This offseason, the Blue Jays addressed several large glaring areas of need for the club. The starting pitching was shored up, they added a dynamic leadoff hitter and an impact outfielder. They also brought a new old skipper on board to help guide a team that had drifted listlessly through the final months of the 2012 season.
The 2013 season looked to be the year where the Blue Jays would finally return to relevance. With the 2011 NL batting champ Jose Reyes leading off,reigning Cy Young winner R.A. Dickey heading your rotation and the dinger socking machine that is Jose Bautista at the heart of the order, it appeared that everything was finally coming up Milhouse.
However, a month into the season it appears as though a myriad of smaller issues and oversights may see the club fall out of the playoff picture before the Victoria day long weekend. While a few throwing errors, a double play not made, a few passed balls by J.P. Arencibia, and a couple of four pitch walks in a six inning start may not seem to be the harbingers of doom that could derail an entire season, the truth is they all add up and the sum is usually a losing baseball team.
While a team that is scuffling at the plate is frustrating, defensive miscues are much harder for a fan to stomach than their favourite slugger striking out. Fans expect the defense to make the plays, especially in Toronto where we’ve recently witnessed the glove wizardry of John McDonald and Adeiny Hechavarria. Most fans have no patience for players booting it around in the field, in fact the saying “no glove no love” originally had nothing to do with protection but was in fact referring to players with poor defensive skills striking out with the ladies at a Mark Reynolds-esque pace, or for a more Toronto flavoured metaphor, like Gregg Zaun at Hemingway’s.
There was an excellent piece on SI.com by Joe Lemire a few months back, looking at how total batters faced impacts winning percentage. While you can delve deeper into the specifics in Lemire’s piece or a great follow up to it by Drew Fairservice at Getting Blanked. What it really boils down to is; the more batters a team faces the greater chance of losing the game. In that light if you continue giving away outs the way the Blue Jays have you continue losing games.
Going into play Thursday night, the Blue Jays sat in 4th place in the Majors for number of batters faced at 1113, and 27th place for wins at 10. That is over 100 batters more than the AL East leading Red Sox, who faced 1001 and have played one game fewer. This is the equivalent to four games worth of outs that have been added on to the load the pitching staff has to carry, which will then further increase the risk of injury which in turn would… yeah we don’t need to go down that ole slippery slope.
While a 162 game season can hardly be pronounced dead at the start of the second month, one has to wonder, can Toronto get their bat’s to heat up? And can they perform well enough to overcome all the additional chances being given to their opponents. When you look at the wild fluctuations of BABIP, and the fact that even the best hitters fail 7 out of 10 times maybe the Jay’s should refocus on their defense and pitching to vastly improve their chances of winning and keeping control of the games and the season in their hands.