Friday, 20 June 2014

Yankees, June 17-19/THINGS NEED TO CHANGE

The Blue Jays have just gotten swept for the first time this year, which was not a good outing by any standard, but it’s not like they’re the first team to get swept this year.

With the Jays off the list now, the only teams in the MLB that haven’t been swept are the Dodgers, Brewers, and the Cardinals. A sweep is never good, but making it to the last 2 weeks of June without being swept is something the Jays can see as promising in the long run.

The series altogether was a huge mess for the Jays, with Buehrle having the only good start, the bullpen giving up a 6.30 ERA, and the offence only producing 2.6 runs per game.

This has come off a rough month of June for the Jays, where they have gone 8-9, yet have still maintained 1st in the AL East. While every other team in the east has brought up their level of play (each team .500 or higher in their last 10), the Jays are surely on pace to drop down to the lower ranks of the division.
            As so many people seem to be saying, if the Jays really want to remain contenders, they have to do something to improve the squad. While the offence have been particularly unproductive in the past few series, things will hopefully pick up soon, and moves wouldn't have to be made to improve too drastic.

            The only player not safe on the offence is Juan Francisco, who has cooled off a great deal after a stellar May. Despite the solid numbers from last month, he has never shown that hitting ability like that before, after being bounced around from the Majors to the Minors since 2009.

            As much as we’d love to see an emergence of another power hitter similar to Jose Bautista from a few years ago, miracles like that only happen so often. No one would trade anything significant for Fransisco, so the only real possibility for him is getting sent back to the minors.

            Pitching is where the Jays need the most improvement, despite having a combined ERA under 4.00 in the months of May and June (so far). The Jays current starters of Buehrle, Stroman, Hutchison, Dickey, and Henriks/Happ are not a world series winning starting rotation. End of story.

            There are lots of rumours going around of David Price potentially being traded, but what could the Jays give up to obtain the former Cy Young winner? The only real answer right now is prospects, as giving up too many starting players with the current MLB team will create even more serious holes.

            If the Jays really want to be world series contenders for this year, moves must be done, and sacrifices must be made, however hard it may be to make them. Otherwise, get ready for them to fall back down the ladder that is the AL East.

Sunday, 15 June 2014

June 12-15, Orioles

The Jays just wrapped up a 4 game away set against the Orioles, splitting the series 2-2 against their division rivals. Currently, the Jays are sitting at 1st place, with the Yankees and the Orioles each 4.5 games back on them, the Red Sox 9 games back, and the Rays 13.5 games back. 

In the two series prior to this (3 game set against the Cardinals then the Twins) the Jays went 2-4, an unimpressive set of games coming off a 5 game winning streak. They averaged only 1.6 runs a game, gave up 4.3 runs a game, and were looking to have a big bounce back against the Orioles at Camden Yards.

While the series wasn't necessarily a huge success, it was much better than their previous games. They averaged 3.25 runs a game, giving up an average of only 2.25 runs a game. 

Injuries played a small role in the series, with Brett Cecil leaving the 4-0 win on the 13th with groin tightness, R.A. Dickey left the 3-2 loss on the 14th with groin tightness, and Adam Lind also left the 3-2 loss with a bruise on his right foot. Fortunately none of the injuries are listed as too severe, so all 3 players can be expected to return to the lineup in the coming days. 

The Jays batting enjoyed reasonable success despite only having one home run in the series (off Juan Fransisco in the 4-0 win), showing even further how they don't have to rely solely on home runs to get runs needed to win. After coming up short in the past two series, this was a step in the right direction, with hopefully even more production to come in the upcoming series against the Yankees in New York. 

All starters had reasonable starts, each going 6+ innings and only Mark Buehrle didn't get a quality start by giving up 4 runs. The bullpen also played well, with Dustin McGowan giving up the only run by the pen in the series finale, giving the pen an impressive 1.13 ERA over 8 innings of work.

While there are things that the Jays could improve on, there are always things that teams could do better. Mistakes are going to be made 99% of the time in baseball, especially against a strong team like the Orioles. As long as the Jays can bounce back from the small errors here and there, there is nothing to be too worried about. 

The Jays have a day off on Monday, and will start a 3 game set against the Yankees, with Storman, Buehrle, and Hutchison being the projected starters. 

Monday, 9 June 2014

June 6-8, St. Louis Cardinals

After sweeping the Detroit Tigers, the Jays went back home to the Rogers Centre for a 3-game set against the current NL champion St. Louis Cardinals.

The Jays lost 2 of the 3 games, scoring only 3 runs in the entire series, all of which were scored in the first game. While the Jays have averaged 4.9 runs per game this year, these three games were an exception from the usual high-class performances. 

In game one the Jays scored 3 runs, accompanied by another promising start by prospect Marcus Stroman, in which he went 6 innings with 7 strikeouts, gave up 7 hits, 2 walks, and 1 earned-run. As a starter, Stroman now is 2-0 with 13 strikeouts, a 1.50 ERA, and a 1.17 WHIP. Considering that these are his only two starts in the MLB, these numbers are very promising.

The runs in this game were scored by solo-shots from Lawrie and Bautista, with the other run scored by Reyes. The batting was by no means spectacular in this game, but they earned enough to secure a win in game 1. The next two games were among the Jays weakest efforts this year, with two back-to-back 5-0 losses.

In game two, ace Mark Buehrle started, giving up 1 earned-run over 7 innings, with 6 strikeouts and 4 hits. Everything looks like all of the other strong numbers Buehrle has put up this year, until you get to the fact that he gave up 5 walks in his start. This is an unusually high number for him, as he’s only averaged around 2.5 walks per nine innings pitched this year. Fortunately he was able to battle out of it.

The other four runs given up were earned by relief pitcher Aaron Loup, who didn’t even last a full inning. Loup has had decent stats this year (2-1, 3.56 ERA), but he has failed to produce in clutch scenarios. While he isn't a closer, he has gone 2 for 5 in save scenarios, showing how he can crack under pressure at times. Some may say it’s unfair to compare him to closers, but this just another example of where he hasn’t been able to produce in clutch scenarios, something he could work on for the future.

In game 3, Drew Hutchison got the start, and he gave up all five runs in the game, lasting only 3 innings. Relief pitcher Todd Redmond picked up the slack well, going five innings striking out 3 and giving up 4 hits with no walks. The pitching wasn't great by any means, but it wasn't nearly as poor as the Jays hitting.

After a strong game 1 with 11 hits, the Jays hitters were only able to produce 3 hits in game 2, and 4 in game 3. This is unlike the Jays hitters, who have been the driving force for the 1st place squad up until now. This is simply a bump in the road, you can’t expect them to be perfect every game, and games like these happen every now and then. The Cardinals pitchers proved to be too much for them, and it showed in the end results. They will most-likely bounce back in the upcoming series against the 29-32 Minnesota Twins.

Altogether this wasn’t the Jays best effort, but don’t expect to see series like this too often. The Jays are looking to send Dickey, Happ, and Stroman to the mound against the Twins.