Friday, April 20, 2012

Friday Look-Ahead and Look-Behind

I’m feeling a bit guilty after having missed my bloggerly duties on the weekend. Life gets in the way sometimes. As penance, though, I’m back with a Friday post, in which I celebrate, lament, and generally overreact to a Blue Jays series loss to the Tampa Bay Rays, and look ahead to the next 3-game set in Kansas City.

Beating the Best

It’s disappointing to drop two of three to a division rival. The unbalanced schedule makes damn certain that division records matter when it comes to contending for the post season. In the AL East, the expectation should always be that over the course of a season, the Yankees, Rays and Red Sox are mostly going to kick the holy hell out of non-division teams, eliminating a potential opening for a team like Toronto to rack up non-division wins themselves, in a bid to make up for a weaker record against division rivals. But it is just April, and the Jays will have plenty of opportunities to prove their mettle against the Beasts of the East.

Late Meltdowns

Giving less cause for optimism, though, is the way the late innings in the two losses to Tampa Bay descended into something halfway between comic farce and violent chaos. (Okay, maybe that’s an exaggeration.) I do believe that the bullpen is improved from last year, and will be seen as a team strength by the time 162 games are in the books. But if you’re the kind who doubts the relief corps can effectively hold down the fort when leading games, watching them inflate Luke Scott’s RBI totals in back to back games where the team is trailing late is probably not helping much with your faith and rationality. Games that were at least within reach were quickly and emphatically turned into routs. I’m not saying the Jays would have come back in the ninth innings from 4 and 3 runs behind, respectively, but you’d still like to see your mop-up guys actually mop up, not spill another bucket of spoiled mayonnaise onto the kitchen floor on top of the existing mess.

Coming Up

Note - I had erroneously posted that the KC series was three games instead of four, hence the strikethroughs and corrections below. Thanks to the anonymous commenter who pointed out how badly I read my pocket schedule.

Four Five things apparently coming up this weekend: three (3) four (4) away games against the Kansas City Royals, and one (1) 21-year-old starter who has pitched 31.2 innings above A ball. Word is that despite the Tao’s metaphysical assurance that Jesse Chavez would get the call from Vegas to fill in the fifth starter spot tomorrow, it’s current New Hampshire Fisher Cat Drew Hutchison who will toe the rubber at Kauffman Stadium. Hutchison has picked up about where he left off last year at AA, although in his three starts, his strikeout numbers are down from the gaudy 12.5 K/9 he put up in an equally small sample last year. Over his minor league career, he’s been more than a strikeout-per-inning guy, and there is understandable excitement about seeing him make his big league debut.

The Alex Anthopoulos era in Toronto has been characterized by enthusiasm for the young, high-ceiling arms in the system. The Lansing Lugnuts at low-A have an embarrassment of riches right now, and if you’ve checked in on the reports about Noah Syndergaard, Justin Nicolino, and Aaron Sanchez, you may need to stay sitting down for a little while if you know what I mean. With the arrival of Henderson Alvarez last season, the apparent settling-in of Kyle Drabek this year, and now Hutchison’s call-up, we’re starting to see some “green shoots” at the major league level too.

The Jays have nine ten games coming up against Kansas City, Baltimore, and Seattle – before they have to face Texas and the Los Angeles of Anaheim Angels of California. One game at a time and all that, but damn, I’d like to see them at 13-8 14-8 when Rangers roll into Skydome. Here we go now *clap clap*.


Anonymous said...

Just a heads-up...the KC series is a four-gamer, and the road trip is 10 games total...

Anonymous said...

You are correct. Will fix my math.

Ty said...

I'm curious to see how Hutch's strikeouts translate at the MLB level. From what I've read, he isn't overpowering, he just has excellent command and a fastball with good movement - so I'd imagine his high K totals in the lower minors are inflated a bit by facing inexperienced hitters who aren't used to seeing that kind of thing. I think he'll still be effective, but I wouldn't be surprised to see a bunch of his K's turn into ground balls instead. Which would be just fine with me.

Anonymous said...

Do you think AA's comment that he is looking to trade 4 a middle of the order guy is meant to keep the boys focused on keeping their jobs? I feel the team is filled with players that have middle of the order potential and T. Snyder is waiting for as chance in LVegas. I think we need a starting pitcher to replace Cecil/Litsch/McGowan. Thoughts?

Anonymous said...

Not sure there's much to make of AA's comments at all, really. Sounded like he was just spitballing. You know, *if* I were to be in the trade market, this is what I'd be looking for. As for the rotation, the only real concern for me right now is ongoing health of the 1-4 guys. If there's a DL stint for one of them, I don't mind the internal options that could be called upon, but I wouldn't want to do that for months at a time.