1:46AM Eastern

For the second straight night, the Blue Jays got a tremendous outing from a young starting pitcher and did absolutely nothing with it, wasting Kyle Drabek’s six innings of two-run ball and getting shut out for the first time all season.

Drabek only really made one mistake, and Wilson Betemit hit it out of the yard to dead centre in the second inning.  Chris Davis also homered, but Davis was very upset with himself as he started to run towards first, thinking he’d popped it up, and when the ball wound up leaving the park, Drabek himself couldn’t even stifle a laugh at the absurdity of it.

The most encouraging thing about the outing was that Drabek walked only half as many Orioles as he’d walked Royals in his last start, and that the hitter following each one of Drabek’s three walks wound up hitting into a double play.  He also struck out both hitters he faced after allowing the home runs.  These are excellent signs, since the only thing that seems to have been standing in between Drabek and huge success is his own ability to maintain his composure and control his emotions.

The offense just couldn’t get anything going against Baltimore starter Jason Hammel, who shut them out on four hits over seven innings, or relievers Matt Lindstrom and Pedro Strop.  The Jays only had a couple of solid scoring chances – they loaded the bases with two out in the fourth, but Colby Rasmus struck out, and they put the first two hitters of the ninth inning aboard, but Strop got Edwin Encarnacion on a fly ball to centre and then Brett Lawrie hit into a game-ending double play.

It looked like Encarnacion turned his ankle pretty badly after the swing, but he still managed a light jog down the first base line as Adam Jones handled the fly ball easily.  One hopes that Edwin is fine, he’s been one of the only players who has produced offensively on a regular basis in this early part of the season.

The online hate was directed towards Adam Lind tonight, for some reason (he went 1-for-3 with a walk hitting out of the clean-up spot a day after John Farrell had declared Encarnacion his clean-up man for the time being).  Here’s what you need to know about Lind:  He was spectacular in 2009, average in 2010 (his overall numbers were dragged down by an absymal showing against left-handed pitchers – against righties he hit .275/.327/.502, which is not bad at all), and in 2011 he was one of the best hitters in the league for a couple of months once he got his groove going, until he hurt his back.

And when did he get going last season?  Why, on April 26th, by going 1-for-3 with a walk.  From that point on until July 14th, Lind hit .339/.390/.607 for a sparkling .997 OPS.  Going into that April 26th game, he was hitting .232/.270/.329.  What’s Lind hitting right now? .217/.299/.350.  It can turn around that quickly.

I’m trying my best, but I can’t seem to convince too many people that the fact that the Blue Jays are off to a 10-8 start – a 90+ win pace – while doing almost nothing offensively is a very good thing.  Trust me, the fact that they’re winning while they’re playing poorly is tremendous.  There’s a lot more in these bats than they’ve shown, pretty much every one of them except for Encarnacion’s, and at some point soon, the hitting will come around.  If the starting pitching can keep going anywhere close to where it has been, the Blue Jays and their fans are going to be having a lot of fun.

Here’s tonight’s edition of The BlueJaysTalk, for your listening pleasure:

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The road trip comes to a close on Thursday night, with Drew Hutchison getting the assignment of beating back the Baltimore brooms.  He’s making his second big-league start, having beaten the Royals on Saturday night, and he can’t pitch much better than Drabek or Henderson Alvarez did before him, so the Blue Jays’ bats had better get to hitting against lefty Brian Matusz, who is off to a pretty terrible start to the year, with a 7.98 ERA and an ugly WHIP of 2.250.  The Blue Jays have already beaten him once this year, 9-2 back on April 15th, with Encarnacion and Lawrie taking him deep.  The Jays haven’t lost more than two in a row yet this season. We’ll have all the action for you, starting at 7:00PM Eastern along the Blue Jays Radio Network – join us, won’t you?

Please give me a follow on The Twitter, if only to help me beat back the nattering nabobs of negativity.  You can find me @wilnerness590.

Comments are welcome – I read them all and respond to most!

 

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26 Responses to “Another Great Start Wasted”
  1. 1.

    Hi Mike,
    Do you think changing a player or two in the lineup may give some rest and possibly liven up the bats? I’d hate to take his bat out, but Bautista looks completely angry and frustrated. A day off may let him regain some clarity.
    I know a lot of people are calling for Snider to replace Thames. I like this not because of Thames’s struggles at the dish and in the field. I would reward Travis’s performance in hopes thathis hot bat will rejuvenate the offence. Also, he would sure up the defence while the team struggles to produce offensively. Any thoughts?

