Category Archives: Weekly Things

Three Things From Week Twenty-Four

Week 24 (September 13 – 19) was a backwards week for the Blue Jays.  Used to beating up on the Orioles and getting crushed by  Boston, the Jays completely reversed course.  They were swept by Baltimore, a team they were 12-0 against prior to the series, before taking two of three from the Red Sox, a team they were a dismal 4-11 against.

It seems hard to believe but only 13 games remain in the 2010 season.  The Jays kick off their final homestand this week, a 9-game stretch that will bring an end to the Cito era.  A plus .500 finish would be a good note to go out on.

Here are three things from week 24:

Bautista broke George Bell's record on Friday (daylife.com)

1. Bye Bye Bell

It was bound to happen at some point, but nobody expected Jose Bautista to be the one to break George Bell’s team home run record.  Bautista continued his incredible season by belting his 48th bomb on Friday night at Fenway, moving past Bell and into sole possession of Toronto’s record.  He then went out and padded his lead the next night by swatting his 49th – his third home runof the week.

Bautista now leads all of baseball in home runs by a whopping 10 (Albert Pujols has 39), and he is 12 ahead of the next closest man (Paul Konerko) in the AL.  His 114 RBI’s put him in second place in the majors trailing only Miguel Cabrera by 5.  Number 50 is just around the corner, and with 13 games remaining he has a chance to hit a few more.  If (when) he gets to 50, it will be only the 42nd time in major league history that that number will be reached.

Not bad for a guy we acquired for a minor league catcher…

2. The Sixth Man

Much to the chagrin of Shaun Marcum, it appears as if the Jays will go to a six-man rotation to finish off the regular season.  Marcum will be joined by Ricky Romero, Brett Cecil, Marc Rzepczynski, Shawn Hill, and Kyle Drabek, a move meant to limit the innings numbers on Toronto’s young staff.

While the move makes sense in theory, in practice it has not started well.  Marcum pitched fairly well against Tampa Bay last Sunday, but then was shelled by the Red Sox in his next start on Sunday (5.1 IP, 6 ER).  The extra day of rest didn’t help Cecil’s recent struggles either, as he was touched up by Boston for 5 ER in 6 IP on Friday.

The race for the fifth spot in the rotation next year is wide open, but the late season performance by those in contentiion is making a decision extremely difficult.

3. Battle for Futility

It has been a very tough season for Aaron Hill.  The second baseman has been injured, and has had a difficult time both at the plate and in the field.  Though his production is still there (24 HR), the batting average is atrocious.  A disastrous .091 week (1 for 11) has seen it drop to a putrid .211.

It is obvious that he has no chance to raise the average to a respectable number this year, but there is much incentive for him to try and figure things out at the plate in the final 13 games.  As it stands right now, Hill ranks 72nd in the American League in batting average amongst all players with enough at-bats to qualify for the batting title.  That puts him in second last, ahead of only Carlos Pena of the Rays, who is hitting .202 (as at September 20).

Hill will no doubt look back at this season and be disappointed with his batting average.  But hopefully trying to avoid the tag of “worst in baseball” will be enough motivation to keep him going in the final 13 games.

Three Things From Week Twenty-Three

An Adam Lind walk-off home run on Sunday gave the Jays a thrilling 5-4 comeback win over Tampa Bay and helped them end week 23 (Sept. 6 – 12) on a good note.  The win snapped a four-game losing streak (all at home), and enabled the Jays to finish the week with a 3-4 record.

But the losing record means that the club now sits just three games above the .500 mark with 19 games remaining.  The good news is that six of those games are against the Orioles, a team Toronto has spanked this year (12-0).  The bad news?  Baltimore has gone 21-14 since Buck Showalter took over, 3rd best in baseball.  Finishing with a winning record may still yet prove to be difficult.

Here are three things that came out of week 23 in Blue Jay land:

1. So Long Tampa

Yesterday’s win was Toronto’s final meeting with the Rays in 2010.  I think I speak for Jays fans everywhere when I say good riddance.

Though the Jays didn’t have a terrible record against Tampa this season (8-10, compared to 4-14 last year), they didn’t play well against them.  At all.  Toronto was outscored by 33 runs (108-75), and had an ERA of 5.71 against the Rays – higher than against any club in the AL.

