You know your team’s in trouble when the most impressive pitcher of the day is the back-up second baseman, but such was the case Saturday when Mike McCoy had a problem-free, 1-2-3 ninth inning, tossing balls up to befuddled Red sox hitters at about 60mph. The crowd, one of the largest of the year, sitting there in the rain, gave McCoy a nice standing ovation. That was the good news. That he managed to not blow his arm out was even better, and more of a surprise given the way the day had gone upto then. Not often Rogers Centre crowds get wet (y’know, retractable roof and all) but apparently the inhouse meteorologist had about as good a day forecasting as Jays pitchers had trying to pitch to Boston who totally embarrassed Toronto 16-4.
Discouraging as this was, I still think this could be the year for Toronto. If they take action now and begin to look at this as a year to compete rather than a year to slack off and “develop.” After all, right now the Red sox are rolling , but one wonders how long Adrian Gonzalez will continue his recent RBI-a-game roll, and how long Dustin Pedroia’s knee will hold out. Even if they do sail on to an easy division title (as most of us expected back in spring), second place is still up for grabs and no one in any division seems to want to take the Wild Card, pick it up and run with it. As bad as Toronto looks right now next to the Bosox, one has to remember that New York just got swept at home by them too, and the pinstripes are now down two prominent relievers for the year.
Bob Elliott of the Toronto Sun wrote how long could Toronto possibly ignore the obvious and not promote Adam Loewen to the big leagues given his performance in AAA. Not a bad question, but I’d argue that the problem with the Jays lies not so much in their hitting or outfield defence as in their pitching, so a more relevant question is how long could Toronto ignore the obvious and fail to promote Brad mills to the bigs? Mills is the top starter down in Las Vegas, leading the team with a 2.87 ERA and 84 innings pitched. Mills has had his feet wet before too; he’s logged 30 innings in brief visits to the majors over the past two seasons. It’s time to roll the dice and assume he’d be a major upgrade right now over either Kyle Drabek or Brandon Morrow. I, for one, am tired of hearing how great Drabek’s “stuff” is and having local broadcaster’s forget that “stuff” isn’t worth a hoot if it’s nowhere near the strike zone, or if the pitcher has thrown so much of it struggling along inning after inning that he’s in the showers by the sixth . Morrow was excellent last year when the weather warmed up. Perhaps too much so, it seems like now after his 17 K gem last summer against Tampa he thinks he can, should and must strikeout every batter and that merely flinging the ball at 96 plate-wards is enough to fool and whiff big league hitters. It isn’t, as documented by his present 5.63 ERA and average of only 5 1/3 innnings per start. His ERA puts him in the bottom 5 of all AL pitchers with 40 or more innings… curiously he was outpitched this time out by one of the four with numbers worse than his – John lackey.
Too many fans , and too many of the media types who guide them, cling to the idea that Toronto’s starting pitching is a strength. It isn’t. It is, in fact, stinking bad, truth be told. As Rogers’ own Sportsnet TV station admitted during the 16-4 drubbing, the jays starters came into the weekend with an ERA of 4.41. Which doens’t sound all that bad, but in this day of diminished power and better pitching, ranked them only 13th out of the 14 teams in the league. And morrow’s 9 earned runs Saturday afternoon ballooned that ERA much closer to KC’s league-worst. Jays starters (save for Ricky Romero whom, as I noted last time is pretty good, but merely average at best among #1 pitchers) are getting knocked around, walking far too many, uncorking too many wild pitches and burning out the bullpen by routinely being gone after 5. Time for a change. Bring up Mills now, demote either Drabek or Morrow and start looking around for another starter available via trade route to replace the other. Paul Maholm anybody? Perhaps JA Happ?
This season isn’t a writeoff yet, and the playoffs aren’t out of the question. But only if Toronto management start thinking that way, and shakeup the pitching staff.
Let’s get Brad Mills up to the Rogers Centre now. Mind you, given Rajai Davis’ recent 0 for 23 string and at times lazy approach to fly balls, Elliott’s suggestion about outfielder Loewen (.321, 10 homers, 42 RBI at AAA for the former pitcher) might not be a bad idea either.