    MW: I do think Snider would definitely up the defense, be a threat on the bases and allow the Blue Jays to better utilize Rajai Davis as a late-game pinch-runner. I don’t know that Bautista would see a day off as a positive.

    - ted
  2. 2.

    Mike,

    It was a decent start – hardly great. The Jays are going to hit, the problem ahead is their pitching. They have an ace in Romero and a decent #2…after that you’re just not going to cut it in the AL East with three kids. The ERA’s will all be in the mid 4′s or near 5 by June – and then what? You mentioned you’d rather have young pitches that veterans like Gavin Floyd because they have higher ceilings. The problem is the young pitchers have deeper basements. The hitting will be fine – what may sink the Jays is their lack of pitching. If that is a “great” start the standard is not very impressive.

    MW: If you give up two runs in six innings, that’s a great start. Also, can you let me know where you bought your crystal ball? I could really use one.

    - Gary
  3. 3.

    Mr.Wilner-You can praise the team all you want,but in my opinion the Blue Jays played a very sloppy game.Encarnacion was just terrible at third base. This should not be allowed,because sloppy play really cannot help us win.There is alot of improvement to be made. First base is a large factor in helping the team & this is not just happening. The offence needs a lot to be desired.Perhaps the managment will try to improve these points before it is too late.

    MW: I don’t believe that saying they don’t all suck is praising them. Edwin didn’t have a good game at third, it’s true, but it didn’t cost them a thing.

    - herby2
  4. 4.

    Hi Mike

    If you were to say to me the Jays would only score one run in two games against Baltimore, I would almost bet the house on it. Here it is, two no name pitchers and they looked like Cy Young.

    A question for you – can you think of a reason why Bautista is falling into a pattern of watching the first pitch thrown to him almost each time he comes to bat this season instead of once in a while swing at it?

    MW: I’m assuming it’s because he doesn’t like it, which is another indication of how off his timing is right now.

    - Francis
  5. 5.

    I understand that you continue to trumpet the W-L pace the team is on as a measure to counter all the shrieking, but doing so is disengenuous given the softness of the team’s schedule to date (which I concede you occasionally allude to).

    With respect to the pitching, there are some very troubling peripherals that may not augur well. They don’t spell certain doom, but they are worth watching. The pitching has been more superficially impressive than genuinely so.

    Alvarez’s K-rate is absurdly low and his HR-rate quite high. Either would be a problem on its own. Together they are a lethal combination. His terrific GB% has saved his bacon and he’ll need it to continue being other worldly to survive. Few pitchers survive striking out fewer than 5 per 9, let alone fewer than 3.

    Drabek, too, has a high HR-rate. He can probably survive with a BB/9 in the 4′s, but no higher — he is walking the razor’s edge at the moment. His FIP and xFIP are about double his actual ERA. Yes, he’s pitched better than most would have expected, but there is much illusion at play here.

    And Brandon Morrow… what is going on there? I understand the new “pitch to contact” approach, but how on earth is he now striking out so few? His current K-rate does not portend long term success, particularly when paired with his gopheritis. I’d sooner see a return to a K-heavy, “6 IP per start” approach than this far less effective variant of the man. His ERA belies how poor he has been pitching.

    The pitchers have been the benefactors of an incredible number of GIDPs. Success on this front is sustainable, just not at the rates we have been seeing.

    I believe that the hitters *will* start hitting and they will need to because the starting pitching seems a near certainty to regress, and maybe drastically so. An inevitable improvement from the relievers should partly offset that, however.

    - Curious George
  6. 6.

    The Blue Jays are on a 90 win pace, not a 90+ win pace.

    MW: Correct – my math error. I had thought 5/9 got you to 90 wins after 160 games.

    - Doug D
  7. 7.

    I get a kick out of all the callers wanting to bring Snider up to replace Thames. Most of them can’t even pronounce his (Eric’s)name correctly, and the rest? Why are they all looking at Thames? Is he going to hit in every slot except EE’s in the line up? Thames isn’t the only one on this team that isn’t hitting and as far as vilifying him for missing that catch at the wall? If he had of come up with that ball, it would have made the highlight reels so doesn’t that mean that he made a great effort to get to that ball? It’s easy to be frustrated at the lack of hitting early in this season but I think we all need to relax a bit. If hitting is contagious than so is slumping. This will end soon. Go Jays Go!

    - Dan From Elmvale
  8. 8.

    Well another fabulous play from Thames last night. Couldn’t get the ball out of his glove, then couldn’t hit the cut off man, costing the Jays a run. Didn’t cost them the game, but that is coming. He is dreadful, and is not going to get any better. The Jays need better.

