Let’s remember just how much of a long, winding rollercoaster a Major League Baseball season actually is

These last two games have been painful. Like, especially painful, which is a good reminder for any of us who were getting rattled by one-run losses, last minute rallies that were promptly handed right back in extras, or the idea of watching a good pitching but bad hitting team navigate their way through an entire season. 

Yes, getting dropped 13-2 and 12-2 to the all-of-a-sudden-juggernaut Tampa Bay Rays and their jolly band of guys who usually can’t hit worth a lick is worse than scoring three runs in the top of the ninth and losing on a walk off home run to Drew fucking Stubbs in the bottom of the tenth. If you needed to turn the game off and go for a walk, I wouldn’t blame you. And if you vomited a little bit after Taylor Motter smacked that home run in the ninth inning (congratulations for sticking around that long, though), it probably wouldn’t have been the first time the Jays made you feel that way. 

And that’s the important thing to remember: We’ve been here before. We only have to look back one calendar year to find a virtually identical situation in which the season was labelled as a goner waaaaay too prematurely. 

It doesn’t take much, well, any analysis to determine that this isn’t the start to the 2016 Toronto Blue Jays season that we were expecting. I can’t speak for everybody, but I was kind of expecting them to pick up where they left off last year, ya know, when they steamrolled their way through August and September, winning five or six games a week. Obviously that wasn’t actually going to happen, because they were murdering the league at like a 130-win pace, but still. I think that’s what’s making the first quarter of this season so overwhelmingly frustrating, and it’s why people are leaning way too far over the cliff in the middle of goddamn May. 

Though there are certainly things with this team that cause a reason to be worried (and yes, we’re at a point now where we can stop totally dismissing stuff with the phrase “it’s early”), let’s remind ourselves of where this team was exactly one year ago today, and just how far they were from pulling it together, just to provide some context in regards to the length of a baseball season and why we shouldn’t be at a giving-up-and-jumping-off-a-cliff point just quite yet. 

***

May 18, 2015. One year ago today, the Blue Jays were 17-22. Last in American League East and 5.0 games out of first place. They had just been swept in a four-game series against the Astros in Houston. 

The first game featured Aaron Loup allowing four runs and blowing a 4-2 lead in the seventh inning, and even more alarming was the fact the Jays could only scored four runs off of Roberto Hernandez. The following game, R.A. Dickey was hammered for seven runs in five innings. Marco Estrada made his first start of the season in the third game, and pitched fairly well, but unfortunately, the 3-0 lead the Jays grabbed in the first inning wasn’t enough for Jeff Francis, who blew the game in relief. Then finally, the sweep was completed when Collin McHugh completely shut down a lineup that consisted of Steve Tolleson batting ninth and Zeke Carrera batting leadoff. 

I could barely remember this series until I went back and looked it up for the sake of this article. I remember the four-game sweep happening, but virtually none of the details. I had forgotten that Jose Bautista was only hitting .216, and Edwin Encarnacion had a .769 OPS. All I remember about this stage in the season was thinking this was pretty much the end of it, which is hilariously stupid in hindsight, but it matches up perfectly with the feeling surrounding the club right now. 

After that series, so many things happened. And I’m not even talking about the good old “down the stretch” times that we all remember lovingly, I’m talking about all of the up and down what the fuck holy shit stuff that preceded it. 

Do you remember the four-game series against the Angels? It involved good starts by Aaron Sanchez and Drew Hutchison being blown in the late innings. How about the ninth inning comeback off David Robertson that was killed in the tenth inning when Roberto Osuna allowed two runs? Anything about that weirdly dominant James Paxton start against the Mariners? 

Remember when Chris Colabello hit that home run off of Glen Perkins in the same game that Mark Buehrle threw a complete game after giving up four runs in the first inning? And how the next two games in Minnesota were winnable ones that were, again, blown by relievers? You obviously remember the nap before the second game of the double header in Washington. Kevin Pillar hitting two home runs off of Max Scherzer, prompting the beginning of an 11-game winning streak that brought them to 34-30, just 1.0 game out of first place. 

