Posted on: June 22, 2009 10:06 am

Who Are The Real Blue Jays?

After dropping the first two games of the series against the major league worst Washington Nationals one has to wonder who the real Blue Jays are. The team won their first nine series of the season and were 27-14 after sweeping the White Sox in a four game set back on May 18th before heading to Boston to start a nine game road trip. This is where everything came unravelled.

The Jays scored a total of thirteen runs over their next eight games before blowing a game in Baltimore in which Roy Halladay had looked to have ended the teams eight game losing streak before Jesse Carlson entered the game and promptly gave up a five spot in the eighth inning. The team looked to have the game in hand again after Aaron Hill hit a two-run home run in the 10th until the bullpen once again imploded, giving up four runs in the bottom half of the inning and ending the nightmarish nine game road trip with not a single win. After leaving Toronto in first place and owning a 27-14 record, the team limped home to face Boston, now at 27-23 and trailing the Red Sox by two games.

Let's fast forward to the present. In the past two weeks the Jays dropped four straight, including being swept at home by the Marlins in interleague play, they then travelled to Philadelphia and took all three from the Phillies and following that dropped the first two in Washington before waking up last night to avoid the sweep. The common theme in all of this is the inconsistency of the offence. Last night the heroes were Lyle Overbay, who went 3 for 5 with home run and 5 rbi's, and Alex Rios who drove in three of his own. Rios has been coming on lately after being moved to the six spot in the order but I have to wonder if he is more comfortable there or if he has just found his groove, as many players do this time of year when the mercury starts to rise.

So who are the real Blue Jays and what do we make of their incosistent play? Are we looking at a team that can play with the best of them as witnessed in the Philadelphia series or are we looking at pretenders as we saw in the Florida and Washington series'? I think the answer lies in the bullpen. It doesn't matter how well Roy Halladay pitches if the bullpen finishes games for him like they did in Baltimore. The bullpen has to be better and if they are not this team has no chance.

Category: MLB
Posted on: June 20, 2009 4:23 pm

Look at the Big Picture

Now that Roy Halladay is on the DL I think it is time the Jays start to look at the bigger picture than their chances of making the playoffs this season. What they did early this season signifies that are able to play with the big boys but their tailspin 9-game losing streak shows that they are not quite ready to be one of the big boys just yet. They have some needs that J.P. has to address and soon or they will miss a window of opportunity and most likely Halladay will be packing his bags when he hits the open market.

Who is the cleanup hitter on this team? I'm not trying to say that Cito should pick one guy and stick with him, Cito knows what he is doing and he has to be held responsible for the teams success to this point in the season. Without a legitimate power threat in the middle of the lineup this team is going nowhere and fast. Look at the teams in their division. You have Rodriguez and Teixeira in New York, Bay and Youkilis, along with a resurgent Ortiz in Boston, Pena (and now Zobrist) in Tampa Bay and Baltimore has Markakis along with young studs Wieters, Riemold and Jones. A strategy that might work in the West is not going to work in this division of mashers. It's time for Riccardi to go out and get a power threat that will let the supporting cast feed off of his success and grow together. How different would this team look right now if Cito could pencil in Scutaro, Hill, Rios, Adam Dunn, Wells, Lind, Rolen, Overbay, Barajas? They could have had this guy from free agency but Riccardi failed to pull the trigger. Not all the blame can be put on his shoulders because most in the organization thought Travis Snider was ready to make an impact this year, but regardless, he failed to make the big signing and has shown throught the teams first 69 games of the season.