Other than Brandon Morrow, Josh Roenicke, Shaw Camp, and Brian Tallet (yes, Tallet), every Blue Jay pitcher struggled against Tampa:

Brett Cecil – 4.60 ERA

Shawn Marcum – 5.55 ERA

Ricky Romero – 5.89 ERA

Kevin Gregg – 7.71 ERA

David Purcey – 7.20 ERA

Brad Mills, Jason Frasor, Casey Janssen, Scott Downs, and Rommie Lewis – all higher than 10.00

Not good.

2. Kevin Gregg + Tie Game = Disaster

It has long been said in baseball that a closer loses effectiveness when pitching in non-save situations.  They lack the motivation when a save is not on the line.  Kevin Gregg proves that point this season.

Cito has called on Gregg on four separate occasions to start an inning in a tie game, including twice last week (Friday and Sunday).  Three times he has allowed a run.  Twice the Jays have lost the game.  Only Adam Lind’s HR yesterday prevented a third loss. 

In his four appearances, Gregg has pitched 4 innings, allowed 3 runs (2 earned), 4 walks, and 5 hits for a 4.50 ERA and a 2.25 WHIP. 

Cito – use somebody else in a tie game from now on.  Thank you.

Drabek will get his shot on Wednesday in Baltimore (from daylife.com)

3. The Future Starts Now

Actually, the future starts Wednesday to be exact.  After New Hampshire was eliminated sooner than expected in the double-A playoffs, Toronto called up Kyle Drabek to start Wednesday in Baltimore.  The plan is for the jewel of our farm system to make three starts in September, giving the Jays front office an opportunity to gauge his stuff at the major league level.

The kid dominated the minors this year, so his promotion was well deserved.  He went 14-9 with a 2.94 ERA, 1.20 WHIP, 132 K’s in 162 IP, and a no-hitter on his way to winning the Eastern League Pitcher of the Year award.  There is a very real chance that he puts himself in contention for a spot in the 2011 rotation with a solid stint.

Three Things From Week Twenty-Two

Six games.  All six on the road.  Facing the two best teams in all of baseball.  In the heat of a pennant race. 

If you would have told me at the beginning of the season that that was how Week 22 (August 30 – September 5) was going to go shape up for the Blue Jays, I would have predicted six straight losses.  So the fact that Toronto was able to go into Tampa Bay and New York and win two out of six really isn’t all that bad. 

This team has come a long way this season – they are getting to the point where they expect to win. 

Here are three things from week 22:

1. Player of the Month

The Bautista Appreciation Society just got bigger.  Toronto’s slugger was named the American League Player of the Month for August during week 22, making it back-to-back months that J-Bau has won the award.  He joins John Olerud (who won it twice in 1993) as the only Blue Jay to ever win two Player of the Month awards in a single season.

It really was an explosive August for Bautista.  In 28 games he hit for a .299 average, .431 OBP, and a 1.173 OPS.  He banged 12 HR, 24 RBI,  scored 23 runs, and even stole two bases.  The hitting rampage raised his season batting average from a brutal .228 on June 30th, to a much more respectable .268 at the end of August. 

While it seems unlikely that Bautista will be in the running for the AL MVP award, he does have one more milestone in his sights – George Bell’s team record of 47 HR. 

2. Welcome Back Aaron

It has been a season to forget for Aaron Hill.  A hamstring injury in April, a season-long struggle at the plate, and a sudden case of the fielding yips have left the second baseman a shadow of his 2009 self.

But give credit where credit is due.  Hill easily could have shut things down for the season, given up, and sulked his way to the winter.  But if the past week is any indication, he is not d0ing that, instead putting his focus on finishing strong.  Last week Hill hit .333 with a 1.280 OPS, 3 HR, and 7 RBI. 

His batting average is not going to be anywhere near what we thought it would, but the power numbers are still there.  He now has 22 on the season (Note: 23 after yesterday), good enough for fourth among second baseman in MLB.

3. The Quest for .500

In the pre-season, baseball “experts” predicted anywhere in between 60-65 wins for Toronto.  Many had them finishing dead last in the AL East, even behind the Baltimore Orioles.

But here we are in early  September, and after Sunday’s 7-3 win over the Yankees the Blue Jays have 70 wins.  Their 70-66 record has them four games above the break-even point.  Considering it was supposed to be a rebuilding / transitional year (no Halladay, Cito’s last year, uncertainty at third and at closer), a plus .500 finish would be an oustanding accomplishment.

