Blue Jays: 3 strengths and 2 weaknesses shown in the first week of the regular season
By Edward Eng
One thing that really stood out was, to the surprise of many fans, the starters were shaky to start off the season. With what was believed to be a great strength for the Jays coming into the 2023 season, it certainly didn’t look like it in the first go-around for their starting rotation. But here, we won’t be looking at that aspect, as we expect them to hopefully have a bounce back start (similar to what Alek Manoah did in his recent start against the Kansas City Royals) in the coming days to show that their first start may have just been an anomaly. Instead, we will take a look at two other less evident factors that may become more worrisome over the course of the season if not improved upon.
1. Power Outage
During the offseason, when the Jays elected to focus on acquiring players with superior defense and those that bat left-handed, they sacrificed some power bats, such as Teoscar Hernández and Lourdes Gurriel Jr., in doing so. It was expected that they might have a slight decrease in power coming into the season, but with the acquisitions of Brandon Belt and the potential breakout season for Varsho, the Jays were hoping it would help make up for some of that lost power at least.
So far after one week into the regular season, the Jays have collectively hit only three home runs over six games, which projects to a total of 81 home runs over the course of the entire season, compared to 200 in 2022. It is still early, but if regression to the mean doesn’t occur, this may be an area of concern for the rest of the season.
It is definitely gratifying to see that the current Jays team is starting to make strides in utilizing their speed and playing more small ball to generate runs, as opposed to just relying on the long ball which they had done for many prior seasons. However, sometimes the odd home run here and there is needed to help get back into some lopsided games much more quickly and to help generate momentum for the team.
Without reliance on the home run, the Jays will thus need to be more competent now in situational hitting. Speaking of which…
2. Clutch Hitting Woes
Another area of concern currently is the number of runners the Jays had been stranding on base the past few games. It is imperative that if there is a lack of power to generate runs with the home run, they must fully take advantage of cashing in runners when they get on base.
Over the past six games, the Jays have hit 13 for 56 for a .232 average with runners in scoring position, with 56 runners stranded in total. Their inability to drive in runs was particularly evident in game two against the Cardinals, when Cardinals’ pitchers issued TEN walks to the Jays over the course of the game, but the Jays were able to only score one run off a wild pitch as a result of it, per theScore and The Associated Press.
As well, it appeared as though every time the Jays were ready to make a rally in the games they were trailing, their untimely hitting would snuff it out. It may be just a few games into the season, but if the current trend continues, instead of winning close ball games, the Jays may start to find themselves on the losing side of many games due to the failure to produce in the clutch.
Obviously, one week of games isn’t enough of a sample size to dictate how the Jays will do the rest of the season, but it gives them a certain idea of what they have going right so far as a team, and what they may need to work on more. Hopefully the Jays can work out their weaknesses in due time; after all, they still have a whole season to play, and they should fully take advantage of their strengths to help propel the team to a successful winning season.