jftc blue jays chat

JFtC Chat: Have the Blue Jays Disappointed?

The folks at JFtC got together for a little chat around whether the Toronto Blue Jays have actually been disappointing thus far in 2022


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The Toronto Blue Jays entered the All Star Break at 50-43, which puts them in third place in the AL East and in the third Wild Card spot. Of course, when there is a pause in the season like the All Star game, it is a logical place to take stock of where the team stands and where it could go in the remaining 69 games. I recently watched a clip of Ben Wagner and he didn’t have much good to say about the team and it got me thinking that media might be playing into the fans who are disappointed that their team isn’t going 162-0. So, I put it to the staff at JFtC:

Are they REALLY a disappointment? Their pythagorean win total is just one off from their actual record. Maybe, they are an incomplete playoff team and that is what they started the year as, but we all went overboard with our expectations.

 

Doyle: I’d point out that 50 wins at the All Star Break is actually nothing to sneeze at. Sure, losses were tough to deal with, but they would be anyway. Are those losses more painful this year because this team was so hyped? And, are we actually disappointed? Is there REALLY that much wrong with this team as Wagner says there is?

 

Karen Soutar: Like so many things in life, it isn’t just the results, it’s results weighed against expectations. And yes I think many of us expected the Blue Jays to be doing what the Yankees are doing – running away with the AL East division. I think it’s easy to think of them as a disappointment but again, they are in a playoff spot and I still think they have another “gear”.

At times this season the offence has been very good. At times the rotation has been very good. And at times the bullpen has been very good. What we really haven’t seen is all three being good at the same time for a stretch of games. I think it’s coming. I think they will add at or before the deadline, a significant add. Unlike the Mariners who can’t possibly maintain this crazy pace, the Jays will peak at the right time and have a long playoff run.

One musing I’ve had lately – I wonder how often, in the history of pro sports, a manager or head coach has been fired while their team was in possession of a playoff spot? But for me that’s further proof of what I’m saying. 9 out of 15 AL teams would love to trade places with the Blue Jays this season, it isn’t enough to just make the playoffs and see what happens. The bar has been set very high.

 

Jim Scott: A few years ago, there was a Canadian athlete who had won the world championships in his event for two years running. He was the overwhelming favourite to win gold at the Olympics, but instead finished second. Is it fair to consider his silver medal a disappointment? Based on expectations, I would say that the Blue Jays’ performance to this point has been disappointing. Not “worst team in baseball” disappointing, but below expectations.

 

Doyle: Well, sure. But are they REALLY a disappointment? Quasi chicken and egg? I guess it comes down to what you see is the problem, the expectations or the performance. Which begs the question as to whether it can be a little of both.

 

Bob Ritchie: FanGraphs projected a 92-70 record for the Blue Jays. After 93 games, the team is on pace for 87 wins. From a run differential perspective, the Jays have scored 428 runs and allowed 404. After adjusting for a lower run-scoring environment in 2022 (on average, run-scoring is 8% lower in the American League than last season), the revised pre-season projected runs scored for and against are 442 and 381, respectively. Therefore, based on the revised projections, the Blue Jays have scored 14 fewer runs than expected and allowed 23 more. That 37 run-differential swing is worth approximately four wins; four wins added to the 2022 total wins to date (50) puts the Jays on pace for their pre-season projected win total.

I think the Blue Jays have disappointed to date, particularly the pitching.

At the team hitting level, Toronto ranks 3rd in the American League in runs scored per game and is tied for 3rd in wRC+ (112). In 2021, the Jays were 2nd in wRC+ (112) and 3rd in runs scored. On a relative basis, Toronto’s 2022 batting aligns with their 2021 performance. Run scoring is down slightly, but that could be a matter of bad luck. Looking at baserunning (BsR), the Jays rank 9th in the American League and are a tick below average (-0.9) mainly because of grounding into double plays at a higher-than-average rate and poor base stealing results. In 2021, Toronto ranked 6th in BsR (2.8). Overall, baserunning has been a slight disappointment. The defence has improved. The club’s Def and OAA rank 6th and 7th, better than 2021’s 7th and 10th, respectively. The defence has met expectations.

