Three Things From Week Twelve

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It may have ended with a thud, but I’d say that last week was a successful one for the Blue Jays.

They were on the road for six interleague games and split them.  Yes, an argument can be made that they played two weaker opponents, so a winning record should have been expected.  But factor in this: they were on the road, the games were of the interleague variety (AKA Toronto’s worst nightmare), the Blue Jays were missing 60% of their starting rotation, and the bullpen was extremely overworked.

I’ll take a 3-3 record under those circumstances any day of the week.

Here are three things from week 12:

Week 12: June 18 – June 24

Record: 3 – 3

1. Patchwork Rotation Blues

When the Jays lost Morrow, Drabek, and Hutchison in the space of four days, everybody knew that tough times were ahead.  To suddenly be without 3/5 of your starting rotation is a massive blow.

Well, after one week it appears that life might be a whole lot tougher than anticipated.  Toronto gave the ball to rotation fill-ins in four of the six games played last week.  Jesse Chavez started Tuesday in Milwaukee and Sunday in Miami, Joel Carreno took the ball Wednesday afternoon in Milwaukee, and Brett Cecil made his second start of the season on Friday.  While Cecil pitched well in his start, the other two struggled.  Badly.

Chavez lasted just 2.1 IP on Tuesday night, and Carreno only made it through 3 on Wednesday.  Those efforts put even more innings onto an already overworked bullpen.  When all was said and done, even including Cecil’s good outing on Friday, the three combined for only 17.2 IP in four starts, gave up 16 earned runs, 20 hits, and 9 walks, for an ERA of 8.15, WHIP of 1.64, and a 4.58 BB/9.  Those numbers won’t win many ballgames.

An even bigger concern for Toronto is what happens next.  Morrow isn’t due back for a while, and neither is Hutchison.  Drabek isn’t coming back for a long time.  There really isn’t much depth in the minors – the high ceiling guys are too far away.  Maybe they bring up Scott Richmond?  Maybe, with the acquisition of a few relievers last week, they move Carlos Villanueva into the mix?

Or maybe they go external.  The only problem with that is that the options are thin.  Some of the names that have come up include Jeremy Guthrie (who sucks), Matt Garza (who will be a pricy acquisition), and Ryan Dempster (who’s now on the DL) – obviously no clear cut winners.

2. The Big Four

Coming into this season, if you had to pick two offensive players that would lead Toronto to the playoffs, I bet most people would choose Jose Bautista and Brett Lawrie.  As we approach the halfway point of the season, I think it’s safe to add two more names to that list: Edwin Encarnacion and Colby Rasmus.  EE has been raking all year long, and since sitting out for a few games in May, Rasmus has been on fire.

If there ever was a coming out party for 500 Level Fan’s newly minted Big Four, it was last week.  BLER (Bautista, Lawire, Encarnacion, Rasmus), absolutely destroyed NL pitching on the six game trip through Milwaukee and Miami.  The four combined for a .323 AVG, .430 OBP, .781 SLG, 1.211 OPS, and 2.095 WPA.  (For explanation of WPA, check out the 500 Level Fan Cheat Sheet for Advanced Offensive Stats).

Batting 1 – 4 in the lineup, these guys hit night in and night out (OK, maybe not yesterday in a 9 – 0 loss).  Bautista lead the way with a 1.328 OPS.  Bau and EE lead in HR with 4.  Lawrie scored 10 runs.  Rasmus and Bau each had 8 RBI.  It was a truly dominating week.

It also helped to restore some order in this crazy 2012 MLB season.  After his 4 HR barrage last week, Jose Bautista is now back in familiar territory – atop the HR leaderboard.  He is tied for first with Adam Dunn, only two ahead of Encarnacion.  In addition, every member of the Big Four now rank in the top 43 in the AL in OPS: Lawrie is up to .767, Rasmus has eclipsed the .800 mark, and EE and Bau rank 7th and 12th respectively.

So much for struggling at the plate…

3. He’s Baaaaack!!

For those of you who thought we’d seen the last of Adam Lind (which includes myself), think again.  The much maligned first baseman is back with the big club after being recalled on Sunday. 

Before going any deeper into what this means for the Jays, Lind, and maybe even Travis Snider, I think we should give credit where credit is due.  Toronto sent Adam Lind to Vegas and asked him to work on his conditioning, work on his swing, and clear his head.  To Lind’s absolute credit, he did what he was told, and did so without complaining.  I know that numbers in the Pacific Coast League don’t translate on the same scale to the majors, but Lind was pretty impressive in his AAA stint: 32 games, 125 AB, .392 AVG, .448 OBP, 1.112 OPS, 8 HR, 29 RBI. 

Of course Lind isn’t out of the woods yet.  He has to show at least a small amount of competence against LHP.  He has to show that he can pull himself out of slumps.  But it looks like the Jays will give him every opportunity to do so.  After all, David Cooper, he of the .292 AVG and .764 OPS was sent down to Vegas, leaving the Jays with Edwin, Lind, and newly reinstated Ben Francisco to play 1B and DH. 

Whether or not this is Lind’s last chance remains to be seen, but fans shouldn’t be wildly optimistic about how he’ll perform.  I’m guardedly hopeful that he has made some improvements, but don’t forget that I predicted in the preseason that he would be completely out of the organization by the end of 2012.

For once, I’d love to be proven wrong.

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