Category Archives: Weekly Things

Week 4 In Review: King Teoscar

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Every Monday during the 2018 season, 500 Level Fan will take a look back at the week that was, giving readers a snapshot of all things Blue Jays, including three top stories and the Blue Jay player of the week.

This is what happened in week 4.

  1. King Teoscar

Talk about forcing Toronto’s hand!  Teoscar Hernandez was awesome in the spring but due to a glut of outfielders and because he still had options remaining, he was forced to start the year in Buffalo.  But early injury problems and the terrible play of Grichuk provided an opening, and Teoscar hasn’t merely walked through the open door – he’s destroyed the door entirely.  In eight games Hernandez has blasted 3 HR, driven in 10, recorded 7 extra base hits, and is currently sporting a 1.138 OPS.  Sure plate discipline remains a bit of a problem as he’s struck out 9 times, but his power and solid contact rate leave him assured of a roster spot for now.  The Jays will have a real roster crunch and some tough decisions to make when Josh Donaldson returns from the DL, but for now it’s all Teoscar all the time.

  1. Incredible Barnes

With the Jays off to a nice start, the team has been garnering more attention than many expected.  Young call-ups like Teoscar Hernandez and Lourdes Gurriel Jr., bigger names like Donaldson, Sanchez, Stroman, and Osuna, and offseason acquisitions off to nice starts like Solarte, Diaz, and Garcia have found themselves in the media quite often.   But there is one player who is having a dynamite start and seems to have fallen under the radar: Danny Barnes.  After a very effective 2017, Barnes had relatively high expectations and entered 2018 as a key piece of the bullpen.  Through 21 games he has blown those expectations out of the water.  In 11.2 innings, Barnes has allowed only one earned run and one walk, while striking out 14.  His 4.1 scoreless innings last week lowered his season ERA to 0.77 and his season WHIP to 1.03.  He has been the rock of a very effective Blue Jays ‘pen.

  1. Rotation Woes

On paper, the Blue Jays entered 2018 with one of the AL’s best starting rotations.  With a fully healthy Sanchez, a solid #5 man in Jaime Garcia, the always effective Happ and Estrada, and Cy Young contender Marcus Stroman, Toronto was expected to contend largely on the arms of their starters.  As we approach the end of the season’s first month, that has definitely not been the case.  Blue Jay starters currently hold a combined ERA of 5.23, the 4th worst mark in the American League.   Only Sanchez has an ERA under 4.50 and Happ leads the rotation with a not-too-great 1.27 WHIP.  Control has been the key issue.  Blue Jay starters have allowed 53 walks, hit 10 batters, and surrendered 20 HR – second most in the AL in each category.  Marcus Stroman has been by the far the most concerning.  Perhaps his spring shoulder issue is to blame, but whatever the case his early returns have been poor.  He was roughed up by the Yankees on Saturday (6 ER and 4 BB in 5.1 IP), increasing his season ERA to a woeful 8.55 – the third worst mark among SP with 20 IP.  The offense and bullpen have been surprisingly great, but the Jays need the rotation to pick up if they are to remain in the hunt in the AL East.

Player of the Week

Teoscar Hernandez, OF

10-for-30, 3 HR, 7 R, 8 RBI, 3 BB, .333 / .394 / .733 / 1.127

Down on the Farm

A look at how the minor league affiliates are doing

Reminder: Better Days Are Ahead

Your weekly reminder that both Vladimir Guerrero Jr. and Bo Bichette are Jays

Stats as at April 15 (AA New Hampshire Fisher Cats)

The Look Ahead

April 24 – 26 vs. Boston Red Sox

April 27 – 29 vs. Texas Rangers

Week 3 In Review: Late Inning Kings

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Every Monday during the 2018 season, 500 Level Fan will take a look back at the week that was, giving readers a snapshot of all things Blue Jays, including three top stories and the Blue Jay player of the week.

This is what happened in week 3.

