I was feeling a little better knowing that the Jays were actually also 3 games behind first place last June 2015. Of course, some major changes were made to the roster come July. Fortunately, the Toronto Blue Jays ended their 3-game losing streak beating the Tampa Bay Rays 6-1, after getting swept at home by the Chicago White Sox. The last time the Jays were swept at home? 2013.
Aaron Sanchez was in good form with 7 shutout innings. But Drew Storen is still majorly struggling giving up the lone Tampa Bay Rays homerun.
Good news…sort of
Russell Martin snapped his 9 strikeout in a row streak by getting a hit to right field.
IF Tulowitzki doesn’t fix his batting issues, I predict that in July the team may attempt to trade him. That’s assuming that Devon Travis makes it back to the roster and demonstrates that he is still very capable of hitting and playing second base. That’s also assuming that the Jays think they can keep Barney on the bench with Goins moving to shortstop. If Goins can hit around .250 or at least better than Tulo, that’ll free up a lot of salary to fill in any holes.
The Blue Jays get shut out of the game and of the series against the Chicago White Sox and 3 former Blue Jays.
Wednesday was a wasted effort by Marco Estrada and the final result, a 3-0 series win by the Chicago White Sox, a team that now includes Dioner Navarro, Brett Lawrie and Melky Cabrera. In 2015, the Jays only got swept once in a 3 game series. Estrada actually did great with a sore arm and leaving after 118 pitches. He gave up his one bad hit to none other than his old catcher Dioner Navarro who got a triple. Dioner obviously had the advantage of see each of his pitches for a year.
The bullpen is supposed to save the starter. That has NOT happened. More than half of inherited runs are still getting home. This is the highest in the league. The bullpen lacks pitchers who can strike batters out and keep runners on the bases. In addition to the shortcomings of starting pitcher R. A. Dickey, this has been a consistent problem amidst the intermittent problems with batting and defense.
The pitchers that the Jays retained and acquired were pitchers that could limit runs to 3 or less. This was with the assumption that the hitters would hit! This has not been happening as we all know too well.
And defense was a bit of a circus out in right field Wednesday night.
The lineup has been shuffled on an almost daily basis. I think this lack of stability is not helping matters at all.
But I do think we need to move at least Russell Martin down the lineup. His at bats should be limited until he finds it. The wasted batters need to be grouped together at the bottom. Too many runners are getting left on base because adequate hitters are followed by the inadequate.
GIBBY GETS EJECTED
John Gibbons was not happy with a lot of the homeplate umpire’s calls and they argued a fair bit. Ultimately, the homeplate umpire butt his nose in and ejected Gibby even though Gibby wasn’t talking to him. Ridiculous.
Ohhh…so many good things about Saturday’s 9-3 win over the Oakland A’s at the Rogers Centre. The dome was closed. The game was sold out. Not surprisingly, the Jays are ranked 4th in attendance for their home games this year. Oakland’s 5-game win streak is over. The Jays 3-game losing streak is done. All is good.
J. A. Happ pitched 7 innings and allowed 3 runs. He did this despite only 1 strikeout, the first batter in the 1st inning. He also had only 1 walk and the 2nd batter hit a homerun. But otherwise, the Blue Jay defense neutralized the offense.
Gavin Floyd pitched the remaining 2 innings and did not allow any runs.
There was a bit of drama in the 6th when recently traded Liam Hendricks hit Donaldson with a pitch. In the 7th, Happ retaliated by hitting Khris Davis with a pitch (that he caught with his armpit). Gibby didn’t believe these were intentional. Gregg Zaun though for sure Happ’s was intentional. He may not have meant to hit the batter but threw inside as if to say, ‘Hey, if you keep pitching our guys inside, we’re going to have to do the same.’ The way Happ hit his glove afterward, suggests to me that at least he didn’t intend to hit the pitcher. This drama led to warnings issued to both sides.
Blue Jay defense cleaned up. No passed balls. Three double plays. Even Ezequiel Carrera looked great and made 2 Pillar style layout catches in left field. (I disagree with Gregg Zaun about them being TV dives.) I hadn’t realized that Carrera didn’t speak English until Hazel Mae interviewed him after the game. I mean, he’s rarely interviewed!
And the Offense…
Ahh…the offense that we know and love. Bautista and Martin RBIs to start. Then Josh Donaldson and that classic J. D. swing landed a 3-run homer off Oakland’s Bassitt. That broke the Jays 2-1 lead wide open to 5-1.
What did the Jays do different? Well, they started the game playing small ball. Hit by hit. No one tried to be the hero. Even Bautista seemed so happy to get 2 RBIs despite no hits. When the big bats aren’t working, that’s the way to win a la KC Royals right?
