Ahead of the 2023 season, the Toronto Blue Jays put pitching and defence at the forefront of their game plan. While they may have fallen short of reaching the ultimate goal of making a deep playoff run, their offseason efforts paid off when the Major League Baseball (MLB) announced that the team won the American League Team Gold Glove Award on Friday.
Our first Team Gold Glove Award in franchise history! 👏👏👏 pic.twitter.com/LMAAxAU43b
— Toronto Blue Jays (@BlueJays) November 11, 2023
It was a vindication for a team that prioritized defensive runs saved throughout the season. The team traded for Arizona Diamondbacks’ outfielder Daulton Varsho and signed centre fielder Kevin Kiermaier to boost the outfield defence. The Jays’ infield remained strong with third baseman Matt Chapman leading the way along with shortstop Bo Bichette and utility man Cavan Biggio’s stellar defensive performances. Even the team’s pitchers contributed to defence with starting pitcher José Berríos winning his first Gold Glove award in Toronto.
Defence was never a concern for the 2023 Blue Jays. According to Sportsnet, the Jays ranked first in defensive runs saved (DRS) with 85 runs, which is 17 runs higher than the National League Team Gold Glove winner Milwaukee Brewers. It’s also worth noting that the Jay recorded 50 more DRS than the Texas Rangers, who ranked seventh in the category. With Matt Chapman, José Berríos and Kevin Kiermaier winning the Gold Glove Award for the American League, there was no doubt that the league would recognize the Jays’ efforts in defensive improvements.
The tricky part is whether the focus on the defence paid off for the Jays. Practically speaking, the team didn’t accomplish its ultimate goal of winning the World Series, even with excellent pitching and superb defence. It’s easy to conclude that defence and pitching don’t matter in winning the championships based on the team’s lacklustre playoff performance. However, many baseball insiders argue that there still isn’t enough sample size to truly evaluate whether defence and pitching make more difference in making a deep playoff run. One thing is for sure, defence and pitching matter more when the offence can outscore their opponents in the playoffs.
The Jays have come short of outscoring their opponents from time to time during the 2023 regular season and that unfortunately translated to their underwhelming playoff performance despite remarkable pitching and defensive efforts. The team definitely had the potential to make a deeper playoff run, given their proven pitching and defence. The question of “what if this team made it all the way?” will never stop following these 2023 Jays because the talent and ability were there.
The MLB playoffs are full of randomness – essentially, it’s a crapshoot for everyone. Once a team gets in, they all have equal chances because anything can happen. The truth of the matter is that even if a team’s record during the regular season doesn’t factor in as much during the playoffs. It still matters in the sense that the team needs to play well to make it to the playoff stage consistently, but a team just needs to get hot at the right time whether it be offence or defence.
It’s true that the Jays chronically underperformed in 2023, but it’s also fair to say that the Jays got somewhat unlucky as they attempted to advance further in the playoffs. There’s no denying that the team failed to impress the league or fans, even if their talent was evident on paper.
But, there is a way to see this in a positive light. By winning the AL Team Gold Glove Award, the Jays showed how the team’s defence could carry a team far, at least during their gruelling 162-game stretch on top of outstanding pitching. Even though the team became the quintessential “paper tiger” when they got swept out of the playoffs, the team’s potential to become an even stronger team is still there.
Whether the 2024 Jays will scratch off the “paper tiger” title is still up in the air with the offseason just starting. Nonetheless, the Team Gold Glove Award still showcases the Jays’ ability to live up to their potential. They’ve managed to achieve impressive pitching and defensive results. The biggest question they have to answer now is whether they can regain their offensive explosion.
The 2023 Jays were full of hopes and promises and The Team Gold Glove Award proves they are more than capable of reaching their goals. The 2024 Blue Jays’ job will be to build a more formidable team on top of the previous team’s potential.
ARTICLE PRESENTED BY BETANO