Posted by: pistolpete | August 2, 2010

Thank You

Thank you to all our readers for an enjoyable few months but, unfortunately, Jays Balk is over. We have decided to take our talents to a new blog, which, if you enjoyed what you read here whatsoever, is a blog you should keep your eye on. You can find it at http://www.goingupstairs.blog.com and can expect the same in depth coverage and sense of humour, just on a wider aray of sports topics with a couple of extra writers. There will of course still be lots of posts about the Jays, but just mixed in with a melee of other topics. So if you like the Jays, but also enjoy reading about the sports world at large, please stop by. Again, thanks so much for reading and we hope you’ll find the time to join us on the next level at Going Upstairs.

Posted by: pistolpete | July 27, 2010

Are Aaron Hill and Adam Lind just bad hitters?

Who is in a bigger slump: Jays Balk or Aaron Hill/Adam Lind?

While we haven’t pumped out a post in nearly a month a half, that’s roughly the same amount of time since either of our “2-3″ hitters have pumped out a hit. OK, that’s not true.

What is true is that Aaron Hill and Adam Lind have completely and utterly and absolutely failed to re-create their breakout seasons in 2009. Not only have they failed to do that, they’ve failed to be even average hitters. Adam Lind’s WAR is -0.6. Yes, NEGATIVE 0.6. He is actually less valuable than an average AAA replacement player. So much for being one of the most dangerous hitters in the AL.

Aaron Hill hasn’t been much better either. Reaching the Mendoza Line has actually been one of the highlights of his season. Somehow his WAR is a lofty 0.5.

The question is: what’s wrong with them? Last season they were one of the better 2-3 hitters in the league. Have they actually lost it? Are they even good hitters? Was last season just an aberration?

The good news for Jays fans is that the signs point to: No, Yes and No. If you look at their BAbip, which is on average at about .300 for the league, you’ll notice that they’re not getting much luck.

Aaron Hill’s BAbip: A jaw dropping .195. That basically means he’s hitting a rediculous amount of balls right at fielders.
Adam Lind’s BAbip: .263. Nowhere near Hill, but still below average.

There are other signs that they should be breaking out of their season long slumps sooner rather than later. After having his batting average slowly decline as the season wore on, Lind has hit .293 in July. Hill’s batting average by month? April: .162 May: .184 June: .198 July: .257. Hey, at least it’s always going up.

Another encouraging sign for Hill is that his K/BB ratio is way down. Last year it was 2.33 and this year it’s 1.59. That’s usually a good thing.

To be honest, before looking at those stats, I was worried it wasn’t a slump at all, it was just reality. But, most of the indicators indicate that it is indeed a slump and that it shouldn’t last for long. As for the Jays Balk slump, it has also come to an end. However, it looks as though breaking out of the slump may have raised our trade value. A well informed executive at Jays Balk spoke on the condition of anonymity and informed me that the writers may be on their way to another blog in the near future. Stay tuned…

Posted by: pistolpete | June 13, 2010

Why this season is (and will be) like the last

I heard a clip on the radio last night that infuriated me, but also got me thinking. The clip was from Buck Martinez (no surprise there) saying something along the lines of “This year’s team is the best team the city of Toronto has seen in years”. I could not agree less. Don’t get me wrong, I think there’s a solid amount of talent and potential on this team, but it is by no means the best team Toronto has seen in years. In fact, it is strikingly similar to the team the Jays fielded last year, when they finished 75-87.

The similarities between the 2009 Blue Jays and the 2010 Blue Jays about a third of the way through the season are absurd. As a team, overachieving. The hitters with big expectations, underachieving. Journeymen just fighting to get another contract, REALLY overachieving. Don’t forget about the young lefty who’s poised for a break out season.

In 2009, the team started 27-14. Then they started playing good teams and lost 10 games in a row. In 2010, just about 2 weeks ago, the Jays were 31-22. Then they started playing good teams and have lost 7 of their last 10.

In 2009, Alex Rios and Vernon Wells were our big 3-4 hitters. At this time last year, Rios was hitting .261 with 7 HR. Wells was hitting .238 with 5 HR. Flash forward to 2010. The hitters with the biggest expectations coming into the year were the 2-3 hitters, Aaron Hill and Adam Lind. Their numbers? .184/.286/.353 (!!!) with 9 HR and .209/.277/.359 (!?!?!) with 8 HR respectively. Almost makes the 2009 Rios and Wells look like saints.

What else is reminding you of 2009? Well, the overachieving shortstop is one. In 2009 Marco Scutaro had a career year hitting leadoff for the Jays and now Alex Gonzalez is slugging .509 with 13 dingers. If his season ended now you could make the argument he had the best year of his career. You can throw Jose Bautista into this category as well. Like Scutaro, Bautista was a no-name utility player coming into the year but has made a name for himself launching bombs left, right and centre. He leads the MLB in home runs. Jose Bautista leads the MLB in home runs just over a third of the way through the season. No matter what way I write it, I still don’t understand it.

Then there’s the young lefty dropping now-you-see-me-now-you-don’t changeups. In 2009, it was Ricky Romero trying to prove he is no bust. In 2010, it’s Brett Cecil. I may be biased I’m biased, but I think Brett Cecil may be one of the most underrated pitchers in the MLB this year. He’s 23 years old and he has a 3.22 ERA, only allowed 48 hits in 64.1 IP, has a 0.99 WHIP (!) and has toyed with a perfect game. Obviously he’s no Ubaldo Jimenez, but give the guy some credit.

The point is, as shocking and exciting and impressive the Blue Jays have been this season, you only have to go back to last year to realize that overachieving doesn’t last. Alex Gonzalez will not hit 30-odd homers like he’s on pace for. Jose Bautista will not hit 50-odd homers like he’s on pace for. Brett Cecil will likely not keep up his All-Star worthy pace. As a result, the Jays will likely not keep up their .540 winning %. Last year, after the 27-14 start, they went 48-73 (.396 winning %). Expect something similar this year folks, these aren’t the ’69 Mets.

But since I’m a true Jays fan I’ll leave this comparison on a happy note. When Rios and Wells scuffled last year Adam Lind and Aaron Hill stepped up and managed kept the boat afloat. Who will be the one to break out this year while Hill and Lind find their swings? Will it be Fred Lewis? Travis Snider if he ever comes back? Brett Wallace? Only time will tell, but I will tell you – it’s going to be someone.

Posted by: ashermerlin86 | June 8, 2010

Bullpen Spoils Potential Beast of a Week

Back in the winter, I said the reason I don’t like to make predictions is because there is no telling what will happen over the course of a season. The way this season has progressed, you can see why.

There were a fair few people saying that Jose Bautista was the next Marco Scutaro waiting to happen. This was when he was at the top of the lineup, of course, and people anticipated that he’d have similar numbers. I don’t think anybody would have guessed that he’d lead the major leagues in home runs at the start of June.

