It’s not the pitching, defence, or coaching that has seen the Toronto BLue Jays go down early in the American League Championship Series – it’s the one-dimensional offence
Let’s start by stating the apparently unobvious-obvious: the Toronto Blue Jays are a good baseball team. This is the second straight appearance in the American League Championship Series for the team, and while it appears their days are numbered, this is an impressive accomplishment in its own right.
In other words, the Blue Jays are one of the top four teams in baseball for the second year in a row. I hardly consider that a lamentable outcome, especially given the team’s struggles in early September.
It’s also misleading to say the Blue Jays have been outhit, outpitched, outhustled, and outcoached in this series unless you want to overstate the importance of the thinnest of margins. It’s true that Cleveland has enjoyed the “bigger hits” so far, and that their bullpen has shut down a powerful Blue Jays lineup, but Toronto has been in every one one of these games from start to finish, and it’s possible to imagine the Blue Jays winning all three of the games despite being down 0-3 – the series has been this close.
There’s no point in trying to argue that Toronto has hustled on a par with Cleveland (though Ezequiel Carrera has done his part), but it’s hard to think they’ve been outpitched and outcoached. Both the rotation and the bullpen have been effective for the Blue Jays – it just happens that Cleveland’s pitchers have been slightly better, which hardly signals a Toronto meltdown.
(For what it’s worth, Toronto’s bullpen has yet to surrender a single run in the series. All eight of Cleveland’s runs have been scored against the starters. The Blue Jays, in contrast, have scored two runs against Cleveland’s starters and two runs against their bullpen, though the hit on the bullpen was aided by last night’s abbreviated appearance from Trevor Bauer.)
Normally, if you hold your opposition to eight runs over three games, it wouldn’t be unreasonable to assume that this translated into one or two wins. The difference is that to the extent Cleveland’s bats have been stymied in key situations, Toronto’s bats have been completely silenced.
On the coaching front, it’s hard to see what John Gibbons has done wrong given the composition and performance of his lineup, the untimely injuries of Devon Travis and Joaquin Benoit, and one of the thinnest bullpens in baseball. Should we really be concerned that Gibbons has difficulty calling on the bullpen when it isn’t absolutely necessary for a Joe Biagini, Jason Grilli, or Roberto Osuna to appear in the game? Do you really want to call upon Brett Cecil or Aaron Loup in a high leverage situation?
The truth is the Blue Jays find themselves paired up against a stubborn, run-manufacturing team in the ALCS for the second year in a row, and when playoff baseball turns this tight, a dynamic offence helps. The Blue Jays aren’t trying to outslug the Baltimore Orioles or Texas Rangers in this series; they’re trying to outslug a team that is designed to, and is executing, a different type of game – a type of game more conducive to playoff baseball.
The truth is Toronto has a one-dimensional offence backed by a strong rotation and a serviceable, if somewhat thin, bullpen. This offence is being run out against a dynamic Cleveland offence that can hit its share of home runs, run the bases with impunity, and take full advantage of the occasional mistake.
It isn’t more complicated than this, and it’s why the Blue Jays quickly find themselves down 0-3 in the ALCS. It won’t suddenly change overnight either.
Time to turn those brooms over to Cleveland.
*FEATURED IMAGE CREDIT: C Stem- JFtC
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