Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Let's Write the Whole Year Off

There's no question that the promotions and game operations side of the organization brought their "A game" yesterday for the Blue Jays' home opener. There was so much new video content with such a fierce tone that it seemed as though the team were ready to skip past the regular season and take on all comers in the playoffs starting last night.

But the other side of building that much anticipation all at once is that when you don't come through immediately, it can have the opposite effect on the fans.

After last night's disappointing 4-2 loss to the Red Sox, our Twitter feed was unsurprisingly blown up with those expressing their "major concern" over the feasibility of Sergio Santos, immediately writing him off as just another example of the poor excuses for closers that the Jays have had since Tom Henke left town. Others spoke ominously of how this one game may well have cost the Jays their shot at the playoffs, and that we shouldn't forget how last year's Red Sox and Atlanta Braves missed the post-season by just one game.

And what about all that talk about a new era of Jays fans and a new feeling of optimism? The Jays built the expectations, and suddenly, just four measly games into the season, the queue to exit the bandwagon is backed up. Which is patently ridiculous.

There are 158 games left in the season. Even if the Blue Jays do manage to defy expectations and take a big step towards the next level, there will be 60 to 70 more losses to come, and some of them will be even more disappointing and uglier than last night's.

The Blame Game: There's no question that Sergio Santos had a terrible outing last night, and that he began overthrowing his pitches to try to blow the Red Sox out of the batters box. Which is probably not the best approach to dealing with that lineup. It was also his second straight blown save, so there's some understandable uneasiness with his performance.

In our preview piece about Santos, we wondered whether if Jays fans were ready for a pitcher who is still somewhat raw, and has some control issues. The piece was written after watching him send two pitches past Jeff Mathis to the backstop in a spring training game, which is no small feat. Santos is a power arm, and one that is not yet refined, so there will be walks and there will be pitches in the dirt and beyond. But there will also be plenty of strikeouts and baffled batters along the way. The question is whether if the positives will outweigh the negatives over the long run of a season, as they have in the past for Santos.

Santos might have had a little more room for error had the Jays' offense put up any sort of showing last night. When Scott Atchinson holds you to a single hit over three relief innings, you really haven't done yourself any favours. Among those feeble Jays bats, no one looked worse than José Bautista, who went 0-for-4, leaving four runners on base and hitting into a double play. We doubt, though, that anyone is looking at yesterday's game and pondering a move down the lineup for the team's most valuable player.

Accentuating the Positive: Henderson Alvarez had a tremendous outing, giving up just four hits and one walk in six innings against the solid Red Sox lineup...We won't pester you with our Colby Rasmus love. But offensively and defensively, he was the highlight of last night's game. Take that as you will...Both Kelly Johnson and Edwin Encarnacion continue to have good at bats. Johnson is making pitchers work as hard as anyone in the lineup, and EE is squaring it up and hitting the ball hard on a regular basis...Darren Oliver's two-strikeout inning of work was quick and effective, and Coco Cordero also had a nice inning in the eighth.

Today's a New Day: Kyle Drabek gets his first start of the season against Daniel Bard. It's a whole new ballgame!


mike in boston said...

watching Cordero run to cover 1st raised my cholesterol by 20 points.

i would rather Santos blow these saves now and not in July and August, so if this is part of some kind of learning curve then so be it. The hard question will be what the Jays do if he blows 5 or 6 more by the end of May.

Peter DeMarco said...

I am actually less concerned about Santos and more concerned about the Jays offense. It's early but the Jays hitters haven't looked very good against what I would consider mediocre pitching.

Unknown said...

If Santos continues to have a tendency to pitch wild (while still mostly being effective and getting saves, one hopes!) then I wonder if the Jays would sometimes bring Mathis in as a defensive change for JPA near the end of the game? Mathis seems to be the superior catcher. I guess there would have to be an on-going trend of Santos being wild and JPA allowing passed balls for that to happen, though...

Rob (North Side of the Diamond) said...

You're right. It is way too early to be concerned about Santos. As you said, he is a power arm and he is not yet refined. So far the rest of the bull pen has been very good. Oliver, Janssen, and Perez in particular have been nothing short of fantastic to this point. I hear the bandwagon actually got a bit of air last night from the recoil of the initial evacuation.

dgapa said...

Loved when the building went nuts over Rasmus' diving catch and his triple. Cletus done good.

Ty said...

Santos will be fine. His early-season struggles do make me wonder a little bit about why he was handled oddly in Spring Training, though - he only threw a few innings in actual games. Official word was that he was working on his changeup, but maybe over-focusing on that one pitch could be related to his lack of command over his other pitches in the first week? Either way, he's going to be alright, and it's WAAAAAY too early to start worrying about whether or not he should still be the closer.

The Ack said...

^^ I also wondered (last night) if Santos' lack of preseason game action was a factor.

Stuff is obviously there, just does not look sharp with it right now...

Anonymous said...

I'm not too worried about Santos yet. There's been quite a few blown saves around the league already, so it's not like he's the only closer having problems. I think with the history of terrible closers, people are just waaaaay too anxious about the whole thing.

