Category Archives: Weekly Things

The Week That Was: Week 8

osuna

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 8.

Week 8: May 23 – 29

Record: 4 – 2

Season-to-date: 26 – 26

AL East: 3rd, 5 games behind Boston

Wild Card: 3.5 games behind Seattle

  1. A Huge Week

The Jays took three of four from the Twins to end the previous week, but they were still reeling.  They were sitting two games under .500 and in dead last in the AL East, and had a very tough stretch of games ahead – 12 straight against the Yankees and Red Sox.  They then promptly lost the opener to New York 6-0 and looked the worst that they have all season.  But suddenly things turned around.  The bats came alive on Wednesday as they Jays battered Ivan Nova in an 8-4 win.  J.A. Happ continued his incredible season with a dominating performance in a 3-1 win on Thursday.  Then the team got a huge performance from Donaldson on Friday, and an improbable comeback on Saturday to steal the first two from Boston.  Toronto ended the week back at .500, up to third place in the division and right back in contention.  Things still aren’t clicking at full throttle just yet, but slowly all is starting to look better in Blue Jay land.  Late May / early June is when the season turned around in 2015, and it certainly looks like that might be happening again.

  1. Welcome Back Travis

After mustering a mere two hits off Nathan Eovaldi and a cast of Yankee relievers on Tuesday night, with Troy Tulowitzki placed on the 15-day DL and his natural replacement Ryan Goins hitting an MLB worst .148, the Blue Jays decided to end Devon Travis’ rehab stint a bit early.  They activated the second baseman in time for Wednesday’s game in New York, and if Travis had any rust he sure didn’t show it.  He went 1-for-4 with a run in his first game back, then delivered a huge RBI single off of Aroldis Chapman in the 9th inning in his second game.  He then went 4-for-14 with a run and two RBI against the Red Sox over the weekend, including hitting the game winning, walk-off single off Craig Kimbrel on Saturday afternoon.  His season average is now .273, nearly double that of Goins.  Travis likely won’t hit for a ton of power, but his contact and opposite field approach is just what the Blue Jays offense needed.

  1. Concern for Stroman?

Marcus Stroman was incredible in his first major league season, and was even better last year after his return from the knee injury that sidelined him for most of the regular season.  In his first eight starts this season he went 4-0 with a 3.54 ERA, looking every bit the ace that he so badly wants to become.  But then, seemingly out of nowhere, the wheels have come off a bit.  Stroman was absolutely crushed by Tampa Bay on May 17, allowing 7 ER and 13 hits in only 5.2 IP.  A strong rebound start in Minnesota followed, but he couldn’t keep it rolling on Saturday.  Back at home against the Red Sox, and staked to an early 3-0 lead, Stroman fell apart.  He allowed a home run, double, and a walk in the 4th, then three singles and two doubles in the fifth, before being pulled with one out in the sixth.  All in, he surrendered 7 earned runs on 11 hits in only 5.1 innings.  With the loss his ERA, which was 3.54 on May 11, now sits at 4.46.  Is this merely a blip, a couple of bad outings mixed into an otherwise excellent season?  Jays fans hope so.

Player of the Week

Roberto Osuna, RP

He is absolutely dominating: 3.2 IP, 2 Saves, 1 H, 1 BB, 4 K, 0.00 ERA, 0.54 WHIP, .083 batting average against

Down on the Farm

A look at how the minor league affiliates are doing

AAA – Buffalo: 27 – 25, 4th place, 3 GB

AA – New Hampshire: 24 – 26, 4th place, 9 GB

A+ – Dunedin: 23 – 30, 5th place, 10.5 GB

A – Lansing: 26 – 24, 4th place, 5 GB

A (Short Season) – Vancouver: season not started

The Look Ahead

A mirror image of last week.

May 30 – June 1 vs. New York

June 3 – 5 at Boston

The Week That Was: Week 7

logo

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 7.

Week 7: May 16 – 22

Record: 3 – 4

Season-to-date: 22 – 24

AL East: 5th, 6 games behind Baltimore/Boston

Wild Card: 4 games behind Texas

  1. Down to the Cellar

The Jays officially passed the quarter mark of the 2016 season last week, and they find themselves in a position they certainly were not expecting: last place.  After being thoroughly throttled by Tampa Bay at the beginning of the week, the team rebounded nicely by taking 3 of 4 from the last place Twins, but it wasn’t enough to stay ahead of the Rays and the red hot  Yankees.  If this story sounds familiar it’s because it should.  After the games of May 22nd last season, the Jays were also in last place in the AL East, 5.5 games back of first and 6 games under the .500 mark.  With the way that this club is constructed, it’s hard to imagine staying in last place much longer.  But until they shake off the offensive rust and start hitting like they did last year, last place seems like a fitting position.

