According to the exit velocity data, the Blue Jays were among the league leaders as a team in baseball. With that in mind, why were the results so poor?
By almost any measure that you look at the 2018 version of the Toronto Blue Jays, the season could be viewed as a disappointment. That’s generally what happens when a team with playoff aspirations wins just 73 games.
The starting pitching was supposed to be a strength, but it may have been the biggest weakness. They had hoped for a healthier year for their veteran roster, but instead saw just 36 starts for Josh Donaldson before he was traded, and multiple trips to the disabled list for guys like Aaron Sanchez and Marcus Stroman.
It was a lot of “if it can go wrong, it will” throughout the year, and at times it became borderline comical how bad the Blue Jays “luck” seemed. However, now that I look at an odd statistic from the season, their luck seems even a little worse.
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According to a tweet from Eno Sarris of the Athletic, the Blue Jays finished fourth in all of baseball in average exit velocity. For those that aren’t big on the newer stats in baseball, this number measures the speed of the ball when it’s hit, and generally the higher the number the more likely the batter is to achieve some success. It’s obviously not an exact science, as we see hard hit balls turn into outs all the time, but it’s a pretty good measure of how well the batter is making contact, and in this case, it’s analyzing the performance of an entire team.
The only clubs above the Blue Jays by this measurement? That would be the Red Sox, A’s, and Yankees, with the Blue Jays coming in fourth, followed by the Dodgers and the Rockies. And yes, in case you didn’t notice, the other five teams in the top six all qualified for the playoffs this season.
You could chalk it up as a statistical anomaly, and there’s definitely some of that going on here as well. However, Sarris also tweaked the same stats and adjusted the numbers to reflect things based on “how often” the ball was hit with authority. In that case, the Blue Jays actually move up to third on the list.
It takes more than one statistical measurement to build a winner, but it is a curious case to see the Blue Jays score so well in the area, and yet flounder so much on offence. They finish 19th in baseball in batting average as a team, 22nd in OBP, 17th in runs scored, and 13th in OPS, clearing showing that they were a middle of the pack team at best on offence.
And yet, when you look at the exit velocity, one would expect that the Blue Jays would have had more success with so many hard hit balls in 2018. Baseball is weird.