Thursday, July 25, 2013

Don't Like This Team

Fellow Jays fans, I feel your pain.

If I have spent much of the last seven seasons looking on the sunny side of things, and finding the lightness where most saw dark, and providing my optimistic sense of the rationale behind the Blue Jays' long term plans, then maybe my current state of mind will catch you off guard.

But man...I really don't like this team.

I don't like the starting pitching. I don't like the defense. I don't like the approach to at bats. I don't like the lack of progress shown by some, and the regression from all-star calibre to replacement level by others.

I don't like that many of the most flawed elements of the current roster are not the result of a long term erosion in talent, but rather the result of bringing in players with skills that are either in decline or were never that great from the outset.

I don't like J.P. Arencibia's oblivious griping about the media, and his wish that there would be more cheerleaders helping to "teach fans" about the game, which I suppose means enthusiastically telling the unwashed masses across Canada who have never been exposed to baseball that they don't understand how valuable a sub-.260 on-base percentage can be.

I don't like Brett Lawrie's hands at the plate. I don't like that as the ball is being released, Lawrie gives a final energetic jerk of the bat, which he then has to pull back towards himself in order to begin moving the bat through the hitting zone, zapping all the strength out of his swing. I don't like that a player who was positioned as a face of the franchise has the same flaws in his swing as a dude on my softball team from ten years ago.

I don't like that Brandon Morrow has never been healthy for a full season since he came to the Jays, and that I don't ever believe that he will be.

I don't like that the team traded too many top prospects for a starting pitcher who was a good story, and had a very fine year in 2012, but who realistically wouldn't be one of the top 20 pitchers in the game in spite of his Cy Young Award. 

I don't like listening to R.A. Dickey talk.

I don't like how Josh Johnson picks and nibbles around the zone, trying to elicit swings at junk that Frank Tanana would be ashamed to serve to hitters.

I don't like José Reyes' defense, or the fact that it makes me nostalgic for Yunel Escobar.

Moreover, I don't like that the cost of acquiring Reyes included sending more prospects and big leaguers plus taking on Mark Buehrle's stupid contract.

I don't like that the starters have pitched poorly enough that the relievers have faced work loads that are too taxing, and that the result of this might be that the lone bright spot in the first half of the season might erode quickly from here.

I don't like Melky Cabrera's approach at the plate, which is essentially to swing at everything, and hope that he can foul off enough pitches to stay in the at bat until the pitcher makes a mistake. And I really don't like that this approach has been plunked into the number two spot in the lineup, because of the need to "shake things up".

Mostly, I don't like that nearly everything that Alex Anthopoulos has touched in the last three years seemingly has turned to dust. And I don't like that I don't feel as though I can trust his judgment.

Mostly, though, I don't like what I see when I look ahead to 2014, or beyond. I don't like that the team will likely have to ride it out with Dickey, Morrow, Ricky Romero, and perhaps Johnson slated to be part of the rotation picture next year, accompanied by players like Kyle Drabek and Drew Hutchison who have yet to establish themselves as big leaguers.

Every team has flaws, so it probably doesn't do a whole lot of good to enumerate every last one that our side has. In the process of building a winner, there are always bumps in the road, and the hope is that the good elements of the team are enough to navigate past them. But as good as a few players have been, they certainly haven't been enough to help get past this year's obstacles.

What I like the least about the past few months is this nagging suspicion that the bumps in the road are actually sinkholes, and that the Jays are on the precipice of falling into oblivion.


20 comments:

Al Sillito said...

I'm in total agreement to everything you've said. I'm surprised you haven't mentioned the skipper, Gibbons. I don't see any action that is being taken, apart from changing the batting order. This is where Gibby should be sitting, or demoting the ineffective players and playing the ones that truly want to play and contribute and be effective. Get Kawi back, play DeRosa more ... look at the organization for better starters ... LETS GET MOVIN'

The Ack said...

"Every team has flaws, so it probably doesn't do a whole lot of good to enumerate every last one that our side has."

I think you just did.

The Ack said...

@ Al - if you think more DeRosa or more Kawasaki - bless 'em both - is the answer to turning this ship around.... you are sadly mistaken, my friend.

Moreso, who else is wasting away down on the farm that could help, other than Stroman, who surely is being held back even more cautiously given Nolin's inauspicious debut?

Steve Mayer said...

Fair stuff, except Dickey, IMHO. Call his performance poor if you want (and I'll agree) but he's a humble humanitarian and I enjoy hearing him speak.

Maybe you're referring to him being wishy-washy on his health & speaking about his own performance and I get that but I think it wouldn't be an issue if he was doing as well as even he expected.

Dan Daoust said...

I don't like that four seasons in, we have virtually nothing to show for the Halladay trade.

leafsens said...

And I don't like the fact that there is NO leadership on this team. No one has stepped up and remotely looked like he is trying to turn these pathetic games around. No chemistry, no cohesion. Pathetic all-around.

Dan Daoust said...

I don't like this team for preventing me from enjoying the current golden age of baseball. It should be fun to be a baseball fan these days. It ain't for me.

Tim Falls said...

Anthopolous, in the off-season made a gamble to get some talent to put this team into contention over a two year period. There were of course downsides to each acquisition.

The fact that EVERY acquisition that he made (save perhaps Izturis) has been a bust is really terrible luck.

Jose Reyes was out for 2.5 months with an ankle injury - bad luck. No, he doesn't have the same defensive range as Escobar, but right now, he is hitting well.

