The eighth week of the major league schedule has come and gone, and it has to be classified as at least a minor success for the Jays.
Why? Because despite inclement weather, lots of walks from starting pitchers, more injuries, sloppy error filled play, games against the first place Rays, and the return of dreaded interleague play, Toronto finished the week with three wins and three losses. It could have been much, much worse.
And once again, for the 8th consecutive week, the reason why it wasn’t much, much worse was because of one man – Jose Bautista.
Here are three things from week 8.
Week 8: May 16 – 22
Record: 3 – 3
1. Even When He Slumps He’s Good
Coming off a week where he slammed 6 HR and a 1.708 OPS, it was mandatory that Jose Bautista regress a bit, if only because it would be virtually impossible for him to perform any better.
And while the numbers he put up last week were more reminiscent of a solid major leaguer instead of a Greek God (.273 AVG, .930 OPS, 2 HR, 4 RBI), he still single-handedly stole a win for the team on Saturday. Trailing 4-0 in the 6th inning to the woeful Astros, Bautista hit first a 3-run bomb to bring the Jays closer, then a solo shot to add some insurance. He also threw out a runner attempting to go first to third – an all around performance.
The man is a machine, an outstanding player playing at an otherworldly level. You know a guy is good when in an “off” week, he still hits for a better average than many All-Stars. The opposition is finally starting to pay him the utmost respect, as J-Bau was intentionally walked twice last week, meaning we need Adam Lind back more than ever.
2. The Catcher of the Future IS the Catcher of the Present
Jays fans have been treated incredibly badly by young catchers over the past several years. So many times, the next catcher of the future has come up through the system only to badly disappoint at the big league level. Remember Kevin Cash? Robinzon Diaz? Guillermo Quiroz? Josh Phelps? Angel Martinez?
Well, the next in line to that ghastly legacy was J.P. Arencibia. After a dynamite debut last season, he put up Kevin Cash-like numbers the rest of the year. But the Jays stuck with him and gave him the starting job coming into this season, and the rookie is currently performing the rarest of feats for Toronto – living up to the hype.
The average might be a bit low, but it never was expected to be high. And after a great week last week (.333 AVG, 1.072 OPS, 2 HR) his season total has climbed from .229 to .244, with an .829 OPS on top of that. In addition, he has hit 8 HR, which puts him tied for first with New York’s Russel Martin for most HR by a catcher in all of baseball.
The biggest concern heading into the season was his ability behind the plate, but he has improved tremendously as both a receiver and a thrower, with an increasing caught stealing %.
Finally, after all these years, Toronto has a good, young catcher. Could AL Rookie of the Year be next?
3. If Pitching and Defense Wins Championships…
Then we might be in trouble. At least if last week was any indication of future performance.
Blue Jays pitchers allowed a staggering 23 walks in just 6 games last week, including 9 by Kyle Drabek alone. The bullpen allowed 8 runs in those games, including a brutal implosion on Friday where Jon Rauch blew the save for Jo-Jo Reyes by allowing two in the 8th, just before Frank Francisco took the loss by giving up three in the 9th.
The defense wasn’t much better. Though Wednesday was the only day they were officially charged with errors, they made enough that day to last a while. Five errors were committed by Toronto, including two by the pitcher, Jessie Litsch. Edwin Encarnacion continued to show how terrible he is by booting the ball all over the place, earning himself a benching.
The fact that the Jays managed to survive that performance and still pick up three wins is either a testament to the character of the team, or just pure, plain luck. Whatever the case, the good ship Blue Jay is having enough difficulty staying afloat as-is.
It can’t afford to keep leaking walks and errors.