Toronto Blue Jays Week in Review

Title: Toronto Blue Jays Week in Review
Date: April 7, 2008
Original Source: The On Deck Circle
Synopsis: I once again tested out a new format/article type, this time a weekly Jays review. Like the others, it didn’t last as long as I would have preferred, probably because I was spreading myself a little thin at this point with “weekly commitments” in terms of the site. Regardless, here’s the first swing at it.

Welcome to my new segment. It is shiny. It has that new segment smell. It is fresh out of the box and the packaging is still on the floor. It is a virgin. It is a delicate flower, kind of like Butters. It is the brainchild of an over-cheesed/drunk weekend.

Anyways, what the hell am I talking about? Well, since this is the debut I, of course, haven’t worked out the details yet since that’s not exactly how I roll. I do know that it is a review of a certain amount of Jays games, but whether that is a series or a week at a time is yet to be determined. For now, let’s call it a weekly review since this is the end of Week 1, but it will probably change without warning several times.

The segment will look at the games just passed and those just ahead, highlighting the Alex Rios and the Jesse Litsch (the pretty and the ugly) of the past series/week. I’ll also do a quick look at the happenings down on the farm since, as you all know, there is no expert with more useless knowledge of the Jays minor league system than yours truly.

So let’s get going, right?
 More after the jump!
Well, I need to start by saying that I really, really, really missed baseball. The sounds, playing catch with the game on the radio outside, drinking while you watch, attending the home opener (with 11 other guys, fantastic time), dissecting at-bats with other fans, I could go on and on. I really missed baseball, and the Jays welcome it back the right way.

Toronto Blue Jays at New York Yankees
Overall, this was an alright series for the Jays. The pitching looked fantastic, starting and bullpen, and it was nice to see the running game get through customs and find its way to Toronto. I am of the opinion that a good team will take 50% of their close games against other good teams, and the Jays went 1-2 here, arguably 0-2 since Wednesday’s game wasn’t as close as the score indicated, so we’ll have to improve in close games but it is much too early for judgment.

Monday, March 31 – Rain Out. Weak. See here for more.

Tuesday, April 1 – New York 3, Toronto 2
I live blogged this one and I think I covered every possible angle. It was mostly just nice to have baseball back, win or lose. The Melk Man killed us a few times and a lack of defensive polish may have cost us the game, but some positive signs were there, too.

Wednesday, April 2 – Toronto 5, New York 2
AJ Burnett looked good on a national stage (ESPN), sending the first indicators that yes, he knows it’s a contract year, in theory. He didn’t strike many out but his curveball was breaking well and his changeup looked great the eight times he used it. Vernon went yard and the running game from Tuesday was back, despite having less success.

Thursday, April 3 – New York 3, Toronto 2
Our bats fail us for the second time in this series, this time in a serious pitching duel of the future, with McGowan and Hughes squaring off. Not a lot to say from this one, as it was just more of the opener.

Boston Red Sox at Toronto Blue Jays
A sweep! This early in the year, the Jays get the sweep monkey out of the way, and against the Sox no less. Not only did I get to see the home opener, which was freakin’ awesome, but every aspect of the Jays team looked good, from running to patience to power to pitching. Tough break for all the Sox fans in Toronto for the weekend, and for the entire Red Sox pitching staff. Blame it on Japan if you want, but the Jays looked dominant and seem to already have a much better ‘team’ vibe than I’ve seen in some time.

Friday, April 4 – Toronto 6, Boston 3
Home opener, baby! To recap, 12 of us sat first base line with great seats, almost scrapped people after the game, got fairly drunk (except drivers, like me), we all got free blankets and towels, my car broke down after the game, I got a powder-blue Rios jersey (no curse, either, since he signed as I was buying it!), and the Jays win in a fantastic game. Marcum looked untouchable until the 3-run bomb by Drew, but even that came about from a long at-bat walk to Ortiz and a bloop single by Manny, so you can count that as just one mistake. Great game, and great to see The Big Hurt mashing early and loving life. Oh, and the crowd freakin’ erupted when Stairs broke the 0-0 tie with a glass shattering home run.

Saturday, April 5 – Toronto 10, Boston 2
What you know about that, Massholes? An all-out assault by the Jays on Bucholz and the bullpen, though Litsch was shaky despite good numbers. The bullpen threw four shutout innings to hold the lead while the whole team hit well. Only the 2-hole in the lineup (Stairs) failed to reach base and Thomas pumped one deep.

