Category Archives: Weekly Things

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”.

Three Things From Week Fourteen

In the last full week before the All-Star break, the Jays rebounded nicely from a dismal Week 13 to finish 3-3 in Week 14 of the schedule (July 5 – July 11).  Taking into consideration the opposition – two legitimate contenders in Boston and Minnesota – a .500 record isn’t all that bad.

So at the break the Blue Jays sit at 44-45, exactly the same record they had through 89 games in 2009, and about 10 or more games ahead of where most experts thought they would be.  All in all it was a successful first half for the Jays.  They lead the league in home runs, are sending three players to Anaheim for the ASG, and are a fun exciting team to watch – all setting up for what should be an entertaining second half.

Here are three things that emerged from week 14:

1. Effing Red Sox

It doesn’t matter where.  It doesn’t matter when.  Toronto just can not beat Boston this year.  The Red Sox came to town on the weekend with multitudes of their annoying, rude, and obnoxious fans, and promptly took two of three, including a Friday night massacre.  The 14-3 loss was the worst this season for the Jays, and would have looked a lot worse if not for a few late game home runs.

Toronto is now 2-7 on the season against the Red Sox, including 1-5 at home.  The record is very discouraging because for the most part the games have been close.  Boston has outscored the Jays 54-37 this year, but 11 of those runs came Friday.  Five of the six losses have been by two runs or less.

That tells us that though Toronto has been competitive they still lack the finishing power against good teams.  In other words they still have to learn how to win.  With nine games remaining against the Red Sox they still have plenty of time to learn.

Romero has struggled his last two starts (photo from daylife.com)

2. Growing Pains for Ricky

Ricky Romero was cruising along this season until last Saturday.  Heading into that game he had was 6-4 with a 2.83 ERA and 103 strikeouts.  Then he went out and got blown away two starts in a row, the latest coming on Friday night against the Red Sox.  In each of those starts Romero failed to make it out of the third inning, combining for 5 IP, 13 ER, 5 BB to 5 K, an ERA of 23.40 and a WHIP of 3.40.  His season ERA rose all the way 3.71.

If it’s true that all young pitchers go through growing pains then this should just be a bump in the road for Romero.  Plus, there are three “silver lining” items to prove that things aren’t all bad:

1. The Boston game wasn’t as bad as it looked, with four of his runs allowed being unearned and Brian “I can’t get anybody out” Tallet letting in a few of his baserunners.  Let down by defense and bullpen.

2. The early exits will keep his total innings down.

3. According to Richard Griffin, Joe Girardi named Romero one of the great young pitchers in the game today.  Not bad…

3. HR Derby Continues

A lot of debate, disappointment, and anger around Toronto these days due to Jose Bautista’s exclusion from tonight’s MLB Home Run Derby.  I wrote a post about it yesterday.  But for a moment let’s stop talking about Bautista, and start talking about the Blue Jays’ proficiency at slugging bombs.   When April ended and Toronto lead all of baseball in HR (35, one ahead of Arizona) people thought it was a fluke.  The Jays were supposed to struggle offensively.  They would slow down.

Then Toronto went out and slugged 54 long balls in May to extend their lead.  While they did slow a bit in June (26 HR, T10th in MLB), they are back with a vengeance in July, with 21 bombs in only 10 games.  Critics around baseball now have to take notice – at this point in the season it is no longer a fluke.  The Jays power is for real.

Toronto took it to another level last week.  They slugged multiple home runs in seven consecutive games, one shy of the franchise record of eight, only to have the streak stop on Sunday.  The Jays could only manage a single blast yesterday, a two run HR by Aaron Hill.  In a year when offense is down across the board, the fact Toronto continues to belt home runs at such a terrific pace is nothing short of amazing.

Three Things From Week Thirteen

Ouch.  What else is there to say really, after a horrendous showing in the thirteenth week of the MLB schedule (June 28 – July 4).  Toronto went 1-6 for the week, including a four-game sweep at the hands of the woeful Cleveland Indians – the first time that has happened since 1995.  Dropping two of three to division leading New York saw the Jays drop below the .500 mark for the first time since they were 12-13 on May 2nd.

As if the losing wasn’t bad enough for Jays fans, we received a double punch in the gut last week.  First, ace Shaun Marcum hit the 15-day DL with right elbow inflammation.  Second, Toronto recalled the brutally awful Edwin Encarnacion from triple-A Vegas.  EE promptly endeared himself to fans by failing to run on a sac bunt attempt in the 10th inning on Sunday, resulting in a double play.

So, in order to cheer up the Bluebird faithful, here are three positive things that came out of week 13:

1. All-Stars x 3

The last time Toronto had this many all-stars in the mid-summer classic it was 2006.  John Gibbons was at the helm, Gustavo Chacin was in the starting rotation, and Shea Hillenbrand took the bulk of at-bats at DH.  That season saw Roy Halladay, B.J. Ryan, Troy Glaus, Alex Rios, and Vernon Wells suit up at the All-Star game.

