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