At the break

It’s the all-star break and the Jays are pretty much where I’d thought’d they would be… .500

The way, of course, they got here though has been rough, since it looked, in May, at least, that everything was clicking and that the Jays might be something more.

Then, of course, reality set in. Poor play followed by a series of devastating injuries have the Jays limping into the ASB after an anemic 2-8 road trip.

The ONLY positive thing is that the rest of the AL East hasn’t been playing great either, so despite it all, the Jays are still in this thing.

The problem now is that the holes the Jays have are massive enough that a trade ain’t going to fix them – and selling the farm is likely to have negative long-term consequences which would be for naught if they Jays don’t even make the playoffs. I don’t think they can (or should) get an impact starter or major impact bat, but some marginal improvements might be nice – a 5th starter to replace Happ; a better 2b; maybe a spare outfielder. If the cost is right, the Jays need some depth (the injuries are showing the problems with the stars and scrubs philosophy that AA seems to love), but if the cost to get minimal upgrades is steep (Sanchez, Norris, Pompey, etc.), I’d almost rather punt and roll the die that when the injured come back, the division will still be reachable.

Jays on a roll

Since the last time I wrote, the Jays swept the Red Sox. Swept the 1st-place A’s and taken the first one from the Rays for a seven-game winning streak. Everything is clicking right now: pitching, hitting, defense. It’s been great to watch.

While it’s not going to last forever, the Jays certainly seem to have turned a corner from a blah April, especially as to the pitching, which has been much better since Janssen came off the DL and Happ joined the rotation. I’ve never been a big fan of Happ, but he’s been a good 4th starter, so hopefully he’ll keep it up. The offense has just been insane – Lind and Rasmus aren’t missed at all (although it’s far too early to think about trading them, as some people have).

Now the talk is on trading for a pitcher. I’m not sure about that – the cost is likely to be crazy high and the upgrade, realistically, marginal. I am absolutely not convinced Samardjiza is for real. I see him as a back of the rotation guy in the AL East, with better stuff, but not better results, than JA Happ. Would that be worth some decent surplus prospects or low-level arms? Sure. Is it worth Stroman, Sanchez, or Hutchinson (which the Cubbies were asking for). Absolutely not. Not in a million years. My opinion holds as to pretty much any of the other guys out there. Trade spare parts? Sure. But why would a team want to do that, especially in a buyers’ market? Real-life isn’t like a baseball GM game, where you can just keep adding junk to create massive, unrealistic deals to get the player you want.

The Jays could be a lot worse

It’s now about a quarter of the season down and it’s fair to say that the Jays could be a lot worse.

While a game or two over .500 isn’t anything to write home about, the simple fact that the whole division is struggling makes it much easier to bear. Sure, the Jays have had their fair share of problems – pitching, injuries, bullpen implosions, and crazy inconstancy, but overall, they are still in this thing. And while the record is not shocking (I had predicted them to be around .500), the division placement is, as injuries (especially) have hobbled teams like the Rays and Yankees, putting the Jays right in the thick of the race.

Sweeping the Red Sox would be a nice cap to the change in fortunes.

I’m not sure Juan Francisco is for real. Honestly, I’m pretty sure he’s not, but that said, ride him for as long as he produces. While his defense at third is awful, his bat has (so-far at least) made up for it (especially over the marginal guys who’d play second instead of Lawrie). But talk of dumping Lind is premature at best. IF Francisco is for real, then sure, it would make sense for him to DH, but that’s far from certain at this point (and frankly might not certain all year)

There’s alot of bitching and moaning about all the roster moves, but I don’t mind them. Generally, the players involved are marginal, at best, so having the guy or two that makes the most sense at any given time is smart. Of course, you can make a better argument that some of the choices seem odd… like carrying three catchers or four long men who pitch once a week, at most, but that’s another issue.

I’d really like to see Marcus Stroman in the 5th starter spot. Yes his debut was rough, but I remain confident he’s the best option and the experience should serve him well. Happ has been serviceable as 4th starter, which is what you can expect from him (the dislike he engenders is that he was treated by AA and paid like something more), which would give the Jays a rotation that is at least as good as the others in the division.

Jays continue to tread water

Almost midway into May and there seems to be a pattern developing of the Jays treading water: that is, they win a few, lose a few, and hover right around that .500 mark.

Considering that’s where I pegged them to be, I’m not surprised.

On the positive, though, pretty much everyone else in the AL East is in the same boat. And the Jays are underplaying their Pythagorean (and blew a bunch of games they shouldn’t have), so there certainly is a reason to believe this team could be better than it is.

Of course, there’s a limit to that. The Jays tend to be very streaky and at least some of that Pythagorean advantage comes from averaging a few offensive explosions into an overall mediocre performance. And the bullpen blowing games is the obvious result from inabilities of most of the starters to go deep and the continued problems most everyone on the staff has in throwing strikes.

Bluebird Banter has a poll on AA up today. I think it’s clear he’s no genius, although things could be worse; he’s not Ruben Amaro Jr. Most of his trades have been wash-outs, at best. He’s signed almost no free agents of note. He builds thin, injury-prown rosters. He is seeminly obsessed with guys who, by and large, have failed to even come close to his expectations. He has drafted fairly well in theory, although he has yet to see anyone he’s drafted become a regular, let alone star (and he HAS had enough time for some of the earlier guys to break through… none have.) I’d grade him a C/C- subject to improvement if/when some of his picks pan out.

