Errors don't define Blue Jays' defense

Errors don't define Blue Jays' defense

TORONTO -- Players have a tendency to go through slumps at the plate and not in the field, but the opposite appears to be currently happening to the Blue Jays.

Toronto entered play on Tuesday night ranked second-worst among teams in the American League in errors (33) and fielding percentage (.977). Those problems were taken to another level in the series finale against Tampa Bay when the club committed an additional four errors that led to another loss.

In total, the Blue Jays have made six errors during their past two games which have contributed to seven unearned runs.

"We're in a stretch where we've not taken care of the baseball as cleanly as we have previously," Blue Jays manager John Farrell said prior to his club's 4-3 loss to Tampa. "But I will go back to our pitchers, [who] continue to pitch to contact, in most of those cases, double plays have been turned right behind a misplayed ball.

"We're still going to take the same preparation, the same over-shift that we've done in certain situations, same position. Errors are part of the game, and it's what we do immediately following that matters most."

Toronto has been one of the most aggressive teams in the Major Leagues this season with utilizing defensive shifts. The club has moved its infield defense against both right-handed and left-handed hitters depending on where the opposing hitters frequently drive the ball.

The exact placement of the infielders is decided by Farrell and third-base coach Brian Butterfield. Farrell estimates they have used the shift approximately 45 times more often this season compared to last year at this time, with one of the main reasons being third baseman Brett Lawrie.

"We're able to take advantage of Brett's athleticism quite a bit more," Farrell said. "That's what has allowed us that freedom to be more aggressive with those types of shifts.

"One, we know Brett more and what his abilities are. Through our understanding of him and the fact that we have more ground-ball type pitchers, those factors have allowed us to be more aggressive with the over-shift."

The strategy does come with some downfalls, as evidenced on Tuesday night against the Rays. The Blue Jays used a shift against left-handed hitting Matt Joyce, who responded by laying a bunt down the third-base line for an infield single.