With series still to play against Texas, Tampa Bay, Boston, New York, and Minnesota, it won’t be easy.  But all Toronto needs is 12 more wins to ensure a winning season, maybe the most unexpected winning season in franchise history.

Three Things From Week Twenty-One

Week 21 (August 23 – 29) of the season saw the Jays hold their own in a difficult seven-game homestand against the Yankees and Tigers.  Toronto finished the week 4-3, not too bad considering the opposition and the fact that starter Marc Rzepczynski had two tough starts.  The week also marked the end of the season series between Toronto and long-time rival Detroit – something that the Jays will be thrilled about.  Though they did split the 8-games this year, the Tigers outscored the Jays 39-28, and Miguel Cabrera absolutely obliterated Blue Jay pitching (14-for-32, .438 average, .500 OBP, 1.344 OPS, 2 HR, 8 RBI).

It doesn’t get any easier.  The Jays now get set for the toughest portion of their schedule – 13 consecutive games against first place teams.  They head to Tampa Bay and New York this week, before returning home to face the Rangers and Rays next week.  Ouch.

Here are three things (all pitching related) from week 21:

1. Morrow Shut Down

Right hander Brandon Morrow came to the Jays with a checkered past – part starter / part closer, with a reputation for being injury prone.  Here we are at the end of August and Morrow has arguably been Toronto’s most consistent starter this season, something that not even the biggest optimist could have imagined.

Toronto announced that Morrow will make only one more start this season, Friday night in New York, citing a high number of innings compared to last year.  Heading into that final start, his numbers have been oustanding: 10-6, 4.27 ERA, 174 K, and an MLB leading 10.93 K/9. 

Even better are his numbers since the All-Star break, at home this season, and against baseball’s two best teams (Tampa and New York):

Post Break: 5-0, 3.88 ERA, 74 K, 12.49 K/9

At Home: 8-1, 2.74 ERA, 97 K, 10.65 K/9

vs. TB and NYY: 7 starts, 3-1, 3.11 ERA, 1.01 WHIP, 62 K, 12.04 K/9

Does anybody still miss Brandon League?

2. The Sad Saga of Brian “Billy” Tallet

Entering this season, Tallet was considered a solid spot-starter and long reliever out of the Jays bullpen.  After a decent start, he has deteriorated into nothing more than a severe liability.  With David Purcey on the way back, it may only be a matter of time before Tallet is whisked away.

His 2010 numbers don’t look as bad considering how bad he’s been lately: 2-5, 6.44 ERA, 1.54 WHIP, 42 K: 33 BB.  Over the past three weeks Tallet has appeared in six games, pitched 10.1 innings, and been thoroughly rocked: 0-1, 9.58 ERA, 2.03 WHIP, 3 HR allowed.

I will miss the moustache….but I won’t miss the pitching.

Stieb threw out the first pitch...with some gas (from daylife.com)

3. Honouring an Ace

Yesterday’s game was an absolute dud with the Tigers thumping the Blue Jays 10-4.  But nobody in attendance seemed to mind because of the wonderful pre-game ceremony to honour Dave Stieb on the 20th anniversary of his no-hitter.  The cerenomy had it all:

Alumni – former player and manager, and current broadcaster Buck Martinez was the MC, with Tony Fernandez, Duane Ward, Jessie Barfield, and Pat Hentgen all on the field with their former teammate.

Memories – the video tribute showed clips of Stieb’s illustrious career, including his All-Star game starts, near no-hitters, and ultimate triumph against Cleveland, along with interview clips from Cito, Paul Beeston, and Bobby Mattick.

From Past to Present – the top four of Toronto’s current starting rotation (Marcum, Romero, Cecil, Morrow) were on the field to present Stieb with a commemorative painting, created by Vernon Wells Sr.

Humour – the painting nearly blew over, prompting quick reflexes from Buck to save the day.

Overall the tribute was fantastic, the bobble head was great, and seeing Stieb was amazing.  Too bad he didn’t make an appearance on the mound – the Jays could have used him.

Three Things From Week Twenty

Not the greatest way to finish a road trip.  The Jays had a tough week 20 (August 16 – 22), going 2-4 to conclude a 9-game road trip through Anaheim, Oakland, and Boston at 4-5.  Toronto continues to struggle against the Red Sox, and now sit a dismal 4-11 versus their AL East division rivals.

