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What’s up with Blue Jays’ lack of scoring in the first inning?

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Photo credit:Kamil Krzaczynski-USA TODAY Sports
Thomas Hall
20 days ago
For some reason, the Toronto Blue Jays’ offence hasn’t gotten along with the first inning this season, especially lately.
While scoring runs has become much easier for this team recently, as their 58 runs since May 19 rank second in the sport behind only the Cleveland Guardians’ 59, none of that production has occurred in the first inning. It’s almost been a month since a Blue Jay crossed home plate during the opening frame of a game.
The last time Toronto scored at least one run in the first came against Washington on May 4, where the offence drove in four off Nationals starter Jake Irvin. They’ve been held scoreless in that inning ever since.
There was, however, an opportunity to end that drought a night ago at Guaranteed Rate Field, as Davis Schneider led off with a double versus the Chicago White Sox. But he was left stranded in scoring position (shocker), unable to advance beyond third base after Danny Jansen flew out to a leaping Andrew Benintendi in left field. Vladimir Guerrero Jr. then crushed a 102-m.p.h. grounder for the second out, while Bo Bichette struck out on a failed check swing attempt to end the inning.
That marked the 20th consecutive game where the Blue Jays failed to score in the first inning, tying a franchise record set during the club’s inaugural 1977 season. For those who don’t remember, that team finished the year with a horrific 54-107 record, by far the worst record in baseball.
Only the Oakland Athletics have been shut out for longer in 2024, as they went 22 straight contests without scoring a first-inning run earlier this season. That’s an organization no franchise wants to be in the same conversation with, especially the Blue Jays.
So what’s wrong with Toronto’s offence? Why can’t they score in the first inning? Surely, some component of luck — or a lack thereof — is involved here. However, one of the main issues is that their lineup doesn’t feature sufficient power.
The Blue Jays are one of just five teams that haven’t hit a home run in the first inning since May 5, joining the White Sox (of course), Athletics, Nationals and Kansas City Royals. But recording hits, period, has also been extremely difficult, with their 10 hits in the first tied with the A’s and Detroit Tigers for the fewest in that span.
You can probably see where this is trending. The Blue Jays own the worst first-inning offence in baseball over these last 20 games per wRC+, as they possess an MLB-worst +2 score. That puts them 98 per cent below league average. It doesn’t get much worse than that. Even the A’s have enjoyed more success. Not by much, but at least their 29th-ranked wRC+ (21) falls in the double digits.
Let’s dive a little deeper into the numbers for a moment. Strikeouts haven’t been the problem, with Toronto’s 23.9-per-cent clip since May 5 ranked middle of the pack. Earning free passes, however, have as their 2.8-per-cent walk rate sits tied for 30th.
There’s room for improvement regarding the club’s quality-of-contact metrics, which have them positioned 19th in hard-hit rate (38.5 per cent) and tied for 23rd in barrel rate (5.8 per cent). But their batted-ball distribution requires the most attention, considering they lead the majors in ground-ball rate (51.9 per cent) and feature the fourth-lowest fly-ball rate (32.7 per cent).
While the Blue Jays have course-corrected recently, producing the fourth-lowest GB rate (37.2 per cent) and the third-highest FB rate (42.3 per cent) since May 19 — with a third of those fly balls hit to the pull side — most of those adjustments have occurred beyond the first inning.
Simply put, this offence needs more out of everyone not named Guerrero and Schneider in the first.
That duo has 80 per cent of the club’s 10 hits in the opening frame over these last 20 games, and they’re the only hitters with an extra-base hit in this span. Meanwhile, the other five hitters that have earned at least one plate appearance have gone 2-for-37 (.054) with 10 strikeouts and only one walk.
Interestingly, the Blue Jays’ production has been excellent in the second inning — not just since May 5 but throughout the entire season thus far. They enter Wednesday’s slate with the best second-inning offence in baseball, as evidenced by their major-league-leading 41 runs scored, .364 OBP, .509 SLG and 148 wRC+.
How can the same team be so ineffective in the first inning only to lead the sport across several leaderboards during the next inning? If you discover the answer, pass it along to the Blue Jays organization.
It is truly a head-scratcher. But whatever the reason is, Toronto will gladly take it since 10 of its 13 qualified hitters (min. 10 plate appearances) possess a wRC+ of 100 or better — with four (Bichette, Schneider, Daulton Varsho, Kevin Kiermaier) reaching at least 200 — in the second inning.
In all likelihood, the Blue Jays’ fate in the first inning will, at some point, change for the better. Whether the tides turn before their scoreless streak reaches 22 or even 23 consecutive games remains to be seen.
But now that the coaching staff has correctly aligned its most productive hitters in the top three of the batting order (Schneider, Jansen, Guerrero), it should be a matter of time before some positive regression hits — quite literally in this instance.

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