Before I talk about the Toronto Blue Jays and a struggling offense that’s led to the club’s skid of four losses in their last five games, I have to give the floor to Major League Baseball’s umpires for a minute. You guys have caught a lot of flack as several games have ended in controversy lately, headlined by the Philadelphia Phillies scoring a phantom game-winning run to beat the Atlanta Braves on ESPN’s Sunday Night Baseball on a call that even the instant replay review system couldn’t get right. The Blue Jays were the victims Monday night with two outs, a runner on base, and the tying run at the plate in the bottom of the ninth as this horrible strike-three call just doesn’t cut it, and certainly isn’t how MLB and baseball watchers want games to end.
— Umpire Auditor (@UmpireAuditor) April 13, 2021
I’m not saying this blown call cost the Blue Jays the game, it didn’t, but calling this pitch a strike when it is clearly nowhere near the live strike zone graphic within this game context makes this even screw-up of a call even worse and insults every baseball fan who watched. The Blue Jays, Braves, and fans of the game shouldn’t accept the world’s best umpires messing up calls at the worst possible moments.
This isn’t coming from a fan who sums up a game by blaming the umps, nor do I seek joy in bashing them. The ability to be a professional ball and strike caller at the professional level is extremely difficult and they don’t get enough credit in general. But, collectively, umps aren’t looking their best right now, and everyone involved in the sport just wants consistency and for umpires to be practically invisible as they facilitate those playing the game. 99% of all umpires want that too. So let’s cross our fingers that they can work in tandem with MLB’s replay system to make sure that calls are made clearly and correctly when possible.
Now that I’ve gotten that off my chest, let’s address the other reason why the Toronto Blue Jays fell to the New York Yankees 3-1 to open the three-game series at TD Ballpark. Facing Gerrit Cole isn’t an easy task by any means, and the Jays had the opportunity to blow the game wide open in the first inning with one out and runners in scoring position, but the club’s bats fell silent after this early rally as they couldn’t get another runner in scoring position until the 8th frame. These cold streaks at the plate have been far too common for the boys in blue lately, and even though they laid a 15-1 beating on the Los Angeles Angels in a rain delay-laden Saturday contest the Blue Jays’ offense as a whole has struggled with consistency in these early beginnings. Through the team’s ten games so far, the Jays have failed to put up a multi-run inning in half of those contests, and find themselves in the bottom tier of the American League in several offensive categories including runs batted in, OPS, and strikeouts. A team’s batting average certainly isn’t the measuring stick for their success at the plate, but hitting .216 as a club to start the season isn’t great, to say the least.
Manager Charlie Montoyo has been progressive in an effort to ignite the bats, moving Randal Grichuk and his .928 OPS up in the batting order and giving hitters a day off when needed, but there have been far too many streaks of ineptitude as the majority of the lineup has had serious trouble with getting into scoring position and then driving runners in once they’re there. Regulars in the starting lineup not named Grichuk, Vladimir Guerrero Jr., and Bo Bichette are a combined 4-for-48 with runners in scoring position this season, and good luck finding anyone who has anything good to say about hitting a measly .083 in such crucial run-scoring situations.
The Blue Jays’ offensive slumber has been exacerbated by a lack of clutchness, as you can tell by their abysmal effort with RISP. On top of that, they have the lowest OPS in the Junior Circuit in the seventh inning or later and in late/close situations, and rank second-last when trailing. These paltry numbers give you an even better idea of how important the club’s pitching has been in keeping the Blue Jays afloat so far this season, especially as their battery mates haven’t been able to hit a beach ball as Danny Jansen and Alejandro Kirk are a combined 2-for-32 at the dish. Catchers aren’t expected to be the best hitter in the lineup, but it’s hardly an exaggeration when I say the Blue Jays have gotten *nothing* from their catcher’s spot in the batting order.
While the bats certainly haven’t been great as a whole early on, there are reasons to believe that a turnaround is near. The struggles of Lourdes Gurriel Jr. and Teoscar Hernandez have been marred by COVID issues, but they are bound to bounce back which will be crucial as they were arguably the team’s two best hitters across last year’s 60-game slate. Rowdy Tellez is no longer an automatic out, as he broke his 0-for-22 hitless streak to start the season with a lined single off of Cole on Monday thanks to the help of slim Vladdy and his voodoo ways.
— Toronto Blue Jays (@BlueJays) April 12, 2021
Springer’s oblique strain that caused him to start the season on the injured list has supposedly healed, but at the cost of a new quad injury that has prevented him from making his Blue Jays debut. Once he’s ready, he’ll provide a significant boost at the top of this lineup, and hopefully Gurriel Jr., Hernandez, and the catching tandem will have found their stroke by then. The Blue Jays should have a better time at the plate this series now that Cole has had his turn in the Yankees’ rotation, as the boys in blue are looking to end their losing streak against Jameson Taillon on Tuesday and string a couple of wins together to get back on track. Watching this team has been fun as it is so far this season, just wait until their bats heat up.