Jays From the Couch starts off the season with its weekly look at how the Toronto Blue Jays performed in the clutch in the past week.
The Toronto Blue Jays kicked off their season this week with a lackluster 1-5 start. Many things contributed to the losses, but how much was a result of the team, or individual players, not taking advantage of clutch situations? Here’s the breakdown.
Ducks on the Pond
Wiktionary describes “Ducks on the pond” as “Members of a batting order who are on base; baserunners.” Every week we’ll be taking a look at how many runners the Jays left stranded, and how well the Jays did with runners in scoring position.
For the first week of the season, unfortunately, the Jays left a few too many sitting ducks. In the Baltimore and Tampa series, the Jays stranded a total of 40 runners for an average of 6.7 runners per game.
With a number like that, it’s easy to conclude that the Jays performed poorly with runners in scoring position. The Jays inability to cash them in was a hot topic of conversation last season. With such a slow start, that conversation has definitely carried forward into the 2017 season. Toronto opened the season by posting a miserable 0.150 average with RISP. The low average started right out of the gate with a feeble 1/16 against Baltimore. Although the team looked a little bit better in Tampa (going 5/24), even a .208 average is still not good enough to be consistently winning ball games. One can only hope that the improvement in Tampa is a trend up, and the Jays continue to find their bats when called upon over the next week.
The inability to cash in runners on base, or even put together quality at-bats with runners ready to strike proved to contribute to a poor performance in the Jays opening 6 games.
Highest Leverage Situation With The Blue Jays At The Dish
The highest leverage scenario came with none other than newbie Kendrys Morales at bat, and not at the at bat you may think. Against Tampa Bay on Friday, the big DH came up to bat with 2 outs in the 6th, the bases juiced, and the Jays down 6-5. This scenario would represent a 4.65 LI. Kendrys would put together an excellent at bat, working a walk on 7 pitches from Rays lefty Xavier Cedeno.
The walk would force a run in, and get the Jays caught all the way back up from a first inning 5 run deficit. Unfortunately for the Morales and the Jays, as another 6 runs between the two teams would be tacked on, the Jays ultimately losing 10-8.
Highest Leverage Situation With The Jays on D
The highest leverage situation with a Blue Jay on the mound would come in with a whopping 6.38 LI the next night. An early exit from Francisco Liriano the night prior, and this game now in extras would leave the Jays with few pitching options, forcing Casey Lawrence into the most crucial at-bat of the week. Lawrence was making his first ever Major League appearance.
The rookie’s career would begin in the top of the 11th, where he would give up a double to Mallex Smith, the first batter that he would face. A sacrifice bunt from Tim Beckham advanced Smith to third, at which point John Gibbons would decide to intentionally walk the next two batters to allow for the possibility of a double play. Lawrence followed up the back to back IBBs with a great strikeout, leaving him staring down the barrel of the highest leverage situation of the week. Unfortunately, the rookie wouldn’t fare as well as he did against Longoria, walking Brad Miller to end the game.
Clutch Champs and Chumps by WPA
A 1-5 record to start the season is not going to play well into the player’s winning probability numbers. No wins? Not much win probability added. Over the span of the week, however, every at bat gives players the opportunity to add, or take away from, the team’s chances of winning. A couple of close games also gave some players the opportunity to come through in the clutch though. As such, there are still your winners and losers.
|Russell Martin||0||0.12||1.06||Joe Smith||0.26||1.57|
|Justin Smoak||1||0.12||1.13||Aaron Sanchez||0.23||1.22|
|Devon Travis||1||-0.53||1.52||Marcus Stroman||0.18||0.8|
|Troy Tulowitzki||6||-0.15||1.52||Joseph Biagini||0.16||2.21|
|Josh Donaldson||3||0.68||1.31||Ryan Tepera||0.03||0.53|
|Ezequiel Carrera||1||0.05||1.2||Dominic Leone||-0.01||0.6|
|Kevin Pillar||0||-0.53||1.26||J.A. Happ||-0.06||0.65|
|Jose Bautista||1||-0.54||1.4||Aaron Loup||-0.06||0.57|
|Kendrys Morales||6||0.22||1.57||Jason Grilli||-0.1||2.44|
|Steve Pearce||0||-0.56||1.39||Marco Estrada||-0.27||0.98|
|Darwin Barney||0||-0.01||0.76||Casey Lawrence||-0.38||2.04|
|Jarrod Saltalamacchia||0||-0.02||0.94||J.P. Howell||-0.38||2.32|
|Ryan Goins||0||0||0.07||Francisco Liriano||-0.47||1.23|
This week’s batter and pitcher champs are none other than the bringer of rain himself, Josh Donaldson, and more surprisingly, new Blue Jay reliever Joe Smith. Donaldson was excellent to start the season, especially in the Tampa series where he would post a stat line .with a 286 average, 2 home runs, 5 runs, 3 RBI, 3 walks and an excellent .411 OBP. Donaldson’s performance gave him a 0.68 WPA for the week, completely dominating all the other bats with the next closest sitting at a 0.22 WPA (Morales). Donaldson was also one of only five Blue Jays to be in the positives as well. Donaldson also cashed in on the limited opportunity, having only the 6th highest LI amongst his teammates.
Joe Smith performed better than the rest of the Blue Jays staff when it came to WPA. Smith led the team with a 0.26 WPA, narrowly beating out Aaron Sanchez (0.23). Just like Donaldson, Smith took advantage of the situations he was put in landing 5th among pitchers in LI. Although his stat line wasn’t as impressive as some of the other staff through the week (3 innings pitched, with a 3 ERA and 1.33 WHIP) when it came to situationally adding to the chances of a Jays win, Joe Smith was their guy.
When it comes to the bats, the Jays were deplorable when it came to added probability. The Blue Jays had FOUR batters all within .03 of each other for the chumps of the week. Jose Bautista (-0.54), Kevin Pillar (-0.53), Devon Travis (-0.53), and Steve Pearce (-0.56). With 45% of the regulars in the lineup putting up numbers like that, it’s no wonder the Blue Jays finished with just the one win.
The pitchers weren’t as bad this week, but that’s not saying much. On this side of the ball, there was one stand out, however, and that was starting pitcher Francisco Liriano. Liriano posted a brutal -0.47 WPA despite only pitching 0.1 of an inning to start the game Friday. It’s quite incredible that Liriano was able to rack up such a negative WPA, despite not being in a very high leverage scenario, averaging a 1.23 LI. Liriano walked 4 and allowed 5 runs to score on 3 hits before being yanked. What’s so ironic about this, is that the Blue Jays actually managed to dig their way out of the hole Liriano gave them, only to see it fade to another reliever down the line. It wouldn’t matter though, as Liriano had already racked up a severe enough negative WPA to walk away with this week’s dis-honors.
All in all, a poor performance from the Jays to start the season. The clutch numbers weren’t needed to show that, but they certainly backed up the fact that Toronto is simply going to have to be better.
*Featured Image Credit: C Stem- JFtC
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A group benefits consultant by day, Dustin is sports fanatic who loves talking sports more than anything. A self-glossed stats geek, he loves diving into the numbers behind the game. A proud father of 2 amazing kids, Dustin was born in Calgary, and now lives in Morinville.