The first week of the Jays season is in the books, and it could just be the long lay off since October that has me worked up, but it seemed like this week contained a wild range of highs and lows!
Mood in Song Form
At about 9:30 est on Tuesday night I was riding much too high given we were less than 3 games into the season. Fortunately, the next 4 games did a nice job of bringing me back down to earth. The good news is that this is a long season, and the Jays have plenty of time left to iron out some of the issues from week one, while building on their strengths. Let’s dig in.
The starting pitching for the Blue Jays has been fantastic out of the gate. Stroman pitched both of his starts with the confidence of a legitimate ace, while Sanchez switching between a 97 mph fastball and a 77 mph change up is downright filthy. The buzz all spring training was that Sanchez looked electric, and if his change up and curve are as good as they appeared in game one he will be a fantastic starter for the Jays.
Marco Estrada definitely righted the ship on Sunday afternoon shutting out the Red Sox in his first performance of the year. It was nice to see how often he and Martin huddled up to discuss a plan during the game. Losing Dioner Navarro must have been factoring in the back of Marco’s mind, but so far so good.
R.A. Dickey had a good showing in Tampa Bay before getting beaten up a bit by the Red Sox this weekend. I choose not to go to Saturday’s game as I fell victim to paying money to see Dickey go against the Sox on Mother’s Day last year, and you know how the saying goes.
As poor as his performance was, Dickey really was hurt by a poor throw to second base, a couple of slap doubles, and a horrendous performance by Josh Thole behind home plate. The knuckler was dancing all over the place making Thole’s job particularly difficult, but if you are on an MLB roster almost exclusively for your ability to catch the knuckleball, you better be darn good at it. Just another day for R.A., I’m sure he will be just fine his next start.
It would be easy to say that “for as good as the starting pitching has been, the bullpen has been equally poor” but I actually don’t think that is the case. I thought Chavez pitched well down in Tampa Bay and has been better than his numbers suggest. Gibbon’s decision to play Arnold Leon the next game was pretty indefensible, but apart from that I think this group will come around. We have seen enough from Cecil to expect that his early troubles will not stick around, and Osuna have looked really good at the back end. Some might call this the maturation process, but I am actually pretty calm about the woes this group has had thus far. I know people are concerned about Storen’s velocity and how hard some balls have been hit off him, but Sunday he and Osuna displayed just was has me excited by taking the ball from Estrada and shutting down the Sox lineup with relative ease.
The Utley Rule
By now we have all had a full week of hearing former and current players comment on how ridiculous the new rule at second base is, with Jose Bautista’s swipe attempt at Tampa infielder Logan Forsythe’s ankle leading the way in ridiculous calls, although it is not alone in deciding the outcome of a game this week.
There are a couple of things to address here, but I am going to start with the most important: Why the hell is this called the Utley Rule? Last time I checked Buster Posey was run over at home plate in 2011 shattering his leg, and the subsequent rule to protect catchers is known as “The Posey Rule”.
Chase Utley brutally took out and broke the leg of Ruben Tejada in the NLDS last year with this ridiculous slide:
How is this not known as the Tejada rule? Give the kid a break other than his tibia and fibula! The only valid argument you can make against this point would be that if people heard “The Tejada Rule” they would assume it had something to do with Miguel Tejada repeatedly failing drug tests. Even that isn’t enough!
U̶t̶l̶e̶y̶ ̶R̶u̶l̶e̶ THE TEJADA RULE
That is better. As a Blue Jays fan, the Bautista play was particularly difficult to handle. If you made it through the replay of that brutal slide above and then watch Bautista below, any reasonable person will be able to tell the difference in intention.
If this rule continues to be enforced the way it has through the first week of the season, expect a material impact on runs scored, as well as record number of double plays being turned. This level of enforcement is taking a good rule with a good intention, and enforcing it with the tact of John Gibbon’s post game comments about playing baseball in a dress. Oh wait, it is actually way less tactful than that, and we should all calm down about a baseball manager making a sexist comment that will almost certainly never lead to a single person being truly impacted by it. Obviously he shouldn’t have said it, but lets not pretend this makes him a terrible person, or wildly insensitive. It isn’t like he put homophobic slurs on his eye black.
Poor taste? Yes.
Something that he should lose his job over as some people speculated? No.
I liked Gibby doubling down the next day and saying:
“I do think the world needs to lighten up a little bit.”
I agree with Gibby, there are much more important gender issues people outraged about this could be focusing on that could actually help someone.
The good news for Jays fans is that Bautista was in the exact same situation as what lost Tuesday’s game against Boston on Sunday, and made sure to hold onto the bag, and break up a potential double play following the “new rules”.
The Red Sox were scared to send Price to the mound in Toronto, instead choosing to save him for their season opener today where he got chased in 5 against the Orioles after giving up 5 earned runs. It was disappointing that we didn’t get a chance to see him over the weekend, but we will get more chances to go after him. Price commenting that he understood why the Jays didn’t try to sign him once Shapiro came on board was also a nice acknowledgement to AA, his staff, and how well liked he was by the players.
Sanchez throws more strikes right down the middle that get called for balls than anyone I have ever seen. It must be a combination of the pace and the late movement that fools umpires, but he routinely throws a ball than finishes right over the plate that doesn’t get called a strike.
Apparently Edwin doesn’t need to practice. After not taking a single swing in the pre season, he has come out of the gate fast, a verb not usually reserved for him.
I have been skeptical that Pillar will reach base with a high enough percentage to warrant the lead off spot, but there is no question about his work in the field. In the first series of the season he wasted no time making an absurd highlight reel catch
As that play unfolded, I wasn’t until the ball was in his glove that I actually thought he had a chance to get near it. Incredible play added to his growing highlight reel.
I loved Stroman getting into a yelling match in his first game with Morrison after a fly ball. It certainly appeared on the replay that Stroshow had some expletives he fired off while the ball was in the air, but it wasn’t that different from what he routinely does. I think this was the result of the quiet dome in Tampa and Morrison hearing Stroman’s comments that were actually directed to fire himself up. Stro said as much after the game doing a nice job to cool things down, while showing the fire that we all love.
The Jays patience at the plate against Chris Archer in the season opener still resulted in the team striking out 14 times. The strikeout rate through the first week is pretty alarming, but we all know the offense will come.
This week I will be checking out the Yankees up close as we enter the 3rd series of the season. I’m excited to see Stroman, and Sanchez continue their efforts to ascend to an elite top two for this team while hopefully the bats can come alive in the friendly confines of Rogers Centre.