Poor Ricky Romero. The Blue Jay left-hander has been one of the best pitchers in baseball this season but you wouldn’t know it by looking at his record. At 6-4, on the surface Romero appears to be an above-average starter. But he has been the victim of horrendous run support all season long – most notably in his last two starts. Despite going 15 innings and allowing only 2 ER, Romero ended up 0-1 with a no-decision as Toronto provided him with a single run of support. A 1-0 loss to St. Louis last Wednesday was followed by a 2-1 loss to the Indians last night.
But it isn’t just the past week or so that runs have been at a premium. Toronto’s offensive production in June has completely fallen off the map. The MLB home run leaders are looking more toothless by the day. Just look at some of these statistics for the month of June:
Average: .223, dead last in baseball – 15 points back of Seattle for 29th
OBP: .294, second last in baseball
Slugging: .378, 25th (April – .446, 6th; May – .493, 2nd)
OPS: .673, 26th (April – .749, 15th; May – .810, 4th)
Runs: 75, 29th (April – 110, 11th; May – 164, 3rd)
The runs scored figure is particularly discouraging. In April and May, Toronto’s average and on-base percentage were both poor, yet they still ranked in the top half of all of baseball in runs scored. Suddenly, they sit second last in the league for the month of June. 75 runs scored equates to an average of only 3.1 per game, and ranks the Jays ahead of only Seattle. They have scored nearly 100 fewer runs than Texas .
To state the obvious – if you don’t score you can’t win. The Blue Jays are 9-15 in June. They plated three runs or less in 16 of those 24 games, including a stretch of eight games in a row. It is asking a lot from your pitching staff to win more games than you lose with hitting like that.
So who are the culprits? The Jays have eight players with over 50 AB this month, and only one – Lyle Overbay of all people – is hitting higher than .280.
Considering an average level of major league production, only Wells (power), Buck (power), Overbay (on base) and Lewis (on base) are having decent months – and that’s stretching it a bit.
The easiest guys to point fingers at are Hill and Lind. There are 84 players in the American League with enough plate appearances to qualify for the batting title. Of those 84, Aaron Hill is 78th in OPS and Adam Lind is 81st. Compared to this point last season (June 28th) the dropoff is astounding:
Hill (2009): .305 average, .512 slugging, .856 OPS, 19 HR, 56 RBI
Hill (2010): .189 average, .365 slugging, .645 OPS, 11 HR, 28 RBI
Lind (2009): .307 average, .545 slugging, .930 OPS, 15 HR, 52 RBI
Lind (2010): .204 average, .344 slugging, .609 OPS, 9 HR, 34 RBI
But even though they have struggled, nobody is picking up the slack this month.
Go ahead and expand the sample to include the rest of the roster, and the picture is even bleaker. Edwin Encarnacion was sent down due to his terrible performance (.167 average, .313 slugging). His replacement Jarrett Hoffpauir is hitting .174. Little used subs Johnny Mac (.143) and DeWayne Wise (.167) are actually hitting worse. Jose Molina, at 5/14 .357, has been Toronto’s best hitter, but that sample size is too small to mean anything.
But there is good news. Baseball is, and always has been, a cyclical sport full of ups and downs. The Blue Jays are only (hopefully) bottoming out, reaching the bottom of the valley before starting an ascent back upwards. Slumps don’t last forever. Hell, even the great Albert Pujols, Mark Teixeira, Alex Rodriguez, and Joe Mauer are hitting well off their career norms, so we shouldn’t be all that upset that Jose Bautista has hit a dry patch.
The best news of all however concerns who is getting close to making an impact on the Blue Jays roster. Travis Snider is nearing a return and is supposed to return after the all star break. Triple-A stats have to be taken with a grain of salt (after all Edwin Encarnacion is hitting .407 with a 1.115 OPS since being sent down) but down on the farm, Brett Wallace (.301 average, .869 OPS), JP Arencibia (.306 average, .969 OPS), Chris Lubanski (.308 average, .964 OPS), and Brad Emaus (.310 average, .888 OPS) are tearing it up. Any of them could make an appearance in Toronto before the season is out.
But…if the Jays keep hitting like they have been in June, any (or all) of them could make an appearance before July is out.