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Blue Jays: Explaining the recipe for disaster that’s been 2018

TORONTO, CANADA - SEPTEMBER 25: Roberto Osuna #54 of the Toronto Blue Jays celebrates their victory with Josh Donaldson #20 and Marcus Stroman #6 during MLB game action against the Tampa Bay Rays on September 25, 2015 at Rogers Centre in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. (Photo by Tom Szczerbowski/Getty Images)
TORONTO, CANADA - SEPTEMBER 25: Roberto Osuna #54 of the Toronto Blue Jays celebrates their victory with Josh Donaldson #20 and Marcus Stroman #6 during MLB game action against the Tampa Bay Rays on September 25, 2015 at Rogers Centre in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. (Photo by Tom Szczerbowski/Getty Images) /
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While the Blue Jays’ 2018 season has been tremendously disappointing, it makes perfect sense when you break things down and look at why it’s happened.

My friends routinely ask me questions about the Blue Jays, and the most common one this year has been, “what the heck happened?”.

While some fans took the disappointing 2017 as a sign that the competitive window was already over, many of us believed that 2018 would bring a clean slate, and an opportunity for a talented team to show they are much better than they were last year. Unfortunately, it just hasn’t played out that way.

If I’m attempting to explain what’s gone wrong, there have been the usual conversations like Kendrys Morales epic struggles early in the year, or we talked about others like Randal Grichuk‘s first month, Devon Travis‘ start to the season, or even Russell Martin‘s batting average. There have been plenty of conversations about the rotation, and how what was supposed to be a strength for this club ultimately turned into a weakness for the most part. J.A. Happ has been great, but otherwise the results have been inconsistent, and mostly disappointing.

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The more I consider why the Blue Jays have had such a rough year the more I realize it comes down to a wide variety of factors, but I think I could sum up the biggest reason very simply. John Gibbons‘ lineup, rotation, and, and bullpen, have been missing their top talents.

If you asked the casual fan to name the most valuable Blue Jays during spring training, the list would definitely have included names like Josh Donaldson, Marcus Stroman, Roberto Osuna, and likely Aaron Sanchez. Beyond that there could have been plenty of debate if you ask me, but I feel like at least the first three, and a healthy Sanchez would round out the top four for the Blue Jays.

How much have those four contributed to the team this season, you ask?

Donaldson: 0.6 bWAR, 0.7 fWAR, just 36 games played

Stroman: -0.6 bWAR, 0.4 fWAR, only eight starts

Osuna: 0.4 bWAR, 0.5 fWAR , just 15 appearances prior to his suspension

Sanchez: 0.7 bWAR, 0.5 fWAR, currently on the disabled list

Combined, what was projected to be their four most valuable players have been worth 1.1 bWAR, or 2.1 fWAR, and it’s June 28th. If that doesn’t sum it up, I’m not sure what will.

Consider for a moment if you removed Mookie Betts/Chris Sale/J.D. Martinez/Craig Kimbrel from the Boston Red Sox. That would add up to 13.4 bWAR and 11.9 fWAR, just from those four alone. We’re not even talking about the rest of the roster, and already the Red Sox have a 12.3 bWAR difference over the Blue Jays. If you add up Aaron Judge, Giancarlo Stanton, Luis Severino, Aroldis Chapman from the Yankees you’re talking about 12.2 bWAR as well.

Sure, I could have taken the top WAR earners for the Blue Jays in actuality to bring the score closer, but I’m talking about a recipe to success here. If the Blue Jays were going to compete for a playoff spot, they were going to have to get the best of their best, and it just hasn’t gone that way so far. I’m not sure things are going to get much better for the group either, at least not for everyone.

Osuna will remain suspended until August 4th, and it’s hard to say how the Blue Jays will proceed with him once he becomes eligible to return, let alone how the legal proceedings could play out. Josh Donaldson had a setback in his rehab and won’t be re-evaluated for three weeks, so early August is likely a reasonable scenario to hope for. Aaron Sanchez has found himself on the sidelines with a contusion to a finger on his pitching hand, but hopefully it won’t keep him out long. He was just starting to look more like the Sanchez of old, so losing that momentum to getting him back to his best self was a tough blow. Stroman just returned from a lengthy absence on the disabled list, and will hope to get his season back on track in the second half.

There are a few individual seasons the Blue Jays should be pleased with, but when you look at the contributions from their “big four” or whatever you want to call them, the lack of team success makes a lot of sense. It definitely takes more than four to add up to a lost season, and there are 30 or 40 others who can definitely take their share of the blame too. But that said, you need star players in order to compete with the best teams in baseball, and unfortunately the Blue Jays have been missing that very important piece.

Next: How is Jose Bautista doing in New York?

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