You can blame the bullpen and the defence for many of the Toronto Blue Jays’ woes this season, but the main blame belongs with the offence – it just isn’t very good in tight situations
I don’t know what will happen over the next three games – the Toronto Blue Jays remain statistical favourites to reach the playoffs – but to me, it feels like their season is already over. They’re just not complete enough and good enough to compete.
From my perspective, the penultimate moment came on Thursday when the Blue Jays failed to hold a 2-1 lead late in the game. That loss, coupled with yesterday’s loss, allowed the visiting Baltimore Orioles to move into a tie with the Blue Jays for the top Wild Card spot. The problem is they lost Thursday’s game in such a predictable manner.
It’s easy to blame Thursday’s loss on Jason Grilli and Roberto Osuna, or to blame the bullpen in general for what many believe is an overall under-achieving team record of 87-72, but the truth is this only tells part of the story. The defence, evidenced by Josh Donaldson‘s high throw to second yesterday, has been spotty down the stretch. This pales in comparison to the role played by the offence, however, which has been frustratingly inconsistent all year.
In fairness, the Blue Jays aren’t a poor offensive team. They rank fifth in the American League for total runs scored at 750, and they’ve hit the second most home runs in the AL at 219, but this really only speak to the games that they’ve won. When they lose, the numbers look crooked in the opposite direction: the Blue Jays are an unimpressive 19-25 in one-run games and 4-9 in extra innings. One could argue it’s the ability of a team to win in close contests that separates the true winners from the losers.
It seems like the Blue Jays are always waiting on a big hit, but this means they’re not getting enough runners on base to cash with those hits. I’ve developed a time management system based on this observation: if the Blue Jays haven’t recorded more than two hits before the fifth inning, they’re likely to lose. You would be surprised by how accurate this system has proved.
Torn last night between watching Jose Bautista and Edwin Encarnacion in what may have been their final home game as members of the Blue Jays, or entertaining my 18-month old daughter, I knew that, with the Blue Jays still clinging to one hit as they entered the fourth inning, yesterday’s game was essentially over when Bautista opened the bottom of the frame with his second strikeout of the game. That’s how much faith I have in this offence.
(As a side note, the significance of the moment – possibly Bautista’s last game in a Blue Jays uniform – didn’t seem to dawn on him or the crowd. There was little emotion in the few swings he took, and it felt like just any other game as Bautista walked to and from the batter’s box. What does that say?)
Perhaps it’s because we were spoiled last season, or that we know what this team can accomplish when it plays to its full potential, but this season has been particularly frustrating for me. Part of that rests with the bullpen and the defence, but it’s mainly the offence: the bats aren’t competitive in close games, and the high number of strikeouts is proof of that (1336 for the fourth highest total in the AL behind the Tampa Bay Rays, Houston Astros, and Minnesota Twins). It’s hard to build something or continue a rally when every second batter seems to strikeout.
This brings me back to my original point: I don’t know what the next three games will hold for the Blue Jays, but there’s no reason, should they make the playoffs, to think they have the depth and talent for a long run. Thursday’s loss is a typical outcome for this team, and that says enough.
*FEATURED IMAGE CREDIT: Rob Lockhart UNDER CC BY-SA 2.0
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