Well, hello there! There is a good chance that some of you have been out of the loop in the first 18-games of the 2017 MLB Season and are just now checking in and taking a deep look into what has happened thus far.
This is fair. The Toronto Maple Leafs, Calgary Flames, and Montreal Canadiens have been in the middle of highly emotional playoff series' and you've been a bit preoccupied. Playoff hockey is awesome, right? Sorry about your losses, by the way.
You might have noticed things aren't perhaps as you expected now that you've returned. And you might be a bit... confused. So, let me get a few things out of the way quickly.
Yes, the team is 5-13. Yes, they started 1-9. No, it is most certainly not still Spring Training. Yes, it is 5th in the five-team AL East. No, that isn't good. No, the season is not over. Yes, I am using the "It's only April" defence. And no. I won't use that picture of the dog sipping coffee in the middle of a burning room, either.
You should probably be wondering why the team is where it is. The last thing you remember, I bet, the Toronto Blue Jays were a playoff team with another year in their window, at least.
So, I guess it falls on me to explain to you what you just walked into.
"Mike... Where are the bats?! What's going on?!"
First, let me start by saying this is rock bottom, and things can only go up.
Don't roll your eyes.
The lineup has six players hitting above 100 wRC+. You might be thinking "so? That sounds about right with this lineup", and you might be right in normal times. The part that might give you pause is that four of them are Justin Smoak, Ryan Goins, Kevin Pillar, and Ezequiel Carrera.
Probably not who you were expecting.
As for the other two; Josh Donaldson has been very effective (188 wRC+) but only in 9 games and hasn't see the field since April 13th. Last report said he'd be down "at least" another two weeks. Kendrys Morales is also above 100 at a 107 wRC+ and is tied for the team lead in Homers with... Pillar and Smoak.
Now, I get that I might have just lost you at "(Donaldson) hasn't seen the field since April 13th". Trust me, this is an on-going theme. Just... settle in.
Trouble comes when looking at the rest of the roster. Troy Tulowitzki is hitting at an 84 wRC+ clip with a .263/.295/.386 line, not nearly up to what we've come to expect from him. And Russell Martin is languishing with a .149/.310/.234 slash and a 66 wRC+.
Oh, by the way, Tulowitzki was just put on the 10-day DL, too...
But, these are not the most shocking names on the list.
Jose Bautista is struggling mightily putting up just a .132/.259/.206 slash with 1 HR and a 34 wRC+, which is still miles ahead of Steve Pearce (8 wRC+) and Devon Travis (7 wRC+)... Yes, 8 and 7 wRC+ from Pearce and Travis.
But, hey... At least it isn't the -87 from Jarrod Saltalamacchia. So, there's that. We’ll get to the optimism part at the end, let’s just get through the recap.
"Okay, fine. But, what about the pitching? Surely they are good!"
Maybe you should sit down...
Marcus Stroman, on the bright side, has a 3.10 ERA in four starts, a 2.73 FIP, two complete games, and has been pretty darn good by all measures in the early going. Joe Biagini has really stepped up with a 0.69 ERA and 2.59 FIP in 10 appearances spanning 13 innings.
Marco Estrada continues to shut his critics down posting a 2.63 ERA and 3.77 FIP with a K/9 of 9.00 (BB/9 of 3.38 but disregard that... there's enough pain coming to be worried about that right now) in his four starts, and the Jays might have maybe found another decent bullpen arm in Dominic Leone (3.12 ERA, 2.09 FIP, 8.31 K/9 in 6 games).
But, uh, well listen. If you don't see J.A Happ for a while don't be alarmed.
He was placed on the 10-day disabled list with what they call "inflammation" in his elbow, which admittedly sounds like his arm blew up and they are underselling it, but at last we've heard anything he threw a side session last Thursday. Where he reportedly suffered a setback. Though, take this with a grain of salt as I don't fully know how informed Jays Journal is.
Aaron Sanchez was also placed on the 10-day disabled list, but don't worry, it's just a blister thing. He's seen a specialist as recently as last week, thrown, all signs point to his return from the DL very soon. He hasn't been great in the early going but that spans two games, 12.1 innings, where he's struggled with the aforementioned blister.
Jason Grilli isn't hurt, he's just been bad. Grilli has made 7 appearances where he's basically been lit up. a 7.11 ERA, 7.48 FIP, he's struggling with walks (7.11 BB/9) and has seen his role diminish as John Gibbons loses trust in his veteran reliever.
Francisco Liriano has been good, despite what you might surmise from the numbers. I mean, yeah, his ERA is 5.11 after a disastrous 0.1 IP in his first start where he allowed 5 runs, walked 4, and K’d just one, he has been fantastic. 1.50 ERA and a 0.98 FIP in his most recent two starts. It is reasonable to assume he'll see some good results going forward.
So, 2/5 of the staff is hurt, 3/5 are pitching well. All in all, it could be worse?
Meanwhile, Roberto Osuna has seen just 4 innings of work, has a K/9 of 9.00, an ERA of 4.50 but a FIP of 0.90... The issue is the team isn't winning many games so he doesn't get much work.
"So what does this mean? Is the season over? Do I just wait for the CFL Season to start?"
No, not that. Never that.
Listen, the Jays starting staff sits 9th in the American League in ERA (3.94), but 4th in FIP (3.83), so there is reason to believe the staff is still very good and will be when healthy, again. The Bullpen sits 10th in ERA (4.40) and 9th in FIP (3.86). Not terrible, could be better, and I believe it will be as Biagini and Osuna pitch more. And Osuna will as games get closer, which they should, when the offence kicks it into gear.
And, there is reason to believe they will. No way, even in our greatest fears, do Bautista, Travis, Tulowitzki, and Martin all end up as bad as they've been thus far. The Jays are 13th in AL wRC+ (80), 12th in HR's (17) and are hitting a collective .233 (12th)/.290 (12th)/.349 (13th).
The offence isn't this inept. I don't think.
Yes, regression and all, sure, but I doubt guys like Tulo and Bautista are this far gone, yet. Perhaps never what they were, again, but I also doubt Bautista lost 88 points off his wRC+. And Russell Martin, again, regression, sure. I don't think 33 points of wRC+, 82 points in average, and 164 in SLG is what we were expecting. All should improve.
So, yes, you've walked into a bit of a tire fire. It looks bad. But, as I hope I've explained, it only looks bad. There is plenty of room to keep hope alive. The season is far from done, the team is not as bad as their record indicates, and while I'm not about to start a #TheJaysAreActuallyGood hashtag, try to remember: