The Toronto Blue Jays made a host of high-profile acquisitions prior to the season, trading for R.A. Dickey, Mark Buehrle and Jose Reyes, to name a few. But, as was the case when the Miami Marlins (from whom the Jays acquired Buehrle and Reyes) made a big splash a year ago, the moves have not paid dividends for Toronto, which sits in last place in the American League East.
The Jays' holdovers such as Edwin Encarnacion, Jose Bautista and Adam Lind have outperformed the new guys, but all three are offensive players. Meanwhile, the team's starting pitching has been nowhere to be found, pretty much since day one of the 2013 season.
With most things, however, there are silver linings, and the Jays definitely have some of those. After falling to a season-worst 11 games under .500 on May 10, Toronto has rebounded to 32-36 thanks to a sweep of the Texas Rangers, who have lost six of seven to the streaking Blue Jays over the past couple of weeks.
It has taken some work to get to this point, though, and the Jays still aren't quite back to even. And, even if they do get there, is that what they are? A .500 club? I asked Tom Dakers, who runs SB Nation's Blue Jays community Bluebird Banter, that and more. I also answered a few of Tom's questions about the Rockies, which you can see here.
Bryan Kilpatrick: When I look at the Blue Jays' overall hitting and pitching stats, the team appears to be right at league average. Is that a good way to summarize this team, or is there more to it?
Tom Dakers: Yeah there is more to it. At the start of the season, for reasons that I can't even fake an explanation, we couldn't hit, pitch or play defense. Almost no one on the team was performing the way even the most pessimistic of Blue Jay fans could have thought they would. The only batter that was hitting at all was Jose Reyes and he wrecked his ankle on a very awkward looking slide on April 12, and has just started a rehab stint. I've never seen anything like it before. Normally the season starts and some guys are hot, some are cold, but for us everyone was cold.
Then the injuries started. Starting pitchers Brandon Morrow, Josh Johnson and J.A. Happ hit the DL. Josh is back, Morrow will be another week or two and Happ will be at least another month. We have used 29 pitchers and 12 starting pitchers this season, and it is only the middle of June. On the batting side, Brett Lawrie has kept Reyes company on the DL for most of the season. Several others have had nagging injuries that haven't been quite enough to put them on the DL, but have slowed them.
For the past month or so the batters have been much better. We have averaged 5.25 runs per game over the last 24 games and a batting line of .268/.325/.430.
More recently, the pitching seems to have come around. We have a 2.21 ERA in June. The bullpen, despite being over worked, has been lights out, putting up a 0.75 ERA in June. The rotation has been slower to get it all together, but the last couple of times through, they have been much better. Mark Buehrle hit a high point of a 7.02 ERA on May 6, but since then he has brought it down to 4.66. R.A. Dickey has a 3.79 mark over his last 3 starts. Josh Johnson had a 6.86 ERA when he went on the DL but in his two starts since coming back, has brought it down to 5.40. Former middle reliever Esmil Rogers has a 1.26 ERA in 3 starts since being put in the rotation in a "someone has to start" move. Even recent signee Chien-Ming Wang has surprised, pitching 14.1 decent innings in 2 starts.
So, while our stats may, on the whole, be very average, the way we've got there has been anything but average. Hopefully the recent good play will continue.
BK: J.P. Arencibia's batting line is mind-blowing. He has walked just six times and struck out 78, leading to a .238 on-base percentage, but he packs quite a bit of power, as his 14 homers would suggest. Can the Blue Jays live with the low OBP because of Arencibia's ability to hit the ball over the wall?
TD: J.P. drives me crazy. In his rookie season he hit 23 home runs in not quite a full season. He took a walk 7.4% of the time, not quite league average but not terrible either. I kind of figured that with normal progression, as he learned in the majors, he could be an All-Star at a relatively weak position.
Last year his walk rate dropped to a poor 4.8% and this season it's an unacceptable 2.5%. There isn't a pitch so far off the plate that he won't chase. What makes it worse is that he wears the "I don't walk" label as a badge of honor. He'll say "I'm not paid to walk, I'm paid to get RBI" and then he'll have a game like the one last week, where he comes up 3 times with a runner on third and less that two outs and he strikes out three times. If you are an RBI guy, you have to score that runner.
Being fair, he is a streak hitter. When he's hot, he's great, but when he's cold, like he has been for most of the last month, he's the easiest out in the majors. If he would learn to take a walk occasionally, he'd get more pitches in the strike zone and he'd hit more homers. As it is, he's a mistake hitter.
Last week I wrote that he should be sent to the minors to work on his approach at the plate. Of course, since then he's hit a home run in both of the games he's played. I'm hoping it is the start of another hot streak.
BK: One of the bright spots hidden in the Jays' mediocre season thus far has been the resurgence of Adam Lind, albeit in limited duty. How sustainable is that success, particularly the on-base portion?
#26 / Designated Hitter / Toronto Blue Jays
Jul 17, 1983
|2013 - Adam Lind||.350||.417||.561|
TD: Adam has always been pretty good against RHP, it's the lefties he hasn't been able to hit. So John Gibbons did something that seemed obvious to all of us, except former manager John Farrell: platoon him. It has worked well. But he's improved his approach at the plate so much that he is hitting lefties at a .520/.520/.660 rate (small sample size warning, 25 at-bats), so Gibbons has began giving him some starts against lefties.
Last year, in a great example of tough love, the Jays outrighted him to the minors and told him to fix his approach at the plate, and he seems like he did. He's not going to finish the season with the .417 OBP he's sporting now, but I think he'll keep his OPS above .900 for the season.
BK: Like Arencibia, Colby Rasmus has shown some power but is dragged down by a poor OBP. Knowing that he's only 26, will he ever put it all together, or is this just who he is?
TD: Like just about everyone on the team, Colby had a slow start to the season. So far in June he's hitting .250/.321/.563. I think that's about the top we can hope for from Colby. He strikes out too much to put up a good batting average, but he has power, he will take his share of walks and his defense is pretty good, so we can live with a .250-ish batting average.
BK: Do the Jays have any help on the way in terms of prospects?
TD: No, not really. Well, Anthony Gose is playing in Triple-A and he can come up and lend a hand if there is an injury, but he still has work to do on his swing. Alex Anthopoulos spent most of the offseason trading away most of our closest to ready prospects to go all-in on this season. At this point it looks like it hasn't paid off. The Jays do have some good prospects but most of them are in the lower levels of the system.
Game 1: Monday, June 17 at 5:07 p.m. MT (ROOT Sports)
Jorge De La Rosa (7-4, 3.49 ERA) vs. Josh Johnson (0-2, 5.40 ERA)
Game 2: Tuesday, June 18 at 5:07 p.m. MT (ROOT Sports)
Jeff Francis (2-4, 5.87) vs. Esmil Rogers (2-2, 3.21)
Game 3: Wednesday, June 19 at 5:07 p.m. MT (ROOT Sports)
Juan Nicasio (4-2, 4.86) vs. Mark Buehrle (3-4, 4.66)
Toronto Blue Jays Injuries
|Player||Injury Type||Injury Date|
60 Day DL / Out for the season
|Player||Injury Type||Injury Date|