Playing Patience or Panic with Toronto Blue Jays' 5 Worst Early Slumps

Mohammad Arshad@@WahajArshadCorrespondent IApril 11, 2014

Playing Patience or Panic with Toronto Blue Jays' 5 Worst Early Slumps

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    Phelan M. Ebenhack

    The Toronto Blue Jays have gone 5-5 during their first 10 games after splitting a four-game series with the Tampa Bay Rays, losing two of three against the New York Yankees and winning two games out of a three-game set against the Houston Astros.

    Yeah, a 5-5 record isn’t special by any means. The team will need to be better than .500 if it wants to compete in this division. But what’s remarkable about this start is that the Blue Jays have done it with several of their key contributors mired in slumps.

    Before we move on though, keep in mind that it’s still way too early to be seriously concerned about most slumps this early in the season.

    Certain players are notoriously slow starters and take their time rounding into form physically. For others, it just takes a while before their timing starts to set in. Some players could be coming off of injuries and simply need more playing time before they can start to contribute.

    Now, with that little disclaimer out of the way, let’s take a look at the Blue Jays' five worst early slumps and determine whether there is any cause for panic or if being patient is the best approach.

Edwin Encarnacion

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    Brian Blanco/Getty Images

    After being Toronto's best player last year, Encarnacion has been slow out of the gate this season.

    The 31-year-old is hitting just .162/.244/.270 with no home runs and no runs driven in. He has just six hits in 37 at-bats.

    Despite the low numbers, there is no reason to think that this is anything more than a slow start for Encarnacion.

    After coming off back-to-back seasons where he hit at least 36 home runs and had more than a 100 runs driven in, the right-hander has proven that he is one of the better hitters in the American League.

    It’s also worth noting that Encarnacion had a similar start last season, getting just two hits in his first 27 at-bats before finally breaking out and going on to hit nine home runs in April.

    Another fact to bear in mind is that Encarnacion underwent surgery last September to clean out torn cartilage in his wrist. He came into spring training fully healthy, but it could still take some time for the slugger to adjust to the way the wrist feels.

    Verdict: Patience

Brett Lawrie

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    USA TODAY Sports

    Lawrie has been one of the worst hitters on the team to start off the regular season.

    In 37 at-bats, the 24-year-old has just four hits and nine strikeouts. He has looked visibly uncomfortable at the plate, swinging at pitches well out of the strike zone.

    The third baseman’s slow start is a concern considering he had similar problems at the beginning of last season and wasn’t able to overcome them until late in the campaign.

    Last April, Lawrie hit just .212. That dropped to .207 in May. June wasn’t much better as he again just hit .212. It wasn’t until July until Lawrie turned it around, hitting .346.

    After having a great spring training this year where he hit .339/.373/.484 in 62 at-bats, the hope was that Lawrie would have a strong start to the regular season and would be a major contributor in the middle of the lineup.

    But it’s alarming to watch him start off this season in similar fashion to last year.

    Blue Jays fans will no doubt be hoping that this latest slump doesn’t last until July.

    Verdict: Panic

Colby Rasmus

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    USA TODAY Sports

    After shortstop Jose Reyes went down with a hamstring injury during the first game of the season, Rasmus was moved into the No. 2 spot.

    The Blue Jays were no doubt hoping that the 27-year-old would pick it up where he left off last year, when he hit .276/.338/.501 with 22 home runs and 66 runs batted in.

    But Rasmus has struggled to recapture that form, hitting just .176/.263/.353 with 13 strikeouts in 34 at-bats.

    The strikeouts have always been Rasmus’ biggest weakness at the plate. Even during last season’s breakout performance, he still had 135 strikeouts. That figure was at 149 in 2012.

    It’s worth noting that the left-hander went through a slump last April as well, as he hit just .238 and had a whopping 38 K’s. But he went on to hit .263 in May and struck out 10 fewer times.

    Rasmus also is an unrestricted free-agent at end of this season. It’s possible that he may be putting extra pressure on himself.

    Either way, based on the season he had last year, it’s way too early to start panicking over this early slump.

    Verdict: Patience

R.A. Dickey

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    Brian Blanco/Getty Images

    Dickey has started three of Toronto’s first ten games of the season and the overall results have been poor.

    The 39-year-old has gone 1-2 over those three starts and has posted a 5.30 ERA along with a WHIP of 1.39 in 18.2 innings pitched.

    It’s way too early to panic when it comes to Dickey as he’s been a slow starter in the past. He posted an ERA above 4.50 last April and May before going on to post an ERA below 4.00 in three of the following four months.

    The slow starts are likely due to it taking a while for Dickey to get a feel for his knuckleball.

    His secret to success has also been his ability to throw his knuckler in the 80 mph range. But until Dickey has some innings under his belt and gets his body in better game-shape, he has problems generating that velocity and his pitch becomes more hittable.

    So while Dickey may never put up those Cy Young Award-worthy numbers again, he’s still a quality pitcher and will get better as the season goes along.

    Verdict: Patience

Ryan Goins

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    Tom Szczerbowski/Getty Images

    Heading into the season, Goins’ was projected to be the weakest hitter in Toronto’s lineup and so far that has proven to be the case.

    The left-hander is hitting just .053/.100/.105 with six strikeouts in 19 at-bats. Yes, that’s just one hit so far this season.

    It’s no secret that Goins made the Opening Day roster because the team wanted his glove at second base. But if he struggles to reach the Mendoza Line, it’s going to become hard for the team to give him regular at-bats. He may be better suited for a late-inning defensive-specialist role off the bench.

    The good news for the team is that with the re-emergence of Maicer Izturis, who has hit .385/.429/.423 in 26 at-bats, Goins likely won’t be a starter at second base if his slump continues for a lengthy period of time.

    The bad news, of course, is that Goins will likely lose his job. If you’re a fan of him starting at second base, it’s time to start panicking.

    Verdict: Panic