Three Things From Week Eight

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Baby steps.

That is a good way to describe last week for the Blue Jays.  Faced with seven home games against AL East rivals, the club had a chance to make a move in the standings.  They didn’t win as many games as they would have liked, but a winning record is a winning record.

For a change, the Jays are on the rise.  A couple of walk-off wins definitely buoyed team morale, and the team seems to be slowly but surely chipping away at the early deficit they dug for themselves.

Hopefully that can continue into next week, because Toronto’s biggest nightmare is at hand – a week full of interleague games, with five in National League parks.

Here are three things from week 8:

Week 8: May 20 – May 26

Record: 4 – 3

1. Kawasaki For Life!

Yesterday’s game against the Orioles had a bit of everything.  A solid start by Chad Jenkins, blown bases loaded chances for both teams, great defense, a player / manger argument (what were you thinking Mr. Lawrie?), and most of all, an epic Toronto comeback.

I’m not sure what was better to watch.  Kawasaki slicing a double to the wall to win the game, Kawasaki jumping for joy towards third base, or Kawasaki’s post game interview.  All were amazing.  And how about a little applause for the shortstop?  He was put into a nearly impossible situation, asked to fill in for the irreplaceable Jose Reyes, and though his numbers aren’t outstanding, he has definitely been decent.  His .345 OBP is third on the team, behind Bautista and Lind.

His hit in the ninth yesterday, along with Bautista’s ninth inning homer and 10th inning single on Wednesday, were enormous for the team.  All three combined to give the Jays two walk-off wins – their first two of the season – and injected much needed life.  Imagine Toronto lost both those contests?  A 2-5 week and a 19-31 record might have been lights out.

2. Meat of the Order

The meat of a team’s order is generally defined as the best three power hitters a team has to offer.  Normaly, those playes slot into the 3-4-5 spots in a batting order, though occassionally they may shift to 4-5-6 or 2-3-4. 

For the last few years, the middle of the Blue Jays lineup has been mostly vegetarian.  Yes they had Jose Bautista, and last year saw the emergence of Edwin Encarnacion, but that’s been it.  Arencibia, Rasmus, Lawrie – all have failed their auditions.  But the biggest failure of all had been Adam Lind.  Once a 30+ HR power bat, Lind had regressed to the point where he became mostly unusable, even dropping as low as AAA. 

But the most exciting thing about 2013 thus far has been the return of the good Lind.  The power and run production numbers aren’t there yet, but Lind has been hitting the ball like it’s 2009 all over again.  Slotted into the #4 hole, behind Bautista and Encarnacion he has been outstanding.  His season OBP of .398 trails on Bautista, as does his .890 OPS. 

His emergence (or re-emergence) has revitalized the meat of Toronto’s order.  Last week, the Bautista-Encarnacion-Lind portion of the lineup was white hot: .376 average, .438 OBP, 1.026 OPS, with 4 HR, 15 runs scored, and 15 RBI.  Bautista was insane (.500 AVG, 1.326 OPS), but Edwin (7 RBI) and Lind (.923 OPS, 5 runs) were also hitting very well. 

That kind of production masks starting pitching woes anytime.

3. Sinking Starters

Toronto’s starting pitchers have a combined ERA of 5.59, good enough for 13th in the American League (ahead of only Minnesota and Houston, and more than two full runs behind Chicago).  The starters have a 1.55 WHIP, also 13th in the AL (and also ahead of only Minnesota and Houston).  They have a strikeout to walk ratio of 1.65, which is second worst in the league (ahead of only Houston, and almost 3.0 back of Detroit (3!!!)).

The bottom line is, Toronto’s starting pitchers have been dreadful, and they don’t seem to be getting any better.  With the exception of Buehrle last Wednesday (and maybe Dickey on Monday), the starters struggled all week.   Both Ramon Oritz and Sean Nolin were rocked in their starts, Morrow continues to boggle observers, Dickey seems to alternate good and bad, and while Jenkins only allowed 2 ER, he did give up 8 hits and 3 walks. 

With news out of Toronto that Esmil Rogers will start Wednesday in Atlanta, the experimentation of the starting staff appears to be continuing.  The Jays need a healthy and effective Josh Johnson and J.A. Happ back…big time.

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