(As of July 6-7, 2005)
We’re nearing the All-Star break and I guess it’s time to check in on everybody’s favorite team—the Toronto Blue Jays. If they’re not your favorite team … well, they oughta be. Get with the program, people.
At the beginning of the season, I predicted an 83-79 ledger for the Blue Birds, and they seem to be on track at 42-40. What I didn’t see coming was how the rest of the division has played and more pointedly, how the Jays have played within the AL East. The Jays seem to be holding their own (22-13), and despite being in fourth place, they’re just 4.5 games out of the lead. In short, while still a bit of a longshot, Toronto can look at possibly capturing the division. The Yankees tribulations have been well documented, the Red Sox—despite leading the division—are showing the effects of losing Pedro and not having Schilling available (12th in ERA in the AL), and the Orioles, while surprising, have fallen back to earth.
Interestingly, Toronto, while just seventh in the AL in ERA, are first in the East [in ERA] a full half run better than the Orioles.
AL East ERA
Team ERA 1. Toronto 3.95 2. Baltimore 4.45 3. New York 4.60 4. Boston 4.85 5. Tampa Bay 5.82
On the other side of the equation, the Jays are also in seventh in the AL in runs scored but are fourth in the East.
AL East Runs Scored
Team Runs 1. Boston 449 2. New York 438 3. Baltimore 410 4. Toronto 385 5. Tampa Bay 377
So, let’s pass out some grades and do a report card on this year’s edition of the Jays to date:
(minimum 10 starts):
Pitcher GS W-L ERA IP BB K WHIP Roy Halladay 18 12-3 2.33 139.0 18 104 0.94 Gustavo Chacin 17 6-5 3.59 97.6 35 57 1.42 Josh Towers 17 6-7 4.33 97.6 18 61 1.38 Ted Lilly 16 7-8 5.42 88.0 38 67 1.51 David Bush* 10 0-5 4.89 53.3 10 26 1.29
*sent to minors
After Roy Halladay, the other four starters [with 10+ starts] have about a league average ERA (Jays other four starters: 4.44 ERA; AL: 4.31 ERA). Due to their below average offense they are just 19-25. I think we’ll be seeing Bush back soon. Halladay is a Cy Young candidate. Chacin will get Rookie of the Year votes. Towers has been average, however he hasn’t walked many which bodes well. Lilly is 6-4, 3.03 over his last ten starts, although in four of those starts he’s given up four earned runs without reaching the seventh inning (in fact, he‘s only pitched over six innings thrice this year). In the 69 starts made by Halladay, Chacin, Towers, Lilly, and Bush, they have posted an ERA of 3.82.
(minimum 20 innings, any starting assignments not included):
Pitcher G W-L SV ERA IP BB K Pete Walker 18 2-1 2 2.08 39.0 16 19 Jason Frasor 33 1-3 0 2.70 36.6 16 26 Justin Speier 31 1-1 0 2.93 30.6 4 19 Miguel Batista 35 4-1 14 3.11 37.6 9 23 Vinnie Chulk 31 0-1 0 4.19 38.6 15 25 Scott Schoeneweis 39 2-2 1 4.73 26.6 15 23 Scott Downs 11 0-0 0 5.40 20.0 6 12
The seven relievers that have pitched 20+ innings have logged 227.3 IP with a 3.65 ERA. Batista is 14 out of 15 in converting save opportunities although over his last ten appearances he is 1-1, 3 SV 5.84 ERA and given up 16 hits in 12.3 IP. When I previewed the season I wrote:
The bullpen’s biggest bugaboo last year was they gave up far too many walks. There’s a lot of youth available, so there’s hope that they’ll learn the joys of throwing strikes. If they’re aggressive, they’ve got a chance not to embarrass themselves. If they nibble, expect lots of trips to the mound in late innings that will not help one bit.
Their walk rate has been decent (3.18 BB/9 IP), however their strikeout rate hasn’t (5.61 K/9 IP). Still, they’ve been a pleasant surprise (for me anyway) thus far, doing far better than I would’ve hoped.
(minimum 150 AB):
Player BA/ OBP/ SLG HR RC BA/RISP Frank Catalanotto .284/.352/.389 3 28 .267 Alex Rios .284/.324/.429 5 33 .275 Reed Johnson .274/.345/.458 6 35 .373 Vernon Wells .262/.311/.470 16 42 .222
The first thing I noticed was that nobody is slugging over .500. The second thing I noticed was that only Johnson was hitting better with RISP than normally and that their biggest HR threat (Wells) was the worst of the bunch. Third thing I noticed was that Catalanotto was the only one with an OBP over .350.
The good news is that Wells is finally heating up, batting .302/.347/.517 since June 1.
(minimum 150 AB):
Player BA/ OBP/ SLG HR RC BA/RISP Aaron Hill .346/.408/.490 1 29 .356 Shea Hillenbrand .299/.358/.440 8 44 .267 Russ Adams .258/.307/.440 6 29 .281 Orlando Hudson .257/.313/.408 7 34 .235 Corey Koskie* .248/.313/.430 7 15 .216 Erik Hinske .241/.327/.391 7 34 .220
*149 AB … close enough
Like the OF, nobody on the infield is slugging over .500 … indeed nobody on the roster with 150 AB is at .500 or better. Further, only the rookies (Hill and Adams) are hitting better with RISP than normal. Both Adams and Hill are making good contact (Adams 17 BB/25 K; Hill 13 BB/12 K). Hillenbrand has cooled noticeably since a hot April (.390/.421/.530), hitting just .257/.308/.445 since. When Koskie comes back, I’d give some pine time to Hinske, who’s been an awful .152/.271/.250 since June 1.
(minimum 150 AB):
Player BA/ OBP/ SLG HR RC BA/RISP Gregg Zaun .272/.372/.414 6 36 .294
Zaun is a career .252/.342/.379 hitter who is one HR from matching his career high set in 2000 with the Royals. He is hitting .294 with RISP, is giving the Jays solid defense, and is handling the pitching staff well.
The Jays have used a number of different players at DH so I just threw them in with the IF/OF/C totals.
The Jays were 42-40 when I started this column and are currently 43-41. They’re within striking distance of the divisional crown (5.5 games). As I mentioned in the outset, they are playing well within the division so it’s certainly attainable. Their needs are obvious … they need a masher, badly. The question facing J.P. Ricciardi is whether to make a run this year and deal a bit of the future to make it happen, or do they deal a bit of the [recent] past and reload for next year when the Yankees and Red Sox will be a year older.
It’s too close to call.