What is with all of the Blue Jays strikeouts?
Going into this season the Toronto Blue Jays are one of the most feared lineups in the league. Many believe they have the potential to be one of the all-time great offensive teams in history this season. Coming off a year where they racked up 891 runs and clinched the division for the first time since 1993, they are looking for more.
The fun likelihood of this is that the team does have a legitimate chance at living up to these odds. On the flip side of a high octane offence, however, is the fact that the Blue Jays have run into some very high strikeout totals early in 2016.
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Looking at last year’s team numbers through 162 games shows that the Jays finished in first place in many of the offensive categories. The categories that do not get as much attention were also owned by the Blue Jays. Mainly the categories of strikeouts and walks.
The Blue Jays led the league in walks last season and averaged about 3.5 walks per game. This is because the Jays were patient at the plate and waited for their pitches. Having the right hit to pitch leads to more hits which also equals more runs. The extra benefit of this is also more base-runners for the big bats. This season thus far the Blue Jays are averaging 3.3 walks per game through the first 10. This is on par with last season but the Blue Jays are in 11th place in runs scored. This led me to dig deeper.
Looking at the strikeout rates painted a clearer picture. Last season the Blue Jays were a team that struck out at a very low rate. They were nearly 100 strike outs below the league average of 1248 total (the Jays had 1151). This is good for a strikeout rate of 7.1 per game. In the first 10 games the Blue Jays have already reached the 100 K mark and the Houston Astros are the only team with more at 102. That is averaging 10 strikeouts per game. Last season the Blue Jays were an anomaly in baseball history as it is typically known with more power comes more strikeouts. The Blue Jays led baseball in runs but were in the top-10 lowest striking out teams in baseball.
So what has changed? The addition of a full season from Michael Saunders and Troy Tulowitzki may be a small percentage of the increase. Part of it can be attributed to the level of pitching the Blue Jays have faced so far this season. Not only have the bullpens in the American League East been improved but so have the pitching staffs. Thus far the Jays have only faced their own division rivals that have followed the “Kansas City bullpen model” and there is not a break in that action until April 22nd.
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The Blue Jays are striking out more through these first two weeks, but they have a chance to get back to their old ways as the season moves on. It is early and they clearly want to mash the ball. This has led to more strikeouts because they have been impatient at the plate. The Blue Jays hitters need to sit and wait for their pitches and try not to get baited by some of the junk balls.
They will also get into the schedule that does not include division battles here in the next few weeks. Some of those teams do not have the pitching depth to hold the Jays potent lineup down. The offence is coming!