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What’s Wrong with the Blue Jays?

It’s no secret – the Toronto Blue Jays are not playing a good brand of baseball right now.

From an onlooker’s perspective, it’s been somewhat difficult to watch the Blue Jays as they’ve found new heart-wrenching ways to lose games.

In May especially, the club has failed to put forth some semblance of consistency both in the field and at the plate. However, at least their struggles have been fairly easy to pinpoint.



Early on, it was starting pitching and lackluster bullpen that plagued the Jays. But in recent weeks, some new warts have emerged and are beginning to cost them ball games.

The Blue Jays’ only saving grace is every other team in the division is going through the same thing. But if one or two teams in the AL East find their footing in the coming weeks, the Blue Jays could find themselves left in the dust pretty soon.

A Shoddy Outfield

It definitely wasn’t a good week for Blue Jays outfielders. Errors in the outfield have directly led to losses; one by Ezequiel Carrera after he lost a routine fly ball in the sun, and another by Chris Colabello who overran a fly ball in left field.

Far be it for me to harp on a guy like Chris Colabello who’s playing out of position and is a corner infielder by trade, but at times it’s been very apparent the Blue Jays are employing a Triple A calibre outfield.

Due to injuries of Michael Saunders and Jose Bautista, along with the demotion of Dalton Pompey, the Blue Jays are now down to their seventh outfielder on their depth chart. They’re resorting to playing utility guys in outfield spots at which they have very little experience.

While the return of Jose Bautista certainly improves the overall quality of Toronto’s outfield, they still have a very long way to go to having a legitimate outfield. Perhaps that’s one area which Alex Anthopoulos should address sooner rather than later via trade.

How about Carlos Gomez?



The Inability to Hold a Lead Late and Close

Incredibly, the Blue Jays are 3-12 in one-run games and they own a 1-21 record when they score three runs or less. It’s not simply that Blue Jays are losing those close games, it’s that the bullpen often surrenders a lead which leads to those grueling one-run losses.

John Gibbons really hasn’t had much to work with in the way of clutch relievers; he’s had to rely heavily upon the contributions of Roberto Osuna, so one wonders where the team would be without those quality relief innings from Osuna.

It also hasn’t helped that aside from heroics courtesy of Josh Donaldson, the Blue Jays’ offense has essentially dried up when games are late and close. They own a .213/.255/.383 slash line in late and close situations this season.

So it’s not just the bullpen that’s coughed up the lead, it’s the fact that the hitting goes anemic in those clutch situations. It’s a characteristic which is not all that unique to the Blue Jays, but it’s one that reinforces the club’s “feast or famine” offensive approach.

It’s true that there’s an element of luck involved in baseball, and lady luck certainly has not been kind to the Blue Jays these past few weeks. Toronto owns a 23-29 record but their Pythagorean record of 28-24 indicates they’re a better team than what’s been on display.

A Severe Lack of Options

This is kind of an amalgamation of the previous two, but the Blue Jays are learning the hard way that depth is something that’s extremely undervalued, and specifically in the case of Toronto, depth is often utilized.

Chris Colabello has been a pleasant surprise as a fill-in bat in the starting lineup, but he’s not exactly the world’s best fielder. Liam Hendriks has found new life as a reliever, but he still isn’t a reliable staple in the Blue Jays bullpen.

Kevin Pillar was a defensive wizard in the outfield and held his own offensively the first four to five weeks of the season, but now his weaknesses at the plate have been exposed. It’s become evident once again that Pillar is a fourth outfielder masquerading as a starting centre fielder.

Since John Gibbons has little wiggle room in the way of lineup and bullpen configurations, he’s forced to run guys out there like Chris Colabello, Kevin Pillar and Ryan Goins out there game after game.

So with that in mind, it’s not that surprising as to why the Blue Jays have experienced many highs and lows through the first quarter of the season. There have only been short bursts of consistency from this team where all aspects of their game have clicked at once.

This might seem like it’s been a laundry list of excuses for John Gibbons, and with the team’s struggles as of late, the “Fire Gibby” movement has gained some traction.

But for a moment, just theoretically replace John Gibbons with Joe Maddon or Buck Showalter; would either of them be able to do much better with the exact same cast of characters? I have a tough time believing it would be much different.

