Three Things From Week Twenty-Six

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photo from the National Post

It’s all over. Finally, this no-good, rotten season has come to an end. And it almost ended with a bang as the Buffalo Bisons, er – Toronto Blue Jays, came within a single run of sweeping the Tampa Bay Rays and knocking them out of the playoffs.

For all the disappointment that this season brought with it, the Jays still managed to pack in the fans, finishing with the 6th highest attendance in the AL. The total of 2,536,562 was up over 20% from 2012. And hey – at the end of the day the team was better, earning one more win than last year.

But for now we are left to watch other teams from other cities compete in the postseason for the 19th consecutive year. And when the Jays return in April, who knows who will be back and who we might have seen for the last time yesterday afternoon.

All I know is this – 2013 was an awful season. But watching awful baseball is still better than no baseball. It’s going to be a long winter…

Here are three things from week 26:

Week 26: September 23 – September 29

Record: 3 – 4

1. Playing Spoiler

When a team is not going to make the playoffs, they really have two options – roll over and die and wait for the winter, or try to ruin another team’s playoff chances. You can forgive the Jays for maybe

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going the former route, a la the Houston Astros and their season ending 15 game losing streak. It’s tough to find motivation when you were supposed to be a contender.

But give them credit – they embraced their role as spoilers in a big way. From Sep 17 – 19 they took two of three from the Yankees to effectively end New York’s playoff hopes. Then on Tuesday they beat Baltimore in extra innings to officially eliminate the Orioles, and followed that up by nearly knocking out the Rays. As it was, taking two of three over Tampa dropped the Rays from the first Wild Card spot into a one-game playoff, and cost them home field advantage.

It wasn’t the way we were hoping to finish, but at least the team fought hard and ruined things for the rest of their AL East rivals.

2. Catcher Woes

To say Toronto struggled to receive production out of the catcher position is an understatement. Much has been written about J.P. Arencibia and his offensive woes, but the same can be said about the rest of Toronto’s backstops as well. Arencibia played 119 games behind the plate and put up a .198 average and .228 OBP (he finished at .194 / .227 including a few DH starts), but if you can believe it, Henry Blanco and Josh Thole, responsible for the rest of Toronto’s catching duties, were even worse.

Blanco played parts of 13 games at catcher putting up a .189 average, .250 OBP, and .520 OPS. Josh Thole, responsible for parts of 35 games behind the plate hit .180 with a .260 OBP and .512 OPS. In total, the Blue Jays received a .194 average and .583 OPS from their catchers in 2013.

How bad are those numbers? Well, the major league average for catchers was .245 AVG / .310 OBP / .698 OPS. In terms of batting average, at .194 Toronto was tied with Miami for dead last. The .235 OBP was dead last, three points worse than the White Sox. The OPS of .583 was good for 27th, the result of J.P.’s 21 HR. Things weren’t much better on the other side of the ball either. A 25% caught stealing percentage was below league average, as was a -2 defensive runs saved above average stat.

To make things worse, guys the Jays got rid of had decent seasons – John Buck put up a .648 OPS with the Mets and Pirates, and Yan Gomes had an .826 OPS in Cleveland, while Travis d’Arnaud made it to the show in New York. Also, Russell Martin, the Canadian who hung around free agency until late November, dropped a .703 OPS in Pittsburgh.

Many talk about the need for more starting pitching in order to turn the team around, but there also needs to be a serious change behind the plate.

3. So Long 2013

Even though the team was long eliminated and the game itself was meaningless from a Jays perspective, the dome was packed and rocking yesterday for the season finale. There were a lot of nice touches in the game, including a salute to the fans by the entire team and a touching send off to Darren Oliver. The Tampa Bay Rays even gave Oliver a standing ovation afterwards.

The Jays fell behind 7 – 0 early but fought back and came within a few feet of tying the game when Adam Lind hit into a double play with the bases loaded in the 7th. Though the loss was tough, the fans still had a good time, most notably this woman – Gregg Zaun’s number 1 fan.

Zaun

See you next year!

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