Blue Jays: A Tale of Two Starts, A Statistical Comparison

TORONTO, ON - APRIL 2: Josh Donaldson
TORONTO, ON - APRIL 2: Josh Donaldson /

It’s hard not to top last year’s dreadful start, but so far the Blue Jays have far exceeded their totals through the first five games of the 2017 season. They’re over .500 for the first time since October 2016, and things seem to be looking up for the new look Jays.

You know what they say, when you hit rock bottom there’s only one way to go, and that’s up. Last year, the Jays got off to a terrible start, stumbling to a 1-4 record through the first five games. They would go on to post an awful 8-17 record in the month of April, losing the faith and optimism of their fan base in the process.

This season, however, the boys in blue are off to a far better start. They’re 4-2 in their first six games, losing only by two and five runs in the pair of losses. Despite this, there seems to be a sense of hope in the early going. Jays fans are not writing off the first month of the season as they perhaps have in the past. So how much better are the Jays this year so far? A fair bit better.

Through five games last year, they’d given up 21 runs while scoring 18, slashing a paltry .217/.297/.300. Entering Tuesday night’s game, they’d given up 19 runs while scoring the same amount, slightly improving their collective slash line to .205/.283/.404. Cumulatively, the 2017 team posted a .597 OPS, while this year’s squad has posted a .687 OPS, a significant improvement.

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The team has also seen decent improvement on the pitching side of things. Last year, Blue Jay hurlers pitched to a 4.08 ERA, while 2018 Blue Jay pitchers have pitched to a 3.60 ERA (prior to Tuesday’s game). They’ve faced 11 fewer batters this year, walking two less and allowing nine fewer hits.

The bulk of the success this season comes from the lack of runners left on base. Last season, the Jays left 38 runners on base (an average of 7.6 per game). This year’s team has left 34 runners on base for an average of 5.7 per game.

It’s also worth noting that this year’s team has faced far better starting pitching, according to starters’ Game Scores. Last season, the average game score of opposing starters was 54.4, with this year’s starters averaging a game score of 62.2.

They’ve been facing a lot of tough pitching. So far, the best performance they’ve gone up against was Luis Severino’s Opening Day start, in which he tossed 5.2 innings of scoreless ball, allowing just one hit and striking out seven, good enough for a game score of 71, which is considered by Fangraphs to be a “great” performance. Last year, Dylan Bundy’s Game two start was good enough for a game score of 72. After him, the next highest score was 66, compared to this year’s second-place score of 70.

I’ll be the first to admit, the sample size is incredibly small, and the numbers don’t seem to differ that dramatically. However infinitesimal the variation in statistics, it’s hard to deny that this team is off to a far better start than last year.

Next: Blue Jays winning in dramatic fashion early on