Friday, May 13, 2011

The Starting Five

It is Wednesday night and I just got back from the Jays vs. BoSox. The Jays took both games in this shortened series. It was a wonderful game of small ball and long ball. Jesse Litsch is now 4 and 2 on the season. He was not as sharp as his last outing but did well thru four innings and got pulled in the sixth. He lost speed and shortened his stretch and served it up. So we go again to the bullpen. On the offensive side, Johnny Mac did the improbable by hitting his second home run and, even better, hit a double for three RBI. The small ball and steals were effective tonight especially from Rajai Davis with four hits. Fun to watch and be there to see the “Big Papi” shift which you cannot see on TV because they focus only on the pitcher-batter combination. I don’t think you can see it on radio either but I am sure it is mentioned.But I digress, back to the season so far.

The Blue Jays pitching staff has been beaten up this year both physically and mentally. Too many injuries and then poor pitch calls and lack of “location”. When the bats go cold, as they did against the Tigers, the shortcomings of the five starters is glaring. The starters, all together, have won only 9 games this season. The Jays record today is 17/20 and still 5.0 behind the Yanks. They have had no complete games and a few times have gotten beyond the sixth inning. These five have an average of 6 innings per start. JoJo Reyes has of course no wins in seven games. As of May 10, the batting average against for the five is .256 with Morrow being the lowest at .222. The base on balls to strike out percentage is 25% for Romero and Morrow, 30% for Reyes and Litsch and 52% for Drabek. The lowest ERA is 4.04 from Romero and 5.00 for Reyes. All in all, it’s a pretty weak starting rotation.

Is this too young a staff? They are all 26 or under. They have had their minor league assignments, but they do not have amongst them the seasoned anchoring veteran as of course Halliday was or even Shawn Marcum could have become. Romero is the veteran on the staff now that Marcum is with the Brewers. In the AL East, inexperienced pitching is not going to get you to the postseason. I don’t think it’s the coaches that are to blame. With so few veterans of any kind on the club, opposing batters can make faster adjustments taking advantage of all the miss cues. Jose Bautista is now the leader of the team but he cannot be the guy for the pitching staff.

In order to be declared the winner of a game you must have led the game when you left. The Red Sox starters have won 14 of the 17 wins. The Tigers have won 17 of 20. The Yankees went 14 of 20. The Jays starters only have 9 of 17 wins to show for the season and have left the game in losing situations. This record is the worst in the major leagues.

The bullpen has to clean up the mess. They have been called upon for every game. Some have been on the DL but I am only taking their body of work to date as comparison. Mark Rzepczynski and Carlos Villanueva have 2 wins each to lead the bullpen. And the tandem closers, Frank Francisco and Jon Rauch, have combined for seven saves and one blown save. As of May 11, the bullpen has more innings served than any other team at more than 124 innings. That is the most in the league. So the starters have not lived up to the expectations held for them this spring.

If this trend continues the bullpen will blow itself up and be in no shape at all by the end of the season. It almost blew up on Tuesday night against the Red Sox when handed a lead, several opportunities to end the game were blown. The starters must make adjustments for themselves and begin to handle the pressure of the AL East. It is now time.

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