It was a spoken offseason priority. Whenever GM Ross Atkins and the Blue Jays voiced their winter needs, the word “run prevention” was always at the top of the list.
That meant adding a starting pitcher and beefing up the bullpen, which was predictable, but it also portended something else: a renewed effort on defense. The acquisitions of Hurlers Eric Swanson and Chris Basitt have filled rotation and pen needs, but new Jay outfielders Kevin Kiermaier and Dalton Versho represent a shift in mindset.
Former Ray Keameyer has saved more defenses than any other outfielder in his 10-year career, and Varsho is ranked one of the best defenders in baseball in 2022. The +18 defensive run embodies an improvement in his saves (DRS) and a defensive investment that the Blue Jays hope will return him quickly in 2023.
The clearest justification for Toronto’s fielding upgrade is that it was the biggest area of potential growth, at least after the bullpen. Although ranked ninth, they were behind in defensive numbers. Some defensive metrics rated the Jays higher than others, but Toronto ranked him 29th in Ultimate Zone Ratings and 21st in defensive efficiency in 2022.
Adding swing-and-miss pitching and a pen upgrade were also on the Blue Jays’ offseason need list. But an improved defense can help mitigate those holes, and the Jays made his 69.1% when the ball was thrown in against Toronto last year. Missing more, and thus reducing the number of balls in play, is certainly one of his ways of dealing with the problem. But better defense also helps, and addressing the problem at the root should help a soft-contact inducer like Basit.
Add/remove Blue Jays hitters this offseason:
A good defense is winning baseball in 2023. Each of the top five MLB defensive run saved teams last year won a division, advanced to the postseason, and averaged over 100 wins. Meanwhile, the average winning percentage for the five worst teams by DRS was 68.8. The same trend pretty much applies to his OAA.
Fielding too incessant The two teams with the best DRS over the last five years were the Astros and the Dodgers. The pinnacle of baseball’s success on the field and in the front office. The Jays are ranked 18th during that time.
The 2022 Jays were a case study in offensive versatility. Sometimes they were confused.Why didn’t they play at the highest level of baseball?Why are they “less than the sum of their parts”?Don’t they all fire at the same time ?
Defense, as they say, does not fall. Toronto’s defense should make him a consistent strength in 2023, even if a few bats go cold or the day’s starter allows some hard-hitting his balls. Defending the Jays paved the way for more success.