  1. Late Inning Kings

Imagine if Rob Manfred went crazy last offseason in his eternal quest to solve baseball’s pace of play issues, and decided to shorten major league games to seven innings?  Games certainly would be shorter thus far in 2018, but the Blue Jays would likely be the worst team in the league.  Through 14 games it is quite obvious that something magical comes over this team once the game hits the 8th inning.  Last Monday Toronto scored five runs in the 9th to turn a 2-1 nailbiter into a 7-1 blowout.  On Tuesday they scored single runs in the 8th and 9th to edge the O’s 2-1.  Then on Friday they scored three times in the top of the 9th to finish off Cleveland.  For the season Toronto has now scored 26 runs in the final two frames, or 36% of their total.  With that kind of late game offense, the Jays are truly never out of any games.  Watch to the end.

  1. Dominating Sanchez

Aaron Sanchez would probably be the first to tell you that he didn’t pitch one of his best games last Tuesday in Baltimore.  He issued five walks, only struck out four batters, and only generated 10 swings and misses.  But he did manage to keep Oriole hitters off balance, induce weak contact, and came within six outs of doing something that has only been done once in Blue Jay history – throw a no-hitter.  He ultimately fell short due to a few Oriole hits in the bottom of the 8th, but the effort was very encouraging.  Through each of his three starts his innings pitched total has increased and his earned runs allowed have decreased, a perfect combination.  Jays fans everywhere would gladly accept a failed no-hit bid if it meant eight quality innings, each and every time.

  1. Down Goes Donaldson

Just as he was starting to heat up a bit, the Jays were forced to place Josh Donaldson on the 10-day DL last Wednesday with right shoulder inflammation.  It was the same issue that plagued him on Opening Day, forcing him to spend a few days as DH.  While it’s never great to lose your MVP and perennial All-Star, the timing of Donaldson’s loss couldn’t be worse.  The Jays are already missing Troy Tulowitzki, and with Devon Travis struggling mightily (.079 average, .252 OPS) they now have no choice but to use their infield depth of Diaz and Solarte as injury replacements, rather than to give Travis a break to get himself sorted out.  There’s no telling how long Josh will be out, but each day he misses puts more pressure on Travis.

Player of the Week

Aledmys Diaz, IF

4-for-15, 2 HR, 3 R, 4 RBI, 1 SB, .267 / .313 / .667 / .979

Down on the Farm

A look at how the minor league affiliates are doing

Reminder: Better Days Are Ahead

Your weekly reminder that both Vladimir Guerrero Jr. and Bo Bichette are Jays

Stats as at April 15 (AA New Hampshire Fisher Cats)

The Look Ahead

April 16 – 18 vs. Kansas City Royals

April 19 – 22 at New York Yankees

Week 2 In Review: Keep Calm

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Every Monday during the 2018 season, 500 Level Fan will take a look back at the week that was, giving readers a snapshot of all things Blue Jays, including three top stories and the Blue Jay player of the week.

This is what happened in week 2.

  1. Keep Calm

Over the past three seasons, games involving the Texas Rangers and Toronto Blue Jays were anything but calm.  From the bat flip to the brawl to the playoff walkoff, these two clubs have evolved into bitter rivals.  Well, maybe it’s the fact that Bautista is gone, or that the weather was cold, or that it’s simply too early in the season, but this weekend’s three game set in Texas had none of the fireworks of previous seasons.  Both teams were calm, cool, and collected as the Jays took two of three to move into second in the AL East.  But perhaps the calmest person in either dugout was manager John Gibbons who watched Friday and again Sunday as his bullpen nearly blew big leads.  On Friday, staked to an 8-0 lead through six innings, Aaron Loup and Seung-hwan Oh allowed four runs in a single inning, forcing Osuna into the game.  Then on Sunday, Loup and Oh again had a rough day, allowing four hits and an inherited runner to score in only 0.2 IP.  Credit Gibbons for guiding the team to both wins, but perhaps it’s time to question whether the Jays could use a different lefty in the ‘pen.

  1. Two Sides of the Newcomers Coin

Through 10 games of the season, the Blue Jays have to be incredibly pleased with the performances of three of their key offseason acquisitions.  Aledmys Diaz has two home runs, a .783 OPS, and has played solid defense in place of the injured Tulo.  Yangervis Solarte has posted a massive 1.086 OPS, had several key hits, and is making a name for himself as the best dancer in the game.  Fifth starter Jaime Garcia is 1-0 with a 3.18 ERA in his two starts, and has struck out 12 batters against only 4 walks.  Unfortunately the same can’t be said for Randal Grichuk, who is off to a miserable start to his Toronto tenure.  The RF is batting only .059 with a homer and a single in 34 at-bats, and he has struck out a team leading 13 times.  While the Jays managed to plate 37 runs in 6 games last week, Grichuk went 0-for-20 with 8 K’s.  It’s still very early, but Toronto was obviously hoping for a bigger return from Randal.

