Tagged: Jose Bautista

Mid-Season Review – Part Three: The Outfield

While not the official midway point through the season, the allstar break certainly serves as the unofficial midway point in the long, 162-game season that is major league baseball.  I thought it would be fitting to take advantage of the allstar break to prepare a report card of sorts and break down the different aspects of the Blue Jays organization.  This is part three of the series: The Outfield.

Going into Spring Training the outfield was locked in as Melky Cabrera – LF, Colby Rasmus – CF, and Jose Bautista – RF.  Rajai Davis was to be the club’s 4th outfielder and late game pinch runner and Emilio Bonifacio was to split time, as a true utility man does, between the INF and OF (although since Bonifacio is listed as an infielder on the roster, I’ll comment on him in Part Four of the series).  There were some chirps by fans that the club would be better served dropping Colby Rasmus and allow young-gun Anthony Gose to play CF full time.  Here’s a look how the outfield has played.

Anthony Gose (.304 AVG, .385 OBP, .391 SLG, 0 HR, 0 RBI) – Despite a minority group of fans that were wanting to see Gose supersede Rasmus in CF to start the season, anyone who knew what they were talking about agreed that having the 22-year-old start in triple-A would be good for his development.  In 56 games with the Blue Jays in 2012, Gose showed off his speed with 15 steals in 18 attempts, his arm with 2 assists, and his ability to track the ball off the bat with a 2.09 range factor in CF (think B.J. Upton).  However, he hit just .223 and struck out 59 times.  So why not have this young kid at least start the year in triple-A and try and get a more consistent approach at the plate?  When Davis hit the DL this season, Gose got the call up to be the 4th OF and late game pinch runner.  In 13 games he hit .304….but he didn’t have a single stolen base.  Why not?  Perhaps he’s grown gun shy.  In triple-A this season, Gose has only 11 steals in 21 attempts.  That’s a far cry from his 2011 numbers in double-A: 70 steals in 85 attempts.  Now with Rasmus performing well and the fans starting to realize why the Jays didn’t want to give up on him, and with Gose struggling in triple-A – he’s batting .225 in 284 at bats, Gose is beginning to look less and less like Carl Crawford and more and more like Joey Gathright.  I’m sure Gose will get a September call up, but it’s definitely telling that when Cabrera recently hit the DL, the Jays turned to Munenori Kawasaki – an infielder, and chose to play with only 3 OF on the 25-man roster.  Perhaps this is an off year for Gose who had gotten better every season in the minors up until 2013.  He now looks further away from making the team than he did in March.  I do, however, like the idea of a Gose/Davis platoon if any outfield hits the DL in the second half.

Rajai Davis (.288 AVG, .335 OBP, .380 SLG, 2 HR, 11 RBI) – Now that Davis is in his third season with the Jays, we all know what we are getting – a guy that frustrates you because he refuses to hit a cutoff man, and doesn’t get on base enough vs. right-handers, but also a guy that is one of the few real game changers in the MLB on the bases.  Davis already has 24 steals in 27 attempts despite spending time on the DL with an oblique strain.  But although he started batting well vs. righties this season, the numbers show he’s heading closer to his career averages.  His 2013 splits of .343 avg, .389 obp, .507 slg vs. lefties yet only a paltry .250 avg, .298 obp, .292 slg vs. righties make Davis the perfect platoon player.  If the Jays could find an outfielder who hit righties well , they would be set (think Reed Johnson/Frank Cattalanotto).  For a while, it looked like Rasmus might be that guy.  But this season he is showing much better vs. lefties than his career average and looks much more comfortable at the plate – and as a young player with tremendous power, the Jays are likely to want his bat in the line up.  Perhaps Gose one day becomes the platoon with Davis?  I wouldn’t mind seeing that.

Melky Cabrera (.278 AVG, .321 OBP, .362 SLG, 3 HR, 29 RBI) – The hot topic surrounding Cabrera is “will he be suspended for 100 games following the break?”  My thoughts?  Absolutely not.  He has already served his time.  Under the rules of the collective bargaining agreement, the league would have to have proof that Cabrera took PED’s after his previously served 50 game suspension.  I doubt even he is that stupid.  I think Cabrera will win any appeal should the league try and suspend him.  PED’s aside, Cabrera hasn’t been the guy the Jays were after – primarily because he’s been playing on sore legs all year – but when you look at the numbers, he’s been pretty good.  After a slow start in April – .241 avg, .291 obp, .287 slg, Cabrera really started to put things together in May – .319 avg, .361 obp, .460 slg.  Put it this way, Cabrera is on the DL but he is still second on the team in hits with 86.  Hopefully Cabrera can return after the break and perform to his capabilities.  When on, he is a great, pure hitter.

