By Tyler King
Canadian Baseball Network
Sure, the title of this article may sound like one of those Captain Obvious commercials. And it’s probably the first time you’ve ever heard someone describe a 13-21 team as “surviving” ...
Usually teams with such unsightly records are best described with terms like “floundering”, “hopeless”, or even “finished”.
(And whatever those teams are, they don’t tend to draw more than 30,000 fans every night, as the Jays did this past three game series against the Cleveland Indians - undoubtedly bolstered by the return of Edwin Encarnacion).
However, when you consider just how ridiculous the Jays injury woes have been in 2017, their 13-21 record starts to almost seem reasonable.
So grab a tissue if you need it, ‘cause here’s a quick reminder of all your favourite Blue Jays who have spent time on the disabled list this season:
- Josh Donaldson - calf strain - out since April 13
- Troy Tulowitzki - hamstring strain - out since April 21
- Russell Martin - nerve - out since May 7
- Aaron Sanchez (twice) - fingernail / blisters - made two starts and lasted just one inning in another
- JA Happ - elbow inflammation - made three starts
- JP Howell - shoulder strain - didn’t pitch for 20 days in April
- Roberto Osuna - neck spasms - missed first week of season
- As of Thursday, you can add starter Francisco Liriano to this list, who was placed on the DL likely as a result of strike-zone blindness (he leads the league in walks-per-nine-innings).
- Honourable mention goes out to Kendrys Morales, who left Wednesday’s game with a hamstring strain but hasn’t (at least not yet) been placed on the disabled list.
But despite losing almost all their good players at some point in the first month-and-half, the Jays have, by nothing short of a miracle, avoided letting their terrible start become unsalvageable.
Believe it or not they have actually played .500 baseball (9-9) since April 21, 2017, the day Tulowitzki tweaked his hamstring. They had gone 4-12 prior to that point.
(And anybody who’s watched the Jays this year knows what a feat a .500 record is, no matter what stretch of games I choose to cherry-pick.)
The thing is, I’m here to tell you that if some of those guys don’t come off the DL soon, this little patch of muted success is about to end. Which pretty much means curtains for the 2017 season.
To see what dire straits the Jays are actually in, you need not look further than “starting” pitching. I put “starting” in quotations because, well, have you seen their rotation lately?
Since Happ’s last start on April 16th - you know, the one where everybody let out a collective “good God no” when we found out something was wrong with his elbow - the Jays have had three starts from a guy named Matt Latos, one start from a certain Mike Bolsinger, one start from bullpen staple Joe Biagini, and two starts from somebody named Casey Lawrence (who isn’t even on the team anymore as he was picked up by the Seattle Mariners after being placed on waivers)
Unsurprisingly, the Jays lost five of the seven games those guys started.
Blue Jays starters are currently 13th in the American League with an ERA of 4.40 heading into the opener of the Seattle Mariners series on Thursday. They’ve also pitched the fourth fewest innings (182), taxing an already depleted bullpen.
It’s a far cry from when the Jays rotation surprised everyone last season and dominated the AL with a league best 3.64 ERA. No other team even had a combined starter ERA under 4.00. They also threw the most innings (995 1/3) in 2016 - 18.1 innings more than Chicago White Sox (and 120 innings more than the AL worst Oakland Athletics).
But even if Sanchez’s manicure works out, Happ’s elbow doesn’t need to be removed, and Fransico Liriano learns how to throw a strike, the Jays will still need the bats of Martin, Tulowitzki, and Donaldson if they hope to get back into any sort of race that isn’t to the bottom.
I know, I know. You love the underdog stories swirling around guys like Ryan Goins and Ezequiel Carrera, but ask yourself, do you really want Goins hitting sixth every night? And do you truly, in your heart of hearts, believe Carrera is a .313 hitter?
Yes, I know that Goins is currently third on the team in RBIs with 13, and yes I know that he’s had some very clutch hits of late. But he’s still hitting .212, and his name doesn’t spark nearly the same fear in opposing pitchers as “Tulowitzki”. Plus Goins can still play second base when Tulo comes back, especially now that Devon Travis is a non-entity with his .162 average.
And as for Carrera ... well he has been teasing fans with offensive spurts like this for years.
Last season he was still hitting over .300 by the end of June, which of course had a few fans excited about the possibility of him magically becoming good ... although those feelings didn’t last too long.
By the end of August Carrera’s average was down to .237 (he finished the season hitting .248).
And although the Goins, Barney, Carrera stories have been quite pleasant, the back-up catcher storyline has been, frankly, downright enraging.
Over the entire season Blue Jays catchers not named Russ Martin have gone a combined 2-for-45 ... (I checked this three times because I couldn’t believe it).
Jarrod Saltalamacchia went 1-for-25 before being released by the Jays on May 3. And since Martin hit the DL the other two guys have faired about the same.
Call-up Luke Maile has gone 1-for-17, and Mike Ohlman has gone 0-3 in his one start.
And when you really stop and contemplate all that, doesn’t the team’s 13-21 record seem almost ... (dare I say it) good?
Follow Tyler and #Section108 on Twitter: @TylerJoseph108