Tuesday, 31 May 2011

YES! and NONONO!!!

It's been a decidedly wild 12 hours or so and not always in a good way. Alex Anthopoulos spoke to the press today and we heard things we liked:

1. Adam Lind is targeting a return on Saturday (Yay!);
2. Dustin McGowan's rehab is going so well (he's hitting 95 and feeling no unusual pains) they are rethinking the "settle for relieving" conclusion and they will begin to move him towards returning as a starter. He'll begin a re-hab assignment (that can't last more than 30 days) on June 21 (YAY!!);
3. Brett lawrie has pretty much forced their hand and now it's just a matter of "making a decision (probably who loses their roster spot) - then he told Mike Wilner that he had a personal philosophy of debuting highly touted rookies on the road laughing "You can probably read between the lines" which Mike did to assume that Lawrie would debut Friday night in Baltimore (YAAAAAYYY!!!!)

But WAIT, there's MORE!

Lawrie was hit on the top of the left hand by a pitch in the first inning of tonight's game in Las Vegas and is, as I type, waiting to get precautionary x-rays!


We're all too aware of the dangers of hand injuries, all of JaysNation (including the atheists) are on bended knee at this moment in supplication he does NOT have a broken bone. This is SO not how this night was supposed to go . . .

In theory, Lind will bump Thames (simply as a function of playing time for the kid) and Lawrie would presumably push a reliever (likely Perez) out of the bullpen. Johnny Mac would then bump McCoy when he comes back middle of the month unless something changes. Of course now that's potentially up in the air so let's talk about something else.

The Jays have completed 1/3 of the season (which is what tonight's post was supposed to have been about before Alex spoke up. It's time for a look back to see how things are going and, frankly, the results are maddeningly indeterminate.

The team is, was before tonight's game I should say - all this refers to the first 54 games - 2 games over .500, on a pace for 84 wins (strikingly close to last year's results) and in that regard, doing quite well given the problems which we can note. IF (and it's a major "if") they gain the benefit they should be correcting the fixable problems, they should be quite interesting down the stretch. let's review:

Catcher - JP Arencibia has been all that and a bag of chips in the early going. Those who doubted how his offensive game would translate to the majors coming from the PCL are silenced, those who argued last summer that his defense was lacking, that Cito found him wanting or the pitchers didn't like throwing to him or whatever have been repudiated. All reports indicate everyone is very pleased with his work as a catcher, and the results at the plate are self evident. At this pace, he'll have the best year ever by ANY Blue Jay catcher. He's leading all major league rookies in OPS by a respectable margin. He's also bearing down on the Yankee's Russel Martin for second place among AL catchers. There's no reason in my mind why he cannot continue at this pace or maybe even a tic better.
Shockingly, Jose Molina is having a very good year with the bat as well. I have no explanation for this and assume it will stop happening at any moment.

First Base - It's remarkable that Adam Lind has appeared in little more than half of the games in our sample. But in that half he was a fine hitter - he's still second on the team in RBI! In fact, if you take away one horrendous 7 game slump, the rest of his work ranks with the best hitters in the AL not named Bautista. but of course, that's only 25 games. In any case, if Lind had hit over 54 games at the same rate as he hit in those 32, he'd be 4th in the AL in homers and first in RBI. In his absence
Juan Rivera has stepped into the 1B role and demonstrated his usefulness by playing perfectly acceptable 1B defense (as did Lind). He's also managed to generate the illusion that playing 1B has revived his bat. This, however, is not exactly true. On the season Rivera's OPS is .680, and since Lind sat down it's merely .710. In point of fact, in the 15 games BEFORE Lind was hurt, Rivera's OPS was .876. While I'm glad he shook off the early season disaster, he's still a stopgap. when Lind returns he will still get some 1B ABs and between the two of them they will soak up the DH at bats. But I expect in the back of their mind the team would still rather have Thames up. The problem is Rivera is the only other 1B on the team and that gives him some security.

2B - Aaron Hill. Whither Aaron Hill? The one time Golden Boy is fast falling out of favor with a lot of Jays fans. After his abysmal 2010, he's under a ton of scrutiny and there are 31 flavors of analysis concerning what's wrong with him. But if you look closely at this current season, his stat line is sent from mediocre to absysmal by the awful two week slump which opened the season. He's ben decent since mid-April (albeit he had a mini-slump recently). I don't think he's done, he's probably going to be at least a .750ish hitter at least from here on out.

SS - Yunel Escobar is quietly playing like a superstar player right now. Since Lind has been out, Esco has been by far the second best player on the team and as good as any hitter in the league (NNB) From May 8 to May 30 his OPS was .998 (and he had another great night tonight). Can he continue at that level? It's POSSIBLE but I certainly can't predict that because it's just too much. He was over .900 in the first two weeks then slumped HARD for two weeks. But he's apparently got something figured out and is on his way to a career year. If he maintains anything like the current pace he'll be called the obvious best SS in the AL by the end of the year.