People were worried about the starting rotation, with its general inexperience, and the sheer lack of Roy Halladay. I don’t think anyone guessed the Jays would be leading the majors in strikeouts at this point in the season either. Shaun Marcum, Ricky Romero and Brett Cecil are a combined 16-6 with an ERA very close to 3.

People also thought that one of the Jays’ biggest strengths this season would be the depth and experience of its bullpen. Past experience suggested nothing less. Unfortunately, consistently effective relief pitching is very difficult to come by.

After all, one must remember that relievers are more often than not pitchers with flaws. They come up through the minors as starters, but due to ineffectiveness, are converted into relievers. This is why starters tend to have more consistent careers than relievers do.

Scott Downs is a former starter, and as one might remember in Downs’ early days with the Jays, he was not a very good one. It was not until Scott Schoenweis was traded that Brad Arnsberg made Downs one of the more effective Jays’ lefty specialists since Dan Plesac.

Unfortunately, the Jays’ ‘pen has suffered from a combination of injuries and lack of confidence. Injuries have lessened the effectiveness of Casey Janssen and Jeremy Accardo, two guys who I thought would be very valuable in the Jays’ bullpen this season. Downs, while his numbers are not terrible, has performed below expectations ever since that freak injury last season. Jason Frasor failed early as the closer and has been mediocre ever since. Since I’m almost positive he’s not hiding an injury, I would attribute this to a total lack of confidence. This does not come as much of a shock to me, though. Frasor had one good season in ’09, which followed several years of mediocrity. Career numbers tend not to lie. Plus, Frasor did his best last season once the team was already out of contention.

Then there’s Kevin Gregg. A fantastic start to the season earned him the closer’s spot, but once again, career numbers don’t lie. His 4.72 ERA last season with the Cubs about sums him up. He has great stuff, but does not seem to have what it takes to close over the course of an entire season. Who wants a closer with a career ERA of 4.11? Whether or not there’s room to improve, after I watched him walk FIVE batters in last Tuesday’s game against Tampa, I don’t think I would trust him in that situation again.

Of course, the problem is there is really nobody else that deserves to close. The reliever with the best numbers right now is Shawn Camp, another guy that I honestly had zero confidence in going into this season. He’s a quirky side-arm guy, but a 2.32 ERA is nothing to sneeze at. Even still, would I hand him the closer’s job? Definitely not. His career ERA is 4.54, and I would not recommend rewarding a guy having a flash-in-the-pan year with a closer’s job.

Since the Jays don’t have a hand-sculpted closer on their roster, they’re going to have to hope that their manager is capable of handling bullpen decisions in ways that will best help the team succeed. Uh oh…

Now I know I’m about a week too late to discuss this, and I know that a popular Toronto radio personality almost lost his job over this subject (more on that later), but it’s hard to deny that Cito was at least partially responsible for the Jays blowing not one, not two, but THREE late-inning games that SHOULD HAVE been victories. The Jays played six home games against two teams that they need to succeed against if they’re going to get anywhere. Remember last week when I said that going into the Tampa series, the Jays were a combined 2-7 against AL East teams not called the Orioles.

They beat Tampa in the first game, then Cito’s decision to burn all the valuable arms in his bullpen going into the ninth cost him dearly, as Kevin Gregg, as mentioned earlier, had a complete meltdown. The next night, his decision to let Shaun Marcum pitch into the ninth, having already thrown 96 pitches, cost the team another win.

It’s funny how many conventions there are in baseball. In Tuesday’s game, Joe Maddon’s outburst that led to his ejection may have seemed ridiculously immature on the surface, but boy did it ever rally his troops. Another common occurrence, I find, is that once you crack one pitcher, the ensuing relievers tend to fall like dominoes. This would explain why once Marcum was removed far too late, Scott Downs went on to allow a huge grand slam.

Sunday’s game was yet another inexcusable meltdown, and an unfortunate one, considering how much of a gem Brandon Morrow was tossing. Four hits and no runs through seven. But he opened the eighth by hitting a batter, then Scott Downs hit a batter and allowed a hit. Jason Frasor, by no surprise on my part, intentionally walked Mark Teixeira so that he could bring the tying run across with a wild pitch, then allow a two-run single to Robbie Cano. Yet another convention in baseball: freebies always come back to bite the pitchers in the butt. Hit-batsmen, in addition, tend to rally the other team – would you want to get hit by a 90+ MPH fastball?

Remember the off-season when there was talk that Frasor and Downs were going to be packaged together and traded away to the NL for mad value? Too bad this didn’t happen. These “set-up men” have performed well short of expectations, and this ineffectiveness, combined with Kevin Gregg’s meltdown, cost the Jays a perfect 9-0 home-stand against the AL East. Hypothetically, they could be 36-22 right now. But thanks to poor managerial decision-making and terrible relief pitching, the Jays sit fourth in the east instead.

Now, there are positives to take from this.

1. The mere fact that the Jays were leading in all of those games. These may be better teams on paper, but it looks like the Jays can battle with the big boys right now. Let’s hope they learn to close out their games.

2. Thanks to his bomb on Sunday, Vernon Wells has tied his 2009 home run total. Good for him, as this is exactly what he needed to do to avoid being our whipping boy this season.

3. The Jays still lead the majors with 97 home runs – 18 ahead of second-place Boston. A week later, and they’re roughly in the same spot, after facing Tampa and New York. Not bad at all.

The offense is tearing it up, and the starting pitching has been stellar. If the relievers can join the bandwagon, the Jays could very well keep this up. Of course, to expect five inning shutouts from Brian Tallet on a consistent basis is preposterous. At some point, the bullpen is going to have to wake up, or there are going to be a fair few televisions with steel-toed boots through them come the end of the season.

Before I go, I want to touch on a couple of things.

First, I want to discuss this whole Cito/Mike Wilner debacle. If you want my friendly perspective on the matter, check out comment #136 on his June 2nd blog.

For those who don’t know, Wilner was suspended from his Fan 590 post-game show this past weekend for pissing Cito off in a press conference before last Wednesday’s game. He questioned Cito’s bullpen decisions in Tuesday’s loss, and Cito childishly told him to check the stats as to why he made the decisions he made – when Wilner checked the facts, it turned out these stats were irrelevant.

Basically, as the tone of this blog suggests, I do not disagree with the points Wilner made. Like I said before the season, you very rarely run out of things to complain about when it comes to Cito’s in-game managerial style. Don’t get me wrong, I have a lot of respect for Cito, and I can’t help but think that the Jays’ success this season must have a great deal to do with Cito and his staff. But the man does not believe in pinch-hitting, and he has a great deal of difficulty handling his pitchers.

Having said that, I don’t think I would ever go so far as to go right up to him and tell him how to manage a baseball game. At the end of this season, he’s done, and hopefully he’ll be replaced by someone who makes better in-game decisions. At the same time, they’d be lucky if they found someone with half as much class.

