A year into the experiment, has 'defense over offense' helped or hurt the Blue Jays?

Kevin Kiermaier making a catch in center field against the Colorado Rockies
Kevin Kiermaier making a catch in center field against the Colorado Rockies / Mark Blinch/GettyImages

"It just comes down to executing the little things."

John Schneider

Let's go back to Oct. 8, 2022. The Toronto Blue Jays were facing the Seattle Mariners in Game 2 of the Wild Card Series, with the Jays facing elimination. Despite being up early in the game, the Jays would go on to lose in stunning fashion, resulting in a collision between Bo Bichette and George Springer. The Jays were promptly eliminated from postseason contention.

This isn't to reminisce negative memories of the franchise, but instead highlight a significant moment that changed the direction of the team. GM Ross Atkins decided to improve on the things that lost them that wildcard game, sparking a new philosophy into this Blue Jays core. The Jays planned to significantly improve the defense, and by extension, allow fewer runs than they score.

This plan started by acquiring CF veteran Kevin Kiermaier. Not only one of the best defenders of this era, but of all time. His career DRS is +166, which is 1st among all outfielders since the stat's conception in 2003. Just watching Kiermaier play, it's easy to see why he's ranked so highly, as he makes the impossible look effortless. This move worked in tandem with the Jays biggest acquisition of the offseason: Trading for Daulton Varsho. Varsho had emerged as one the leagues most elite defenders as well, being in the 99th percentile of OAA in the year he was acquired. The new outfield was completely revamped, with an emphasis on converting outs to lighten the load.

In a vacuum, the experiment worked. The Blue Jays finished 1st in DRS with 88, which was 17 runs higher than the second-place Milwaukee Brewers. Other defensive metrics aligned well, with the Jays finishing top 10 in OAA (11), UZR (29.6), and for the traditional fans, just 71 errors, which was the 5th lowest mark in baseball.

In 2024, that success is continuing for the 2nd straight year. The Blue Jays currently have 10 OAA, which is tied for 1st in all of MLB, with the San Francisco Giants. The team has proven that their fielding is a clear strength, which can be relied upon consistently throughout each year.

The bigger issue lied with how the offense performed over the course of the entire season. And so far in 2024, those same trends are rearing its head for the Jays. This is where the Blue Jays currently rank in numerous offensive categories.


Jays Rank (2024)

Rank in MLB (2024)

Home Runs









Hard Hit %



Barrel %



AVG Exit Velo



The current trends for the Blue Jays are ticking in the wrong direction, as the offensive approach is simply not translating into good results. There is an clear lack of power out of the current Jays roster, and it's affecting their ability to score consistently. This is coming off of last years offensive struggles, and stands as the biggest hurdle for the Jays to navigate in order to stay competitive, as their starting pitching and bullpen have normalized to regular expectations.

The Blue Jays stand at 13-12, with a run differential of -13. On one hand, it's reasonable to expect some player to catch fire, but with the problems the lineup faced last year, there is an increasing sample size growing that the Blue Jays offense will continue to underperform. Considering where the Blue Jays once were from hitting the 8th-most home runs of all time in a single season (262 in 2021) to now, the offensive disparity has gone a little too far for the Jays to be in that upper echelon of competitive teams.

Defense is very important. Making the routine plays, and even converting the tougher outs is a fundamental part of the game, and the Blue Jays are objectively one of the best in that regard. Yet the current opinion surrounding the team is that the defensive strength is not enough to overturn the offensive woes the team has been going through for nearly 200 games now. Time will tell if this roster can show more signs of life, but the new philosophy that the team has undergone may not have been the right choice.