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Friday Bantering: Why is this Team so Frustrating!

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MLB: New York Yankees at Toronto Blue Jays
I had several players to choose from for this image
Kevin Sousa-USA TODAY Sports

Full disclosure here. I’m frustrated. I’m especially frustrated by last night’s game. In a game that promised a “playoff-type” atmosphere the Blue Jays showed up with what appeared to be (at least to me) a completely uninspired and flat effort against a team also in a dogfight for the wildcard spot. The game perpetuated what feels like an ongoing narrative this season. In fact, it feels like almost every game recap could be titled “Jays waste a great start from [insert pitcher name here], fall to [Orioles, Red Sox, Yankees, etc.]”.

The Jays managed 1 hit against Ubaldo Jimenez. 1 hit. Against Ubaldo Jimenez. He of the 5.44 ERA and 4.43 FIP in 2016. I don’t care that he is pitching better as of late. He’s nowhere near the elite of the game and the Jays offense laid an egg. That enabled Buck Showalter to get into his bullpen (perhaps the O’s greatest strength) to close out the last 2.1 innings. The Jays still managed to get some base runners but in another recurring theme, went 0-7 with runners in scoring position.

Offense aside, the most frustrating parts of the game centered around what I comfortably perceive to be lack of urgency. The Orioles scored a run on what should have been a double play. Not hustling down the first base line cost us a base runner. I think a little more hustle in the field would have prevented Mark Trumbo from reaching second (he’d score when the next batter singled). My intention isn’t to call out individual players but the collective effort of the team didn’t scream out urgency to me.

My frustration has really been building over the past few weeks but in reflecting upon the season I think it started much earlier. I’m comfortable saying that there was one thing Jays fans felt confident in going into the 2016 season. This team would score runs. Ironically, our starting pitching was a major question mark and our bullpen was supposed to me much improved with a returning Brett Cecil and the acquisition of Drew Storen. Then, early in the year something weird was happening. The team wasn’t scoring runs but was getting outstanding starting pitching. I, admittedly an optimist in regards to the Blue Jays, kept thinking to myself “just wait until we start scoring runs”. I figured we’d be unstoppable once our offense showed up, even if the starting pitching regressed some. Alas, for the majority of the season our “elite” offense simply hasn’t shown up.

Blue Jays Runs Scored

As a Finance professional I spend a lot of my time looking at trends. To express my frustration with the Blue Jays’ offense visually I reviewed the team’s runs scored and smoothed it out with a trailing 10-game average. I then compared it to the average runs scored by the team and by all teams in the American League. The x-axis shows the corresponding game number in the 2016 season.

Going into 2016, my expectation is that the Jays would be at, or near, the top of runs scored in the American League. Therefore I’d have expected to see the Blue Jays trailing average above the AL average the majority of the time. What we see instead confirms what has fueled my primary disappointment in this team throughout the year. Long, extended periods of time in which we failed to be an average or above average team in terms of runs scored. Particularly troubling is the timing in which the offense struggled. It took until the team’s 38th game for the Jays’ 10-game average to breach the AL average runs scored/game of 4.53. Their record on that day was 19-19 thanks in large part to the starting pitching.

Cue my narrative of “just wait until this team scores some runs”. Then, the Blue Jays actually started scoring more which is reflected in the middle part of the graph where the team was much more consistently above the AL average for runs scored. I reviewed my data set and marked all of the points where the team was above the average. There were three extended runs where the Jays’ trailing 10-game average was above the AL average:

  • May 28 - June 6 (games 51-59 in the chart)
  • June 11 - July 31 (games 64-105)
  • Aug 16 - Sept 6 (games 120-138)

The team’s record during these three runs is 42-28. 14 games over .500. We are currently 15 games over .500.

As is evidenced by our loss of the division lead and now treacherous position in the wildcard race, the other period in which the graph shows us consistently below the AL average runs scored started on Sept 7 and continues on today. As a result, the Jays are now fighting for the right to play a one-game wildcard to hopefully extend their season. Between coming out of the gate so slowly and ending the season so poorly, the Jays’ bats have seemingly picked the most inopportune times to go cold. All of this from a team that led the world in runs scored a year ago and many of us thought had even improved the offense with a healthy Saunders and Travis.

That in a nutshell is my frustration.

For comparison’s sake, I added two of the other offenses in the AL that were reasonably expected to score a lot of runs this year, Boston and Baltimore.

As we see, Orioles fans should be able to empathize with us as their team has also seen multiple periods where they’ve struggled to keep up with the league average. On the other hand, Boston has stayed above the line pretty consistently all year, save for a few blips. Each of the teams has played 159 games. Here is the percentage of the time each team has stayed above the AL average runs scored/game which might explain why Boston is comfortably in the playoffs while the Blue Jays and Orioles battle for a wildcard spot.

  • Boston: 78%
  • Baltimore: 50%
  • Toronto: 47%

Let’s hope the bats show up in Boston. I’m not ready for the season to end on Sunday.