  1. Bautista Loves Minnesota

Jose Bautista has not been his mighty self thus far in 2016.  His numbers are down across the board, including a sub-.800 OPS just a week ago.  But there is a cure for what ails Joey Bats – Target Field.  In four games in Minnesota against the Twins, Jose went 5 for 17 with 3 HR and 6 RBI, raising his season OPS from .832 on Wednesday to .870 today.  In 21 career games at Target Field, Bautista is now hitting .349 with a 1.324 OPS and 14 HR.  14 HR!!!  That would be a full season pace of 108 dingers!  Needless to say, Jose circles these visits on his calendar.  Unfortunately for the Jays, they don’t visit Minnesota again until next year.

  1. Bullpen Disasters

The struggles of Toronto’s bullpen are now bordering on the absurd, both in the magnitude and in the regularity of its collapses.  After another spectacular meltdown on Saturday (5 runs surrendered in the 8th against the woeful Twins), the Blue Jays bullpen continues to grab defeat from the jaws of victory.  Toronto has now lost 12 (12!!) games when either tied or ahead in the 7th inning.  Even holding on to win half of those contests (hardly unreasonable) would put the team at 28 wins and tied for first place.  And it’s not just one person doing most of the damage either.  Other than Osuna and Biagini (who has looked brilliant), everybody is struggling.  Storen has a 7.80 ERA; Floyd and Chavez have combined to allow 7 HR; Cecil has an ERA of 5.23 and will now miss a month leaving Chad Girodo as the lone lefty.  As a group, Toronto’s relievers have allowed 43% of inherited runners to score, the second worst mark in all of baseball.  In other words, they are doing the exact opposite of what they should be doing.  With a very difficult stretch of games upcoming, the Jays need the ‘pen to rectify itself very quickly.

Player of the Week

Jose Bautista, OF

That’s a bit more like it: 7-for-23, 5 R, 4 HR, 9 RBI, .304 / .448 /  .826 / 1.274

Down on the Farm

A look at how the minor league affiliates are doing

AAA – Buffalo: 22 – 22, 5th place, 3.5 GB

AA – New Hampshire: 20 – 22, 4th place, 8 GB

A+ – Dunedin: 19 – 26, T-4th place, 9 GB

A – Lansing: 22 – 20, 5th place, 4 GB

A (Short Season) – Vancouver: season not started

The Look Ahead

Big week against the AL East.

May 24 – 26 at New York

May 27 – 29 vs. Boston

The Week That Was: Week 6

Blue Jays Rangers 0515 1

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 6.

Week 6: May 9 – 15

Record: 3 – 3

Season-to-date: 19 – 20

AL East: 3rd, 5.5 games behind Baltimore/Boston

Wild Card: 3 games behind Seattle

  1. Melee in Texas

To quote Ron Burgundy: “Well, that escalated quickly.”  If there were hurt feelings, tension, and bad blood between the Rangers and Jays as a result of Jose Bautista’s bat flip, it appeared that nothing was going to happen.  Through six full games and seven innings of the seventh (and final) game, both teams had taken the high road, content to let things play out on the field.  And then everything exploded.  Bautista, archenemy #1 in Texas, led off the 8th and was immediately drilled by a pitch thrown by Matt Bush.  The HBP was clearly intentional, was clearly ordered by Texas management, and was incredibly cowardly in its nature.  The Rangers were obviously afraid of retribution – why else wait until Bautista’s last at-bat of the season?  That doesn’t excuse Bau’s dangerous slide into Odor on the ensuing double play ball, but his anger is clearly justified.  What followed was one of the wildest scenes I have witnessed in years.  The Odor sucker punch, the Donaldson spear, Odor hiding behind his entire team, Gibbons returning to the field after being ejected, the Fielder HBP, and on and on.  Hopefully the Jays can use this as a turning point and start playing like the team they should be.

  1. Back From the Dead

The Jays slow start has been wearing down even the most optimistic fans, but it has sadly galvanized an awful sub-set of Blue Jays supporters: the social media haters.  These are people who delight in trashing struggling players on Twitter, letting everybody know that specific players are awful, overrated, and should be released.  For some reason, the two Blue Jays who are targeted the most are Troy Tulowitzki and R.A. Dickey.  Both got off to terrible starts this year – of that there is no question.  And that is why last week was so satisfying.  In six games, Tulo went 9-for-24 with 3 2B, 3 HR, and 7 RBI.  He saw his batting average rise from .162 to 200 and his OPS jump from .572 to .698.  Dickey pitched an absolute gem on Friday night, tossing 8 shutout innings and allowing only 3 hits with 6 strikeouts.  In his past three starts he has posted a 1.27 ERA in 21.1 IP.  Now if only those two could rub off on Russell Martin….

