Offensive woes magnified as Blue Jays narrowly avoid history

May 18th, 2024

TORONTO -- These games are wearing on the Blue Jays, bruises atop bruises.

It was all over 's face after Friday’s 4-3 loss to the Rays that felt so much further than the score suggests. Tampa Bay starter Tyler Alexander held a perfect game through 7 1/3 innings before the Blue Jays broke through and danced around their dark date with history.

Bassitt described the state of the Blue Jays in one word: “Struggling.” The Blue Jays are 19-24, sitting in the basement of the American League East as the level of worry grows by the day. Everyone’s looking for a fix, and at this point, Bassitt is open to ideas.

“If you have that answer, let us know,” Bassitt said.

The offense, perhaps? Bassitt won’t say that in front of cameras -- besides, he’s a teammate and has vocally supported the offense through some dry spells in the past -- but there’s no mystery here.

The Blue Jays rank 29th in baseball with 155 runs, better than only the White Sox. They rank in the bottom five in home runs (36) and slugging percentage (.356). The pitching hasn’t been perfect by any means, but so often, these starters deserve a better fate. Bassitt eventually allowed three runs in the sixth inning, but he kept the Blue Jays in the game until that point waiting -- and waiting -- for them to even reach base.

This team needs to hit. Until that changes, nothing changes.

“We’ve talked about swing decisions for three years now,” manager John Schneider said. “If you look it up, we’re top five in baseball in terms of what we’re swinging at, but we’re on the low end of what we’re doing with those pitches. That’s where our focus has shifted, even before the year started. We’re waiting for that to hopefully even out a bit.”

That gets us closer to the heart of what the Blue Jays are struggling with. They make enough contact. They don’t hack at many pitches out of the zone. A few meatballs need to end up in the second deck, though, which has been lacking.

It’s fitting that Danny Jansen broke up the perfect game with a bloop single in the eighth and Davis Schneider launched a two-run home run soon after. Both have been so important to this offense with Schneider making a stronger case by the day to hit atop this lineup. Jansen, with his full commitment to a pull-power approach, is one of the biggest power threats at his position in baseball. They just need some company.

Vladimir Guerrero Jr. may not hit 48 home runs again and the home run crown may not land in Toronto this season, but collectively, this roster has enough raw power to do more. It’s about getting to that power. That’s the secret. That’s what steals games. That’s what covers up for the odd error or poor pitching performance.

“I don’t want to say the word ‘damage’ any more, it’s just about hitting the ball hard,” Schneider said. “I feel like I’ve worn that word out. We all have. It’s not just home runs. Especially in at-bats that have less than two strikes, we’ve got to hit the ball harder. I think we do a good job of putting it in play with two [strikes]. Those numbers are pretty high against the league average, but until we have two strikes, we’re really focused on hitting the ball hard … or harder than we have.”

Time is of the essence here, even on May 17.

Coming off frustrating ends to each of the last two seasons, this organization needs to get over the hump, but at this rate, the Blue Jays need to put themselves in position to even have a shot. There are already long-term implications to what this club does in the coming days and weeks. Even though the calendar reads May, the second half of the season and Trade Deadline can creep up quickly.

“It’s a long season. I don’t think it’s the so-called time to worry,” Bassitt said. “It’s more the urgency to fix things now. Yeah, there’s obviously a point in the season where you look at it and you’re like, ‘We’ve got to make changes.’ I’m not saying right now is the time to do that. We’ve just got to play better.”

Winning is undefeated -- it fixes everything -- and it’s up to the bats to bring the Blue Jays back.