Monday, May 13, 2013
Glimmering Slivers of Light
And yet, the 4-3 road trip capped by a decisive and dingerlicious win over the loathsome Red Sox helps to let in the slightest glimmers of light into what has been an awfully dark season to date.
That's not to suggest that a series win and a series split against two AL East rivals constitute some sort of spectacular rolling tide of awesomeness that the Jays can ride well into October. But after spending much of six weeks mired in omnishambles, it was a relief to see something approaching the quality of team that fans anticipated in the offseason as they gazed longingly into magazine covers and replays of former glories and specially-commissioned Blue Jays documentary programming.
Even though the team has thus far fallen short of expectations, there are enough specks of light to create a very modest measure of optimism.
If you wanted to focus on the bright side, you could look at some of the impressive counting stats that the team has amassed, even through the bad times. As of the close of business on Sunday, the Jays led the Majors in homers (51) and were tied for the lead in stolen bases (29).
The Blue Jays still strike out too much - 309 times thus far, tied for 5th worst in MLB - and don't walk as much as they could - 115 so far, tied for 16th. But both of those numbers have improved in recent weeks, giving the sense that just maybe this team isn't as bad as they've seemed.
That point might seem obvious to some, but consider the drastic measures that were being suggested by some in the initial weeks of the season when just about everything went wrong. If the foundation of the argument for firing the manager/trading José Bautista/firing the GM/moving the team to Albuquerque was that they were as bad as they seemed, then hopefully some marginal improvements and creeping back towards the mean will help to quiet those sort of entreaties.
Over the past 14 days, the Blue Jays have posted a .321 OBP, as opposed to the .294 mark they put up in April. They've also shown a better walk rate (8.8% vs. 7.5%) and strike out rate (19.4% vs. 21.8%.) Those differences aren't staggering, but over the course of a season, a percentage point or two in the right direction on those stats can lead to extra runs and - hopefully - extra wins.
The pitching is a whole other kettle of messy and unpalatable stew at this point, and the passable performances of Ramon Ortiz and Chad Jenkins don't seem like a long term strategy to help make up the lost ground and chip away at the team's deficits. But with some marginal improvements on offense and something resembling a return to good health for the rotation, maybe the Jays can chug-a-chug their way like the little engine towards a season that isn't a bitter disappointment.
How's that for optimism?