Sunday, May 27, 2012

Nobody Said It Would Be Easy

It's amazing what a short losing streak can do to a team in the American League East, isn't it?  Make no mistake, the Blue Jays are in the midst of a bit of a funk, but it's not a historically bad spell of losing, nor has it come against teams they "should" be beating with more regularity.  Yet here they are:  at the time of writing, they've been swept in Arlington, after losing two of three in Tampa, and all of a sudden, they're back to being .500 for the first time since April 19.

All of which wouldn't be so bad if the Jays were in a normal, sane, happy division where a team can coast along winning one game for every one they lose, maybe get hot at some point in the summer, and still be in the thick of a playoff race.  But that's not the AL East.  Things are still a little topsy-turvy in the division -- I maintain that there's something altogether unholy about the Baltimore Orioles even being close to first place this late in the season, and I'm stocking up on holy water just in case -- but, as Mike Axisa of Yankees site River Avenue Blues pointed out on Twitter, it's starting to look a little more familiar.

So the Jays will wake up tomorrow far closer to last place in the American League East than they've been all season.  Last place!  After being in a playoff spot just a few short days ago!  The arse is gone right out of 'er!  Would you say it's time for our viewers to crack each other's heads open and feast on the goo inside?  Yes, I would, Org Guy.

Now: let's not be too sarcastically sanguine about things.  Winning is better than losing, and I'd be a helluva lot happier if this team could find a way to win again.  It's a lot more challenging, though, when you're already dealing with health issues in the batting order that created the curious double play combination of Brett Lawrie-Omar Vizquel in the later innings today.  Kelly Johnson's cortisone shot in his leg, stacked on top of Yunel Escobar's departure with a groin issue, will likely necessitate more roster moves.  Don't look now, but the shuttle between the big club and Las Vegas is getting much more frequent, and there are no signs of it slowing down.  We might get an Adeiny Hechavarria sighting on the big league roster before the week is out.  Unfortunately, far too many of his 51s teammates, especially in the bullpen, have been summoned ahead of him, and having Texas take a... well, a Texas-sized chunk out of the pitching staff this weekend didn't help matters.

If there are tickets for flights back to Vegas in the travelling secretary's desk drawer, it feels like only a matter of time before one ends up in Eric Thames' locker.  The somewhat defensible decision to take advantage of Travis Snider's last remaining option year, keeping Thames in Toronto for the start of the season, has simply not been a success.  Unlike the clear improvement over time that we've seen from Colby Rasmus, it doesn't look like more at-bats will make it much better for Thames.  It's easy to say we all predicted this and that Snider should have been up the whole time, but it shouldn't be forgotten that Thames didn't do anything to lose the job to open the year.  Fair's fair, but by now, after -0.5 bWAR on the still-young season, I think the team knows what it has in Thames, and it isn't anything special.  I'd be a lot more optimistic about not only a switch in left field, but an overall improvement out of the position, if Snider didn't seem to have some lingering wrist issues he can't seem to shake.

A Travis Snider injection, or a Vladdy Guerrerro, Adeiny Hechavarria or Anthony Gose, aren't going to make this team an instant contender (or at least not a significantly greater threat to contend than they are currently).  But a winning streak -- a real, honest-to-goodness streak of like seven straight wins -- would sure mean a lot to this team.  The Jays have won four in a row on three separate occasions in 2012.  In the AL East, four in a row just never seems like enough, and there are so many landmines in between those strings of wins.  They need to start dodging more of them.


CoolHead said...

My McAffee Site Advisor tells me that this is a dangerous site. Is logic and reason on the internet considered dangerous now?

They play one at a time, and theire true talent level is really only slightly better than last years, now with a little less KJ and no Santos, it might be just the same as last year.

Whatchya gonna do?

Anonymous said...

Thames may not have done anything to lose a job, but he didn't deserve to be handed one either. A 769 OPS doesn't exactly scream earning a job, especially from a brutal defensive corner OF.

Anonymous said...

Fangraphs had Thames as 0.9 WAR last year, and Baseball Reference was a tick higher. Agree that a .769 OPS isn't setting the world on fire, but it could be reasonably expected that with some slight improvement in the field, he could be around a 2 WAR player in 2012. But the bat has been worse so far this year, and the fielding has been badly exposed. Doesn't mean he didn't deserve a chance.

Anonymous said...

That's exactly the point. Praying that the upside is a 2 WAR guy means he hasn't earned anything.

And prorated his WAR would have been 1.3 over 550 AB last year. That's terrible.

Anonymous said...

Sorry, I was mistaken about his bWAR last year (Baseball Reference's version is not kind to him, but at least put his offensive WAR at 1.2, which led to my comment about improving his defense to get to 2 WAR). In any case, I think this team would be VERY happy to have a 2 WAR guy in LF at this point. It's obviously not Thames, as you've pointed out. But it's never been Snider yet either -- he would have prorated last year to about 0.8 WAR.

I'm not saying it was 100% the right decision to keep him, and I've disagreed with it quite a bit. I just don't think it's so cut-and-dried as it's often made out to be.