You might have noticed that the MLB season divides more neatly into sixths than it does into quarters, plus it give me an earlier chance to take stock, right? Well, the truth of the matter is that it's still a dramatically small sample to look for patterns, or trends, or any such thing. but we can perhaps say "here's a thing i like" or "this concerns me" with the built in caveat that the sample size is a huge factor.
The first sixth of the season so happened to coincide with the end of the month of April, but that doesn't usually happen. The fact that the season has roughly six months is what inspired me to use a 1/6 model, since it provides a more even point of comparison than month-by-month breakdowns. but as a bit of mental shorthand you may think of these as monthly, if you prefer.
Frankly, outside of the god-like Jose Bautista, there's not a lot to enjoy here. Joey Bats finished the month with an incredible 265 OPS+. For comparison, that's right at 100 points higher than it was at the end of last season. Carlos Delgado's historic 2000 season only amounted to a 181. He's the most feared hitter in baseball right now.
After Bautista, things get much more dicey. Arguably the second best Jays hitter in April was none other than JP Arencibia. Right now, he's the best hitting rookie in the American League. Yunel Escobar has improved over last year, but even in this small sample he's been two different guys. in the first 10 games his OPS was 1.200, it's only been .493 in the last 15 games. Adam Lind's numbers look kinda bad, but they reflect a 7 games streak in which he went 2/26 and the rest of his play has been quite respectable. His slash lines without that week of work look like this:
Lets hope this is the REAL "2011 Adam Lind" and not just a function of sample size. Before his injury, cast-off Jayson Nix hit like he never has in the majors (you MUST chalk this up to sample size) and role-player Corey Patterson has been better than it was reasonable to expect (the last time he hit at this level was 2006). Jose Molina has hit well over his head and John McDonald started off well for him, both in bench roles of course.
On the other end of the spectrum, Aaron Hill continued to look lost right up until his recent injury, Travis Snider developed a mechanical flaw that distressed management enough to send him out to AAA for a fix, and unwanted-man Juan Rivera entered play on April 22 with an astonishingly low .342 OPS, albeit he's heated up over the last nine games to the tune of a rosy OPS of 1.063 over that stretch. Raji Davis got hurt and earns in "incomplete" grade having missed all but nine games this month, and played some of those hurt.
That leaves Edwin Encarnacion to comment on - Eddie has clearly let his defensive issues get into his head. Besides the unsightly error total, his hitting splits are just silly: a .430 OPS as a 3B, and a .917 OPS as a DH. Nix can't get back fast enough, though that fix only works so long as Nix's aberrational hitting continues. With luck, by the time he cools Brett Lawrie will be ready.
Speaking of defense, Escobar has drawn rave reviews, as has Davis when he's played. No one says a bad word about Hill's glove, or Bautista's, and both Arencibia and Lind have been said to be doing much better than expected. Reviews on Snider in LF were mixed, occasionally getting much praise and occasionally getting sharp criticism. Rivera's OF play has been routinely panned, but before Snider's demotion that was a minor concern. the real gaping wound on defense is 3B, where EE has just fallen apart (mentally) and Nix is sub-par.
The pitching outlook is much brighter. Ricky Romero has been great, Brandon Morrow has looked very much like the dominant guy from the second half of last year (albeit in only two starts) and Kyle Drabek, while not where you'd like him to be control-wise, has shown flashes that have observers drooling. Jesse Litsch has been ok as a 5th-turn placeholder. The other spot has of course been trouble. Brett Cecil lost velocity, then lost his mechanics trying to find his velocity, then lost his cool trying to find his mechanics - and found himself in Las Vegas. Cecil sort of illustrates the fact that you are always going to have something come up with your pitchers, you just seldom see it coming in specifics until it appears.
The other SP issue, of course, is the Jays lingering experiment with JoJo Reyes. Many fans have expressed considerable disquiet at the length of said experiment, but they'll be relieved to know that John Farrell has broadly hinted that Reyes needs to show him something in his next turn. Given the relationship between his schedule and Cecil's, I think he might well get two more shots (depending on how he looks Tuesday night) as it would be much easier to re-add Cecil in his spot on May 14 in Minnesota.
If/when Reyes loses his turn in the rotation, there's a solid possibility the Jays might try him in relief work, and an equally strong chance they will trade him as they did Dana Eveland after a similar experiment last year (though to be fair, even at his worst Rees has far more potential than Eveland ever did).
Speaking of the bullpen, while there are some higher order stats that don't like the work there so well, on the surface this seems an excellent group. The six busiest Jays relievers (Jon Rauch, Shawn Camp, Jason Frasor, Marc Rzepczynski, Casey Janssen and Carlos Villianueva) combined with recently activated co-closer Frank Francisco, make up a seven man core that all have an ERA of 2.84 or lower. They've combined for 80 2/3 IP and allowed only 19 ER (that's a 2.12 ERA). Carlos Villianueva is walking too many (8 so far in 14.2 IP) but otherwise, this has been as good a group as you could want.
The flaw in the slaw is Octavio Dotel - who is obviously NOT one of the seven described above. Dotel has walked 7 in 8 IP, but his problems are not entirely his fault. which leads us into the next subject . . .
John Farrell has drawn harsh criticism for his in game management from some quarters (Hiya Stoten!) but for the most part, the flaws I've heard about were and are "getting your sea legs" type stuff (for instance, certain players being a bit too aggressive on the basepaths). the one MAJOR screw up relates to, you guessed it, Octavio Dotel.
In 2010 Dotel allowed LHB to rake him to the tune of .993, while righties managed a paltry .576 - in rough terms every LH was Jose Bautista, every RH was John McDonald. It was like that in 2009 as well. Despite that, in 2011 Dotel has faced a RH at the plate 19 times and a LH at the plate 17 times. What do we have to show for it? lefties have an OPS of 1.409 against him this year, righties only .328 in roughly the same number of chances.
That, friends and neighbors, is flat out insanity. I love me some John Farrell but this shit has got to STOP.
On the whole, there's reason for optimism - above average pitching, solid plus defense (except at 3B and LF) and 3 hitters you can have some confidence in now, and 3-4 others (depending on how quickly Snider gets worked out) you can have some reasonable hope for. On the other hand, it's easy for the pessimist to point out ways things can go south (for instance, it's unreasonable to assume Bautista will keep hitting THAT well). All in all, they have a roughly .500 record at the 1/6th mark, and that's probably a pretty accurate representation of how they've played.
I'll be doing the minor leagues in 1/5th segments as i did last year, that first report comes up after the games of this coming Friday night so look for it next weekend.