What about after that streak, though? That sure as hell wasn’t a turning point. There was the ninth inning home run against the Mets that resulted in a walk off win for New York because Danny Valencia was playing second base. There was the Father’s Day drumming where the Orioles scored seven off of Scott Copeland in the second inning, but the Jays answered back with nine before eventually losing 13-9 after a disastrous ninth inning by Brett Cecil. 

Fast forward a few weeks and we’re in the final game before the All-Star break. The Jays manage to score eight runs off of the Royals’ bullpen in the sixth inning to grab an 8-7 lead, but it evaporates in the bottom of the inning when Jose Reyes makes a terrible error. Like the same fucking error that he made a few days before in that close loss to Chris Sale and the White Sox. They come back and tie it again in the eighth, but Kansas City eventually wins on a Paulo Orlando (?) home run. 

Marco Estrada’s almost perfect game in Tampa Bay, Roberto Osuna’s first career save, Aaron Sanchez’s injury, Matt Boyd’s start where he couldn’t get an out, Ryan Goins and Danny Valencia playing in the same outfield, Felix Doubront getting starts, I mean my lord, so much shit happened before this team finally started to get rolling I feel like I’m making half of it up. 

***

Where am I going with this totally unnecessary 2015 Toronto Blue Jays history lesson full of random crap that you probably don’t (shouldn’t) remember? 

It seems like a really big deal right now that the Jays couldn’t finish off either of those come-from-behind games against San Fransisco or Texas. It seems like a huge red flag that they just got pounded in back-to-back games by the Tampa Bay Rays. It seems like this six-game deficit in the American League East standings is totally insurmountable. That Houston series seemed like a big deal last year, too. So did that heartbreaking loss to the Mets, the blown lead against the Orioles, and the failed comeback against the Royals. 

So much is going to happen between now and the end of summer that there’s a pretty decent chance that when it’s all said and done, you may have to sit down and think really hard to remember who the starters were that got hosed in these last two games. Thanks to our selective memories, we send to squeeze all the events of last season into one compact clip in our head, overlooking all of the bullshit that was intertwined with the good stuff, making it seem like it just sorta kinda started in early August with that rowdy Kansas City series. 

Just remember: It’s a damn long season. If you can’t handle it and want to jump ship, sure, go for it. It’s frustrating as hell, and there’s a reasonable chance this team is a total bust for some reason and they won’t pick it up. It’s baseball, shit happens. But there’s so many games left to be played, we’ve barely scratched the surface on the 2016 season. Like the title suggests, let’s take a breath, and remember just how much of a long, winding rollercoaster a Major League Baseball season actually is. 

  • ThePowderedWhig

    I, too, thought the Jays would pretty much pick right back up where they left off in 2015 — the offense is simply too stacked. But then K rates spike and line drive percentages fall off a cliff while pretty much every hitter – save Donaldson — struggles at the same time. The scary thing is the team’s BABIP isn’t some absurdly low number, possibly signifying that the hits will almost assuredly come (statistically) as the season plays out.

    The East appears stronger this year and we’ve played the most intra-division games of any AL East Club. The Orioles, conversely, have largely fattened up on a unexpectedly mediocre Central (save CWS) thus far — maybe this helps explain the discrepancy. I’m grasping at straws at this point. Six games back (8 in the loss column) at this point appears to be a larger hurdle to overcome than last year’s deficit at this point in a weaker East.

  • DAKINS

    Using BABIP doesn’t really work when you aren’t putting balls in play though.

    I think the most frustrating part of all of this is that it wasn’t supposed to be this difficult. We had gone through this so many times before, and this was the season where we could finally just sit back and enjoy it from start to finish. Where after so many years in the wilderness, watching good(ish) teams fail to put it all together, our frustration would finally be rewarded with a fantastic full season of baseball, played by arguably the best team on paper in the game (Cubs excluded).

    However, at this point, we have been pushed back into the basement, while the Trash Birds and Red Sux enjoy what should be the Jays success.

