Oct. 19, 2015
By Tyler King
Canadian Baseball Network
May I have your attention, please?
May I have your attention, please?
Will the real Toronto Blue Jays please stand up?
(Preferably before 8:00 PM on Monday ...)
Of course, Monday is the day the Jays will face those damned Kansas City Royals in Game 3 of the ALCS. They’ll do it down 0-2 in the series.
And if they plan on coming back from this deficit (again), they’re going to have to get back to being the same Blue Jays team that got them there -
I’m talking about the guys who hit opposing pitchers to the moon, night after glorious night.
I’m sure I don’t need to remind you ... The Jays were down 0-2 against (those damned) Texas Rangers just a short week ago. They won three straight to advance - thanks, in part, to Jose Bautista’s massive seventh inning three-run home run in Game 5.
Whether you were at the dome or watching on TV, it will be hard to forget that moment anytime soon, especially considering the second biggest home run in Blue Jays history was immediately punctuated with the greatest bat-flip in mankind’s history - when Bautista stared down Rangers pitcher Sam Dyson before hucking his bat into orbit and trotting the bases.
Sadly, Jays fans cannot live in that moment forever ... Trust me, I tried. Eventually your boss starts wondering if you’re still alive.
But perhaps very soon fans will have a new moment to hold on to. Perhaps another miracle comeback and even greater hangovers are on the horizon.
The script that is October baseball remains to be written. Which means that there are still games to be played. There is, after-all, still a championship to be won ...
Wait, the Jays didn’t win the World Series?
(The emotional infirmity I am once again experiencing is enough to tell me they did not.)
So, on Monday, the Jays will play the closest thing to a must-win game, without it actually being a must-win game.
Unlike the Division Series, Game 3 will not - at least technically speaking - be a do-or-die situation. This is a seven game series, and the Jays will have to win four before the Royals win two.
Yes, they have come back from this deficit before. But this time they’ll really need to bring the bats.
It’s no secret that the identity of the 2015 Toronto Blue Jays was power.
Whatever you want to call it. They hit the crap out of the ball.
If this season was hollywood the Jays offence would be Arnold Schwarzenegger - think “Terminator,” not the governor of California. The rest of the league looked more like Rick Moranis in “Honey, I Shrunk the Kids”. Comparatively speaking.
But since the first pitch was thrown in the postseason, the Jays haven’t been that same offensive force. That daunting presence that led them to their first postseason appearance in basically forever hasn’t been quite as intimidating.
They’ve managed to stay alive thanks to some decent team pitching and timely (read: lifesaving) hits.
Their pitching has remained consistent to the team that won 93 games during the regular season. They had a team ERA of 3.80 in the regular season and are at 3.82 for the playoffs.
The offence is another story.
It’s not unreasonable to think that a team’s offence can experience a dip in the postseason. You basically only face stud pitchers in the playoffs, and good pitching always shuts down good hitting yadda yadda yadda.
But shutting down good hitters is one thing. Shutting down the Blue Jays is another.
When you talk about the Jays’ lineup you’re talking about one of the best offences of the decade. This is a team that finished first in basically every offensive category during the regular season, save for AVG (where they finished second).
And when you look at the Blue Jays since they became THE BLUE JAYS - meaning after they acquired Troy Tulowitzki and Ben Revere - their offensive numbers are like one giant loogie being spat on professional baseball.
In the months of August and September - the dawn of the Tulo era - the Jays won 40 games. They lost only 18.
In those 58 games the Jays had a team AVG of .275.
They also had a .352 OBP, .481 SLG, and .831 OPS. They had 507 hits, 92 homers, and scored 323 runs.
What’s even crazier is that those numbers really don’t shock anyone. They should. But they don’t. Why? Because The Blue Jays.
Nothing is surprising with the lineup card the Jays can post on any given night.
“Oh ... Revere, Josh Donaldson, Bautista, Edwin Encarnacion, Chris Colabello, Tulowitzki, Russell Martin, Kevin Pillar, and Ryan Goins? Well, OK then - I guess all this makes sense.”
Like, how is that even real?
And, like, how are they suddenly so average?
The lineup that has made the entire country of Canada smile and opposing pitchers weep for so long has been downright manageable during these playoffs.
The team’s playoff batting average is 49 points lower than it was over the final two months of the season. Almost every other number has also dropped. Significantly.
The team’s OBP dropped 61 points. SLG dropped 105. OPS fell 164.
In the postseason the Jays hitters have a .220 AVG, .291 OBP, .376 SLG, and .667 OPS. That’s basically the regular season equivalent of the San Diego Padres.
The Jays also averaged 9.4 hits and 6 runs per game during their AL East clinching 40-18 stretch. In the playoffs those numbers have dropped to 7.8 hits and 4.1 runs.
They have, however, walked about the same amount and have a fairly similar strikeout rate compared to the regular season. Although their home runs per game are also down.
But here’s the kicker. And this will really bake your noodle ... but bare with me:
These numbers are a good thing.
I know this is about to border on some sort of “glass half-full / glass half-empty” psycho babble - but it’s also math. And math says, sooner or later the team’s offensive numbers will have to regress to the mean.
Which is essentially my way of trying to sound smart, instead of just saying, “the tide is about to turn.” Which, I believe, it is.
Wishful thinking? Maybe. But 58 games towards the end of a dramatic regular season is a much more convincing sample-size than seven playoff games.
Yes, the stakes are now higher. The atmosphere is crazier. Every pitch is more important.
But, at the end of the day, they’re still hitting a white ball with a stick.
It’s still Joey Bats stepping to the plate.
Still the Bringer of Rain.
Still the Toronto Blue Jays ...
So don’t you dare count them out.