Jays Opening Series: Breakdown, Analysis and Highlights
By Kaitlyn Bain
With their first series behind them and the Blue Jays about to start their home opener against the Red Sox, the 2016 season is now officially underway. If their first series is any indication of what Jays fans can expect from their team in the coming season we’d better hold on to our hat’s because it’s going to be an exhilarating ride!
Toronto’s electric starting pitcher Marcus Stroman has already caused some fireworks to fly and we’ve had a game end in a controversial review. The Commissioner of Baseball chose our game to appear at for the first game of the season and referenced the Jose Bautista bat flip of 2015, saying that if taken in context it was “one of the greatest moments in the history of the Toronto Blue Jays Franchise…in the History of the game” What would a Jays season be like without these exciting moments?
Our starting pitching was excellent. The starting pitchers were getting ahead, throwing strikes and keeping their pitch count low. This allowed them to stay in the game into the later innings and required less use out of the bullpen. For example, by the 8th inning, Stroman had managed to throw 25 of 30 first-pitch strikes. This allowed him to pitch into the 9th and the only relief pitcher the Blue Jays need was Osuna, who struck out two.
The relief pitching looks better this year than it did last year. The addition of Chavez, Storen and Floyd seem like they’re going to really help our team in the late innings. The jury’s still out on Leon; it’s too early in the season to tell. However, if Cecil can regain his prowess from last season and Osuna continues to pitch the way he did last year (and the first few games in Tampa) the Jays look like they might have a bullpen to compete with.
The defense was stellar. Tulowitzki at shortstop made his twirling double plays and Pillar made most of the Superman catches we’re used to seeing him make in the field. Hopefully playing their first four games at Tropicana Field will assist the team in their transition to the new dirt infield the Jays are going to have to acclimatize themselves to back at the Rogers Centre. It might be easier to go from Tropicana’s hard playing surface to our (hopefully) slightly softer one, than it would be to go in the opposite direction had we started in an all-grass outdoor stadium elsewhere.
Buck and Pat were making a big deal about the strikeouts we were getting. While it’s true that there were a striking amount of them, we were also seeing a lot of pitches. In our last game against the Rays, the count was full for the Jays almost every time they came to the plate. This translated to high pitch counts for the opposing pitcher, and this is why they were knocked out of the game in the early innings.
That being said; although the Jays were working the count and seeing a lot of pitches, they weren’t bringing in the runners. They also weren’t scoring in more than one inning. Toronto had great pitching, and despite the strikeouts, good hitting as well, but we weren’t using the good at-bats to our full advantage.
So; in conclusion, what the Jays need to focus on in the upcoming series against the Rays:
1. Continue working the count and getting on base; but, this time bring in the runners and don’t leave them stranded.
2. Work on scoring in more than one inning. Our pitchers are working hard at doing their thing, they need more than one inning of run support to help them out.
3. Don’t just aim for the sky. If the Blue Jays have runners on base, a single keeps the pressure on. Nothing eats at a team’s confidence more than seeing baserunner after baserunner after baserunner get on. When a home run is hit, the pressure is cleared.