The Blue Jays Are On Fire!

toronto_blue_jays_logoHi from us at Bluebird Banter where, I can quite honestly say, I have never enjoyed baseball as much in my life. And I was there for the Jay’s World Series seasons. The great part of it this time is that we weren’t expected to be anywhere near this good.  It really is good to prove the experts of the world wrong. Maybe the fun will end but we are just enjoying the ride at the moment.

DETROIT - APRIL 02:  Starting pitcher Roy Hall...
Image by Getty Images via Daylife

Part of the reason that it is so hard to believe we are winning is that our starting rotation has been decimated by injuries. Our rotation at the start of the season wasn’t anything that would strike fear in the hearts of evildoers or, you know, the other teams in the AL East, with Shaun Marcum and Dustin McGowan on the DL carrying over from injuries suffered last season. Of our original starting 5: Roy Halladay, Jesse Litsch, David Purcey, Ricky Romero and Scott Richmond, only Doc and former Edmonton Cracker Cat Scott Richmond are still in the rotation a month into the season.  Those two have been great, Doc has been Doc (7-1, 2.95) and Richmond has been far better than anyone could have imagined (4-1, 3.29).

The others? Well, rookie Romero is DLed with an oblique strain after a sneeze (yeah, I know) but not before he made 3 great starts (2-0, 1.71), he is due to be back pitching for us in the next week or so. Jesse Litsch wasn’t doing as well before he went on the DL with a forearm injury, but the injury may have been effecting him since the start of the season; he is due back soon too. David Purcey wasn’t injured, he just wasn’t good (0-2, 7.01) so he was farmed out.

In their places Brian Tallet was moved from the bullpen to the rotation where he has had 4 good starts and 1 bad one. Top Jay pitching prospect Brett Cecil was called up before the Jays had intended to fill out the rotation. After 2 starts he has thrown 14 innings and only allowed 1 earned run. Robert Ray has filled the 5th spot in the rotation the last 2 times through, he wasn’t as great but he has been serviceable. Our much maligned GM JP Richardi really deserves credit for having so many major league ready arms in the system.

As well as our starting pitcher troubles, our closer BJ Ryan is on the DL with crappy pitching disease (the dreaded CPD). Thankfully Scott Downs has been terrific in the role in Ryan’s absence. So good in fact that when Ryan comes back to the team later this week or early next, Downs will keep the closer job. The rest of the pen has done a fine job too.

Cito Gaston
Image via Wikipedia

Offensively, the team that was awful with the bat last season has the highest team batting average and runs scored in the AL. The team seems to have taken to manager Cito Gaston and batting coach Gene Tenace’s teaching. The team that couldn’t hit with runners in scoring position (RISP) last year is now great at it.

A lot of the offensive improvement has come from the DH spot. Last season our DHes weren’t good, batting a big .247/.325/.418, but this year our DHes, mostly Adam Lind, have hit .319/.397/.560. That’s a huge gain from one spot in the lineup. Lind has 31 RBI in our first 35 games.

2B Aaron Hill

2B Aaron Hill

Another big improvement from last year is the return of Aaron Hill. Hill you might remember, missed most of last season after suffering a concussion in a collision with David Eckstein (Hill was pretty much the only thing Eckstein hit hard all season). Joe Inglett was a nice fill in for him but watching Hill for the first 35 games of this year, we now see what we were missing. Hill plays a terrific 2B, though he’s had a few errors. But what we are really seeing is how great his bat is. He leads the Jays with 9 homers, has 30 RBI and is hitting .357/.396/.567.

Hill’s double play partner, Marco Scutaro has had a great start to the season too. Batting leadoff for every one of our 35 games, he has really taken to the role as he has 29 walks and a .396 on base percentage (OBP). Watching him every day, you get a feel for how good he is defensively; he seems to make at least one amazing play per game. If he doesn’t win the Glove Glove this year there is a major problem with the voting system.

Other players who are having a great start to the season are Scott Rolen (.319/.375/.466) who is playing his usual great defense, catcher Rod Barajas (.309/.335/.495) and bench players Jose Bautista (.328/.443/.431) and Kevin (x-nay on the ow-boy-k) Millar (.327/.364/.481). We, at Bluebird Banter, have banned the C-word term as way too silly, but we are having fun finding new C-words for the term. So far my favorite is cosmopolitan up.

A couple of others like Vernon Wells and Lyle Overbay have been merely good, not great. And Alex Rios and Travis (Moonraker) Snider, have had a slow start to the season.  They have a lot of room to improve as the season goes on, and there have been some encouraging signs from both of them that might suggest they are pulling out of their respective slumps. Or it might be wishful thinking on my part.

Backup catcher Michael Barrett, suffered an unfortunate injury early in the season forcing the Jays to call up good glove, no bat catcher Raul Chavez. Defensive savant John McDonald hasn’t had enough playing time to show us anything. With luck that will continue.

All this adds up to the Jays being first in the AL East with a 23-12 record at the time of this writing, but likely the best game of the young season was earlier this evening (as I write this) when Roy Halladay bettered former Jay number 2 pitcher and current overpaid Yankee, AJ Burnett 5-1. I don’t think I’ve ever had as much fun watching a game.

Anyway it is a great season to be a Blue Jay fan. Will the Jays continue to play this well all season? Oh I don’t know, but what I do know is that the Jays are more fun to watch then they have been in several years and that I expect to continue. So if you want to enjoy some great baseball join Hugo and me over at Bluebird Banter. Talk to you next month!

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  1. threio

    May 19, 2009 at 1:07 pm

    Can’t stand the Blue Jays, still haven’t gotten over the 93 series and Joe Carter’s homer!!!!! aargh, however, the article was great… SIGH

  2. Tom aka Rincewind

    May 20, 2009 at 10:18 am

    Thanks….and I still haven’t gotten over the 93 series either…been happy ever since, my favorite all time closer is Mitch Williams. Love the guy.

    Please check out Tom aka Rincewind’s last blog post..Tim Wakefield Beats the Jays!

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