While Cito did not handle the Wilner situation with class, everyone is entitled to a slip-up. And can you really blame him? It’s not like athletes and coaches don’t listen to the radio. I’m sure Cito knows that Wilner comes off as an arrogant know-it-all who constantly rips the callers on his show and has been calling for Cito’s firing for ages now. If you’re Cito, you’re backed into a wall, fully aware that your decisions likely cost the team a win, and a guy that you know has done nothing but publicly insult you for a year is trying to tell you how to do your job, how would you react? Wilner’s lucky Cito didn’t straight-up tell him to go fuck himself.

Wilner then responded by blogging about it, and saying (hopefully jokingly) that Cito would probably never talk to him again. It’s funny because this is very similar to how I tend to react to situations like this – business situations that can get personal. Cito is typically the definition of smooth and easy-going. Clearly he was frustrated, and Wilner was rubbing his face in the dirt. Will he never talk to him again? I think that’s a pretty ludicrous assumption. If Wilner had any class, he’d shake Cito’s hand, say no hard feelings, and move on.

In the mean time, let’s hope he takes this situation to heart. Complaining that Cito “belittled him” in front of the media scrum when a) he was, in essence, belittling Cito by telling him how to manage in front of the scrum and b) this is how he typically treats his callers – is rather ironic. Now that the shoe is on the other foot, one can only hope that Wilner learns a thing or two about being an arrogant prick on the air. I’m sure he’ll be a better journalist as a result of this incident.

If he doesn’t, then he should lose his job.

FINALLY: The entry draft began yesterday and the Jays selected 21-year-old Deck McGuire, a right-handed innings eater who is being compared to John Lackey, with the 11th overall pick. While he’s not the guy with the lofty ceiling that AA was looking for, he’s older, and therefore could potentially shoot up through the system faster than a younger guy. They also had the 34th, 38th, and 41st picks thanks to the departures of Marco Scutaro and Rod Barajas, and the failure to sign James Paxton last season. With these picks, they selected three more right-handed hurlers: 17-year-old Aaron Sanchez, 17-year-old Noah Syndergaard, and – wait for it – 21-year-old ASHER Wojciechowski.

As the only professional athlete I’ve ever heard of that shares my name, I obviously expect nothing less than a Cy Young Award and a hall of fame career.

This week the Jays will try to get some revenge as they kick off a 9-game road trip tonight at Tropicana Field against the Rays. Brian Tallet will try to repeat his magic from last week against Jeff Niemann, who is 5-0 with a 2.79 ERA. Hate to say it folks, but combine that with the Jays’ dismal lifetime numbers in Tampa, and I don’t like this match-up at all.

But we’ll see.

@amgr86

Posted by: ashermerlin86 | May 31, 2010

Holy Wow It’s Been Awhile…

Woah… I just wrote a word. On this page. Remarkable.

All jokes aside, a lot of you are probably wondering why, in one of the most shocking bouts of team (and individual) success in recent memory, the writers of this blog have gone MIA since the start of May.

For this, we sincerely apologize. It’s not as though we have not wanted to write. Pistol Pete has been taking an intense French course in Quebec City where he gets in trouble whenever he speaks English. Thus, if he were caught writing about the Jays, he would likely be kidnapped by bandits in Expos jerseys and catapulted (literally) back across the border into Ontario. Since nobody likes to be catapulted, I’m sure you all can understand where he’s coming from.

As for me, with classes out of the way for a good long while, I have entered the sad life of a supermarket lifer. I have worked overnight shifts, I worked a double-split shift on Saturday (7-1, then  5-11), and I’m being trained to supervise. In the winter, I worked during such events as the Gold Medal final for Men’s Hockey and the Oscars. Thus it’s no shock that I’ve barely watched any playoff action, and always seem to work or be out of the house when the Jays play.

It’s not as though I haven’t paid attention. Don’t think my heart didn’t leap when I was excitedly informed at work on Saturday that the Prophet, Doc Halladay, pitched the 20th perfect game in MLB history. I’m aware that the Blue Jays are a game out of the wild card race.

And yes, I am aware of the fact that Jose Bautista is leading the majors in home runs. I don’t understand it, but I’m aware of it.

The reason that I, personally, have been reluctant to talk about the Jays is because I have not had the opportunity to physically WATCH them play. I don’t really feel like I’m qualified to be any sort of voice of reason when I haven’t been able to watch them. The tone of this blog is one of honesty. In a situation where a player, like J-Bau for example, has great numbers, if I had watched all these games, I might be more qualified to say something like “Sure he’s smacking a remarkable number of dingers, but how many of them are solo shots? How does he hit with runners in scoring position?” The truth is, at the moment I’m writing this, I don’t have a clue. I know that the man’s got more RBIs right now than he had all of last season. I also know that he’s about twenty-something RBIs away from driving in more than Vernon Wells did all of last season (oh you thought I was off of that game, didn’t you?).

So what can I say?

Here’s what I think: They’re pretty lucky. They are lucky that the rest of the league outside of the AL East has reached a rather remarkable state of parity. Of all the opponents they’ve had outside the division this year, all of them seem to have multiple holes. The A’s and Indians are teams stacked with players I’ve never heard of. Chone Figgins is hitting terribly in Seattle. The White Sox can be powerful on one day, and meek as mice another.

Yes, the Jays are 30-22. Last year they started off 27-14, but by this point, they had reached their peak and were already tumbling into oblivion. Compared to the rest of the league, they’re kind of balling right now. Only the Yankees, Rays, Twins, Reds (huh?) and Padres (HUH??) have better records than the Jays. Of those teams, only the Rays have more wins.

It’s ironic that about a month ago, when Buck Martinez said the Jays’ biggest asset was their power, I laughed. Turns out I was wrong, he was ridiculously right. For once, they Jays’ lineup poses a huge power threat from top to bottom. Offensively, that’s about all they have going for them.

They are 2nd in the league in runs, but 21st in hits, 25th in team batting average (.244) and 28th in OBP (.310). This would most likely be because they have less singles than just about every other team. They have 10 more doubles than the team in the majors with the second-most. Their 88 home runs are 19 ahead of the second-place Red Sox. The one stat that shocks me is they’re in fact SECOND in strikeouts… and they have K’d a remarkable 47 times less than the first-place Diamondbacks. So, how did the D-Backs take 2 of 3? Again, I wouldn’t know. I wasn’t watching.

How’s the pitching doing? Well their team ERA of 4.17 is good for 16th, but the stats that stand out for me are the fact that they lead the league in strikeouts and they’ve allowed the 6th-least home runs with 37. Here’s a stat that bears no real significance, but looks pretty good: in terms of team plus/minus in home runs for and allowed, the Blue Jays are a ridiculous +51! Would anyone have called that before the season? Not me.

Now call me a shit disturber, or a pessimist, but I still can’t help but notice a glaring reason as to why the Jays are doing so well, relative to the rest of the league, or division, more specifically.

