It’s been a running theme for this Toronto Blue Jays team all year, or perhaps more of a running joke – when will the bats show up?
When Jays hitters struggled out of the gate, it was that they merely needed to find their timing; when these struggles continued into May, it was that they were waiting for the weather to warm up and the balls to start flying; when the dog days of summer began to wane, the bats still yet to arrive, it was the cool air of September and the intensity of a playoff race they needed in order to get locked in.
On and on it continued, until finally, mercifully, as the season reached its final week, both the team and the fanbase seemed to reach a place of sad acceptance – the bats were never going to show up, and the Blue Jays would simply have to resign themselves to being a team whose only hope was pitching and defense.
Of course, statistically, the Jays have both the best pitching staff in all of baseball (first in ERA at 3.72) and the best defense (first in Defensive Runs Saved). To be forced to rely upon these things did not totally leave the Jays without hope.
But dang, if they could just start hitting ...
What if the Blue Jays start hitting?
I’m not saying the Blue Jays bats are back.
Certainly not. We’ve all come too far with these 2023 Jays to believe that anything which happened yesterday is likely to repeat itself today.
But what if they were? What if all the players in the lineup who have spent the season falling short of both projections and career norms suddenly regressed to the mean?
I’m not saying, I’m just saying …
Over the past two weeks, Vlad Guerrero Jr. is slashing .300/.407/1.047 with five home runs and ten RBIs (a 58 homer, 116 RBI pace over a full season). Meanwhile, after struggling to find his timing when he first came off the injured list, Bo Bichette, is hitting .356 with an .894 OPS over his last ten games. In short, in the biggest games of the season, the franchise players have been franchise players.
Elsewhere, self-proclaimed “MVP” Brandon Belt, fresh off the injured list, has suddenly homered in back-to-back games, as has Matt Chapman.
Yes, that Matt Chapman, the guy who was slashing .143/.250/.512 since his own return from the injured list on September 14th; the guy who, since his blistering Player of the Month start in April, had hit a feeble .208/.291/.643. Suddenly, he’s sending rockets all over the field, and it appears that April Chappy is threatening to reemerge, or at least the regular Matt Chapman who averaged 28.5 home runs per (non-COVID) season from 2018-2022.
Even Daulton Varsho has gotten in on the act, hitting .273 with 6 extra base hits, 6 RBI, and 6 runs scored in his last ten games (on pace for 96 of each over a full season), providing the Jays with a dynamic bottom-of-the-order weapon.
And then there’s Cavan Biggio …
On August 27th, Biggio reached the low point of his season when he was called upon to bunt by manager John Schneider after Danny Jansen led off the bottom of the 9th inning of a tie game with a double. Biggio promptly bunted the ball straight back to the pitcher, and Jansen was thrown out at third.
As rare as small ball is in the modern game, you could hardly blame the manager for asking Cavan to lay one down. At the time, he was slashing .213/.306/.667 through 233 plate appearances.
Yet, in 26 games since that moment, Biggio is hitting .283/.408/.803. In other words, for the last month, Cavan Biggio has basically been Adley Rutschman (.277/.374/.810).
Put these hitters together, and all of a sudden, the Jays lineup looks more dangerous than it has at any point this season. And that’s without mentioning George Springer, Alejandro Kirk, or Kevin Kiermaier, each of whom has put the team on his back and carried them to victory at one point or another over the past few weeks.
Sure, hours after I write this, the Jays bats may suddenly go missing again, because that is simply the way 2023 has gone.
But what if they don’t …
What do you think? Are the Blue Jays bats finally back? And if they are, just how far could this team go? Let me know on the platform formerly known as Twitter – @WriteFieldDeep.