Well, six weeks into the season and as I predicted , Milton Bradley has been released by the Mariners after straining to hit .200 and straining the patience of Seattle management a little too much. Also in Seattle, former Jay Brandon League is now the closer, also as predicted here. Of course, my foresight on the fate of the Indians, the Royals and Rays, let alone of players like Grady Sizemore and Lance Berkmann have been just a wee bit off, which makes me like almost every other baseball pundit and shows again why we actually play 162 games rather than just pontificate about what might be.
Here, north of the border the season is looking a bit like a Soapbox derby: it started with some promise and enthusiasm but has been running steadily downhill since! As we quickly approach the quarter-way mark, the jays have been able to answer some of the doubts people had about them before the season began. Unfortunately, they have answered a few negatively and created new ones people didn’t think to have before.
Happily, as I expected Jose Bautista has now proven that he wasn’t a one-year fluke. All Bautista has done so far, (despite missing 5 games due to a sore neck and a series when he returned home to be with his girlfriend for the birth of their child,) is lead the AL in batting average, slugging (just crossing the .800 mark minutes ago), on-base percentage and tie for the lead in homers. All he’s done is clip 75 home runs in the last 208 games he’s played dating back to about Labour Day, 2009. Jose is showing the more pitchers try to get inside his head and pitch around him, the more patient he becomes waiting for the perfect pitch to drill to, or over the left field wall.
Adam Lind started a bit slow but has gotten red-hot of late (before missing the last couple of games with a bad back), tying for the league lead in RBIs and giving Bautista a bit of protection in the lineup. Lind has looked comfortable at first base and excellent at the plate against both lefties and right-handed arms. Apparently there was no need to worry about his transition or about his less-than-stellar hitting last year.
JP Arencibia has run hot and cold. Some days he’s excellent with the glove (tonight for example tagging out a speeding Carl Crawford at the plate) , other days he can’t hold onto anything. But, all things considered, he doesn’t look badly out of place and can only get better as a major league catcher, and with a .240ish average and 5 home runs, has been producing well enough compared to many higher profile backstops around the league. As John Farrell said recently, “he’s really settled in and really transitioned into more of a regular role very easily.”
The bullpen wasn’t really much of a worry going into the season, and has been all that one could hope for basically. Despite being called on night after night,leading the league with 120 innings pitched as of last night, the ‘pen has limited opponents to an under-.200 avg. and has posted a handsome 2.77 ERA… or, if my quick calculation is close, about 2.15 if not including the atrocious and washed-up Octavio Dotel who’s mission in life is seemingly to make sure his first baseman is never lacking for someone to talk to at the bag. Dropping Dotel and putting lights-out Jon Rauch back into the closer’s role as opposed to Frank Francisco could turn this into the best bullpen in the game. So too, could not having to burn them out so much. Which is where the starters come in.
Unfortunately for the jays, and for us fans, the highly touted young rotation is quickly becoming the team’s Achilles heel. Don’t believe me, ask the Toronto Star‘s Richard Griffin or Toronto Sun’s Bill Lankhof who’ve both written similar opinions in the last few days. Fact is, thus far they’ve been terrible. Too many pitches, too many walks, too few innings, too much gabbing from the TV cheerleaders about the great “stuff” the young arms have and too few good pitches made. True, ricky Romero (2-4, 4.04, average of 6 innings per start) has been good at times, and might be an adequate #3 starter, but looks badly overmatched as a Number One guy. Brandon morrow does look like he can mow down any lineup any time… but so far hasn’t done so. Perhaps he’s fallen too in love with the radar gun and the K-count and lost sight of the whole game, which is winning. The rest of the rotation has less to brag about. True, Jo jo Reyes has at times pitched well enough to win in some games and doesn’t deserve to have the major’s longest winless streak (25 starts and counting going back to his early Atlanta days) among starting pitchers, but the fact is that when you have a lefty who can go over two dozen starts without posting a “W”, its time for him to look at another career option. Jesse Litsch is the picture of unremarkable mediocrity and the uni #4, Kyle Drabek, aka The Greatest thing Since Sliced Bread according to the Toronto media and jays hype machine, exited tonight again after a mere 5 innings after giving up another 4 earned runs and walking so many Red Sox that he could sideline as a public service announcer for fitness health (“just put on those walkin shoes people”). At the start of today’s game he was averaging the third highest number of pitches per inning in the AL and now he’s walked 29 already in 43 innings. He does have some good pitches… he just needs to learn how to use them and find the plate. I might suggest that AAA Las Vegas would be a good place to do so, which is where , in the ordinary scheme of things, a pitcher who’d spent last year at AA would be anyway.
Say what you will about the Yankees, right now they’re looking pretty smart for their salvage projects of Bartolo Colon and Freddy garcia. Two guys who didn’t really break the bank– heck, they didnt even empty the pinstripers petty cash jar– and are now keeping the Y’s in first despite the number two pitcher (Hughes ) being injured.
Drabek’s not quite ready for the bigs, and some might argue the same about Alex Anthopolous. Alex has made some shrewd moves (perhaps most notably re-signing Bautista despite some protests from but until he can deliver the team a real front-of-the-line starter who can win games and knows the value of going deep into the game , he’s still going to be seen as a GM in training rather than one of the star minds in the game. Especially since many of us still remember his first move upon taking the job was trading away a pitcher who fit that bill perfectly.