Tuesday, 27 May 2014

Week 9

Has this last week really just happened? While the Jays have had winnings streaks like this in the past, longer ones even, there’s something that feels different about the team now.

The Jays are first place in the AL East, with one of the franchise’s highest winning percentages at this point in the season. They’re currently riding a seven game winning streak, which includes sweeping the Boston Red Sox and the Oakland Athletics. So far in the month of May, the Jays record stands at 17-7. Earlier in the month they also had a five game winning streak to go along with the current seven game. Needless to say, May has been a good month.

 In the past six of seven seasons in the AL East, whichever team was in first place on May 27th ended up clinching a playoff spot (the 2011 Yankees who won were only in second at this point that year).

This is surely a promising stat for Jays fans, as it finally gives us something to possibly look forward to, provided they continue to win. Of course at some point they will cool down, and lose a series here and there, but their ability to continue winning despite the losses is what will help the team to continue to perform.

It’s safe to say no one was expecting this much from the Jays, despite the talent on the team. After last year’s disappointment of a season, most Jays fans didn't seem to expect much, despite that talent was still on the team.

What is it that’s changed so much from last year? Is it the starting pitching, the fielding, the ability for our batters to somehow hit even more home runs? All of these are true.

Last year, watching the Blue Jays play felt like watching individual players, only looking to improve their stats compared to performing at a higher level for their team. This year, despite leading the league in home runs, they are also sixth in the league for RBI’s with runners in scoring position.

Pitching has also been a major factor. In the month of April, the Jays pitchers had a combined ERA of 4.45 (24th in MLB). In May however, the ERA has been lowered to 3.66 (11th).

The Jays have proven that their offence is at one of the highest calibers in the MLB. As long as the pitching continues to keep the runs low, the Jays will surely keep winning. 

Monday, 19 May 2014

Week 7

After a brief five game stint with the Blue Jays, Marcus Stroman has been optioned back to AAA Buffalo. Looking at his stats over the five games, you can definitely tell he has a lot of improving to do, shown by his 12.79 ERA after only 6.1 innings pitched. This is due largely to two bad outings for the young pitcher, one against the Angels where he gave up four earned runs over 1.2 innings, and another against the Indians where he gave up four earned runs (five total runs) over 1.1 innings pitched. Take away those final two outings, and he has a respectable 2.70 ERA. While it is good for young pitchers to get exposure to the MLB so they know what the future holds for them, it would have been better for Stroman to be put in as a starting pitcher, opposed to him working in the Blue Jays pen. He has been brought up as a starter through the Jays system, and will most likely be used as a starter once he gets settled in the MLB. Even if the Jays decide somewhere along the way that they want to use him as a relief pitcher, it’s much easier to switch from starter to relief, compared to going from relief to starter and regain stamina that a starter would require. Looking solely at how he performed for the Jays so far, you can tell that he needs lots of work to do if he wants to live up to the hype that he’s been receiving as a prospect. Even if he were to play as a starter for the Jays, those four and five run innings would be even worse as a starting pitcher, as the Jays would need to rely even more on the already unstable bullpen in scenarios like that. Going past his numbers, this experience can be seen as a learning one for the young pitcher. There’s no better way to prepare yourself for major league batters than actually facing them, despite how well you do against them. Hopefully Stroman can perform at a higher level whenever his next call-up comes around, and maybe even stay up for more than a few weeks.

Wednesday, 14 May 2014

Week 6

Currently the Toronto Blue Jays are sitting at .500, putting them at second place in the AL east (Boston and NY are also sporting .500 averages, both have played two games fewer than the Jays). While it is promising to see this position in the standings, this won’t continue to hold, knowing the strength of every other team in the division. Despite Tampa Bay sitting at 17 wins and 23 losses, it’s expected that they’ll go on a hot streak at some point and become a competing team once again, shown by them tying with the Yankees for the most playoff finishes over the past six years, with four for each team. The Jays can’t get too comfy, as they will need to step up their play if they want to continue to be a competitor in the AL east. Out of all teams in the AL east, the Jays hitting is currently 4th in OBP, but 1st in home runs, RBI’s, total bases, and slugging. Hitting isn’t a problem for the Jays, but you already knew that. What you also knew is that the Jays pitchers are struggling, but compared to the rest of their division it could be much worse. In the AL east their starters are 1st in ERA, 4th in strikeouts, 1st in opponent batting average, 5th in fewest walks and 5th in WHIP. While strikeouts and walks are a problem for the starters, ERA and opponent batting average are two very promising stats, showing that they are managing to get outs and not allow runs, despite the low strikeouts. The starters should try to simplify their approach and mainly focus on throwing fastballs for strikes, and develop their offspeed pitches from there. Their relief pitchers are 5th in ERA, 4th in opponent batting average, 1st in strikeouts, 5th in fewest walks, and 4th in WHIP. This is where it gets less promising for the pitchers, for obvious reasons. Out of the Jays 20 losses up until now, the relievers have accounted for 9 of those losses. That total is 4th highest in the MLB, higher than any team in the AL east. Once Janssen gets working again and Stroman starts adjusting to MLB batters the totals will hopefully become better, let’s just hope those days come soon. 

Monday, 5 May 2014

Month in Review - Week 5

April has come and gone for the Toronto Blue Jays, and it seems like nothing has changed for them since the end of last season. I could end the post right there, because we all seem to know what’s been going on. Players continue to get injured left and right, pitching for the most part has been disappointing, however the Jays hitters remain to be strong (12th in batting average, 4th in home runs, 6th in RBI’s, 7th in runs). One different factor from last year is the fielding, where last year the Jays committed the fifth most errors in the majors, compared this year where they’ve produced the lowest number of errors in the majors, a heavily improved factor. While fielding is a key point to games, if pitchers constantly find themselves having to rely on the fielding it can lead to too many runs given up, something the Jays have struggled with (5th highest ERA in the majors).  Besides fielding, this is the same shtick we’ve been seeing over the past year or so. The Jays feel like a broken record player, looping over and over the same things we see wrong with them, with nothing seeming like it will stop them. At this point, serious changes have to be made. Whether that’s by bringing in some fresh bodies, getting rid of Gibby, trading for some pitchers, anything. It’s up to AA to figure out what really is making the Jays so out of funk, and change it as soon as possible. To deny that changes to be made is doing nothing but harm for the Jays, unless we want to continue to rely solely on hitting to win games. Who knows, calling up Marcus Stroman may be the spark to ignite the Jays pitching. Maybe at the end of May we’ll be talking about how hitting isn’t reliable enough for the Jays. But if this downward trend continues, it’s going to take a lot to try and reverse it.