Colby Rasmus (.263 AVG, .332 OBP, .484 SLG, 16 HR, 48 RBI) – Since Rasmus joined the Jays, there have been a lot of Rasmus haters out there.  I’ve been defending him constantly and he is starting to prove me (and more importantly the organization) right.  Rasmus entered the break as hot as anyone on the team, hitting .375 so far in July.  The biggest reason?  He is starting to drive the ball the other way with authority.  Early in the year (and since he’s been a Blue Jay), when he makes contact Rasmus has either pulled the ball hard or hit it weakly the other way.  With his new found ability to drive the ball to the opposite gap, we could be looking at a young player who has just figured it out.  He is third on the team in home runs and RBIs, behind only Edwin Encarnacion and Bautista, and he’s playing a terrific CF with a range factor of 2.74 which is good enough for 4th best in the AL and 6th best in the MLB.  Rasmus’ weakness is obviously the K.  He strikes out about once every 3 at bats – far too much.  But he is starting to hit the other way, which should help.  And with RISP, he boasts a .348 AVG and a ridiculously good 1.072 OPS, so it’s not like his strikeouts are killing too many rallies.  Watching Rasmus the past couple weeks and watching him go with the pitch, I really think he’ll be an allstar in 2014.  All he needed to do was learn to drive the ball the other way.  He’s now doing it and if it continues, watch out.

Jose Bautista (.254 AVG, .351 OBP, .493 SLG, 20 HR, 55 RBI) – Most teams would kill for a RF with a cannon arm (7 assists – 2nd for all MLB RF) who has hit 20 homers and driven in 55 by the allstar break.  But Jays fans have been spoiled with Bautista the previous few seasons and for him, this is a down year so far.  Although his numbers are about what you would expect, he continues to chase pitches out of the zone and goes through prolonged slumps at the dish.  You can always tell when he’s in one because he’ll be seen arguing balls and strikes with the homeplate umpire.  I just wish he would lead by example.  And by that I mean, stop whining and play hard.  He and Encarnacion are a terrifying duo for opposing pitchers and if the Jays are going to get hot in the second half, you have to figure Bautista will be a big part of any success.  I hope he moves back to the 3 hole (or 4 or 5 hole), though.  Hitting him #2 doesn’t do it for me – never did (but we’ll save that discussion for Part Five of the series: Management).

The Jays need big things from Bautista, need Rasmus to continue to progress, and need Cabrera to come back strong from the DL if they want to have a shot at ripping off some serious wins.  And Davis, stretch your hammies.  You’ll be greenlighted for the rest of the year.

@IHRTBJs  

Delabar makes Allstar team

Despite being 3 games under .500 and in dead last in the AL East, the Blue Jays will send 4 players to New York’s Citi Field for the 2013 allstar game next week.  Steve Delabar, 29, claimed the final vote roster spot and will join teammates Brett Cecil, Jose Bautista, and Edwin Encarnacion in the AL team clubhouse.  This will be Delabar’s first allstar appearance.

For AL relievers this season, Delabar ranks 3rd in strikeouts with 57 and 5th in ERA, posting a stingy 1.74.  Delabar picked up his first career save in Wednesday in Toronto’s only win in its series vs. the Indians.

Hard to believe someone with his arm has only 1 career save and it took until this year to get it.  Happy to see another Blue Jay in the allstar game, but 4 players from a team with a losing record?  Really?

@IHRTBJs

 

 

 

 

Blue Jays Allstar Selections Deserving?

I know the allstar game is for fans, but I’m not a fan of fan voting.  Too many times it’s a popularity contest and the players that earn a spot are snubbed.  The allstar game is by far the best in the four major North American sports.  Football – after the Super Bowl with no blitzing.  Really?  Hockey – a sport that only catches my eye when the gloves drop isn’t about to thrill my in a gentlemen’s version of the game.  Basketball – not bad.  A great show.  But no defence.

Baseball’s allstar game – the best hitters vs. the best pitchers with World Series homefield advantage on the line.  Amazing.

That’s why the best players should make it.  Not the fans favourites.

The Blue Jays currently have 3 players representing the team at the allstar game: Jose Bautista (voted in by fans), Edwin Encarnacion (voted in by MLB players), and Brett Cecil (selected by AL manager Jim Leyland).  There is also a very good chance that Steve Delabar will claim that last spot on the AL roster with – you guessed it – another fan vote.

The question becomes, are these Jays deserving?

