Kevin Gausman on Alek Manoah, Alek Manoah on Kevin Gausman

Alek Manoah
Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports

The Toronto Blue Jays have two of the best pitchers in baseball this season. Kevin Gausman possesses a 3.00 ERA and a 1.99 FIP to go with 116 strikeouts in 99 innings. Alek Manoah boasts a 2.24 ERA and a 3.34 FIP with 110 strikeouts in 120.2 innings. The latter pitched a scoreless inning in last week’s All-Star Game; the former, who surprisingly was not named to the squad, has arguably out-performed his teammate.

Each of the two garnered wins over the weekend. On Friday, Gausman ran his hard-luck record to 7–7, fanning 10 batters over five innings in Toronto’s 28–5 rout of the Red Sox at Fenway Park. On Saturday, Manoah allowed one run over six innings, striking out seven Boston batters along the way, to raise his record to 11–4.

On Sunday, I asked the right-handers about each other. In short, why is the other one of the best pitchers in baseball?

“I would say his character,” Manoah said of Gausman. “His character, his competitiveness, the way he goes about his work every day. He’s had his teeth punched out before, and he’s found ways to get back to the top. So I think his resilience is big. There’s also his ability to adjust from pitch to pitch, from lineup to lineup. He’s very strategic.

“His stuff is obviously nasty,” he continued. “He’s got some of the best pitches out there, overall. That splitter is right up there with Corbin Burnes’ cutter or any pitch in baseball. It’s ridiculous.”

Why does Gausman feel that Manoah is one of the best pitchers in baseball?

“It’s just the energy that he brings out to the mound,” he opined. “I think his
mound presence alone can kind of overpower guys, honestly. He’s always confident. He never feels like he’s backed into a corner. Stuff-wise, the slider is obviously impressive — it really sweeps across the zone — and his changeup has come a long way from what I’ve seen.

“But I think his biggest separator is his ability to throw both a four-seam and a sinker,” Gausman added. “He can throw one of the best sinkers in the game and also throw a four-seamer that rises almost 20 inches. It’s really hard to find a guy that can do both — it’s either one or the other — so a hitter doesn’t really know where to go. If you cheat down to try to get to the sinker, or dive to try to get to the slider, and then he throws that fastball up, you’ve got no shot. He’s just a really tough [at-bat] for the majority of hitters.”

Following up, I asked Gausman what Manoah has in his arsenal that he wishes he had in his.

“His slider, for sure,” he replied. “If I could throw that slider… man, that would be a lot of fun. It would make things a lot easier for me against right-handed hitters. And for him, it’s not just a good pitch against righties, it’s a good pitch against lefties. It’s a hard pitch to catch, let alone hit. He’s just got the whole package.”

The Gausman offering that Manoah wishes he had in his own arsenal?

“The splitter, 100%,” Manoah said. “I threw a pitch yesterday to [Xander] Bogaerts, and when I came into the dugout, [Gausman] was like, ‘Ooh, ‘A’ changeup, guy.’ I was like, ‘That one did kind of look like yours a little bit, huh? I think I need to throw more of those.’ It wasn’t a splitter — it was a changeup — but it did have similar movement to his. But he can throw those all the time.”

Final thoughts?

“It’s fun to watch him go out there every five days and compete, believing that he’s going to get a win every time he pitches,” Gausman said of Manoah. “That energy is really infectious. Not only that, he’s getting better.”

“He knows how to talk to you, and how to motivate you,” Manoah said of Gausman. “He really cares about everybody. Not only is he a good pitcher, he’s also got a really good heart. He’s a great teammate.”

David Laurila grew up in Michigan's Upper Peninsula and now writes about baseball from his home in Cambridge, Mass. He authored the Prospectus Q&A series at Baseball Prospectus from December 2006-May 2011 before being claimed off waivers by FanGraphs. He can be followed on Twitter @DavidLaurilaQA.

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6 months ago

Excellent, thanks. I think everyone who’s now had the chance to listen to Manoah at the AllStar Game has a better understanding about what a character he is.

6 months ago
Reply to  radivel

That was one of my baseball-watching highlights so far this decade. And made me a bona fide Manoah fan.