Alec Manoa blew his way out of the majors

Alex Bregman had the dubious honor of making the first and only strikeout Alec Manoa recorded in his start against the Astros on Monday night. This isn’t a blog about Alex Bregman or his deal, it’s a blog about how bad Alec Manoa has been, and we’ll get to that in a moment, but boy, Bregman must feel like crap. Imagine being the guy on the team who couldn’t participate in this first promotion; he tried to blow over the rough line, and another RBI single to start it. He retired Bregman on a fly, then gave up a single, a walk, a grand slam, a single and another…can you guess…single before being pulled by Jays manager John Schneider, Toronto trailing 6-0 : the top of the former before the composition is reversed. Manoa left the mound to a standing ovation from Jays fans. They cheered as they watched Schneider walk to the mound.

The 38-pitch, one-game start raised Manoa’s ERA to 6.36, and the only real surprise at this point in Manoa’s season is that that number isn’t higher. He was sent down to the Florida Complex this afternoon. It was a very strange autumn. A year ago, the young pitcher carried himself like an old-school ace. He kept opponents off balance by “tunneling” his fastballs and sliding cleanly over each other so his pitches couldn’t be figured out until it was too late for hitters to adjust. Although he had relatively low numbers for a Cy Young candidate at just 8.24 K/9, he was able to generate plenty of soft contact and finished the season with a 2.24 ERA. (He finished third in the AL Cy Young voting last year, behind Justin Verlander and Dylan Cease.) In one memorable microphone moment, he charmed All-Star Game viewers by being the odd man out on the mound. He was a confident, empowered character who just loved to play.

Last year’s Manoa had so much dog in him that he was even featured in Jeff Pasan’s lovely story about a “dying breed” of horses looking to get deep into the games. This is what he told Passan last year.

“I’m a big man,” says Manoa, now 24. “I am as strong as a horse. I’m made for this stuff… I can pack a punch, man. If you don’t let a pitcher pitch, you never build him. letting him fight, I keep saying. They understand that dog in me, I want to be there.”

This is one explanation for Manoa’s downfall in 2023, that every fifth day he demanded to have his ass kicked. Manoa may be the last of a dying breed, but mostly he looks like he’s just dying. He strikes out less and walks them more; his incredible walk rate of 6.52 per nine innings, more than double what he gave up last year, would easily lead the MLB, but Manoa isn’t even a qualified starter at this point. . He has lasted five innings in just five of his 13 starts, and six innings in just two of those. (The short start wasn’t Manoa’s fault; Schneider forgot that his coach had already visited one inning and had no choice but to make a slight change when he made the second visit).

80 percent of baseball fans are thinking “what happened to this guy?” (derogatory) or “what happened to this guy?” (pleasantly surprised) and the Jays must quickly find out what happened to their boy (derogatory) as they hit the water in the Al-East. He seemed like a good candidate for a phantom IL stint or even a missed start, but the Complex League move suggests he needs more than just a quick break. “Everything is on the table,” Schneider said after the Astros game when asked how the team plans to get Manoa right again. “We’re just trying to help him get back to the caliber of pitcher he was.”

Command and mechanics are likely to be the focus of Manoa’s time at FCL. Good Manoa had an effective, sharp-breaking swipe; Bad Manoa can’t throw the slider for strikes at all, and when he throws it in the lane, it gets blown up. Opposing hitters hit .190 against the slider in 2022 and are averaging .328 against it this year with a .626 slugging percentage. By run value, it is the fourth-worst pitch in all of baseball. His pitch per pitch also dropped in spring training, which makes me wonder if this man was on the clock. Is he a victim of our new and unforgiving efficiency culture? Less recovery time between pitches is certainly something that can cause a pitcher to fail, and it’s a noticeable change from this season to last season. According to Statcast’s pitch rate metric, which measures the time elapsed between two pitches, Manoa was one of the slowest starters in baseball. last year and this year he remains so. (The same was true of his teammate Kevin Gausman last year, but Gausman was good.)

Schneider told the press today that the team preferred Florida’s Big League over Triple-A because it offered the team a “controlled environment” to analyze Manoa’s mechanics and delivery. Perhaps in the Dunedin lab he will find the lost dog.

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