  1. Pleasant Backup Surprise

2017 was a nightmare year for Toronto’s backup catchers.  But instead of trying to fortify the position over the winter, the front office elected to stick with Luke Maile in the role in hopes that he is able to contribute at least a bit with the bat when called upon.  Well, so far so good.  Maile has made three starts thus far and has looked pretty good, going 4-for-12 with 4 RBI and a .968 OPS.  For context, Luke only had 19 hits in 130 AB all of last season.  Obviously it’s a small sample size, but you can’t help but be pleasantly surprised so far.

Player of the Week

Roberto Osuna, RP

3.1 IP, 3 Saves, 0 ER, 2 H, 2 K, 0 BB, 0.00 ERA, .182 BAA, 0.60 WHIP

Down on the Farm

A look at how the minor league affiliates are doing

Reminder: Better Days Are Ahead

Your weekly reminder that both Vladimir Guerrero Jr. and Bo Bichette are Jays

Stats as at April 8 (AA New Hampshire Fisher Cats)

The Look Ahead

April 9 – 11 at Baltimore Orioles

April 13 – 15 at Cleveland Indians

Week 1 In Review: A Tale of Two Halves

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Every Monday during the 2018 season, 500 Level Fan will take a look back at the week that was, giving readers a snapshot of all things Blue Jays, including three top stories and the Blue Jay player of the week.

This is what happened in week 1.

  1. A Tale of Two Halves

To paraphrase Charles Dickens: it was the worst of times, it was the best of times.  The first half of Toronto’s season opening 4-game set against the Yankees was nothing but pure misery for fans.  The promise of a more versatile and dynamic offense was nowhere to be found as the Jays looked a lot like the futile squad of 2017.  In those two games the Blue Jays scored a measly 3 runs on 7 hits, only drew 4 walks compared to 24 strikeouts, and hit a putrid .125 (1-for-8) with runners in scoring position.  But the weekend brought much better fortune for Toronto hitters.  They looked more patient and more confident and it paid dividends.  On Saturday and Sunday Jays batters plated 12 runs on 21 hits, had a much more respectable 9:24 walk to strikeout ratio, and hit .278 (5-for-18) with RISP.  The offense doesn’t necessarily need to revert back to 2015 levels for the team to be successful, not with the top-4 of the rotation looking pretty good and the bullpen only allowing three runs in 13.2 IP.  But less of the Thursday/Friday performance and more Saturday/Sunday would be much appreciated moving forward.

  1. Smoak to the Rescue

Justin Smoak broke out in a huge way last season, putting up career numbers across the board and cementing himself firmly in the middle of Toronto’s lineup.  But the big question heading into 2018 was how much of Smoak’s production was sustainable and how much was an outlier.  Well, through four games Smoak looks like he is picking up right where he left off.  He went 7-for-15 in the opening series, with four extra base hits – including two HR.  He celebrated his bobblehead day on Saturday with three hits, then almost single-handedly won yesterday’s contest with a two-run shot in the 7th inning followed by a game-winning grand slam in the 8th.  The fact that both bombs came off of very stingy Yankee relievers (Tommy Kahnle and David Robertson) is an even better sign.

  1. Pillar Runs Wild

Despite Smoak’s Sunday heroics, the highlight of the week was Kevin Pillar’s straight steal of home on Saturday afternoon.  It was Toronto’s first straight steal of home since Aaron Hill did it against Andy Pettitte in 2007.  It’s obviously very early, but Pillar’s 3 SB has him tied for first in all of baseball.


