Blue Jays Key to Success #2- Have a Better April

LAKELAND, FL- MARCH 02: The Toronto Blue Jays stand during the National Anthem before the game against the Philadelphia Phillies at Florida Auto Exchange Stadium on March 2, 2016 in Dunedin, Florida. (Photo by Justin K. Aller/Getty Images)
LAKELAND, FL- MARCH 02: The Toronto Blue Jays stand during the National Anthem before the game against the Philadelphia Phillies at Florida Auto Exchange Stadium on March 2, 2016 in Dunedin, Florida. (Photo by Justin K. Aller/Getty Images) /

The Blue Jays cannot find themselves mired at or near the American League East cellar by the end of April if they are to succeed in 2018.

This article is the second in a series about areas in which the Jays need to improve to contend in 2018.  The focus is not on large targets – like staying healthy, or scoring more runs than the other guys – but rather on smaller areas where the Jays have underperformed in recent years and where improvement could translate into those critical few additional wins.

By April 30th of recent years, we have found the Blue Jays at or near the bottom of the standings in the American League East.

In case a reminder is required, below is a summary of the Blue Jays record as of April 30th of the noted seasons. For simplicity, the data refers to April, but it includes games of any regular season that started in March.

The Standings


So what does it all mean?

On average, if the Blue Jays had played 0.500 ball in April in each of the five previous seasons, they would have entered the month of May three games back of the leader, instead of the 5.3 games they averaged. So if the 2018 Blue Jays could be at 0.500 on April 30, the result would be a two game improvement (on average) over the past five seasons. This is not an insignificant difference when the Jays are projected to be on the edge of a wildcard berth in 2018.

Can the Blue Jays do it?  Well, let’s take a peek at the Jays 2018 March/April schedule. The number of games by opponent is as follows:

Yankees – 8; Red Sox – 3; Orioles – 3; White Sox – 3; Rangers – 6; Royals – 3; Indians – 3; and Twins – 1.

I would not be surprised if the Blue Jays were to earn five wins in total from the Yankees and Red Sox, eight in total from the White Sox, Rangers and Royals, and one from each of the Indians and Twins. That is 15 wins out of the first 30 games.

What could be the cause?

Why have the Blue Jays not had an April record that is at least 0.500 over the past five seasons? Hey, it’s time for more American League numbers!


Major League Baseball Season

Season wRC+ Number (Rank)

April wRC+ Number (Rank)

Season fWAR Number (Rank)

April fWAR Number (Rank)


99 (8)

89 (13)

16.6 (10)

1.4 (12)


107 (3)

108 (5)

24.4 (4)

4.3 (4)


117 (1)

103 (4)

35.0 (1)

3.7 (4)


103 (4)

91 (6)

23.7 (5)

2.0 (6)

201791 (15)71 (14)9.8 (15)

-1.2 (14)

Source: FanGraphs


Major League Baseball Season

Season ERA Number (Rank)

April ERA Number (Rank)

Season fWAR Number (Rank)

April fWAR Number (Rank)


4.26 (12)4.52 (13)9.9 (12)1.6 (12)


4.00 (9)

4.64 (12)

11.6 (11)

1.4 (9)


3.81 (5)

4.78 (13)

14.4 (8)

0.3 (15)


3.79 (1)

3.89 (10)

19.0 (2)

2.9 (8)

20174.42 (7)4.14 (10)16.5 (5)

3.1 (7)

Source: FanGraphs

Blue Jays Call-in

Now armed with that information, what are the reasons for the poor season starts? Hmmm. Let’s go to the phone lines to see if the audience knows.

Caller Luke: Well, the Blue Jays have been road warriors during the first month of recent seasons and that explains their poor record.

Radio Host: Well, it is true that the Blue Jays have played more games on the road than at home in April, but the difference is not much. First of all, in any season noted in the data, the number of road games has exceeded home games by no more than three. It is noteworthy that, other than 2015 when the Jays were exactly 0.500 at home, the Jays have a losing record at home in April.

More from Jays Journal

Caller Steve: Have you considered the impact of the 2013 and 2017 World Baseball Classics and the potential impact on the Blue Jays in the first month of those seasons?

Radio Host: In 2017, the Yankees had seven players from their 40-man roster playing in the WBC; the Blue Jays had six. The Blue Jays were dead last on April 30, 2017, and the Yankees were tied for first. I don’t think there is a link between slow starts and the WBC. Furthermore, there is no WBC this season so the impact, if any, will be zero in 2018.


Caller Buck: The answer is rather simple. The Blue Jays regulars do not play enough in Spring Training.

Radio Host: That is an interesting observation. In each of the past five seasons, the relative wRC+ and WAR of the Jays batters in April was not much different from the season as a whole. However, the relative ERA of the pitchers was worse in April than it was for the season in total. The two years that really stick out are 2015 and 2016.

In 2015, the Jays starters had a 5.20 ERA in April. In terms of Spring Training workload, the Jays starters pitched a total of 97.6 innings; the Yankees starters, the top AL East team in this period, pitched 81.6 innings. Therefore, I don’t see different Spring Training workloads as an issue for the Jays starters.

In 2016, the Jays bullpen had an ERA of 4.10 in April, which was 13th in the AL. However, their Spring Training usage was similar to that of the Orioles, which was the AL East leader for this period.

Sorry Buck but the Spring Training workload or lack thereof does not appear to be the cause of the Jays April blues.

Caller Methuselah: I have been watching baseball before the Blue Jays played their first game.

Radio Host: (Speaking softly) Ooh boy. Here it comes.

Caller Methuselah: Gibby is the reason. Look at him leaning out of the dugout with his arms draped over the railing! Do you think that inspires the players?

Radio Host: Well, Gibby does the same thing post-April and their record is better after the first month. The players seem to like playing for John Gibbons so I don’t see how he is to blame for the slow starts. Do you really think that players on one of the most experienced teams need a reminder that they must focus in April if they hope to contend in September? I doubt it.

Caller Sir Ronald: Have you considered that the Blue Jays April record in recent seasons is just due to randomness?

Radio Host: Yeah, I think you are probably right. I see no consistent factor that explains the early season woes of the Blue Jays.

Next: Production from Tulo will be a bonus in 2018

The last word

There is no singular explanation regarding why the Blue Jays have performed poorly in the first month of the past 5 seasons. Therefore, I would not be surprised if the Blue Jays are at least 0.500 when May 1 arrives. The schedule indicates that their record could meet the 0.500 April 30 threshold and the randomness (luck) of baseball could work in the home side’s favour.