Blue Jays #1 in Runs Scored. But, So What?
The Toronto Blue Jays have more runs than the day after “Thai Food Night” at my place. They’re scoring runs at a nearly 5.3 runs per game. They’ve scored 10+ runs 7 times, 5+ runs 18 times. They’ve not been shut out at all this season. It has been a lot of fun to watch. Yet, what hasn’t been fun is watching them spin their tires and hover around .500. Heading in to play on Thursday, the Blue Jays 17-18 and 4 games behind the New York Yankees for first place in the AL East.
Yesterday, one of our readers asked about the other teams that are near the top of the runs scored list. Scott asked about their records and how their performing. I thought that was a good question and decided to take a quick peak. Here are the top 5 teams in runs scored heading in to play Thursday:
1) Toronto Blue Jays- 185 runs/ 17-18 record/ 4 GB AL East
2) Los Angeles Dodgers- 174 runs/ 22-11 record/ 1st NL West
3) Kansas City Royals- 173 runs/ 22-13 record/ 1st AL Central
4) Washington Nationals- 167 runs/ 19-16 record/ 1 GB NL East
5) Oakland Athletics- 166 runs/ 13-23 record/ 9 GB AL West
Obviously, if you don’t score runs, you won’t win games. These top 5 teams are in the position they’re in in part thanks to scoring runs. However, there is a very clear difference between those who score runs and those who are at the top of their division. That difference is pitching. Here’s a look at the same teams and where they rank in some pitching categories.
1) Toronto Blue Jays- 166 runs allowed/ .259 opp avg/ 1.40 WHIP/ 127 BB/ 4.60 ERA
2) Los Angeles Dodgers- 112 runs allowed/ .234 opp avg/ 1.16 WHIP/ 83 BB/ 3.19 ERA
3) Kansas City Royals- 131 runs allowed/ .233 opp avg/ 1.21 WHIP/ 109 BB/ 3.50 ERA
4) Washington Nationals- 155 runs allowed/ .273 opp avg/ 1.36 WHIP/ 90 BB/ 3.77 ERA
5) Oakland Athletics- 165 runs allowed/ .235 opp avg/ 1.25 WHIP/ 116 BB/ 4.02 ERA
This is an interesting list that really just serves to show what we already know. Pitching wins games. If you can combine that pitching with a good offense, then you have the Dodgers. If not, you have the Toronto Blue Jays. Now, we’ll leave aside the money part of having a rotation that includes Clayton Kershaw and Zack Greinke. This is not going to turn into a “Rogers is cheap and won’t spend on quality pitching” rant. Instead, this is to highlight that if this club hopes to contend, it is going to have to do a lot better from the mound. Right now, they’re allwoing nearly 4.75 runs per game. If they’re going to score just a bit more than that, it is going to be a rough season.
Toronto Blue Jays
A lot of this has to do with the starting rotation. In the 35 games played in 2015, the starting rotation carries a 5.22 ERA! The bullpen has been a bit more palatable at 3.55 for all of the ballyhooing that has taken place over the make shift group of relievers.
Drew Hutchison has been less than the fan base had hoped. Yes, he’s 3-0 (before facing the Astros Thursday), but his ERA is an uncomfortable 6.69. That’s the kind of ERA you can’t make direct eye contact with. Before anyone gets on my case for referring to ERA, I will concede that it may not mean that much when discussing winning since Mark Buehrle has 5 wins and his ERA is 5.54. But, you get the point. The starters cannot hope for the type of run support (8.6 runs per game) that Buehrle has been getting to win games. Here is the one stat that may show what I’m getting at: quality starts.
The Blue Jays rotation has been putting up starts that are un-quality as a whole. Of all of the pitchers to make a start, only Buehrle has a QS% (according to BaseballReference.com) of over 50%. His is 57%. The rest? Hutchison- 29%, R.A. Dickey– 43%, Daniel Norris– 20%, Aaron Sanchez– 14%, and just for giggles, Marco Estrada– 0%. The league average is 45%. For comparison, the Dodgers are getting 75% out of Kershaw and 100% out of Greinke!
We all knew heading into this season that the Blue Jays looked poised to mash their way to contention. They brought in the right pieces to do that. Adding Russell Martin and Josh Donaldson will go a long way. But, if this club is serious about challenging for a their first post season appearance in 22 years, they’ll need to do something about their pitching. Otherwise, the runs will be for naught.