Player of the Week

Justin Smoak, 1B

7-for-15,  2 2B, 2 HR, 2 BB. 2 R, 8 RBI, .467 / .529 / 1.000 / 1.529

Down on the Farm

A look at how the minor league affiliates are doing

Reminder: Better Days Are Ahead

Your weekly reminder that both Vladimir Guerrero Jr. and Bo Bichette are Jays

Stats from 2017 (2018 season not yet started)

The Look Ahead

April 2 – 4 vs. Chicago White Sox

April 6 – 8 at Texas Rangers

The Week That Was: Week 12

Every Monday during the 2017 season, 500 Level Fan will take a look back at the week that was, giving readers a snapshot of all things Blue Jays, including three top stories and the Blue Jay player of the week.

This is what happened in week 12.

Week 12: June 19 – June 25

Record: 3 – 4

Season-to-date: 36 – 39

AL East: 5th,  5 games behind New York/Boston

Wild Card: 3.5 games behind Cleveland

  1. Osuna

Some things are bigger than wins and losses.  Roberto Osuna has been one of the best pitchers in baseball this season, seemingly single-handedly rescuing Toronto’s bullpen from early season ruin.  But his off-field actions last week might just be the most important thing he has done in his career.  By publicly speaking up about his anxiety issues he has helped open the door for other professional athletes to come clean about any potential issues they might be dealing with.  He looked great in his return to game action on Sunday, and here’s hoping he can make a full and healthy return, not only to the team, but to his life as well.

  1. Nightmare in KC

The 2015 version of the Kansas City Royals won the World Series using smoke and mirrors, and remain one of the worst championship teams ever.  Jays fans will remember the Royals beating Toronto in the ALCS with a combination of lazy pop-ups that found holes, and broken bat opposite field singles.  Well this weekend the Royals were back to their old tricks.  They won on Saturday thanks to some shaky Toronto defense, but Friday was the real kicker.  The Jays entered the bottom of the 9th with a 4-1 lead, and proceeded to retire two of the first three batters.   With a runner on 2nd, 2 out, and three straight sub-.200 batters due up, the Jays win expectancy was 98%.  Then the Royals started doing Royal things: a 9-pitch walk, a bleeder that dropped in, and two solidly struck hits later, KC walked off with a 5-4 win.  In a season in which Toronto is unable to reach .500, giving away games to middling opponents is tough pill to swallow.

  1. RISP Woes

Of course, one of the main reasons why the Royals won that game on Friday night was their ability to hit with runners in scoring position.  Sadly, this is something that has eluded the Blue Jays this season.  They were up 4-1 heading into the 9th on Friday, but could easily have had more after putting runners on 2nd and 3rd with 1 out in the 8th.  The result?  Back-to-back weak groundouts by Pillar and Barney.  For the week, Toronto went 16 for 74 (.216) with RISP, lowering their season mark to .226, second worst in the American League.  In a season where runs are seemingly harder to come by than ever, the Blue Jays are going to need to improve on that number to have any chance at making it back to the playoffs.

Player of the Week

Justin Smoak, 1B

Now a 10-game hitting streak for Toronto’s potential All-Star:  10 for 24, 4 BB, 2 2B, 5 R, 1 HR, 3 RBI, .417 / .500 / .625 / 1.125

Down on the Farm

A look at how the minor league affiliates are doing

AAA – Buffalo: 35 – 40, 5th place, 13.5 GB

AA – New Hampshire: 31 – 43, 6th place, 17 GB

A+ – Dunedin: First Half: 34 – 35, 4th place, 4.5 GB; Second Half: 1 – 3, T-5th, 2 GB

A – Lansing: First Half: 37 -29, 4th place, 7.5 GB; Second Half: 0 – 4, 8th place, 4 GB

A (Short Season) – Vancouver: 8 – 3, T-1st place

The Look Ahead

Back home to kick off a hellish 13-game stretch.

June 27 – 29 vs. Baltimore

June 30 – July 2 vs. Boston

The Week That Was: Week 11

Every Monday during the 2017 season, 500 Level Fan will take a look back at the week that was, giving readers a snapshot of all things Blue Jays, including three top stories and the Blue Jay player of the week.

This is what happened in week 11.

