It doesn’t take much to see that Chad Jenkins is a bit of a living conundrum on the mound.
On one hand, Toronto Blue Jays fans watching him will see a guy whose stuff isn’t exactly what you’d call lights-out, as the soft tosser pounds fastball after fastball in the zone without the ability to strike batters out (4.09 K/9 in 2013). He isn’t exactly a ground ball machine either (1.37 GB/FB) and even with his 1.64 BB/9, you’d think he’ a prime candidate to get smashed sooner rather than later.
Yet, regardless of the means, the results say he’s been a brilliant shutdown reliever through 18 innings with a 2.00/0.78 ERA/WHIP with a .188 BAA — in short, all he does is get outs.
Seeing as how he’s doing exactly his job to near perfection, it would behoove the Blue Jays to give him an extended opportunity going forward, yes? Perhaps even a shot joining the starting rotation in 2014?
Well, they would, but that’s just the thing … how long will Jenkins’ run last? Is this the pitcher the Blue Jays can expect to get going forward?
Small sample size aside, there are a couple of things that are going against the right-hander. For one, his stuff just “shouldn’t” be creating this many outs. His 4.22 xFIP to 2.73 on the season is a simple summary of this, but it really does come down to the fact that he doesn’t strike out too many batters, and isn’t exceptionally good anywhere else to suggest that his .257 BABIP is anything other than luck.
After all, he does give up line drives at 21 percent, and it’s not like his infield fly rate (2.9 percent) and infield hit rate (6.3 percent) are anything to really write home about; so you do the math — how are all those balls just finding gloves if not for the intervention of the baseball gods.
Besides, the team only has to look at his minor league numbers for a glimpse of what might happen without our friendly baseball deities.
Though he posted a strong 15.0 innings in double-A this season with a 1.20/0.87 WHIP thanks to a .225 BABIP, the wheels fell off quickly in triple-A, where Jenkins was smashed over 21.2 innings across five starts. His ERA/WHIP? 7.48/1.71. His BABIP? .329.
It’s a small sample, yes, but given Jenkins’ lack of pedigree and stuff, numbers like that can make a different as far as impressions go, and they might represent the biggest reason why the Jays aren’t likely to try him in the rotation in 2014 barring some unforeseen circumstances — because when it gets bad, it can get really bad.
So, could Jenkins be the best Blue Jays pitcher who is destined not to really get a shot? Considering that he doesn’t exactly fit into the mold with the rest of the bullpen either, it might just end up being the case.