Not worried about Bautista either. Even with an 0-for-4, he was still making contact. It'd be another issue if he wasn't seeing the ball entirely. He's gonna pick up traction sooner rather than later at this rate.

And yes, it was amazing to see Rasmus stand out last night. I've been pulling for him since he got here and it's nice to see he's got other strong supporters too.

Anonymous said...

Santos fits right in with the rest of this team: young, relatively unproven, untested, with tons of potential. If people are giving up on him two games into the season, they're in for a long frustrating year.

The loss was frustrating and disappointing, but my enthusiasm for this team is still sky-high, and we're going to see so much development in our young players this year, it's going to be awesome

G Man said...

My only fear for Santos is that I hope he does not have a hard time with good lefties. I was more concerned about approach and inability to put away Ortiz and Ross and to a lesser extent Sweeney than I was about his wildness. Hopefully the inability to get these lefties was a product of the wildness and will correct at the same time.

Tao of Stieb said...

There was a pretty great reaction shot of Santos after he struck out Youkilis on a pretty nasty slider. It was like: "Jesus, why was that so hard?"

Pedroia (rat-faced prick!), Gonzalez, Youk and Papi...that's a tall order.

Anonymous said...

the problem here is less about the efficacy of santos (which anyone should understand is tenuous and based on one season only worth of performance); it's the way this blog and others like it/associated with it continually presume to 'know more' than what they call the 'casual fan'.

there has been for the last couple years a complete "drink the koolaid" mentality when it comes to moves that AA makes; and a rush to qualification when the moves don't seem to be 100% victories, as initially evaluated.

for example, you wrote: "In our preview piece about Santos, we wondered whether if Jays fans were ready for a pitcher who is still somewhat raw, and has some control issues."

worrying about how jays fans will react to a player is such a metagame of evaluation as to border on ludicrous. what matters isn't how jays fans 'react' but how the actual players actually perform.

for wilner, stoeten and parkes et al, being right about their prognistications and tweaking other fans with differing opinions on the credibilty of their so-called 'authoritative' viewpoints seems to be much more important than actual, objective and clear headed reporting on the actual performance of the players.


In the end, we'll see that much like Brian Colangelo, AA is more hype than experience and the Jays are going to suffer through his learning curve; exampled by missing out on top tier, available-once-in-ten-years type free agents and an over-emphasizing of AAA depth which, as we'll see and have seen, really doesn't matter in the MLB if you're trying to make the postseason.

i still love watching the games; but i don't have nearly the rose-tinted hope that i read in the blogosphere.

Anonymous said...

Oh, for fuck's sakes. In your noble quest for "actual, objective and clear headed reporting on the actual performance of the players", you must have missed the part where Tao said, "There's no question that Sergio Santos had a terrible outing last night," and that "there's some understandable uneasiness with his performance."

Tao of Stieb said...

Hey man, you're the one who said "authoritative", not me.

Do I think I know more about baseball than the average person? Maybe. If I do, it is because I spend way too much time thinking about it, challenging my own arguments, calling myself to account, and generally doing things that the vast majority of sane, functioning human beings don't.

So there's that.

And by the way: I love the Kool-Aid comment. It's not like I haven't heard it a thousand times before.

And since you were too worked up to go read what I said about Santos before you attempted to string me up by my thumbs with the piece, here is what I said, and tell me how fucking rose coloured this looks to you:

Santos enters the season as the undisputed closer, marking the first time since B.J. Ryan’s career-ending implosion that the Jays have had such clarity about the role in March. And given the unsatisfactory performances of the bullpen last year and the season before, Santos will find himself pitching before a fan base with little or no tolerance for failure from someone in that vaunted role.

Having had a chance to see Santos this weekend, we wondered if those fans are ready to see a pitcher who is still somewhat raw. Walking more than four batters per nine innings, Santos will launch some of those mighty throws into the dirt and to the backstop with the game on the line. He’s a power arm, and will throw harder than any Blue Jay closer since Billy Koch, but it won’t always be with pinpoint accuracy.

You see? I was being sympathetic with the impatience of the fans.

Not that you'd take the time to figure that out.

Tao of Stieb said...

And really, there's no such thing as objectivity. Just shared subjectivity.

So...come along and have fun, or fart off and leave me alone.

drock15 said...

Just putting this out there...
If the Jays were to have a 1or 2 run lead going into the 9th tonight, would they opt for someone else like Janssen or Frasor to pitch b/c
a.) Santos has pitched in 3/4 games
b.) Last night's rough outing

Tao of Stieb said...

I think that the 30+ pitch outing means that Santos won't pitch. Maybe Janssen, maybe Cordero.

Andrew said...

Maybe I'm just a Kool-Aid addict (I am definitely overly optimistic about most things Jays-related), but this piece summed up exactly what I was thinking to myself walking home from last night's game. That loss was brutal to witness, and Santos certainly sticks out as the biggest culprit, but you cannot score two runs and expect to win a baseball game, regardless of the opponent.