Looking ahead to this offseason there are a plethera of players set to hit the open market that make your mouth water in anticipation. Adam Laroche could be had from Pittsburgh as he is set to become a free agent and he would bring more power potential to the lineup than Lyle Overbay. Scutaro and MacDonald are both set to be free agents so Riccardi is stuck with the decision of paying Scutaro or going after a guy like Jack Wilson (also from Pittsburgh) who has pop and could be had relatively cheaply. One scenario I really like would be the Jays shipping Wells out and signing one of the outfielders who are set to hit the market this winter. The list includes some big names like Jason Bay, Matt Holliday and Vlad Guerrero but an intriguing guy is another one they missed out on this past winter, Bobby Abreu. Along with the 100 rbi's he brings annually he can also swipe a bag or two and he is much cheaper than Wells. Signing Abreu and trading Wells would allow Rios to slide over to centre and Abreu would then occupy right until Snider is ready to play out there every day. This would be a short term contract that would take the pressure off Snider and allow him to develop into an everyday player. This would still leave the door open for another signing and I like Jason Bay or Matt Holliday in left for about 5-6 years. Yes Rogers will have to ante up to get one of these guys but if they want to win they have to open the wallets at some point.

There is also a long list of arms that would look great teamed up with Doc including a couple Canadians in Rich Harden and Erik Bedard. Thinking out loud here but wouldn't it be great to see Bay, Harden and Bedard in a Jays uniform, not that it's realistic but a nice thought to ponder? Brett Myers and Justin Duchscherer are the other names I would like to see the Jays pursue after the final pitch of this season. All four of these guys are injury risks yes, but with those risks come monster rewards. Harden and Bedard are absolutely brilliant when healthy and having them behind Halladay, like Burnett last year, they would thrive.

The Jays are not out of the picture this year by any means but it's nice to look ahead to what could be once in a while. Realistically, I don't think any more than one of the guys listed above will where a Jays uniform next year, if any, but if Riccardi can convince ownership that this team is on the brink, as it is, we might have some things to look forward to on the days in between Halladay's starts.
Category: MLB
Posted on: June 9, 2009 2:15 pm

Where Do We Go From Here?

Smart money in the AL East has the Yankees and Red Sox both in the playoff picture come September and after a surge to start the season, the Jays have fallen behind both teams heading in to play before the middle of June after a 9 game losing streak. So I posed the question to myself, how can this team possibly compete with the deep pockets of the Yankees, who just opened a new billion dollar stadium, and the Red Sox who have two World Series crowns in the past 5 seasons? Well quite simply, they can't. Not unless management can figure out a way to get some legitimate offensive threats so Cito can pencil in a lineup that frightens opposing pitchers every single night. I'm not knocking the job Cito has done, he has done a great job with what he has ben given. But, management, or rather J.P. Ricciardi, has to realize that Cito is not a miracle worker and he can not make guys like Lyle Overbay and Scott Rolen hit like Mark Teixeira and Alex Rodriguez. Those two guys are both a direct result of J.P. and Cito has to be asking himself if that's the best management can get, how does J.P. still have a job in the big leagues?
I can't talk about the Jays offence without mentioning how disappointing it is to watch Vernon Wells and Alex Rios on a nightly basis. Wells seems to lack any sort of character or the heart displayed by guys like Aaron Hill and Marco Scutaro, he almost looks like a robot out there that just goes through the motions without a care in the world for winning a baseball game. When most of the premier hitters in the league step up their intensity, he seems go into a shell, as witnessed by his measly 11 hits in 69 at-bats with runners in scoring position for a .159 avg. but for some reason he is able to hit to the tune of a .291 avg. with the bases empty. For some reason Wells seems content just stroll up to the plate and swing at the first pitch. I'd prefer to see him work the count more and wait for the pitcher to make a mistake that he can drive to the gap or over the fence.
Rios actually seemed to have something going when he hit .302 with 5 home runs in the month of May but has seemingly reverted back to where he was in April with a .185 avg. through seven games in June. He has however shown more aggressiveness on the bases having already stolen three bases in those after stealing just four through his first 52 games.
Aaron Hill and Adam Lind have slowed considerably since their red hot starts and because of this, the offence has gone through some rough times. These two guys are good contributors and when they are rolling the team can be unstoppable but they can not be relied upon to carry the team like they did for the first month and a half. The teams all-stars have to play like all-stars or this team will be left in the dust by New York and Boston and soon enough Tampa Bay with their young potent line-up will be leapfrogging them as well. It's time for the Jays veterans to step up and shoulder the offensive load before it's too late, because even if Roy Halladay were to start and finish all 162 games, he can't help the team score runs. If the bats don't wake up soon, maybe it's time for J.P. to say goodbye to Wells and a couple other veteran hitters and bring in a some young hitting prospects that are close to being big league ready and can develop into a consistent threat.

