Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Hard Charging

For a team so very unfamiliar with long winning streaks (they haven't won more than six in a row since 2008) the current seven gamer must be very satisfying for the Toronto Blue Jays. Not only that, but they've posted a combine score of 41-11 in those games. Indeed, these are heady days for the Jays. Of course, it behooves us to heed Mike Wilner's oft-repeated observation: a team is never as good as it looks at it's best, nor as bad as it looks at it's worst. Still, in may ways this team is preforming now in a manner consistent with pre-season expectations (shaddup Adam!) and they are finally seeing the results.

Since May 5, when the team inexplicably found it's footing, the Blue Jays are 24-15 (a .615 winning %) for the second best record in the AL in that span (one game behind Oakland and WTF is up out there anyhow?) which is a pace which, were it maintained the rest of the season, would result in 91 wins  - that puts you right in the thick of the wild-card race. On the other hand, it's a pace that over a full season would get you 100 wins and certainly it's debatable whether this team is of that caliber. On the third hand, Jose Reyes is imminently ready to return, one assumes Brett Lawrie will be back at some point and step up his game, and Josh Thole is already an upgrade on Henry Blanco (and more besides, if Gibby will give him some of JP's mostly empty at-bats). And the best part is that, apart from Adam Lind, the horses of the offense are not performing at an unsustainable rate.

Here are the teams top six offensive producers over the last 38 games (and the rest have been no great shakes):

  1. Cabrera - .312 - .356 - .446 - .802
  2. Bautista - .285 - .370 - .487 - .857
  3. Encarnacion - .297 - .387 - .561 - .948
  4. Lind - .388 - .417 - .642 - 1.059
  5. Rasmus - .250 - .320 - .508 - .827
  6. DeRosa - .266 - .329 - .484 - .813

Yes, DeRosa is doing more than he's done since his peak years five years ago, but it's not insane and it's in half as many at bats as the others so it's not like the team is being driven by it. Lind is the obvious outlier but going forward, a regression is easily balanced by the presence of Reyes. It's reasonable to assume the offense IS this good.

On the mound, the bullpen has been, frankly, insanely good.

Janssen - 3.55, 1.11
Cecil - 1.40, 0.52
Delenbar - 1.50, 1.11
Loup - 0.90, 0.65
Oliver - 2.25, 1.13
Perez - 0.00, 0.50
Wagner - 0.96, 0.96 (when does THAT ever happen?)

The Starters?

Dickey - 4.53, 1.45
Buehrle - 3.46, 1.19
Johnson - 1.86, 1.14 (only 3 starts)
Rogers - (as Starter)  1.77, 0.98 (4 starts)
Wang - (tiny sample) 3.14, 1.53 (2 starts)
Morrow - 6.14, 1.36  (4 starts)
Jenkins - 3.60, 1.47 (3 starts)
Ortiz - 3.77, 1.60 (3 starts)
Happ - one start, irrelevant
Romero - ditto

Ortiz is probably gone for the duration, Jenkins has been flailing at Buffalo for some unknown reason, so lets ignore them looking forward. Over the last 13 games the staff as a whole has an ERA of 1.98 and they have piled up a 10-3 record in a not unrelated result. obviously that won't last but it's this kind of run that playoff teams occasionally have.

Morrow was reported today to have suffered a setback last night and it seems clear he'll not be back before the ASB. IF he gets and stays healthy, those numbers surely get better and one would think that Rogers would regress some, but the two should balance out (in theory, anything could happen in real time). Buehrle is back consistent with his career numbers, and Dickey while disappointingly inconsistent, is in a range where it's reasonable to assume he is more likely to improve than to regress further. That means that in a rough-and-dirty look ahead, your rotation success largely turns on whether Josh Johnson is finally in his groove or not. This is still a group that can be above average enough to support the offense, particularly as long as the bullpen is so VERY good.

In terms of the playoffs, at the end of play on May 4, the Jays were 8.5 back of the wild card with nine teams to overcome in order to qualify. Now, 38 games later, it's 4.5 and there are "only"four teams in their way. And two of those are Cleveland and the crashing (18-25 since May 5) Royals. Ultimately it comes down to the lesser between the Rangers and A's, and the ultra competitive AL East contenders. On that score, here's the WC standings looking at only those games since the Jays turned it around:

Toronto: 23-15
Baltimore: 23-18 - 1.5 games back
Tampa Bay: 23-19 - 2
New York: 20-20 - 4
Texas: 20-21 - 4.5

Bottom line, as long as they continue to play as they have for the last (almost) quarter-season, they are in a position to be big factors in the WC race and not completely unrealistic to chase down the Red Sox. The odds are still kind of long, but certainly not crazy.

Other notes:

ITEM: Jose Reyes had his first rehab start on Monday night, and while Morrow got bad news, Reyes did not. My guess? The Jays will duck the Tampa turf and let Reyes fly out to Boston with the team to re-join the Jays' lineup on June 27. That will give him 4 games on grass before it's back to Skydome (yes, damnit, Skydome). 

ITEM: JA Happ is throwing bullpens and my guess is he might be 10 days or so away from getting in a game with the D-Jays (they are on the road, but play across the bay in Tampa on June 29 which keeps the big-leaguer off the bus...but whaddoIknow?) If all goes well for him, you might pencil him in for one start before the break. but if Rogers and Wang continue to patch well, the jays might be cautious and hold Happ back until after the break. it will be an interesting decision if neither rogers or Wang give ground how the Jays would handle the sudden surplus. Of the three, only Happ has options.

ITEM: Many fans speculate that when Reyes comes back, and the Jays have another roster-crowding decision to make (Kawasaki though lacking power has been a sparkplug and a fan favorite but he's the logical cut) that the team might opt to finally give Cabrera the much needed DL trip he's been avoiding. It makes sense to DL him after the Boston series and bring him back, presumably rested and healed, after the break.

ITEM: The jays have hired Jamie Evans as a pitching consultant. "Who?" you may be asking. He's the guy who developed the weighted ball routine that rescued Steve Delebar from obscurity and arguably re-energized Brett Cecil's career. Casey Janssen has begun working with him as well and while one should avoid assuming that it's a "magic bullet" one might fondly hope that fading prospects like Chad Jenkins and Deck McGuire might decide to give it a go while they still have time.

Let's have a moment of silence for the pessimists who were certain the season was over already  by May 1 ...............................okay, enough of that. go Blue Jays!


1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I don't know I'd bring back Reyes before he's played 5 games in a row, day off, 5 games in a row. I'd like to be very sure he's ready, because we can, but then that's just me.

I agree then would be a good time to D.L. Melky Cabrera, the sooner the better.

Good work.
Richard S.S.