Sunday, May 6, 2012
Looking a Little Ahead
With the first month of the season in the books, it seems as though every team is now beginning to settle into the grind just a little bit. After today’s tilt, the Jays have played 29 games – or, as some of us prefer to understand it, almost three-quarters of the way into the 40-game window that the team has said it’s allowing itself before making any significant lineup changes. Perhaps that’s unfair, given the relative success the team has enjoyed (they’re still three games over. 500 despite today’s result), but the gaps in the offensive makeup of this team are pretty glaringly obvious right now.
In this spirit of pessimistic impatience, I decided to take out my imaginary universal remote (people still have those, right?) and fast-forward things. But not just eleven more games; I wanted to talk to a bona fide expert on the team as it entered that elusive period of “meaningful baseball” in August in September. But you’d be surprised how hard it is to find an actual baseball expert with the ability to time travel. So I settled for a bit of a know-it-all who watched Back to the Future a lot as a kid – yours truly. Here’s the transcript of the conversation between present-day me and August 28th me.
Present Me: So… how’s it going?
Future Me: Meh. The usual. Lawn has weeds.
PM: But I took so much time this spring to get rid of those! Fertilizer, aeration, overseeding, the works!
FM: You’re stupid. That shit never works. Stop trying.
PM: Duly noted. I was really only interested in how the Jays are doing. Playoff spot in the offing?
FM: Looked pretty good there through the end of June. They’re sitting four back of a wild card right now, but young pitching will break your heart, and it’s starting to. Well, maybe that’s a little harsh. Drabek kept things rolling nicely for a while, but the season seems to have worn on him. Hutchison and Alvarez have pitched well enough, but they’re not even 23 yet, and they blow up occasionally in ugly ways. Those four McGowan starts weren’t particularly memorable either. Morrow will get some Cy Young votes with the season he’s having, though, and Romero has been his steady stuff.
PM: What about the bats?
FM: It’s all kind of evened out. Lawrie’s super-hot July seemed to peter out badly and he looked overmatched by some of the top AL arms into August. And our expectations of Bautista were so high, it’s hard for a lot of fans to accept that he’s *only* going to hit 30 or so home runs this year. Everyone else has been right about where you’d expect, with the exception of Encarnacion, who continues to be an offensive revelation.
PM: Right where I’d expect? That doesn’t leave me with a very warm fuzzy feeling, especially considering what my expectations for Adam Lind actually were.
FM: Well, that’s the good news. Things never picked up substantially for Lind after the dismal start to the season, but the team did begin to show some flexibility with him. It started with him moving down in the order, and drawing out of the lineup entirely about twice a week. It’s led to a few more at-bats for Ben Francisco (and you thought there was no reason to have him on the roster!). He isn’t a dominant force or anything, but he’s producing at least what Lind would have in the same spots. So score one for sanity and reason.
PM: Well, none of this sounds very inspiring, quite frankly.
FM: Dog days, I guess. But even as the season starts to really drag, there are still exciting things happening with the team. They’re better than they were last year. They’re better than some teams that were expected to be better than them.
PM: What about Snider? Did he make the jump?
FM: Thames never played badly enough to justify sending him down, and they didn’t just call him up to fill a roster spot when Rajai Davis missed 20 games. He wasn’t the only injury that required a fill-in for a while, but they seem to be committed to ensuring Snider has a full season of at-bats at one level. But he’s still raking. Twenty-two jacks and a .920 OPS. They’re going to have a hell of a time keeping him out of the majors next year, either with the Jays or someone else.
PM: Any other surprises? For the Jays or anyone else?
FM: Well, there’s that absolute runaway going on in the AL West, with Texas running 16 games ahead of the second place Angels. That’s really opened up the wild card race. And the fact that neither Prince Fielder nor Albert Pujols have put up the monster seasons everyone expected – that’s a surprise too. But the injuries may have had something to do with that too.
PM: Jeez, injuries, eh? Quite a rash of them?
FM: Well, zombie attacks will do that to teams. Rajai was lucky to only miss 20 games, and lucky they found a way to re-attach his right calf with no lasting effects. That was a tough July for everyone.
PM: I’m gonna go now. Maybe board up that busted screen door while I have it on my mind.
FM: Good idea.