Blue Jays manager John Gibbons made several comments prior to Monday night’s game against the Cleveland Indians, mentioning that he’s pleased with how the team has fared without the likes of Josh Donaldson and Troy Tulowitzki.
Despite the fact that there is plenty to be frustrated with around the Toronto Blue Jays, things have been a little bit better lately. In fact, the Blue Jays have played .500 ball over their last 18 games, despite missing stars like Josh Donaldson, Troy Tulowitzki, Aaron Sanchez and J.A. Happ for the active roster. Now, Russell Martin has also been added to the 10 day DL as of Monday.
When asked on Monday about the team’s play lately by Sportsnet, John Gibbons was quick to praise his team for maintaining a .500 record over their last 18 contests. After starting the season 1-9, the Blue Jays have quite the hole to dig out of. For some Blue Jays’ fans reading Gibbs’s comments, it’s likely frustrating to hear .500 is something he’s pleased about.
That said, what kind of performance can you expect from the club when their starting lineup regularly includes the likes of Ryan Goins, Darwin Barney, Chris Coughlan and others? When your top offensive performers are Kevin Pillar and Justin Smoak, things aren’t going the way they were drawn up, and that’s what has happened as the injuries have piled up.
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In addition to the injuries they’ve dealt with, they’ve had underperformance and inconsistency from Martin, Jose Bautista, Steve Pearce, Devon Travis and more. Take those four and add Donaldson and Tulowitzki and you’re taking about 2/3’s of your offence.
Which is why Gibbons’ comments aren’t as ridiculous as they sound. Sure, the Jays can’t play .500 ball all year and expect to eventually keep up, but I think it’s a reasonable goal for the team in the short term future, at least until they’re fully equipped again.
Donaldson’s timeline is still unclear, and we haven’t had a lot of recent updates on Tulowitzki either, though at least the latter was out on the field taking ground balls on Monday afternoon. The club is expected to take their time with both players, as they’ve both been prone to injuries throughout their careers.
As much as Gibbons is correct in saying .500 is okay without all the cylinders firing, the team will need to get up to speed in a hurry if they want 2017 to remain relevant. With 130 games remaining, they’ll need to go 79-51 in order to reach the 90 win mark, which would put them in the playoff mix. They were 16-15 at this point in 2015, finished the year with 77 more wins and won the AL East by 6 games, so the season isn’t beyond salvaging.
That’s an incredibly tall order for any team, and it’ll be imperative for the fill-ins to make sure the task doesn’t become any more difficult before the Donaldson and the rest return to the lineup.