Images via AP/Jim Mone/Getty Images

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Ian Hunter

Ian has been writing about the Toronto Blue Jays since 2007. He enjoyed the tail-end of the Roy Halladay era and vividly remembers the Alex Rodriguez "mine" incident. He'll also retell the story of Game 5 of the ALDS to his son for the next 20 years.

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9 Comments

  1. Anonymous

    June 1, 2015 - 5:23 pm

    I think not enough blame is put on Edwin Encarnacion's absolute decline of plate discipline. Look past the counting stats, and the man has been an absolute rally-killer in all of these close games. I can't stand watching him come up in important situations anymore. It's just Hack, Hack, Hack. Awful contact, striking out more.

    I'm just sick of it. Everyone gives him a free pass, but he has blown it when we need him to produce in these close games. At least Jose Bautista is getting on base. It's two months in to the freaking season. Maybe this is the new Edwin, in which case, damnit!

    1. Anonymous

      June 2, 2015 - 12:18 pm

      Come on..so the team is losing because of EE. Wouldn't be the bad pitching…bad defence…can you say the outfield..Jose Reyes….wouldnt be the all or nothing offense….step back akd look at the big picture instead of focusing on one player.

  2. Anonymous

    June 1, 2015 - 9:46 pm

    The Jays Collective needs to get over their Gibby man-crush. He owns a .480 winning pct in this, his second incarnation. He has proven over three seasons that he can't deal with adversity, and continues to make one bonehead decision after the other. My favourite this year was the contact play he had at home, when the runner at third was Saunders, with one functioning knee. Um, he was like, out. Who comes up with these ideas? Managers with <.500 winning pcts., that's who. What have we got to lose by gassing him? We certainly have a lot to gain.

    1. Anonymous

      June 2, 2015 - 12:21 pm

      Right…its Gibby out there playing every position and taking every at bat. Its the players…not the manager. Year after year we have an all or nothing offense…gets us nowhere…now add in bad defense and bad pitching…and this is what you have…forget about the playoffs…everyone is still chirping about going on a run…not happenning with this team…time to just enjoy baseball….instead of actually believing that this team will get it together…

  3. Anonymous

    June 2, 2015 - 1:53 am

    It's time to trade Dickey while he still has a little value left and he can take Thole with him. Using a roster spot for a catcher who can't hit very well and almost guarantees that the base runners will steal is a waste.

    1. Anonymous

      June 2, 2015 - 12:23 pm

      Trade him for what…some baseballs. His stats are terrible…who would want him? Get realistic…Dickey has no value right now…

  4. Anonymous

    June 2, 2015 - 12:25 pm

    Funny…after 6 seasons at the helm with AA we have the same team talent wise as we did when he started….sure you can argue for some individuals but the won loss record say it all….

  5. WalkGibbyWalk

    April 12, 2016 - 10:35 pm

    Yes, it’s been a difficult start as a Jays fan, watching a team that just doesn’t look right. As mentioned in the article, there are a number of things going on and I’m going to add what I think are 2 of the most crucial.
    1- Why so serious?..
    Since the home opener, there has been a noticeable lack of lightheartedness going on with a team that was known for their smiles and customed celebrations. This has been a very different looking team, one where their laid back approach has been replaced with stern faces. Remember, chemistry is absolutely crucial and imperative for winning.

    2- As a die hard Jays fan, John Gibbons has always been a thorn in my side as he consistently makes poor decisions (especially with his pitching changes). It is a well known fact that coaches will rarely win a game but often lose a game with poor judgment calls. Alas, again this year we’re seeing Gibby up to his old antics by either leaving a pitcher in too long or choosing the wrong reliever late in a game. Would we be (much) better off with a different manager? Of course we would.

    3- Dickey. Nuff said.

    That being said, it’s still very, very early in the season and I have faith that our boys will regroup and embrace their inner champions. Until then, I’ll be looking forward to those most awesome out of the park celebrations.

  6. gary

    September 14, 2016 - 4:07 pm

    As much as I hate to say it, the Jays are not going to rally in the end. They are a team with not much depth WRT hitting, fielding and pitching. There is not area of their game that says they can do it. At times it’s embarrassing to watch them with all the errors. Upton is like a little League player watching him trying to catch a ball. He’d be better taking a golf club to the plate rather than a bat when you look at what he swings at. I’m thinking about switching my favourite team.

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