The annual west coast road trip is normally the kiss of death for Toronto’s season. I can’t say for certain whether or not the Jays always play poorly out west, or if it just seems that way, but it has always been one
of my least favourite times of the season.
Sure enough, last week was another tough one for Toronto in the wild west. Though they managed to win three games (more than expected, really) the week was a losing one, highlighted by the same woes as the rest of this awful season – horrendous starting pitching and laughable defense. The Jays committed nine (9!!) errors in seven games last week, which simply cannot happen.
While the upcoming week might not be that much easier, it should at least feel like the team is in front of their own fans. Toronto plays three in Seattle, where tons of BC fans alwasy make the trip, before returning home to host the AL West leading A’s.
Here are three things from week 18:
Week 18: July 29 – August 4
Record: 3 – 4
1. Josh Johnson Is Actually Getting Worse
On July 9 in Cleveland, the Blue Jays lost 3-0 to the Indians. While a loss is a loss, and never a good thing, this particular loss was notable in that Josh Johnson started and pitched extremely well. He went 7 innings, allowed 2 runs on 3 hits, walked only 2 and struck out 6. This was the start the Jays had been waiting for, his first decent outing since mid-June. Perhaps he was finally going to turn things around.
Sadly, that hasn’t happened. In each of his four starts after that date, Johnson was rocked, hitting absolute rock bottom Thursday night in LA. Johnson lasted only 2.1 innings, and allowed 10 hits, 2 walks, 7 runs (6 earned), and only struck out a single batter. His Game Score (a Bill James metric that measures how effective a start is) registered as a 10.
In his past four starts Johnson has lasted only 16 innings and surrendered 25 ER, 6 BB, and 31 H, for an astoundingly bad 14.06 ERA and a WHIP of 2.31. What’s worse is that not only is his performance steadily getting worse, but his confidence and body language is getting worse as well. Part of the problem might be a lingering knee tendinitis, but if that’s the case does it make more sense to simply shut him down for the year?
Jays fans have to be getting numb to this sort of unravelling of a potential ace, as Johnson is starting to look an awful lot like 2012’s Ricky Romero.
2. Has Esmil’s Bubble Burst?
Esmil Rogers made his first start for the Jays on May 29, as an injury replacement. On a strict pitch count, he threw 3.1 scoreless innings, and earned himself a permanent spot in the rotation.
Things were going fantastic for Rogers early on, but it seems like his bubble has finally burst. Whether it be fatigue, lack of confidence, or the fact that teams now have solid scouting reports on him, Esmil has really struggled as of late. In his first four full starts (his first two starts he was pulled before the fifth due to pitch limits) he shined: 2-1, 2.45 ERA, 1.09 WHIP, 14 K. However, in his past six starts he has struggled: 0-3, 7.36 ERA, 1.88 WHIP, 27 K.
In two starts last week, against Oakland and LA, he failed to pitch over 5 innings, and allowed a total of 13 earned runs. His command was still pretty good (only 4 walks), but he was unable to finish hitters off. He surrendered 10 hits in both starts, making it three straight starts he has allowed double digits. His ERA, which was at a season low 3.12 on June 29, now sits at 4.61.
With injury and lack of depth, the Jays really have no other option but to keep throwing Rogers out there and hope he figures things out. But with him and Johnson struggling badly, the bullpen is really feeling the effects.
3. Melky Disabled
For those of you who suffered through the late night Jays games last week, the decision to finally put Melky Cabrera on the DL with a strained left knee on Friday had to elicit the following: What took so long?
Cabrera looked overmatched and overwhelmed in the cavernous outfield of Oakland’s O.Co Coliseum, hobbling vainly in efforts to catch up to line drives. He looked flat out awful on Thursday night during the Johnson debacle, and was mercifully pulled early on to avoid further damage.
One of the potential options might have been to play Melky as DH and move Rajai Davis into LF, but do you really want Cabrera DH-ing? His offensive production has been almost as bad as his defense this season. Now clean from PED’s, people were unsure as to how Cabrera would perform. Would he regress or would he be unaffected? It’s impossible to know whether his precipitous decline is due to him being clean or due to his legs (or both), but a steep decline it has been. His OPS is currently .682 (down from .809 in ’11 and .906 in ’12), and he has hit only 3 HR (down from 18 in ’11 and 11 in ’12).
The biggest question now is not whether we will see Melky again in 2013, but if we will even see Melky again at all. He was placed on waivers on the weekend (a standard procedure at this time of year), but one has to think that AA might be trying to cut his losses.