Blue Jays highs and lows from April

Apr 30, 2017; Toronto, Ontario, CAN; Toronto Blue Jays right fielder Jose Bautista (19) reacts to striking out during the fourth inning against the Tampa Bay Rays at Rogers Centre. Mandatory Credit: Kevin Sousa-USA TODAY Sports
Apr 30, 2017; Toronto, Ontario, CAN; Toronto Blue Jays right fielder Jose Bautista (19) reacts to striking out during the fourth inning against the Tampa Bay Rays at Rogers Centre. Mandatory Credit: Kevin Sousa-USA TODAY Sports /

April was a month to forget for the Toronto Blue Jays. They had what was likely the worst start in franchise history, ending the month at 8-17, and seated in last place in the American League East.

It was a slow, and gloomy start to the 2017 season for the Toronto Blue Jays. The losing streaks piled up along with the injuries that increased over the course of the month. To make two negatives into a positive, they won the final two games of April against the Tampa Bay Rays for their first series victory of the season.

For better or worse, here’s a look at the notable moments in the opening month of the season.

Injury Bug

First, lets’ start with the not-so-good stuff. The team’s injuries that piled up over the month.

It started off with Roberto Osuna on the 10-day DL with a cervical spasm.  J.P. Howell went down with a left shoulder strain. Things got worse when Josh Donaldson went out with a calf strain, then Troy Tulowitzki was out with a right hamstring strain.

Lastly, the rotation lost J.A. Happ with a left elbow inflammation and Aaron Sanchez landed on the DL with a right middle finger blister. Sanchez returned but left the game on Sunday after the finger got worse.

Hitting and Pitching

Toronto’s overall hitting and pitching stats have been subpar to start off the season.

Toronto’s batting slash line in April with their League ranking is AVG .228(26th)/OBP .295(26th)/SLG .350(28th)/OPS.645(28th). Whereas the pitching stats are the following 4.14 ERA(16th/1.34 WHIP(22nd)/SO 213(11th)/BB 81(7th).

As noted, the hitting was painful to watch and the pitching had their ups and downs. However, in the past seven days, the numbers have dramatically changed.

The Blue Jays batting slash line is AVG .251(16th)+.023/OBP .317(21st)+.022/SLG .387(22nd)+.037/OPS .704(21st)+.059. The pitching line is 3.80 ERA(9th)-0.34/1.38 WHIP(14th)-0.04/69 SO 69(4th)/BB 32(4th).

The bats are coming around as well as the pitching. The rotation is starting to look more like what we saw last year and they are having some quality starts.

Needs Improvement

Jose Bautista, Steve Pearce, and Devon Travis need to bounce back from their sluggish starts.

Bautista faced a lot of uncertainty in the offseason before he re-signed with the Blue Jays on a one-year deal. The 36-year old has struggled out of the gate. He looked extremely lost at the plate in April, finishing with a slash line of .178/.309/.244/.554.

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But fear not folks, Bautista is actually improving and there’s proof for that. Over the past seven games, Joey Bats is hitting .375/.467/.542/1.008. That’s including his eighth inning heroics on Sunday and yesterday’s home run against the New York Yankees. He has gone 9-for-26 since April 24 that includes a bigger chip on his shoulder than ever before.

Pearce signed a two-year, $12.5-million deal in the offseason. He hasn’t had a lot of opportunities playing and the offensive production hasn’t been there just yet. His slash line from April was .167/.211/.167/.311.

Devon Travis had similar numbers to Pearce and found himself out of the leadoff spot. Travis was hitting a miserable .130/.193/.195/.388 in April.

Honourable Mentions

Kevin Pillar, Justin Smoak, Marcus Stroman and Darwin Barney have delivered offensively, defensively, and on the mound.

Smoak faced a lot of questions coming into spring training. Particularly whether or not he could get the job done as the everyday first baseman. The 30-year old has brushed off the doubters so far as he is off to a solid start. Batting in the middle of the lineup, Smoak has an impressive slash line of .273/.305/.506/.811 (no we are not living in a bizarro world).

For Pillar, he wasn’t the leadoff guy many expected to be last season but has since proven otherwise. Superman was committed to changing his approach at the plate during spring training and he’s delivered on that commitment. Pillar is hitting .301/.339/.505/.844 in April. If he keeps up this trend, he should be worthy of an All-Star ballot.

Darwin Barney continues to be a valuable asset on the left side of the infield. The utility man logged 19 games combined at second base, third base, and shortstop as he hit .292/.333/.313/.646 during that span.

Stroman is coming off an MVP performance at the World Baseball Classic. He has proven to be Toronto’s best pitcher so far outside of Marco Estrada. The 26-year became the first pitcher in the majors to have two complete games this season.

Next: Blue Jays AL East Recap: Highs and Lows

His ERA is sitting comfortably at 2.97 and you can’t forget his pinch-hit heroics against St. Louis last week. He doubled for his first career hit and came around to score the game-winning run.