Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Toronto Blue Jays: 47 played - 115 to go

Many people feel you shouldn't judge a baseball team's performance until about the 1/3 mark of the season. Well we're just about there - the Jays have won 24 and lost 23 for a total of 47 games. 162 divided by 3 is 54 - so with a week to go to the 1/3 mark I'd say it's time for a over-view.

I'm a fan of Sabermetrics - I think more information is good. Some of the new stats, especially the defensive calculations are long over-due. But to this point I haven't jumped into Baseball-reference and learned how to manipulate all the cool tools for parsing the numbers - I will soon.

This overview is my impression of the Jays first third of the 2011 season. But trust me - I've scored 35 of the 47 games the Jays have played thus far - that means I have noted every play, every substitution, and in about a 1/4 of the games I have scored, I even noted every pitch ... . Plus I have a mind like a steel trap --- So Trust Me :)  --- my opinion is worth something, even if I don't back up all these ideas with statistics - maybe next time I will.


In a nut shell, this team's line up - with all the starters playing together for an extended time - is as good as any team's in the American League East - but injuries to the 'A-team' have been regular and persistent so far - and the Blue Jays have zero depth. If one player goes down the team runs per-game average drops to that of a second division team.

The Running Game

I am an enthusiastic supporter of the little ball strategy that the Blue Jays tried to go with this year, unfortunately once again, depth is a problem, with one or two key, quick and fast base runners out of the equation, the Jays don't have the parts to play that game. Not only that but the Blue Jay farm system has always developed players based on Earl Weaver's maxim for building American League teams: 'Pitching, defence and the three-run homer' - as such you can't just bring up your quick, fast prospects that have been learning the old metric for 5 years and expect them to now learn little ball at the major league level - the inside game has to be taught through-out the organization and over time the big league team will begin to reflect that style of play.


The new catcher is making great improvements to his rceiving game so says Buck Martinez, and who am I to argue?

The experiment at 1st base has been a great success in my mind. Adam Lind is a better than average receiver at 1st base, and an good defensive player at that position. The experiment at third hasn't turned out so well. Edwin Encarnacion has brain farts over there at least twice a week - it's too much - perhaps DH is where he's headed.

Up the middle, John McDonald fills in without a missed beat for the oft injured Hill. The middle infield is above average.

The outfield has below average speed and average arms. Their routes to balls are nothing to write home about, but they get the job done. With Snider down to AAA Las Vegas 'to work on his swing mechanics' - so say the Jays - the outfield defence is much improved. Snider reminds me of Jose Canseco in left. The Bautista in right field is OK, his arm is above average and he's made a few scintillating assists that make opposing teams change how they run the bases - but he gets fooled on balls off the bat sometimes and doesn't get to those long runs-to-an-out plays you see the Tampa Bay Rays RF tandem (Joyce and Zobrist) make out there all the time; but he rarely lets a ball get past him - and I've rarely seen him take a bad path to a ball - he's a competent right fielder. Patterson is great in left, not so much in centre, and Davis is above average on getting to balls, but has a below average arm for a centre fielder.

The bench for the most part this year - isn't. Defensive replacements, pinch hitters or pinch runners were not available to John Farrell for the majority of first 47 games. The 'bench' was either down in AAA to make room for extra arms in the beleaguered bullpen, or injured (as in Adam Lind who sat on the bench for almost a week before being designated).

The Starting Staff

Right out of spring training key people in the starting rotation were absent - and this has become a theme. The people who have started for the Jays so far this year for the most part have not been able to go deep into games. But they are a better than average starting staff - they keep the Jays in almost every game. I can count two, maybe three early blow-ups so far. But this inability to go deep in games has put a lot of pressure on the relief staff - and on the line-up.

The Relief Staff

John Farrell I believe is still leaning who is who on this relief staff. I have the benefit of having watched Manager Cito Gaston and Pitching Coach Bruce Walton develop a very good Relief Pitching Team last year - so I get the benefit of the long view. I can see Farrell's influence as he and Walton try different combinations, this person in that role, that person in this role... . In my opinion, they have yet to find the magic function that lands everyone in a role that allows them the best opportunity to succeed. That being said, the innings these guys have had to shoulder for the team because of the short starts cannot be understated - on a good day this is still a 1st division relief staff.


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