half way report card, pt 1


Well, where does the time go? Seems like only last week we were watching spring training games discussing the season ahead. Now we’re past the half way mark of the season heading into the All Star break. Like most pundits, some of my predictions seem spot on (Phillies and Red Sox leading their divisions, Atlanta and NYY poised to fill the wild card spots), others were way off… now we see why Chief Wahoo is grinning… his team still leads the AL Central. Show me a baseball fan who claims they were calling that one in March and I’ll show you a liar!


The Jays have played exciting ball, I’ll give them that, and have shown flashes of brilliance, but all in all can’t be too thrilled with the way 2011 has shaped up… fourth place again, below .500, a big hole to fill or fix for every outstanding spot. Here’s a “mid-term report card” on them:


JP Arencibia (catcher): well, he’s not as bad as I expected him to be, nor as good as the team say they thought he was going to be. A work in progress, good power at plate but too many strikeouts and bad at bats for a kid who was a hitting superstar through the minors. Decent work behind plate, but as TV analyst Gregg Zaun pointed out last night, still needs work understanding his pitchers and their strengths… the walk-off grand slam to Hafner two nights back a prime example of not understanding the situation or the hitter, calling for the wrong pitch at the wrong time. Decent potential though. Grade: C-


Jose Molina (back up catcher): reliably solid behind the plate, helps out young pitchers (witness how much better Brandon Morrow is with Molina rather than Arencibia), plus a .300 average in his limited at bats. Exceeds low expectations, should play more in second half. B+


Adam Lind (first base): I had my doubts about whether he could still hit, let alone learn to play a position in the field at same time. He’s allayed those concerns I, and any other fans , had handily… hitting for power and average , his 16 homers second on team despite missing over 20 games with back problems, and he’s played first like a veteran. Given that he likes Toronto and is married to a local gal, no doubt he’ll be a cornerstone of the franchise for a lot of years. A


Aaron Hill (second base): I’ve long felt Hill should be a gold glover at 2B, and this year he’s again playing like it, turning double play after double play and being noticed for it. A return to form there for the guy who in 2009 led all AL second baggers in double plays and was second among regulars in fielding pct. At the plate though, a different story… hitting for a bit better average than last year, but without the power. A .245 hitter with no power is little better than a .205 hitter with 25 HR power. What the team needs is a Hill who can play upto his .290, lots of line drive doubles potential. We see that for a game or two at a time, but then it’s the swing-for-the-bleachers, careless approach again. C+ (mainly for defense)


Yunel Escobar (shortstop): Take note fans… you voted Derek Jeter in to be the starting shortstop in the mid-season classic, and he’s thanked you by giving you his middle finger and deciding he can’t be bothered to go. Given that surprising Asdubral Cabrera of Cleveland is already named, this is the guy who should replace NewYork3000… hitting consistently, flirting with .300, and playing great defense day in day out. Seems to be even better with his friend Bautista playing right beside him now. Atlanta should feel foolish. B+


Edwin Encarnacion (3B-DH): started the season as the everyday third baseman, where he made every routine groundball an adventure and a good chance for the hitter to come visit him at third by the time the ball stopped bouncing around or was retrieved from some far-flung corner of the field. Should have had a lot more than 8 errors at the position in limited games were it not for generous scorers. However, when all he has to do is hit, he lives upto his potential, hitting over .300 as a DH and while still not mashing the ball (6 HR), his slugging pct. is pretty good due to a club high 19 doubles. OK for now as the desi, but can’t match, say an Ortiz or Konerko in that role, so this realistically should be his last year in Jays blue… err, black and silver. D+


Jayson Nix (3B): quietly dropped from the roster last week after never re-finding his early season hitting prowess. Good glove but a .169 average puts anyone at the hot corner on the hot seat. D


John McDonald (back-up infielder): same old “Sir John A” the fans know and love… making amazing grabs and throws in the field, being a good guy off the field, never complaining whether playing eight straight days or riding the pines for two weeks. Not hitting for average he did last season but has a few big clutch hits and better RBI: AB ratio than Patterson or Davis. A- (graded as a utility man, not an everyday player)


Mike Mccoy (back up infielder): should be able to draw a map of every river, highway, and drumlin between Nevada and Ontario in his sleep, so many times has he made the trip between AAA Vegas and the bigs this year. Like Mcdonald, doesn’t complain and comes through with a reliable glove and occasional hit … could probably do better than .217 if playing more regularly and not so jet lagged. B-


Corey Patterson (outfield): an enigma of sorts. Was supposed to only be a backup, but has ended up playing almost daily …as of Wednesday was still second on roster in at bats! (Rather like Marco Scutaro did a few years back in the infield here.) Thus, how much should we expect from him? The stuff of an everyday player, or just an overworked backup plan? Patterson has great talent, but at times his speed of foot seems tripped up by slow thinking in the field… gets caught stealing far too often, picks wrong times to bunt and has been involved in several botched plays in field with lack of communication resulting in balls falling in front of him and another player. A frustrating C


Rajai Davis (centerfield): certainly speedy, as advertised… already his 24 SB are most since Alex Rios’ 32 in ’08… and there’s still nearly half a year to swipe away. Great speed, but not a terribly good arm means he’s acceptable, but not great, in the OF. His hitting has been terribly spotty… through all of June he went a mere 7for70 after the 4th, when he was hitting .288. You can’t steal first, so he needs to hit more reliably, week in , week out. Still, a good addition to the team.B-


Travis Snider (left field): has been largely OK in the field, not spectacular but adequate in range and arm. Hitting, which Snider would we grade— the high strikeout, low average Mr April version; the demoted to minors May-June one, or the recalled, altered stance, 5rBI last night one? If he keeps his new stance and shows patience at plate, may still develop into an above average player. Grade: n/a (not enough to go on yet)


Eric Thames (outfield): unknown in spring training where he left an impression, now in his second tour at the big league level this year and playing like he wants to stay. Enthusiastic and smart at the plate, good power and poise. So-so defender in left, woefully out of place so far in his new position, RF, a deficiency more noticeable because of how good his predecessor was out there. Perhaps the nice surprise player of the season so far. B


Jose Bautista (OF/3B): saved the best for last (of the first part of report)… hmm, not too many people still saying last year was a fluke for him, are there? Last year at all-star break he’d hit 24 longballs, was clicking at about a .240 pace and was being written off by Yahoo sports as a guy who’d fall apart in the second half and never again come close to that level of glory. All he’s done this year is hit 90 points higher, lead the game in walks and on base pct… and clobber 31 dingers. The smartest hitter on the team, knows his opponents and rarely swings at a bad pitch. If the bottom of the lineup (Snider, thames etc) keep hitting into the second half he might get a few more good pitches and a few more RBI opportunities, which would be nice as a few more men on situations could give him a shot at a triple crown. Oh ya– and in the field? Gold glove at his preferred position in right, but already making highlight reel stops and throws from third base. Do you need to ask about the grade? A+


Next we’ll look at the other half of the team, the pitchers.



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