Blue Jays must get to first base before they go all the way


Jul 16, 2013; Flushing, NY, USA; American League player David Ortiz (34) of the Boston Red Sox talks with outfielder Jose Bautista (19) of the Toronto Blue Jays and infielder Miguel Cabrera (24) of the Detroit Tigers before the 2013 All Star Game at Citi Field. Mandatory Credit: Robert Deutsch-USA TODAY Sports

Most boys are taught growing up how to play The Game. If you want to score, first you have to go around the bases. Swinging for the fences may result in occasional glory but it’s no recipe for sustained success. Especially against some of The Game’s tougher opponents.

I started this post with the intention to find out just how bad the Toronto Blue Jays have been with men on base or with runners in scoring position. Watching this recent trend of stranding runners led me to believe that they must in fact be terrible.

But my original premise didn’t hold up. Actually, the Blue Jays have been surprising average or better in these categories.

What I did find though is a shocking difference in opportunities between Toronto and some of the top teams in Major League Baseball.

The Boston Red Sox lead the majors with 1858 plate appearances with men on base, followed by the Detroit Tigers who have 1808. The Blue Jays, on the other hand, have 1534 PAs to rank 25th among 30 MLB teams.

The Red Sox and Tigers are also making the most of their opportunities with respective .285 and .288 batting averages. But the Blue Jays aren’t that far behind, sitting 11th in the league at .262. They haven’t been horrible with runners on, you could even get away with saying that they are slightly above average especially considering that they are hitting .251 in all situations this year.

As you would expect it’s a similar story with runners in scoring position. The Red Sox lead MLB with 1153 plate appearances, followed by the Tigers who have 1055 with respective .276 and .288 batting averages. The Jays only have 843, which is worsened only by the Miami Marlins, Chicago White Sox and Houston Astros. The Jays have a .256 batting average with runners in scoring position, which again is respectable at 12th in the league.

But the strange thing is that the Jays actually have a respectable .316 OBP as a team, which puts them pretty much in the middle of the pack at 16th. They are in a similar spot when it comes to batting average, as they are tied for 16th with the Atlanta Braves.

The Blue Jays have 538 singles to rank 22nd, 162 doubles (18th), 14 triples (17th), and 120 home runs (T-2nd). They have also drawn the 10th most walks with 307.

I’m at a bit of a loss in how to explain how the Jays manage to get so many fewer opportunities with men on base. The Tigers lead MLB with 659 singles and the Red Sox are third with 612. For doubles, the Red Sox lead MLB with 220 and the Tigers rank fourth with 183.

The Jays have 714 hits that were not home runs. The Red Sox have 857 hits other than dingers along with 365 walks. The Tigers have 854 non-HR hits and 340 walks.

So in total the Jays have had 1021 plays that have ended up with a man on base (not accounting for errors, hit-by-pitches, fielder’s choices or any other factors I may forgetting that make for a different result than PA), while the Red Sox have 1222 and the Tigers 1194.

The Jays simply aren’t setting themselves up enough to manufacture enough runs. So despite having decent offensive numbers overall it’s really no wonder that the Jays struggle so mightily to compete on a nightly basis.

The long ball is nice to watch and can be effective when used efficiently. And the Jays have been fairly disciplined at the plate as a team. But this collection of sluggers is not making for the offensive juggernaut that fans had hoped.

This is only one side of the coin, as most everyone knows that the biggest problem for the Toronto Blue Jays has been atrocious starting pitching and a makeshift rotation. But still, the Jays shouldn’t be this bad. I’ve watched enough winnable games slip away this year to entirely blame this season’s turmoil on the pitching staff.

Many people have tried to comprehend why the Toronto Blue Jays suck. In my opinion, it’s not that they aren’t playing hard or aren’t desperate enough. I wouldn’t even call them overrated. It’s just they are playing the game backwards. And maybe we should have seen at least part of this coming.

If the Blue Jays want to score they need to find a way to get on base more often. You don’t always cross the plate when you at least get to first but damn, it sure does help you chances.

All stats are courtesy of FanGraphs and do not include tonight’s game.