Take a look at the AL East:

Team W L PCT GB Home Away East Cent West Last 10 Streak
Tampa Bay 34 17 .667 - 15-12 19-5 14-7 8-5 10-4 4-6 L1
NY Yankees 31 20 .608 3 16-7 15-13 12-7 10-7 8-4 6-4 W2
Toronto 30 22 .577 4.5 14-11 16-11 8-7 11-5 10-8 5-5 W3
Boston 29 23 .558 5.5 16-13 13-10 13-14 8-7 6-1 7-3 W2
Baltimore 15 36 .294 19 9-14 6-22 6-18 4-5 4-11 2-8 L5

Like I said a while ago, this division is what big time war historian nerds would refer to as a battle of attrition. The fourth-best team in the division not only is six games above .500, but it’s the Boston Red Sox. The Yankees, Blue Jays and Red Sox are the top three teams in the AL Wildcard race. The closest team outside of that box is the Tigers, who are four games back.

For the most part, the reason Boston and New York have not torn it up, and the reason that Tampa has lost six of ten is because these teams have to play each other so many times. Notice that at this point, at the end of May, Boston is 13-14 against AL East teams. They have played 27 of their 52 games (more than half) so far against division rivals. The Blue Jays, on the other hand, have only played 15 in-division games, and are 8-7. Not bad, right?

If we dig deeper, we can recall that the Blue Jays are now 6-0 against the pitiful Orioles this season. This means they are 2-7 against the three much, much better teams in the division. This also means that only 9 of their 52 games have been played against those teams. This makes them 28-15 against teams that are not Tampa, Boston, or New York.

So, am I insulting the remarkable efforts of those who are giving Jays fans the rare chance to see a team full of guys playing well? Can I really rip on J-Bau, John Buck, Edwin Encarnacion, or anybody else for over-achieving? Can I blame Aaron Hill for struggling after returning from an injury? Can I blame Adam Lind for his sophomore slump? Can I look past the phenomenal pitching numbers of Ricky Romero or Shaun Marcum?

I don’t know, because I have not physically seen them play a full game since April.

But I can say this. The team is looking good. Like I said before, I never tire from seeing the team play well. Look at the league leaders, and you’ll see Blue Jays players sprinkled throughout them. It feels good. This summer has an optimism to it. Yeah, Dana Eveland didn’t work out, but Jesse Litsch is on his way back in the next week or so. That’s good news. Brett Cecil’s looking very sharp. Brandon Morrow is showing flashes of the pitcher he still very well could be. With patience, I think he can be a very good 3 or 4 in the rotation.

Stay tuned for our next post, which will focus more on individual performance. I promise it will come in the next few days, and not in July.

Tonight, Matt Garza will try to redeem himself for his last start against the Jays, in which he took the loss. He is 5-2 with a 2.97 ERA. Brandon Morrow’s gonna want to change that 6.66 ERA.

I’ll be working 6 to midnight, but my heart will be at the Dome.

Sorry for the hiatus, balkaholics. Talk to you soon.

Posted by: pistolpete | May 4, 2010

Judging Alex Anthopoulos

Right off the bat I’m going to say that this is not going to be fair. But it’s going to be fun. I’m going to judge all of the  trades/signings/pickups (well, to be honest, only the interesting ones a.k.a the ones that involve half decent ballers) Alex Anthopoulos has made since taking over as GM. Let’s take this back to November 25th, 2009…

-With AA still “deciding” what to do with Marco Scutaro, he makes his first move as GM one he knows the fans will like: signs John McDonald to a 2 year, $3 million dollar contract. Can’t argue with that one. I’ll give it a B+. But, there was a collective “Wait, if AA doesn’t re-sign Scutaro like I hope he doesn’t, is Johnny Mac really our everyday shortstop?” However, it was short lived because the very next day…

-Alex Gonzalez signs a one year, $2.75 million dollar contract (with a club option for $2.5 million in 2011). Then there was a collective “WTF, didn’t he just sign Johnny Mac yesterday?” To make the signing even weirder, there was word Gonzo left money on the table from the Red Sox to come here. Looks like someone didn’t get the rebuilding memo. At the time I didn’t really like the signing because, really, what was the point? I’m pretty sure defensive shortstops who can’t hit aren’t a collector’s item. Well, it’s safe to say Gonzo’s play has dropped the jaws of baseball fans/executives/coaches/broadcasters/journalists/Alex Gonzalez/bat boys everywhere. At this stage, the least I can give the singing an A.

-Mid-December: AA makes a slew of bad signings. But since the majority of them were minor league deals, it’s nothing to get worked up about. He signed Joey Gathright (released in Spring Training) Raul Chavez (backup catcher in AAA) Lance Broadway (getting beat up in AAA almost as badly as he allegedly beat up some guy on New Year’s Eve) and John Buck (whose value is a source of some internal disagreement here at Jays Balk, with me being the one who can’t bare to watch his defensive blunders and his swing-for-the-fences approach to every at bat, which either works one game, or doesn’t work at all). The Buck signing was OK, but the others were B- worthy at best.

-December 16th, the Halladay Trade. And so began the A.D. (After Doc) era of the Toronto Blue Jays. Roy Halladay was traded for Kyle Drabek, Travis d’Arnaud and Michael Taylor, who was swapped for Brett Wallace. Here’s how they’ve fared so far:

Players the Jays lost:

Halladay: 5-1, 49 IP, 1.47 ERA, 0.88 WHIP and 39 Ks.

Taylor (at AAA): .247/.314/.462 with 2 HR and 15 RBI.

Players the Jays got:

Kyle Drabek (at AA): 4-1, 28.1 IP, 3.49 ERA, 1.34 WHIP and 27 Ks.

Brett Wallace (at AAA. For laughs, compare these stats to Taylor who he was traded straight up for): .281/.366/.640 with 9 HR and 19 RBI.

Travis d’Arnaud (at A): .328/.362/.547 with 3 HR and 13 RBI.

The trade obviously can’t be judged on those stats, but it’s fun to see how they’re doing. Well, I lied. It’s not fun to see how Halladay’s doing.

I still think this trade was a great haul for the Jays. Let’s put it into perspective. A rookie GM was given the task of dealing the team’s franchise player. The previous GM burned a lot of bridges by failing to deal him at the previous deadline. Doc’s trade value was dropping by the day and AA could feel the spring training deadline set by Doc’s agent looming over his shoulder. And somehow, AA got the Phillies to throw Drabek into the deal when J.P. couldn’t. Figure that one out. Grade: A.

-With the dust from the Doc trade settling, AA still hadn’t holstered his weapon and pulls the trigger on another deal. He sends semi-bust Brandon League and Johermyn Chavez to Seattle for former first round pick Brandon Morrow. League has definitely out preformed Morrow thus far, but Morrow has a way higher ceiling. After missing a large chunk of spring training, he’s settled down in his last three starts and shown some flashes of brilliance. On a side note, his offspeed pitch is about the same speed as Marcum’s fastball. I still like this trade for the Jays, but it’s hard to say it was anything special. Grade: B.

