Well here we are 12 games into the the Blue Jays’ season and the team sits comfortably at 6 and 6. This record could be better for certain as in five of the six games that the Blue Jays lost, they lost by only one run and the other loss was by two runs. They’ve been in every game to date. There was also the horse-bleep baserunner interference call in Anaheim that cost them a game and of course the disaster in Seattle where the bullpen blew a five-run lead.
So twelve games in, here are my first impressions on the 2011 Blue Jays
There have been some bright lights and some disappointments thus far. To me the brightest lights have been Yunel Escobar, J.P. Arencibia, and Jose Bautista.
Escobar has been on fire since the start of the season. He leads the team in average and OBP and has reached base safely in every game. He also, of course has that walk-off homerun against the A’s on April. Hopefully there will be no lingering effects from that mild concussion he suffered.
Arencibia started the season off with a bang with two homeruns in the season opener. He leads the team in slugging percentage and has legged out two triples as well. His defence has not been an issue.
Bautista hasn’t been hitting balls out of the park like a mad man but he still has three to lead the team including that big 3 run homerun in the series finale against Seattle that turned the game around for the Blue Jays. He’s hitting at a .353 clip so far and has drawn ten walks already this season despite missing three games for the birth of his daughter.
Honourable mentions go to Jose Molina, John MacDonald and Jason Nix who have performed well in part-time roles.
The biggest disappointments for me thus far have been Juan Rivera and Aaron Hill. Rivera had a decent spring and swung the bat well but so far this season he has been absolutely terrible. He’s slow, he looks uninspired and is next to useless in the field. So when Rivera is not swinging the bat well, he doesn’t add too much to the equation.
Aaron Hill continues to struggle. He has an OBP below .200 and has only 8 hits so far this year. Quickly perusing the Jays’ box scores this year, I don’t believe he has a multiple hit game yet but I could be wrong there. Either way, Hill continues to scuffle. Perhaps the missed time during spring training has affected him. One bright spot is that he does have seven RBIs thus far, only one behind the team leaders; Adam Lind and Travis Snider.
Speaking of Lind and Snider, they haven’t exactly torn the cover off the ball but despite slow starts to the season, they still have been contributing. Snider has impressed me with his play in left field and his newfound ability to gun runners out trying to take that extra base. He seems to have more plate discipline this year and he is advancing runners even if he’s not reaching base. Lind is playing a decent first base and has hit relatively well so far this season. He’s not putting up the numbers that fans expect of Lind but I think that will come. He’s impressed me with his ability to hit lefties (batting .357 against them so far) but for some reason he has struggled against righties (batting .206). After batting .360 in the opening two series at Rogers Centre, he has struggled on this road trip only batting a buck thirty.
From the rest of the lineup, I think we’re getting about what I expected. Encarnacion can be productive but is unreliable in the field. Davis has been impressive when he’s got on base but has struggled to do so consistently and is battling an ankle injury. Corey Patterson has just returned to the lineup after missing most of the start of the season with a concussion (thank you Josh Beckett) but has been impressive in the games he’s played and has more than made up for Davis being absent. As I noted earlier, the part-time players like Molina, MacDonald and Nix have all contributed nicely. Nix has hit some timely homeruns and played better defence at third than Encarnacion. MacDonald is stellar defensively but has also had a few decent games at the plate. Molina has shown some power with a .706 slugging percentage thus far in limited action.
In general the baserunning game and aggressiveness has been impressive. Yes the team has been caught in a few run downs and there have been a few baserunning mistakes but on the whole, this new philosophy of being aggressive on the basepaths has paid off.
The starters have, on the whole, been effective. Ricky Romero has been brilliant in all of his three starts. Kyle Drabek has shown he has impressive stuff and the ability to get outs even when he’s struggling with control. Jesse Litsch has been solid in his two starts. Jo Jo Reyes has been both ugly and good. He was awful in his first start against Oakland and then in his second start against the Angels, he was effective holding the Angels to three runs (only 1 earned) over seven innings.
Brett Cecil has struggled in his first two starts. In his first start against Minnesota, he really only had one bad inning but he was only around for five. His last outing against the Angels he struggled again and despite the run support provided by the offence he could never keep the lead. Much has been made about his lack of velocity coming out of spring training but from what I’ve seen, the bigger problem is his location. He seems to have struggled with keeping the ball down in the zone and has been hurt when the ball is up.
The big question is who will be the odd man out when Brandon Morrow returns. Odds on favourite is Jo Jo Reyes but the Blue Jays love his arm and if Cecil continues to struggle they may decide to keep Reyes in the rotation and have Cecil work out his issues in Vegas.
It’s hard to really put a gauge on this bullpen so far. They’ve looked good in some games and terrible in others (see Seattle!). To me, the mid relievers like Janssen, Camp, Villeneuva, et. al have been impressive. Mark Rzepczynski has been lights out for the most part (again see Seattle) and seems to have found his niche in the pen. The back end of the bullpen hasn’t been so good in my opinion. Jason Frasor is Jason Frasor. He can be effective and strike out the side but he also can come into the game with the game on the line and give up that key hit/homerun etc. I don’t like him as a late-inning reliever but over the years he has not been terrible in this role. Jon Rauch as closer does not instill a whole lot of confidence in me but I think Frank Francisco’s return is imminent so Rauch can slip back into a set-up type role with Octavio Dotel. Dotel looked great in his two appearances against Anaheim but was also part of that disaster in Seattle. I think he’ll be effective as well as a set-up man as long as he doesn’t get to face lefties too often.