HomeTeamsBlue JaysFive Reasons To Feel Positive About The Blue Jays

Five Reasons To Feel Positive About The Blue Jays

There’s been plenty of reasons to dump on the Toronto Blue Jays at the quarter pole of the 2024 season.

They’re last place in the American League East, with a record of 21-25 this morning, showing the same weaknesses on the hitting side of the ledger that sunk them last season.

They’re 22nd in the MLB with a .231 team batting average. They’re 25th in home runs (39). Sixteenth in on-base percentage (.309). Twenty-second in slugging percentage (.366). Twentieth in OPS (.675). Driving in runners in scoring position remains a problem.

With the latest and greatest playoff crap-out by the NHL hockey team in the Toronto market, angst among local sports fans has turned to hair-trigger zero-patience rage, especially on social media. We’ve never seen the current climate that we now see on the Toronto sports scene, and the Blue Jays, with the stench of last year’s wildcard flame out in Minnesota against the Twins still wedged in people’s minds, are on the front lines of all this.

Jays general manager Ross Atkins had a quick news conference Saturday to talk about the current state of the team, telling people that any turn around on the season is going to have to come from the players in the clubhouse, not via outside trades or minor league call-ups (at least at this point), and was eviscerated in some corners of social media for that.

So, there’s all that darkness and gloom.

But the sun is out, it’s warm, we’ve just finished a fabulous holiday weekend in Canada and our American friends are going into their Memorial Day Weekend.

Let’s look at five positives so far this season, the building blocks:

Jose Berrios (5-3, 2.98 ERA, 60.1 IP). On pace for another 180+ IP season (189.2 in 2023), Berrios has been a beast, and is a team leader. Every time he hits the mound now, it feels different compared to years past. Manager John Schneider has talked about it in recent days – Berrios has found a new level, both on the mound and in the clubhouse. And his performance has bought fellow starting pitcher Kevin Gausman some time. Gausman had a shoulder injury during spring training and has had a slow start to the season. Plus, it allowed Alek Manoah to overcome his spring training injury, and work his way back to the starting five – his electric win (7.0 IP, 1 H, 0 ER, 7 K, 1 BB) Sunday over the Tampa Bay Rays the exclamation point on that.

As Bo and Vladdy go, so goes the team. Bo Bichette and Vladimir Guerrero Jr. are the two guys that drive the bus in Toronto. Not George Springer. Not Justin Turner. And lately, Guerrero Jr. and Bichette have turned a corner offensively. Guerrero Jr. has hit .439, with a .984 OPS in the last 15 games. Yes, the home runs (four) are not where people want it to be, but that’s going to come soon. Yesterday’s 9-3 win over the Chicago Whiter Sox was mostly about Bichette. He was 4-for-4 at the plate, bumping his average to .230. Bichette has it in him to win a batting title someday. Everyone who follows the teams says it. If he can sustain this turnaround at the plate it’s going to rocket fuel the entire team.

Coming soon: Joey Votto. Yes, he’s 40. But he is a slam dunk Hall of Famer, one of the best hitters of his generation. And he’s a Toronto boy. Votto hit a home run in his one spring training at-bat before turning his ankle stepping on a bat in the dugout after rounding the bases. Last week there was the news that Votto is on the way back to full health, playing full-out at the minor league level. We’ve been saying it since they signed him late in spring training – having Votto and Justin Turner (current plate struggles aside) in there is like having two more hitting coaches, under the guidance of Hall of Famer Don Mattingly (offensive coordinator). When he gets in there soon, with his experience and leadership, Votto is going to boost the whole clubhouse.

Outfield defense. Elite, led by Daulton Varsho in left, Kevin Kiermaier in center, Springer in right. Now, if those three guys could just hit (although with Varsho, we agree with Jays commentator Kevin Barker, who said yesterday Varsho’s batting average doesn’t matter if he hits 25 HRs, 65 RBIs, which he is on pace to do, and gives you that level of elite defense).

Bullpen getting back to health. The bullpen has struggled compared to last season, but a lot of that comes down to injuries. The good news – Chad Green is close to returning, allowing one hit, no runs and no walks in one inning of triple-A work Sunday against Rochester (Green has been dealing with a right teres major strain).  Plus, RHP Yariel Rodriguez is scheduled to make a rehab appearance today at Triple-A Buffalo, Sportsnet reports. Bowden Francis made a rehab appearance at Triple-A Buffalo Saturday (he was the winning pitcher in a 4-2 Bisons win over Rochester, going 2.1 IP, allowing just one hit). The developing re-emergence of Manoah as fifth starter slots those two into long-relief options out of the pen.

The Jays play the White today at 7:07 p.m., with Yusei Kikuchi (2-3, 2.60 ERA) on the mound.


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