Saturday, 10 May 2008

The Roundup

It feels like the season is slipping through our fingers, doesn't it? I'd like to tell you to buck up, that hope is not lost, but that's not my nature. And especially not now when we're one year removed from the bastard losing streak that stunk the 2007 Jays.

Like it or lump it, pessimism is the country cousin of realism.

Typically one doesn't make any early conclusions about the nature of a ball club until the end of the second month of the season, but that date draws ever closer. Premature though it may be, it's hard to resist the temptation note to weigh in on the completely and utterly pathetic offense the Jays have mustered to date.

Wilner's perspective

With runners in scoring position, the Blue Jays currently have a worse batting average, on-base percentage and slugging percentage than had the 2003 Detroit Tigers. That would be the 43-119 Detroit Tigers. The only reason the Jays are sticking around the .500 mark is because the pitching has been almost as ridiculous as the hitting has been, just in the other direction. If the Jays were just kind of OK with RISP, instead of overwhelmingly craptastic, they’d be about two games back in the East right now, if not better. It has been amazing to watch.

Griffin drops a typical steaming log, bemoaning the lack of a "plan":

What's the Jays' game plan? Some guys collect stamps. Some collect coins. Some collect wives. Jays general manager J.P. Ricciardi, since last November, has obviously decided to collect left fielders.

Yesterday's two roster moves by the Jays to sign free agent Brad Wilkerson and to purchase the contract of Kevin Mench from the Rangers smack of redundancy.

Maybe. JP was certainly spinning his wheels yesterday, but I doubt anyone else sees Wilkerson as a game-changer.

Elliot weighs in with his usual folksy manner:

Pitching is not that easy.

Blue Jays starters have been mowing down the opposition as if facing second-division teams from the 75-and-over division of the St. Petersburg old-timers league.

Whether your name is Roy Halladay, Dustin McGowan, A.J. Burnett, Jesse Litsch or Shaun Marcum -- especially if your name is Marcum -- you have been cutting through opposing lineups.

They have mowed hitters down like a John Deere taking on dry Bermuda grass, blowing the other way on a windy afternoon.

And still we languish in semi-mediocrity because of an offensive drought.

Everyone is sad.

Subjectively, it feels like every time the Jays get anything less than a perfect outing from their starter, they're assured a loss. Glancing at the schedule, their record in games where the opposition scored 3 or more runs is 7-17 (6-14 April, 1-3 so far in May). You're right to think that a team should be expected to have a losing record in its more poorly pitched affairs, but in only 10 of those games did the opposition score 5 or more runs. This team wasn't built for super heavyweight slugfests--we all knew that going into the season--but one would hope that the odd 5-4, 6-5 victory wasn't beyond its grasp. You're subjective, emotional fears that the Jays are pretty much done for when they surrender more than a handful of runs on any given night are mostly real.

It's hard to point out scapegoats when the offensive suckage has been so thoroughly collective. Only 5 regulars have OPS+s much north of the right side of 100 and noone aside from Scott Rolen is tearing the cover off the ball.

* Overbay and Zaun have come mostly as advertised, but their SLG%s are sub .400, which means we're not getting much of the baseball equivalent of the "secondary scoring" that hockey analysts value so much
* Young cornerstones Hill and Rios have been slumping horribly, the former worse than the latter
* Marco Scutaro might be our best shortstop candidate
* Roughly 100 PAs into the season, Shannon Stewart has been godawful with the bat (66 OPS+), but gets a pass because of his career numbers
* overall, we're 12th of 14 in runs scored in the AL

It's all well and good to argue that this suckage cannot continue unabated, but neither too can our savagely effective pitching (second in the AL with a 3.45 ERA; translating to a nifty 118 ERA+).

The acquisition of Kevin Mench was a smart cheap (if overdue) move that boosts productivity from the DH slot, so kudos to JP for that. Brad Wilkerson, like Shannon Stewart, was a stopgap measure unlikely to pay real dividends. Your guess as to whether both will still be with the club by the All Star break is as good as mine.

I don't think all hope is lost. Three games under .500 is neither an enviable or catastrophic position to be in and pitching as stellar as ours means we aren't likley to freefall for long. It's all academic if the Jays go 2-8 or worse on their current roadtrip, but I'm hoping beyond hope that JP will pull off the impact trade ASAP that gives us the punch we need to at least get our offense to the middle of the pack.

Crazy hat time? Let AJ Burnett reel off a few more quality starts, and move him, move him, move him. If Jeremy Accardo can right himself, he's a moveable part with Brandon League at Syracuse. As is Brian Tallet. There are others, I can't list them all.

Who should we be looking at bringing on board? Jason Bay, Adam Dunn, Milton Bradley, hell, you could even ask the Braves about Mark Teixeira. We won't know until later today how seriously Vernon Wells is injured and if it turns out he'll be gone for an extended period of time there's even more urgency when it comes to bringing in a Big Scary Bat from outside the organization. Someone, anyone, and soon, please.

I want to believe, throw us a frickin' bone.

-- Johnny Was

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