Its been two weeks since the last post on the five hundreds. You may be wondering what has taken me so long to document my thoughts. I wish I had a great story to tell you of adventure, or an exclusive angle or take on the current Blue Jays situation, but the reality is I was at a loss to characterize my feelings towards the club. One moment I was optimistic about the improvements in the starting rotation, only to be foiled by the previously powerful bats or solid defense that marked the first 7 weeks of the season turning against us.
Current emotional mood in song format:
This speaks for itself. Lots of in depth baseball thoughts this week.
Guess the Player
Let’s play a game that is sure to leave you confused, feeling a little bit sad on the inside, and slightly bitter. In other words, a Blue Jays fan. Exhibit #1, year to date statistics for two players heading into Sunday’s action:
Clue #1: The player represented by the red line currently plays for the Blue Jays, the player represented by the blue line previously played for the team.
Clue #2: One player has been restricted from making a defensive impact on the field this season, while the other is renowned for his great range
Clue #3: One is making $14,000,000 this season as a clean up hitter on a 5th place team, the other is making $8,000,000 hitting from the 5 spot of a first place team
Clue #4: The first player is 34 years old, while the second player is 28.
Behind door one we have Jose Bautista. Behind door #2? Well, that would be the much-maligned castaway Colby Rasmus, who is going through a resurgence in Houston. Put bluntly, we need more from Jose. I know his shoulder is an issue, but for the first time in years pitchers are sneaking off speed pitches past him on the inner half of the plate, and he is missing balls that he would have launched to the moon only a year ago. He is set to return to the field to face the Nationals in interleague play this week, and we will be watching closely to see how his shoulder holds up. Needless to say, if we hit September and Colby still has better or comparable statistics to Jose, we likely won’t be watching post-season ball in Toronto.
In the two weeks since the last 500’s post, R.A. has posted his best performance of the season (a complete game win against the Angles) and then a 5 outing performance in possibly the game of the year, the 10-9 win over the White Sox. While the entire starting pitching staff has considerably improved its performance in the past two weeks, I still can’t emotionally pull myself to attend another game Dickey is pitching until I get a little more consistency from him. I’ve thought long and hard about how I could possibly communicate my feelings towards R.A. in a succinct manner, until I realized some had already perfected how I feel about R.A. Take it away Lindsey:
I’ve also come to the realization that there is likely a Fleetwood Mac song to describe every possible emotion that enters the mind of a fan of a 5th place club that repeatedly finds ways to lose in heartbreaking and frustrating fashion. Hopefully the Lindsey Buckingham watch doesn’t make it past this week.
Things have to be heating up for Gibby right now. The club is 1-7 in their last 8 road games, and is 3-12 in one run games so far this season. While only two weeks ago I wrote that there was little Gibby could do with the pitching the team had received so far during the season, since that point the team has repeatedly lost close games while getting solid pitching. I’m still not ready to bury Gibby yet, but the one-run game record needs to start evening out in the Blue Jays favor. Regression to the mean is one of the tried and true approaches that I see work time and time again in the investment world, so I hoping that the Blue Jays also benefit from a larger sample size.
The biggest concern I see for Gibby is if his veteran players start to tune him out. While it is very unclear what the hell Jose Reyes was doing this weekend (committing errors, having terrible at bats and repeatedly making outs at second and third with the best player in MLB batting directly behind him,) it doesn’t appear the rest of the club is tuning out the manager. Anthopoulos might still choose to shake things up just to get a new voice in there, but so far it appears that Reyes is the only veteran in need of an injection of baseball IQ to his game. Hopefully Reyes starts playing smarter baseball, as he still had some big moments for all of his mistakes last week.
Bringer of Rain
Here is a scary thought. Where do you think the Blue Jays would be if Josh Donaldson weren’t on the roster? 6th place? Relegated to play in the Championship with Burnley?
It is a scary thought indeed. While looking at Bautista’s statistics leaves plenty to the imagination, Donaldson’s numbers expand the mind’s ability to bend reality and experience joy:
AL Third base War Rankings: 1st
AL Third base Home runs: 1st
AL Third base runs scored: 1st
AL Third base RBI’s: 1st
AL Third base Slugging: 1st
AL Third base worst hair cut: 1st
He also provided the most exciting moment of the season when he took David Robertson deep for his second home run of the game last week:
The next day when he again tied the game in the bottom of the 9th with a solo homerun it felt like he was single handedly willing the team forward. He has clearly emerged as the new leader of the team on the field and in the clubhouse. It is the improved play of the pitching staff as well as Donaldson’s dominate performances that give me confidence that this team might still find its legs and put up a fight to win the mediocre AL East. Thankfully none of the other teams have displayed much of an interest in running away from the pack either.
In a sport that is often known for its stars being understated “oh shucks” type characters, I also like that Donaldson is unapologetically himself. In the two months he has been with the Blue Jays his has racked up a long list of memorable moments including:
Hitting two walk off homeruns
Telling the Angel’s bench and hitting coach to suck on something
Calling out the pitching staff right before it started to improve
Having a hair cut that fans wouldn’t adopt even if he hit .400 for the season with 75 home runs
Additionally, I had the privilege of sitting behind home plate for a game against the Angels last week. While there were many cool moments of the game (seeing Hutchinson’s different pitches as they come in to the hitter, Weaver cursing at the umpire after not getting a call, seeing Trout hit a dead rope home run to straight away centerfield) my favorite up close moment was seeing Donaldson remove the largest piece of tobacco from his mouth I have ever seen and discarding it next to the on deck circle. Donaldson does what he wants, which is good for us because right now what he seems to want most is to make opposing pitchers tremble, and single handedly keep this 5th place team within striking distance while everyone else figures it out.
This week the Jays start their first interleague series with a rain forced double header on Tuesday before facing Houston once again. At some point the Jays need to win some road games, so why not start now?