Category Archives: Weekly Things

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

The Week That Was: Week 4

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 4.

Week 4: April 24 – April 30

Record: 3 – 4

Season-to-date: 8 – 17

AL East: 5th,  8 games behind Baltimore/New York

Wild Card: 6 games behind Chicago

  1. Streaking!

For the first time in 2017 the Blue Jays are on a winning streak!  After coming back in the 8th inning yesterday to defeat the Rays 3-1, Toronto has now won consecutive games for the first time since the 2016 ALDS against Texas.  Yes, the overall numbers still look ugly, but as somebody said on Twitter yesterday, you can’t win 10 straight without winning the first two.  Also along those lines, while it certainly is discouraging to see the Jays with a .320 winning percentage, you can’t reach the .500 mark without first reaching .350, .400. and .450.  In keeping with the baby steps theme I wrote about last week, the Jays are slowly turning things around.  With yesterday’s win they moved ahead of Kansas City and out of dead last in the AL, and also clawed to within 3.5 of the Rays for 4th in the East.  Hey – it’s better than nothing.

  1. Feast or Famine in Relief

If you like rollercoasters, and up-and-down thrill rides, then the Blue Jays bullpen is the thing for you!  Seriously, what a week!   On Monday, three relievers combined to pitch 2.2 perfect innings in a 2-1 loss.  That was followed up by a pathetic performance on Tuesday and Thursday’s first doubleheader game, with Toronto RP combining for 11 earned runs, 17 hits, 3 walks, and 3 blown saves.  After a decent performance in the back-end of the doubleheader, Grilli and Leone allowed 5 runs on 3 HR to blow another game on Friday.  Then from seemingly out of nowhere the relief corps turned in a lights out weekend, allowing only 1 run in 12 innings of work, highlighted by a dominant performance by Tepera after Aaron Sanchez was forced to leave after a single inning.  Will the hearts of Jays fans be able to take this for another 137 games?

  1. Superman

Even if the Jays lose every game the rest of the way, we will always have this:

Player of the Week

Russell Martin, C

Turning his season around in a big way: 7 for 17, 3 BB. 1 2B, 3 R, 2 HR, 4 RBI,  .412 / .524 / .824 / 1.347

Down on the Farm

A look at how the minor league affiliates are doing

AAA – Buffalo: 14 – 8, 1st place

AA – New Hampshire: 8 – 14, 6th place, 6 GB

A+ – Dunedin: First Half: 13 – 11, T-3rd place, 3 GB

A – Lansing: First Half: 13 -10, 4th place, 1.5 GB

A (Short Season) – Vancouver: season not started

The Look Ahead

Another tough AL East slate.

May 1 – 3 at New York

May 5 – 7 at Tampa Bay

The Week That Was: Week 3

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 3.

Week 3: April 17 – April 23

Record: 3 – 3

Season-to-date: 5 – 13

AL East: 5th,  7.5 games behind Baltimore

Wild Card: 5.5 games behind Boston

  1. Progress

For the first time in 2017 the Jays finished a week with fewer than five losses.  After back-to-back 1-5 weeks to start the year, Toronto split six games against the Red Sox and the Angels to push its winning percentage above the .200 mark.  It certainly wasn’t pretty, but there were some signs of encouragement.  For the first time all season the Jays showed some fight, twice coming from behind in the 8th inning to win on Friday and Sunday.  They also battled back on Thursday with a 9th inning HR by Kendrys Morales off of Craig Kimbrel to force extra innings against Boston.  Jose Bautista finally hit his first HR of the season on Friday, Devon Travis broke out yesterday, and Russell Martin pushed his batting average to .149.  Obviously there is still a lot of work to be done but at least we are finally seeing some steps in the right direction.

  1. Bullpen Woes Continue

While the team as a whole is making forward progress, the same can’t be said of the bullpen.  The Jays have already used 13 different relievers and most of them have looked really, really bad.  As a unit, Toronto’s ‘pen ranks 10th in the AL with a 4.40 ERA.  and 10th with a 1.32 WHIP.  They have walked 26 batters (fifth most in the AL), and converted only 3 of 7 save opportunities.  Most concerning is that Roberto Osuna hasn’t looked right and Jason Grilli has looked awful with a 7.11 ERA.  Thank goodness for Joe Biagini (0.69 ERA in 13 IP), Danny Barnes (2 baserunners allowed in 3.2 IP), and Joe Smith (12 K in 7.2 IP).  Hopefully their success will rub off on the rest of the guys.