    MW: Honestly, I didn’t plan for these comments to go back to back.

    - samdy s
  9. 9.

    Starting pitchers doing fantastc job.
    Lstened to Jays Talk.
    You said not sure if loss was pitching or none hitting. Find it hard to believe that all 9 just couldn’t/didn’t hit. Must have been good pitching.
    You said not to put a left fielder, Snider, at first base.
    Did Lind not play left field? I can’t remember how good/bad he was.
    No idea why Farrell put E.E. at 3rd. Did we not learn last year it was wrong. Ist play, error !

    MW: Lind was not a good left fielder. I said not to put a very good left fielder, Snider, at first base.

    - Myob
  10. 10.

    Mike, People don’t get it the season is 162 games, you don’t get in the playoffs in April or May, we need to be close all year. The last two years we started off well then dropped off the map. I still think we are short a few players but we should be close. I think Drabek will be an ace in two year, the kid has electric stuff.

    And Baltimore isnt as bad as everyone thinks, they would do pretty good in the centre. They have some good young players.

    I think the new approach at the plate is taking the guys longer to adjust. For the agressive bats I would like to see them got back to swinging hard at the first pitch fastball (if it comes) versus trying to be the Yankess or Boston taking and runnign the counts deep. Some guys are just not built that way. It seems escobar, Kelly, Colby, and Lawrie are but I would like to see the others go out hacking early.

    Thames need to shake off the jitters, cost us another run last night waiting for the ball to come to him and then making a terrible throw.

    we need some energy injected into the line up, might be time to shake it up.

    Lots of ups and downs in 162 games, lets hope we get back on the ups soon! Go Jays go!

    - Moon
  11. 11.

    Another great start wasted, indeed.

    But you know, the Jays are 10-8. If the team loses, it’s because of poor hitting, poor pitching, or poor fielding. And when I say poor, it’s just in relation with the other team.

    Both Alvarez and Drabek pitched very, very well. The team fielded very, very well. The hitting was very, very poor. Tommy Hunter got away with a few pitches that should have been hammered. Hammels was very very good last night. Still, given the upgrades in the lineup from last year, 1 run in 18 innings is very very unproductive.

    The Blue Jays are going to lose at least another 60 games this year, and probably more than that and it will be due to one of those reasons.

    The fans are used to the team dominating the Orioles, and now there’s a good chance that the Blue Jays will get swept.

    I think Hutchinson will do well tonight. His true test will be Tuesday night against the very hot Texas Rangers.

    The sky is not falling. The Blue Jays still have a winning record, despite the hitting outage.

    - Tim in Niagara Falls
  12. 12.

    Michael

    I just checked the stats – despite lack of production, the Jays are 4th in run production. My take from this – I would be pretty scary to see this line-up when they hit to their normal capacity. They can easily lead the league in hitting. If they continue to pitch well and play great defense, that is a winning combination!

    - Francis
  13. 13.

    I’m sorry, but the offesnse has been horrible for quite a few years.The stats will pretty much show me wrong, but that I think is where watching the team day in and day out is important.

    My point is that they had a lot of games where they scored less than 3 runs over the last few years.

    Alan Ashby was very critical about the approach at the plate the Jays took during many broadcasts last year as well.

    Maybe it’s time for a new hitting coach? Since Murphy has been here tho offence has been pretty inconsistent.

    MW: The stats prove you wrong, and the stats are an actual measurement of what has happened.

    - Kevin Daly
  14. 14.

    Ps That being said, they’re off to a great start considering the lack of offense.

    - Kevin Daly
  15. 15.

    Strangely enough, I’m not worried about the hitting but do have concerns over the starting pitching going forward.

    Bautista, Escobar, and Johnson have all proven to be productive hitters in the past and there is no reason to believe they have suddenly dropped off the face of the Earth. These guys will bounce back. Encarnacion is a solid hitter and will be one going forward. Lawrie and Rasmus clearly have the talent to be good hitters. They are young though and we’ll see what happens. I do think you are sugar-coating Lind’s ineffectiveness over the past two years. You can take out the lefty splits, emphasize the hot streak and so on but in the end, he was a very bad overall player in those years. I think us fans have a right to question his role as an every-day player on this team.

    Unfortunately it seems like some of the starters are due for some big regression if they keep pitching the same way. Morrow, Alvarez and Drabek are all significantly outpitching their peripheral stats and there is a huge gap when it comes to their ERA and FIP. If you don’t strike batters out but walk a lot and give up HRs, that will happen. The results have been there so far but I worry that it won’t continue if the process doesn’t change.

    I do think the bullpen will be one of the Jays strong suits overall this year. There are too many good arms in there to fail.

