Monday, 28 April 2014

Week 4

It’s no secret that the biggest setback so far for the Toronto Blue Jays has been the starting rotation. The starters for the Jays are 24th compared to all MLB starters in ERA (4.43), 21st in opponent’s batting average (.266), and 21st in strikeouts (119). The biggest stat to me at least, is innings pitched, where the Jays have the fourth most innings by starters in the league with 134 total innings. When you take the total games played by the Jays so far (25), you can get that the average starting pitcher for the Jays goes about 5.36 innings per start. When the starting pitchers can’t get through the innings required of them, it strains the rest of the team greatly, especially in the bullpen. 

Relief pitchers are called on too often, and their quality drops over time. While they are expected to perform when called in around halfway through a game, you can’t expect them to constantly clean up perfectly and not give up any runs after being put in that same scenario so many times. The Jays relievers have pitched a combined total of 88.1 innings, putting them at the third most innings pitched in the majors. The average team has used their bullpen 77 innings, resulting in roughly three innings per game by the pen. This is a reasonable expectation of a bullpen, considering a quality start for a starting pitcher needs a minimum of six innings. Taking away those six innings from the nine in a game, the bullpen can come in and cover for the remaining three innings of a game. While the Jays are only 0.64 innings under the average, that still adds up over time. 

Since relievers have less stamina in them than your average starting pitcher, they can’t be worked nearly as hard as a starter. It’s not like manager John Gibbons can control the length of how long a starter deserves to stay in for. He does decide when pitchers come and go in a game, but once a pitcher gets around 100 pitches, or gives up five runs before the end of the third inning, you wouldn’t leave the starter in any longer just so you could rest your bullpen. What’s the most unfortunate part in all of this is that we saw this coming ever since the end of last season. 

While I’m sure AA had his eyes on starting pitchers throughout the offseason, he did fall up short of bringing in any new talent to help out the cause. If the Jays want to last the rest of the season still being able to compete, they should try to bring in someone to replace Dustin McGowan, as he is clearly not able to play at a major league level after being out for many years with numerous injuries. Otherwise, the rest of the season will stay along this track off poor starting pitching, and injured relievers after being worked too hard.

Monday, 21 April 2014

Week 3

In life, we all die. It’s inevitable. You do what you can to enjoy the time that you’re here, but it all unfortunately comes to an end at some point. Just like death is inevitable, it was inevitable that Munenori Kawasaki would be sent back to AAA Buffalo (exaggerated comparison, I know). His antics and personality brighter than the sun seems to capture the imagination of even the most casual baseball fan, and we’re always left wondering, why he couldn’t stay longer? Last year abysmal play was the cause, and I was much happier to see him leave the team, though there was still the hole in my heart that missed the legendary post-game interviews. This year however, it was a different story. With Reyes finally becoming healthy (for now at least), he is the clear #1 starting SS for the Jays, finally filling the hole in that position. However, with Izturis out for 4-6 months now, the only players who Gibbons seems to be playing at second is either Jonathan Diaz or Ryan Goins, and Kawasaki would be a much better player to have starting for the Jays, and I’m not just saying that because I like seeing him say funny things on TV every once in a while.

Goins and Diaz both played a few games in September of last year (Diaz with the Red Sox), where Goins caught the attention of many after he had an eight-game hitting streak to start off his career with the Jays, tying a record set with Jesse Barfield. After the streak ended however, he played less than average baseball, finishing the season a .252 average, 2 home runs and 8 RBI’s, which some might argue are pretty decent numbers for a players first month in the MLB. Diaz on the other hand, played in 5 games and didn’t register a hit in his 4 at-bats. Both are young players that do have some potential for the future, but just aren’t ready to compete at the major league level. This just leaves Kawasaki. He isn’t an amazing player by any stretch, but he’s the best choice the Jays have. His numbers have never been spectacular, but he has played in the majors before. That’s what separates him from Diaz and Goins, his two years of major league experience. He knows what to expect from the AL east now, and is better prepared to perform at a higher level compared to years past. Goins and Diaz will be good, maybe even great players one day. But for now, the Blue Jays need results. The only player who could potentially produce those results right now, is Kawasaki.

Thanks again for reading, and feel free to leave a comment on what you think could make these posts better. I appreciate any criticisms.