  1. The Stro Show

Much was expected from Marcus Stroman this year, especially after his dominating performance in the World Baseball Classic.  After a solid start to the season, Stroman was absolutely crushed by Boston on Tuesday night ,surrendering 11 hits and 6 runs in less than 5 innings.  It left many wondering if that start would cause an early season regression for the streaky pitcher.  Well Stroman answered his doubters in a huge way on Sunday by throwing his second complete game of the season against the Angels.  He needed only 99 pitches to get 27 outs, allowing only 7 hits and a walk.  He was also able to keep his composure despite a couple of egregious decisions by home plate umpire Ramon De Jesus.  Stro’s performance has been one of the few bright spots in an otherwise disappointing start for the Blue Jays.

Player of the Week

Kevin Pillar, CF

He extended his hitting streak to 11 games after a huge week: 10 for 27, 3 2B, 4 R, 2 HR, 3 RBI, 2 SB, .370 / .393 / .704 / 1.097

Down on the Farm

A look at how the minor league affiliates are doing

AAA – Buffalo: 11 – 4, 1st place

AA – New Hampshire: 7 – 9, 5th place, 3 GB

A+ – Dunedin: First Half: 9 – 9, 4th place, 3 GB

A – Lansing: First Half: 9 -8, T-2nd place, 1 GB

A (Short Season) – Vancouver: season not started

The Look Ahead

Pitchers get to hit!

April 24 at LA Angels

April 25 – 27 at St. Louis

April 28 – 30 vs. Tampa Bay

The Week That Was: Week 2

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 2.

Week 2: April 10 – April 16

Record: 1 – 5

Season-to-date: 2 – 10

AL East: 5th,  6.5 games behind Baltimore

Wild Card: 5 games behind Minnesota/Boston

  1. Nightmare

The Toronto Blue Jays are currently the worst team in baseball.  It is still early.  There are still 150 games to play.  But nothing about this early season performance is inspiring hope for the near future.  Many baseball pundits pegged the Jays as contenders this year as long as they stayed relatively healthy and the veteran hitters returned to form.  So far….no dice.  You want health?  Well, the closer has already been on the DL.   Last week, the team MVP and last year’s ERA champ were placed on the DL, before J.A. Happ – a 20-game winner in ’16 – left his start with an injury.  How about those vets?  Well, Russell Martin is hitting .097, Bautista has a .446 OPS with 15 strikeouts, Tulowitzki has a sub-.300 OBP, and newcomer Steve Pearce is hitting .156.  With little to no depth and a tough schedule ahead, there is a very real chance that things get worse before they get better.

  1. Situational Blues

The Jays are struggling to score runs, and one of the biggest contributors is their continual failure to come through in certain situations.  The most glaring example is with a runner on 3rd and less than 2 outs.  In these circumstances a batter doesn’t need a HR or a double to drive the run home.  In most cases, a fly ball to the outfield will suffice, and many times the opposing team is willing to concede a run on a ground ball to the middle infield.  Yet the Blue Jays constantly fail to drive that runner home.  In fact, they are the worst team in the American League at doing so….by far.  Blue Jay batters have come to the plate 22 times with a runner on 3rd and less than 2 outs, and that run has scored only 8 times, for a 36.4% success rate.  The AL average is 60.6%, the next worst team (Minnesota) is scoring that runner 42.9% of the time, and the Yankees are getting that runner home 91.7% of the time.  Toronto’s main problem?  They have struck out in 31.8% of their plate appearances compared to an AL average of 20%, led by Bautista’s 3 K’s in 5 chances.  Are Blue Jay hitters trying to do too much, maybe swinging for the fences when a lazy fly would do?  Sure seems like it….

