Blue Jay Bullies: Can They Hit Good Pitching?

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The Blue Jays have the highest runs scored in the major leagues by a country mile.  With their run differential, they should be leading the AL.  But at times it seems that they have been playing just well enough to lose – winning a game 6-5 only to lose the next one 2-0.

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In particular, the Jays seem to have struggled against good pitching.  It is easy (though painful) to remember

Chris Archer

‘s 22 innings pitched against the Jays so far, with a total of one earned run allowed.  But is this just memory bias, or have the Jays really struggled that much against good pitching?

Suppose you define a “good starter”, for purposes of this analysis, as one with an ERA less than 3.50 so far this season.  On that basis, the Jays have played a total of 19 games against good starters.  The following chart summarizes the outcomes.

In this chart, “ERA” is the pitcher’s ERA in that particular game against the Jays and “ERA YTD” is the pitcher’s year to date ERA as of June 29th.  The games highlighted in green are where the Jays have hit to a pitcher ERA greater than five, and the ones in yellow are the ones where the ERA is higher than the YTD ERA.

Not  a pretty picture.

In 19 games, the Jays have been shut out seven times by the opposing team’s starter.  The pitchers have a combined 2.28 ERA against the Jays, and they have lasted an average of 6.2 innings.  Only twice, in 19 games, have the pitchers gone less than six innings … and they have never gone less than five.  The Jays have held them to an ERA less than their current season average only six times, and have hit to an effective ERA greater than five only four times.

To some extent, this outcome is expected.  According to the old adage, good pitching will beat good hitting.  But the Jays are supposed to have exceptional hitting.  So you would expect that – at a minimum – they would generate more earned runs than average.  But these pitchers have held the Jays to a 2.26 ERA, which is more than half a run better than they have done on average.

So what does this mean?  Are the Jays opportunistic hitters, particularly talented at capitalizing on pitchers’ mistakes – and therefore less effective against pitchers who do not make as many mistakes?  Are they (with perhaps an emphasis on the rookies) so intimidated by “big name” pitchers that they change their batting styles when facing them?  Or is the table above just a small-sample-size aberration?

The bottom line?  If the Jays do make it to the playoffs, they will be facing high-calibre pitching in almost every game.  It will place a huge burden on their pitching if the hitters continue to be overmatched to this degree.

Next: Toronto Blue Jays fail to launch in Red Sox opener

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