Monday, 14 April 2014

Week 2

Another week has come and gone for the Toronto Blue Jays, and it still feels too early to call anything as to where they would fit in the standings come September. Decent results against the AL East are already promising (5-5 against the East, second to New York’s 6-4), yet there are still holes to be filled. One day hitting would be extremely dominant with pitching coming up short, and then vice versa. However, after yesterday’s 11-3 win over Baltimore, it’s easy to overlook all of that.

Everything that could’ve gone right did, for once. Buehrle had yet another dominant start, giving up one earned run over seven innings of work, allowing only five runners on base, all of which were hits. He was relying heavily on his fielders to back him up, as he only pitched two strikeouts. But when your team has the third-highest fielding percentage in all of baseball, it helps ease a pitcher’s nerves knowing their whole team is supporting them. Fielding has been the biggest improvement so far for the Jays, considering they had the fifth-lowest fielding percentage in all of baseball last season. Unnecessary errors can cost a team very important runs, and despite how well everything else could be going, poor fielding could cost the one or two runs that lose a game for a team. As long as this keeps up, it should bring in many big wins for the Jays. As far as hitting goes, 11 runs speaks for itself.

Melky Cabrera has also been a pleasant surprise up until now, picking up right where he left off before his suspension at the 2012 All-Star break. He has been batting for average like he’s been known for, along the way also picking up four home runs so far this year, tying him at second place for most home runs in the MLB currently (Bautista is first).  His speed (if you want to call it that) has also been improving since last season. While dealing with lower-body issues last season, watching Cabrera run was one of the most painful parts of the Jays season last year. And while he’s no Jacoby Ellsbury by any stretch, you can tell he’s always hustling to the fullest extent of his abilities. He’s even caught some outfielders off guard and stretch routine singles into doubles. If this keeps up, you can expect to see the Jays sign him to an extension.

Altogether, Blue Jays fans should be pleasantly surprised with how their squad is performing up until now. Is it going to last past April? Who knows. All we can tell is that they look a hell of a lot better than last year.

Tuesday, 8 April 2014

Week 1

The first seven games have come and gone of this Toronto Blue Jays season, and so far they have been performing up to expectations, or at least my expectations for them. Batting has been slightly above-par, with the Jays having the 26th best batting average in the MLB, but in usual Jays fashion sporting the 3rd most home runs as well. This is nothing new for the boys in blue, as home runs have been their main run source over the past few seasons. As long as Bautista stays healthy and Edwin starts producing soon, batting should be no concern for them, despite the holes that still need to be filled at second and (arguably) catcher. In the four game set against the Rays, one of the things that stood out for me was Izturis' hitting against the dominant Rays pitching rotation. Despite only playing 3 games in the series, he was able to produce a .600 average, with 6 hits in 10 at bats. After his mediocre season last year, this has to be promising for Gibbons, as it gives him more options at second base, or to possibly play SS to fill in for Reyes.

Speaking of Reyes, the early injury to the season is beyond disappointing. He was a known injury-risk going into the season, but getting injured in the very first play of the season absolutely astonishes me. Reyes is a hole that the Jays can't afford to have out of the lineup, but who how often he’ll be in the lineup, let alone produce the numbers we expect of him with this risk constantly looming over him. Looking at who is going to be replacing him (Diaz, Goins, Izturis, or possibly Kawasaki), this is a hole that won't be filled this season, if Reyes proves to be inconsistent.

Pitching has been performing as expected, and depending on where you stand it may even be exceeding your expectations. After being underplayed for the past few seasons, Santos has done well assuming the closer role with Janssen on the DL to start the year. He's gone 2 for 2 in save opportunities this week, however he did cut it close in his first chance of the year, after almost blowing the Jays 4-2 win over the Rays. Despite the close calls, he's still finished with saves and given the Jays wins. As long as he maintains that the end results are wins, he should be a suitable substitute while Janssen is gone.

In his sole start this year, Buehrle has shown to be effective, after being one out away from a complete-game shutout against the Rays. He has always been a notorious pitcher for getting off to a slow start, sporting a 4.89 ERA in the month of April from 2011-2013, despite finishing with an ERA of 3.83 over the past three years. Getting off to a fast start can be nothing but good for Buehrle, and can hopefully cement him as the ace for the team.

Thanks for reading, I'm hoping to do weekly posts like this for the rest of the Jays season, feel free to leave feedback on how it all looks.