  1. Struggles, Struggles, and More Struggles

Last season, the Jays were widely criticized for their record in one run games.  The team went 15-28 (.349), and we heard time and again that teams that struggle in one run games won’t stay competitive for long.  The Jays, obviously, won the division and the ALDS.  But this season has started the same way.  After three more one run losses last week, Toronto is now 3-10 (.231) in such contests in 2016, and the criticisms have only increased.  But what’s of a bigger concern (at least to me), is their inability to win games when allowing runs.  In 2015, allowing their opponents to score a bunch of runs wasn’t necessarily sure death for the Jays.  Thanks to their incredible offense, they won 37% of games when allowing 4+ runs (33-56 record).  However, due to their offensive struggles this year, that number is way down: 0%.  That’s right – Toronto is an incredible 0-16 when allowing 4+ runs, mind boggling for a team with Bautista, Encarnacion, Donaldson, Tulowitzki, Martin, and company in the lineup.  Surely this is just an aberration and when the offense picks up the wins will start piling up.  But if you want one specific stat that is a microcosm of Toronto’s 2016 season, this is it.

Player of the Week

Troy Tulowitzki, SS

He’s starting to heat up: 9-for-24, 7 R, 3 2B, 3 HR, 7 RBI, .375 / .407 /  .875 / 1.282

Down on the Farm

A look at how the minor league affiliates are doing

AAA – Buffalo: 17 – 20, 6th place, 3.5 GB

AA – New Hampshire: 18 – 17, 4th place, 5 GB

A+ – Dunedin: 15 – 22, 4th place, 9 GB

A – Lansing: 18 – 16, T-4th place, 3.5 GB

A (Short Season) – Vancouver: season not started

The Look Ahead

Finally some games against sub .500 teams.  It’s time to heat up.

May 16 – 18 vs. Tampa Bay

May 19 – 22 at Minnesota

The Week That Was: Week 5

estrada

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 5.

Week 5: May 2 – 8

Record: 4 – 3

Season-to-date: 16 – 17

AL East: 4th, 3.5 games behind Baltimore

Wild Card: 2.5 games behind Texas

  1. One Step Forward…..

The Jays squared off against the Texas Rangers in a highly anticipated rematch of last year’s thrilling ALDS.  For Toronto fans hoping that the much hyped series would breath some life into the moribund Blue Jays, they certainly got their wish.  After losing a tough one on Monday, the Jays bounced back with two straight walk-off wins.  On Tuesday, Justin Smoak tied the game with a HR in the 9th and then won it with a bomb in the the 10th.  On Wednesday, Edwin Encarnacion tied the game with a 2-run shot in the 6th before Russell Martin delivered a walk-off single in the 9th.  Then on Thursday, finally, at long last, the bats awoke.  Toronto pounded Derek Holland, tagging him with 11 ER in only 2.2 IP, and finished the game with 12 runs on 15 hits – both season highs.  For the first time in 2016 the Blue Jays resembled the team that dominated baseball last season.

  1. ……Two Steps Back

And then, just as quickly as the 2015 offense re-appeared, it vanished.  The Dodgers came to town and held the Jays to only 9 runs and 14 hits over the three game weekend series.  With Clayton Kershaw starting on Saturday afternoon, offensive struggles would have been expected in one game, but the vaunted Jays offense was thoroughly held in check on Sunday by rookie Ross Stripling.  But what’s of a bigger concern has to be Toronto’s bullpen.  Nursing a 2-1 lead in the 8th inning, Drew Storen entered the game and promptly gave up a walk and a double.  Not even the great Osuna could escape that jam.  LA took the lead before padding it in the 9th off of Chavez, Girodo, and Floyd.  Toronto has now lost seven times when leading or tied in the 8th inning, a terrible and unexpected result when considering the revamped bullpen.  Now with Brett Cecil heading to the paternity list, things might get worse before they get better.