3B - Wasteland. I'm not going to waste a paragraph detailing who's been here and how they have sucked. Just remember that Brett Lawrie could come up and utterly disappoint and still have a shot at being better than what the Jays have gotten from 3B this year. I don't think he'll disappoint. And coming over the transom as I write: JUST A BRUISE!!! Happy dance!!!!

RF - Bautista. do I really have to explain? Ok, he's on a pace to hit 67 homers, howzat?

CF - Raji Davis is not as bad as you think. He's played fine speedy defense, and he's hit perfectly well since coming off the DL. I'm often accused of arbitrary end points which I don't deny, but I think an end point that correlates a baseball event (such as coming off the DL) are instructive. In that time, Davis has the following slash lines: .312/.359/.422/.781 - I'm reasonably confident he can do that the rest of the year.

LF - Right now it's the Corey Patterson Show. Caution: do NOT get too excited about Patterson (I'm looking at you John Farrell). What he's doing now is pretty good but it's right in line with the better years of his career and there are hints that he's a the peak of the curve and is a big candidate for regression. I will note in fairness that his OPS is .860 over the last 34 games of our sample. Eventually, this is Travis Snider or Eric Thames. Hopefully when Patterson turns back into a pumpkin, Farrell is not too slow to pull the trigger.

DH - for now that's going to be whoever's not playing first most every game.

On the whole, I see potential for this offense, which as also very close to being league leading - to get even better.

The bullpen, despite the occasional frustrating save situation, has been one of the best in the league and will continue to be. Really no reason for extensive analysis.

The rotation has not been as good as it could be, but it's a testament to the promise to come that they can be a lot better. Ricky Romero has stepped up to legitimate #1, Brandon Morrow pitched well (up until tonight which we are ignoring) with only one completely insane inning making the results look worse than they should. Kyle Drabek has unexpected control issues, but he's usually barely missing and that should refine over time. If it does he stands to be scary-good. Jo-Jo Reyes as the #4 is slowly giving his critics more and more pause, other than a somewhat elevated WHIP he's got a perfectly respectable stat line for a #4 starter. The #5 is a point of interest - how long can Villianueva hold up? How serious is Listch's injury? How long will it take Cecil to get right? Can McGowan make it all the way back? Ideally, in my dreams, McGowan takes this up and runs with it in late July but there is SO many ways that can go wrong between now and then.
I have to admit, If I'm going to be objective AT ALL, that there's potential for regression in those last two spots, but there's potential for progress in the 2/3 spots too. Based on performance so far, the team is just about where it ought to be, but consider:
(paraphrasing Mike Wilner)

If you'd been told on March 1 that on June 1, the following would have happened in the first third of the season:
Brett Cecil pitched his way to Vegas;
Jesse Litsch was on the DL with shoulder woes;
Jo-Jo Reyes was still in the rotation;
Brandon Morrow missed his first 4 starts;
Carlos Villianueva had to be pressed into service as a starter;
There was no clear closer;
Adam Lind had missed over 20 games to injury;
Aaron Hill was still struggling;
EE was on a pace for 90 errors;
Jason Nix was your best 3B;
Raji Davis was hitting 8th, and had also spent most of April o nthe DL;
Corey Patterson was your third best hitter on the team and a regular starter;
Travis Snider had played his way to Vegas;

Would there have been ANY illusion in your mind that the team would be over .500 after all that? As always, I'm optimistic.


Mylegacy said...

As usual Southpaw - a good read!

We've all got our fingers, knees and toes crossed that Lind's return and Lawrie's presence are all we need to add to get us on a prolonged winning streak(ish).

'Cause right now we've a serious starting pitcher void - or several voids.

Just think - no Roy "long gone" Halladay, no Shawn "NL Ace" Marcum, no Brett "no-fastball" Cecil, Kyle "can't hit a wall" Drabek, Brandon "half-a-bubble-out-of-plumb" Morrow, Jo-Jo "I won one, I won one!" Reyes, Carlos "I really liked it in the pen" Villanueva, Brad "Please give me a chance - please!" Mills, Zack "WTF am I still doing in AA" Stewart and then Ricky "Am I the only pitcher on this freakin' team" Romero.

The non-growth of Stewart is really hurting now. The only near Ace(ish) looks to be Henderson Alvarez - and he's gotta be at least a year or two away.

We better get used to either bludgeoning teams to death or losing - 'cause our Little House of Horrors starting pitching staff is clearly - as a group - not yet ready for prime time.

"Mr DeMille, I'm ready for my close up." - not.

The Southpaw said...

Most of the guys you named are well worth having - just takes a bit of growth. Barring a string of injuries, I'm not worried abut our SP. We're just waiting on things to gel.