I have trouble thinking someone who isn’t batting at least .280 as deserving (if not .300 – we want to see the best, right?).  So is it a roster determined by the first half of 2013 or a roster determined by the best player by position?

Even though Bautista has been up and down (just like the Jays), he is still arguably the best RF in the AL.  So I can see why he makes the squad.  Bautista has been named to the allstar team in each of the past four seasons. He’s enjoying another productive year at the plate despite struggling at times during June.  The 32-year-old is tied for seventh in home runs (20), third in walks (47), 10th in OPS (.872) and 12th in slugging (.511).

Encarnacion has been the Jays MVP this season in my opinion and is deserving.  Encarnacion will appear at his first allstar game after being a surprise snub in 2012.  He ranks among the league leaders in virtually every major offensive category.  The 30-year-old finished Toronto’s game against Minnesota on Saturday afternoon ranked third in home runs (23), sixth in extra-base hits (38), seventh in runs (54) and ninth in OPS (.877).

Cecil – a middle reliever – really?  Yes REALLY.  I think it’s great that the teams are taking more middle relief guys.  Typically we see only starters and closers.  The middle relief role is extremely under appreciated and Cecil has been among the best in the business so far this year (if you’ve followed my blog from the start, you’ll remember I’ve been suggesting Cecil in this role all along and even discussed it with GM Alex Anthopoulos).  Cecil, 27, is a former starter who was converted into a reliever late last season. He experienced a drop in velocity a couple of years ago, but now consistently throws in the mid-90s while also possessing a devastating curveball that has proved lethal to his opponents.  He set a franchise record earlier this year by going through 40 at-bats without surrendering a hit. He also went through a span of 20 innings without allowing a run and has become one of the elite left-handed relievers in the league (you’re welcome, Anthopoulos).

So if we are including middle relievers, why not Steve Delabar.  Include him too.  Vote!  Delabar’s inclusion along with Cecil’s would be a testament to the job the Jays’ bullpen has done this season.   Since May 29, the Blue Jays’ relief corps leads the Majors in ERA (1.45), opponents’ average (.177) and WHIP (0.92).

But here’s the thing: I don’t have a problem with any of these 4 guys making the roster, but when you step back and look at it, well, it starts to irritate me.  Why should a team that is in last place in its division and under .500 take up 4 roster spots?  What does that say about the other 21 guys on the Jays bench?

If I’m a big fan of another AL team and I see 4 Jays on the roster, it would piss me off.  So while all 4 guys are deserving – they are among the elite for their respective positions – it puzzles me that the Jays are a) playing so poorly and b) sending 4 players to the allstar game.

If you’ve never watched the allstar game, make sure you do.  It’s the best in sports.

@IHRTBJs

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Cabrera hits DL; Kawasaki back with big club

It didn’t take long for Munenori Kawasaki to make his return to the Blue Jays clubhouse.

Melky Cabrera was placed on the 15-day disabled list with left knee tendinitis on Thursday night and Kawasaki got the call up after being sent down to triple-A just two days earlier when Jose Reyes returned from the DL.  Cabrera’s legs have been an issue all season and you have to wonder if this was intentionally timed to line up near the upcoming allstar break to give the veteran a few extra days off after he is eligible to come off the DL.

Kawasaki, 32, hit .225 with a .337 on-base percentage and seven stolen bases in 60 games with the Blue Jays as Reyes’ primarily replacement at shortstop. Kawasaki also made his mark with a big smile and ability to come through in the clutch.

Without Cabrera, Rajai Davis, Colby Rasmus and Jose Bautista are the only three pure outfielders on the roster, but Emilio Bonifacio and Mark DeRosa can also play in the outfield.

I expect Davis will see most of the time in left field and Bonifacio will spell him occasionally, opening up a spot on the infield at 2B for Kawasaki from time-to-time.

Let’s hope Davis can hit righties over an extended period.  He’s struggled with it throughout his career.

@IHRTBJs

Reyes to return tomorrow

Jose Reyes is set to rejoin the Blue Jays in time for their series finale against Tampa Bay on Wednesday afternoon.  During his rehab in both single-A and triple-A, Reyes hit .414 (12 for 29) with a double and six runs scored in 7 games.  He even swiped a couple bags.

