Back in Spring Training, Toronto Blue Jays manager John Schneider vowed to have his club work on "doing all of the little things" to scrape together wins. This meant that speedsters like Whit Merrifield, Kevin Kiermaier and Daulton Varsho were going to be able to steal more bases. Bunts would be brought into play. Slap-hitting with runners in scoring position, you name it.
We are past the halfway point of the 2023 campaign and these "little things" have been nowhere to be found. Sure, the Blue Jays are stealing bases (they have 69 which is right at league-average per Baseball Reference), but nothing else has been working for them, especially on the bases. As a matter of fact, most baserunning statistics suggest that the Blue Jays have been one of the worst running teams in the league.
Followers of the Blue Jays are likely not surprised to hear this news. It seems that every single game there is some sort of baserunning blunder, whether it be players failing to run out groundballs, be caught stealing by a mile, running through stop signs at third base or just advancing on plays that they have no business advancing on. The amount of wasted opportunities due to poor decisions on the bases is staggering.
Starting with stolen base attempts, the Blue Jays have been thrown out trying to steal second base 20 times. Only the Royals (21), Pirates (23) and Rays (28) have the "honor" of being thrown out more. Sure, the argument could be made that perhaps the Jays are just attempting more steals, but that is actually not the case. The Jays have only attempted 93 steals this season and boast a 74 percent success rate which is near the bottom of the league. The club has also been thrown out trying to steal third three times, which is tied for fourth in the majors.
The sloppy baserunning continues into the pickoffs category. Blue Jays runners have been caught eight times this year leaning too far off of the bases, which is tied with the Diamondbacks for fifth-most in the game. Guys like Merrifield, Varsho and Kiermaier can get a bit too eager on the bases and have paid the price for it. Additionally, there are some of the clumsier players like Alejandro Kirk, Brandon Belt or Vladimir Guerrero Jr. who fall victim to this as well.
Finally, let's look at OOB, or Outs on Bases. Per Baseball Reference, the Blue Jays have made a whopping 35 outs on the bases this year which puts them in a tie with the Cubs for third-most in the major leagues. The Jays have ran into 13 outs at second, 12 at third and 10 at home. Again, this points to an over-aggressiveness that has ultimately resulted in nothing but more outs against the club.
While Major League Baseball still has plenty of room for smallball and the Blue Jays have meant well in that regard this year, things have not been working out so far. Ultimately, the team is running into entirely too many outs on the bases and it's costing them wins. John Schneider had the right idea when he said that the club would become more aggressive on the bases, but some tightening up of things is long overdue.