After going on a surge a few weeks ago, the Blue Jays have been treading water recently, winning 5 of their past 12 games to drop 11.5 games back of Tampa Bay in the Wild Card chase.  With only 39 games remaining in the 2010 season, Toronto’s hopes for an unlikely playoff spot look bleak.  But with a record seven games better than last year, heads should be held high.

Here are three things that came out of week 20:

Overbay blew away Boston on Friday night (from daylife.com)

1. Sweet Swingin’ Overbay

What a weekend for Lyle.  Toronto’s first baseman obliterated Boston pitching, single-handedly winning Friday’s contest and carrying the Jays into extra innings on Saturday.  For the series Overbay was 5 for 10, with 4 R, 3 HR, 9 RBI, a .500 average, .615 OBP, and 2.015 OPS.  Very impressive.

What’s more impressive, however, is the way Lyle has responded to his horrendous early season slump.  After going 0 for 3 against the Orioles on May 28, Overbay’s average stood at .197, his OPS at .608.  In the 73 games he has played since that date, Lyle has batted .293 with 12 HR and a .896 OPS to raise his season average to .252.  He has given the Jays a dependable bat in the middle or bottom of the order.

Once it seemed like trading him was a no-brainer.  Now it seems like his roster spot is safe.

2. Welcome Back Buck

One of the most pleasant surprises of this year’s squad made his return from the DL on Friday night.  And what a return it was.  Fresh off a rehab stint at double-A where he hit 2 HR and 6 RBI in three games, Buck returned to the lineup with authority going 5 for 9 with 4 runs, 3 RBI, and a 1.167 OPS. 

His return means that (thankfully) Jose Molina will get fewer starts.  While Molina has done a great job this year, there is something depressing about having to watch him run the bases.  Buck’s return also gives J.P. Arencibia a chance to gain further seasoning in Las Vegas.  But it won’t be long until JPA is back – rosters expand September 1.

3. What Happened to the Bats?

Overbay, Buck, and WTF?  Seriously.  Take away Friday nights beautiful demolition of the effing Red Sox, and Toronto’s offense went AWOL in the past week.  Not including the 16-2 win on Friday, the Jays only scored a total of 13 runs in five games.  Three of those runs came in the ninth inning rally that ultimately fell short on Wednesday, meaning Toronto scored 10 runs in the other 46 innings played last week.

It’s hard enough to beat Boston already this year, but falling short against Oakland really stings.  Though the A’s have the toughest starting rotation in baseball, their offense has been non-existent – Kurt Suzuki’s 12 HR leads the team.  But for one series they were able to outslug Toronto, something nobody could have predicted.  When Coco Crisp finishes a series with a significantly higher slugging percentage than MLB’s home run leader, something is seriously wrong.

Three Things From Week Nineteen

The Jays continued the toughest portion of their schedule in week 19 (August 9 – 15), and after a rough start, rebounded to finish the week an even 3-3.  Toronto was looking straight in the eye at a home sweep at the hands of Boston, but showed huge resiliency on Thursday afternoon by rallying for four in the ninth to escape with a win.  That said, they still continue to struggle mightily with the Red Sox, now 3-9 against them this year.

But heading out west and taking two of three against the Angels salvaged the week.  The Jays now sit 62-55, nine back of the Wild Card, but a full seven games better than last year.

Here are three things that came out of Week 19:

Rionero's five-year extension will keep him in TO for a long time

1. Five Year Plan

Ricky Romero is having a phenomenal sophomore season.  After shutting down the Angels yesterday (7 IP, 1 ER, 6 H, 4 K) the left-hander is now 10-7 on the season with a 3.43 ERA and is 10th in the AL with 136 strikeouts.  Many might have expected a step back from his rookie season, but Romero is actually improving, and showing himself to be of ace-like material.

Well, now he will be able to continue his ascent into elite status in a Blue Jays uniform.  The Jays signed Romero to a 5-year $31.1 million deal on Saturday afternoon, locking the 25-year old down for the foreseeable future.  Not only is this great news for the rotation, which will see one if its leaders stay put, but it also sends a great message to the team: we are serious.  At a time when Toronto was supposed to be selling off its core, AA is instead solidifying it. 

What a great time to be a Jays fan.

2. Rejuvenated Closer

I almost couldn’t believe my eyes yesterday.  With Kevin Gregg into protect a 4-1 lead in the ninth, he didn’t merely set the Angels down for the win – he destroyed them.  His first seven pitches were all strikes, resulting in two strikeouts and an 0-1 count on the third batter – who he eventually struck out as well.  This was Mariano Rivera type domination and definitely not the Kevin Gregg we saw earlier this season.