Melky was always a risk based on his PED use. Most people thought that it would have been a worthwhile acquisition even if he was slugging at the Royals level.

Bonifacio has been an absolute bust.

We expected some regression from RA Dickey, but the 1 extra HR per game by pitching at home has killed him.

We thought that Josh Johnson might be an injury risk and that's exactly what happened.

We thought that Mark Buehrle would eat innings but that his ERA in the AL East would suffer, and it looks like he'll have the worse year since 2006 and that he'll throw less than 200 IP for the first time in his career.

So every acquisition for the Jays has not lived close to their potential. That's bad luck.

But there's lots of bad luck for the rest of the starters too. No one is having a breakout year. Edwin and Bautista are doing well enough to stay on the team, but are lackluster compared to other years. Lawrie still hasn't found it at the plate. Arencibia doesn't catch very well and complains to the media when the media complains about him. Lind is regressing after virtually the same start as 2011. Rasmus is playing good enough, better than the last two years, but not better that what we all expected.

All of this adds up to crap. AA made his choices which looked great on paper but because of some very bad luck, the team has gone sour.

E.T.51 said...

This is the team AA built. I doubt there's a player on the 25 that he is not responsible for. AA may be a lot of things, but the architect of a winning team he is not. And l don't trust him to make the right next move. Play for pride, play for 500. Painted into a corner of defeat.

Al Sillito said...

Ack ... In saying bring Kawi back and play DeRosa is not a solution, but is better than most taking the field now. I believe AA did a great job signing the players he did .. the problem is these players not contributing as they should. The Raptors have had many years with the same issue/problem.

Al Sillito said...

With regards to Gibby ... I wonder if the puppet strings are being pulled by management or Gibby being passive ??? In saying 'I thought we did bad last night ...' actually surprises me ... why no action at all being taken ?

Chad said...

Wouldn't surprise me at all if Gibby is being undermined from upstairs.

Ah, I had high hopes coming into this season. Oh well, too late to change allegiances now. I should really develop a rooting interest in a National League team.

Bob Loblaw said...

Wow... I don't like this blog. Not coming back.

Jloon said...

Well said Tao. It is certainly time to take off the rose coloured glasses.
I'd like to add another observation. I don't like to see so many uncoachable players strutting around on the Jays. Send them elsewhere and let their dads coach them there. Don't bring them back until they are ready to play Jays baseball.

x said...

Too negative. Everyone that matters is underperforming except the 'pen, Edwin and Jose.

Thomas Berry said...

Great stuff - all the worries I had coming into the season have come true. I trusted that AA had done his homework and knew something that I didn't. Apparently not, and this was just a big, ill-advised gamble based on impatience and "positive thinking".

Jack said...

I love that we tried to do something in the offseason. It hasn't work - so long as we keep trying, I'm cool with that. AA told us once that you need all star talent at each position, 4 reliable starters and a legit closer to compete in the AL East - not there yet for sure, but as I say keep at it. The only thing that concerns me is a question I have about leadership. I watch the Orioles every day and those guys get it and their young guys shut up and contribute - our young guys (Lawrie / Arencebia / Gose) seem to be regressing and they don't seem to have a relistic view of the developmental strides they need to make. If that's just 3 knuckleheads then OK but if instead it's the culture within the re-designed Blue Jay organization, then that's not good, it means that we might be where the Cubs and Astros are in 10years. Not good at all.

Chad said...

I don't like that the supposed team leader takes himself out of an AB because of a perceived bad call and then gets himself tossed from the game.

Jen said...

The team as a whole has been less than the sum of its parts. If you actually look at the numbers, one by one, in the lineup, who is playing significantly worse than reasonably could be expected? Bautista's power is a bit down, as his is BA. Arencibia is striking out a ton - but is anyone really shocked by that? Colby Rasmus is actually playing much better than he has in the past (a pretty low bar, really, but still).

They are failing to execute - runners left on at third with less than two outs, failing to move guys over. Base running mistakes.

THESE are a failure of leadership.

But if you look at the games, the real problem for the Blue Jays this year - the sucking chest wound - is the starting pitching, which has been nothing short of terrible. RA Dickey was unlikely to repeat last year, but an extra HR allowed every game? His ERA is up 70% over last year. SOME regression is expected, but his WAR for the three previous years 3.4, 3.1, 5.4. This year? 0.8. And his numbers actually don't tell how bad he's been. Two very, very good starts mask the rest (@SFO, @TB - game scores of 82 and 88 respectively).

And then there's Josh Johnson. His year is a disaster, plain and simple. He's missed a half-dozen starts, but in the 14 he's made, he's been terrible. 1-7; 6.08. The Jays have won exactly 3 of his starts. And in two of those, they scored 8 and 13 runs (his only win coming in the 13-5 game vs. Baltimore).

The starting pitching on a typical night fails to go more than 5 innings, putting enormous pressure on the bullpen. And they have a strong tendency to give up big innings in the first and second, creating games that are very tough to win even with the offence.

And then, there's the defence, which also has been flat-out horrible. Last night was no exception (two unearned runs in the first inning). Bad pitching and bad defence have a multiplying effect.

KP said...

Just re-read this post with the Incredible Hulk "Lonely Man" theme playing and imagined the Tao hitting "Post", pushing in his keyboard, then walking off into the distance, never to blog again...