Tim Kurkjian on Alek Manoah The Gold and Blue Nation Podcast

Longtime ESPN baseball analyst Tim Kurkjian is the latest guest on The Gold and Blue Nation Podcast, and he's a big fan of former Mountaineer Alek Manoah. In this interview with Ryan Decker, Kurkjian breaks down Manoah's presence on the mound, and explains why the pitcher's career with the Blue Jays has begun with so much success.  Kurkjian also dishes on another former Mountaineer, John Means, who will miss the remainder of the MLB season due to injury. The Orioles ace is the only former Mountaineer to throw a big league no-hitter. 

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. – Alek Manoah (9-2, 2.09 ERA) will toe the rubber for the 16th time this season late Monday evening.

His Independence Day start comes just one week ahead of what is likely to be the first All-Star selection of his budding career.

As the Major League Baseball season nears its midway point, Manoah is on track for multiple career milestones, and can set multiple firsts for Mountaineers in the Majors.

American League All-Star

When the MLB All-Star rosters are officially revealed on July 10, Manoah’s name will almost certainly be among the dozen or so pitchers listed on the American League roster.

When that happens, Manoah will become just the second-ever WVU grad to be selected as an MLB All-Star. Fellow AL East pitcher John Means was the first in 2019.

RELATED: “He doesn’t look like a pitcher”: Body, demeanor are just part of Alek Manoah’s success story

If he appears in the All-Star game at Dodger Stadium on July 19, he will make history as the first former Mountaineer to play in Major League Baseball’s Midsummer Classic.

Climbing up the strikeout list

With 212 strikeouts in his career, Manoah has the sixth-most MLB punchouts by a former Mountaineer. He needs just three strikeouts to pass Dustin Nippert (214) for fifth on that list and seven to pass David Carpenter (218) for fourth place.

Manoah could accomplish that Monday evening in his start against the lowly Oakland Athletics (26-55).

The big right-hander is on pace to move past the great Johnny Gorsica (272), and into third place on that list by the end of the season.

RELATED: Alek Manoah remains among leaders in AL Cy Young Award race

While Manoah is still a ways away from sitting atop the career mark for most punchouts by a former WVU pitcher, he can set a ‘Mountaineers in the Majors’ record this season.

With 85 strikeouts so far, the 2019 All-American is on pace to record 170 strike threes this year. That would easily set the record for most strikeouts in a single season by a former West Virginia pitcher.

Means set the record last season with 134.

Postseason appearance

With a 44-36 record entering play on July 4, the Toronto Blue Jays have a 93 percent chance to make the playoffs, according to FanGraphs.

As long as the Blue Jays can hold on to one of the American League’s six playoff spots, and provided Manoah stays healthy the remainder of the year, he will become just the ninth former Mountaineer to appear in an MLB postseason game.

He would be the first to do so since Jedd Gyorko with Milwaukee in 2020. Two years earlier, Harrison Musgrave became the most-recent WVU pitcher to make a playoff appearance when he pitched in October for Colorado.

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Of course, Manoah hopes to do a little more than just make the playoffs.

The 2019 Big 12 Pitcher of the Year can become the first-ever West Virginia University pitcher to earn a win on the mound in the MLB playoffs.

WAR (what is it good for)

Whether a baseball debate or a reference to Edwin Starr’s 1970 release, it’s a question when the topic of WAR comes up.

In this instance, we’re talking about the baseball metric WAR — Wins Above Replacement.

Ahead of his start on Monday, Manoah has a career WAR of 5.8. He has added 3.1 points to his WAR total during the first half of this season.

RELATED: Projecting the future of Alek Manoah’s career

If Manoah stays healthy, Manoah will move into fifth place on the all-time career ‘Mountaineers in the Majors’ WAR list for Mountaineers in the Majors. He needs a career WAR of 6.5 to pass Gorsica, who currently holds on to fifth place.

Charlie Hickman (24.7) owns the WVU record for WAR in the majors. He is followed by Steve Kline (9.9), Means (9.3), and Jedd Gyorko (9.2).

Manoah is scheduled to start on the mound Monday night in Oakland. First pitch is scheduled for 9:07 ET.