Thursday, August 2, 2012

Boo Jays - State of the Jaysdom

Injury and Insult?

When the Toronto Blue Jays came out of the preseason, they were looking hot. Brett Lawrie, at age 21, became the voice of the club, attracting young fans. Attendance is up over 20% (league attendance is up 5%). The preseason was great. Blue Jays fandom was looking for a good season, and the addition of the 2nd wild card represented great hope for the club. Your bench players were Visquel, Davis, and Mathis, which were upgrades over last year.

Rogers Media overhauled its messaging, stating that the the AL east was going to be closest in years, delivered some dramatic music, and off went the season, with a new closer in Sergio Santos and a very young rotation featuring Alvarez, Drabek, and Hutchinson in the back of the rotation.

This season is all about inconsistency. There was lacklustre hitting and blown saves in April. Lind, Bautista, Arencibia, and Yunel had poor starts. May was better but Thames and Lind were still awful. Walks were a problem. At the end of May, the Jays were 3 games over .500 and looking pretty good. Morrow was coming together. Hutchinson had adjusted and was starting to reimprove. Lind got demoted and up came Cooper or Gomes.

June started with optimism but then with the departures of Morrow, Drabek, and Hutchinson in the same week, it all started to unravel a bit. In came Cecil, Laffey, and Villanueva to pick up the slack, with only Carlos Del V doing excellent in the role. But despite the pitching outages, the Jays offense picked up the slack, and Bautista and Arencibia started hitting the cover off the ball to keep the ship afloat. Even Lind came back and was doing really well.

But then Bautista went down and alarm bells went off. The Yankees completed its sweep, and the Jays came back and completed the sweep against Boston, giving the fandom hope. Then Lind went down with back pain, and Arencibia suffered from a freak accident. Down were the #1, 5, and 6 hitters in the 2nd half (measured by OPS). Then Travis Snider got traded along with Thames and the #4 hitter was gone, leaving Rajai Davis and Edwin as the top two hitters on the team (2nd half).

So, what should Anthopolous have done? If you were the Jays upper management, what would you do.

First, realize that Anthopolous cannot simply go out and rent players, because alas (see previous post), AA reports to Rogers Media, which reports to Rogers Communications. The Blue Jays and Rogers Centre brought in 160 million in revenue last year. There will be increased revenue of about $12 million or so from increased ticket sales which AA will probably be able to use to purchase a pitcher in the off season.

And, really, even if AA went out and rented two batters (left field and 1st) and two starters (Garza, Dempster) where would hte Jays stand with 58 games to go. They have to pass 5 teams and win 5 more games then ALL of them, essentially having to win 2 of 3 to make the playoffs. Even the best team in baseball wins 3 of 5, so it would have taken luck and skill to pull them off. And the Jays would have given away its top prospects for a long shot possibility to have a 50/50 shot to make the post season. And Romero has fallen apart, going 1-8 since the Jays pitching debacle and an ERA approaching 9. So really, you can't blame AA for not going for broke at the deadline, and during the first three months of the season, you really can't pick up anyone.

No, not this year. Not this team. The team needed consistency and to perform better with the resources they had back in April. And now there are too many injuries and they are too far back.

In my opinion if AA can be criticized for anything, it's for not scoring a veteran starter in the last off-season. With Hutchinson, Alvarez, and Drabek being the back end of the starting rotation, everyone knew that there was a good chance that at least one of them would fail. And Drabek pretty much did, and the farm seemed to dry up. Carreno and Chavez didn't start well. Cecil is getting better, but has yet to perform, and while Villanueva is doing very well, the long reliever position suffered.

Snider and Thames' departure is a product of AA needing long term relievers, which is a result of Perez's season ending surgery, Villanueva's move to the starting rotation, and Santos' injury. I am sure that AA would have rather gotten a decent starter for both, but the market for starting pitching was just too expensive. The Jays will likely try to stretch out Lincoln again into a starter. Happ may also be a starter.

As for Snider (and Thames), the fans are sad to see him go, and most analysts are pretty critical of both the Jays and Snider of the inability to connect. The Jays didn't really give Snider a chance, and Snider really never proved himself at the major league level.

Once Bautista is back (hopefully at home by the end of next week), the Jays will send down Sierra and platoon Gose and Davis in left field or perhaps let Gose start in center and move Rasmus to left. The Jays will either go with six starters and seven relievers or five starters and eight relievers until the end of the year and leave a short bench for the rest of August (until the reinforcements can be added for September). Morrow will be back in three weeks, and perhaps we'll see Hutchinson in mid-September to take over for Alvarez who will be shut down.

In the end, the Jays will probably finish at .500 this year and the end result will be chalked up to injury and inconsistency. The fandom will argue about the effectiveness of Alex Anthopolous and John Farrell this year, but really, you gotta look at the injuries and the inconsistency, little of which are in Alex' control.

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