From mid-May until the end of June, a span resulting in 15 appearances, Gregg was brutal: 0-3, 2 blown saves, 7.71 ERA, .333 average against, 16 K: 14 BB, and a 2.36 WHIP.  There was talk of demoting him from the closer role, and it was essentially a given that he would be shipped out at the deadline.

But since then he has been outstanding: 16 appearances, 1-1 record, 9 saves, 1 blown save, 1.72 ERA, .132 average against, 14 K: 5 BB, and a 0.77 WHIP.  In the last week alone Gregg made three appearances, picked up a win and two saves and only allowed a single baserunner (a walk) in three innings.  If he keeps this up maybe we will see him back in 2011.

3. Circus Cito the Lineup Juggler

Remember back in ’92 and ’93 when a common phrase around baseball was “I could manage that team” in reference to the Blue Jays?  Sure he had to deal with egos and clubhouse stuff, but Cito essentially threw the same lineup out there each and every day and let the players play.  Man have things changed this year.

Say what you want about the manager, and he has  lot of critics, but Cito has been extremely active this year – especially in the last few weeks.  He is trying to massage a six-man pitching rotation around several off-days and pitch restrictions all while trying to limit the number of inning his young arms log.  He also has 10 solid starting players – but only 9 places to put them.

In week 19, the Jays played six games, and Cito used a different starting lineup in all 6 of them!  For a guy who “never managed” in the early years, this is almost unheard of.  The closest thing to a constant was the fact that Bautista hit third and Lind hit fifth all six games.  But when you throw in the fact that J-Bau started five games in RF and one at 3B, while Lind snuck in one start at 1B to go along with five at DH you can see that it was a week full of moving parts. 

With a 62-55 record so far, I’d say he’s pushing all the right buttons.

Three Things From Week Eighteen

The 18th week (August 2 – ‘8) of the Blue Jays season had been outlined in red for some time.  At the beginning of the season this portion seemed like a perfect time to play spoiler and make a real impact on the pennant races for some contenders.  But as we inched closer to the beginning of the “Great 38” (a 38 game stretch starting August 2 where the Jays play only .500 teams) it was clear that Toronto has become bigger and better than spoilers.

While the club may still be young and a year or two away from true contention, these games will ultimately serve as a true litmus test.  Thrown into an August and September pressure cooker is the perfect way to measure the capabilities of a team.  Over the next several weeks fans will get a true chance to see just how close these Blue Jays are to restoring the glory years in Toronto.

After the first week of this stretch?  We are close.  Very close.

Here are three things from week 18:

Morrow dominated Tampa on Sunday (from daylife.com)

1. What A Weekend!!!

The weekend of August 7/8 has to go down as one of the most exciting, and potentially one of the most important, in Blue Jays history.  On Saturday, catching phenom J.P. Arencibia made his major league debut – and what a debut it was.  The kid hit a home run on the first pitch he ever saw in the major leagues, launched another one in the sixth, and added a single and a double to become the first player since 1900 to have two HR and two other hits in his major league debut.  He became the fifth player in history to hit multiple home runs in his first ever game.  His final line (4-5, 2 HR, 2B, 3 R, 3 RBI) helped the Jays to an exciting 17-11 win against the Wild Card leading Rays, and actually managed to exceed the hype surrounding him.

But fans were treated to an even grander spectacle on Sunday.  Brandon Morrow has often been described as having “no-hit stuff”, and on Sunday he proved it.  The fact that he had a no-hitter broken up with two outs in the ninth on a weak ground ball to second stings, but Jays fans are becoming accustomed to this.  Dave Stieb (three times), and Roy Halladay have also lost no-hit bids with one out remaining.  To me the biggest accomplishment to his outing was the next batter he faced.  It was only 1-0 Toronto, with runners on first and third, Dan Johnson at the plate, and Morrow already over 130 pitches.  The fact that he was able to bear down and strike Johnson out shows maturity and composure – something I’m not sure he could have done back in April.  His final line (CG, 1 H, 2 BB, 17 Ks, 137 pitches) helped the Jays finish off the sweep.

