The Toronto Blue Jays had some mixed results during the first month of the 2015 season.
Toronto went 10-12 in April and currently sits in last place in the American League East entering play on April 30.
Keep in mind one month doesn’t make or break a team’s season. Many veteran players are also notoriously slow starters and don’t perform well early on.
With that being said, here are three observations from the Blue Jays’ performance in April.
The Offense Has The Potential To Be Elite
One thing that has quickly become apparent during the first month of the season is Toronto’s ability to put runs on the board in a hurry. The Blue Jays currently lead MLB in runs scored. They also rank fifth in home runs, seventh in doubles and sixth in OPS.
On the downside, Toronto ranks 12th in OBP and 13th in total hits, showing there is room for improvement in other areas.
The most surprising thing about the Blue Jays’ offense has been the strong production the team has received from unexpected sources such as Devon Travis and Kevin Pillar.
The rookie Travis has been arguably the team’s best hitter this month, compiling a slash line of .342/.405/.658 with six home runs, 19 RBI and 17 runs scored in 21 games.
On the flip side, All-Stars Jose Bautista and Edwin Encarnacion have both had slow starts to their seasons. Newly acquired catcher Russell Martin has also struggled in the early going.
Once these veterans regain their timing at the plate and start performing up to their career norms, Toronto’s offense could become even more dangerous than it already has been. That should be a scary thought for any opposing pitcher.
The Starting Pitching Has Been Mediocre
April has been a rough month for the Blue Jays’ starting rotation. Toronto’s starters have combined to post a 5.33 ERA, ranking 27th in the league in that category.
Toronto’s rotation also ranks third in MLB in home runs given up, second in walks allowed and sixth in hits given up. Opposing batters have hit a whopping .283 off the Blue Jays’ starting pitchers.
Toronto doesn’t have a single starting pitcher with an ERA under 4.00 at the moment. Rookie left-hander Daniel Norris’ 4.43 ERA leads the entire rotation in that category.
One of the biggest gambles the Blue Jays took going into the season was inserting hard-throwing right-hander Aaron Sanchez in the starting rotation. Sanchez was terrific as a reliever last year, but has struggled to replicate that success as a starter so far this season.
In four starts, Sanchez has posted an ERA of 5.03. He’s pitched a total of just 19.2 innings and walked a whopping 14 batters during that span, while also giving up 19 hits and four home runs.
When right-hander Marcus Stroman went down with a season-ending injury in spring training, the Blue Jays lost a huge component of their starting rotation. Now, a month into the 2015 season, it’s become apparent just how much of a negative impact Stroman’s injury has caused.
This type of performance from the starting rotation simply isn’t good enough for a team looking to contend for the playoffs this season.
The Bullpen Has Been Shaky
Toronto’s bullpen was one of the team’s major weaknesses last season. That’s why it was a surprise to see the team make no significant moves over the offseason to improve its bullpen.
Instead of acquiring proven veterans to bolster the bullpen, the Blue Jays instead opted to go with in-house options for their bullpen (with the exception of trading for long reliever Marco Estrada).
After a month into the season, it appears the Blue Jays’ decision hasn’t really paid off. Toronto’s bullpen ranks 24th in the majors with a 4.33 ERA and has contributed directly to several of the team’s losses this month.
The back end of the Blue Jays’ bullpen has been especially shaky. Toronto initially tabbed left-hander Brett Cecil as the team’s closer. But, early struggles from Cecil led to the team naming 20-year-old Miguel Castro the new closer. Castro blew two saves in six chances before being removed from the closing role in favor of Cecil once again.
With a struggling rotation that contains two rookies, the Blue Jays badly need to get a better performance from their bullpen in order to balance out any inconsistencies from the starters.
*All stats are from MLB.com and are current entering play on April 30, 2014.