May Thoughts: What's Wrong with the Toronto Blue Jays?
FiredUp Network Sports Writer
Tuesday, May 10, 2022
Despite feeling as if it began just last week, we are officially one month and 30 games into the 2022 MLB season. With all the anticipation surrounding this Toronto Blue Jays team heading into the campaign, it’s hard not to notice the feeling of disappointment towards the start, and angst moving forward.
Coming into the season, many experts already confidently boasted their season predictions. Blue Jays vs Mets will be the World Series matchup, just you wait and see! So how does one of the best lineups in baseball find itself third in the AL East, four games back from the first-place Yankees, boasting a record of 17-13? Should we be worried about this team?
No. You should not, and I’m going to tell you why.
The Blue Jays started this season undeniably one of the hottest teams in baseball. They played 22 games in the month of April, in which they lost only eight. They then went on a run of 20 straight games weathering a brutally tough schedule including a series against both the New York Yankees and the Houston Astros. On top of all that, they still managed to make it to where we are now with a winning record. So where are the issues?
Right now, all fingers are pointed at the offense, or better yet, the lack thereof. What was regarded as the powerhouse lineup of the big leagues, has been lackluster at best, putting up a below-average 3.83 runs per game, currently boasting a minus-10 run differential, and that’s not even the scariest part. Hitting with runners in scoring position has been a weakness for this Blue Jays team right from the off. They currently have a .187 average with RISP which is by far the worst in the league. If the season were to end today, it would be the worst in MLB history since 1901.
Now you may be thinking okay? When am I supposed to feel better about this? But the fact of the matter is, there is a lot to be optimistic about.
There are many positives to look at in the hitting department. The Jays have faced some of the league’s toughest pitching throughout the early part of their schedule, and have managed to finish it out boasting the second hardest Exit Velocity (90.7 mph) behind only the Yankees. In other words, they’re hitting the ball pretty damn hard, but not getting them to drop in for hits. As a matter of fact, Toronto sits near the top in most advanced Statcast Metrics including Hard Hit %, Barrel %, and Batted Balls. With that in mind, it’s fair to say that their lack of run production doesn’t truly tell the whole story.
The Jays played 30 games in 31 days to start the season, the busiest schedule in all of the Majors, and despite the bleak ending, when you put it into perspective, they were able to make it all the way until the Yankees series in Toronto before losing their first. They then followed it up with a series loss to the Cleveland Guardians - the second-best hitting team in all of baseball.
They were able to do this without the cleanup bat of Teoscar Hernandez (oblique) who was on the IL from April 15th on. You can be sure having a key contributor back in the lineup full time will unquestionably give this team a morale boost. Danny Jansen is also a guy whose absence has not gone unnoticed. The catcher, while playing in only three games before suffering an oblique injury of his own, posted an impressive .571 BA through seven plate appearances with two home runs to boot.
Now despite the poor start for Hyun-Jin Ryu, missing a guy like that can negatively impact the fragile ecosystem that exists within a baseball team. The dynamic is easily thrown off when you account for the shuffling that needed to be done to work around his absence. Ross Stripling was about as good as we could have asked, being thrown into that fourth rotation spot, but it also meant his reliability was taken away from the bullpen.
Beyond the disappointments of Ryu, starting pitching has been far from a problem for the Blue Jays to start. Alek Manoah through his 26 starts as a Blue Jay has posted the lowest ERA (2.86) , most strikeouts (162), and highest winning percentage (.867, 13-2) in Blue Jays history. Although many were disappointed about the loss of reigning Cy Young winner Robbie Ray, it’s fair to say the acquisition of Kevin Gausman has certainly made up for it. The righty made history becoming the first pitcher since Cy Young himself, to surrender no walks or home runs through his first five starts.
So while it hasn’t been the explosive start Blue Jays fans were most certainly hoping for, I’ll leave you with the reminder that headed into their series opener against the Yankees tonight, they sit just three wins behind those very same Yankees with over 80% of the season left to be played.
At the end of the day, baseball is really, really hard. Even for the best. This Blue Jays team still possesses the ability to make things happen, and it’s only a matter of time before this starts getting reflected on the field regularly.