2. Shh…We’re Contenders Now…

One of the funniest scenes in Major League is when the Indians film an American Express commercial:

Dorn: “People still don’t recognize us but…”

Brown: “We’re contenders now”

The Jays are a team consisting of players that the average fan likely wouldn’t recognize at Jack Astor’s, Tim Horton’s, or Pizza Pizza (I’m looking you Buck, Tallet, Lewis, Overbay, Molina, Camp, Purcey…).  But that hasn’t stopped them from quietly tearing up the league, and improving rather than the annual July/August fade we have become accustomed to.

A lot has been made about this 38 game stretch against contending teams, and with a 5-1 start against the defending World Champs and best team in baseball New York, and the Wild Card leading Rays, Toronto has come out of the gates strong.  While the 10.5 game deficit in the AL East might be too much to overcome, the Jays have trimmed Tampa’s Wild Card lead to eight games.  It is still fairly early and there is still a lot of baseball left to be played, but I’m going to go ahead and say it anyways….gulp….

We’re contenders now.

3. The Price of Success

For any team in any sport to be successful they have to avoid injuries.  So far this season, Toronto has been fairly lucky in that aspect of the game.  By my count the Jays have only used the disabled list during the season five times before week 18 – Aaron Hill, Edwin Encarnacion, and Brian Tallet in April, Travis Snider in May, and Shaun Marcum in July.  In contrast, my unofficial count has the Red Sox making use of the DL 13 times.

Unfortunately for the Jays, week 18 wasn’t very kind.  Despite going 5-1 they were forced to deal with a number of injuries.  John Buck was placed on the 15-day DL on Thursday with a lacerated right thumb.  On Friday, Jessie Litsch was lost for the season with a tear in his right hip.  Finally, yesterday Toronto lost Vernon Wells to a dislocated right big toe after he made a sensational catch to preserve Morrow’s no-hitter in the sixth.  Vernon is currently listed as day-to-day.

As if starting the most difficult stretch of the season wasn’t tough enough, now the Jays must do it without three of their starters.  But after last week, it looks like there’s nothing this team can’t handle.

Three Things From Week Seventeen

Week 17 (July 26 – August 1) was supposed to be a whirlwind for the Jays.  With the trade deadline set for 4 PM on Saturday, the Jays were thought to be big players.  Instead, Anthopoulos kept the core together, a controversial move at best.

On the field, however, it was a solid week.  Returning home for the first time since the All-Star break, the Jays continued their domination of Baltimore by sweeping them for the fourth straight series.  Though they dropped two of three to Cleveland, a 4-2 homestand is nothing to be upset about.  Things get much tougher from here though – starting on Monday in New York, Toronto plays 38 consecutive games against teams .500 or better.  This may mark a true test as to how good this year’s team actually is.

Here are three things that we learned in week 17:

Good news: Bautista is still a Jay!

1. Stand Pat

With all kinds of rumours swirling around the team, it was kind of surprising to me that nothing much happened at the deadline.  John Buck, Lyle Overbay, Jose Bautista, Kevin Gregg, Scott Downs, Jason Frasor, and Edwin Encarnacion are all still members of the Jays.  The only thing more surprising than that was the fact that Toronto unloaded what many believe to be their best prospect – power hitting first baseman Brett Wallace to the Astros for minor league outfielder Anthony Gose (more on that below).

The only comment I can make on Toronto’s deadline activity other than surprise is trust, as in I trust GM Alex Anthopoulos.  Judging by the success of this year’s team (54 – 51 through 105 games, whereas last year’s version had faded to 51 – 54 through 105 games) Anthopoulos has to get some credit for his personnel decisions.  Yes, there will be critics who will say he should have capitalized on his assets while they are at maximum value.  Yes, there will be critics who will say Buck and Bautista will never hit this well again.  But they were signed at a relative bargain, and trading them would have – like it or not – put the Jays a few steps back on where they want to be.

Of course, players can still get traded in August after clearing waivers so this discussion may be moot.  I have no idea what the grand, master plan of the GM will turn out to be, but…so far so good.

2. Gone Before We Knew Him

One of the most suprising deals made by AA was the Wallace deal.  Most everybody in the Blue Jays world – bloggers, and beat writers alike – seemed to be enamoured with the young slugger, already writing Overbay out of town and picturing Wallace bombing home runs in Toronto for years to come.  Now he’s gone, with a grand total of zero games played for Toronto at the MLB level.