-On February 6th AA made another WTF? signing. This time it’s Kevin Gregg for $2.75 million with club options for 2011 and 2012 that could make it worth up to $11 million. Gregg was coming off a pretty ugly season with the Cubs, where he put up a 4.72 ERA and lost his closer job at one point. Also, the bullpen looked decent and the Jays were supposedly “building” and not making plays for free agent closers. But, low and behold, Gregg has earned the job as the Jays closer and has been their best reliever so far. Not bad for $2.75 million. Even better if you consider we’re paying B.J. Ryan $10 million this year to play golf. Grade: B+.

-The next day, in a move many Jays fans probably didn’t even hear about, AA acquired Dana Eveland for a player to be named later or cash. Not sure if the player has been named or if AA sent a briefcase full of cash to Billy Beane, but either way it’s looking like another steal for AA. Eveland earned the 5th starter spot with an excellent spring, and has pitched like the best 5th starter in baseball. Grade: A-

-AA’s biggest signing was a 21-year-old from Cuba who has never played an inning in the big leagues. After what seemed like months of paperwork and rumours, AA finally announced that he had signed SS Adeiny Hechavarria to a 4 year, $10 million dollar deal. Again, not really possible to say how good of a signing this is just yet, but it could definitely define AA’s “building”. His new and improved scouting department was relied on heavily to make the trade, and soon enough we’ll find out if they know what they’re talking about. I’m assuming they do, because there were a few other teams in the mix, notably the Yankees, who were offering a similar deal. He’s said to be Alfonso Soriano with defense, so I leave you with this thought. Hechavarria-Hill-Lind-Wells-Wallace-Snider. Not too shabby. Grade: A.

-A couple of weeks into the season, AA made a move for Fred Lewis, sending a player to be named later or cash to the Giants. He’s seen regular playing time as the leadoff hitter because E5 has been on the DL. He’s been decent, but looks like he could be a solid bench player with a lot of speed. Again, AA is buying low on a lot of guys and sometimes it’s paying off. When it doesn’t, it doesn’t matter. Grade: B

One last thought on AA’s tenure: Adam Lind’s contract extension. This was an absolute masterpiece. A thing of beauty. A robbery. A steal. A heist. Legendary. An admirable move by Lind? Could be. Either way, this deserves praise. For those who don’t know the details, Adam Lind got a 4 year, $18 million extension with 3 club options. For those who don’t know, Adam Lind was one of the best hitters in the AL last year. For the next 7 years, he will not be paid like one of the best hitters in the AL. Grade: A+.

Overall, AA’s moves have been excellent. When he made a bad move, he hasn’t given up much. The big ones, the Halladay deal and the Hechavarria signing, look good now, but yes, the jury’s still out. The man’s got a plan, and it’s shaping up nicely.

Overall Grade: A-.

Posted by: ashermerlin86 | May 3, 2010

Rays of Optimism

When we started this blog back in November, we promised to give a realist’s perspective on this Blue Jays team. Since we’re long-time fans, it’s easy to become caught up in the optimism of a fast start, both by the team and by individual players.

On the other hand, I’m also a Toronto fan. I like that hockey team that hasn’t been in the playoffs for six years. I was watching when that basketball team was ousted by the Sixers in 2001, and have been bummed out about their lack of success ever since. Consequently, I watched for all those years that that douche-bag general manager set our beloved baseball team back about a decade after the team was bought and commercialized by that massive cable company.

But enough cryptic talk. My point is that I watched this team jump out to that awesome start last season – WITH Doc on the team – and fall flat on its face by the end of the season. Because of this, you will have to forgive me for not getting ridiculously excited about the fact that our beloved team is over-achieving thus far.

I was back at the Skydome on Sunday, and was a proud witness to the Jays slugging their way past Washed-up Ben Sheets and the relative-no-name Oakland Athletics. That statement should sum up my feelings about this team, and this should be noted for the rest of this season, at the very least. I am not about to say OH MY GOD ALEX GONZALEZ SHOULD WIN MVP AND VERNON HAS TOTALLY REDEEMED HIMSELF FOR LAST SEASON!! WORLD SERIES HERE WE COME!!

Having said that, I won’t avoid giving credit where it’s due.

Yesterday afternoon, the Blue Jays looked good, but not amazing. Yes, they scored nine runs, but those all came during the first four innings, and were all scored directly off of Sheets, who, to say that he looks like a shadow of himself would understate just how terrible he was. Throwing strikes was not a big issue, but throwing pitches that the Jays did not pounce on and crush was just that. It seemed as though every time contact was made, no matter who it was by (Jose Bautista not included), the ball would reach the warning track, and land in just about every gap that the A’s defense left uncovered.

Over this span, Johnny Mac had a double and a triple, Fred Lewis and Aaron Hill hit back-to-back jacks off consecutive pitches, and Alex Gonzalez smacked a two-run bomb in the first to open up a 4-0 lead.

My concern lies in the fact that the Jays’ offense failed to produce a single run off the A’s bullpen duo of Brad Kilby and Craig Breslow in their combined 4 and 2/3 innings of work. They managed three hits and also struck out three times against these relievers who each managed to draw a confused look and a “WHO??” on my part.

Which brings up another point: who the heck are these A’s players, and how is a team with so many no-names sitting anywhere near the top of the AL West?? One of the more recognizable names on their team was Ryan Sweeney, and I’m thinking this is only because it’s still fresh in my mind that Buck Martinez announced a few weeks ago that the Jays had called him up, confusing him with Jeremy Reed (I’m guessing this is either because their names sound so much alike, or it’s because they both happen to be outfielders?). I also noticed that they miraculously still have Eric Chavez on the team, though he’s seemingly a mere shadow of the man who won six Gold Gloves and a Silver Slugger award back in 2002. According to TSN.ca, his back is too messed up for him to play third base anymore – which was where he won all of those Gold Gloves… too bad.

And yet, despite the fact that this lineup is a poolie’s nightmare, Shaun Marcum still had his troubles with it. I must pretense this by saying that I’m still a big fan of Marcum’s, but having now seen him live twice this week, my opinion of him has been somewhat altered slightly. I would have to guess that this is because of my large expectations of him. Maybe it was his near-no-no on opening day, or maybe it’s the fact that he’s the ace, and Toronto fans tend to have large hopes for its aces.

Maybe I should lighten up a little bit, and remember that a man fresh off missing a whole season with an injury to his pitching arm is not going to pitch like Doc. If I can drill that thought into my head, I’ll probably enjoy this season a little more. But for a man whose calling card throughout his short career has been his control, it was troubling to see him walk four batters on Sunday.

If Marcum can stay healthy, I think he’s incredibly valuable. I think that the troubles he’s experiencing are still growing pains to some extent. When he’s locked in, he’s untouchable. He struck out six against the A’s; the first three of which were caught looking. But his problems on Sunday, and on Tuesday against the Red Sox as well, stem from a habit of trying to be a little too fine. At times, when ahead in the count, Marcum has a habit of rounding out the count and then losing batters at somewhat crucial times. When this happens, his whole routine slows right down, which takes his team-mates, and consequently the fans, out of the game.

