Monday, 28 July 2008

Breaking down the second half success

Since the second half started, the Jays are batting 265/345/416, good enough for 16th in the majors in OPS (761). This is a big improvement on their 720 OPS in the first half, which had them ranked 22nd in the majors. Obviously it's a ridiculously small sample size, but there's reason to believe they can continue to hit this well.

The obvious reason is Adam Lind. No, he won't continue hitting 395/415/632 (1.046 OPS) like he has in the second half. No, he won't keep hitting 389, as he had since he's been recalled. But he'll be an upgrade over the offensive black hole the Jays have kept throwing out there in left field.

The second reason is that Scott Rolen will hit again. He's "hit" 224/323/282 over his past 85 at bats, but he's going to turn it around at some point. Or at least he better. Otherwise I'm going to have to erase that post where I mentioned that Rolen was having a better season than Glaus....

The final reason why the Jays are hitting better, is because they're finally starting to hit for power as a team. Since the all star break they've slugged 416, which is 32 points higher than they slugged during the first half (384). Not surprisingly, it's a lot easier to drive in runs by hitting doubles and home runs than it is to hit a weak little single or draw a walk. Not that walking is bad by any means - I love clogging the bases. You need guys on base to score runs - but that's never been the problem for this Jays team.

While the hitting has improved, it's still the biggest problem on the team. But at least so far, it's shown signs of life. Now, I'm going to take a look at the pitching.

The Jays were one of the best pitching teams in the first half. Despite AJ Burnett and Jesse Litsch doing everything they could to derail their ERA's, the Jays finished third in the majors with a 3.63 ERA, second in WHIP (1.26), and third in OOPS (695). While the ERA of a pitcher can sometimes be misleading, as is the case with Burnett, WHIP and OOPS are usually good indicators of whether a pitcher is getting lucky or not. The WHIP tells us the Jays didn't allow many runners to get on base, and the OOPS tells us that even the hitters were struggling to hit for significant power. Opposing hitters "slugged" 383 against Jays pitching, good enough for 5th in the majors.

As a Jays fan you don't need me to tell you the pitching was awesome. You saw it day in and out that the pitching staff did the impossible - make the opposing team hit almost as bad as the Jays. But it's always nice to see where the team ranks compared to their major league peers.

In the second half though, the pitching staff started to show a chink in the armor. They fell from 3rd best ERA in the majors to 10th (4.19 ERA), from third in OOPS to 15th (765), and from second in WHIP to 13th (1.34). This is to be expected, with McGowan on the d/l, Litsch in AAA, and Marcum slowly recovering from an injury. Parrish can't replace McGowan in the rotation (and in my opinion Parrish is the same pitcher he's always been), and Purcey is not going to be counted on to produce a sub 4 ERA like Litsch did in his first year. But as long as Purcey and Parrish can give 5 or so innings where they keep the team in the game, they'll be doing their job.

Why 5? A quality start may be 6 innings, but with the strength of this team being the bullpen, and a guaranteed day off for the pen every fifth day thanks to the Doc, I don't see a problem in the bullpen bailing out Purcey & Parrish if need be. It might give Cito a reason to use Frasor and Tallet in situations other than mop-up!

But where was I...

Right. The pitching staff. Obviously it's a small sample size, but there's a chance that as the season goes on the numbers will improve. Purcey had a solid start, but he'll have his ups and downs. The more experience he gets now, the better he's going to be in the long run. So it's likely that towards the end of the year he'll start showing more flashes of what he's capable of doing.

The only way the numbers get worse is if AJ does get traded (and I stand by my belief that he won't). Litsch will be brought back up to the majors, but there's no way he can replace AJ.

I'll admit everything I've looked at is based off a small sample size. I acknowledge that, but at the same time, it looks like the Jays are better than the sub-500 team they were back in the first half. I can't see them making the playoffs, but for what it's worth, this team should be fun to watch heading into the second half. And that does have some meaning, because this team was bordering on unwatchable for a good part of the first half.


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