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Blue Jays series preview: To the great north!

The Blue Jays are a pretty complete team.

MLB: Boston Red Sox at Toronto Blue Jays Nick Turchiaro-USA TODAY Sports

The Royals will head up north to Toronto for the first time since their infamous trip in 2022 when ten players had to be left behind due to COVID vaccination restrictions. Those restrictions have been lifted, and ironically, Whit Merrifield was one of those players, now plays for the Blue Jays. He received flak for his comments suggesting he would be vaccinated for a contender, but not the Royals, and was traded a few weeks later.

The Blue Jays are 11.5 games back of the first place Orioles in a stacked division, but they are currently in the final Wild Card spot, a half game ahead of the Rangers, a team they will host after the Royals leave town. They have actually been a better road team than home team, and they took three out of four in Kansas City back in April. The Royals are the fourth consecutive losing team they are facing, having already taken series from the Nationals and Athletics, and splitting a two-game set against the Rockies.

Kansas City Royals (44-97) vs. Toronto Blue Jays (77-63) at Rogers Centre, Toronto, ON

Royals: 4.07 runs scored/game (27th in MLB), 5.34 runs allowed/game (28th)

Blue Jays: 4.61 runs scored/game (15th in MLB), 4.09 runs allowed/game (4th)

The Blue Jays are missing three starters due to injury - third baseman Matt Chapman, shortstop Bo Bichette, and catcher Danny Jansen. Davis Schneider (no relation to manager John Schneider) was a 28th round pick who has taken the league by storm, setting a record for the highest OPS ever by a player in his first 15 games. Vladimir Guerrero Jr.’s numbers have regressed badly this year, although his underlying metrics suggest he has been very unlucky. Merrifield is mired in a slump - in the past 30 days only five qualified hitters have a lower wRC+ than his 47.

The Blue Jays hit a lot fewer home runs in Rogers Centre than they do on the road. Their hitters have the sixth-lowest strikeout rate in baseball. Defensively their outfield has been phenomenal. Adding Daulton Varsho and Kevin Kiemaier to their outfield gives them two solid ballhawks, and the team leads baseball in Defensive Runs Saved overall, even as Guerrero and Merrifield have been below average.

Blue Jays lineup and bench

Starting Lineup PA HR SB BA OBA SLG fWAR
Starting Lineup PA HR SB BA OBA SLG fWAR
RF George Springer (R) 587 17 19 .260 .333 .403 1.7
DH Brandon Belt (L) 380 16 0 .252 .371 .473 2.0
1B Vladimir Guerrero Jr. (R) 598 21 5 .266 .343 .436 0.6
3B Davis Schneider (R) 82 7 1 .385 .512 .846 2.0
2B Whit Merrifield (R) 541 11 25 .283 .325 .399 2.2
C Alejandro Kirk (R) 351 6 0 .256 .339 .359 1.6
LF Daulton Varsho (L) 517 16 15 .221 .287 .373 1.7
SS Ernie Clement (R) 41 1 1 .410 .415 .564 0.6
CF Kevin Kiermaier (L) 342 7 12 .274 .334 .426 2.1
C Tyler Heineman (S) 34 0 1 .222 .382 .259 0.1
IF Santiago Espinal (R) 226 2 2 .241 .308 .325 -0.2
IF Mason McCoy (R) 1 0 0 .000 .000 .000 -0.1
IF Cavan Biggio (L) 254 8 5 .223 .323 .368 0.3
OF Spencer Horwitz (L) 24 1 0 .300 .417 .500 0.3

The Blue Jays have the second-best ERA in baseball at 3.72, but the eighth-best FIP at 4.06.

Yusei Kikuchi has one of the best sliders in the game and lefties are hitting just .208/.258/.367 against him. He still throws in the high 90s but has one of the higher line drive allowed rates. In six career starts against the Royals he has allowed 20 runs in 24 23 innings, although he gave just one run in five innings back in April in Kansas City.

Kevin Gausman has one of the most effective fastballs in baseball, averaging 94.8 mph on the heater, and he is second in baseball in strikeout rate among starters. He has a groundball rate of 42 percent and one of the lowest home run rates among qualified pitchers, relying heavily on a splitter and slider.

José Berríos has bounced back from a disappointing 2022 season to return to the form he showed with the Twins. He had a rough start to the season, giving up eight runs to the Royals in his first start back in April, but overall he has gone at least five innings in all but three starts this year. Berríos relies mostly on a sinker and slurve, mixing in a four-seamer and change up as well.

Collin Snider is the announced starter for the Royals on Friday, likely in an opener role with Auston Cox a candidate to be the “bulk guy”.

Expected pitching matchups

Friday, September 8 - 6:10 CT ERA FIP IP K/9 BB/9 fWAR
Friday, September 8 - 6:10 CT ERA FIP IP K/9 BB/9 fWAR
RHP Collin Snider 4.22 4.95 10.2 4.2 4.2 0.0
LHP Yusei Kikuchi 3.63 4.19 143.2 9.5 2.6 2.2
Saturday, September 9 - 2:07 CT ERA FIP IP K/9 BB/9 fWAR
RHP Zack Greinke 5.34 5.03 123.0 5.9 1.3 0.5
RHP Kevin Gausman 3.39 2.83 159.1 11.7 2.4 4.9
Sunday, September 10 - 12:37 CT ERA FIP IP K/9 BB/9 fWAR
LHP Cole Ragans 3.00 2.87 72.0 10.9 3.1 2.0
RHP José Berríos 3.68 4.24 164.0 8.4 2.6 2.2

The Blue Jays have the fifth-best bullpen ERA at 3.59 with the fifth-highest strikeout rate and the second-lowest walk rate. The bullpen was bolstered by the mid-season acquisitions of Jordan Hicks and Génesis Cabrera from the Cardinals - Cabrera has given up just one earned run in 18 13 innings since joining the Blue Jays. Closer Jordan Romano is 32-of-35 in save opportunities this year and has not blown a save since May 20. Trevor Richards has the ninth-highest strikeout rate among relivers, and Yimi Garcia has the eleventh-lowest walk rate. Blue Jays relievers have the lowest inherited runners scored rate in baseball.

Blue Jays bullpen

Bullpen ERA FIP IP K/9 BB/9 fWAR
Bullpen ERA FIP IP K/9 BB/9 fWAR
RHP Jordan Romano 2.54 3.38 49.2 11.1 3.4 1.1
RHP Jordan Hicks 3.62 3.35 54.2 11.5 4.5 0.8
LHP Génesis Cabrera 3.40 4.25 50.1 9.3 3.6 0.3
RHP Trevor Richards 3.96 3.87 63.2 13.3 3.7 0.6
LHP Tim Mayza 1.33 2.50 47.1 8.4 2.5 1.3
RHP Yimi Garcia 4.11 3.43 57.0 10.9 2.1 0.9
RHP Jay Jackson 2.36 4.23 26.2 8.4 2.7 0.1
RHP Chad Green 13.50 1.76 2.2 6.8 0.0 0.1
RHP Bowden Francis 1.69 3.76 32.0 9.0 1.4 0.2

The Blue Jays are a pretty good team that is missing some hitters but still playing well. The young kids brought some much-needed energy to the club when the team visited Toronto last year, they could use some of that energy as we head into the final weeks of the season.


How will the Royals fare this series against the Blue Jays?

This poll is closed

  • 6%
    Royals sweep 3-0
    (5 votes)
  • 9%
    Royals take 2 of 3
    (7 votes)
  • 47%
    Blue Jays take 2 of 3
    (36 votes)
  • 36%
    Blue Jays sweep
    (28 votes)
76 votes total Vote Now