Yesterday, three Jays were named to the AL squad: Vernon Wells, Jose Bautista, and John Buck.  Wells will be making his third all-star appearance, while Bautista (MLB’s HR leader) and Buck (AL RBI leader for catchers) will each be making their first.  It’s quite an honour to have three players recognized, and the Jays actually have a case for a fourth.  Alex Gonzalez leads all AL shortstops in HR and RBI – and it isn’t even close.

The only thing left to see is if Bautista takes part in the HR derby.  My hope is no…

Kyle Drabek tossed a no-hitter on Sunday (photo from mlb.com)

2. Halladay 1 – Drabek 1

When Halladay was sent to Philadelphia all Blue Jay fans were disappointed.  When Halladay threw the 20th perfect game in major league history, Blue Jay fans became bitterly disappointed that he wasn’ t wearing our uniform when he did it.  It also put more pressure, fair or not, on the main prospect the Jays received in the deal – Kyle Drabek.

Well, so far so good.  Drabek matched Halladay with a no-hitter of his own on Sunday for the double-A New Hampshire Fisher Cats.  The right-hander allowed only two walks, and faced one batter over the minimum in the complete game gem.  Overall this season Drabek is 8-8 with a 3.20 ERA and 80 K’s in double-A, and looks to be on target to potentially reach the big leagues next season.  That would be step one in a world PH (Post Halladay).

3. As Tight As Can Be

One bad inning.  That was all that separated the Jays from a series victory over the Yankees on the weekend.  If not for a franchise record matching 11-run third on Saturday afternoon, the Jays likely would have taken two of three from the Bombers, making the week that was a little bit easier to swallow.  But never-the-less, one thing is certain: Toronto and New York have played each other dead even so far this year – almost as even as you can get.

Through the first six meetings, Toronto is 3-3 against the Yankees.  The Jays have scored 27 runs in the six games; New York has scored 26.  Three of the six were decided by one run.  Three went to extra innings.  Toronto pitchers have also done a great job neutralizing four of the most dangerous hitters in baseball.  Alex Rodriguez, Mark Teixeira, Derek Jeter, and Robinson Cano are a combined 21 for 101 (.208) off Blue Jay pitching, with only 1 HR between them.

In a season where moral victories may end up being important for a young team, Toronto’s performance against the Yanks is a step in the right direction.

Three Things From Week Twelve

It was a tough week for the Jays, no doubt about it.  Not only were they involved in interleague action, which they traditionally dislike (Toronto finished 7-11 this season), but they also played both series against contending National League teams (Philadelphia and St. Louis).  To make things tougher on the Jays, their three game “home” series against the Phillies took place in Citizen’s Bank Park in Philadelphia due to the G20 Summit.

With all of that bad conspiring against them, it isn’t much of a surprise that the Blue Jays completed week 12 (June 21 – 27) with a losing 2-4 record.  To make matters worse, while Tampa Bay is slumping and coming back to the Jays, Boston is on fire and has jumped into second.  In the tough AL East, gaining ground is much easier said than done.

Here are three thing that came out of week 12:

1. Home “Not So” Sweet Home

Halladay destroyed the Jays on Friday (from mlb.com)

Furious.  Angry.  Outraged.  Sad.  Devastated.  Take your pick of those words, but any of them could have described the way Blue Jays fans felt when it was announced the series against the Phillies was being shifted to Philadelphia due to the G20 Summit.  Not only did it deny us a chance to see the two-time defending NL Champions first hand, it also destroyed our chance to see the return of the greatest Blue Jay pitcher of all time Roy Halladay.  But after seeing the way Toronto played over the weekend, it might have been a good thing that they were away from the dome, to save them from the wrath of the Rogers Centre faithful.

Despite winning the middle game of the set, the Jays were thoroughly thumped in Philly.  Yesterday they were befuddled by the ageless wonder Jamie Moyer in an 11-2 rout, a game in which Toronto committed a season high four errors.  Friday was the epic duel against the Doc, and the Jays proved to be no challenge to their former ace.  Halladay dominated Toronto for seven innings in an eventual 9-0 Philly victory.  It would have been interesting to see the fans reaction in Toronto upon Halladay’s departure if the series was still here.  One good thing – the Jays will NOT be going back to Philly anytime soon…unless it’s the World Series.

2. Cito Wakes Up

Any other manager would have reacted long ago, but our big and lovable Cito doesn’t like to rock the ship very often.  Of course I’m referring to the vanishing Blue Jays offense.   After tearing up the league in the early part of the season, Toronto’s power and run scoring have gone AWOL in June.  Aaron Hill is still hitting below the Mendoza line, Adam Lind is hitting nowhere near the pace of last season, and even Vernon Wells and Jose Bautista have dropped off.  After a tough 1-0 loss to Chris Carpenter and the Cardinals, Gaston finally reacted.

In hopes of springing the offense back to life, he shuffled Adam Lind and Aaron Hill down, bumped Alex Gonzalez up, and was rewarded with a 5-0 win on Thursday.  The tinkering conitnued on the weekend, with Cito even going so far as to bat Johnny Mac leadoff on Sunday.  Though the results didn’t immediately pay off (only seven runs scored in the three game set in Philly), it’s good to finally see Cito recognizing the problem and trying to fix it instead of letting the boys play through it.

