Thursday, April 21, 2016

Way Too Early Blue Jays Observations

It's been 16 games so let's have some fun overreacting to small sample sizes!

1. Marcus Stroman is not an ace

I've felt this way since he came back last season and just wasn't really striking guys out the way he used to despite pitching pretty effectively. His ground ball % remains elite, north of 60%, which is certainly impressive, but ultimately the bar to qualify as a true ace is set awfully high (which is a problem in particular for Mr. HDMH). It's very hard to be a truly dominant pitcher without a healthy dose of Ks, and Marcus currently sits at a paltry 4.76K/9IP on the season. He wasn't much better between the end of last season and the playoffs, where he still averaged fewer than 6K/9IP. He's a really good pitcher, and I certainly expect his numbers to improve as the season goes on. His ERA, FIP, and xFIP are all currently above 4.00, which is not indicative of his true ability. But he's not an ace, and it's becoming harder to imagine him ever truly being one. And that is totally fine because...

2. The Jays rotation is still a lot better than you thought it was

Admittedly the small sample size caveats apply a lot more here than to my analysis of Stroman, but the starting pitching has really carried this team while the offence has struggled to score the way they did last season. Much maligned for not being named David Price when they were signed in the offseason, Marco Estrada and JA Happ continue to offer more than merely serviceable production. It's still much too early to assume this will continue all season long, but at the very least it seems like they will be able to give this offence a chance to win most nights they take the mound, which is all the team should really need. RA Dickey has been shaky to start the season but his peripherals suggest that should improve, as does his history of pitching 200 pretty good innings every season. He's actually striking out almost a batter per inning so far this season, which is a stat worth keeping an eye on.

Finally, Aaron Sanchez has been amazing. It's incredibly unlikely he can keep this up all season, but on the other hand: he was even more dominant as a reliever, he has elite stuff that has always given him a truly high ceiling, and he trained with Stroman and put on 20 pounds of muscle in the offseason, which he claims is helping him repeat his delivery more easily and pitch deeper into games. It sure is the kind of narrative that you feel you can buy into, isn't it? It's exciting to realize there are legitimately good reasons to think the rotation can keep this up, and even if they regress they should still be more than good enough for this team to win a lot of games. In addition, both Gavin Floyd and Jesse Chavez have pitched well out of the pen, poorly-timed grand slam aside, so the team should be able to overcome an injury in the rotation, possibly even two.

3. I'm legitimately worried about Tulo's offence

Not just because he has been bad for 15 games, that would be highly irrational. Tulo had a down season last year at the plate and each game he struggles to start the season makes it a bit more likely that was not an aberration he will bounce back from, but legitimate decline due to age and all the injuries he has suffered over his career. He won't be as bad as he has been so far, and he continues to be excellent in the field, but it's time to be at least a little concerned that he might not even match the league average production he put up last season. It'd be nice if Russell Martin started hitting again soon too.

4. Gregg Zaun knows which relief pitchers are feeling good enough to pitch on a given night better than the coaching staff

Just fuck off with this bit, seriously. The coaches talk to these guys every day. They know how their arms are feeling better than anyone besides the pitchers themselves. It's their job. You simply have to give Gibby and the pitchers the benefit of the doubt here.  Am I supposed to believe Drew Storen comes to Zaun before the game and says "man, I feel great but Gibby isn't gonna let me pitch in a close game tonight! It's like he doesn't even want to win!"? Or is it that Drew Storen shows up to the park and decides he doesn't feel like pitching that night even though he's perfectly healthy and tells the coaches he feels sore? But Zaun somehow knows the truth!

If the coaches say a guy can't go a given night then he can't go. Even if they do coddle some of these guys a little early in the season who is Gregg Zaun to decide that's not in the pitcher's best interest long term? It's complete nonsense and it needs to stop. Sometimes your baseball team loses a close game in the late innings. It's painful enough without having to listen to this horseshit.

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