First month a forgettable one for Jays

And with that, another forgettable month ends for the Jays. Yes, it’s still early, but so-far, at least, the Jays have done little to quiet the naysayers, finishing 12-15 in an April increasingly marked by a shaky bullpen that, by and large, is the reason they limped into the end of the month with a 1-6 record in their last seven games.

The two big questions going into the season were the rotation and second base. They still are. Mark Buerhle’s been fantastic (save his last start), Drew Hutchinson’s been decent, R.A Dickey’s been mediocre and inconsistent, Morrow and McGowan have been terrible, by and large and the inability most nights to get even semi-deep into games is likely one of the reasons for the bullpen’s problems.

Our opening day second baseman is back in Buffalo. The veteran alternative is out for the year. Chris Getz is currently manning the position. He’s a better hitter than Goins, although that’s not saying much.

Unexpectedly, the bullpen has been awful. We can hope it’s simply overwork and not the unpleasant reality of the fungible nature of relievers coming back to bite us on the ass.

Roster management is a big problem, with too many marginal pitchers, no bench, and an unwarranted obsession, it seems, with replacement level players solely because they are out of options (although Sierra’s gone today and hopefully Rogers will soon follow suit).

Injuries have started to raise their evil head as well. Reyes and Lind have already done time on the DL. Lawrie and Cabrera might join them soon.

On the positive side, Mark Buerhle’s been superb. Melky Cabrera and Jose Bautista have been phenomenal and Dioner’s Navarro bat has been a nice upgrade from JPA. Brett Lawrie has shown positive signs and so has Edwin Encarnacion.

Overall, though, the pitching just has to get better. We can’t keep blowing 3+ run leads late in games and our offense shouldn’t (and can’t) have to put up 10+ runs to actually win a game.

If the team continues to muddle like this, it’s hard to avoid seeing major changes by the ASB. Off-season inactive was predicated on the idea that the core was great and just had bad luck last year. Right now, the “core” is showing they are a .500 team.

Rotation problems

During last night’s game, Jerry, Buck, and so forth all proclaimed the Jays have (had, at least) the best rotation ERA in the Al East so far. That’s well and good, but when you take out Mark Buerhle’s insanely hot start, everybody else has been, at best, meh.

Sure, it’s still early; far too early to be totally gloom and doom, but it’s pretty obvious that the trend of “starters” who can barely go 5 innings (or less) before imploding is an awful one, considering it forces the team to carry a 8-man pen; it leads to the pen getting overworked; and it gives more innings to replacement-level talent at the back-end.

This is becoming the most problematic for 5th starter and erstwhile come-back kid, Dustin McGowan. Through four starts, McGowan’s numbers are pretty depressing:

Date IP H R ER SO BB HR Pitches
April 4th 2.2 8 4 4 3 1 0 72
April 11th 6.1 5 0 0 2 1 0 90
April 17th 4 6 3 3 3 4 1 85
April 23rd 4 5 6 6 5 1 2 70

Moreover, even in his one good start, he benefited more from some BABIP and fielding luck as opposed to being dominant. And now he admitted to getting gassed early.

The problem is that none of the primary alternatives: Happ, Redmond, and Rogers are any better; all are basically replacement-level and often struggle to go deep themselves and Marcus Stroman, the heir-apparent, needs a bit more work with the Bisons (but not much more). There’s little doubt that among the four currently on the big-league roster, McGowan probably has the best “stuff.” Of course, baseball is littered with guys with “stuff” who never pan out. Still, given the alternatives at the moment, it’s hard to say McGowan doesn’t deserve a few more chances before kicking him to the bullpen.

Best case scenario, McGowan improves a little, allowing the Jays to DFA one of the trio above and add a bench bat and Stroman (to share/usurp the 5th starter job by the end of May.)

Jays stay above .500; spirit animal down

After Thursday’s implosion, the Jays needed that win last night.

The inability of starters to even put up passable starts is a bad, bad trend, hopefully not one that will continue, since not only does it force the team to carry eight men in the bullpen (ugh), it pretty much ensures even the good/decent bullpen pieces will break down from overwork.  Hard to see a solution other than guys just pitching better, though.

In roster news, Reyes is back from the DL, whilst Lind heads towards it.  Kawasaki goes down.

I don’t get the love some fans have for the guy.  Yes, he seems a great guy and fun character, but he’s not a great ballplayer.  Diaz and Goins are far better defensively – I could see an argument for demoting Goins to get some work at Buffalo given that his hitting, expected to be anemic, has been worse than anemic, but fans act like Kawasaki is a hitting guy when he’s equally replacement-level.  The honest truth is that all of them continue to ensure second base remains an offensive black hole on the team, which is a minor problem if the rest of the lineup is producing and a more significant one when, like now, it’s not.

Lind going down means we get to see Juan Francisco.  Having washed out of three organizations because the only thing he does is hit homers, he’s a classic AAAA slugger.  At least it’s better than having Sierra DH’ing.

Going to my first regular-season game tonight.  Good ol’ Mets and their deeply discounted seat sales.