Week 11: June 12 – June 18

Record: 2 – 3

Season-to-date: 33 – 35

AL East: 5th,  5.5 games behind New York

Wild Card: 2 games behind Tampa Bay

  1. 0-7

Try as they might, the 2017 edition of the Toronto Blue Jays just can’t reach the .500 mark.  On Tuesday they tried for the sixth time to break even at home against Tampa Bay, but dropped the game 8-1 to the Rays.  Then on Friday night the Jays welcomed the White Sox to town with opportunity number seven to reach .500.  But they dropped their seventh straight contest in .500 games, this one an 11-4 thumping.  It remains a huge hurdle that this squad has yet to overcome.  One gets a feeling that all they need to do is break through that barrier, and once through a huge run awaits.  But getting there has proven to be the toughest part.  At 33-35, the Jays will hopefully have an eighth crack it early next week.

  1. Lefties Starting to Shine

Entering the season, Toronto’s rotation was expected to be a major strength.  Unfortunately, that has yet to be the case.  As of this morning, Toronto’s starting pitchers have posted a 4.48 ERA, 7th best in the American League.  Obviously injuries have played a major part, with Sanchez, Happ, and Liriano all missing time.  So it was with great relief when both LHP were activated from the DL in recent weeks, and with greater joy when Happ and Liriano were effective in their most recent starts.  Liriano pitched 7 innings allowing only 2 ER, 5 H, and 2 BB while striking out 9 on Wednesday, and has posted a 3.71 ERA in his three starts since returning.  Happ pitched into the seventh inning yesterday, allowed 3 ER, struck out 9 and didn’t walk a batter.  He has now won two straight starts.  With Estrada and Biagini scuffling in recent weeks, the Jays are going to need Liriano and Happ to continue to pitch well in order to reach .500 and beyond.

  1. 2017 Draft

The MLB draft was held last week and by all accounts the Blue Jays did very well.  With their first pick Toronto took SS Logan Warmoth from the University of North Carolina, and added RHP Nate Pearson from Central Florida Community College with their supplemental first round pick.  Although it will take years for either player to make an impact, both selections received an “A” grade from Bleacher Report, for what that’s worth.  The most interesting selection Toronto made was picking Kacy Clemens in the eighth round.  Kacy is the son of Roger Clemens who obviously spent two very good (and likely chemically enhanced) years as a Blue Jay.

Player of the Week

Kendrys Morales, DH

Another big week for Morales, which included an absolutely mammoth HR yesterday:  6 for 21,  1 2B, 4 R, 3 HR, 7 RBI, .286 / .286 / .762 / 1.048

Down on the Farm

A look at how the minor league affiliates are doing

AAA – Buffalo: 34 – 34, 4th place, 10.5 GB

AA – New Hampshire: 28 – 39, 6th place, 17 GB

A+ – Dunedin: First Half: 33 – 33, 4th place, 2.5 GB

A – Lansing: First Half: 37 -29, 4th place, 7.5 GB

A (Short Season) – Vancouver: 2 – 2, T-2nd place, 1 GB

The Look Ahead

A seven game road trip against recent playoff foes.  Watch for fireworks.

June 19 – 22 at Texas

June 23 – 25 at Kansas City

The Week That Was: Week 10

Every Monday during the 2017 season, 500 Level Fan will take a look back at the week that was, giving readers a snapshot of all things Blue Jays, including three top stories and the Blue Jay player of the week.

This is what happened in week 10.

Week 10: June 5 – June 11

Record: 3 – 3

Season-to-date: 31 – 32

AL East: 5th,  7.5 games behind New York

Wild Card: 1.5 games behind Cleveland/Tampa Bay

  1. Surviving Out West

Last week brought with it a six game road trip to Oakland and Seattle.  Despite the A’s generally underachieving in recent years and games in Seattle resembling home games due to the tens of thousands of Canadians that flock there, trips to these stadiums typically bring bad news to the Jays.  Since 2010 Toronto’s record in Oakland is a dismal 11-15 and in Seattle a worse 9-14.  So expectations were muted.  But a 3-3 week has to be considered a win, more-so when you factor in the lacklustre first two games against Oakland.  Outstanding pitching by Happ, Stroman, Smith, and Osuna combined with some clutch hitting by Donaldson and Smoak enabled the club to take 2 of 3 vs. Seattle, a venue in which they had dropped 5 of 6.  Also, this happened, one of the best things I have seen in years:

  1. Smoak is Firing

What else can we say about Justin Smoak?  The much maligned 1B was left for dead by fans in the offseason, with many begging and pleading with Ross Atkins to simply release him before Opening Day.  (Yes, including me).  But he has done nothing but rake all season long.  He kept his hot streak going last week with another huge week, hitting 4 more HR and posting an OPS of 1.353.  Smoak is now in the top-10 in the American League in Slugging (.599), OPS (.956), Total Bases (124), HR (18), and RBI (43).  He is one of the main reasons why the Jays are within a game of the .500 mark.

