Blue Jays giving fans nothing to cheer about so far

Ian Denomme
April 12, 2013

It’s early.

That’s been the refrain from Toronto Blue Jays players, coaches, fans and media as the team has struggled to a 3-6 start heading into Kansas City this weekend. While some panicky fans have already jumped ship – or have at least put on life jackets - others are pleading for patience. There has been nothing to cheer about in Toronto.

While it is early – there are a mere 153 games remaining ahead of Friday’s game with the Royals – there are some troubling signs for the team many folks in the baseball world were picking to win the American League East a couple of weeks ago. The Blue Jays have been all around lousy, struggling with hitting, pitching, and defence. The Blue Jays have yet to win two games in a row. Some of the losses have been downright ugly - a 13-0 loss to the Boston Red Sox, and Thursday’s 11-1 loss to the Detroit Tigers stand out.

The revamped starting pitching staff has been particularly bad, and is the first thing that needs to be fixed if the Jays are to dig out of their current funk. Toronto spent lots of money and leveraged a lot of prospects to acquire R.A. Dickey, Mark Buerhle and Josh Johnson during the offseason. The Blue Jays were supposed to have one of the best starting rotations in baseball, but through nine games it is the worst.

The sample size is still small, but the Blue Jays’ starters have a combined ERA of 7.59. They have pitched only three quality starts. No starter has pitched into the seventh inning. The new trio of former All-Stars have ERAs of 8.44 (Dickey), 10.24 (Buerhle), and 11.05 (Johnson). J.A. Happ, who grabbed the fifth spot from Ricky Romero, is the only starter with a victory. Opposing hitters are batting .300 against Toronto pitching.

The three new pitchers all came from the National League, which may be leading to some of their struggles. Jon Paul Morosi says:

“The early-season frustrations of Buehrle, Johnson and Dickey could be linked to the inherent difficulty in moving to the more offensive league.

Perhaps the Blue Jays (and a certain writer who picked them to win the AL) underrated the difficulty in 60 percent of a rotation making that adaptation amid postseason expectations.”

To their credit, the Blue Jays aren’t making any excuses. The three games in Detroit were played in cold, rainy conditions, but the team didn’t use that as a crutch. And manager John Gibbons won’t push the panic button yet, instead sticking with his current lineup.

Dickey, whose knuckleball hasn’t been nearly as effective because of the cooler weather and a cracked fingernail, made the case that the season is a “marathon”. That’s true, but the best marathoners run at the front of the pack at a consistent pace. The Jays aren’t there right now.

Things aren’t about to get any easier though. The Blue Jays open a series in Kansas City on Friday against the first-place Royals, then host the Chicago White Sox and New York Yankees at home next week.

The Blue Jays need to stop the bleeding before a full-blown fan revolt.