Three Things From Week Three

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Life without Jose Reyes began in earnest for Toronto last week….and it didn’t go well.

One would have thought that a seven game homestand against a struggling White Sox squad and a Yankees team missing Jeter, A-Rod, Granderson, and Teixeira would be just the tonic to turn Toronto’s season around. But a back injury to Jose Bautista, shoddy pitching, and absolutely horrendous defense led to a disappointing 3-4 week that dropped the team to dead last in the AL East.

And things don’t get any easier, with seven straight road games ahead in Baltimore and New York. It’s still early, but the sample size is getting larger.

Here are three things from week 3:

Week 3: April 15 – April 21

Record: 3 – 4

1. Season Saver?

In a 162 game schedule, calling game 19 a must-win is absurd. But that is exactly what yesterday felt like in the dome. After dropping the first two to the New York Ex-Jays (seriously – Vernon Wells, Lyle Overbay, Jayson Nix, and Ben Francisco?) the Jays were staring down a home sweep against a bitter division rival that was fielding a weakened lineup. Not exactly good for team morale.

When Josh Johnson walked back-to-back batters with the bases loaded to turn a 2-1 lead into a 3-2 deficit, you could almost feel the air start to go out of the crowd. A loss would have dropped the Jays to 7-12 on the season, and 4-9 at home, and definitely would have added fuel to the “this season is a bust” crowd.

But then something happened. It was like a spark went off and the Blue Jays remembered how to hit. Rasmus came through against a lefty. Lind started reaching base. Arencibia and Lawrie each had a big hit. Things suddenly turned around. For a few glorious innings, the Blue Jays finally looked like the team we thought they’d look like.

There are still a lot of games to play, and hopefully yesterday’s comeback will bring the team to the life.

2. JPA HRK

To Jays fans, J.P. Arencibia is widely known by three letters: JPA. It might be time to start calling him by a different three letters: HRK.

HR, of course stands for home runs. Through the first 19 games of the season, Arencibia has slugged seven of them, including four last week alone. He leads all American League catchers in HR, and also ranks first in RBI with 13, 3rd in OPS (.871), and second in slugging (.611).

Unfortunately, there is the third letter: K. K, of course, stands for strikeout, and JPA has a LOT of those. Arencibia has struck out 28 times so far in 2013, tied with Chris Carter of the Astros for the most in all of baseball. To make matters worse, he has only drawn one walk to go along with those 28 punchouts, leaving him with a terrible OBP of .260. That ranks him 162 out of 189 qualified batters. Not good.

The Jays will be able to stomach the strikeouts as long as the power stays. But if the home runs start to dry up, Arencibia better start drawing walks or things could get ugly in a hurry.

3. Fielding Disaster

When the Jays bid

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adieu to Yunel Escobar and Kelly Johnson in the offseason, we all expected the defense to suffer a little bit. But this has been ridiculous. More often than not, the Blue Jays have resembled a little league team on the field, and never worse than Saturday. A dropped ball on a throw to second base and a brutal throwing error in extra innings led directly to a 5-3 loss. It’s one thing to lose a game, but it’s something entirely different to lose in that manner.

So far in 2013 the Blue Jays have committed 11 errors, T-5th in the AL. The two guys that were signed to play the bulk of starts at 2B (Izturis and Bonifacio) have combined for 7 errors. Look at advanced stats and an even darker picture emerges. In defensive efficiency, the Jays rank 12th in the AL, well below the league average. In Total Zone rating, Toronto is dead last with a -19 rating, essentially meaning that the defense has cost the team 19 runs. To put that in context, Texas leads the AL with a +10 rating.

Giving a team extra outs is always a recipe for disaster. But when a team is struggling at the plate, as Toronto has been early, shoddy defense is harder to cover up. The good news is that things can’t possibly get any worse. Can they?

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