It wasn’t too long ago where we saw the 2015 version of the Toronto Blue Jays bringing new hope to the fan base with players like José Bautista, Josh Donaldson, Edwin Encarnación, and David Price leading the way. Since then, there have been some tough times, but after a changing of the guard, there is a newfound excitement for the team thanks to their play on the field in the first portion of the season.
The start of the season was tough at times for the Jays, particularly in the series against the Texas Rangers, Los Angeles Angels, and the Kansas City Royals, teams they should have been able to beat on paper. Through the early struggles, however, the Blue Jays have found a way to win the series more often than not, including series against the New York Yankees twice, the Tampa Bay Rays, a season sweep over the Atlanta Braves, and the Philadelphia Phillies. They also managed a split against the Oakland Athletics after dropping the first two games of the series.
When the season started, the question was what the Jays would do to fix their rotation. Fans speculated about who the team would be looking to pick up as a second or third option behind ace Hyun-jin Ryu, but two other members of the Jays pitching staff look to have filled that role. Both Robbie Ray and Steven Matz have been fantastic this season, especially for players who some fans pegged as bargain bin garbage. Not only have the pair proven the skeptics wrong, but they have also given the Jays and their front office some flexibility on what finishing the rotation might look like.
With Ray and Matz playing at the level they have been, the Jays have options including Thomas Hatch and everyone’s favourite young prospect to talk about Alek Manoah. It has bought them time to experiment with what they have and allows them to keep some of their better prospects they may have otherwise had to use as trade bait to get a solidified number two starter in the league.
The Blue Jays bullpen has also been playing free and easy this season even with a season-ending injury to Kirby Yates, the team’s big addition to the bullpen in free agency. The list of Blue Jays relievers who have a WHIP (Walks + Hits/innings pitched) is lengthy and impressive. Julian Merryweather (0.46), Anthony Castro (0.55), A.J. Cole (0.64), Tyler Chatwood (0.80), Ryan Borucki (0.90), and Travis Bergen (0.96) all have that exceptionally low WHIP. There are also numerous pitchers in the pen who have a WHIP below 1.3 as well. Those pitchers are Rafael Dolis (1.02), who has really found his form after a disappointing start to the season, Joel Payamps (1.07), David Phelps (1.16), Trent Thorton (1.25), and Jordan Romano (1.26).
To make a long story short for the Blue Jays, the pitching has been much better than most would have expected to start the season, especially with all of the injuries that have been dolled out to the staff to begin the year. As impressive as the pitching staff has been this season, all eyes are on the offence that has been every bit as impressive despite the lofty expectations levied against them before the start of the season.
Offensively, the Blue Jays have been led by those you would expect like Vladimir Guerrero Jr., Bo Bichette, and Teoscar Hernandez, but they have also gotten some secondary support from some names that not everyone expected to produce the way they have. Players like Marcus Semien and Randal Grichuk have been fantastic all season long, and now, some of the players who got off to cold starts like Danny Jansen, Cavan Biggio, and Lourdes Gurriel Jr. are all starting to heat up and see the ball a little bit better.
The Blue Jays’ hitters are swinging the bats well right now. They seem to have an understanding that you don’t need to hit a home run every time you come up to the plate, especially not when the guy hitting behind you can hit one himself. They have been going the other way with the ball, they have been hitting the ball hard, and they have been scoring runs in many different ways.
The Blue Jays are winning baseball games and in turn, they are having fun. Teams who are having fun and enjoying what they are doing are entertaining to watch, but more importantly, they keep winning. If you are wondering just how loose the Jays are right now, just watch Guerrero Jr. imitate Romano’s pitch delivery before a pitch in a game against the Braves.
If you don’t think baseball can be fun, you clearly haven’t watched the 2021 Toronto Blue Jays. It’s hard not to be excited when you see the players having a good time and winning games. Hold onto your hats, Blue Jays fans! We might be in for something special!