Category: MLB
Posted on: May 23, 2009 10:04 pm

Roster ShakeUp The Answer?

In an attempt to re-ignite an ice-cold Jays lineup, the team has sent Travis Snider, Brett Cecil and Robert Ray to Las Vegas and called up Joe Inglett, Casey Janssen and Ricky Romero. Janssen and Romero will join the rotation in place of Ray and Cecil and hopefully the move will get the Jays back in the left column of the ledger where they have been more often than not up until the recent road trip to Boston. On the other side of the moves, the youngsters going back to Vegas will get a chance to play their way out of their recent slumps and make their way back to the big club. Snider in particular will likely be back before long as utility man Inglett is not a long term solution whereas Snider is the future of the franchise.
In five minor league outings before being promoted Janssen poster a sparkling 0.76 ERA. The right-hander missed all of 2008 after undergoing shoulder surgery on his pitching arm and suffered an unrelated injury to the same shoulder in spring training this year. Janssen has not started on a regular basis since his rookie season of 2006 when he went 6-10 with a 5.07 ERA and last pitched with the club as a set-up man in 2007 when he put a solid 2.35 ERA in 70 appearances. Needless to say the Jays are hoping for the type of performances he posted in his minor league stint this season.
Ricky Romero was off to a blazing start to his rookie season posting a 2-0 record and a 1.71 ERA in three starts before going on the DL on April 23rd with a strained oblique. His minor league rehab was anything but desirable but the club has to be confident he can get back to his early season form before long.
The Jays offence has also been struggling of late having scored only 5 runs in the last 4 games. Inglett will not bring the power that Snider possesses but he will bring a workmanlike attitude to the roster and his ability to play multiple positions should give Hill, Scutaro and others a chance to take the occasional night off to stay fresh for the long haul. The move for Snider will give him a chance to regain the power stroke he displayed earlier in the season and he should return to the big club with a little more consistency, although he will still suffer the occasional dry-spell.
The moves the team made are not out of desperation at all and they will only help the club both now and in the future. Manager Cito Gaston has been here before and he knows the importance of having your young players contribute but he also undertands that in order for the club to continue it's climb back to prominence in the AL, the kids are going to have to develop more consistency and right now the best way for them to do that is to get more work in the minors.
Category: MLB
Posted on: May 13, 2009 2:24 pm

Blue Jays Win Blue Jays Win

Roy Halladay turned in a masterful performance going the distance and surrendering just 1 run on 5 hits in leading the Jays to a series opening victory over division foe New York. It was fun to watch as Doc induced ground ball after ground ball off the bats of the Yankees who just could not get anything going against the former Cy Young award winner. Johnny Damon hit a ball down the left field line with one out in the top of the first but Travis Snider cut him down trying to stretch it into a double and Halladay built off of that and was almost untouchable through the rest of the night. His only blemish came in the 7th when Alex Rodriguez singled home Damon with 2 out after Damon hit a 1 out double to get himself in scoring position.
The Jays offence for their part, did the critical damage in the 4th, loading the bases with nobody out before Scott Rolen knocked in a pair and Rod Barajas followed with a 1 out sacrifice fly to right that scored Adam Lind. Aaron Hill hit hit 9th home run of the season in the 8th and Rolen recorded his 3rd rbi when Alex Rios scored to make it a 5-1 contest, ending the night of former Jay A.J. Burnett. The exuberant Toronto crowd soundly booed Burnett off the field getting louder with each step Burnett took towards the dugout. Halladay returned to the hill in the 9th and shut the door as the Jays recorded win number 23, tops in the majors.
Derek Jeter was absent from the Yankees lineup with manager Joe Girardi opting to give him the night off to rest a sore oblique but expect Jeter to be back in the lineup for Wednesday nights contest. Hideki Matsui left the game with tightness in his right hamstring and Nick Swisher entered in the 5th and finished the game as the DH in his place. Matsui is listed as day to day and could return to the lineup this evening.
Hill's home run pushed him into a tie with Ian Kinsler for the American League amongst 2nd basemen and in addition his .357 avg. and 30 rbi's are both tops among 2nd basemen in the AL. Despite the incredible start for Hill it could be tough for him to crack the AL all-star roster without the support of Jays fans as reigning MVP Dustin Pedroia has the support of Red Sox nation, Robinson Cano has the Yankee faithful and Ian Kinsler looks like a lock to make the team, if not as the starter then as a backup, so Jays fans you need to get out there and cast your ballots for Mr. Hill in addition to all other deserving members of the team.
Category: MLB
Posted on: May 12, 2009 4:09 pm
Edited on: May 12, 2009 6:42 pm