  1. Estrada to the Rescue

Lost among the scuffles of the bullpen and the offense is the incredible start to the season by Marco Estrada.  Thought by many to be a prime candidate for regression, Estrada has instead started the season even better than he finished last year.  In two starts last week he was electric.  Against the Rangers he went 6 innings and allowed only 1 run and 2 hits.  Then yesterday afternoon he dominated LA for 7 innings, allowing 1 run on 3 hits with 8 strikeouts.  For the season, Estrada is sporting a tidy 2.39 ERA and 1.09 WHIP, and has 36 strikeouts in 37.2 innings.  In short, he has been dominant.

Player of the Week

Marco Estrada, SP

He seems to keep getting better: 0-0, 13 IP, 11 K, 1.38 ERA, 0.62 WHIP

Down on the Farm

A look at how the minor league affiliates are doing

AAA – Buffalo: 13 – 17, 6th place, 4.5 GB

AA – New Hampshire: 11 – 17, 5th place, 9.5 GB

A+ – Dunedin: 13 – 16, 4th place, 6 GB

A – Lansing: 16 – 11, 3rd place, 1.5 GB

A (Short Season) – Vancouver: season not started

The Look Ahead

Heading west for the first time.

May 9 – 11 at San Francisco

May 13 – 15 at Texas

The Week That Was: Week 2

sanchez

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 2.

Week 2: April 11 – 17

Record: 3 – 3

Season-to-date: 6 – 7

AL East: 4th, 3 games behind Baltimore

Wild Card: 2 games behind Detroit

  1. Aaron “Ace” Sanchez

Remember in Spring Training when many were calling for Sanchez to pitch in relief because he would be more effective?  Yeah, about that….  While Marcus Stroman is the unquestioned ace of the staff (and he proved it further by dominating the Yankees last week), there is very strong evidence that Sanchez is making a push to be considered a co-ace.  Yes it is very early in the season and things can change in a hurry, but the numbers don’t lie.  In three starts Sanchez has thrown 20 IP, allowed only 3 ER, struck out 20 while only allowing 7 walks (and some of those walks can be considered “smart” walks, such as walking David Ortiz twice).  For comparison, through three starts last year he walked 12.  This past week, facing two of the top teams in the AL East, Sanchez was electric.  He surrendered a mere 5 hits and 2 ER against New York and Boston, keeping hitters off balance with a 98-MPH fastball and a devastating curve.  The key concern the Jays have is whether he can hold up over a full season.  If the answer is yes, the rest of the AL East should feel very, very afraid.

  1. Uneven Offense

Through two weeks of the 2016 season, one portion of the Jays lineup is hitting like the offensive juggernaut we expected.  Donaldson, Bautista, and Encarnacion have combined for a .315 / .392 / .616 / 1.008 slash line, 10 HR, 32 RBI, and 28 R.  All three are hitting for power, getting on base (Bautista’s .473 OBP leads the AL), and driving in runs, exactly like they did in 2015.  Unfortunately, the rest of the lineup is not performing.  Actually, not performing is probably an understatement.  Everybody else has combined for a .181 / .247 / .263 / .510 slash line, 4 HR, and 91 strikeouts.  Martin, Colabello, Tulowitzki, and Smoak have been particularly bad, with Tulo’s .128 average leading the pack.  As a result of this, Toronto is only averaging 4 runs per game, a mark that is actually below league average.  If there is any comfort it’s that most of these guys have a long track record of success, so they should (hopefully) be breaking out soon.  After all, it’s not all that early anymore…

  1. Strikeouts Galore

The Blue Jays set a record yesterday, and it’s not one they wanted.  Blue Jay hitters struck out 136 times through the first 13 games of the season, a major league record.  For a team that struck out the fifth fewest amount of times in the AL in 2015 this understandably a concern.  And it’s not just one or two guys – it’s a concern up and down the lineup.  The big 3 (Josh, Jose, Edwin) have struck out 45 times.  Martin and Tulo have combined for 35 K’s in only 84 official at-bats, a whopping 42% K rate.  Justin Smoak struck out four times on Saturday alone.  Logic suggests that as the bats heat up (and they will) that the strikeouts will go down.  Hopefully that happens sooner rather than later.

Player of the Week

Aaron Sanchez, SP

Just a dominating week: 1-0, 13 IP, 12 K, 1.38 ERA, 0.92 WHIP

Kevin Pillar Walk Counter

A new feature that will track how many times new leadoff hitter Kevin Pillar walks in 2016

He is no longer hitting leadoff, but we’ll still track it anyways.