Did you notice…
What a good mood Bautista was in? He was smiling and chatty when he got back to the dugout after the RBIs. That must have lifted everyone’s spirits. Overall, a sign of awesomeness to come.
Some mornings when I’m writing a post after the Blue Jays have lost, it feels like I’m writing a post-mortem.
Video Recap April 21
Jose Bautista continued to be angry. Looked like this ump hated both sides with a staring contest with Bautista and an ejection of Matt Wieters of the Orioles in the 5th inning.
After seeing Donaldson’s 2015 catch in the stands on the highlight reel like a hundred times, I didn’t expect to see him miss one. This Trumbo foul shot, Donaldson had in his glove, but dropped when he fell into the stands. This time, he didn’t have Toronto fans protecting his face.
Pitching and Offense
The talk all off-season was ‘the starting rotation…, the starting rotation…’ and the offense was a given. Well the starting rotation is just fine, but what is with the offense?
The 3 key offensive players, Edwin Encarnacion (AVG .299), Josh Donaldson (not Josh MacDonald, Buck) (AVG .284), and Jose Bautista (AVG .276) have been doing fine and Michael Saunders (AVG .321) seems happy in the leadoff spot. The Jays were 5-7 with Pillar in leadoff, and 3-2 with Saunders in leadoff. But the rest of the lineup is still struggling with 2 and a half hitters still below .200.
Passed balls and Permeable gloves
Remember how disappointing Wednesday night’s game was when Joe Biagini got his signs crossed and threw the wrong pitch to Josh Thole. Thole who tends to turn his glove away towards balls pitched towards his opposite side, allowed a passed ball which scored the tie-breaking 10th inning run. Thole looked like he was going to cry. A lot of people asked, why wasn’t Russell Martin in there instead? Well, turns out, the very next day, Martin also allowed a passed ball pitched from Brett Cecil in the the bottom of the 8th. This allowed Joey Rickard to advance to 2nd, which then allowed the tie-breaking run when Bautista couldn’t come up with Manny Machado’s bloop to right field.
Machado also got a fluke hit after his line drive went right through the webbing of Donaldson’s glove. It’s interesting to hear opposing team commentary. The Orioles commentator’s statement was ‘that’s why you’re not supposed to catch the ball with the webbing’. Whatever dude.
Same thing happened to Tulowitzki’s glove on April 5th. This one was predictable since his glove has been on it’s last legs for a while.
Sigh. Overall, considering the Blue Jay bats are stale, they are still managing to hover around a .500 record. If they could just clean up a few things, they could still stay in the running. If they clean up their defense which for the most part is great, AND the bats wake up, they really should be unstoppable, right? Sounds easier said than done.
Another loss. What should have been a fun and competitive reunion between David Price and his previous team on Saturday ended up feeling like a bit of a debacle. For the most part, Estrada was strong except for the 3rd inning when he got nailed in the leg. This allowed 1 on base. Then Donaldson missed what could have been a double play to get out of the inning, instead leaving 2 runners on for the ensuing 3-run homerun. That was unfortunately the turning point.
Even before this, the game looked promising but started with a bit of bad mojo. Donaldson started the 1st inning with a triple but got caught on camera yelling at his 3rd base coach Rivera. Bautista then followed with what should have been a triple, but the call was that he got tagged out.
Encarnacion later hit a double. Throughout the rest of the game, Angel Hernandez’ strike zone was quite unstable leading to increasing frustration among the batters, who aren’t hitting that well to begin with.
What’s different from last year?
So why is this slump happening so soon? Well, slumps happen but consider this theory. The off season changes that were made to the Jays lineup were meant to fill gaps in skills. The biggest perceived hole was the starting rotation and the bullpen and most changes were made in that area. The starting rotation now seems to be just fine with Stroman, Estrada, Sanchez, Happ and Dickey (well, not so much Dickey), although the bullpen has yet to find it’s groove except for Roberto Osuna who has picked up where he left off last season.
New gaps were created with the losses that occurred during the off season. I believe a big one may be the clubhouse cheering squad. We all know that we lost a superstar pitcher when David Price’s brief stint with the Blue Jays was over and that we lost a speedy leadoff hitter with an on base percentage (OBP) of 0.354 when we traded Ben Revere for Drew Storen, believing that we needed another closer type of pitcher more than we needed Ben. The new lead-off hitter Kevin Pillar’s OBP in 2015 was 0.314 and so far in 2016 is 0.235 (yeesh!). It also seems like Revere was also better defensively in left field than Saunders but it’s harder to know since Saunders has played so little recently. Let’s see if we can make anything of the stats.
Range Factor per 9 Innings
Revere (LF) 2015 2.02
Saunders (LF) 2016 1.25 (only 9 games)
Saunders (LF) 2013 1.74
Saunders (LF) 2012 2.06
Comparing to Blue Jays’ gold standard:
Pillar (CF) 2015 2.99
Pillar (CF) 2016 2.51
Ok, yeah, Revere wasn’t Pillar but Saunders hasn’t been as good as Revere was in 2015 since Saunders played with Seattle in 2012. I omitted 2014 and 2015 for Saunders because he only played LF 3 games.
