The Toronto Blue Jays currently sit three games above .500 at 19-16, yet I still find there is reason to get worried about this current team.
After this next stretch where the Jays will play the Rays five times, the Yankees twice, the Mets three times and the Rangers three times, the Jays could find themselves out of the playoff picture if their current trend continues.
What do I mean by current trend?
The current trend the Jays are showing is an inability for their pitchers, both starters and relievers, to consistently throw strikes. Couple that with playing against home-run hitting teams, and that doesn't bode well for them.
Bruce Walton is the Jays' current pitching coach, and I've never been a supporter of his in the past. The Jays right now have one of the worst bullpens—in large part due to an injury to closer Sergio Santos. Luis Perez, Darren Oliver, Casey Janssen and Jason Frasor have all pitched well out of the pen; however, the Jays' ability to close out games has really taken a hit.
They once again lead the American League in blown saves with seven, while they sit second in walks with 127.
I have no idea what Walton does to prepare these pitchers, but it always seems that when he heads out to the mound, it never really helps the pitchers out; he just compounds the problem.
Kyle Drabek and Ricky Romero both struggled with their command in their last starts, Drabek missing repeatedly with his two- and four-seam fastballs, and Romero consistently missing the zone with his fastball and curve.
Couple Romero's struggles today with his inability as a lefty to get out left-handed batters, and the pitching coach should really be working with him in developing a go-to pitch against lefties such as a sweeping slider, or possibly painting the outside corner with two-seam fastballs.
Walton, though, just uses catch phrases and draws lines in the dirt to hopefully fix his pitchers.
Is this rookie ball?
As for the Jays' offence, miraculously enough they stand at fourth in the AL in runs scored, mainly due to a high batting average with runners in scoring position. Their team batting average as a whole sits at .240, good for 19th in the majors, ahead of such offensive powerhouses like the Chicago Cubs, Minnesota Twins, Oakland Athletics and Pittsburgh Pirates.
What has boggled the mind of this writer is the Jays' ability to hit with men on and then totally disappear with the bases empty.
Yes, a starting pitcher is usually better from the windup, but that should not be an excuse for a poor approach at the plate.
I believe Dwayne Murphy and John Farrell (with his days with the Red Sox) have had a negative impact on the Jays' approaches at the plate.
However, one big difference is the Jays are one of the youngest teams in the majors, not one of the older. Asking players to be patient and work the pitcher when they really don't have the experience is sort of like shooting themselves in the foot.
A classic example I'll use is Adam Lind. Lind always finds himself in a hole early by taking first-pitch fastballs down the meat of the plate.
After that, the pitcher has the advantage until the player works himself back into a hitter's count, which is difficult to do.
When Cito Gaston and Gene Tenace were the manager and hitting coach respectively, the Jays' offence was explosive—Texas Rangers-like explosive.
What Gaston and Tenace believed in was swinging at your pitch, regardless of the count. Go up with a plan and stick to it.
If you're looking fastball and you get one down the meat of the plate with the first pitch, you put a good swing on it.
The Jays right now appear to have no plan at the plate. They let first-pitch fastballs pass by them and then for some reason swing at the next fastball they see, usually not in the strike zone.
Dwayne Murphy's tenure with the Jays has seen him ruin more players than he's helped. Other than maybe Jose Bautista, who has powered his way to two top American League slugger trophies, Murphy has hindered more than helped the Jays' batters.
Colby Rasmus, a career .250 hitter, is barely hitting over .220 this season. Yunel Escobar is a career .287 hitter but is currently hitting .255. Jose Bautista, a career .252 hitter, is hitting .199. Adam Lind, a career .263 hitter, is hitting a meager .191.
Rajai Davis, a career .271 hitter, is hitting .228. Travis Snider is crushing Triple-A pitching, yet when he hits the majors he can't hit for average.
Other than Edwin Encarnacion, who has strayed away from the current Jays mindset of letting fastballs go by, and Kelly Johnson, who is hitting better than the previous two seasons, no Jays hitter is doing well; in fact, most are having career-worst starts to the season.
How long do both of these coaches last in Toronto?
Feel free to comment.
Thanks for reading.