Congratulations to Matt Cain, tossing a masterful perfect game last night, and to me , for saying in this place as early as March 2011, he was clearly the best pitcher on the Giants staff. Finally today even conservative sources like Yahoo Sports are calling him the “dominant ace” of that team. Does make one wonder though- what exactly went wrong -horribly wrong- with Tim Lincecum?
A few more questions for the second half (and a bit) of the season:
Is Adam Dunn or Andy Pettitte the AL Comeback of the Year?: both have staged impressive returns to form this year. But for my money, Dunn is the winner. Like our own joey Bats, Dunn’s batting average is a bit low this season, but at .226 it still towers over his pathetic .159 of 2011. But Chicago isn’t complaining anyway, as his 21 homers ranks him second in the league and almost twice of what he cranked all of last year. His .226/21/47 RBI with a .562 slugging is a night and day improvement over last year’s inexplicable .159/11/42, .277 slugging and extended out over the whole season would best his career averages of a .505 slugging percentage and 38 HR per 162 games.
Pettite, at 3-2 with a highly respectable 2.81 ERA after six starts is a good addition to his Yankees and has improved upon his career ERA , largely by cutting down his walks from one every 3 1/3 innings to one every 4 2/3. But he is returning from a self-imposed exile and had all of last year off to rest, and build up his conditioning. Very respectable but not award-winning.
Will the Blue jays win any major player awards in 2012?: Right now, not likely. No player has dominated in our lineup this season, so there’s not likely to be a buzz about MVP, particularly if its another playoff-free season. We know voters usually opt for picking MVPs from playoff teams, so given the current standings , one would look to it as being a Josh Hamilton/Paul Konerko duel for that award.
There’s no clear-cut obvious Cy Young winner as of yet in the league, and upto last weekend, one could make the argument that Brandon Morrow, with his three shutouts and sub 3.00 ERA deserved consideration. He still might compete if he gets back into the lineup soon, but with his stint on the DL for an indeterminate time, even if he tosses three more shutouts upon return, he won’t get the votes if limited to say 25 or so starts. Plus, anything short of atrocious and Justin Verlander will be the only name most voters will even remember…and verlander, while not the 2011 ace, has been far from atrocious.
Which leaves Rookie of the Year, and some might hope that over-achieving young Drew Hutchison might have a shot at that. He might, if he continues to improve and stays in the rotation all year. But at present time, he’d clearly trail higher-profile yu Darvish among pitchers and possibly Yoenis Cespedes among all players. Hutch after ten starts has logged 58 innings, struck out 48 while walking only 19 and is 5-3 with a pedestrian 4.66 ERA (which is lowering after three rough starts to begin his career.) Darvish has made a dozen starts, lasted 72 innings, with 77K (but an ugly 44 walks) and is sitting at 7-4 with a better than average 3.72 ERA. Cespedes, despite a stint on the disabled list, is hitting .273 with 6 homers and 26 RBI on a very run-challenged Oakland team.
Will fans keep flocking to the Jays “nest”? Toronto seems to have a renewed interest in the Blue Jays this year and that has been reflected in the Rogers’ Centre attendance. Yesterday’s 43000+ for an afternoon game pushed attendance past 800 000 for the year, an average of 26 067 per game. This marks a nice increase over last season and puts Toronto square in the middle of the league for fan support: they rank 7th in the AL right now, well behind Texas (who draw 43 400 per game) but a country mile ahead of under-appreciated Cleveland (17 000 per game), Tampa (19 405 to see the Rays have another playoff-bound year) and the perhaps fairly dismissed A’s.
The unfortunate thing is that of course, our patience has worn thin with the team and with Alex Anthopolous. If the jays keep sinking towards the bottom of the division, and Anthopolous doesn’t pull a rabbit or two out of his hat (or more aptly, a Garza or Willingham or two via trade route) by July to make the team have a sporting shot at making a wild card spot at least, fans interest will wane , eyes will roll as Anthopolous gives his usual speech about ‘being close’ and ‘maybe next year’ and the turnstiles will start to gather dust.
I wish I could be optimistic but I don’t see the Jays hitting two million this year , when all is said and done. I could say to all of you, prove me wrong fans, prove me wrong but instead I’ll say prove me wrong, Alex, prove me wrong. If the corporate brass decide to take a run at it this year , the fans will respond.