108: To panic or not to panic? For Jays fans, that is the question
By Tyler King
Canadian Baseball Network
Well Jays fans ... your team is bad.
Soon - maybe, hopefully - they won’t be. But right now they’re awful, and you’re probably not feeling too good about it.
I know there isn’t much I can say to raise your spirits at this time:
“It’s early”, “There’s a track record”, “Don’t panic” - you don’t want to hear any of that so I won’t insult you by spewing it.
The truth is your team is an eye-gouging 2-11 heading into Wednesday’s game against the Boston Red Sox, and by God are they ever playing like it. It’s the worst start in the near 41-year history of the Blue Jays and by far the worst start of any team this season.
The Jays have three fewer wins than the league’s second worst team, the San Diego Padres. Their win-percentage of .154 is almost 20% lower.
But despite the painful beginning to 2017, I beg you, you mustn’t give up hope. I ask you to refrain from turning the television off for good, and from initiating the all-too-familiar processes of withdrawal and self-pity.
For starters, as you will see, you aren’t the first fans to go through this kind of suffering ...
And whether you seek a reason to cheer, reassurance to worry, or permission to cry, you can find whatever healing you’re in need of below.
Reason to cheer: You’re not the 1988 Baltimore Orioles!
(Seriously, that’s really the best I can do.)
You might think that the Jays .154 win-percentage through their first 13 games ranks up there with some of the worst starts of all time. But just be grateful you weren’t an Orioles fan back in the late-80s.
Baltimore lost 21 straight games to start the 1988 season. They didn’t win their first game until April 29th.
So, what I’m trying to say is it could be worse.
There have even been five other teams, along with those 1988 Orioles, that have lost more than 10 straight games to kick off a new year. And according to SBnation.com, there have been 76 MLB teams throughout history that have started a season 2-10 or worse. Four of those teams would have made the playoffs given the current format. One team, the 2001 Oakland Athletics, still finished with more than 100 wins.
Now those last stats could go either way … and by that I mean they could either trigger some serious feelings of despair or provide a glimmer of hope, depending on your psychological fortitude.
If you take the optimistic mindset coined by the great philosopher Lloyd Christmas (“so, you’re telling me there’s a chance?”) then commence the hoping. But if you’ve graduated from any high school math class and can recognize that four teams in 76 equals 5.3%, go ahead and weep, I won’t judge (the film was called “Dumb and Dumber” for a reason).
In all seriousness, if you find yourself taking the latter view - that of the “realist” - you still should not give up hope. Not yet anyway. Most of those 76 teams were supposed to be bad. This Jays team, however, was not.
And if the end goal of all this is to simply make it to the postseason, then how far the Jays are from the division and Wild Card leaders is all that should really matter. Not their record.
The Jays may already be 6.5 games back of the AL East leaders after just two weeks of play, but it’s a deficit they’ve come back from in the recent past … like, say, the last two seasons.
(To keep with the theme of optimism, now they have more time to mount their charge!)
In 2015, the first of their consecutive trips to the playoffs, the Blue Jays were eight games back on July 28th. Then they traded for pretty much every good player available at the deadline and ended up winning the AL East. In 2016, they fell seven games back relatively early, on May 24th. Nevertheless, they still finished the season with 89 wins and the first AL Wild Card spot.
So yes, I am officially telling you that there’s a chance.
Reasons to worry: (Go ahead and take your pick)
A season with so much expectation has started 2-11.
And if “two wins” and “11 losses” isn’t enough to make you start at least thinking about worst case scenarios - like a lack of meaningful baseball in September … or May - than you’re a better man than I.
Like you, I don’t want to go back to seeing an empty stadium every night, even if it means I can once again get a ticket for whatever spare change I have in my pocket.
But, sadly, this is the dangerous position the Jays are in – the danger of slipping into obscurity early. And we need to take a moment and honestly think about what it’s going to take for the Jays to emerge out of this slump and make the postseason.
The lowest win total to ever make the playoffs is 82 wins. By some miracle, if that’s what it takes to get one of those AL Wild Cards this season the Jays would have to go 80-69 starting Wednesday, meaning they’d have to post a win-percentage of .537.
More likely, however, it’s going to take roughly 89 wins to have any shot at the Wild Card (which is how many games the Jays and Orioles won last season). That means they’ll have to go 87-62 the rest of the way, a .584 win-percentage.
The Jays have only won more than 58% of their games for an entire season four times in 40 years.
Had they played at a .584 clip all season long, they would have been a 95-win-team.
Even on paper, are the Jays really a 95-win team?
(That was a rhetorical question.)
Reasons to scream and/or cry: Jose Bautista (et al)
Again, there are a million-and-one other things surrounding this team that could elicit spontaneously sobbing.
Like Josh Donaldson’s calf.
Or Aaron Sanchez’s finger.
Or JA Happ’s elbow.
But possibly the most maddening, curious thing of all thus far has been the totally unthreatening Blue Jays offence, led (or rather not led) by 18-million-dollar man Jose Bautista.
As a team, the Jays have hit just 10 home runs (they hit 29 the first month of the season last year). Bautista hasn’t hit one.
By the 13-game-mark in 2016, Bautista had already launched three homers and was hitting .310/.473/.667. Currently, he’s hitting .128/.276/.170.
What’s particularly scary is that his paltry batting average shouldn’t even be viewed as an anomaly. I realize .128 is unrealistic, but in 2008 Bautista’s average didn’t rise above .200 until the 25th game of the season. In 2010 he was hitting .191 after the first 13 games. And in 2012 he hit sub-.200 until May 16 (game 38).
So he may come out of this funk eventually … but when. And how long can the Blue Jays and their fans wait?
Furthermore, Bautista has only posted an average of .260 or better three times in his 13 seasons (and he’s hit over .300 just once). Of course you’d still expect him to hit his homers … hence why he’s featured here.
Quite obviously though, Bautista isn’t the only Blue Jays batter looking totally lost at the plate. The Jays have three other regular players with averages below .200: Steve Pearce (.162), Russell Martin (.114), and Devon Travis (.098).
As a team, the Jays have hit .220 and have scored the second fewest runs in the league (41).
So although after two weeks there may not be enough reason to panic quite yet, I’d say you have full permission to go ahead and have a good cry.
Either that or turn on the Leafs game and pretend you’ve been watching all year. You, my loyal Jays fan, deserve it.
Follow Tyler and #Section108 on Twitter: @TylerJoseph108