With a 76-86 record and a fourth-place finish in the American League East, the Toronto Blue Jays sit on the next rung of our climb up the Major League Baseball standings.
Considering the way they played for most of the season, finishing 10 games under .500 should be a major disappointment for the Blue Jays. If not for a brutal April, Toronto could have finished much closer to the .500 benchmark and been a Wild Card contender. Like the saying goes, “You can’t win the division in April, but you can lose it,” and the Blue Jays lost it with an 8-17 start.
Offense ultimately did the Blue Jays in. Not only did they have the lowest team batting average in the AL, but the Blue Jays grounded into the second most double plays in the bigs. That’s going to kill any rally that might be sparked by sporadic base hits. Power wasn’t an issue for Toronto with 222 total home runs, but 191 of those came with one or no runners on base, including 132 solo jacks. As exciting as it is to see the ball leave the park, that’s not always the most efficient way to do things. A dinger can kill a rally as fast as it can start one, but it is still better than grounding into a double play.
The offense was primarily carried by third baseman Josh Donaldson and All-Star first baseman Justin Smoak (I just threw up a little bit), both hit .270 on the season. Donaldson missed significant time with a nagging calf injury but slugged .559 with 33 homers and 78 RBIs. Smoak smacked 38 dingers and drove in 90 RBIs, both team highs.
Toronto’s pitching staff was average, but ace Marcus Stroman stood out from the pack with a 13-9 record and a 3.09 ERA. The staff on the whole pitched to a collective ERA of 4.42 and allowed 9.0 hits per nine innings. Both numbers sit slightly above the MLB average. Even with an average pitching staff and a weak offense, the Blue Jays played 119 games within a four-run differential, including 53 one-run games. There’s something to be said for always having a chance late in games, especially when you can’t score.
In addition to an average pitching staff, the Blue Jays had an average overall defense. Toronto was unremarkable defensively with a .682 defensive efficiency, which happens to be the same as the Houston Astros. The glaring difference between the two teams, however, lies in the offensive firepower. The Blue Jays didn’t have near the offense output of the champs.
With veteran outfielder Jose Bautista out the door, there’s a need for an outfielder with some offensive ability in Toronto. Two realistic fits that would boost the Blue Jays are outfielders Lorenzo Cain and Jarrod Dyson. Cain would add some pop, speed on the bases and solid defense. Dyson would primarily be added for speed and defense. Both players would bring a much needed element of speed to the Blue Jays, who stole just 53 bases in 2017. Both players help to take away the double play with their speed.
Photo by Brigham Berthold