Monday, July 11, 2011

Thoughts at the Halfway-Not-Really-Halfway Break

Hey! Did you miss us last week? We were laid up after a bit of reconstructive surgery (no, really), and doped up like Mark Renton when he sank into the carpet listening to Lou Reed's Perfect Day. At one point in our recovery, we swear we saw Jesse Litsch crawling across our ceiling. So while we were able to take in a lot of baseball, our ability to actually sit up and blog about it was fairly limited. Nevertheless, here we are. Back again.

(Or did you not even notice that we were gone? We're cool with that, we's not as though we crave your approval or anything. ROAWR MOAR LUV PLEEZ!)

There are a few contextual pieces that we'll be working on in the next week or so, and we'll likely get caught up in the All Star shenanigans over the next few days, so there will be plenty to update this week. Stay tuned.

Briefly, though, we had a few superficial whims that we thought we'd share to help us warm up the blogging muscle again. We'd hate to pull something.

Eric Thames Is More Than a Facefull of Hair: We were inclined not to get overly excited about the Jays' rookie outfielder, given that prospect experts were lukewarm on him and the ballpark in New Hampshire was held up as a power-inflator. Well, colour us pleasantly surprised.

That swing still seems longer than Tarkovsky Trilogy, but Thames gets his bat through the hitting zone so quickly that it hardly seems to matter. Sure, he's only suited up for 28 games, but the numbers thus far (.382 wOBA, .212 ISO, .876 OPS) are all positively dreamy. (Enough so that we're willing to overlook some of the defensive weaknesses that he's shown, in part because he's also a max effort guy defensively, and we can see his routes to balls improving with time.)

We're loving Thames' presence in two-hole, and we can actually see him staying with the big club from here on out, and for many years to come. The future, as they say, is now.

It's Getting Better All the Time: Mired in an offensive funk (and not the awesome George Clinton sort of funk that you gotta have) for months, it's great to see that a couple of additions to (and notable subtractions from) the lineup have created a much more fearsome scoring machine in the past week or so. This is especially true now that Travis Snider is hitting the ball in actuality in the same manner that he slugs it in our fondest dreams. (Drew/Tao Same Guy Alert: We were pretty much writing this post until we noticed that Drew ghostran with it before we got there.)

Add to that Thames' mighty uppercut, the ongoing awesomnity of Yunel Escobar and a reinvigorated Rajai Davis (who still tries to bunt with runners on second and two outs, but eventually swings the bat and drives in said runners), and the Jays' lineup starts to look imposing around the One Man Gang and Adam Lind.

We're not sure that the pitching of the Clevelanders was necessarily the right test to tell us whether if this offense has started to crank it up and turn it around, but what we saw over the last four games (and since the series against the Phillies, frankly) gives us plenty of hope for the second portion of the schedule.

Bullpen Solutions: So it seems as though the Jays bullpen, constructed over the offseason with cheap-ish deposed former closers, has eventually played out the way we should have figured in the first place: With a bunch of pitchers hurling their way out of the closer role.

So what's the solution? Does the team continue to send Frank Francisco out in the ninth because he throws hard, misses bats (allegedly) and because "he's the guy". Do they give Jon Rauch opportunities here or there, or even let Jason Frasor get his licks in?

Our solution? Well, at the moment, our solution is on the DL. But when he comes back and gets a few innings in, we'd be tempted to let Casey Janssen have a shot at the ninth inning spots. He's posted a 3.12 xFIP thus far this year, and is actually missing bats much more than he used to (8.13 K/9, which is more than Frasor, Rauch or Rzep.)

At this point, we're not sure the Jays would have much to lose in giving him a try out in the role. (Other than Type A status for Francisco, though he seems eager to lose that all for himself.)

Final Thoughts: It's great to be back, kids. See you on the Twitter today, and tonight during the José Home Run Soiree.


Chill said...

Welcome back Tao. I hope you kept some of the painkillers for a rainy day!

Did anyone else feel like Cecil's start yesterday was mostly smoke and mirrors? Only 1 earned run allowed, but he seemed up in the strike zone and it looked like the Clevlands were close to cracking him open all day.

KissMyPurpleButt said...

Glad to have you back. I it will be interesting to see the second have with more future stalwarts rather than journeymen taking up 3-4 lineup spots

King_Cats said...

At this point, would you even want Francisco to earn type A? No one is giving up a draft pick for him.

Tao of Stieb said...

Chill: I hate to say it, but I do agree with you to some extent about Cecil's performance. He was up in the zone a fair bit, though not as much as he had been in recent starts. (Also, he seems to be able to collect himself and get down if he needs to.)

KissMyPurpleButt said...

Is it just me or has Cecil put on like 30 pounds?