  • ThePowderedWhig

    LOL at:

    Tulo dead last among qualified batters in MLB with 8.0% line drive rate.

    Jays 0-18 when allowing 4-runs or more (Boston, for comparison, is 10-12).

    Just….totally absurd.

  • b4 the windup

    Interesting column. Last year, I didn’t know what was to come but I remember a sense of optimism that I haven’t dredged up quite the same as yet. It might’ve started with Mark Shapiro being named the new boss (I liked what I read about him ok, but I wasn’t overwhelmed), continued when Justin Smoak was an early signing for around double what he was expected to get (Smoak is fine but I didn’t get why the hurry and the big raise) and then solidified when Eric Wedge was named player development guy, manager-in-waiting.

    Ok, kidding about manager-in-waiting, except for … ya. He’s kind of made it clear in the past that being a big league manager is what he wants the most. Learned that from a poster here, I think. Searched around and it seemed to hold up.

    While searching around, I also read that Wedge was Smoak’s manager back in Seattle and during an off-season after Smoak had finished strong, Wedge was quoted as saying about him, “I want to see that baseball jumping off his bat, look at bat speed, look at swing plane … I want to see what’s in his eyes.” (Chicago Tribune 14/12/2012.) So … hm.

    All that doesn’t mean much, I know. But what sat a bit off for me is that we have a manager (of course) and … if that manager was me, I might be just a little bugged. And if I was bugged, it’s not out of the question that my team might be a little wary of what was going on, as well. And I wouldn’t want my team to be distracted with any b.s. (Ya know?)

    After that, the Jose and Edwin story began with the media casually and quickly on board at how unlikely it was going to be for them both to be back here next season (that team-and-media connection just gives me the willies, I can’t help it) and now seeing fans passively accepting it like it’s as it should be … I dunno. But I don’t like it much. I haven’t felt all that great about a lot of things so far this season. Which kind of started last summer.

  • MetalManic

    Good article and it almost convinces me that things might just be ok, almost. The problem is I can’t see any trades shoring up this team when they don’t have prospects so I feel like it is up to this roster to turn it around.

    About that … the struggles of Tulo, Martin, and Edwin coupled with Bautista’s continued but slow decline from his mammoth 2010, 2011 peak don’t seem fluky or like something that is going to turn around in a hurry. It’s because they’re getting old!

    All that negativity aside, they still have lots of the season left and maybe this is just a passing offensive funk for the aforementioned aging sluggers.

    • DAKINS

      The other side of that is, they don’t need to shore up anything. They already have the team they need to make it to the WS now. They just need to start playing like it.

  • dolsh

    Except – last year there was the offense. When the offense is that strong, there’s reason to bet on it and see if a trade or two can spark it into a post season birth.

    This year, the starting pitching has been a surprise, but not good enough to be that tentpole, and the offense is severely underperforming (as everyone knows).

    Now, we’re far enough into the season that it’s not early anymore. Patterns exist. This appears to be a completely different offensive team – maybe truer – and last year was the anomaly. I’m just making myself sad looking at the comparison on BR.

    *sigh*

  • DAKINS

    To me the key day of this season is June 9th which is draft day. The Jays have to hit some home runs in the draft to restock the empty shelves that were made empty from the numerous deals that A.A. made. Everyone loved those three months. But now we are looking at a daunting task of a major rebuild as Jose, E.E. leave and Tulo and Martin age as has been shown by their performance this season. Dave nailed it, unlike last year we just don’t have the prospects to wheel and deal at the trade dead line.

    Both Boston and Baltimore have greatly strenthened their teams and have young positional players coming into their own. The Jays not so much.

    We can only hope the mistake on the lake crew know how to draft and build a farm system.

  • Nice Guy Eddie

    After what i’ve seen so far this year I think it’s for the best to cut loose EE and Bautista. They’re looking horible this year, but unfortunately for us they’re far from the worst; 1. Tulo, 2. Martin, 3. Goins, don’t belong in the majors anymore as all three have now consistently remained below the Mendoza line for the entirety of this season.