Wednesday, August 6, 2014

3 Up 3 Down: Buehrle, the Bullpen and Colby's New Batting Stance


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Some dubbed it as a "season-defining series" for the Blue Jays. One went as far as declaring it the most important series the Blue Jays have played in 15 years. There was an incredible amount of hype entering the series opener with the Orioles, but unfortunately the first game just didn't live up to it.

I think many (including myself) underestimated the sheer power of the Orioles lineup, and it was on display in full effect during last night's 9-3 loss. Baltimore took the lead early and didn't look back the rest of the game.

A poor showing by Mark Buehrle combined with some shotty defense and a few bad innings from the Blue Jays bullpen amounted to a series opener-loss, and today Toronto wakes up a full five games behind the Orioles.

My, how things can change quickly in the AL East.


A Tale of Two Buehrles



In his first 13 starts of the season Mark Buehrle was otherworldly with a 10-2 record and a sparking 2.04 ERA. For a while there, Buehrle was in the running to start the All-Star Game for the American League, but June 12 seemed to be the beginning of a downward slide.

Since June 12th, Buehrle owns a 1-6  record while his ERA has ballooned to 5.15 in his past ten starts. Opponents are batting .328 and own a .516 slugging percentage versus the veteran lefty.

Many people assumed it was just a matter of time before Mark Buehrle would come back down to earth, and he has done precisely that. However, the Mark Buehrle now is more or less in line with what his career numbers have shown.

Mark Buehrle is a fly ball pitcher in a home run ballpark, and the fact that his home ERA is 3.60 compared to 2.96 is a reflection of that.

Much like R.A. Dickey, Buehrle is basically a mid to back-end starter, but because the Blue Jays lack that one true "ace", both Buehrle and Dickey have somewhat interchanged that title these past two years.


The Bullpen



Another area of concern recently has unfortunately been the Toronto Blue Jays bullpen. In retrospect, it was impossible to expect the same relief corp to duplicate last year's results, but I don't think anyone could have anticipated this turn of events.

What was undoubtedly the strongest part of the team last season has suddenly become a weakness in 2014. In 2013, they owned the fourth best ERA in the American League and now they have the fifth worst ERA.

While there have been bright spots in the bullpen like Todd Redmond and Aaron Loup, there have invariably been many more disappointments this season; Steve Delabar, Sergio Santos, Esmil Rogers, and Dustin McGowan is trending in the wrong direction.

If the Blue Jays want to contend down the stretch, the obvious need is an offensive upgrade wherever they can find one, but addressing the bullpen is becoming a very close second.

And I don't think calling up the next in line from Buffalo is enough to remedy the situation, either. This is a scenario where Alex Anthopoulos will likely need to acquire a veteran arm to help stabilize the middle the back end of the bullpen.


Colby's New Stance



This news is already a few days old, but it looks like Colby Rasmus is sporting yet another new batting stance as of late. Or maybe not new so much as adopted a previous stance from earlier this season (hat tip to Shane for pointing that out).

This is the latest in a collection of his stances in the batter's box from over the past five seasons. I went into the myriad of Colby's stances over the years in this post back in May.



John Lott's most recent piece at the National Post also unearthed that Colby has had some difficulty making adjustments under new hitting coach Kevin Seitzer.

I don't claim to be an expert on hitting (in fact I'm probably the furthest thing from it), but it begins to worry me when coaches and managers are continually tinkering with a player's swing this late in development.

This may or may not have any credence, but it seems like any time Colby Rasmus begins to struggle, that's when his stance or swing is altered with.

Clearly, he has the bat speed; whenever Colby connects on a pitch with full power, it's usually into the second deck or above. The challenge is just somehow sustaining that over the course of a full season.

There are other mitigating factors at play such as injuries, but if Colby in fact walks at the end of the year as a free agent, I think many will be left wondering what kind of damage he could've done in a full season.


On Connect with the Jays Night 2.0


A big thanks to the Blue Jays to having us down to the ballpark once again for the second Connect with the Jays Event. Aside from the results of the game, it was a really fun experience.

We were very fortunate enough to sit in the "Action Seats" behind home plate directly beside the Blue Jays dugout, and if you ever get a chance to sit in those chairs, I highly recommend it.

It's very interesting to peer into the dugout and just watch the dynamic between the players. In between at bats, Munenori Kawasaki was yelling words of encouragement from the dugout, and John Gibbons also yelled his displeasure with the umpires.

It's also quite interesting to see batter's routines in the on deck circle. Often times, I found myself distracted by everything around me and had to remember to watch the baseball game taking place in front of me.

Images courtesy of Tom Szczerbowski/Getty Images Sport

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