Sunday, 12 June 2011

Sunday not fun day.

Cleaning up some notes from all over on a rather depressing weekend. the Jays' run differential was +29 when the Red Sox came to town - it's +1 now. It's tough to get excited about anything right now. Not to over-react to this (after all the Red Sox are now on a nine game winning streak and are killing everyone) they have looked really bad before - like when Detroit was in town - and then ran off a string of really good play (between the Detroit series and this one, they were 17-11 which is .607 ball). but having noted that, this might also be an opportunity to step back from the scoreboard watching and think more about the future than the race.

The subject on everyone's mind today is Kyle Drabek. John Farrell insisted before today's game that there had been no conversation about demoting Kyle Drabek (remember how we were assured they were committed to Travis Snider?) but one has to think there has to be something cooking beyond just sending him out there and hoping for the best. I have no inside knowledge, and guessing at Anthopoulos' next move is a mugs game - but just looking at the schedule there seems to be a rather obvious course of action.

The Jays have been mighty impressed with Luis Perez (I'm going to have to admit I was wrong about him apparently) and he pitched several innings in relief of Drabek today. Perez was always a starter in the minors and has the stamina to start. They could start him on Drabek's next turn - June 18 in Cincinnati - and then Drabek's turn would fall on an off day. That would give them over two weeks to work with him on the side to try to get a handle on his emotional issues.

Then there would be three more turns before the ASB for Drabek to demonstrate he'd "got it." and by then Litsch should be recovered (assuming no setbacks) and you'd have the option of demoting him if he was still fighting himself. It seems to me like a reasonable plan.

The other, much milder, worry is Brandon Morrow. There have been a few instances this year when the strong temptation is to ask "is he regressing?" On the surface, the easy answer would be yes - both his ERA and WHIP have moved from "unfortunate" to "poor" - but if you look at the saber stats, not so much. while he has a 5.63 ERA right now, his FIP is still just 2.55 (considerably better than Romero's) and his xFIP is a very respectable 3.61, so probably, he's going to be fine. Assuming there are no confidence issues as a result of recent setbacks.

I know that the common meme among Blue Jays observers is that the offense has been surprisingly good and the starting pitching has been surprisingly bad, but i caution against the supposition that our crop of pitchers isn't as good as we'd assumed.

Consider: Romero has been just fine, and Morrow is clearly better than the results right now, which will normalize in time. Listch has been good when healthy, though it's right to wonder if he can stay on the field. Villinueva has been a revelation, as good as Cecil was expected to be, and Reyes has been a perfectly adequate fifth starter. On the major league level, apart from injuries, only Cecil and Drabek have been a crashing disappointment. and that won't last. Cecil wasn't doing it with mirrors and every professional agrees that Drabek has tons of stuff, all he needs is maturity.
Beyond the major league staff - you have McGowan . . .let me interrupt myself to recommend a great piece by Callum at Mop-Up Duty in which he advocates for sending Drabek down. In that piece he notes that McGowan went through the same "fighting himself" struggles early on that Drabek is experiencing now, and quotes a Jordan Bastian article from 2007 about the progression from pitching scared to trusting his stuff. It made me wonder if it wouldn't be ideal to eventually have McGowan and Drabek in the same clubhouse so that the elder might work with the younger on that score.

Anyway, to get back to the point: McGowan may well fly apart at any time but until he does, i'm going to hope for the great comeback story - he still has ace level stuff if he can stay healthy (and it's been done before, see: Carpenter, Chris) Cecil will be back, Henderson Alvarez at AA has the whole system buzzing, and top prospect Zach Stewart, despite inconsistency this year, has not lost the confidence of the management (see AA's comments about the NH situation here). And that's not even mentioning the potential of Perez and Zep and Brad Mills and the recently promoted (to AA) Chad Jenkins.

Romero, Morrow, Drabek, McGowan, and Alvarez all have legitimate ace-level stuff. Cecil, Stewart, and Litsch are legitimate mid-rotation guys. And then you have Reyes, Villianueva, Perez, maybe Zep, and Mills as fallbacks for situations involving injury or regression. down the stretch in 2012, and particularly in 2013, that stands to be one of the very best rotations in baseball. We shouldn't lose confidence in the plan because of a few bumps in the road.

You may not have noticed in today's shellacking, but Bautista broke his homerless streak with a solo shot of of a dominating Jon Lester. in other good news for the offense, Adam Lind is hitting .414 with a 1.333 OPS since coming off the DL. If you give him the same number of AB as Adrian Gonzalez, he pro-rates to 18 homers and 62 RBI. Lind is arguably the second best hitting 1B in the AL (behind Cabrera) right now. he's certainly on the same level with them.

In draft news, six late round picks are either signed or unofficially agreed to sign (the highest of those being 26th round SS Justin Atkinson) along with the Jays' third overall pick, RHP Joe Musgrove. also worth noting: ESPN's Kieth Law, in response to a question on Twitter, opined that he expected the jays would be able to land their first round pick, Tyler Beede, for $3 million or so.

The Jays have done more roster shuffling in the lest few days among the farm teams than perhaps in the whole rest of the season, here's a rundown:

Bobby Ray, who'd been on the AAA DL, was activated and moved to AA where he started and took the loss in an unimpressive effort today;
Chad Jenkins (former first round pick) was promoted to AA from Dunedin and started yesterday throwing an impressive game;
Reider Gonzalez, who's been very good at AA, was promoted to AAA (where he spent the early part of 2010) and threw a good games for the 51's yesterday;
Casey Lawrence was promoted from Lansing to take Jenkins' turn in Dunedin and threw a fine game today;
Egan Smith returned from the DL to take one of the open spots in the Lansing rotation today;

With the extended spring training session ending on June 20, and the short season leagues set to begin play soon (Vancouver's first game is Friday night), expect considerably more minor league news in the days and weeks to come.

One final note: Mike Wilner reports that the previous reporting that Dustin McGowan would be required to begin a rehab assignment when extended ends was, in fact, not correct. the Jays are at liberty to keep working him out at the Florida complex without a hard schedule to promote him. that means that, at a bare minimum, they will stretch it out so that his 30 day re-hab extends past the July 31 trade deadline. there's every possibility he might not arrive until September unless he is so very impressive they are not afraid to show him to major league hitters.
John Farrell was quoted Thursday as having reported that McGowan had thrown 2 innings on Wednesday and was on a schedule that had him throwing 2 inninges every three days, and then would go to 3 innings every 4th day and if he handles that well go to a regular starter's schedule.

If they DO decide to assign him to a team (likely the GCL Jays) when the season starts, a 30 day rehab would have him returning to the majors in the last 10 days or so of July. Coincidentally, that's probably the most optimistic reasonable time frame for Lawrie. I can see Lawrie joining the team at Texas July 22-24. if not, it probably won't be until August 1.

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