But can I really complain? In the two games I saw him this week, he went 13 1/3 innings, allowing 10 hits and 2 earned runs while striking out eleven and walking seven. The sparkling number, of course, is the runs allowed. Marcum gets himself into countless jams, but he always seems to find a way to get out of them cleanly. As a result, his 3.12 ERA deserves far more than his solitary victory, but hopefully the bats will give him more performances like Sunday, and less like Tuesday.

Speaking of the bats, let’s talk about this wildly inconsistent lineup of over-achievers and one man who seems to be fighting for his life to prove that last season was an exception to the rule.

Keeping to the social contract regarding bandwagon-jumping that I discussed at the start of this article, I refuse to buy Vernon Wells’ jersey, beg for his autograph, and shower him with praise in each subsequent post after he has a big game.

Don’t get me wrong, I am impressed. He made a great leaping sno-cone catch in the seventh inning on Sunday, which more than likely prevented a second run from scoring off Marcum in his final inning of work. In both games I watched this week, he hit RBI doubles in the first inning. His production numbers have improved substantially, he hit more than half the amount of homers he all of last season in April alone, and more than a quarter the RBIs. He’s doing very well.

Another guy who’s doing really well is Alex Gonzalez, who has as many homers so far as he had all of last season, and also has three more RBIs than Vernon. He’s also looking pretty smooth on defense. Not bad, for a guy making roughly $2 million bucks this season.

None of you are going to believe me (especially my dear blogging partner), but I’m not surprised about John Buck’s play. Now I’m aware of the fact that can’t block the plate nearly as well as Rod Barajas or Gregg Zaun, but he’s got a sweet swing. Over the course of his career, he’s struggled to hit for average, and as Pete has pointed out, this is probably because he only ever seems to swing for the fences. But, as I mentioned after Tuesday’s game, even when he’s flying out, he’s making great contact – just as Barajas did last season. And surely enough, he went on to smack three homers in one game a couple days later, and was 3 for 4 with three doubles on Sunday.

Seeing as we have a fine Cuban shortstop and the Arencibia/D’Arnaud combination waiting in the wings, I’m pretty happy with Gonzalez and Buck right now. They are plugs, yes, but unlike guys like EE, J-Bau and Brian Tallet, they are pleasures to watch as they delightfully over-achieve. If either of them slips up, as is almost inevitable, given their career numbers, at least we know that those positions are covered moving forward.

So what’s my conclusion to this rant of sorts? Again, while I’m pleased that the team is at .500 after 26 games, and while seeing them win gives me that warm feeling of delight that can only come from seeing your home-town team win games, I’m going to continue to be realistic. While the team looked good against the A’s, the west is not exactly a strong division right now. We also got swept by a Red Sox team that was just swept by the now-7-18 Orioles. I’m glad that the team is winning games, but I will not jump for joy until they experience success later in the season.

In the meantime, it’s good to know that guys like Buck, Wells and Gonzalez are stepping up while guys like Adam Lind and Travis Snider and (no shock, but) Jose Bautista struggle. It’s also good to see that Aaron Hill, fresh off his injury, is starting to find his stroke, after falling a triple shy of the cycle on Sunday.

Tonight, the Jays take their show back on the road to face the 10-14 Cleveland Indians. Now, it’s easy to get arrogant and say that this series will be a joke, given the fact that Vernon Wells and Alex Gonzalez combined have more home runs than the entire Indians team has hit this year, Grady Sizemore’s hitting .207 with no homers, Travis Hafner is hitting .197 with two homers, and the whole pitching staff is made up of even less intimidating names than the Jays’, this is the same kind of attitude I had last week going into the series with the Red Sox. Still, with the Jays’ lineup hitting in bunches, and the starting rotation on the whole looking pretty promising, it’s hard to ignore the rays of optimism that are breaking through the thick fog that the loss of Doc Halladay has blanketed over the fans this season.

Brett Cecil takes on Mitch Talbot at 7:05 tonight.

As a minor side-note to all those reading this, we encourage you to post questions or bring up topics of debate to the comments sections of our posts. If we get some good ones, we can do a few more mail-bag-style posts.

@amgr86

Posted by: ashermerlin86 | April 28, 2010

Musings of a S’Domer

Mark it down on the ole’ personal calendar: April 27th was my first trip to the Skydome (like my pal Matt said in this post, I flat-out refuse to refer to it as the Rogers Centre until I am forced to at gun-point) of 2010.

It was a pretty exciting excuse for a visit. A match up with an eastern division rival. The last game I saw live last season consisted of Doc Halladay getting plastered 7-0 at Fenway Park, so I was hungry for some revenge. Plus, the pitching match-up was a marquee battle between our new “ace”, Shaun Marcum and Boston’s Clay Buchholz, a prominent member of my Yahoo fantasy roster. Conflicted, perhaps?

The first thing I noticed was the general topic of tickets. I decided, for the first time in years, to chat with a couple of scalpers with the hope of actually saving some money. Having just finishing Economics 1000 at school, I figured that the basic laws of supply and demand would work in my favour. Since the team has been drawing some of the worst crowds in its history (hence, demand is DOWN), I figured that we could snag some tickets in a prime spot in the 100 level, since nobody is showing up (supply is UP), and these guys should be happy to earn all that they can. Who knows how much these guys acquired them for anyway? But no, we were offered a whopping one dollar discount in the 15th row in the 500 level.

Sorry, pal. I was not born yesterday. I’d rather actually pay for seats the legal way than save a buck.

I’m sure this topic has been discussed ad nauseum, but the Jays actually raised ticket prices this season, after they traded Doc Halladay and begged for patience for this losing season.

I know that we just passed through a recession, or are still in one, or something, and I know that, because of inflation, the price of just about everything has gone up. But this is not a team worth paying even $16 dollars to see right now.

And it shows. The box office, which, even last season, was busy right before game time, was only half-opened. We got there ten minutes before game time, and were second in our lineup.

Are they offering incentives? After all, we all know that “Free Shit is Good Shit”. No, even beer prices have gone up to over ten bucks. Wanting to save my wallet’s strain from buying an over-priced hot dog on a stale bun that’s only half the dog’s size, I purchased nothing. Having finally smartened up and bought myself a personal scorer’s book, I no longer even dish out the five bucks for the program.

All Rogers offers up now to pump up your game experience are a bunch of chances to text and win stuff. Plus, having scrapped Twonie Tuesdays, they’ve apparently replaced it with TWEETING Tuesdays! Now, fans are greeted almost every inning with a different remix of that “Tweedly tweedly deet” song from god knows when as they’re offered the one-in-a-million chance to win something by tweeting stuff to them during the game. They’d reward the fans by posting their comments on the JumboTron and giving us the opportunity to tweet a question to our hip and cool broadcasters, Buck Martinez and Pat Tabler. Buck told us that he thinks the Jays’ biggest strength this season is their power! Oh Buck, you’re so silly…

And Rogers has found just about every way to take the fans out of the game – even beyond fielding a team that demands little to none of their time. Remember back in the nineties when every foul ball would be marked by cheesy sound effects? Remember when the charge songs and the intro to the car wash song and other reasons to make people clap would ring throughout the stadium? Well, not anymore. Evidently, the new mentality is that silence is golden.