  1. Osuna Matata

If Smoak is red hot, Osuna should be classified as scalding.  He has now registered a save in 11 consecutive appearances, including 3 last week alone.  In those 3 saves, Osuna struck out 4 and needed only 27 pitches to record 7 outs.  Of all AL relievers with at least 20 IP, Osuna ranks T-4th with 16 saves, 6th with a 0.84 WHIP, and 13th with 11.88 K/9.  And all this from a guy who blew 3 of his first 4 save opportunities and had an ERA of 7.50 in late April.  His turnaround, coinciding with the emergence of Joe Smith, Ryan Tepera, and Danny Barnes, gives Toronto one of the AL’s better bullpens.

Player of the Week

Justin Smoak, 1B

His incredible run just keeps going:  9 for 23,  2 BB, 4 R, 4 HR, 4 RBI, .391 / .440 / .913 / 1.353

Down on the Farm

A look at how the minor league affiliates are doing

AAA – Buffalo: 32 – 29, 3rd place, 9 GB

AA – New Hampshire: 24 – 37, 6th place, 16 GB

A+ – Dunedin: First Half: 30 – 32, 4th place, 3.5 GB

A – Lansing: First Half: 34 -26, 4th place, 6 GB

A (Short Season) – Vancouver: season not started

The Look Ahead

The team returns to Toronto for a short 5-game homestand.

June 13 – 14 vs. Tampa Bay

June 16 – 18 vs. Chicago White Sox

The Week That Was: Week 8

Every Monday during the 2017 season, 500 Level Fan will take a look back at the week that was, giving readers a snapshot of all things Blue Jays, including three top stories and the Blue Jay player of the week.

This is what happened in week 8.

Week 8: May 22- May 28

Record: 4 – 1

Season-to-date: 23 – 27

AL East: 5th,  7.5 games behind New York

Wild Card: 3 games behind Cleveland/Baltimore

  1. They’re Back!

Friday night brought with it a most welcome sight for Blue Jays fans.  No, I’m not talking about Rougned Odor and the Texas Rangers coming to town for their annual spanking.  I’m talking about the return of Josh Donaldson and Troy Tulowitzki to the Jays lineup.  After missing over four weeks of action, the pair returned Friday and immediately transformed Toronto’s lineup from pedestrian to terrifying.  It didn’t take long for both to announce their presence either, with Donaldson ripping a double in his first at bat and Tulo reaching base three times.  With news that Francisco Liriano and possibly J.A. Happ might both return this week, the Jays are coming agonizingly close to being able to field their full team for the first time in 2017.

  1. Stay Hot Devon

April was a miserable month for the entire Blue Jays roster, but it was downright awful for Devon Travis.  The second baseman hit .130 and posted a .388 OPS in 83 April plate appearances putting him among the worst hitters in all of baseball.  But then the calendar switched to May and something clicked.  Travis has been tearing the cover off the ball, putting up video game numbers.  He is hitting .360 with a 1.010 OPS, and has set a Blue Jay record with 15 doubles in the month.  He is now tied for the major league lead with 17 doubles.  He also hit safely in all five games last week, extending his hitting streak to 12.  With Tulo and Donaldson back, Bautista and Morales heating up, and Smoak and Pillar still hitting well, Travis gives the Blue Jays an incredibly long and deep batting order, one that should have the rest of AL shaking.

