Blue Jays: 3 strengths and 2 weaknesses shown in the first week of the regular season
By Edward Eng
With one week of the MLB baseball season in the books, let’s take a closer look at what went well, and what didn’t for the Toronto Blue Jays.
1. Solid Defense
One of the key strengths of the Jays going into the 2023 season is their drastic improvement on defence. During the offseason, the likes of Kevin Kiermaier and Daulton Varsho were acquired to help in that regard, and so far this regular season, the results have been quite impressive.
As a team, the Jays have committed only two errors through six games, with a fielding percentage close to .990. In addition, they have turned eight double plays and have made some stellar defensive plays along the way, including a couple of these:
It is expected that their quality defence will continue to help them win many more tight games throughout the season, when the games could become a game of inches.
2. Dynamic Speed
In previous seasons, team speed was generally not an attribute that they could take advantage of in helping them win games. One may have to go all the way back to the Devon White/Roberto Alomar/Shannon Stewart era, or even into Lloyd Moseby/Tony Fernandez/Damaso Garcia territory before we find a contingent of Blue Jays that presented a constant speed threat whenever they got on base.
However, for 2023, with the acquisitions of Kiermaier and Varsho, along with those already in place in Bo Bichette, Cavan Biggio, George Springer, Whit Merrifield and newcomer Nathan Lukes, they have the potential to have multiple double digit base stealers to deploy from their arsenal. So far, they have stolen four bases in six games, including one by Vladimir Guerrero Jr. too, whereas last year, they had only 67 for the entire season.
In addition, with the added speed this year, it has enabled more aggressive base running and run-scoring opportunities, with more potential outs becoming safe instead as a result, as seen here:
If the Jays can continue to use their speed to their advantage, they will certainly keep their opponents on their toes and may find themselves on the winning side of many games throughout this season.
3. Steady Bullpen
During the first game of the season in which the Jays were involved in the slugfest with the St. Louis Cardinals, the Jays’ bullpen certainly did not get off to a good start, giving up six hits, four earned runs, with four walks over 5.2 innings. But basically nothing was really working for either team that day, other than the fact that Jordan Romano saved the day and helped sneak out a 10-9 win.
But since that day, the bullpen has actually settled down and pulled off a string of decent outings, pitching over 15 innings, scattering 11 hits, two earned runs, while striking out 15 and walking only four, leading to a 1.20 ERA. Although FanGraphs had ranked the Jays’ bullpen to be only the 13th best in all of baseball, early signs appeared to show it actually may be more steady and reliable than expected.
Based on the 2022 season, when the Jays’ starters were generally taken out of the game by the sixth inning or earlier, knowing that they have a strong and dependable bullpen so far in 2023 will go a long way to help secure many leads or to keep games close to the end.
As good as the Jays’ defence, speed, and bullpen have been during the first week of the season, there were also some alarm bells to be aware of at the same time.