Last week: 0

Year to Date: 0

Down on the Farm

A look at how the minor league affiliates are doing

AAA – Buffalo: 4 – 7, 6th place, 3.5 GB

AA – New Hampshire: 4 – 5, 5th place, 3 GB

A+ – Dunedin: 6 – 5, T-2nd place, 1 GB

A – Lansing: 5 – 3, 3rd place, 1.5 GB

A (Short Season) – Vancouver: season not started

The Look Ahead

Finally a non-AL East team!

April 18 at Boston

April 19-21 at Baltimore

April 22-24 vs. Oakland

The Week That Was: Week 1

Dickey April
photo from mlb.com

 

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 1.

Week 1: April 3 – 10

Record: 3 – 4

Season-to-date: 3 – 4

AL East: 4th, 3 games behind Baltimore

Wild Card: 1.5 games behind Chicago

  1. Firing On Less Than All Cylinders

The 2016 season is underway and things didn’t quite get off to the start that the Blue Jays were hoping for.  And for a team that was supposed to slug its way back to the playoffs, it was the offense that was mostly to blame for the rough start.  The Jays managed to score 29 runs in 7 games, but the underlying numbers do not look good.  Toronto left 44 runners on base, went a meager 12-for-54 with runners in scoring position (.222 average), struck out 71 times (10.1 per game), and scored 62% of their runs via the long ball.   For context, last season the Blue Jays hit .286 with runners in scoring position and struck out only 7.1 times per game.  Individually, Tulowitzki, Colabello, and Martin are all off to ice cold starts.  Obviously it is an incredibly small sample size and there is nothing to worry about.  In fact, fans should be encouraged.  The team still managed to win three games with numbers that poor.  Imagine what will happen when the bats wake up!

  1. Rotation Thriving

While the offense is off to a tough start, the same can’t be said for the starting rotation.  Stroman, Dickey, Sanchez, Happ, and Estrada had a very positive first week, pitching deep into games and giving the team a chance to win.  On the surface the numbers might not look great (4.15 ERA, 1.25 WHIP) but they are inflated by one rough start each for Stroman and Dickey.  But even in those games, there were encouraging signs.  At Friday’s home opener, Stroman was electric in the first few innings but was undone by a bad fifth.  On Saturday, Dickey probably had the best knuckleball of his Blue Jays tenure, evidenced both by the 9 K’s he recorded, and the fact that Josh Thole missed several pitches badly.  Even more encouraging for the team was the incredible starts turned in by Sanchez and Estrada, arguably the two biggest questions marks heading into the season.  We all know Stroman will be great and Dickey and Happ will be serviceable.  If Sanchez and Estrada can replicate their first week success all year, things will turn out very well for the Jays.

  1. Bullpen Woes

Unfortunately the same can’t be said for the bullpen.  Roberto Osuna was tremendous in three appearances, but everybody else?  Yikes.  Drew Storen looked erratic, Brett Cecil brought back memories of April 2015 with his struggles, and Arnold Leon was downright ugly.  All-in the ‘pen combined for a 5.92 ERA in 13.2 IP, and was tagged for three losses.  More troubling is the fact that they coughed up a lead in the 8th inning in back-to-back games, especially since the back-end of the bullpen was supposed to be a strength.  But it’s not all doom and gloom.  Toronto’s non-Osuna relievers struck out 17 batters and walked only 4, showing their ability to miss bats.  Once the offseason rust is shaken off, expect a recovery and a return to form (well, maybe not for Leon….).

Player of the Week

Josh Donaldson, 3B

Despite a calf strain Donaldson picked up right where he left off last season: 9-for-29, 2 BB, 8 R, 9 RBI, 1 2B, 4 HR, .310 / .355 / .759 / 1.113

Kevin Pillar Walk Counter

A new feature that will track how many times new leadoff hitter Kevin Pillar walks in 2016

Last week: 0

Year to Date: 0

Down on the Farm

A look at how the minor league affiliates are doing

AAA – Buffalo: 3 – 3, 3rd place, 1 GB

AA – New Hampshire: 2 – 2, 5th place, 1 GB

A+ – Dunedin: 3 – 3, T-2nd place, 2 GB

A – Lansing: 2 – 1, T-2nd place, 0.5 GB

A (Short Season) – Vancouver: season not started

The Look Ahead

Nothing but the AL East again…

April 12-14 vs. New York

April 15-18 at Boston

The Week That Was: Week 26

AL East

Every Monday during the 2015 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 26.