Jays vs. Yankees Preview

Tues., May 12
Roy Halladay (6-1, 3.29) vs. A.J. Burnett (2-0, 5.26)
A.J. Burnett matured alot as a pitcher under Roy Halladay (or maybe it was because he was in a walk-year) and the two will face each other for the first time since Burnett bolted Toronto for the bright lights and dollar signs of the Big Apple. Over his last 3 starts Burnett has surrendered 15 earned runs while pitching 18 innings, in the process raising his ERA from 3.20 up to 5.26. If there any good news for the Yankees to take from those 3 starts, it is that they managed to win one of those games and they were in every ballgame, even the 16-11 loss to Boston. You have to think that Toronto has the edge in this matchup with their ace Roy Halladay on the hill. He has owned the Yankees over his career owning a 15-5 record while sporting a sparkling 2.86 ERA. He has gone at least 7 innings in all 7 of his starts and has not walked more than two batters in any of those games, so if the Yankees are going to beat him, they are going to have to earn it.

Wed., May 13
Scott Richmond (4-1, 3.29) vs. Andy Pettitte (2-1, 4.38)
Richmond has pitched surprising well to this point in the season, his only blemish being the first inning of his last start against Oakland in which he surrendered 5 runs and blew an early 3-0 Jays lead. He finished the game strong not allowing another run the rest of the way enroute to a complete game. Pettitte got off to a good start to the season but he, much like the rest of the Yankees, has struggled of late, giving up 5 ER in each of his last two starts. 

Thurs., May 14
Brian Tallet (2-1. 4.95) vs. C.C. Sabathia (2-3, 3.94)
Tallet's numbers are not all that exciting, unless you investigate a little deeper. Despite have a 4.95 he has absolutely commanded in 4 out his 5 starts, the lone exception being a 4 inning 10 ER performance against Kansas City. If you take out that one poor performance his ERA in his other 4 starts is a miniscule 1.80. Not too bad for a reliever thrown into a starters role due to injuries. What can I say about Sabathia? He is prone to slow starts and amazing finishes. He is coming off a 4 hit shutout of the Orioles that has seemed to make everyone remember why he was considered for the NL Cy Young award last year despite only pitching in that league for about 2/3 of the season.

Yankees: The addition of a healthy Alex Rodriguez could not have come at a better time for the Yanks. They were comin off a 5 game losing streak and in addition Manny Ramirez had just been busted for PED's, so the lights shining on Rodriguez in his return would be at least a little dimmer. Rodriguez' impact was immediate, having homered on the first pitch he faced and leading the Yankees to a 4-0 win. They lost the following day but rebounded Sunday to take the series finale and the series. A win in this series with the Jays could go along way to the Yankees rebounding and returning to the contender fold.

