Sunday, April 21, 2013

What to do about them Boo Jays?

It's been quite disappointing to watch the 7-11 Blue Jays muddle through the very young season, and the Rogers apologists think that there's no reason to worry, but there is.

For the Jays to make the playoffs they will need to go at least 86-58 to reach 93 wins, and even that might not be enough. That's a .600 record. Are the Jays  on the field today capable of playing .600 ball. Absolutely. But will they? Absolutely not.

The good

There are bright spots on this team, to be sure. We know that the starting rotation are CAPABLE of great starts, and we've seen the bright spots from Dickey, Johnson, and Morrow. We know that Mark Buehrle is a 4 ERA pitcher in the AL, and that means we should expect at least 1/2 of his starts to be quality ones. And JA Happ is the #5 starter and anything under a 5 ERA is good for him.

We know that JP Arencibia and Jose Bautista are performing to expectations, each putting bombs out of the park. We also see patches of sunshine from Adam Lind and Edwin and hopefully that will become consistent as the season wears on. We know that Adam is streaky and we'll need to see how that plays out over the season.

A welcome suprpise is the bullpen. Janssen, Delebar, Loup, Rogers, Cecil, and Santos are performing better than expected. Darren Oliver has been shaky, but the bullpen as a whole has been very good, especially given the early season pressure.

The ugly

But we've seen blowouts from each of the pitchers too. It's easy to point at the defense tell them to do their job, and indeed, defence is lacking when Jose is not playing right field and with a hole at 2B. But it's the pitcher's job to make sure they don't get on base. I attribute 4 of 11 losses to awful starts. Dickey's initial outing was bad because Arencibia clearly couldn't catch the knuckleball in front of 50,000 people.

The other losses were due to lack of hitting. This team should be hitting much better than they are. You can excuse the team for giving up in the blowouts, absolutely. But when you're consistently not outputting runs, you are not going to win games, and you can't always stick it into your bullpen's or defense's hands to be perfect in order to hold a tie game or a slim lead all of the time because you can't score. The bullpen and defence are the weaker parts of this team, especially at 2B (all the time) and when Bautista's not playing RF. 

Edwin started the season with a drought and has warmed up, as has Adam Lind. Rasmus, who, when he makes contact with the ball, REALLY makes contact and is batting like a DH with tons of strike outs. The problem is that Jose Bautista and JP Arencibia have the same hitting style, meaning a low OBP and the inability to string together hits to score plenty of runs.

And when the rest of the team isn't hitting around you, the home runs are not meaningful. Brett Lawrie (who inexplicitly bat 6th when just getting back into MLB action) will get better.

But there are other players on the team who are underperforming. Melky's start has been bad as well with a complete outage of power for the #2 spot in the lineup.
With Reyes and Bautista out of the line up for a time, there was certainly weakness in the line up that left Cabrera unprotected, meaning that they could really focus on him, because the threats around him were fairly weak.
Emilio Bonifacio needs to step up his game: a .232 OBP is unacceptable for a player who has above .300 in OBP for the last five seasons. His fielding has been atricious, especially at 2B. The same message goes to Maicer, with his .200 OBP so far. His career OBP has been above .320 for each of the last six seasons. Something is wrong here. Rajai's been good, and he deserves every day action because he's just as fast as Bonifacio, gets on base more, and is not a defensive liability. The problem with Rajai of course is that he's weak against RHP.

Blame the Coaching Staff?

So who do you blame? It's easy to say it's the coaching staff and in particular the change out of Mottola for Murphy. Maybe so. Sportsnet staff are quick to point out how a coach has been helping out a player. If that is the case, then why is the team suffering as a whole?

Certainly you can blame managerial staff for poor decisions. That includes putting the wrong people in the lineup, making poor choices for pitching changes, and being too aggressive or not aggressive enough on the baselines. For example, Brett Lawrie is finally hitting #8 in the lineup today. Why would you throw him in the six spot when he has NO MLB experience this year in hitting? 

But players who are performing well just need maintenance when it comes to coaching, and if you're a good player, you will continue to be good. If you're performing poorly, you're going to need help from the coaching staff, and we'll see what comes of it. Can you blame the coaching staff? I don't know.

Things to change

Don't think about changing the starting rotation or the bullpen. They are fine. Of course the starting line up needs to be tweaked to reflect individual performances.

Something needs to change on this team. Both Maicer and Emilio HAVE to get better. We know Brett Lawrie WILL get better.

There are too many people on the team GEARED to swing for the fences. And of course, the lead off spot is dead because Jose Reyes is out until probably the end of June at the earliest. Kawasaki is not going to always have a .375 OBP -- he is far outperforming his position and will have to come down to earth. That means that one of Rajai or Emilio will have to step up and we know that Rajai will not be the one against RHP.

Perhaps now is the time to pull the plug on Colby, trade him with Bonifacio, and get a strong 2B in return. Bring in Anthony Gose, who is more of a contact hitter and can run. And get prepared to replace Kawasaki at SS as well as he is just due to slide.

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