108: First month a horror show for Jays fans

Manager John Gibbons, despite his calm demeanour, is likely just as confused as Blue Jays fans (Photo: Sportsnet.ca)

Manager John Gibbons, despite his calm demeanour, is likely just as confused as Blue Jays fans (Photo: Sportsnet.ca)

By Tyler King

Canadian Baseball Network

Ok, the joke’s over.

Now could somebody please tell Rougned Odor to take the pins out of his Jose Bautista voodoo doll? Blue Jays fans would really like their all-star slugger back ...

Or if he won’t take the hex off Bautista’s swing, could you at least ask him where he’s hiding Josh Donaldson’s good calf? Thanks.

(Ah the joke’s on him anyway. Odor is currently hitting .194, making him one of only nine American League hitters with worse averages than Joey Bats.)

Unlike most people who play or watch baseball, I’m not usually a believer in karma, superstition or anything that could be considered supernatural. But the start of this season has been so inexplicably awful for the Blue Jays that it’s forced me to turn to the occult for answers.

How could there be any rational explanation for Bautista’s .196 average? Or Roberto Osuna’s three blown saves in just six opportunities? Or the Jays scoring the second fewest runs in the American League last month?

And even the luckiest crystal ball could never have predicted the Jays would be 9-19 after their first 28 games, with only one series win.

But, as you will see, there’s still so much more about this season that doesn’t make any sense ...

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I’ll be honest, if you told me that Ezequiel Carrera, who is currently hitting .309, would be leading the team in average on May 4th, nine wins actually seems about fair. (And I probably would have rightly guessed that Donaldson and Troy Tulowitzki were injured too.)

But if you said that Darwin Barney (.308), Kevin Pillar (.302), and Justin Smoak (.270) would have the next highest batting averages out of all Jays hitters with more than 50 at-bats, I would have politely told the bartender to cut you off.

However, that’s the reality, if such a term still has any meaning.

The Jays currently have two regular players with sub-.200 average - Bautista and Devon Travis. Travis, who had been .300 hitter over his 163 game career prior to this year, actually now holds the worst average (.157) out of all 93 qualified hitters in the American League.

Of course not all of this spooky-ness has to be negative. Just take, for example, Kevin Pillar magically turning into a good hitter.

Not only does Pillar have an average over .300, he actually has the third most hits in the AL. His 35 hits trail only Starlin Castro and God (aka Mike Trout). His 13 extra-base hits put him tied for eighth.

But perhaps the strangest thing about Pillar’s game this season is that he now has seven walks and an OBP of .347. Why’s that so weird? He didn’t earn his seventh walk last season until June 8th, his 60th game, and the only time he had an OBP over .340 in 2016 was on opening day. 

Throw in the fact that he’s tied with Morales for the Blue Jays team lead in home runs with four and you’ll see that someone is clearly playing a prank on me.

One would assume - especially with Donaldson and Tulo on the disabled list - that Bautista would be the obvious front runner to lead the Jays in home runs. Unfortunately, however, he’s only hit two. 

(Though what’s perhaps even sadder is that he’s still only two good swings away from tying those team leaders.) 

What, if not for some divine form of sorcery, could account for the fact that five Blue Jays players have hit more long balls than Bautista, including newcomer Steve Pearce, who passed Bautista’s total in just two days by hitting his first, second, and third home runs against the New York Yankees on Tuesday and Wednesday.

I mean, Jose has the same amount of RBIs as Ryan Goins (nine), so don’t tell me there isn’t something fishy going on.

To be fair to Bautista, it’s clearly not just his bat that’s been cursed. Offensive numbers were down across the board for the Blue Jays in April (in such a significant way, so don’t think about using the “injuries” excuse).

The Jays 22 homers in the month of April ranked 13th in the AL, as did their .228 team average. They were also 14th in both strikeouts (222) and runs scored (89). In case you’re forgetting, there are only 15 teams in the American League.

And sure, four home runs in a single month may be a feat for a guy like Kevin Pillar, but for the team as a whole the lack of individual production is unchartered.

The last time the Jays failed to have a player hit more than four homers in a month was over five years ago, back in September of 2011. To put that in perspective, Eric Thames hadn’t left for Korea and was still playing for the Jays back then (how good are his National League leading 11 home runs looking now ???).

And I don’t mean to kick this entire fanbase while it’s down, but the Jays offensive slump isn’t totally novel. It actually dates back to the end of last year, when in September of 2016 they hit the second fewest home runs in the AL (24). Their 100 runs scored that month were also dead last.

So rub your lucky rabbit’s foot, wear your favourite socks three days in a row, pray to that vintage Kelly Gruber poster in your garage ...

And when the Jays finally win a game, make sure you don’t you change a damn thing! 

‘Cause then the next loss will be on you.

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Follow Tyler and #Section108 on Twitter: @TylerJoseph108