108: Playoff teams don’t (*usually*) start this slowly

With the Jays' poor start, frustrations are mounting. Both for players and fans. (Photo: Nathan Denette/The Canadian Press)

With the Jays' poor start, frustrations are mounting. Both for players and fans. (Photo: Nathan Denette/The Canadian Press)

By Tyler King

Canadian Baseball Network

Well, it’s official. The Toronto Blue Jays’ slow start - in particular their 10-1 drubbing at the hands of Chris Sale and the Chicago White Sox on Tuesday - drove me to do something I never thought possible:

I watched basketball. 

And if the Toronto Raptors ended up blowing their impressive fourth-quarter comeback in Game 6 of the NBA playoffs, I may have ripped my damn TV from it’s socket. 

Such is the life of a (horribly impatient) Blue Jays fan at the moment ... 

Yes, it may feel like Armageddon right now - and not just because a climate-change denier has become a serious presidential contender south of the border. Rather, I’m sitting here re-evaluating everything I thought to be good and true in the world because, after yet another loss on Wednesday, the Jays are now three games below .500.

Safe to say, it’s been a tough week. 

It all started with the bullpen coughing up a four-run lead by allowing five runs to score in the seventh-inning on Monday. The Jays lost that game 7-5.

And if Marcus Stroman murdering his hand on the dugout bench wasn’t a clear enough picture - three of those runs were charged to Stroman - players and fans are becoming increasingly frustrated by the team’s slow start. 

A 10-1 loss on Tuesday followed by a 4-0 loss on Wednesday really doesn’t help either. 

But despite the sluggish beginning for the Jays collectively, perhaps nobody has had a worse start to his campaign than pitcher R.A. Dickey.

It’s true, Dickey has been getting shelled worse than the 9-year-old kid I beat in MLB The Show last night (kid, if you’re reading this, I regret nothing. Life is hard). The knuckleballer has already allowed 33 hits in just 26.2 innings. 

However, to be fair to R.A., he has always struggled in the month of April throughout his career, although never quite like this.

His current ERA of 6.75 is his worst start to a season. Ever. Maybe since Tee-ball.

I mean, look on the bright side, it’s not like the Jays traded Noah Syndergaard to get him or anything ... Ha!

(April fools. They did.)

In case you were wondering, Syndergaard is 2-0 with a 1.69 ERA and 38 strikeouts in 26.2 innings.

That literally makes me want to cry.

But I don’t want to harp on Dickey too much, because if you’re on Twitter you already know he gets it from the fans enough. Plus he still remains confident that he and the rest of the team can turn things around. 

For now, I’ll give him the benefit of the doubt.

“Nobody in here is panicking,” Dickey told reporters after Tuesday’s loss, their 12th loss in 22 games. “We’ve always been a slow-starting team ... It takes us a little bit to find our rhythm it seems. And that’s the same for me in particular.”

Manager John Gibbons echoed those statements, although obviously in a much more ‘colloquial’ way.

“We’ll get it going,” Gibbons said. “We got it in us.” 

As always, great insight Gibby!

***

The Jays’ current 10-13 record is actually worse than the 11-12 record they held through 23 games last season, when everyone was going on and on about the exact same concerns over starting slow. In 2015 the Jays didn’t have a permanent winning-record until July 30th, their 103rd game of the season.

But even though they went on to win 93 games a year ago - and claim the AL East title - testing the whole ‘history repeats itself’ theory by dipping below .500 early is not an advisable course for success.

Of the 10 teams that made the playoffs last year (including Wild-Cards), the average record after 23 games was 14-9. 

table

Only two teams had records below .500 at this point - the Texas Rangers (8-15) and, yes, the Toronto Blue Jays. Coincidentally, both of those teams made major moves near the Trade Deadline (but then again what playoff team doesn’t?). 

Most notably, Toronto acquired shortstop Troy Tulowitzki and David Price - one of several ace pitchers available at the time.

The Texas Rangers followed suit by picking up another ace pitcher in Cole Hamels, who nearly ended the Jays’ World Series dreams in the ALDS with a stingy performance in Game 5. Thank god they eventually pulled him for reliever Sam Dyson, who’s probably still wondering when Bautista’s bat is going to fall from orbit.

But as fun as it is to reminisce about last season, it’s important to remain realistic about the challenges of today.

The Jays ended up winning 82 more games after being 11-12 to start last year. They lost only 57. Their winning percentage after 23 games was an impressive .590. 

Essentially, this team would have win at the slightly better rate of .597, if they were reach 93 wins again. Which, you’ll be happy to know, is not entirely impossible.

The St. Louis Cardinals’ winning-percentage for the entire 2015 season was .617, so those types of winning percentages are not unprecedented. Although they had a head start, beginning the season 17-6.

If we’re being totally honest, I forgot the Jays even had to play the regular season, so confident was I that they’d be back in the post-season. 

Even with the tough start, I still think they’ll be there come October. That being said, everybody can use a healthy dose of reality once in a while. 

Consider it served ... 

Now let’s get back to dreamin’.

***

P.S. NOAH FREAKIN’ SYNDERGAARD. COME ON!

***

Follow Tyler and #Section108 on twitter: @TylerJoseph108