Sunday, June 10, 2012

Gaps and the First Sixty

There are days when I watch the Toronto Blue Jays and find it difficult to see where the gaps are.  When I watch a game where Brandon Morrow absolutely dominates a division-leading team, while the starting left-fielder with the career .381 slugging percentage ices the win with a two-run home run and the forgotten-prospect first baseman (playing DH) goes 3-for-4, I'm sorely tempted to think:  hey, maybe this can work.  Maybe we can go with what we got.

I still know that the gaps are there, though; don't get me wrong.  I know that what I'm seeing is just a decent day here and there from the guys who are filling in where there doesn't seem to be a "long-term solution" on the roster.  But how significant are the gaps, really?  Or, to look at it another way, how much different are the gaps on this team from those on the teams with which they must contend in the American League East?

There aren't any perfect teams, anywhere.  After today, the Tampa Bay Rays will continue to lead the AL East, and they routinely field a more-or-less underwhelming offensive lineup, including your Sean Rodriguezeses and Will Rhymeseses.   The Rays, of course, can pitch like crazy, and it makes them competitive in pretty much every game they play.  But the notion that it takes an All-Star at every position to win in the East isn't necessarily borne out by the teams that actually do win in the East.

In don't see much value in dwelling on the easily identifiable spots in which the Jays could stand to improve .  There may or may not be off-the-shelf solutions to those woes, either internally (a healthy Travis Snider call-up; a return to some semblance of a power stroke from Brett Lawrie), or externally (a trade for a more established, productive bat at first base; or a middle of the rotation starting pitcher to take the pressure off the young trio of Alvarez, Drabek and Hutchison).  If the Jays managed to acquire Matt Garza or Justin Morneau, for instance, I'd be pretty happy.  I'd probably over-analyze what they gave up to make those deals and fret for the future, but I'd be fired up for their first games with the team.

Even without those kinds of additions, though, the 2012 Toronto Blue Jays already feel like a better team than we've seen here for several years, and it's made for some seriously compelling baseball even in the early part of the season -- which isn't really so early anymore.  We're a full sixty games in, and despite the doom and gloom from Mike Wilner's callers after dropping a game or two, the Jays haven't been under .500 for a second yet.  The most they've found themselves out of first place in the division is five games.  The broadcast team in today's whalloping of the Atlanta Braves pointed out today that going into Game 60 in 2011, the Jays had the same 30-29 record, and for once I was compelled to agree with Buck Martinez and Pat Tabler as they expressed some degree of surprise at that fact -- that this felt like a much better team.

Yes, I'd like for them to have five more wins right now.  I could probably go back in the schedule and find where the team might have found them, but that way lies madness and despair.  Can they find those five extra wins and more in the next 60 games?  I don't know, but I'm hopeful, because this is -- like every team -- a team with strengths and flaws; but it has more of the former than the latter.  I'll remain optimistic that the next 60 games will lead to an extciting final 42.


David said...

gap: JP Arencibia is well below average offensively among regular C's. Travis d'Arnaud can't arrive soon enough.

Anonymous said...

re. the surprise that the Jays have the same record at game 60 this year as they did in 2011: pretty hard to measure without taking into account the "inflationary" factors of other teams. The Jays aren't the only team to upgrade/polish in an offseason.

The Jays may only have "looked" better because there are higher ceiling guys putting in replacement-level performances. There are always variances, and it isn't unexpected that Romero, Bautista and Lawrie have dropped off to some extent; what is a little disturbing is that few - if any - have stepped up with breakout seasons to boost overall performance.

That goes for the manager too.

Anonymous said...

My large beef with this team is the use of the pen. Which is still atrocious. If we are going to continue to throw the Cordero out there in high leverage situations can we at least have an arm ready for the inevitable of when he goes and blows up? I mean maybe we could ask that we never see Cordero in a high leverage situation ( or better yet ever). But I doubt that Farrell and AA would do that.
Its horrible to think about, but AA was right on with Beltran. If he had signed with us, how many wins would it have meant with Joey Bats-Beltran-EE as the meat of the order?
Then 1-5 would be defined and you could trade a shortstop for a starter.
Right now we are too many prices away to trade any of the youth. What happens if EE does not resign? What goes on when KJ walks? Althougha given his season so far, a one year 12M offer may be just what the doctor ordered.
I say stay the course. We need too much and we have not built up enough sure things on the major league team to make any deals.
If they don't stay the course, then get Morneau. As we will have a gapping whole in the middle of the line up when EE leaves.

Anonymous said...

It is a better team. There is no filler this year.

Allan G said...

Few -if any- breakouts? What do you call Edwin's season then? He's been the best player on the Jays so far, and while we were hoping for a bounce back, he's had a ridiculously good year beyond any expectations.

ericashby said...

Brandon Morrow breakout?

Matt Eichel said...

Definitely identified the needs: middle of the rotation pitcher and a return to form for Lawrie or Snider finally becoming the Jays regular left fielder.

Fact is, the Jays system hasn't been as effective at producing the young players they need (i.e. had to trade for Lawrie, Drabek, Escobar, Morrow) and the players who they have traded for haven't made the immediate impact expected.

Looking at the successful Jay squads of the late 80s and early 90s, the trades they made for (i.e. White, Alomar, Carter) the players made immediate and successful impacts. They were also big time players at that time.

Patience is key, because I think that the Jays are on an upswing that will keep them competitive and a winning team for years to come unlikely the up and down roller coaster of the late 90s, early 00s.

DWBudd said...

I don't know that I necessarily agree that the team "feels better" this year than last? Look at who is performing at or above the level of last year vs. who is not?

Bautista is off to a poor start, though to be fair, to expect him to perform at last year's level every season is unrealistic. He's had some bad breaks, and expect at the end of the year, his production will wind up looking good.

But also look at Ricky Romero, who has, let's face it, been a shell of last year, and especially recently has decided that the strike zone may be as much theory as practice. Adam Lind was poor last year, but he was *so* bad this year, he earned his demotion to AAA. Escobar has not been particularly impressive, nor has Colby Rasmus (his recent 5-5 notwithstanding). The bullpen has been awful (worst ERA in the AL, and despite getting the first two wins of the season, is last in the AL in wins (5). Since winning those two, the pen is now 3-10.

The team is similarly 3-11 in one-run games.

Personally, what I find maddening about being a Blue Jays' fan is the consistency of their mediocrity. In the past six seasons (2006-2001), at this point (61 games) the team has been:

34-27, 2 GB
29-32, 11 GB
32-29, 4.5 GB
34-27, 2 GB
34-27, 5.5 GB
31-303.5 GB

This season, they are 31-30, now sitting 4.5 games out of first.

They seem to be making -zero- progress in the category that means the most. The faces change, but the results remain defiantly unchanged.

The Jays seem almost pre-destined to wind up every season at 82-80 and 15 games out of the playoffs EVERY season.