    I agree, there is a bit too much panicking going on. There is a reason almost everyone picked this team to be good but still be 4th again this year. While you would hope the hitters and pitchers could both get “hot” at the same time, it doesn’t always work out. I sure wasn’t expecting playoffs this year but see them as an outside chance and a nice bonus if certain things go right. 10-8 to me seems right on schedule.

    - LS`
  16. 16.

    I think the Jays pitching will hold up pretty well.Good fielding makes pitchers better and the Jays do have good fielding.I am running out of patience with Lind who was one of my favorites.His slumps seem more frequent than his hot spells.Bautista has me worried too.He seems to be swinging for the fences on every pitch.He needs to forget the HRs and just meet the ball and go the other way at times.The HRs will come without trying and his average will climb up where it belongs.

    MW: When Bautista was the best hitter in baseball the last two years, he pretty much swung for the fences every time up.

    - Paul
  17. 17.

    Mike – I’m hooked on the Jays again and they’re entertaining to say the least. I only wish Martinez and Tabler could be just a tad more partial in covering the game. Gregg Zaun gives far better insight as he’s simply more objective. After the start to the season thus far and I know it’s just a start I’m still not as optomistic about the Jays as you. Last night you said Baltimore would finish way last. Perhaps you should read Richard Griffen’s article on Baltimore in the Star today. I’m going out on a limb right now and predict that Bautista’s glory days are over. You cite statistics all the time so consider his. He had 1 outstanding season and started to have a second one last year and then he reverted to ‘average’ again. Mike Weir won the Masters and became a star for 2 seasons and whatever it is that makes you ‘better than the rest’ left him.Bautista appears the same. He carries the same swagger but do you notice that pitchers aren’t so afraid to pitch to him as they once were? I’m sure you’ll provide a stat that shows he’s being walked as much as he was last year. I hope Bautista proves me wrong. Because the Jays really really need that bat.
    Gary

    MW: It depends on what you consider to be average. Bautista “reverted” to an .896 OPS after the all-star break, which on its own would have been good enough for the top 10 in the A.L. over the full season. I don’t consider that to be average. Also, the fact that Richard Griffin wrote something doesn’t mean that he’s right and I’m wrong.

    - Anonymous
  18. 18.

    Jays need to bring up the lunchbox now. Maybe shake a few people out of their slumber. Thames is horrible in left field and takes ridiculous routes to the ball. Perhaps Bautista should stop worrying about every strike call he doesn’t like. He looks like he is becoming a whiner. Escobar has looked lost at the plate and pounds everything into the dirt. He needs a shorter bat. This team has much to be concerned about. And finally, the Jays need Farnsworth

    MW: So he can hang out on the disabled list with Sergio Santos?

    - ken
  19. 19.

    Re: Lind:

    Yes, he’s been good for fits and starts in 2010 and 2011. But so have many baseball players. For 2011 you’re talking about 183 ABs. In a larger sample size last year (201 ABs) Albert Pujols hit .259/.330/.388). Does that make him middling (at best) hitter? The answer is no, and the same logic should apply to Lind.

    And you can’t simply exclude how he hit versus left handed pitching in an analysis of a player as a whole – if his 2010 was “dragged down” against left handed pitching… well what does that tell you about the player? It tells you he had a bad overall year. It tells you that he should have been (and likely still should be based on his career #s) platooning.

    Let’s just face the facts regarding Lind: he has put up exactly one great year in the MLB (now going on 3 years ago), one “good” half year (2008), one “poor” half year (2007) and two consecutive “disappointing” years (going on 3) that were generally poor, with brief flashes of very good/great.

    As hard as it may be to face, Lind’s numbers are what they are.

    MW: Everybody’s numbers are what they are, but what you so easily dismiss is the fact that his numbers against left-handed pitchers dragged him down. You can’t gloss over that. It doesn’t mean he had a “bad overall year”, it means that he hit lefties very poorly and was just fine against right-handers.

    - Kevin
  20. 20.

    michael,
    news update from baltimore this morning… the thames home run from 2 nights ago just landed…
    got all of it apparently…

    - darrell bishop
  21. 21.

    So Lind has a hot month every now and then surrounded by stretches of awfulness, and Thames can make the most routine plays in left. Hooray..? I thought this team was in the business of competing for a pennant, not celebrating more mediocrity. My point is, guys might not be as bad as they’re playing right now, but realistically you project these guys out and they’re not very good either. Anthopolous has said it himself numerous times, you need to be above average all around the diamond to win in this division and I just don’t see that ever happening for a few of these guys (Lind, Thames, Arencibia).