During the second inning, when Shaun Marcum struggled, throwing over 35 pitches, you could actually hear the buzz of conversation throughout the stadium. The crowd was removed from the game completely and it was only the top of the second.

And to think, I’ve gone roughly 700 words, and have only complained about the experience so far. Let’s talk about the game itself.

THE GOOD

  1. Shaun Marcum is taking on where he left off after over a year lost to injury, and it’s a pleasure to watch. While we weren’t too crazy about how long he seems to take in between pitches, he kept the Bo-Sox guessing for all seven innings, allowing only a run on four hits, striking out five. Minus a rough second inning, which strangely happened after Marcum struck out Kevin Youkilis and J.D. Drew to start things off. He also made a couple great defensive plays in the fifth inning. Unfortunately, because this team only seems to hit when it feels like it, Marcum remains 0-1 in April. Why did Doc leave again?
  2. As I mentioned in my series preview, Clay Buchholz has been, without a doubt, the best Red Sox starter this season, and it showed. Despite a rough first inning, he shut the Jays down for eight innings, allowing six hits (the official scoresheet says seven, but for the life of me, I can’t figure out when this seventh hit occurred) and one run. He’s not flashy, but he’s solid.

THE MEH

  1. Adrian Beltre, who to this day I say is making way more money than he deserves, made a bad throwing error on a ground-out by Vernon Wells. For reasons unknown, Beltre was given an error, but Wells was somehow given a hit on this play, awarded second on the error. If anybody hit in the clutch on this team, that error likely would have cost the Red Sox the game. Lucky for them…
  2. Sure Vernon Wells drove in the Jays’ only run on a double in the first, he also looked clueless when he struck out on three pitches in the fourth and flied out with two guys on in the fifth. He also let a pop-fly drop right in front of him that I thought he could have had. Time for the scoreboard to stop highlighting his Gold Glove…
  3. I will give John Buck credit because he hit a couple of deep fly-balls to the deepest part of the field in the second and ninth innings. He’s not getting the hits, but he seems to be making good contact. However, he also left two guys on in the fourth…
  4. Kevin Gregg did walk in the winning run on four pitches, and received a loud ovation when he finally threw a strike to the next batter. However, he shut them down in the ninth, and showed some cat-like reflexes on Beltre’s line-drive right at him to end the eighth with the bases loaded. Plus this was his first walk of the season, so he deserves some credit there – even if it came at the worst possible time.

THE UGLY

  1. Kevin Youkilis struck out twice and went hitless, and was generally a non-factor in this game.
  2. David Ortiz grounded into a double-play and was 0 for 2. He makes this category because he was actually pinch-hit for with the bases juiced in the eighth. At the height of the steroid era, Big Papi was a beast, both physically and on the score sheet. Now he’s a fat, useless guy that can’t play any defense with a .154 average and a mere four RBI. When your DH can’t be trusted to bat with the bases loaded in a tie game, you’re in trouble.
  3. Am I ever going to stop talking about how awful Lyle Overbay is? No, no I will not. Lyle was hitless (shocker), including a memorable at-bat in eighth, when he came up with a runner on second and one out. After taking a first pitch ball, Lyle half-ass swung at strike one, failed to check his swing for strike two, then struck out looking on the next pitch. Honestly, if someone doesn’t get this guy off the team, and soon, I am going to be forced to pay one of his team-mates to whack at his shins when he’s not expecting it. The guy has absolutely no confidence at the plate, and for reasons beyond me, he’s STILL batting fifth.
  4. As reluctant as I am to say this, because I like the kid, but Travis Snider remains a mess at the plate right now. He popped out uselessly in the seventh and as the prestigious last batter, he grounded out uselessly back to the pitcher. If the Jays are gonna start winning games with consistently, their young phenom needs to be better than 8 hits in 63 at-bats…
  5. Finally, Scott Downs, and the bullpen as a whole, has been a total cluster-fuck. Downs has allowed runs in four of his last six appearances – great news, for a set-up man. In this one, after he struck Marco Scutaro out on a full count, he gave up two straight hits, then walked J.D. Drew to load the bases up. As Pete discussed in his article earlier today, the ‘pen was supposed to be a strength on this team, but they’ve been a disaster. What’s worse is that before the season, there were talks that Downs and Jason Frasor were valuable in the trade market. So much for that pipe dream…

To sum up, this game was not very encouraging for me. To be honest, I’m not surprised that the White Sox media took to bashing the Jays when they were in town. While they’re total hypocrites, as I saw just how brutal attending a Blackhawks game was back when they sucked in ’07, the mere 14,000+ fans that showed up on Tuesday were barely paying attention, half of them were too drunk to see, and the overall experience was just not that enjoyable. Half the fun of going to a game is being a part of a raucous crowd and having things to be excited about. With nobody attending games, and the team playing as badly as it is, something’s gotta give.

If it were up to me, and likely the rest of the city, they could start by lowering their beer prices.

@amgr86

Posted by: pistolpete | April 28, 2010

Eight thoughts an eighth of the way through the season

After 21 games (technically 1/7.7th of the way through the season) the Blue Jays sit 10-11, tied for 3rd in the AL East. The sad thing is, that’s considered overachieving. Most baseball “experts” had the Jays finishing 4th or often 5th in the division, with anywhere from 64-72 wins. At 10-11, they’re on pace for 77 wins and will easily finish in front of the OriLOLes. It’s definitely still early, but this is the way I see it:

1. V-Dub is back

Not many people saw this one coming. It’s hard to say which one of his stats is the most impressive: his 7 home runs, his 10 doubles or his whopping .716 SLG %. Either way, Jays fans are starting to believe his down seasons were actually a result of injuries and he’s still got most of that talent we paid him $126 million for. Oh ya, one other thing. Come mid-July, I will be the one laughing after my bold pre-season All-Star prediction.

2. The bullpen sucks

Coming into the season, the Jays bullpen was supposed to be the best part of the team. To be honest, I thought it was one of the best all around bullpens in the league. Well, 21 games into the season we have the second worst bullpen ERA to the one and only Kansas City Royals. Hopefully that is the last time our bullpen and Kansas City’s are ever mentioned in the same sentence. The only bright spots have been Shawn Camp and Kevin “G’d up ready to die” Gregg (except for last night when he came in with the bases loaded and walked in the eventual winning run). Janssen, Downs, Frasor and Accardo have all been brutal. FREE TIM COLLINS.

