Tim Kurkjian on Alek Manoah – The Gold and Blue Nation Podcast
MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — Standing at 6-foot-6, 285 pounds, and normally scowling at opposing hitters, Alek Manoah is an imposing figure on the mound.
Add in a high-velocity fastball and above-average breaking and offspeed pitches, and it’s easy to see why Manoah succeeding at the Major League level.
But according to a longtime ESPN baseball analyst, his physique, the way he carries himself, and even the number on his back make one of the top pitchers in the American League feel like he should be succeeding at any other position.
“What I also love about him is he doesn’t look like a pitcher out there,” ESPN Senior Writer Tim Kurkjian said on The Gold and Blue Nation Podcast on Thursday. “He looks kind of like a designated hitter. He looks like a backup catcher. He wears a number, No. 6, that a position player would wear. And he kind of carries himself like a position player.”
Let’s start with that No. 6: It’s the number of Hall of Fame hitters Stan Musial, Al Kaline, and Tony Oliva, as well as Red Sox slugger Johnny Pesky.
Of the seven players in Major League Baseball history to have their number 6 jersey retired by a franchise, none have been a pitcher.
But while wearing the number of some of the great hitters of all time, Manoah is putting up some impressive numbers on the mound.
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The former Mountaineer has a career 17-4 record, and an ERA of 2.71 through 33 career starts.
“I think there are so many good things about him, but mostly it’s his intimidating form, and his tremendous stuff,” Kurkjian said.
In terms of body size, Manoah is very comparable to former Cy Young winner CC Sabathia.
Sabathia played most of his career hovering around 300 pounds, and is the same height as Manoah. During his first year in the big leagues, Sabathia made 33 starts for Cleveland.
Here’s how each pitcher performed through his first 33 starts in the big leagues.
Sabathia: 17-5, 4.39 ERA, 180.1 IP, 93 R, 171 K, 1.353 WHIP
Manoah: 17-4, 2.71 ERA, 192.2 IP, 65 R, 200 K, 1.002 WHIP
So, despite maybe looking like a designated hitter or the backup catcher, Manoah has put together a full season’s body of work that is better than one of the former top arms in the game.
“I think that’s part of his success,” Kurkjian said of Manoah. “Hitters look at him and go, ‘He doesn’t look like a pitcher to me,’ and therefore he’s a little bit harder to time up and to hit.”
It’s not just the body size that sticks out about Manoah, it’s his body language as well.
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Kurkjian described Manoah as having a “bulldog mentality.” He can be fiery at times, especially when he’s in between the foul lines.
Get him in the dugout, though, and he’s a different guy.
“Some pitchers are just so finicky on game days. You’re not allowed to talk to them, you got to leave them alone in between innings, and that’s not the way he is,” Kurkjian said. “He’s like a position player, bouncing around the dugout and slapping five with his teammates instead of sitting in the corner, like some starting pitchers do, and I think that’s part of the reason that he’s been so good.”
In Toronto, they call it “La gente del barrio.” It’s a section of the dugout where many of the Blue Jays players who have international roots gather and talk about the game, or anything that comes to mind. There’s a specially made jacket for the home run hitters on the team.
Manoah might be the only pitcher on the club who has an open seat in “the barrio” at all times.
Being a Cy Young Award candidate, and setting a Blue Jays franchise record, can open doors, or in this case, a spot on the bench in one of the most exclusive clubs in Canada.