    MW: Read every other answer in the comments section.

    - Karim
  22. 22.

    michael,
    so young hutch up tonite to help avoid the sweep from those ghastly baltimores i see…
    nice.
    definitely a good test coming up for the young hurler’s 2nd career start.
    can’t wait… the kid’s gonna be good this evening. you just watch…

    - darrell bishop
  23. 23.

    I am STUNNED having just listened to a caller from the Blue Jays Talk that complained about the homer that Rasmus clearly botched in center field. (??)
    What was BRUTAL was EE’s first defensive chance at 3B. That was terrible and kind of hilarious that he committed an error IMMEDIATELY at third.

    Wow, what a complete dope. The thing is I always tend to sit beside guys like that when I go to the game. Makes an argument for staying at home.

    Mike, how impressed are you this year with the Jays approach and patience at the plate? They are working the pitcher MUCH much better this year and not giving at bats away. I LOVE it. Wait until the bats heat up. Look out!

    MW: I really do love the approach. It seems as though they’re routinely getting pitchers close to triple digits in pitch count by the fifth inning.

    - Anonymous
  24. 24.

    To contradict your perspective Mike, we should be pounding these teams offensively. We are not. That is what is ominous. Are we going to hit better when we start playing the Angels (slow start), Rangers, Tigers, CC Sabathia or Tampa? I don’t think so. We need to face facts and realize that the plate approach that has been preached for the last 2 years is not working. Is Chad Mottola available? It is seriously frustrating to see us make Tommy Hunter, Jason Hammel & the Indians (even masterson was not as good as we made him look) starting pitchers look like the second coming of Cy Young.

    MW: I don’t believe anyone has been pounding these teams, and you’re in error if you believe that mediocre starting pitchers don’t have great games. They do, just not as often as the great ones do. Just as a .300 hitter doesn’t get three hits every ten at-bats, a pitcher with a 4.50 ERA doesn’t always give up a run every other inning.

    - Keith
  25. 25.

    a couple of nights ago a caller called you out on being selective with the stats/extrapolations you choose to accept (i.e. ‘the jays are on pace to win 95′ as being acceptable vs. this guy is going to finish the year hitting .220 cause he’s hitting .220 right now’ and being unacceptable) to which you responded ‘there’s no way i would ever refute that, if the batter is batting .220′…which is just dead false…you’re always the first to point out sample sizes and career averages, and you’re the guy who ‘plays with numbers’ as you put it, more than any of the callers. you are incredibly guilty of exactly what the caller said, and an example of you refuting exactly what you said you’d never refute is when one of the callers from earlier in the week said something about being worried about arencibia hitting .175 for the year when he was hitting .154 at the time, and you jumped on him saying that ‘there is no possible reason to believe that arencibia will hit .175′…which, don’t get me wrong, i agree with, but is exactly what the caller was talking about…

    the truth is, i’ve felt the same way as that caller for a long time, so i’m glad someone brought it up, and i hope you can accept that as constructive criticism, although i doubt you’re willing to accept it at all…when i listen to your show, i want the opinion of a baseball ‘insider’, not the opinion of someone that comes across as a blue jays employee…

    i think at times you don’t draw a distinction between discussions on areas of weaknesses for the team, and flat out negativity…

    i know you pride yourself on being the voice of reason, and providing balance to those that live and die with every result, but in my opinion, for what it’s worth, you’ve gone too far with it, and have lost that equilibrium for yourself…

    all that said, i do enjoy your show and think that besides what i’ve said above, you’re the best i’ve heard in terms of post game stuff on any station for any sport (and i listen to a pretty decent variety, from a lot of markets)…so none of this should be taken as a ‘you suck Wilner’, cause you definitely don’t…

    MW: I appreciate that you think I don’t suck, and I agree with you, but I think you’re completely wrong with your main point. There is a massive distinction between saying a team is “on pace for” X number of wins and saying that you don’t believe an underachieving player will continue to underachieve. The first point is made to illustrate that things aren’t as bad as those people make them out to be – another way of saying “You realize that you’re complaining about a team that’s playing at a 95-win pace, right?” Which is not to say at all that I believe they’re going to win 95 games.

    - Jay B
  26. 26.

    michael,
    ya what he said. you definitely don’t suck…
    but to be totally frank here, what disappoints me a bit about you is that you’re not entirely correct every single time about everything re: baseball.
    you need to work on that my friend…
    and more importantly… why is it not possible that you have an opinion that “everyone” reading and listening completely agrees with. should that really be so hard michael?? honest to goodness…

    - darrell bishop
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