Jays/Indians Series in Review

Title: Jays/Indians Series in Review
Date: May 13, 2008
Original Source: The On Deck Circle
Synopsis: The Jays went 31 innings without scoring a run, including a Monday doubleheader. It was getting about time for John Gibbons to go.

I was going to put off writing a series review yet again because of John Gibbons’ impending firing, but it appears that it won’t be coming today, so here we are. My series review can be summed up in a number and a word:

31 innings.

31 innings is how long the Jays went without scoring a single run from Friday night’s 6th inning to Monday’s 19th inning. Granted, the Indians have strong pitching and all four Indian starters looked great in their respective outings, but scoring 4 runs in a four game series is completely unacceptable.

On a game by game basis, my series review doesn’t get much deeper:

Friday: Cleveland 6, Toronto 1 – Halladay and the bullpen not strong, 9 LOB
Saturday: Cleveland 12, Toronto 0 – Whole team eats it, McGowan is human
Monday I: Cleveland 3, Toronto 0 – New height of batting ineptitude, Burnett robbed (again)
Monday II: Toronto 3, Cleveland 0 (10 innings) – Thank God Marcum is God
 More after the jump!

And that’s it. That’s your series. An ERA of under 1.00 for Cleveland for an entire series, and the Jays have now scored just 32 runs in 12 May games. For the season, the Jays have scored just 148 runs in 40 games. Assuming all of the runs are earned and all games went 9 innings for simplicity, that would give opposing teams a 3.70 ERA against them (in reality, it’s around 3.55, I think). Compare this to Toronto’s 3rd-best-in-the-league 3.58 ERA and then look at the fact that they’re four games under .500 with a -5 run differential and it’s easy to see that this is a serious shame.

And there’s nowhere to point the finger. The team’s on-base percentage is better than last year and strong overall. The hitting with RISP is brutal but can’t be accounted for by mental make-up or things like that (not entirely, anyways). And you certainly can’t blame the manager for a team of good hitters simply not hitting.

Actually, you can. In the past I’ve hated on John Gibbons a lot. A lot. In the past year or so, though, I’ve come around on him as he got a lot out of the young pitching staff (possibly more Arnsberg than him) and hasn’t really screwed too many things up. But the buck has to stop somewhere, apparently, so the internet is abuzz with rumors that Gibbons is on his way out.

I can’t say I agree with the move. I contend that a managerial change, especially in baseball, does very little mid-season. Any effect on the dugout should only be temporary and risks being negative (remember that Gibbons is a Halladay favorite). Additionally, there aren’t really any readily available substitutes. Butterfield has just two months of bench coaching experience, Whitt got demoted this offseason, and the free agent manager crop is a who’s who of one-season managers, except for the 12-years-retired Cito Gaston. Cito would certainly be a huge lift to the fan base, but there is no evidence that he’d return or that he would be successful turning the club around.

So where does the club turn? There are no obvious trading partners since it’s too early in the season, the team is clearly not going to approach Barry Bonds, and Ricciardi has indicated for the eleventh time this season that he is done tinkering with the roster. There’s not really any obvious help in the minors, either, since the Triple-A squad is writing the same story as Toronto, staying above water with excellent starting pitching but terrible hitting.

The solution? Probably an extended tryout for Adam Lind, for starters. How many times do I have to post this guy’s name and photo before the team realizes a young player like him needs an extended period with the team to really be judged?

The rest of the Triple-A crop offers no help. Robinson Diaz is hurt. Curtis Thigpen is hitting below .200. Russ Adams is battling with the .250 mark, as usual. Travis Snider is probably two years away still. The future is certainly bright for Jays hitters, but can the team really wait two years to be great? Probably, but it’s a frustrating proposition for the fans and the man whose neck is likely on the line come season’s end, J.P. Ricciardi.

I’m not really sure where all of this is going. The pitching is awesome, the hitting sucks. Ditto at Triple-A. The team won’t sign the best free agent solution. The team won’t trade pitching depth for hitting because of a lack of tradimg partners. The only MLB-ready prospect has the team gun-shy on calling him up. Plus, I really don’t want Ricciardi to sell the farm to save his job and the 2008 season.

Moral of the story – strap yourself in, because it could be a few more weeks of batter’s box turmoil before Inglett & Co. (to steal a term from a DJF commenter) turn things around at the plate. And they will – it’s the frustrating randomness of baseball, is all.

Oh yeah, Vernon is out 6-to-8 weeks, too. 🙂

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