Three Things From Week Twenty

After the twentieth week of the 2011 season came and went, one thing is obvious – we should look into changing Toronto’s name from the Jays to the Lawries.

Seriously – Brett Lawrie stole all the hype last week, first making his home debut, then destroying the Oakland and LA pitching staffs. Attendance increased, excitement increased, and Toronto’s hope for future success increased as well. With Lawrie firmly entrenched in the lineup and showing no signs of slowing down, Jays fans are excited about the possibility of October baseball as early as 2012.

And with a road trip beginning against the bottom feeders of the AL West, maybe there is outside hope for October baseball this season. I’d put nothing past Lawrie now.

Here are three things from week 20:

Week 20: August 8 – August 14

Record: 3 – 3

1. Youth Movement

The Jays were already a young team coming into this season. With a core full of players just entering their prime (Arencibia, Romero, Snider, Drabek, Morrow, etc.) things were looking up.

Well, in the past few weeks, the Jays have grown even younger – and the kids are alright.

Colby Rasmus was acquired from St. Louis. The 24 year old has struggled a bit in his move to the AL East, but after going 0 for his 13 he now has hits in 8 of his past 10 games, and has brought his OPS up from .000 to .602, all while making some incredible plays in CF.

Brett Lawrie arrived next, and what else can you say about the 21 year old? 9 games, 2

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HR, 7 RBI, .355 average, 1.104 OPS says it all. Though his defense at 3B has been up and down, he has made some outstanding plays and looks a lot better than I expected.

Then last week came the latest youngster – 21 year old Henderson Alvarez, who made his big league debut against the A’s on Wednesday. Though it wasn’t the cleanest debut, Alvarez did pitch into the 6th inning struck out 4 and looked stronger as the game went on. He is set to make his second start tonight in Seattle.

With all the young guys around, I bet Johnny Mac must feel like an OLD 36.

2. Dave Collins – Your Record is Safe

When the Jays acquired Rajai Davis in the offseason, 500 Level Fan predicted that he would break Toronto’s single season record for stolen bases of 60 set by Dave Collins in 1984. I was wrong.

Rajai has put together a nice total of steals (34) but injuries and his inability to get on base at a consistent clip robbed him of any chance he may have had. He missed 19 days in April with an ankle injury, and when he came back he stole every chance he got. Unfortunately that wasn’t very often.

For the season, Davis’ OBP is a paltry .273. Such a low on-base percentage saw Rajai pushed to 8th or 9th in the order on many nights, instead of leadoff where a guy with his wheels would normally thrive. Think about it this way: Davis reached base 91 times (76 hits, 15 walks), and he attempted 45 stolen bases. That mean he attempted to steal about 50% of his times on base. Just upping his OBP to a more respectable .330 clip would have added at least 10-20 steals to his total.

Now with Rajai shelved once again with a torn hamstring, one is left to wonder if he will even play again this season. Oh, what could have been.

3. Jessie Litsch – Relief Pitcher Extraordinaire

Has there even been a more under-the-radar bullpen MVP than Litsch? He returned to the big leagues on July 30th, put in a relief role by Farrell partly because the Jays have a good amount of starters with the inclusion of Mills and Alavarez, and partly to try and stabilize Toronto’s Achilles Heel.

Whether or not the experiment might be permanent remains to be seen, but one thing is for certain – it seems to be working.

Since his recall Litsch has appeared in five games and faced 29 batters. The numbers? 8.2 IP, 2 ER, 3 H, 2 BB, 13 K, 2.08 ERA, and a WHIP of 0.57. This is Jessie Litsch we’re talking about. The man is not known for his strikeout ability. As a starter his K/9 was 7.0 and his K/BB ratio was 2.00. As a reliever? A crazy high 13.48 K/9 and 6.50 K/BB.

He might not have the intimidation factor of a successful closer, but at this point, should we not be giving him a shot?

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