Week 26: September 28 – October 4

Record: 3 – 4

Season-to-date: 93 – 69

AL East: 1st, 6 ahead of New York

Wild Card: N/A

  1. AL East Champs!

Even though we all knew it was coming and it was only a matter of time, nothing could diminish the excitement of last Wednesday when the Toronto Blue Jays officially clinched the AL East title for the sixth time in franchise history.  Not even the rain that forced a Wednesday doubleheader and postponed the real celebration until after the second game.  And not even the awkward way the game ended, with LaTroy Hawkins striking out the last Oriole hitter in the ninth yet nobody in the stadium realizing it was even a strikeout.  When the final out was recorded, that loud sound you heard was an entire city and an entire country cheering at once and letting out 22 of years of frustration.  The Jays couldn’t have clinched it in a better way either, absolutely bludgeoning the Orioles 15-2 and winning in the same blowout style they have won with all year long.  The after party was one for the ages, giving us such gems as Josh Donaldson’s “1 beer, 2 beers, 3 beers, 4 beers!” and Kawasaki’s “I’m drunk” interview.  It feels really good to be back on top.

  1. So Close….Twice

Both Mark Buehrle and Edwin Encarnacion fell agonizingly short of personal milestones yesterday, ending the regular season on a bit of a down note.  First Edwin: despite going deep both Friday and Saturday he fell one HR short of 40, preventing the Jays from becoming the fourth team in MLB history to feature three 40 HR players.  Edwin finished the year with 39, Bautista with 40, and Donaldson with 41.  Buehrle on the other hand, entered Friday’s game just 8.2 innings away from reaching 200 for the 15th straight year.  He pitched well but not well enough, going 6.2 innings to reach 198.  In an effort to get him to the magical mark, John Gibbons brought him back to start Sunday on one day rest, in hopes he could get through the second inning.  However, shoddy defense, a tight strike zone, and ineffectiveness prevented him from even finishing the first.  Buehrle finishes 2015 with 198.2 IP – close, but no cigar.

  1. Another Pillar Catch of the Year

Wow.  Just….wow.

Player of the Week

Marcus Stroman, SP

The guy is just amazing: 1-0, 8 IP, 5 H, 1 ER, 2 BB, 8 K, 1.67 ERA., 0.88 WHIP

Down on the Farm

A look at how the minor league affiliates are doing

AAA – Buffalo: missed playoffs

AA – New Hampshire: missed playoffs

A+ – Dunedin: missed playoffs

A – Lansing: Semi-Finals vs. West Michigan, lost series 2-1

A (Short Season) – Vancouver: missed playoffs

The Look Ahead

Playoffs Baby!!!

Game 1 vs. Texas on Thursday

Game 2 vs. Texas on Friday

Game 3 at Texas on Sunday

The Week That Was: Week 25

clinch

Every Monday during the 2015 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 25.

Week 25: September 21 – 27

Record: 5 – 1

Season-to-date: 90 – 65

AL East: 1st, 4 ahead of New York

Wild Card: N/A

  1. Clinch!

Finally, after 22 long years, the Toronto Blue Jays are back in the playoffs!  The Jays officially clinched a postseason birth after Saturday’s 10-8 win over the Rays, ending the longest drought in North American professional sports.  After promising that the celebration would be muted (after all, it’s the AL East we want, not the Wild Card), the players erupted for a massive celebration in the club house, and who can blame them.  Jose Bautista and Edwin Encarnacion were two of the longest serving MLB players without a playoff game on their resumes.  Dickey and Hawkins and Buehrle are veteran guys who might not get another opportunity.  When you have a chance to celebrate, take it!  And the best part is, with a magic number of 4 to claim the AL East, there could very well be more celebrating to come.

  1. An Absolute Classic

The stars aren’t quite aligned just yet, but things appear to be falling in place for a potential Toronto – New York ALDS showdown.  If Toronto finishes ahead of KC and the Yankees win the Wild Card game (both clearly not givens), the two long time rivals would square off in the playoffs for the first time ever.  And after what happened in Toronto last week, it would have the makings of a classic.  The Yankees arrived at the Rogers Centre for a Monday night game with the division very much in the balance.  The Jays held a 2.5 game lead and knew that a New York sweep would drop them to second.  The Yankees were very much aware that it was there last chance to gain ground head-to-head.  The two clubs delivered one of the most intense and pressure-packed three game series in years.  Monday night saw David Price deliver a gem, Brett Cecil put out a fire in the 8th and the Jays come away with a 4-2 win.  Tuesday night saw Dioner Navarro deliver a game tying bomb in the 9th, only to see the Yanks take it in extras.  Then on Wednesday, a 1-0 Jays lead was quadrupled by Russell Martin’s biggest home run as a Blue Jay, in perhaps the best moment of the entire season.  Three incredible games in three incredible days.  As a fan, you can’t ask for anything more than that.