  1. Silver Lining

It’s hard to find a silver lining in a 2-10 start with some of the top players on the roster on the DL, but here’s something the Jays and the fan base can look at for encouragement.  This has been a bad start, but the magnitude is likely exaggerated because it’s early in the schedule.  If this stretch happened later in the season the impact would be muted.  Last year, for instance, the Jays went 3-9 with a -32 run differential in September, and while it still caused concern, the fact that they were already 19 games over .500 softened the blow.  No team is immune from these stretches.  Even the mighty Cubs went 1-9 with a -32 differential last year between June 30 and July 9 and they overcame that and won the World Series.  One look at the standings can also assure Jays fans that they’re not alone.  Preseason favourites Cleveland, Seattle, Texas, St. Louis, and San Francisco are all under .500 and in last place or second last place in their divisions.  While things don’t look good, it’s certainly not over yet.

Player of the Week

Marco Estrada, P

Nice rebound for Estrada after a rough first week: 1 start, 7 IP, 0.00 ERA, 1.00 WHIP, 8 K

Down on the Farm

A look at how the minor league affiliates are doing

AAA – Buffalo: 7 – 3, 1st place

AA – New Hampshire: 5 – 4, T-2nd place, 1 GB

A+ – Dunedin: First Half: 6 – 5, T-3rd place, 2 GB

A – Lansing: First Half: 6 -40, T-2nd place, 1 GB

A (Short Season) – Vancouver: season not started

The Look Ahead

It doesn’t get any easier

April 18 – 20 vs. Boston

April 21 – 24 at LA Angels

The Week That Was: Week 1

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 1.

Week 1: April 3 – April 9

Record: 1 – 5

Season-to-date: 1 – 5

AL East: 5th,  3.5 games behind Baltimore

Wild Card: 2.5 games behind Detroit/Boston/Houston

  1. Rough Start

Oh boy.  That is NOT how we drew it up.  The 2017 MLB season kicked off last week with the Jays dropping five of six to sink to dead last in the AL East.  The 1-5 start was the club’s worst since 2004, a season in which the Jays lost 94 games.  Absolutely nothing went right for Toronto, on either side of the ball.  The pitching staff as a whole surrendered 7 HR.  The starting rotation posted a 4.83 ERA.  The bullpen was tagged with three losses, including one via bases loaded walk.  The hitters only managed a .201 average and .576 OPS, while striking out 50 times.  They only hit .150 with RISP, failing to come up with key hits several times.  But if there is a silver lining it’s this: for as bad as the Blue Jays played, they had a chance to win four of the five games they lost, and are a couple of breaks away from being 5-1.  Bottom line – this is a good team.  Don’t panic.

  1. Bullpen Woes

It seems like every single season the Toronto Blue Jays are in a constant battle to improve their bullpen.  Players shuffle in and out with hopes of creating an airtight relief corps to make late-inning leads automatic.  More often than not, the ‘pen seems to scuffle.  Sadly, after six games 2017 is no exception.  Already thin due to the DL stint of Osuna, Toronto’s RP were battered around last week.  Grilli surrendered a walkoff HR to Trumbo on Opening Day.  Tepera and Howell failed to hold a 7-6 lead on Friday, before Casey Lawrence walked in the winning run in extra innings on Saturday.  All eight of Toronto’s relievers surrendered at least one run during the season’s opening week.  It’s still early, but these signs are worrying.

  1. Where’s the O?

It’s not only the relievers who are struggling: Blue Jay batters have been nowhere in sight.  Russell Martin, a notorious slow starter, is off to yet another slow start, going 0 for 14 to start the year.  Devon Travis is 3 for 23, Tulo is 3 for 24, Morales is 5 for 24, and Bautista is a mere 3 for 22.  Combined, that makes five of Toronto’s key offensive cogs 14 for 107.  Josh Donaldson has picked up right where he left off and Kevin Pillar is off to a nice start, but when the third highest OPS on the team belongs to Justin Smoak, things aren’t right.  Let’s just chalk this off to opening week jitters.

Player of the Week

Josh Donaldson, 3B

Great start for the perennial MVP candidate: 8 for 23, 1 2B, 2 HR, 5 R, 3 RBI, .348 / .444 / .652 / 1.097

Down on the Farm

A look at how the minor league affiliates are doing

AAA – Buffalo: 3 – 0, T-1st place

AA – New Hampshire: 1 – 2, T-4th place, 2 GB

A+ – Dunedin: First Half: 2 – 2, T-2nd place, 1 GB

A – Lansing: First Half: 4 – 0, 1st place

A (Short Season) – Vancouver: season not started

The Look Ahead

The Home Opener, plus a chance at revenge against the O’s

April 11 – 12 vs. Milwaukee

April 13 – 16 vs. Baltimore

The Week That Was: Week 18

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Every Monday during the 2016 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 18.

