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Drew Hutchison showed great success at home last season

Drew Hutchison’s rotation spot in Toronto is hardly a given at this point but his success at home gives the Blue Jays some hope.

Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Drew Hutchison has hardly been a model of consistency over the last two years. Despite success throughout the minor leagues, Hutch has not made the jump to be nearly as effective at the major league level; all in all, the raw talent has not translated well across the majors.

Per Eno Sarris' FanGraphs write-up on Hutchison:

He used to have a well-above average whiff rate on his change and slider. Now the slider is average and the change is below [average], and he's trusting the change less and less with every game. He's also developed a homer problem on his fastball.

Interestingly however, last year Hutchison demonstrated remarkable success in Toronto, despite being a complete disaster outside of Rogers Centre.

2015 Home 92.2 2.91 37 30 8 .238 .288 .357 .286 .285 7.67 1.94 3.95 0.78 8.4% 20.9 % 5.3 % 15.6 % 1.12 73.6 % 3.36 3.75
2015 Away 57.2 9.83 66 63 14 .371 .437 .636 .422 .452 7.8 3.75 2.08 2.18 17.9% 17.5 % 8.4 % 9.1 % 2.06 56.0 % 6.12 4.96

The near 100 innings Hutch pitched in Toronto were quite valuable. The strikeout rate did not approach the near-ten per nine innings he put up in the minors, but a K-rate over 7.5 and a K/BB of nearly four is a good start.

Additionally, he kept batters to a .238 average and a sub-.300 OBP. He limited homers to 0.78 per nine innings at home, but struggled mightily on the road, allowing a HR/9 of 2.18. His walk rate increased by 58.5 percent (from 5.3 percent to 8.4 percent) which helps explain why his FIP was nearly nearly double on the road compared to what it was at home.

Clearly Hutchison has the talent to be successful as he showed an ability to control the strike zone, limit home runs and opponents' batting average.

The foremost glaring issue is the home run rate, which can be explained by an over-doubling of his home run to fly ball percentage at home. Not only are more fly balls carrying out on the road, but more balls are falling in for hits on the road as well. Hutchison carried a slightly below average .286 BABIP at home and a remarkably high .437 on the road. Combined with a deflated strand rate (56 percent on the road compared to nearly 74 percent at home), it's easy to see how more hits on balls in play, plus more home runs would equal negative results.

The most alarming statistic in the table above however, is Hutchison's walk rate. While it's certainly plausible his strand rate improves, his BABIP decreases, and his home run to fly ball rate normalizes, the walk rate is of concern. Hutchison must be doing something different on the road, be it preparation, warm-ups, pitch calling...something. A 3.95 strikeout to walk rate is commendable, but a 2.08 is rather pedestrian.

Taken at face value, Hutchison looks to be a candidate to lose the Jays' fifth starter spot. With veteran Jesse Chavez, flame thrower Roberto Osuna, and youngster Aaron Sanchez all potential replacements at the back-end of the rotation, the Blue Jays have options if Hutchison continues to struggle on the road. Toronto would be remiss to not give Hutch the best chance to win that spot. He's clearly capable of controlling the zone, and it will be incumbent on Toronto's pitching coach Pete Walker to identify any changes in mechanics or approach when on the road.


Steven Martano is an Editor at Beyond the Box Score, a Prospect Writer for the Colorado Rockies at Purple Row, and a Contributor to The Hardball Times. You can follow him on Twitter at @SMartano.