On the surface it seems puzzling, but by all accounts Anthopoulos may have wanted Gose as part of the Halladay deal more than Wallace.  A quick look at their minor league stats and it’s hard to imagine why:

Wallace (triple-A): .301 average, 18 HR, 61 RBI, .868 OPS

Gose (single-A): .265 average, 5 HR, 21 RBI, .714 OPS

It is extremely hard to post judgement on minor league deals in baseball, so I withhold mine.  But please refer to point 1 above to see two items: 1) AA may not be finished dealing with the August deadline still out there, and 2) I trust him.

3. Bautista Appreciation Society

One man who is extremely happy about Toronto not trading Jose Bautista is our friend at Blue Jay Hunter who has coined the term BAS for Bautista Appreciation Society.  After watching Bautista pulverize pitching over the past week, I think we all should be happy he is still mashing pitching for the Jays.  Check out his statistics for week 17, for which he was given the AL Player of the Week award:

12-22, .545 average, 5 HR, 13 RBI, 5 BB: 1 K, .630 OBP, 1.993 OPS

Increase the sample size to include all games since the All-Star break and his surge is even more impressive: .369 average, 8 HR, 24 RBI, 1.277 OPS.  He has now hit 42 home runs dating back to September 1 of last year, leads all of baseball in HR with 32 (5 ahead of Canadian Joey Votto) and is fourth in baseball with 82 RBI.  In addition he has 9 OF assists, which ties him for first in the majors – in only 73 games as an outfielder (about 20-25 games fewer than others).

In short, he has been incredible, and is still getting better.

Three Things From Week Sixteen

The 16th week of the MLB schedule (July 19 – 25) saw the Jays wrap up a lengthy 10-game post-All-Star road trip with stops in Kansas City and Detroit. As if the travel wasn’t making the team weary enough, Mother Nature added more misery to the tired team by postponing Friday’s game and forcing a split doubleheader on Sunday. The Sunday evening finish will see the Jays arrive back in Toronto later than expected, with a pretty depleted bullpen to boot.

The 3-4 record compiled last week was a bit disappointing considering a) the fact that they lost two of three to the Royals, and b) they had a big lead heading into the 8th inning on Sunday. With the trade deadline falling on Saturday afternoon, this week may very well be the final time that fans will get a chance to see this years Jays in their current form.

Here are three things that came out of week 16:

Litsch pitched well but was undone by the bullpen (from daylife.com)

1. What Could Have Been

Toronto finished the week with a losing record, but really should have done much better.  The chance was there on Sunday for a sweep of the doubleheader, but a horrific eighth inning ruined that.  In fact, the Blue Jays had a lead in all seven games last week, a few times late into the contest.

On Monday they took a 3-1 lead into the seventh, and then went ahead 4-3 in the tenth, only to see Kevin Gregg blow the save.  Against Zack Greinke on Wednesday, Toronto was ahead early, 1-0 in the third, but couldn’t add to the lead and fell short in the end.  They were ahead of Justin Verlander 2-0 in the fourth on Thursday and had plenty of chances to pad the lead but failed.  Finally on Sunday Toronto’s bullpen couldn’t hold a 4-0 lead in the sixth, and a 4-2 lead in the eighth, falling to Detroit 6-5.

I know they are a young team and will learn from tight losses, but young or old, losing games like that are tough to take.

2. The Auditions are Open

The trade deadline is Saturday and by my count six Blue Jays are heavily involved in trade rumours.  If opposing GM’s were using this week as an audition to scout those players, almost all would have passed with flying colours.  Take a look at the stats over the past seven days for each of the Jays in question:

Jose Bautista – .333 avg, .988 OPS, 2 HR, 9 RBI

Lyle Overbay – .259 avg, .717 OPS, 1 HR, 4 RBI (game winning HR on Sunday)

John Buck – .333 avg, .952 OPS, 1 HR, 4 RBI

Scott Downs – 2.1 IP, 1 W, 0 ER, huge escape on Sunday afternoon

Kevin Gregg – blown save on Monday, but two 3-up 3-down saves the rest of the week

The only player who failed to shine under the watchful eye of the scouts was Jason Frasor, who crumbled in the night cap of yesterday’s double dip.  But take out that performance and he actually had a nice week: 3.1 IP, 0 ER, 2 K : 0 BB. 

Not that I want to see any of those guys leave, but if they are ultimately deemed expendable, the fact that they upped their value last week is great news.