Week 18: August 1 – August 7

Record: 4 – 3

Season-to-date: 63 – 49

AL East: 2nd, 1 games behind Baltimore

Wild Card: 1.5 ahead of Detroit (WC1) 2 ahead of Boston (WC2)

  1. Where’s the O?

One of the biggest surprises early on in the 2016 season was the futility of the Blue Jays offense.  Baseball’s top scoring team in 2015 got out of the gates extremely slowly, scoring a mere 4 runs per game in April, and a slightly better 4.3 per game in May (down from 5.5 per game in 2015).  But you can only hold down a lineup stacked with Donaldson, Bautista, Encarnacion, Tulowitzki, Martin, Saunders and co. for so long.  The team plated 293 runs in 51 June and July games, and all was right with the world.  Well, suddenly the runs have dried up again.  In seven games last week Toronto scored a mere 17 times, an average of 2.4 a game.  They only managed 48 hits and 18 walks and struck out a whopping 84 times!  Seemingly only Devon Travis was able to hit the ball, accounting for nearly a quarter of the team’s offense.  Though this is likely just a blip for many guys, there has to be real concern over Bautista who is hitting just .160 with a .660 OPS off the DL.  His season average is down to a rock bottom .218.  The fact that the team managed to go 4-3 during that stretch has to be considered a miracle.

  1. Six Man Rotation

The Aaron Sanchez debate came to a conclusive end last week with confirmation that the young ace would be moving to the bullpen.  And then, strangely, Jays management changed course and announced that the team would be going to a six man rotation in order to keep him starting.  It was a bizarre announcement for a number of reasons (mainly because six man rotations really don’t work – ever), but at least showed Jays fans that management is cognizant of what is happening within the fan base.  I’m not sure how long the six starter experiment will last (probably

not long given that Sanchez will still need more rest), but it didn’t get off to a great start over the weekend.  Francisco Liriano looked solid in his debut on Friday, but both Sanchez and Stroman struggled a bit with extra rest on Saturday and Sunday.  Sanchez coughed up four runs on nine hits in 6 IP, while Stroman was undone by his own shoddy fielding in allowing seven hits and three runs over 5 IP.  Fans should be happy that Sanchez still gets to start, but wary about it lasting much longer.

  1. Royal Love

I’m normally not one to complain about Toronto’s TV and radio broadcast crews.  Yes Buck and Pat can get a bit wordy and annoying on the Sportsnet broadcasts, and yes Jerry has been known to voice his displeasure with certain players on the Fan 590 (see Reyes, Jose), but neither crew has really bothered me.  Until this weekend.  What was true in the postseason last year with the Fox Sports guys, has come home to roost with the Jays commentators: an unbridled passion for the Kansas City Royals.  Buck, Pat, Jerry, and even Joe Siddall were practically falling all over themselves gushing praise on the Royals team.  If you were just a casual fan listening in, you would have thought that KC was the top team in the league.  The way that the crews described KC’s offense (the bunting!  the speed!  the ground balls!) you would have thought that KC was an offensive wrecking crew.  (Note: the Royals are 53-58, second last place in the AL Central, 10 GB of Cleveland, and have scored 3.84 runs per game (27th in MLB)).  I also learned that Raul Mondesi Jr., aside from being the son of a former Jay, is likely a surefire Hall of Famer, and a definite future All-Star.  He was described as an incredible ballplayer, and potential superstar.  (Note: Mondesi is hitting .256 with a .564 OPS, -1 DRS, and -0.1 WAR).  I’m all for giving credit to the opposition, but this weekend was a bit ridiculous.

Player of the Week

Devon Travis, 2B

He looks like a superstar (not Mondesi): 11 for 31, 1 BB, 2 2B, 3 HR, 4 R, 5 RBI, .355 / .375 / .710 / 1.085

Down on the Farm

A look at how the minor league affiliates are doing

AAA – Buffalo: 57 – 59, 5th place, 15.5 GB

AA – New Hampshire: 52 – 61, 5th place, 23.5 GB

A+ – Dunedin: First Half: 33 – 36, 5th place; Second Half: 28 – 15, 1st place

A – Lansing: First Half: 36 – 34, T-5th place; Second Half: 21 – 22, 4th place, 7.5 GB

A (Short Season) – Vancouver: First Half: 16 – 22, 4th place; Second Half: 4 – 6, T-3rd place, 2 GB

The Look Ahead

Back home for six.

