Monday, April 22, 2013
The Week That Was in Blue Jays Land
By Ian Hunter
Toronto closed out the week going 3-4 against Chicago and New York at home, but with a lucky bounce here or there, the Blue Jays could have easily gone 4-4 or even 5-4 at home. Nonetheless, they'll hit the road for Boston three games under .500.
Here are just a few things that stuck out during the week that was in Blue Jays Land.
Brett Lawrie Was Jacked Up
If there's one lasting image that will stick with Blue Jays fans from this past week, it will likely be one of Brett Lawrie flexing his muscles in celebration. Something tells me that prior to the game, Lawrie switched from Red Bull to Powerthirst.
Lawrie's go-ahead RBI double was the turning point in Sunday's game against the Yankees, and that at bat was the culmination of a week of frustration for Brett. Luckily he came up big and it was as if he released a week's worth of pent up energy in one fell swoop.
On Tuesday, Brett Lawrie's presence was felt back at the hot corner with some great defense, and now that his bat is coming around as well, he can return to being that defensive and offensive force the Blue Jays so desperately need.
A Well-Rounded Offense
At times early this season, the Blue Jays have often looked like a one-dimensional offense. If they weren't hitting home runs, often times they weren't scored very many runs ... if any at all.
It doesn't help when the Blue Jays have a lot of swing-happy hitters in the lineup, namely the two men who lead baseball in strikeouts, J.P. Arencibia and Colby Rasmus, who have struck out a combined 55 times in 18 games.
However, on Sunday the Blue Jays scored a slew of their eight runs in multiple ways. They did it via a sacrifice fly, they were able to string several hits together, and then they added a home run for good measure near the end.
Top to bottom, nearly everybody in the Blue Jays lineup contributed in some shape or form, and that's the type of offense that everyone has been waiting to see breakout for the first three weeks of April.
In their first 19 games of the season, the Blue Jays were held to three runs or less a total of 11 times.
Not that they are out of the woods by any means, but the Blue Jays are finally beginning to show signs of turning the corner in the offensive department.
Suddenly the Toronto Blue Jays starting lineup is looking much more like a well-rounded offense as opposed to a one-trick pony that relies exclusively on the long ball to score runs.
The Starting Pitching is Coming Around
After a disastrous first week of the schedule, much like the hitting, the pitching is the second part of the equation to finally come around for the Blue Jays.
According to Doug Walton of Rogers Sportsnet, the Blue Jays starters posted a 7.55 ERA in their first two trips through the rotation in 10 starts to begin the season, but have posted a 3.62 ERA ever since.
The embarrassment of riches in the starting pitching department is finally paying dividends as the starters are not just pitching well, but they're going deeper into games; which also becomes less taxing on the bullpen.
Starting pitching was thought to be one of the strengths of the Blue Jays going into this season, and after a shaky week or two, I think people are starting to believe in the power of Toronto's starting rotation once again.
Adam Lind - Four Walks?
If you check the boxscore from yesterday, you might be inclined to think there's a misprint in the walk column next to Adam Lind's name, but I assure you that he did in fact draw four walks in a single game.
In that game alone, Lind raised his on base percentage 70 points from .310 at the time of first pitch to .370 by game's end. And believe it or not, Adam Lind's nine walks on the season leads the Blue Jays roster.
Of the 23 total pitches that Adam Lind saw in his four plate appearances yesterday, Adam Lind swung at exactly two of them ... two! All he had to do was sit there with the bat on his shoulder, and Lind reached base four times.
To put things in perspective, Lind drew a total of 29 walks in 93 games last year. So in one single game, Adam matched nearly 14% of his entire 2012 walk total in a single game.
As encouraging as it is to see Lind drawing more base on balls, if he's leading the team in walks, then there's something fishy going on with this lineup.
The Next Two Weeks - A True Test
On Friday, the Blue Jays began a 13-game stretch of games against American League East rivals, and 20 of 23 against teams within the division. That means the next two to three weeks is going to be a true test of this Blue Jays squad.
Their first road trip of the season was forgettable to say the least, so long as run production isn't a problem and the starting pitching continues to hold up their end of the bargain, the Blue Jays shouldn't encounter too much trouble in Baltimore or New York.
That's not to say the Blue Jays should underestimate the Orioles or the Yankees. Both teams are still formidable foes early in the season, and I still have trouble understanding how the Yankees makeshift batting order has lead them to ten wins.