It Has Been Unseasonably Hot in Toronto: Blue Jays' April Review

David AllanCorrespondent IMay 5, 2009

BOSTON - APRIL 29: Aaron Hill # 2  of the Toronto Blue Jays swings at a pitch during the MLB game against the Boston Red Sox on April 29, 2008 at Fenway Park in Boston, Massachusetts. (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)

After a month of tempered excitement, the Blue Jays' bats have remained fairly hot. They put a 15 and 9 stamp on April and opened with three straight in May to run their record to a collective 18 and 9.

This puts them two games ahead of the Red Sox, who were getting slapped around in Tampa over the weekend by the Rays, including a couple of four-RBI performances by Longoria, and Carl Crawford ripping six bases in the Sunday matinee.

Although the storyline of the past month has most certainly been the bats, it should also be noticed that the Blue Jays are continuing to injure young pitchers at an alarming rate.

Although getting huge innings from Roy Halladay as per usual, a pleasant surprise thus far this season in Scott Richmond and a couple of good starts from long man Brian Tallet before an absolute stinker in KC. Watching some of the other arms they have run out there to cover key injuries tells me that the pipe line may to have run dry.

Can you blame them? From a year ago they are down their two, three, four and five starter with Burnett leaving and injuries to McGowan, Marcum and Litsch. They have also lost Rickey Romero for the time being, in his few starts this season the rookie looked like he belonged with the big club this year.

They have since found out that Scott Richmond has developed into a nice back-of-the-rotation starter.

On the other hand, David Purcey has proven beyond a shadow of a doubt, to me at least that he in fact is what he is, a guy that will never live up to the lofty status of being picked in the first round of the draft.

For the most part some of the bats have started to pick up where the others left off, and in other cases they have continued at their torrid pace. After a month, I think it’s time to assign some grades for April and wax intellectual about the potential for the Jays season.

Many people still doubt the Blue Jays ability to survive the 162 games grind a top the American League East.

Starting Pitching

As mentioned the Jays starting pitching has surprised thus far, especially considering the injuries to some of its key members that will likely keep them out all season. Fortunately, the top of their rotation is 250-plus-inning horse Roy Halladay, and so far posting a 5-1 record Doc has done nothing to disappoint.

Youngster Ricky Romero came out of the gates with guns blazing and the lefty posted an ERA of 1.71 in his first three starts before an injury put him on the 15-day

DL. He followed Jesse Litsch, and closer B.J. Ryan, some of those injuries more devastating than others to be sure.

Along with the pleasant surprise that was Romero, Scott Richmond has posted a 4-0 record, an ERA of 2.67, with a K/BB ratio of 2.16/1 and a WHIP of 1.220.

With inspiring starts to the season from Halladay, Romero and Richmond, and Brian Tallet doing an admirable job, except for one shelling in Kansas City has held down the fort a midst the rash of injuries.


How many teams have their closer go down and their pen gets better. That is the case with the Blue Jays. B.J. Ryan came out of spring training with more than his share of doubters. He did nothing to dispel those opinions when he managed to blow two of the four save attempts that were granted to him, posting an 11.12 ERA in 5.2 innings of work.

Other than Brandon League, the rest of the bullpen has been outstanding. Justin Frasor is 4-0 and has yet to give up an earned run in 10 appearance totaling 10.1 innings. Scott Downs is three for three in save opportunities and has fashioned a 0.66 earned run average thus far in 2009.

Jesse Carlson has also been lights out giving up two earned runs in 14.2 innings this year.

Grade: A -, the Bullpen has been the best in baseball, and A + + unit, of their 15 wins in April half were fashioned by Roy Halladay and Scott Richmond. Although a 4-1 month of April is very Halladay-esque, a 3-0 effort by Richmond most certainly won't be repeated.

Beyond that I question the health of Romero and Litsch as the Jays have proven time and time again, that they are incapable of keeping young pitching healthy.

(On a Side Note: Shawn Marcum (Tommy John’s Surgery – Sept. 10, 2009) was throwing bullpen sessions in KC. If we add up the debacle that is Ryan after coming back to early, the Jays poor record with pitchers. (Brandon League last year, Casey Jansen, McGowan, Marcum, Litsch this year, Romero this year, Ryan) Wouldn’t it make sense to protect this young arm?)

The Lineup

The bats have been outstanding since an opening day trashing of the Tigers. They are in the top three in the majors in average (first), on base percentage (T-third) and Slugging percentage (second).

They also lead the league in hits, RBI and total bases. To go with that they have nine come from behind nine times, and already produced four walk off wins.

So far this season the Jays have been pleasantly surprised by veteran Scott Rolen, youngster Adam Lind, second basemen Aaron Hill and catcher Rod Barajas.

Vernon Wells has been serviceable but not spectacular. He continues to produce an unusually high number of double plays 19 percent in 2008 and 18 percent in 2009. (The Major League Average is 10 percent.)

Marco Scutaro started the year on a massive role and has since cooled off. Early in April he was batting around .370, and has seen that tumble to a very Scutaro .267 to end the month.

Alex Rios continues to be the worst number three hitter in all of baseball. In a prime spot in the hottest line up in baseball Rios has been nothing but disappointing. Like clean up hitter Wells, Rios has hit into in an above average number of double plays.

He ended the month of April with exactly one home run. He was also batting a measly .248 with a .366 slugging percentage.

“Rookie Sensation” Travis Snider has not been anything close to sensational. If you listened to Blue Jays fans you’d think they were talking about Duke Snider. Some how a two-bomb effort in the middle of the month has struck a cord with fans.

That night in Minnesota, he hit home runs number two and three of the year and was batting .316 and topped out at .348 the two nights later. By the time Apr. 30 had rolled around an early hot pick for rookie of the year was batting .258.

Since Apr. 16, Snider has one multiple hit game and only eight hits in 39 at-bats (.205).

The real engine thus far for the Jays has been second basemen Aaron Hill in the two-hole. Hill returning from a concussion that knocked him out after only 55 games in 2008 has been on fire.

So far this season Hill leads all major leaguers in hits with 38 through the end of April. A second basemen with a career line of .289/.343/.419, Hill already has 12 extra-base hits, including six home runs to go along with his 38 hits. To start the 2009 season Hill hit .361/.412/.567 and has driven in 20 RBI.

Rob Barajas has been having a career year thus far. A major leaguer since 1999, Barajas bats .244, with 162 game average of .244/.292/.413 with 17 home runs and 68 RBI. So far this season the Ontario, CA native is hitting and astonishing .299/.333/.493 and is on pace to drive in 90 runs this season.

Grade: Even without the heart of the order beating, the Jays sticks have been the hottest in baseball, they’ve earned an A + this month.

The overall grade for Cito Gaston’s squad is an A as they finished the month of April with a 15 – 9 record and a lead in the American League East.


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