John Gibbons: Blue Jays’ lineup needs better balance, more speed

Blue Jays manager John Gibbons had a night to sleep on it, discusses with Blair and Brunt what the team was lacking this season and in the playoffs.

“We’re an all-or-nothing type offence. That’s the reality whether we like that or not.”

That’s how Toronto Blue Jays manager John Gibbons described his team one day after their bats went silent and they were eliminated by the Cleveland Indians in Game 5 of the ALCS.

“I think we were in good positions throughout that whole series. It really came down to they shut down our offence,” Gibbons told Jeff Blair and Stephen Brunt on Sportsnet 590 The Fan Thursday. “Our pitching staff and our bullpen did very well. They did their job, we just couldn’t come up with that big hit or really mount any offence or sustain anything.”

The Blue Jays were on the verge of being swept but registered nine hits in a 5-1 victory Tuesday in Game 4. After that win, Gibbons said he felt like everything was lined up for the team to go on a run with the Indians starting rookie pitcher Ryan Merritt and likely having to rely heavily on their bullpen.

“It’s a crazy game, baseball. Just when you think you something figured out, man, it comes back to bite you,” Gibbons said. “Maybe that’s the way it’s supposed to be. I don’t know.”

With all the talent on the Blue Jays roster, the team’s offence was inconsistent throughout the entire regular season and in the playoffs. Gibbons called the offensive struggles a “mystery” but believes having more left-handed bats could have been a solution.

“Better balance would’ve made a difference,” Gibbons explained. “I think it was too easy at times for opposing pitchers, if they’re right-handed let’s say, or they found their groove and never really had to adjust anything. Even a good, solid left hander that could find that groove with his off-speed stuff and things like that he never really had to change a whole lot either…I think something like that might have made a big difference and help get some things going.”

Ezequiel Carrera and Michael Saunders, two of Toronto’s only left-handed hitters, happened to be two of the team’s best hitters in the post-season.

Heading into the off-season, Gibbons said it might be beneficial adding a couple left handed batters.

“A little bit more team speed would go a long way,” Gibbons also mentioned. “We weren’t a fast team but kind of goes hand in hand with a lot of slugging type teams.”

If pending free agent power hitters Jose Bautista and Edwin Encarnacion end up leaving town it could force management’s hand in moving away from being known as a power-hitting team.

Gibbons doesn’t know what will happen with either player but spoke glowingly of them.

“They brought a lot of excitement and happiness to this city and country, I know that,” he said. “To me personally, I’ll miss them. You know, I’m hanging around these last two years in large part because of those guys, so I won’t forget that. But besides everything they do on the field, they’re good guys. They’ve got a special place in my heart.”

– Gibbons doesn’t expect to see any changes in the off-season on the Blue Jays’ coaching staff. “It’s a really good coaching staff. They’re all hardworking guys and they’re knowledgeable…I’m happy with all those guys.”

– It wasn’t really a secret that Josh Donaldson and Russell Martin were playing at less than 100 per cent health and Gibbons confirmed that. “They were both struggling physically. There’s no doubt…Both guys, they’re the type of individuals they’re going to hide things. You figure the trainer always knows what’s going on but sometimes they bite their lip and bite the bullet and don’t say a whole lot so word doesn’t get out.”

– Gibbons said he feels good about his team’s young crop of talented pitchers going forward. “We’ve got as much good young talent in some of the arms we have as any team in baseball. That bodes well for the organization for a number of years. It should anyway.”

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