3. Encarnacion Lives!

If anybody out there is a regular reader of my blog, you will know that I am not a big fan of Mr. Edwin Encarnacion.  I have been unimpressed by his performance since he came into the big leagues with Cincinnati a few years ago and I continually added him to my fantasy baseball team.  Now that he is a member of the Jays and I can see him up close, I have been even more disappointed in him.  Both his effort and his results are often lacking.

But he looks like a completely different ball player since his return from triple-A Vegas, and I will be the first to say that I might have been wrong about him.  Since being recalled to Toronto on July 3, Encarnacion has hit for a .319 avg, .802 OPS, 1 HR, and 6 RBI, and his play in the field has improved tremendously.  Even more, he looks like he is trying now.

He has been even better recently.  EE recorded a hit in all seven of Toronto’s games last week, extending his hitting streak to nine games.  His numbers during the streak are outstanding: .361 avg, .906 OPS, 6 2B, 4 RBI.  It is impossible to tell if he can keep this up, but the signs are encouraging.  Sorry to doubt you Edwin.   Thanks for proving me wrong.

Three Things From Week Fifteen

Due to the All-Star break, week 15 (July 12 – 18) was a short one.  But despite the limited number of games, it was a  highly productive one for Toronto.  The Jays saw all three of their representatives make an appearance in the AL’s 3-1 loss, made a significant trade, then went out and started the second half with a sweep of the Orioles.

One thing is certain – even if Toronto loses more games than it wins in the second half, Alex Anthopoulos will make sure it’s exciting.

Here are three things from week 15:

1.  Wheeling and Dealing

The first significant trade of the season for the Jays went down last week, with Alex Gonzalez and two prospects heading out to Atlanta for Yunel Escobar and Jo-Jo Reyes.  I have dedicated a post to the trade here. 

It’s impossible to make any assumptions after only a few days, but so far Escobar has impressed with the Jays.  In his three games he is hitting .462 with a 1.192 OPS, 1 HR, and 5 RBI – including the first grand slam by a Jay this season.  Reyes dominated his first start in double-A New Hampshire (8 IP, 1 H, 2 BB, 6 K for the win).  Conversely, A-Gonz is hitting .231 with a .683 OPS through four games with Atlanta.

Regardless of the stats thus far, it is obvious that AA is going to be aggressive with the trade deadline looming.  The last two articles by SI’s Jon Heyman (here and here), list seven Blue Jays among the top 46 players available at the trade deadline: Kevin Gregg, Jason Frasor, Scott Downs, John Buck, Vernon Wells, Jose Bautista, Lyle Overbay.  The next two weeks could be a huge stepping stone for Toronto’s future.

2. More Baltimore Please

That is what every Jay fan should be asking for this morning.  Complain all you want about having to play in the AL East, but two good things come out of it: 1) Toronto is able to compete against the best teams and learn from them, and 2) We get to play Baltimore.

Simply put, the Orioles are terrible, and have been for a long time.  Since the 2001 season Toronto has gone 107 – 70 against Baltimore,  a winning percentage of .605.  The last time they lost a season series to the Orioles was 2004.  After last weekend’s three game sweep, the Jays are now 9-0 against them in 2010 (6-0 in Baltimore, 3-0 in Toronto) and have outscored the O’s 48-16.  It’s almost unfair.

Circle next week on your calendars, as Baltimore visits the Dome Monday through Wednesday.  Let the rout continue.

Arencibia could make an appearance in Toronto before the season is out

3. Catcher of the Future

I hate hearing that phrase because it reminds me of failures galore from Toronto’s past.  Kevin Cash.  Guillermo Quiroz.  Josh Phelps.  Curtis Thigpen.  The list is long and sad.

It looked like we were getting ready to add another name to that list after last season: J.P. Arencibia.  The “next big thing” had a rough ’09 in Vegas, hitting .236, with a .728 OPS and 21 HR in a very friendly hitters league.  After Toronto acquired Travis D’Arnaud in the Halladay deal, it looked like AA was preparing for the worst for Arencibia.

But he has exploded this season.  Through Sunday the catcher is killing triple-A pitching with a .313 average, 1.025 OPs, 27 HR, and 66 RBI in 79 games.  His 27 HR are the most in all of professional baseball, both major and minor leagues included.  His emergence is the main reason why All-Star John Buck is being shopped at the deadline.  Maybe when all is said and done Arencibia can finally change the “catcher of the future” line into “catcher of the present”.