  1. The Week of the Homer

The Toronto Blue Jays are a power hitting ball club.  Their 222 home runs are the most in all of baseball, and they have been swatting balls out of the park all season long.  But this past week produced quite possibly three of the most iconic home runs of the season.  Tuesday night’s blast by Navarro tied the game in the 9th inning and came against one of the nastiest closers in baseball.  Wednesday’s three-run blast by Martin for intents and purposes ended New York’s chances at claiming the division.  And yesterday’s walkoff blast by Josh Donaldson was the perfect ending to the home schedule, and set off an absolutely wild scene on the field and in the stands.  With more home playoff games to come, perhaps we’ll see a few more iconic blasts in October, hopefully one to match Joe Carter’s bomb from 1993.

Player of the Week

Kevin Pillar, CF

A massive week from a guy who has cemented himself as a key cog in the lineup: 11-for-21, 3 BB, 4 R, 6 RBI, 5 2B, 2 HR, .524 / .583 / 1.048 / 1.631

Down on the Farm

A look at how the minor league affiliates are doing

AAA – Buffalo: missed playoffs

AA – New Hampshire: missed playoffs

A+ – Dunedin: missed playoffs

A – Lansing: Semi-Finals vs. West Michigan, lost series 2-1

A (Short Season) – Vancouver: missed playoffs

The Look Ahead

The season wraps up with seven on the road.

September 28 – October 1 at Baltimore

October 2-4 at Tampa Bay

The Week That Was: Week 24

estrada

Every Monday during the 2015 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 24.

Week 21: September 14 – 20

Record: 3 – 3

Season-to-date: 85 – 64

AL East: 1st, 2.5 ahead of New York

Wild Card: N/A

  1. Sloppy, Sloppy, Sloppy

After playing such great fundamental baseball for so long, the Jays were probably due for a dud or two.  And if you want to look on the bright side, I guess you can say it’s better that the duds came against the Red Sox and not the Yankees (or in the playoffs).  But make no mistake: this weekend series was a bit of a disaster.  On Saturday the as-of-late sure-handed bullpen imploded in the ninth inning, surrendering five runs to turn a 4-2 lead into a 7-4 deficit.  Then on Sunday the airtight defense that we have grown accustomed to fell apart.  Jays defenders committed three errors and missed several other plays that eventually proved costly in a 4-3 defeat.  The mistakes were further magnified with the Yankees winning both of their weekend games against the Mets, trimming Toronto’s lead to a less comfortable 2.5 games.  With the Yankees in town tonight for the final three head-to-head games this season, the Blue Jays need crisper defense and sharper relief work if they are to keep driving towards the AL East title.

  1. Estrada Keeps Rolling

Ho-hum – just another dominant outing from Marco Estrada.  The righty continued his outstanding 2015 season with a complete shut down of the Atlanta Braves on Thursday night, surrendering only 3 hits and 2 walks in 8 innings.  Estrada has been a revelation in the rotation this year, and it’s easy to forget that he wasn’t even a part of the starting five on Opening Day.  It wasn’t until Daniel Norris went down in late April that Estrada was given a chance to start, and he has made the most of his opportunity – especially lately.  Since the middle of June, a span of 17 starts, Estrada has compiled a 9-5 record, 2.53 ERA, 0.96 WHIP, and .184 batting average against, all while averaging over 6 innings per start.  There have been various times this season when Dickey, Buehrle, and Hutchison were all struggling, and Price and Stroman were not here yet when Marco Estrada was (somewhat shockingly) the glue that held the starting rotation together.  He has been one Toronto’s most important contributors.

  1. Donaldson and Bau and EE…Oh My!

What a trio.  With a home run on Wednesday in Atlanta Edwin Encarnacion reached the 100 RBI plateau, becoming the third member of the Blue Jays with 30 HR and 100 RBI this season!  They became the third set of Blue Jay teammates to accomplish the feat joining Jose Canseco, Carlos Delgado, and Shawn Green in 1998, and Delgado, Tony Batista, and Brad Fullmer in 2000.  What’s most impressive is that Donaldson, Bautista, and Encarnacion accomplished the feat in 2015, a season where run scoring is down across the board.  In 1998 there were 29 30 HR / 100 RBI players, and in 2000 there were 38 such players.  This year, with only two weeks left in the regular season, there are only 6: the Blue Jays and then Chris Davis, Nolan Arenado, and Yoenis Cespedes.  Realistically there might be a chance for 6-7 more to join the club, but that still is about a third of the total that reached those milestones in 2000.  All of which makes the season turned in by Toronto’s Super Three that much more impressive.

