Sunday, 19 April 2015

Keeping Calm - 2 Weeks In

So it's been over a week without a post but I wasn't really comfortable with the "Random Notes" model, not that I might not use it again, and I see no point in just being one more voice in the throng just repeating every news item as it pops up. I'd rather try to provide at least a little original content.

That said, two weeks in it's reasonable to take stock through the system and see what things look like.

A lot of nervousness going on but, as Stoeten might say, simmer the fuck down. The Blue Jays lead the major leagues in scoring, and that with Bautista, Encarnacion, and Martin well below any reasonable expectation for output and only Devon Travis (among the starters) possibly a bit higher than you might have guessed (though he's changing a lot of minds in the early going). That should be cause for some excitement on that side of the ball. Plus, today's throwing error notwithstanding, the defense has gotten a lot of praise.

The pitching is another story, but there's some complexity there too. The team ERA is 14th in he league at 4.54 but take away Todd Redmond and it's 4.03 good for 7th in the league. Under the same selective calculation, the bullpen ERA - which is 4.14 and 12th in the AL would, without Redmond, turns into 2.68 which would be 4th in the AL.  I'm not saying such a calculation is exactly fair but it's key here because Redmond is gone (and may well be claimed, but even if he's not being off the 40 means he won't be at the front of the line to come back. It's also been suggested he may have the right to declare free agency rather than accept the assignment.

Of course, this doesn't help the rotation results so far. Buhrlie and Dickey have done what they do (albeit RA has to be concerned about those walks) and Norris, despite not having the life on his pitches he wants (he said after the game today that he's going through a "dead arm phase") but even so, until today he had numbers that, extrapolated to a whole season, would be a fine rookie season. But you really want Hutchison to step up to the expectations soon and everyone is watching Sanchez.

But still, one Tweeter (who's name I can't remember and I'm too lazy to look up) inspired me to look up his claim and elaborate. There was another Blue Jays team that started off slow. The were 7-6 after the games of April 20 and they would go on to be 11-12 over the next (almost) month and sat at 18-18 on May 15. By the way - that team went on to win the World Series in 1993.

Also - Gibby said post game that he "Hopes and thinks" that Reyes and Travis will both play Tuesday, and barring a further setback Michael Saunders should return in the next week sometime. So there's that.

The Bisons are riding a six game winning streak and the veteran roster is doing mostly what you'd expect. The pitching has been uniformly excellent apart from one Jenkins start and Scott "Groundball Machine" Copeland apparently has caught the eye of management. The pitching staff sports a collective ERA of 2.01, and that's how you run off a winning streak. The offense hasn't been as impressive, noticeably Caleg Gindl has cooled a bunch from his hot spring. But Andy Burns was promoted when Goins left for the majors and was 4/4 in hi first AAA game. He's now about the only semi-prospect among the position players on this otherwise veteran team.

New Hampshire
Here the story is really mostly about the two prospects on the team (recovering AJ Jimenez notwithstanding) and the unheralded residents of the bullpen. On offense, the one everyone is watching is Dwight Smith, Jr. Despite reports the Blue Jays had designs on trying him at 2B, he's played left exclusively in this young season - possibly because of the continued presence of Jon Berti, or possibly to avoid magnifying the pressure that comes with the leap to AA - but his hitting hasn't suffered. Prospect status aside (he was well regarded when drafted but hasn't impressed since) 1B KC Hobson is off to a nice start.
On the mound, LH starter Matt Boyd seems to have shaken off the hiccups he experienced in AA last season. He's pitched 9.1 innings in two starts so far and struck out 18 batters. Falling in the mid-low 20's on most prospect lists (notably, John Sickels had him at #16) Boyd will force some re-ordering if he keep this up. The rest of the AA rotation has been more shaky. The bullpen on the other hand has been lights out. Except for Corey Burns. He's given up 6 ER in 7.2 IP, the rest have allowed but 4 in a combined 44.1 IP - that works out to a bullpen ERA of 1.73 with Burns and 0.81 without. Among the featured players are waiver claim and sleeper prospect Matt West, old friend Luis Perez, and finally healthy Danny Barnes along with AFL surprise Blake McFarland. Arguably each of these men really ought to be at AAA and if they keep it up some tough decisions will have to be made.

The story here is much the same. The .500 (pending the results of today's rain-delayed tie game) team features uncertain hitting and praise-worthy pitching. It is a team, however, with more prospects to watch. Every position in the infield features a player who's been highly touted at some point (being perhaps too generous to Christian Lopes) - none of them are particularly disappointing or impressive in the early going. Among pitchers, Jario Labourt and Alberto Tirado are the two that bring the press clippings with them. Probably the observation most worth making is that Tirado, who's had some control issues, has only one walk against eight strikeouts so far.

The 8-3 Lugnuts are also the beneficiaries of a lot of excellent pitching. Other than one stumble by Conner Greene, it's hard to find a fault, and Chase DeJong along  with unheralded Starlyn Suriel are already pushing for their ticket back to Florida. Prize draft pick Sean Reid-Foley, only 19 this season, hasn't been dinged yet in two starts but has been a little more wild than ideal. At the plate, the player that has stood out from the rest is one-time prospect Dicke Joe Thon who's off to a blistering start with a 1.159 OPS. It would be a great feel-good story if he put himself back on the map, but he's 23 and taking his second go at Lo-A ball (at least one if not two levels lower than a real prospect his age ought to be) so he's got a lot of work to do.
The potential big bopper on this team is Rowdy Tellez who was 0-7 in his first two games but has heated up nicely, witness his .825 OPS in the nine games since (in which he's been on base in all but one of them). On the other hand, he's striking out at an alarming rate. DJ Davis is also off to an encouraging start, having reached base in every game before today's 0 for 4 effort.

So there ya go, if I know it now you know it.

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