  1. Barnes to Tepera to Osuna?

Nearly every good bullpen has a hierarchy cemented by a dominant back-end.  In 2015, the Jays ‘pen featured Cecil to Sanchez to Osuna to finish off games.  Last season saw Biagini to Grilli to Osuna, and that same combo was expected to close things out this year.  But Biagini has moved to the rotation, and Grilli got off to a terible start, forcing the Jays to improvise.  And suddenly it seems like they might be onto a new combo.  With apologies to Joe Smith, the Danny Barnes – Ryan Tepera – Roberto Osuna trio has been lights out recently.  Barnes has a 2.33 ERA with 21 strikeouts and has allowed earned runs in only 3 of his 15 appearances.  Tepera hasn’t been scored on since April 27, and has a 0.00 ERA, .102 BAA, and a 0.64 WHIP in May.  And Osuna, after a rough start, is back to his old self, posting 3 saves in 3 scoreless appearances last week.  The development of this newest lockdown trio has been a huge key in Toronto’s 2017 turnaround.

Player of the Week

Jose Bautista, RF

His 3-run HR off Yu Darvish was just another one of his huge hits recently:  6 for 17,  2 BB, 4 R, 2 HR, 5 RBI, 1 SB, .353 / .400 / .706 / 1.106

Down on the Farm

A look at how the minor league affiliates are doing

AAA – Buffalo: 26 – 21, 3rd place, 7 GB

AA – New Hampshire: 19 – 29, 6th place, 13 GB

A+ – Dunedin: First Half: 29 – 22, 1st place

A – Lansing: First Half: 27 -20, 4th place, 6 GB

A (Short Season) – Vancouver: season not started

The Look Ahead

The 10-game homestand continues with a visit by the Yankees and Toronto’s own Joey Votto.

May 29 – 31 vs. Cincinnati

June 1 – 4 vs. New York Yankees

The Week That Was: Week 6

Every Monday during the 2017 season, 500 Level Fan will take a look back at the week that was, giving readers a snapshot of all things Blue Jays, including three top stories and the Blue Jay player of the week.

This is what happened in week 6.

Week 6: May 8 – May 14

Record: 6 – 1

Season-to-date: 17 – 21

AL East: 5th,  6.5 games behind New York

Wild Card: 3 games behind Cleveland

  1. We’re Alive!

That is more like it!  After five purely awful weeks, the Toronto Blue Jays finally showed up for the 2017 season, stringing together five straight wins to finish off a 6-1 week.  The Jays began the week by taking two of three from the Indians before sweeping the Mariners.  The week had a little bit of everything.  There was offense, with the team scoring 7 runs or more three times.  There was pitching, with the Jays surrendering 2 runs or less four times.  There were blowouts, with three games decided by four or more runs.  And there was plenty of drama.  Ryan Goins played the hero on Wednesday, providing the finishing touches on a comeback win:

And Kevin Pillar played walkoff hero yesterday:

  1. Welcome Back Edwin

Monday saw the return of former Blue Jay hero Edwin Encarnacion to Toronto.  Though some (including Edwin himself) were worried about how he would be greeted by fans after what happened in the offseason, Toronto fans quickly showed that concerns weren’t warranted.  Edwin was greeted with several long and loud ovations, and appeared to be genuinely moved by the reception.  And though he is not performing to his normal level of dominance, he showed Jays fans that he still has life left by going 3 for 9 with 4 walks against Toronto pitching.  But the Jays got the last laugh, taking two of three and gaining ground on the Indians.  Regardless, it was great to see Edwin back.  A spot on the Level of Excellence should be his in the not-too-distant future.

  1. Welcome Back Jose!

After welcoming Encarnacion on Monday night, Blue Jays fans also welcomed back iconic slugger Jose Bautista this past week.  While it’s true that Jose has been playing with the Jays the entire 2017 season, he has been such a shell of his former self that he might as well have not been here at all.  After an 0-for-3 on Monday vs. Cleveland, Bautista was hitting a woeful .169 with a .550 OPS, one of the worst hitters in the American League.  But all of a sudden….boom.  The prodigal son returns.  Jose went deep in the first inning on Wednesday to give the Jays a 3-2 lead.  He went deep on Friday to extend a 1-run lead to 3-runs.  And he went deep again on Saturday, breaking a 2-2 tie in the 7th inning.  In six days he raised his average 13 points to .182 and his OPS 92 points to .642.  Dare we say…..he’s back?