Player of the Week

Edwin Encarnacion, 1B/DH

Took a day to rest his finger, then destroyed baseballs again: 8-for-19, 3 BB, 5 R, 4 RBI, 2 HR, .421 / .500 / .737 / 1.237

Down on the Farm

A look at how the minor league affiliates are doing

AAA – Buffalo: missed playoffs

AA – New Hampshire: missed playoffs

A+ – Dunedin: missed playoffs

A – Lansing: Semi-Finals vs. West Michigan, lost series 2-1

A (Short Season) – Vancouver: missed playoffs

The Look Ahead

A HUGE AL East showdown.

September 21-23 vs. New York

September 25-27 vs. Tampa Bay

The Week That Was: Week 23

stromanstart

Every Monday during the 2015 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 23.

Week 21: September 7 – 13

Record: 4 – 3

Season-to-date: 82 – 61

AL East: 1st, 3.5 ahead of New York

Wild Card: N/A

  1. A Massive Success

The Jays arrived in New York on Thursday for a huge four-game series against the Yankees.  This was on the heels of dropping two-of-three to the Red Sox, with both losses being blowouts.  In short, the Jays were still in first but were starting to struggle at a very inopportune time.  But any concerns about a losing streak or a fall from grace were quickly dashed.  Just nine pitches into the first game of the series the Jays had a quick 2-0 lead thanks to Josh Donaldson, and stretched it to 5-0 after the first inning.  They never looked back, crushing New York on Friday night and twice more on Saturday to come away with a 3-1 series victory.  There were many heroes over the weekend, each of whom played a huge part in the team’s success.  Donaldson, Encarnacion, and Martin went deep on Friday.  Cliff Pennington saved the first game on Saturday with his glove, then went deep in the second game.  Mark Lowe pitched in both ends of the doubleheader.  Marcus Stroman made his first start since last September and earned the win.  Even R.A. Dickey deserves a lot of credit for nearly going the distance in a losing effort yesterday, determined to save the bullpen after a lengthy Saturday.  The Jays arrived in NY with a 1.5 game lead and left 3.5 games up.  That has to be considered a massive success.

  1. Down Goes Tulo

It wasn’t all good news in New York.  Despite winning the series, the Jays lost Troy Tulowitzki for an extended period of time with a cracked shoulder blade, putting a damper on what should have been a great celebration.  When Tulo was acquired,  Blue Jays fans were very familiar with his checkered injury history, and we all knew that keeping him healthy might prove difficult.  But what makes this injury tough to swallow was that it was a fluke play that looked so innocent.  A back-pedalling Tulo collided with a charging Kevin Pillar in shallow CF, and despite the fact that neither was moving at a quick pace, the impact was enough to do some damage.  There’s no question that Tulowitzki is an integral part of this team, and an extended absence might be devastating.  But let’s also not forget that this is a different Jays team than in previous years, one that has enough depth and star players to withstand blows like this.  If all goes well, and if AA’s optimistic prognosis of 2-3 weeks holds true, it might turn out to be a blessing, as the team will be getting a well-rested Tulo back just in time for the playoffs.  Think positive.

  1. The Stro-Show

First we were told to not expect him back.  Then we were told to not expect much from him.  But when he finally made his long anticipated return to a major league mound on Saturday, Marcus Stroman blew both of those statements out of the water.  Stroman looked very, very good against the Yankees, almost dominating.  He threw 78 pitches in 5 innings, allowing only 4 hits and 3 runs.   He even took a no-hitter into the fifth inning.  And all of that came in the heat of the pennant race, in Yankee Stadium, in terrible weather.  Not bad for a season debut.  And the timing couldn’t be better, with both Buehrle and Hutchison struggling right now.  More of the same from Stroman would be a very welcome sight.

Player of the Week

Jose Bautista, RF

He’s heating up down the stretch: 9-for-27, 5 BB, 5 R, 7 RBI, 2 2B, 2 HR, .333 / .438 / .630 / 1.067

Down on the Farm

A look at how the minor league affiliates are doing

AAA – Buffalo: missed playoffs

AA – New Hampshire: missed playoffs

A+ – Dunedin: missed playoffs

A – Lansing: Semi-Finals vs. West Michigan, series tied 1-1

A (Short Season) – Vancouver: missed playoffs

The Look Ahead

A chance to pad the lead against some weak opponents.

September 15-17 at Atlanta

September 18-20 vs. Boston