Monday, April 29, 2013

What happened to the Blue Jays?

Coming into the season, Toronto picked up the most recent NL Cy Young award winner, along with two starters from the Marlins -- all or which were decent bets.  Mark Buehrle has a career ERA of 3.85, pitched to a 3.74 ERA and a 13-13 record last year on a bad team.  Josh Johnson's 2012 ERA was 3.81, which is a spike from his career ERA of 3.23,  RA Dickey has had a spotty career, but has been one of the most consistent and best starting pitchers in baseball over the previous three seasons.

Currently, Dickey is 2-4 with a 4.50 ERA. Buehrle is 1-1 with a 6.35 ERA.  And Johnson?  0-1, 6.86.

Seriously, what happened?  Before the season, some said that these pitchers wouldn't adjust to the AL East quickly, but I don't buy that.  With the Braves and Nationals in the NL East, it's not like that division lacks offensive firepower.  Something else is up here, because the Blue Jays' hitters are dead in the water, too.

Like everyone predicted, the Blue Jays are getting their home runs in -- 33 homers so far, more than the first place Red Sox -- but their team batting average is .229; OBP .291.  The Red Sox have them beat by a mile, with a team batting average of .272 and OBP of .347.  The Jays' best hitter, Reyes, is on the DL.  He was hitting .395.  The team's superstar, Jose Bautista, has 7 homers but he's hitting a paltry .192; .280 OBP.

Toronto's bench players are doing worse, and one has to wonder why the DH combo of Mark DeRosa and Rajaj Davis hasn't been replaced by promoting Mauro Gomez from Buffalo.  Forget Gomez's AAA numbers, his MLB numbers with Boston last season beat the production that DeRosa (.161) and Davis (.267) are giving them.

As the Bobby Fuckin Valentine-led Red Sox taught us, when a team has a bunch of players performing well below expectations, the root cause of this problem might be the coaching staff.  And it looks like the Blue Jays have a mess at the top.

Manager John Gibbons, who looks perpetually drunk and out of touch, was Farrell'ed by the club in 2008 when they fired him and reached back dinosaurs and the Land of the Lost to bring back fucking Cito Gaston to be their manager.  After blaming their woes on John Farrell, the Blue Jays got rid of him and, shockingly, hired John Gibbons back.

After bring Gibbons back, they saddled him with a hitting coach, Chad Mottola, with no MLB experience coaching, and promoted last year's bullpen coach, Pete Walker to be their pitching coach -- and his only MLB coaching experience was spent answering the bullpen phone last year.  The Jays' old hitting coach was demoted to be their first base coach, so who knows if there's any resentment stewing there.

Toronto's version of "best team ever" sits 9.5 games back in the AL East and has the second worst record in the league, behind only the hapless Astros in that category.  It took the 2011 Red Sox until September to collapse, so all things considered, the fall of the Blue Jays right now is pretty epic.  If they continue playing like this, don't be shocked to hear that John Gibbons is fired in mid-July.  Maybe the Jays can bring Cito Gaston back again, because, well, I'm afraid that John Farrell will be occupied.

Monday, April 8, 2013

Quick observations after the first week of 2013

Well, look at what a difference it makes when an organization gets a manager who doesn't suck at life.  Going over .500 on a roadtrip is great at any point in the season, but going 4-2 on a season opening road trip after the way this Red Sox club has started the past couple of years, that's just cathartic.

And the Red Sox got on this roll when Jackie Bradley Jr. worked a walk against CC Sabathia in his first MLB plate appearance.  Ryan Sweeney, who the Sox cut to place JBJ on the team, wouldn't have worked that walk -- so I hope the debate of team control of a prospect over placing your best team on the field at all times is, finally, over.  If it isn't, just look at the Angels from last season: they brought up Mike Trout in May and got an extra year of control over him, but missed the playoffs.  If Trout was on the team in April -- especially given Pujols's early struggles -- they would have had a better chance of making the playoffs.

Major League Baseball is far removed from the days when each league had two division, those teams that won the division made the playoffs, and if you were too many games out by June then you could just call it a season.  With the expansion to two wild card teams, MLB has reached a point where every game actually does matter.  Therefore, teams that don't place their best team on the field at all times suffer -- just ask the 2012 Angels.  JBJ won a key match up against an ace and former Cy Young award winner, and even though it was the first game of the season, it matters and it is a big deal.

But I don't want to go overboard here, harping on the success the Sox have had thus far.  The Yankees lineup couldn't beat a prospect starting in the International League.  As for the reloaded Toronto Blue Jays, Jose Bautista is injured and RA Dickey hasn't been throwing his knuckleball well.  Besides facing Sabathia to begin the season, the only other real test the Sox have had was facing Andy Pettitte -- they failed that one.

And then there's John Lackey.  Lester and Buchholz look like dueling aces right now, Doubrant looks like he can provided decent starts, and Ryan Dempster is, well...  Yeah.  The Red Sox really need Lackey to step up to give the team four solid starters, but if he's going to face injury issues all season, then the Sox rotation consists of Lester going all year, Buchholz getting his yearly injury, Dourant being a back of the rotation guy, and two big question marks.

Given what we've seen so far, there's a lot to like with the Red Sox -- especially compared against the rest of the AL East.  But let's not get cocky yet.