August 8 – 10 vs. Tampa Bay

August 12 – 14 vs. Houston

The Week That Was: Week 17

russellmartin

Every Monday during the 2016 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 17.

Week 17: July 25 – July 31

Record: 4 – 2

Season-to-date: 59 – 46

AL East: 2nd, 0.5 games behind Baltimore

Wild Card: 1 ahead of Boston (WC1) 2 ahead of Detroit (WC2)

  1. First Place!

The most recent edition of the “biggest series of the year” took place last week when the first place Baltimore Orioles came to town.  With Toronto sitting a mere 1.5 games back, first place was up for grabs.  And for the first time since April 5, the Jays moved atop the AL East after back-to-back wins on Friday and Saturday.  Toronto jumped out early on Friday and held on for a 6-5 win, before thumping Baltimore into submission on Saturday.  Russell Martin and Kevin Pillar delivered key hits while J.A. Happ continues to dominate in 2016.  He held the Orioles to 1 run on 3 hits over 7 innings while striking out 11, improving his record to a crazy 14-3.  Unfortunately their time on top of the division was brief because of…..

  1. ….More Bullpen Woes

First some clarification: the Blue Jays bullpen has been very good of late.  Osuna, Grilli, and Biagini are consistently excellent day in and day out.  Bo Schultz has looked good in the 12 innings he has

pitched.  Brett Cecil has not allowed a run in five straight appearances.  But a major league bullpen is typically comprised of seven relievers, and I only listed five names above.  The final two spots in Toronto’s pen have been a revolving door of ineptitude this year.  Aaron Loup, Pat Venditte, Ryan Tepera, and Chad Girodo have been either mediocre or bad.  Joaquin Benoit has looked decent in his first few innings, but Jesse Chavez and Franklin Morales have not.  The two combined to give Baltimore the win (and first place) on Sunday by allowing four runs in the 12th

inning.  Chavez allowed his 9th HR of the season, a three run shot to Adam Jones, after Morales bungled his way through the beginning of the inning.  Thus far, the Atkins and Shapiro era has shown fans a willingness to move on from players and not hang on to them due to contract or track record (see Storen, Drew).  Is it only a matter of time before we can say so long to Chavez and Morales?

  1. Health Concerns

That the Jays are only a half game out of first has to be seen as somewhat of a miracle considering the health issues that have seemingly plagued this team all year.  It started way back in the spring with Edwin Encarnacion and has continued on to this past weekend.  Bautista was lost for a month with turf toe; Martin went down with a sore knee; Estrada and Cecil went to the DL; Tulo and Donaldson have been battling soreness and injury; Travis missed the first few months of the year.  The question of Aaron Sanchez’s arm has been hanging over the team all year long.  Now, the latest injury – a chip fracture on the right thumb of Troy Tulowitzki after he was hit by a pitch on Sunday afternoon.  Just when he was hitting his stride the Jays will lose Tulo anywhere from a day or two, up to two-plus weeks.  For a team with very little infield depth, let’s hope Tulo is back sooner rather than later.

Player of the Week

Russell Martin, C

Finally starting to swing the bat like he normally does: 5 for 14, 7 BB, 3 2B, 5 R, 3 RBI, .357 / .591 / .571 / 1.162

Down on the Farm

A look at how the minor league affiliates are doing

AAA – Buffalo: 55 – 54, 5th place, 12 GB

AA – New Hampshire: 47 – 60, 5th place, 23.5 GB

A+ – Dunedin: First Half: 33 – 36, 5th place; Second Half: 24 – 14, T-1st place

A – Lansing: First Half: 36 – 34, T-5th place; Second Half: 19 – 18, 3rd place, 5 GB

A (Short Season) – Vancouver: First Half: 16 – 22, 4th place; Second Half: 3 – 3, T-2nd place, 2 GB

The Look Ahead

Tough week ahead, with four in Houston, a place where Toronto is 2-9 in the past three seasons

August 1 – 4 at Houston

August 5 – 7 at Kansas City