Jays: The hot bats of Aaron Hill and Adam Lind have led the Jays to a 7-3 record in May heading into the series at home against the Yankees and they look to get off to a fast start in this series with Halladay on the mound in the opener tonight. After that, I believe a split in the final two is what we can expect to see. Going forward there is an expectation that B.J. Ryan could return sometime in the weekend series with the White Sox and this would be a big help for the little talked about bullpen, even if he returns in a role that is not the closer. Yes folks, there are reports that Ryan will return in a new role and GM J.P. Riccardi has gone on record as saying that his role will be determined after he returns but for the moment Scott Downs will remain the closer.
Category: MLB
Posted on: May 11, 2009 8:41 pm

Blue Jays Progress Report

Line-Up: From top to bottom the Jays really are a solid hitting team, and much of this should be credited to Cito Gaston and his coaching staff. The team seems to be prepared for everyone they face and that is something that has not been there in recent years. Marco Scutaro and his solid OBP have been a catalyst for the offence and he sets the tone for the rest of the guys. Aaron Hill has returned from his post-concussion syndrome and elevated his game to be one of the most threatening hitters in the league, something the fans have been waiting for since he was drafted of LSU. Alex Rios has not gotten off to a great start to say the least but his game will come with the warmer weather. Vernon Wells has been steady and I am confident he will put together a 25 hr, 100 rbi season with double digit steals while continuing to give Adam Lind ample opportunity to drive in runs. Scott Rolen, Lyle Overbay and Rod Barajas need to be more consistent in order for Lind to continue seeing pitches to hit and give Travis Snider opportunities to drive in runs. Snider himself is going to go through many ups and downs this summer and Cito needs to show confidence in him and run him out there 5 days a week but I don't see that being a problem for the cerebral manager. Overall this offence should be in the top 5 in runs scored at seasons end.

Starting Pitching: Where to being. Well, Roy Halladay has surprised nobody with his league tying 6 wins to go with a 3.29 ERA. Everytime he toes the rubber, the Jays are a favorite to win. With injuries to MacGowan and Marcum to start the season there was much talk about who would fill their spots out of camp and Scott Richmond has taken the ball and run with it. Ricky Romero was looking very good until an injury derailed him. Look for him to return in the next couple weeks and pick up where he left off. Like Snider he will have his moments of inconsistency but when he is on he is very good. Jesse Litsch should return in early June and send Tallet back to the pen, if the Jays choose to keep him in the rotation once Romero returns. Brett Cecil is showing why he was so highly touted and could stick even when Litsch returns, but Casey Janssen is looking good in his minor league rehab and he could have an impact on the decision, or he could rejoin the bullpen. Robert Ray is simply holding a spot for the time being and he will be demoted once one of the injured starters returns. Long-term it looks like MacGowan could miss the entire season and share the same fate as Shaun Marcum. There is the possibility that one of these guys or Cecil/Romero could be a part of a package to land the Jays Jake Peavy. It has been talked about and the Jays seem to be a front-runner since they seem to have a stockpile of young starters, which the Padres would need to move Peavy.

Relief Pitching: B.J. Ryan making a trip to the DL was not surprising. His velocity was down out of training camp and he was not pitching up to the standards of a closer on a winning team. Scott Downs has done a great job filling in and when Ryan returns, Downs has proven to be a solid set-up guy. Jesse Carlson and Jason Frasor are good bridge guys to get to the Downs/Ryan combination and Brandon League has shown he knows how to get outs. Tallet is a good situational lefty when he is coming out of the pen or he can go multiple innings if needed. He will be a boon to the pen when he returns to that role.

Overall: Manager Cito Gaston and his coaching staff have shown that they know how to keep the hitters and the pitchers prepared. It is amazing that he was out of the game for so long, but he has not missed a step in his return. With the injuries hitting the starting pitching it is amazing to see the Jays on top of the best division in baseball coming up on the 1/4 point of the season. My expectation is for this team to battle with the powers of the AL East and be in a 3 team struggle for the wild card. I see one of the teams in this division distancing themselves slightly before September but the other 3 will be in a dogfight. Ultimately, injuries could haunt them later on if it is too taxing on the rest of the pitching staff.
Category: MLB
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