Mar 31, 2014; St. Petersburg, FL, USA; Toronto Blue Jays catcherErik Kratz
(31) is congratulated by third base coachLuis Rivera
(2) after hitting a two run home run against the Tampa Bay Rays at Tropicana Field. Tampa Bay Rays defeated the Toronto Blue Jays 9-2. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports
With the opening game landing in March—and turning out pretty ugly—there is a chance for a fresh start in April. Like any keys to winning these are pretty general, but they specifically apply to the Jays more than other teams around the league.
Here’s a look at a few keys to a successful April.
It’s Not Early
Here’s a phrase that many analysts used quite a bit last April. It’s a phrase that’s impossible to argue against because it is true. Yes, April is the first month in a very long season. Yes, a team can erase any early season losses by future victories down the stretch. Yes, the ’91 Twins had a losing record in April, as did the 1915 Red Sox, and so on.
The thing is, teams with losing records in April who went on to win a World Series are in the minority. Just like starting a game down by a few runs, losing games early sets a bad tone. The game plan for the season goes out the window, the clubhouse atmosphere changes, anxiety builds and each loss seems to compound frustration. That’s no way to start a promising season.
Now that also doesn’t mean getting worked up after every loss, there’s going to be losses. But look at the overall month and hope for at least close to a .500 record.
I couldn’t even get this article up before an opening day injury to Jose Reyes. At least technically it wasn’t April. Anyway, there’s no real good time to get injuries, but at the start of the season it really throws away any chance of rhythm you’re trying to put together. With the injury to Reyes in April last season, the Jays lost their leadoff hitter, and this no doubt had an impact on them going 10 wins, 17 losses in April.
For whatever reason the Jays have had horrible injury issues the past couple seasons. And we’re talking big injuries. There’s not so much concern about the small, day-to-day injuries, but prolonged DL time by a couple of key players and it will be real tough to string together wins.
So how do we avoid injuries? We need to be fine with guys getting time off when needed. Give Reyes all the time off he needs, it’s better than a bigger injury during a game.
No Need to Crush it
The Jays finished 15th in the league last year in on-base percentage and a lot of that could do with trying to swing for the fences. This seemed to be even more of a problem early in the season last year.
Kevin Seitzer was brought aboard in October to correct these issues. He noted the problems from last season.
"“They were a little bit too much home run happy [last year] and we needed to be able to make some adjustments.”"
Unless your name is Edwin Encarnacion or Jose Bautista, there is absolutely no need for you to take a home run hack in most situations. Seitzer has said as much, indicating that those two and Lind already know what they are doing at the plate, but others will require some time.
With a couple players guilty of big swings off the roster, this will hopefully improve this year. April will be a good time to get a read on it.
Get Innings from the Starters
This goes along with avoiding injuries. The bullpen was a great strength last season, but there are no guarantees this year. With short starts the bullpen will be relied on heavily early in the season, which will wear down some arms for later in the year.
Combined, the starting staff had the third fewest innings pitched last year. That’s something the Jays cannot repeat. With a lot of question marks in the rotation, this one could be tough, but quality starts and maybe the occasional complete game would make a huge difference.
Forget about that ugly opening game and just hope for a successful April. If the Jays can get through it with a positive record, it will ease some of the pressure for what will surely be a tough year.