3 Key Stats Behind the Blue Jays' Mediocre Start
Once upon a time, in a land far, far away (Canada), the Blue Jays were supposed to mean something. With Jose Reyes and Josh Johnson and Mark Buerhle and half the Marlins roster added to Jose Bautista and his merry men, Blue Jays fans were expecting something to change for the first time since '93.
Instead, the status quo. A 9-13 record. An 80-82 projected finish via numberFire. I think some Toronto fans would even a complete and utter failure of a season over another .500 record.
Sure, winning in the AL East is an uphill battle, and sure, we're approximately 12 percent of the way through the season. It's not panic time... yet. But it is worth looking inside the Blue Jays' mediocre start for three key trends and whether those numbers will carry on or eventually die off as the true Toronto team emerges.
Get on Base, Son!
The American League average on-base percentage so far this season is at .319. And so far this season, only two Blue Jays hitters have recorded an on-base percentage above that mark. That's not good in an of itself, but the breakdown of those players looks even worse.
The first is DH Adam Lind, who has a .244 batting average and a 20.8 percent walk rate that is completely unsustainable (his career-high is 8.9 percent in 2009). The last one is Reyes, who you may know as that guy who just went on the 60-Day Disabled List and won't return until after the All-Star Break. Weee!
For the rest of the lineup, there doesn't seem to be one set problem. It's just a mish-mash of ineptitude. Bautista's strikeout rate is up to 23.0 percent, more like old Jose Bautista days than Slugger Jose Bautista days. J.P. Arencibia can't draw a walk to save his life with only a 2.8 percent walk rate. And Edwin Encarnacion just can't seem to find the gap: a career-low 5.8 percent of his balls in play have been for extra-bases, while his batting average on balls in play sits at .224.
Luckily for Toronto, a mish-mash of problems means that there isn't one set issue plaguing this team, and each individual stat is likely to regress to the mean here soon. Especially since all three of those aforementioned players have retained a solid strikeout-to-walk ratio and line drive ratio, the balls will find holes in play here soon.
The more runners you let on base, the more you're going to get smacked around. Seems like a simple idea, right? Somebody might want to let the Toronto pitchers in on that little secret.
Toronto's current 9.4 hits per nine innings allowed ranks 12th of the 15 teams in the American League. Their walk rate isn't much better: their 3.4 walks allowed per nine innings sits No. 10. And all of those baserunners results in a 1.420 WHIP, third-worst in the American League and way about the league average of 1.312.
The bullpen hasn't really been the problem; closer Casey Janssen has allowed only three hits and no walks in 8.0 innings of work. Instead, it's all about that poor, poor rotation. Coming into today, each of the four top guys in the rotation are above the 1.308 AL average WHIP. J.A. Happ is the only one with a case that he's pitching somewhat well.
These Blue Jays pitchers haven't just been getting smacked around; they've been getting chased from games with regularity because of all the hits they've given up. Only Happ and Dickey are within a hit of their normal hits per nine allowed, and Dickey's 11.1 percent walk rate is almost double his 5.8 percent 2012 rate with the Mets.
So Much For Double Plays
When runners are getting on base with the greatest of ease, you better be turning some double plays. And when two of your starting pitchers - Dickey and Buerhle - are ground-ball specialists in their old age, that particular sentiment goes double.
The Blue Jays have indeed had 166 double-play opportunities in 22 games, an average of 7.55 double-play opportunities per game or 0.84 opportunities per inning. (You know you're allowing tons of baserunners when...) And in those opportunities, the Blue Jays have collectively failed with the best of them.
Toronto has only turned eight percent of double-play opportunities this season. Their 13 total double-plays sits tied for the lowest amount in the entire American League.
Surprisingly, the dropoff doesn't sit with the guys who typically have the highest double-play percentage. Dickey's 16 percent double-plays turned sits just one percent below his 2012 Mets rate and above his career average. And Buerhle's 15 percent would be one of the highest of his career if carried through. Unfortunately for Toronto, though, Esmil Rogers is the only other pitcher with at least 5.0 IP who is above the 11 percent league average.
Josh Johnson has induced a horrendous one double-play in 24 opportunities. Brandon Morrow has gone 1 for 14. And Steve Delabar, who currently leads all Toronto relievers with 12.2 IP, has converted just 1 of 19 double-play opportunities.
This number will regress slightly to the mean, but don't be surprised if Toronto spend the season under the AL average. The lack of Jose Reyes hurts tremendously, and Buerhle and Dickey are just as likely to slightly decrease as Morrow and Johnson are to slightly increase. All of those baserunners may very well be staying on base just a bit longer. And that could equal runs in droves for the opposition.