3. Troy who?

Stud

As Ricky Romero spent 2007 and 2008 getting peppered at AA/AAA after being taken with the 6th overall pick in 2005, fans never let J.P. Ricciardi forget that he was drafted one spot ahead of Troy Tulowitzki. But once Pretty Ricky got called up to the bigs in 2009, he didn’t disappoint. He tailed off as the season wore on, but still put up a respectable 4.30 ERA. This year, he looks like an ace in the making. In 30 innings of work, he has only allowed 17 hits and 6 runs. But what’s most encouraging is that his BB/9 is down from 4.0 last year to 2.7. If I could venture a guess as to why, I’d say it’s because he’s got complete command of his curveball and throws it for strikes whenever he god damn feels like it.

4. Shortstop city

Why oh why do shortstops who are career utility players/washed up come to the Jays and find their stroke? Last year, Marco Scutaro had by far the best season of his career. This year, Alex Gonzalez is 4th in the AL in total bases (guess who’s first?*). The Jays may have historically had a hard time finding a long term solution at the position, but recently short term ones are working just fine. And as you all know by now, AA looks to have found the missing piece to the puzzle. For $10 million, it better fit.

5. Don’t free Randy Ruiz

You should not interpret this thought as support for Mr .176 (even though he’s starting to heat up, I’m still only referring to him by his average). It’s support for Brett Wallace. I love Randy as much as the next guy (although not as much as I love Raaaaaaaandy), but he just doesn’t fit into the Jays plans right now. Overbay needs to see pretty much everyday action so that he can pad his stats and gain some sort of trade value. Once he’s gone, it will be time for Big Baby Brett. Unfortunately once he’s up,  there will be no way I can justify giving Ruiz at bats.

6. What’s wrong with Travis Snider?

Not a bust...yet

Fucked if I know. Ghostrunner on First did some crazy pitch by pitch analysis and seems to have concluded that he’s not hitting off speed pitches and is getting pounded away. That seems to concur with my highly scientific analysis called watching his at bats. He doesn’t seem to be staying back on the ball and isn’t looking to drive it the other way. He looks fastball, and only fastball, and when he doesn’t get it he’s way out in front. But, it does seem like he’s been improving in the last couple of weeks because I’ve seen him hit a lot of balls hard but right at people. That would seem to make sense considering his astonishingly low .133 BABip.

7. Opportune injuries

Besides Aaron Hill, you could put together a convincing argument that the players the Jays have sent to the DL so far this season has led to addition by subtraction. Tallet just straight up is not a quality MLB starting pitcher, but his replacement, Brett Cecil, has got the potential to be a very good one. With Edwin Encarnacion out of the lineup, Jose Bautista has moved to third and allowed newly acquired token black guy Fred Lewis to assume the leadoff spot. To round out the stereotype, he’s got wheels, and he’s been using them. Of the 6 times he’s reached first base (4 singles, 2 walks) he’s stole 2 bases, and has also used his speed to turn a double into a triple. Unfortunately, when E5 comes back it sounds like Lewis will be lucky to platoon with Jo-Bau.

8. Attendance

This is a topic I didn’t really want to address, but I feel obliged to. The Blue Jays have already set a franchise record for lowest attendance (10,314) and after their first 10 home games were second last in average attendance. With the Red Sox in town from Monday-Wednesday, the Jays were expected to put up some semi-respectable figures. Didn’t happen. For the series opener, they only got 13,847. What’s really a kick in the face for the fans is that Rogers actually bumped up ticket prices this year when they pretty much admitted the Jays are going to be awful. What kind of a dick move is that? Either way, fans shouldn’t be too worried because we’re far from an Expos situation, and there will be no Bartolo Colon-esk trades. Fans that are too worried should check out this post at Eh Team Sports, which sheds some humour on the situation.

*Good guess, it is Vernon Wells.

Posted by: ashermerlin86 | April 26, 2010

Jays Open Up Seven-Game Homestand against Red Sox

Things were starting to look encouraging against the Tampa Rays. The Jays took the opener on the heels of a pretty strong start from Brett Cecil. On Saturday, I tuned in intermittently, to find that the game was first scoreless in the 5th, then I later found the Jays were up 3-2 in the 7th. I figured, alright, we have a pretty strong bullpen, right? As long as Frasor is kept out of the mix, we should be set.

Oh how they proved me wrong…

What followed was one of the most disastrous displays of relief pitching that I have seen in a good while. Scott Downs, for reasons unknown brought in to face Evan Longoria, allowed a lead-off single. He then proceeded to walk Carlos Pena who, I would assume, he was brought in to face. Left in against another right-handed hitter, B.J. Upton proceeded to knock in the tying run. Then Casey Janssen, who I thought should have started the inning, came in stumbling. He allows a bunt-single after tripping and falling when he went to play it. A bases-loaded walk, a hit batsman and a two-run single later, and it was Jeremy Accardo’s turn to allow a two-run single of his own.

Obviously this is not a good sign. Given the uncertainty in the rotation, and the pretty respectable resumes that most of the members of our bullpen have, few would have expected the follies of this weekend to rest upon the shoulders of the bullpen. Personally, I question Cito for having Downs face Longoria, but that’s just my opinion. When it comes to pitching, usually the strike-zone is contagious. When one guy can’t throw strikes, it’s hard to come in with a bunch of guys on base, and be expected to completely alter the momentum. Janssen failed to do that, so did Accardo.

On Sunday, it was Frasor who allowed 4 earned runs on 4 hits with a walk in 2/3 of an inning. Nice.

What’s lost in all this is that Ricky Romero was solid once again, allowing only 2 runs on six hits in seven innings, while Brandon Morrow allowed on 2 runs in six innings, surrendering only 3 hits (ignoring the 6 walks he surrendered). Both of these guys deserved to win, but the bullpen imploded this weekend, and the offense when MIA against David Price.

Oh well. It’s not like any of you can lie and say that you expected the Jays to have a plus-.500 record nineteen games into the season, so can we really complain?

Anyway, the real test begins tonight, as the Jays take on the surprisingly-bad Boston Red Sox. The Sox are 8-11, which is actually much better than they were about a week ago. They took four of six games this past week against Baltimore and Texas – real accomplishments, right? (See the Blue Jays). They also were swept in four games by the Rays last weekend, so they’ve had their struggles.

The reason? Could it be because Marco Scutaro has crashed back down to earth and is hitting a mediocre .254? Could it be the fact that Big Papi has a mere four RBI to accompany his single home run? Could it be because the guy with the second-most homers on the team right now is 38-year-old Jason Varitek, who has those homers in a mere 23 at-bats and all of which are solo-shots? Or could it be that the only starter on the team with an ERA under 5 is Clay Buchholz?

All of these tell us that this is a stacked roster with a whole lot of under-achievers. It’s only a matter of time before they all break out of this prolonged slump and climb to the top of the division standings.

Let’s just hope it doesn’t happen in the next few days.

Tonight, the eternally-inconsistent Josh Beckett takes on the over-achieving Dana Eveland to start off the three-game series.

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