What about the intangibles?
Things we can’t look to statistics for. We lost the smiles and cheery Southern personalities of Price being from Nashville, Tennessee and Ben Revere originating from Atlanta, Georgia.
They say the clubhouse atmosphere hasn’t changed but I don’t believe it. There is no cheering squad left. We have the angry superstar leaders in Josh Donaldson and Jose Bautista. We have the polite Canadians in Michael Saunders and Russell Martin. We have the ‘I’m better than you think’ guys in Kevin Pillar and Chris Colabello. And we have the quiet pillars of the infield mega-defense in Troy Tulowitzki, Ryan Goins and Darwin Barney. But where are the happy, fun guys?
New guys: Drew Storen, J.A. Happ, Jesse Chavez, Gavin Floyd…anything memorable about these guys’ personalities?
Now, Stroman is super high energy, and he’s always smiling so I guess he’s the only bit of cheering quad left, but he’s got a lot he’s trying to prove and a huge chip on his shoulder that Price and Revere didn’t have.
On paper, this team as a whole looked better, but, are they still having fun? Of course, I miss David Price as the whole team clearly does, and it sucks that he went to a division rival, but I also miss Ben Revere because not only has Kevin Pillar failed to fill his lead off hitting shoes, we’re also missing some of that smooth Southern Comfort.
I was at the Rogers Centre for the first game against the Yankees this season. I had expected not to see too many empty blue seats but the attendance was only 28000+. I guess because it was a Tuesday night.
I was kind of embarrassed when a NY fan and a Toronto fan started brawling in the 100 seats. I mean who does that at a baseball game on a Tuesday night? That was probably the most interesting that happened Tuesday night unfortunately.
The only highlight was Jose Bautista’s 2-run double.
But no doubt, Cecil’s a bit of a disaster right now. It isn’t a ‘slow start’. His ERA is over 10! Even my inexperienced eyes can tell that he’s moving more slowly than last year. He seems off balance after the pitch is released. I think it’s because he’s gained at least 10 lbs. And he wasn’t that slim to begin with. Maybe he can take a lesson from Aaron Sanchez. Get in shape and it’ll all come together.
Tulowitzki, Colabello and Martin are all hitting below 0.150. One might say, ok it’s early, but neither Boston’s or the Yankees roster stats looks like that. They’re digging themselves pretty deep holes to hit themselves out of. The Jays have the 2nd worst batting average right now.
Hitting against that Yankees bullpen didn’t help one bit. I have to admit, they’re pretty scary and will be scarier once Aroldis Chapman returns. The Blue Jays’ bats and bullpen need to get it together…and quick.
Thank you Marco Estrada! The quiet, humble, understated, under the radar Marco Estrada came out big on this frosty Sunday afternoon final game of the 2016 home opener series against the Boston Red Sox. After losing the first 2 games of the series pretty BADLY (I mean, any loss would have been bad), most of us felt we needed to win. John Gibbons said after the game that there really isn’t such a thing as a MUST WIN so early in the season, but as a bandwagon fan, it certainly felt that way didn’t it? We needed some confirmation that we weren’t out of minds. That the team wasn’t just great on paper. That all the hype wasn’t just hype and that we were in fact headed for a disappointing season. Afraid that despite being good, the rivals were better.
The Jays hadn’t been swept since May 2015 in Houston. The Jays hadn’t lost 3 straight at home since August 2014. Thanks to Marco Estrada, they still haven’t.
Estrada had 8 strikeouts in 91 pitches over 7 innings pitched. To put it in Gibby’s words, he was ‘vintage Estrada’. Smooth. On target. Quietly understated finesse. Estrada in his subtle fashion shut Boston down and the Jays took home the win 3-0.
Thankfully the defense found their groove, like they had to give Estrada everything he needed to quiet the naysayers. Dustin Pedroia almost got home but the defense came alive with power throws by Bautista and Goins and a perfect tag by Russell Martin.
Oh, and Donaldson got his 4th homer of the season. At first I thought I was watching a replay, that perfect Josh Donaldson homerun swing.
And don’t you just love watching Osuna run out to the mound to save the game? Strikeout. Strikeout. Strikeout.
Jose Bautista, who walked twice, has reached base in 20 consecutive games (including post-season), dating to Oct.3, 2015.
The Rogers Centre has had 15 straight sellouts going back to last season. And I think that’s going to continue for a while. I mean, everyone including me, is just hanging off every detail about this team. The expectations are extraordinary. Who knows what’s going to happen but it sure is going to be a fun ride.