Blue Jays: The 2018 surprises so far
The 2018 season has had some surprises for the Blue Jays so far, both negatively and positively. Baseball is said to be a game where the unexpected happens and indeed, it does. Here is a look at the biggest surprises so far for the 2018 Blue Jays.
The negative surprise- The rotation
The 2018 season started and what was seen as the team’s strength was its rotation. In MLB’s top 10 series of rotations, the Blue Jays starting five was considered the 10th best in the majors consisting of Marcus Stroman, JA Happ, Aaron Sanchez, Marcooftrada and Jaime García. They currently have a combined 5.44 ERA, which is just ahead of the Orioles and the Rangers.
On top of that, and probably the worse part, Stroman, who was supposed to be the ‘Ace’ of the rotation hasn’t been right this season, reflected by his 7.71 ERA, and is now on the disabled list with right shoulder fatigue.
Any positive takeaways from the rotation? Aaron Sanchez leads the staff in ERA and innings pitched after missing almost all of 2017 due to the blister. Definitely one of the best things to see so far in 2018 for the team.
It’s no question the rotation has to perform better if the Blue Jays want to contend for a playoff spot. Reality is that it will probably get better. This staff has shown it can pitch as good as any other one in the majors. If Stroman comes back to his ‘Stroshow’ form, and the pitching staff stays healthy while managing to pitch close to the 2016 rotation version, the rotation could once again carry this team like it was supposed to do.
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Wait, what? Luke Maile? If someone would have predicted Luke Maile was going to have a batting average of .339 with two home runs and 14 RBI’s in 67 plate appearances, such prediction would have been laughed at. Maile already has the same home runs and has doubled his RBI total from 2017.
Everyone knew Toronto’s backup catcher was exceptional behind the plate, but with the bat, he was considered as irrelevant. It’s gotten to a point where starting Maile and playing Russell Martin in the infield more often, where he’s been playing very well, has become a discussion, something absolutely unthinkable when the season started. It now makes quite some sense as Martin is struggling with the bat so far. Maile’s hot start was highlighted with his two-homer game on Friday night against the Sox.
The Venezuelan player is quickly becoming a fan favorite with his dances and fun spirit. His batting has been just as impressive, however. He has already hit nine home runs, half of his 2017 total with a team-leading 23 runs driven in which has led to Solarte hitting third in the Blue Jays lineup. He has arguably been Toronto’s most consistent hitter this season along with Kevin Pillar and Teoscar Hernández.
When Yangervis Solarte was acquired from the Padres back in January, he was expected to hit between the sixth and eighth spot of the lineup. His role was expected to be a backup to Josh Donaldson and Devon Travis primarily while playing some shortstop. However, he’s now the Blue Jays everyday second baseman with Donaldson back at third and Travis struggling down in Triple-A.
The ‘Untouchable’ bullpen
No one would have predicted the Blue Jays bullpen to lead the American League with a 2.80 ERA (Heading into Saturday’s game) at any point in the season. Last season the bullpen was already a bit of an unexpected force for the Jays but this season it is exceeding expectations by a mile.
The bullpen started the season with several question marks. The Blue Jays took low-risk gambles signing Tyler Clippard and Canadian John Axford on minor league deals along the signing Seunghwan Oh to a cheap contract after he failed his physical with the Rangers. The trio has been extremely efficient out of the bullpen so far. They’ve really been a pleasant surprise for manager John Gibbons and the Blue Jays so far.
Next: Blue Jays: Why does Russell Martin get off the hook?
The negative surprise from the bullpen standpoint is Roberto Osuna’s assault case which has left the Blue Jays without their All-Star closer indefinitely. He was placed on ‘Administrative leave’ by MLB following the incident. Tyler Clippard (1.33 ERA) has taken over the role for the time being.