The Blue Jays batting woes point to inconsistencies at the plate and struggling to score early against opposing starters

Photo credit:© Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports
Tyson Shushkewich
2 months ago
It’s no secret that the Toronto Blue Jays bats have been an absolute rollercoaster to start the season, one that likely has theme parks across the country looking for trademark rights. While the standard was set high on Opening Day when the Jays bested the Tampa Bay Rays with eight runs on the board, Toronto heads into their third series of the season with more questions than answers at the plate after a disappointing series in Houston.
The Blue Jays bats were dormant for two of the four games against the Rays and they appeared to be left behind in Florida when the club took on the Astros earlier this week. The most memorable hit in the series was a ninth-inning two-run home run off the bat of Davis Schneider, whose clutch hit helped the Blue Jays leave Texas with a 3-4 season record when a series sweep was a definite possibility. After being no-hit on Monday by Ronel Blanco and getting shut out on Wednesday while the Astros piled on eight runs, the Jays currently boast a 25th-ranked -14 run differential and a fanbase that is looking for answers as to where the offence has gone.
Considering the Blue Jays have just one player with an OPS over .750 to start the year (Justin Turner, 1.059), a look further into the organization’s statistical background this campaign shows some interesting tidbits that point to some early flaws up and down the lineup.

An early breakdown of the Blue Jays lineup stats

Right off the bat, it is evident that the Blue Jays have just not found a way to attack starting pitchers early in the game.
Through the start of the year, the Jays bats have mustered just nine hits when facing the starting pitcher for the first time and own a collective .433 OPS. They have yet to produce a home run when seeing the starter early with some popular names being held to just one hit including George Springer, Vladimir Guerrero Jr., and Bo Bichette.
Things slightly improve when the Jays batters face a starter again for a second time, with three of the club’s seven home runs coming in this time frame.
Both Springer and Ernie Clement have two hits when facing the starter a second time through, which is also where both of Springer’s home runs have come through as well as Cavan Biggio’s homer. The hitless column also boasts some familiar faces in Guerrero Jr., Bichette, Kevin Kiermaier, and Alejandro Kirk, with both Kiermaier and Kirk having less than three hits to start the campaign. Where Guerrero Jr. makes up the difference is his walk rate, with the right-handed batter producing three free passes compared to the rest of the group mentioned above (only Kiermaier has produced a walk in this scenario).
The third time through the order sees a slight improvement in terms of the average (seven hits in 32 at-bats, .218) and also carries over into the inning-by-inning breakdown, where the Blue Jays batters have produced the most offense across all the innings.

Finding the Jays’ inning breakdown sweet spot

Through the fifth, sixth, and seventh innings, the Blue Jays have combined to produce a .208 average and a .693 OPS with 17 hits, four home runs, and 11 walks (eight of which have come in the seventh inning alone).  The bats have also combined for 12 RBIs in that span and when you look back at their game history this year, the Jays have done the most damage against opposing starting pitchers (or bulk pitchers in Tyler Alexander’s case) in this time frame:
Game #1: Zach Eflin – 5 of 6 earned runs came in the sixth inning
Game #4: Tyler Alexander – 3 of 5 earned runs came in the fifth inning
In the games the Blue Jays have lost, a majority of the runs have been outside of that five to seven-inning window, with the likes of Blanco, Aaron Civale, Zack Littel, Christian Javier, and Framber Valdez being able to hold off the Jays bats in this timeframe.
The Jays lone game where they were able to put up runs in the first three innings came in the last game of the Rays series, where the bats came alive against Shawn Armstrong (a reliever they had seen already) and Alexander, who gave up two runs in the second inning courtesy of a Turner double. This contest also conformed to the above inning breakdown, as five of the Jays’ runs in the 9-2 win came during the fifth to seventh innings off Alexander.
There is one outlier present when it comes to generating a Blue Jays win, which is Schneider’s go-ahead home run off Josh Hader in the ninth inning earlier this week, which helped avoid the sweep.

Blue Jays bats struggle in select innings

The evidence is pretty clear that the Blue Jays can make late-game adjustments off of some starting pitchers but it hasn’t been consistent, which is also evident by the no-hit bid and the Astros starters being able to pitch deep into games. When you look at the inning breakdown even further, two innings stick out as particular sore spots for this lineup: the third and eighth.
Blue Jays – By Inning
3rd inning252011001146.
8th inning262202000043.
These are the two worst innings produced by the Blue Jays batters by a country mile, with the group producing just one run split between the sample size.
While the club hasn’t been striking out much in these two innings, the Jays bats have produced just three hits total through 42 collective at-bats, making up less than 8% percent of the total hits so far. Springer is the lone Blue Jays to muster a hit in the third inning while every other Jays regular starter has been held hitless except for Justin Turner, who does not have a plate appearance in the third as of yet. For the eighth inning, only Guerrero Jr. and Isiah Kiner-Falefa have been able to put one in play, while Bichette, Kirk, Kiermaier, and Springer all have 3+ at-bats in this inning with zero hits to their name.

Looking for the bats to bounce back quickly

For a team that was hoping to get some sort of rebound from a middle-of-the-pack lineup last year, the early results have been disappointing.
Some areas definitely need to be improved upon and tweaked as well as some players finding a way to break out from early setbacks, especially since this team does have the talent to be near the top of the offensive categories when everything is working cohesively.
Fans have seen the home run totals Guerrero Jr. is capable of and the on-base machine that Bichette can be, which combined with a new addition in Turner does produce a recipe for offense and runs if mixed accordingly. We have yet to see that come to fruition so far this season for the Blue Jays, at least with some sort of consistency day in and day out. The benefit in favour of turning things around is that the Jays are just seven games into the season so there is some time to tinker with approaches and swing decisions amongst the hitters and coaching staff. However, every game has an impact on the season and the longer the Jays bats take to find some sort of normality, the larger the impact on postseason aspirations, especially with intradivision play on the immediate horizon.
Looking ahead, the Blue Jays enter another tough road test in New York, where they face the Yankees for a three-game set before flying home to the Rogers Centre to take on the Seattle Mariners starting Monday. Both of these teams have weapons at the plate that can really crack things open in a hurry if the Blue Jays pitching staff opens the door, so the Jays bats need to buck their current trend and provide some run support early for their starters to work with.

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