Sunday, April 6 – Toronto 7, Boston 4
I like to refer to Sunday afternoon games as Hangover Games, and this was definitely true after a messy night of drinking for Wood’s birthday. The Doc definitely had the cure, to recycle a cliché for the millionth time, and he pitched much better than the 4 ER suggest. Thomas hit a grand slam and Wells went yard, too, convincing everyone that six games is enough time to deem both of them rid of their slow starter tags (come on). Sox fans have the excuse that Beckett was fresh from the DL and, uhh, get used to that. Oh ya, and Accardo iced his third save…HBK! HBK! Manny’s catch and reaction were priceless, too, begging the question – how can you hate Man Ram?

Overall Impressions
The Jays averaged 5.33 runs per game and gave up just 2.85, so based on run differential things are looking good. It also felt like we played well, which is my biggest gauge of future team success…160-2 this year!

Positives: Wells and Thomas are hitting; not one starter had a poor outing; the bullpen has given up just 1 run in 13 innings of work (and Accardo looks good); 10 stolen base attempts and 7 successes have the team on pace to nearly triple 2007’s totals; put together a sweep, something they had trouble doing…well, forever; the injury reports on Rolen and Ryan are promising; Rios walked 6 times in 25 plate appearances, a ridiculous clip. Most importantly, we signed Rios and Hill to very affordable longer-term contracts, securing our two biggest pillars in the post-2010 (post-JP?) era.

Negatives: Zaun looked awful in nearly every plate appearance; Stairs is obviously nursing that hip more than the team is letting on; all 3 of Scutaro’s SBs were from broken down hit-and-runs; I’m stretching here already since it was a good week…Overbay struck out 7 times?

Looking Forward
Oakland Athletics at Toronto Blue Jays – April 8-9-10
The A’s are in town, and they are…bad. Burnett v. Harden is an awesome match-up on Tuesday, pitting two of the best-but-oft-injured pitchers in the game against each other. Harden is Canadian, too, so there’s that. Otherwise, the A’s have looked bad so far and are bad, so 2 or 3 wins here is definitely doable. How great would it be to string together a winning streak at the start of the year instead of waiting all season for a 5-gamer like in seasons past?

Toronto Blue Jays at Texas Rangers – April 11-12-13
The first extended road trip of the season for the Jays is a 5-gamer starting with 3 in the Lone Star State. Luckily, the Rangers are a bad team beneath their 3-3 record, and except for Halladay’s rough time there last year (15.19 ERA and one case of appendicitis in one appearance), the pitching match-ups favor the Jays with Litsch-Halladay-Burnett taking on Padilla-Mendoza-Jennings. The Ballpark in Arlington is a hitter’s park, so it should be a good weekend for any cold hitters to break out and any hot ones (see: Shrek Thomas) to keep the good vibes…vibing?

Down on the Farm
You didn’t know I was just as big a Syracuse Chiefs fan as I am a Jays fan, did you? Maybe you did. Regardless, Syracuse has looked decent to start the season, and with good reason – the Jays have some good prospects there and a good deal of bullpen depth, so the Chiefs could compete for the first time since 2000. The Chiefs are 2-2 but two of our biggest prospects, Adam Lind and Robinson Diaz, have gotten off to great starts. The most important note from AAA so far? The franchise has made it pretty clear that Diaz, not Curtis Thigpen, is the catcher of the future, as he’s caught every game he’s played while Thigpen has manned first base. I’m sure Thiggy will get some time as the back stop, but already that decision seems clear. Diaz, 23, has a gun for an arm, is a very athletic fielder, and has a .305 lifetime minor league batting average, so you can start getting excited. David Purcey stuck out in the rotation, throwing 6 shutout innings with 7 Ks in his lone start so far.

Elsewhere in the minor league system, the AA New Hampshire Fisher Cats started off 0-3 despite a torrid 8-for-12 start by 2nd base prospect Scott Campbell. The top prospect there, lefty Ricky Romero, allowed 4 runs (3 earned) over 3.2 innings of work in his lone start. At Single-A Dunedin, the team is 3-1 on the back of a 1-hitter from Cuban defector Kenny Rodriguez. Rodriguez, 21, apparently shook off signs all game to call his own game and ended up allowing just one hit while striking out 7 in the 6 inning affair. Prized OF prospect Travis Snider has 3 hits and a home run through 4 games. Finally, at low-class-A Lansing, the Lugnuts are 3-1 thanks in part to an unreal start by SS prospect Kevin Ahrens, who is 9-of-18 with 5 RBI so far.

Please, feedback on the format and this segment in general are greatly appreciated. This time next week, I’ll be hyping the 9-3 Jays.

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