If there was one word to summarize the first 11 games of the season for the Toronto Blue Jays, it would be strikeouts. If there were two words, it would be many strikeouts. Three words? Scads of strikeouts.
After the first week-and-a-half of the 2019 campaign, the Blue Jays are baseball’s strikeout kings and jesters. It’s difficult to glean any real, concrete intel from the first three series of the season, but the pitching has been red-hot, while the bats were ice-cold for the Blue Jays.
As a team, their hitters have collectively struck out more times than any other team in baseball; 111 strikeouts in 11 games. Conversely, the Blue Jays pitching staff has struck out the most batters as a team with an MLB-best 119 K’s through 11 games.
|Total K’s||K Per Game||10+ K in a Game|
|Blue Jays Hitters||111||10.1||7|
|Blue Jays Pitchers||119||10.8||7|
If you stop and think about it, it’s impressive they’ve struck out that many times while fanning that many batters themselves.
During Sunday’s series finale in Cleveland, the Blue Jays struck out a season-high 16 times as a team. They’re riding a four-game streak where they’ve struck out at least 13 times in a game. The Blue Jays have reached double-digit strikeouts in 7 of their 11 games so far.
This is the first time in franchise history the #BlueJays have struck out at least 13 times in four consecutive games. It's only been done four times EVER in Major League history.
— Gregor Chisholm (@gregorMLB) April 7, 2019
On the flip side, the Blue Jays pitching staff has struck out 10 or more batters in seven of 11 games on the season. On average, Blue Jays pitchers combined to strike out an average of 10 batters per game.
The book is out on the Blue Jays hitters early in the 2019 campaign, as they’ve faced the fifth-most breaking pitches in baseball at 32.1 percent. The Cleveland pitching staff peppered the Blue Jays early and often with breaking pitches during their four-game series, hence the grand total of five runs scored by the Jays in the four-game series.
In many ways, this series was reminiscent of Cleveland’s evisceration of Blue Jays hitters during the 2016 American League Championship series. The Blue Jays’ hitters had no answer to Cleveland’s pitching staff in that series, much like what transpired this past weekend at Progressive Field.
Look no further than the team’s leader in most offensive categories — Freddy Galvis, of all players — as a peek into the sad state of affairs for the Blue Jays’ hitting woes.
Glance up and down the Blue Jays lineup and it’s littered with swing-and-miss hitters. Brandon Drury leads all MLB hitters with 17 strikeouts, Randal Grichuk isn’t far behind with 14 and Justin Smoak, Lourdes Gurriel Jr. and Teoscar Hernandez have 9 K’s a piece.
While the Blue Jays’ starting lineup has struggled to produce runs, the club’s pitching has been a pleasant surprise thus far. As a team, the Blue Jays have the third best ERA in baseball at 2.75 and their starting rotation ERA of 2.44 ranks fourth.
Considering that their rotation consisted of five question marks on Opening Day, Toronto’s starting pitching has exceeded all expectations through the first 11 games. The 119 collective strikeouts are indicative of a pitching staff with a great deal of swing-and-miss potential.
Between the two early season anomalies, the uncharacteristically strong starting pitching and the underwhelming starting lineup, the pitching staff has less of a chance of being a mirage. The lineup will sort itself out over the coming weeks and Vladimir Guerrero Jr.’s eventual arrival will supply a sorely needed adrenaline boost to the heart of this lineup.
For whatever reason, the Blue Jays hitters simply have not figured things out during this early part of the schedule. This could be due to a number of things; hitters still getting their timing down, the cooler weather, guys trying to make something happen at the plate and a slew of players who are still trying to discover or regain their footing as everyday players.
As a team, the Blue Jays won’t hit below the Mendoza line for the rest of the season, but their swing-happy approaches may continue through the 2019 campaign. It wouldn’t be shocking to see the club remain as the top team in strikeouts at the end of the 2019 season.
Grichuk, Hernandez and Smoak all have the potential to rack up 150 strikeouts by season’s end. At this rate, Drury won’t be far behind that group if he collects a decent amount of at-bats this season.
Watching lineups scuffle during the first month of the season is nothing new for Major League Baseball. In fact, it’s a common trait of the Blue Jays; they’ve played above .500 baseball in April only once in the last six seasons.