We’re now 42 games into the 2017 season - Just passing the first quarter post, and it’s been a very rough ride for the Blue Jays. So far they’ve had to deal with a deluge of injuries and roster shuffling, and it feels like they’re teetering on the edge of falling out of the race. However, after everything that’s happened, they’re no worse off than the last two Toronto teams. It may not feel that way, but look at the numbers:
Record through 42 games:
2015 Blue Jays: 18-24 (finished with 93 wins)
2016 Blue Jays: 19-23 (finished with 89 wins)
2017 Blue Jays: 18-24
For whatever reason, these Blue Jays tend to start off slow. But as both 2015 and 2016 showed us, you can make a deep playoff run from this position. Much like the weather after a cool April, there’s still plenty of time to get hot.
(In addition to the last two Blue Jay teams, the 1989 team started off 17-25 in their first 42 games and went to the ALCS.) Here’s all these teams in visual form brought to you by the great folks at Pennantrace.com
In other words, the 2017 Jays are in good company. But in order to follow the upward trajectory of season’s past, they need to start getting more production from several key areas. Fortunately, that seems likely.
Let’s take a look at the OPS the Blue Jays have generated from each position so far in 2017:
Center Field: .893
First Base: .862
Right Field: .759
Third Base: .678
Second Base: .635
Left Field: .603
The Jays should see some regression from center field and first base since those numbers are fueled by the hot starts from Kevin Pillar and Justin Smoak, but at least part of that loss could be offset by a potential boon from second base as Devon Travis has started to come around.
The real heart of the improvement however will likely come from the other four positions near the bottom of that list.
1) Third Base: Josh Donaldson will post an OPS higher than .678.
2) Left Field: Dalton Pompey could work his way into the fold and produce an OPS higher than .603. (However, the bigger jolt here could come from the speed component and defense he would add.)
3) Shortstop: Tulo will post an OPS higher than .585.
4) Catcher: Russell Martin will post and OPS higher than .494.
We’re 42 games into the season and so far the Jays have been without Russell Martin for 19, Troy Tulowitzki for 26, Josh Donaldson for 33, and Dalton Pompey for all of them. If this group can get healthy and stay healthy, they will radically change the depth of the lineup.
In addition to this, injuries in the rotation have forced the Blue Jays to use a junk starter seven times already, which comes out to 17 percent of the games, or almost one spot in the rotation. In those seven games (three from Mat Latos, two from Casey Lawrence and two from Mike Bolsinger), the Jays have gone 1-6. In other words, even with all the injuries to the position players, the Jays have still basically been a .500 team (17-18 record) when they don’t have to lean on the muck.
Right now the Jays appear to have six desirable starters in Stroman, Sanchez, Estrada, Biagini, Happ and Liriano. They can get by with one of them on the DL, but once there’s two (like they have right now with Liriano and Happ), they start running into problems.
The upcoming series in Baltimore is very important for this team. They’re on the verge of getting an extensive collection of talent back, and the closer they can get to .500 when the roster starts to resemble the team the front office intended to put on the field, the more likely they are to contend for a playoff spot after a slow 42 game start for the third year in a row.
To borrow a line from the Blue Jays marketing department: #Let’sRise