3. Rotation Questions

What a difference a few weeks make.  After going through an unreal stretch where every week a different starting pitcher was dominating and becoming the next ace, Toronto has entered a tumultuous time.  Sure Romero, Marcum, and Morrow are still lights out, but at last check it takes five quality starters to win at the big league level, and with the recent struggles of Brett Cecil and Jessie “Tommy John” Litsch, Alex Anthopoulos might have some tinkering of his own to do.

With Brian Tallet seemingly at the end of his effectiveness, and David Purcey being trusted less than a 3-year old with a rifle, there really isn’t any options at the major league level.  Fortunately for the Jays, there are a few other alternatives.  Marc Rzepczynski finally appears to be coming around at triple-A Vegas.  Though his overall numbers are ugly (3-3 7.01 ERA), he is 2-0 with a 1.98 ERA (13.2 IP) over his past two starts.  Brad Mills is starting to settle down after a few atrocious starts, and way down at Dunedin – though he was just placed on the 7-day DL – Canadian Scott Richmond is 2-0 with a 1.72 ERA (15.2 IP) as he makes his return from injury.  Personally I would give Litsch one more start then demote him for Rzep, but that’s why I watch the games from my couch or the 500 Level, and not the executive suites.  It will be interesting to see what AA does in the upcoming week or two.

Three Things From Week Eleven

The Jays rebounded in a big way during week 11 (June 14 – June 20), winning four of six against NL West contenders San Diego and San Francisco.   After being lit up last week against Colorado and Tampa, this is exactly the type of response that Blue Jays fans were hoping for.  In late June, nearing the mid-point of the season, Toronto is still hanging in the pennant race, sitting only 5.5 games back of the Yankees for first in the AL East, and only 4.5 games back of Tampa Bay and Boston in the Wild Card chase. It looks like we might be treated to an entertaining summer after all.

Here are three things that came out of week 11 of the season:

1. Busy Anthopoulos

Quite a week for Toronto’s rookie GM.  Not only did he get some good news on the field with a 4-2 record and a near home sweep of the Giants, he also got some good news at the gate, as the Jays attracted over 60,700 fans for the series against San Francisco – impressive considering Toronto’s downtown core (especially near the dome) resembles a war zone due to the G20 Summit.  But AA also had some very good news off the field as well.

Staring straight in the face of JP Ricciardi’s 2009 draft pick fiasco (where he failed to sign three of the first four picks), AA got off to a great start by signing 18 of his 56 picks in six days, including three of the first four.  He then followed up his draft pick signings by making a few roster moves – signing infielder Nick Green and optioning Mike McCoy to AAA Vegas, then designating Edwin Encarnacion for assignment, recalling Jarrett Hoffpauir, and activating Scott Richmond from the DL.  Sending McCoy down was a smart move to help with his development, but the EE move has proven to be controversial.  This was the same type of move made with Rios last year that came back to bite them in a big way.  AA is confident that EE will not be claimed on waivers due to his high salary and horrendous performance, but stranger things have happened.  All in all, a risky move, but just another one in a busy week for our GM.

2. Alomar and Quantrill Inducted

So this doesn’t necessarily relate to on-field performance, but I want to take a moment to recognize the achievement of Paul Quantrill and Roberto Alomar.   Both were inducted into the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame on the weekend in St. Mary’s, Ontario.  Quantrill appeared in 841 MLB games in his career, 35th on the all time list, ahead of such notable names as Nolan Ryan and Walter Johnson.  386 of those appearances came in a Blue Jays uniform between 1996 and 2001, where he became known as one of the best relief pitchers in the game.

Alomar is of course one of the greatest Blue Jays of all time.  His enshrinement comes as no suprise, as he will likely be making an induction speech into the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown in a year or two.  Alomar has always represented the Blue Jays, the city of Toronto, and Canada with dignity and class, and recent rumours might have him joining the Jays in an official capacity sometime soon.

Overall, a great week for both players, and a great honour.  For more detail on the ceremony, please refer to the Blue Jay Hunter, who was in St. Mary’s.

John McDonald after his emotional HR (image from daylife.com)

3. Happy Father’s Day Johnny Mac

One of the most difficult weeks in John McDonald’s life took place last week.  The fan favourite was placed on the bereavement list after the unfortunate passing of his father Jack on Tuesday morning at the young age of 60.  After spending the past two weeks away from the team, Johnny Mac rejoined the Jays on Saturday, the day after his father’s funeral, and saw his first game action on Sunday – which just happened to be Father’s Day.

Stepping to the plate in the bottom of the 9th, with the Jays down by six, Johnny laced the second pitch he saw into the bullpen for his first home run of the season.  The blast sent the Rogers Centre into a frenzy, and the fact that Toronto lost the game was forgotten as the moment was so special.  Post game, McDonald held back tears describing the bomb, saying it was difficult because he couldn’t call his Dad after the game to tell him about it.  Though the week was tough, the finish was perfect, and it couldn’t have happened to a better guy.