At the start of the 2023 MLB season, I claimed that the Toronto Blue Jays were primed to have a very successful season and possibly even take the AL East for the first time since 2015. Well, instead, they stuck with what all Toronto sports teams know best: disappointing fans and underperforming. This year, however, the Blue Jays managed to disappoint in grand fashion by underperforming for 162 regular season games and a measly two additional playoff games.
This season ended with flashbacks to the end of last season when manager John Schneider pulled Kevin Gausman in the second game of the 2022 Wild Card series when he was cruising through the opposing offence. This time, it was Jose Berrios, who was absolutely carving and carrying the team against the Minnesota Twins. He had only thrown 47 pitches in the fourth inning when Schneider replaced him with starter Yusei Kikuchi, who went on to allow the only two runs of the game. The move left fans puzzled and enraged, with some calling it the “worst post-season move by a manager of all time.”
Unfortunately, the Blue Jays failed to score a single run to even give a glimmer of hope in coming back. The lack of run production in the playoffs capped off a season of frustrating offence.
So, what went wrong? The short answer: a whole lot.
The long answer begins with the offence, a group of guys who were given every advantage possible to succeed this season. A smaller home ballpark, easier schedule, bigger bases, and changed rules on base running all should have helped this team succeed. Yet the Blue Jays were consistently bottom of the league in batting stats with runners in scoring position (RISP), their biggest reason for failure.
Yes, the Blue Jays were far above the league average in batting average during the season and above average in other batting stats, but they left the second most runners on base – it would seem that they can only hit when it doesn’t matter.
This contributes to the unfortunate fact that the Jays’ star players didn’t play like stars at all.
Vladimir Guerrero Jr., two years removed from placing second in MVP voting, hit a mere 26 home runs with only 94 runs batted in. His .788 on base percentage plus slugging percentage (OPS) was only 5 points above league average. The worst stat of all: he grounded into 23 double plays, good for fifth most in the league.
In his first fully healthy season with the Jays, George Springer failed to live up to his high expectations. The expensive outfielder slugged only 21 home runs with a below-average OPS — and he was right up there with Guerrero Jr., grounding into 20 double plays; 14th most in the league.
Matt Chapman, who was the best hitter on the planet in April, cooled down to Arctic levels for the rest of the season. His end-of-season stats are already grim, but if you take away his April performance, they become even worse.
The Blue Jays’ best hitter down the stretch was 24-year-old 28-round pick Davis Schneider, who electrified the league with the best start to a career in MLB history. A player who had never played in a major league game before August of this year outshined the veterans, accumulating nearly as many wins above replacement (WAR) as George Springer, Alejandro Kirk, and even Vladmir Guerrero Jr. in only 35 games.
The Toronto Blue Jays are entering a very important offseason, where many moves will have to be made both on the field and within the organisation if this team is going to contend next year. Aside from Shohei Ohtani, the upcoming free agent class is barren; the front office will have to get creative with their moves to improve the roster.
In true Toronto sports fashion, the Blue Jays found a new way to disappoint their fans with a first-round playoff exit. But like everyone else, I’ll be back next year, probably explaining how the Blue Jays will win the World Series in 2024. For now, basketball and hockey begin soon, meaning fans have 82 regular season games to enjoy success before witnessing the next local sports failure.