Player of the Week

Kevin Pillar, CF

Several outstanding catches to go with his walkoff bomb, Pillar has been unreal in 2017:  8 for 25, 5 BB, 1 2B, 8 R, 1 HR, 2 RBI, 2 SB, .320 / .419 / .480 / .899

Down on the Farm

A look at how the minor league affiliates are doing

AAA – Buffalo: 18 – 16, T-3rd place, 4 GB

AA – New Hampshire: 12 – 24, 6th place, 9.5 GB

A+ – Dunedin: First Half: 20 – 17, T-2nd place, 2 GB

A – Lansing: First Half: 19 -14, 4th place, 4.5 GB

A (Short Season) – Vancouver: season not started

The Look Ahead

A home-and-home interleague set before another series against Blanche and the Orioles

May 15 – 16 vs. Atlanta

May 17 – 18 at Atlanta

May 19 – 21 at Baltimore

The Week That Was: Week 5

Every Monday during the 2017 season, 500 Level Fan will take a look back at the week that was, giving readers a snapshot of all things Blue Jays, including three top stories and the Blue Jay player of the week.

This is what happened in week 5.

Week 5: May 1 – May 7

Record: 3 – 3

Season-to-date: 11 – 20

AL East: 5th,  10 games behind New York

Wild Card: 6 games behind Boston

  1. Signs of Life

It has been a miserable start to the season for the Blue Jays.  The team sits in dead last in the AL East, already a whopping 10 games back of New York.  But for the first time this year the club showed some signs of life last week, with the offense finally deciding to show up.  Entering the week, Toronto was averaging 3.56 runs per game through the first 25 games of the year, a far cry from the lofty heights set in 2015.  But in six games last week they scored 29 runs, an average of 4.83 per game.  What was more promising was who was doing the damage.  Steve Pearce and Kendrys Morales, the two key offseason signings, combined for 5 HR, 11 RBI, and a .342 average, and Kevin Pillar continues to torch the baseball.  With Donaldson and Tulo due back soon, the Jays lineup might once again look a little imposing for opposing pitchers.  Now, about Bautista…..

  1. Rotation In Flux

This was not supposed to happen.  Toronto’s starting rotation was expected to be the main strength of this team, but instead it has become a daily adventure.  Happ and Sanchez are on the DL.  Stroman left his start on Wednesday with tightness in his throwing arm.  Liriano is about as erratic as they come, dominating at times (30 Ks) but also struggling mightily (just over 4 IP per start, and 20 walks).  With the injuries the Jays were forced to ride three starts from Mat Latos, who looked serviceable in his first two before getting lit up by the Yankees on Tuesday.  He was released afterwards with Mike Bolsinger taking his place.  Joe Biagini looked great in a shortened spot start yesterday, but his appearance in the rotation taxes an already overworked bullpen (2nd most innings in the AL).  It remains to be seen how long Happ and Sanchez will be out, but the Jays need them healthy and back ASAP.  There’s no telling how much longer this patchwork rotation can last.

  1. Osuna Matata

After a disastrous start to the season, it appears that all is (thankfully) well with Roberto Osuna.  He put up dominant numbers in 2015 and 2016, but was knocked around in his first several appearances this year, uncharacteristically blowing saves.  But he looked like his normal self this past week.  In three appearances, he pitched three innings, allowing only one hit and one walk while striking out six, notching his fourth save in the process.  With so much uncertainty in the lineup and in the rotation, it helps a ton to have Osuna back in his rock solid form.

Player of the Week

Kendrys Morales, DH

Finding his footing after a slow start: 8 for 25, 2 2B, 3 R, 2 HR, 6 RBI,  .320 / .320 / .640 / .960

Down on the Farm

A look at how the minor league affiliates are doing

AAA – Buffalo: 16 – 11, 1st place

AA – New Hampshire: 10 – 19, 6th place, 8.5 GB

A+ – Dunedin: First Half: 17 – 14, 3rd place, 3 GB

A – Lansing: First Half: 16 -12, 4th place, 3 GB

A (Short Season) – Vancouver: season not started

The Look Ahead

The return of Edwin Encarnacion highlights the start of a 9-game homestand.  Time to start winning some games.

May 8 – 10 vs. Cleveland

May 11 – 14 vs. Seattle