Let’s (Over) React To The First Blue Jays Game of the Season

Photo credit:Nathan Ray Seebeck-USA TODAY Sports
Tate Kispech
1 year ago
Baseball is finally here.
The Blue Jays, as we all know, were in St. Louis to start their campaign as renovations of the Rogers Centre begin wrapping up, and they secured a 10-9 win in a back-and-forth game. Much has been made about the rule changes that we all expect to shorten up games, but this was a long one. Three hours and 38 minutes, specifically, a product of the high score. However, we’re not here to talk about the rule changes.
Let’s talk about how the Jays did. More specifically, let’s touch on a few of the talking points, and quell a few overreactions.

Overreaction 1: Alek Manoah

Alek Manoah’s first start, at least according to the line score, was…bad. 5 runs in 3.1 innings is just not what you want to see. That alone doesn’t bode well for Manoah’s year. However, there are silver linings. Manoah’s velocity was actually up a tick across the board, but it’s his command that’s suffered.
This was Manoah’s pitch map for the game, and it’s…not pretty. He really struggled to locate, more of his pitches came out of the strike zone than inside it. But, there’s not much to say here. St. Louis has a really tough lineup to navigate, and Manoah’s stuff looked good in terms of movement and velocity. He really struggled to hit the strike zone, and it allowed the Cardinals to basically eliminate the change and the slider, as he needed to come in the zone. When he did, it strayed a little close to the middle, which was the location of both homers hit off of him.
Overall, it wasn’t a good game for Manoah, but due to him keeping up velocity and movement, there’s not too much cause for concern. If this persists, there may be another conversation, but a lack of command early in the season isn’t something I’d be too worried about.

Overreaction 2: The Offence

Now, I don’t think anyone is, nor should they be expecting the Jays to drop 10 runs and 19 hits every time they go out there. However, there’s a lot to be said about why this was a fun, but not very repeatable performance at the dish. We all love balls in play, but the Jays had a BABIP of .500 in this game, and they only had one barrelled ball. The offence showed they can get it done in a variety of ways, which is awesome, but games like this will be of the rare variety.
The Jays also worked through a lot of tough pitchers, including Jordan Hicks and Ryan Helsley, managing to score multiple runs off both. Unfortunately, due to an off-day on Saturday, this won’t necessarily exempt the Cardinals hard-throwing relievers from pitching again in the second game of the series. The good news is that it took both of them upwards of 20 pitches to give up those runs, and with it being so early in the season, the Jays may have bought themselves an easier bullpen until Sunday. It would be best to make that a moot point by scoring runs early and often, so the Cardinals won’t use the power arms out of the bullpen. Springer and Co. will likely need some homers to get that done again, and they can expect some.
Daulton Varsho and Vladimir Guerrero both had two flyouts with exit velocities of greater than 95.0 MPH, and Alejandro Kirk had one of his own. Flyballs, of course, aren’t guaranteed homers, but the best way to suppress the long ball is suppressing balls in the air entirely. St. Louis didn’t exactly do that, so the Jays could (and hope) to see a couple of those fly out of the ballpark on Saturday, Sunday, and the rest of the season.

Overreaction 3: John Schneider and the ‘pen

Schneider struggled on Thursday. His biggest issue was taking the Jays’ new reliever, Erik Swanson, out of the game with lefties coming up in the 6th inning, and he did so for Tim Mayza. In theory, this makes sense, right? The Jays would then get the benefit of the handedness advantage. Wrong. First of all, Erik Swanson is better against lefties than righties. As a matter of fact, right-handed hitters had an on-base percentage of more than 50 points more than left-handers against Swanson. Second of all, the lefties that Mayza was brought in to face were Lars Nootbaar and Brendan Donovan. And of course, both of them are better against lefties than righties. This was a baffling decision.
Furthermore, the Jays would later lose the lead again in the bottom of the 8th, when Schneider chose to bring in Yimi Garcia. Garcia was a good pitcher last year, and he’s a good pitcher in general, but to that point, the game had been back and forth and the heart of the St. Louis batting order was due up. This was the exact position that Jordan Romano should have been used in, but he wasn’t. Garcia blew the lead, and it took a 9th-inning rally off of Ryan Hensley to bring it back.
This was a masterclass… in poor bullpen management. I assure you that Schneider had all the access he needed to information that would have advised him to leave Swanson in, and to bring Romano in the 8th. Yet, nope.
There’s not much to say about this one. I don’t know if John Schneider will be better moving forward, I can’t give you numbers that will project managerial performance. But it needs to be better if the Jays are looking to avoid late giveaways this year. Fortunately for Schneider, his offence bailed him out. But that won’t always be the case. The Blue Jays have now played two high-scoring games in a row in which Tim Mayza was incorrectly brought into the game. Last October, the offence did all they could, but it wasn’t enough. On opening day, it was. Will it be next time? Who’s to say?
Alek Manoah certainly struggled, though there are lots of positive signs about his outing. The offence was rather flukey, but they proved they can get it done in a variety of ways, and there’s reason to believe that a more sustainable offence is coming. John Schneider had us on the edge of our seats, and we have hope he won’t do it again. At the end of the day, no Jays fan can say that Thursday wasn’t a success, and no Jays can say that their cardiologist is very happy about it. But hey, a win is a win.


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