up against Los Angeles Dodgers ace Clayton Kershaw today at Great American Ball Park, is 3-4 through 12 starts with a 6.64 ERA, 5.03 FIP, and a 17.3-percnet walk-rate in 62.1 innings of work.
With Nick Lodolo on the IL, Ashcraft is considered the No. 2 starting pitcher behind Hunter Greene. Those are not the type of numbers you expect to see from your No. 5 starter, much less your No. 2 starter.
Some of the more troubling stats when it comes to Ashcraft is the increase in walks from a year ago and the decrease in his ground ball-rate. Ashcraft posed a 2.57 walks per nine innings pitched last season. This year, it's up to 4.04. Last season, 54.5-percent of balls in play were on the ground, while this season Ashcraft's ground ball-rate is sitting at 47.8-percent.
Another troubling statistic to keep an eye on is the exit velo numbers from the opposition. Ashcraft is getting hit and hit hard. According to Baseball Savant, after ranking in the 63rd percentile a year ago, Ashcraft is now in the 47th percentile with a hard hit-rate of nearly 40-percent.
But the biggest reason for Graham Ashcraft's struggles this season has undoubtedly been his inability to throw his two-seam fastball. According to FanGraphs, after going to his two-seamer 21-percent of the time last season, the usage of that pitch has dropped to barely 7-percent.
You cannot be an effective starting pitcher in the big leagues if you only use two pitches. Can you come in for an inning of relief? Absolutely. Alexis Diaz is one of the best in the game and relies soley on a fastball/ slider combo. But if you're a starter, you're a sitting duck.
If Graham Ashcraft struggles today against the Los Angeles Dodgers extreme measures may need to be taken in order to get the right-hander back on track. The Cincinnati Reds are currently using a six-man rotation.
That won't be the case much past this weekend, and Ashcraft's performance on Wednesday afternoon could be the difference between him staying in the big leagues, or making a trip to the minors.