The Jays have said the Reyes will immediately be placed into the lineup at SS and at the top of the batting order.  The Jays have also hinted that Melky Cabrera will be bumped to the 5th spot and Jose Bautista and Edwin Encarnacion will continue to hit in the 2 and 3 holes.  While I certainly understand why the Jays would want to ensure both Bautista and Encarnacion get at bats in the first inning, I’m more of a fan of having them hit in their traditional 3 and 4 spots and having Cabrera hit #2.  This would give more a chance for RBIs and allow the Jays to run more with Reyes.  Are they really going to cut Reyes lose with Bautista and Encarnacion at the plate?  I think history shows the Jays will play for the 2-run homer.  With Cabrera in the 2 hole, it is smart to run with Reyes, provoke pitchers into wanting to use the open bag and walk Cabrera if they fall behind, and set up an even bigger inning.  “A pitcher would never pitch around Cabrera with a bag open if Bautista is behind him” you might say.  Well then Cabrera is hitting with a runner in scoring position and a double play is avoided.  If Bautista hits #2, Reyes base running talents are not used to their potential.  Period.

The biggest question is what corresponding move the Jays will make prior to tomorrow’s game.  Who is the odd man out?  Munenori Kawasaki?  Juan Perez?  Dustin McGowan?  It will be interesting to see what the Jays do tomorrow.  For my thoughts, read yesterday’s blog post on the topic (sorry, Kawasaki).

@IHRTBJs

Reyes’ rehab moves to Triple-A

The Blue Jays have moved Jose Reyes from single-A to triple-A to continue his rehab assignment vs. stiffer competition.

In three games in single-A, Reyes went 5-13 (.385), scored 3 runs, and stole a base.

The Jays have said they want Reyes to play a minimum of three games in triple-A to ensure his timing at the plate isn’t an issue when they bring him back to the big club. And while the Jays haven’t schedule a return date, there is lots of speculation that he will join the team when they depart on a division rival filled roadtrip next Monday – 3 games in Tampa, 4 games in Boston.

In 10 games, Reyes hit .395 with 3 extra-base hits and 5 steals.

Reyes has been out since April 12 when he suffered a severe ankle sprain while stealing second. The Jays will immediately have Reyes resume his role as the starting SS and leadoff hitter upon his return. The question becomes what the rest of the batting order will look like. There is talk that Gibbons might move Melky Cabrera to the 5th spot (currently he is leading off) to keep Jose Bautista, Edwin Encarnacion, and Adam Lind in the 2,3,4 spots. I think this is silly. Put Reyes at the top of the line up, have Cabrera bat 2nd (as was the plan going into the season) and Bautista, Encarnacion, and Lind can round out the heart of the order at 3,4,5.

Barring any setbacks, Reyes looks to be back with the Jays ahead of the original forecast (allstar break) which is very rare for this organization. Usually, the Jays are overly optimistic with recovery times and fans are disappointed. Reyes quick recovery is a pleasant surprise.

@IHRTBJs

Bautista Carries Team – Arencibia and Lawrie’s struggles continue

In last night’s victory over the Rays, Jose Bautista played like a team leader.  He went 4-4 with two homers and all 4 of the team’s RBI.  And he didn’t whine once about the strike zone.

Bautista, who got off to his second slow start in the past two seasons, has stopped complaining about every borderline call that goes against him and is focusing on playing solid baseball.  It’s about time.

This trend started a few weeks ago and the attitude change (probably brought on by a talk from John Gibbons) is paying dividends in Bautista’s game.  He’s hitting .412 with 4 homers and 10 RBI in his last 10 games.

I hope that this new, positive attitude Bautista is bringing to the field everyday will eventually rub off on guys like Brett Lawrie.  You can already see J.P. Arencibia’s attitude changing for the better at the plate (although we now need the results to follow).  It’s easy when guys are cold to complain about borderline pitches.  But real pros hardly ever complain or sulk when they make an out because their attitude is that they will get the next one.  Lawrie can’t say that right now – he is a walking temper tantrum.  And here’s a tip for you Lawrie: Don’t call people out on social media networks when you’re hitting less than your listed weight.  Just focus on playing the game.  He’s late on almost every fastball and early on breaking pitches.  He’s just stuck in between right now.  Arencibia must also be feeling the heat lately (in the words of Dirk Hayhurst yesterday “Happy 1 month anniversary, J.P.  It’s been a month since your last walk).  In fact, he has 2 walks vs. 55 K’s so far this season.  His obp is now .239.  Yikes.

With J.P. slumping (which will happen – he’s a streaky hitter that can carry a team when hot and be non-existant when cold) and Lawrie still yet to find his groove after 122 at bats (hitting .180), it’s nice to see Bautista step it up.

But we’re going to need guys like J.P and Lawrie to pick it up.  Bautista won’t hit .412 for the rest of the season.

Let’s get 3 of 4 from the O’s.  With Brandon Morrow and R.A. Dickey both pitching this series, I feel good about at least a split.  Let’s hope one of our fill ins can steal a game and the offensive helps take the pressure off.

@IHRTBJs