Friday, July 15, 2011

Toronto Blue Jays Report Card

Larry Toman, our blogger DH/Violist, is back again for another week to fill in for the vacationing John "The Tomahawk" Trembath (no, we're not referring to his cello playing). Today, he’s offering a pretty frank mid-season report card on the Jays. Welcome again, Larry!

With the All-Star break upon us, it’s time to see what the Blue Jays have been up to for the first 92 games of the 2011 season. In the highly competitive American League East Division, Toronto resides in fourth place while sporting a 45-47 record, good for a .489 win percentage. The Blue Jays are 11 games behind the division-leading Boston Red Sox, while sitting 10 games behind the New York Yankees in the wild card race.

Every team in Major League Baseball is faced with the same set of adversities during the gruelling 162-game schedule. Injuries, surgeries, mediocrity and often complacency become the ongoing and unexpected challenges. Season-ending surgery to a star player can quickly become the knock on death’s door for a team. And while the Jays have been fortunate to avoid such a scenario, a team made up largely of stopgaps cannot expect to contend in a division that boasts three of the better teams in the game.

Now, here’s the mid-season report card for the Blue Jays.

STARTING PITCHING: It’s rare that a starting five-man rotation can make it to the break unscathed. Either by addition or subtraction, other pitchers enter the equation. In the case of the Blue Jays, eight different starters have been involved in what are deemed quality starts. They have compiled 47 of them in 92 games and tip the scales at just over a .500 winning PCT.

Bright lights: Ricky Romero, Brandon Morrow, Brett Cecil and Carlos Villanueva.

Question marks: Jo-Jo Reyes and Kyle Drabek.

RELIEVERS: It gets a little dicey here. Seven pitchers have combined for 36 holds, which has resulted in only 20 saves. Blown saves are part of the game, but the above-mentioned two stats are too far apart. While there is always room for improvement, the Jays middle-to-long relief has done a respectable job. Yet, the murky and unsettling waters of the closers are another story.

The Jays do not have a go-to-guy that can slam the door and a closer-by-committee situation is usually a cross between Russian roulette and a recipe for disaster. In this present scenario, the Jays are using Frank Francisco and Jon Rauch back and forth, based heavily on statistical hitter/pitcher matchups. Francisco has above average stuff, but his short fuse and emotional instability have both been detrimental at times and have played a factor in his wildly inconsistent season. Rauch has the physical attributes and mental demeanour, but the quality of his repertoire is average at best and he lacks the speed generally required to excel in the ninth inning.

Bright lights: Jason Frasor, Shawn Camp, Casey Janssen and Marc Rzepczynski.

Question marks: Octavio Dotel, Luis Perez, Francisco and Rauch.

BATTING: The Jays have relied heavily on a few to carry the bulk of their production. One-through-nine is filled with bumps and potholes. The Jays currently have a team batting average of .257, which could be much-improved with increased production from the under-achievers. J.P. Arencibia will come around as his maturity and experience grows, cutting down on chasing bad pitches and showing more patience. Aaron Hill needs to step up production, and most likely will. Travis Snider is coming around, and Eric Thames has been a pleasant surprise, while solidifying his presence. Superstar Jose Bautista leads the charge, as arguably the best player currently in the major leagues.

Bright lights:
Bautista, Adam Lind, Yunel Escobar, Thames and Snider.

Question marks: Edwin Encarnacion, Corey Patterson and Rajai Davis.

FIELDING: The defensive deficiencies in the outfield were often alarming with Patterson, Rivera and Davis, patrolling the space. Collectively, the group is subpar and lacks a combination of range, accuracy and arm strength. Rivera is now gone, but filling spots with players who do not fit into the long-term plans often yields questionable results, as is the case here. Bautista’s move to third base is only a temporary assignment until Brett Lawrie is ready for the call-up from Triple-A Las Vegas, which may happen later this season. The second half scenario paints a much brighter picture once Snider, Thames and Bautista patrol the outfield.

Bright lights: Bautista, Snider and Thames.

Question marks: Patterson and Davis.

While the Blue Jays will be competitive and provide excitement, the quest to return to the postseason is still in the future.


Rick Blechta said...

I just wish the team hadn't wasted time with people like Rivera. I understand that they were giving him time and hoping he'd turn some heads on other teams so that when the time came to cut him loose, he'd have a bit of value, even if it was only a matter of dumping his salary.

The Jays currently have too many players on the squad who are of a similar type. Patterson is a bench-warmer at best. Ditto for Dotel, although he might come around. Hill? I wonder just what is the matter with him.

Actually, that's the point I guess: the Jays are too willing to hope that a player will come around. We have young guys at Triple A who might benefit from being up with the big club.

John the Tomahawk Trembath said...

I agree with Rick's assesement. Too many q marks and not enough hard decisions made. I gave the Jays a C+ in my blog on trades and I'd give the team an overall C for the season. It is time Rivera left, not soon enough. We really need to make what changes we can and bring up some hot prospects to assess their abilities. But there do not seem to be so many from the AAA side right now. Way too much time by the rookie manager assessing "talent". Blah blah. Should have been done already. Farrel is too cautious.