Pitching is a reason for disappointment. The pitching staff rankings in ERA, xERA, OPS and xOPS are 9th (tied), 10th, 12th and 11th, respectively. Toronto is 9th in runs allowed per game; they were fourth-best in 2021. The starters slot in at #6 in terms of ERA, #7 in xERA and 9th in both OPS and xOPS. When the season began, the starters were seen as a competitive edge. Alek Manoah and Kevin Gausman have more than lived up to expectations. However, Jose Berrios and Yusei Kikuchi have disappointed. Hyun Jin Ryu was injured early in the season, but Ross Stripling has performed very well as a replacement starter. I expected more from the starters.

The bullpen has disappointed. That group is 13th in FIP, 10th in xERA and xOPS, and 7th in OPS. Jordan Romano has been average, not one of the best closers in the American League. His xERA is average among relievers. Also, Romano was first in WPA (3.82) last season; this season, he is 12th (1.39). Nate Pearson was not available, and Julian Merryweather was poor. In terms of innings pitched, the relievers who rank 7th or lower on their respective team, Toronto’s group’s xERA, trails the comparable Houston and New York groups by a considerable margin. The Astros and Yankees bullpens are among the best in the American League. Toronto’s bullpen has little depth and has disappointed.

I don’t think injuries are a valid explanation for the pitching staff’s poor performance. Overall, in terms of the Injured List, Toronto ranks 9th, 8th and 5th concerning the number of pitchers, days on the IL and salary paid to injured pitchers. Regarding the relievers, Toronto ranks 5th, 10th and 11th in the number of players on the IL, days missed and salary.
(All rankings are American League only).

 

Karen: As usual Bob’s analysis is detailed and thorough. Essentially what I’ve been saying – the offence is good enough. They need pitching not Juan Soto.

 

Jim: I agree with Bob. But the team is close enough to meeting expectations that an internal turnaround could be sufficient to overcome the difference. As for example – the pitching has been disappointing. But over the last 30 days, the Jays’ starter xFIP is 5th in the AL, which (given where their hitting should be) might be good enough. Similarly, their hitting over the last 30 is 3rd in the AL. So if you believe that these figures represent a trend, then there might be cause for optimism.

My concern is that some writers seem to believe that a Luis Castillo + David Robertson will solve all of the Blue Jays’ problems. I disagree. To succeed, the Jays need all of their players to stop “disappointing”

 

Karen: Imagine this rotation:

Castillo
Manoah
Gausman
Berrios
Kikuchi/Stripling

Manoah and Gausman have been very good all season. Berrios has certainly been inconsistent but honestly you look at his performance game by game and he has been good about 2/3 of the time. He has been very good in four July starts with a 3.09 era. I’m very hopeful that he has turned it around.

As of now, Ross Stripling has that 5th spot and he has exceeded expectations. I only put Kikuchi in the mix because of his contract. We know he CAN be very good but he has to go out and perform. Only if he gets to the point that he is pitching better should he take that rotation spot.

I think the bullpen overall has been much better of late. I attribute much of their struggles earlier on to overwork in April.

Overall I think these pitchers have been very good lately:

Romano
Mayza
Garcia
Cimber
Richards
Phelps

I’d call up Matt Gage and DFA Banda. That only leaves one bullpen spot available – enter Robertson.

 

Jim: To put my comment about Castillo and Robertson in context: in the (say) 60 games left in the season at the trade deadline, Castillo would generate about 1 fWAR and Robertson maybe 0.5. And that is not incremental. Without a turnaround by the other team members, it is unlikely that would make the difference between playoffs and golf.

In the playoffs, teams usually go with three primary starting pitchers. It is unclear whether Castillo would even crack the top 3, and if he did he would be only a marginal upgrade over Gausman/Berrios. Robertson would help, but Romano would be the primary closer and DR’s 3.08 xERA is higher than Yimi or Cimber. So again, success would depend more on the existing players stepping up than on the incremental contribution of Castillo & Robertson.

 

 

 


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