I said my piece on the Blue Jays’ hot start on SI.com when the Yankees were in Toronto in mid-May, so let’s see how things have changed since then.
Entering their series with the Yankees on May 12, the Blue Jays were 22-12 (.647), the best record in the American League at the time. Since then, they’ve gone 20-26 (.435) and fallen back to their expected place as the fourth-best team in the AL East.
At the time, I pointed to the unexpected health of the Jays’ starting nine as one reason for their early-season success, saying “Injury seems sure to strike the offense at some point, and several of the team’s batting averages, including [Aaron] Hill’s .346, catcher Rod Barajas’ .307 and platoon left fielder/utilityman Jose Bautista’s .311 seem sure to regress.”
The starting nine has stayed healthy, but Hill has lost 45 points off his average, Barajas has shed 40 points, and Bautista has lost 57. Hill was the Jays’ best hitter in the early going, but since going 2-for-4 with a homer in the first game against the Yankees on May 12, he’s hit just .255/.294/.452. Barajas has hit .228/.267/.378 since the start of the Yankees series; Bautista .191/.353/.309.
Scott Rolen, on the other hand, is hitting like he did before his shoulder problems derailed his path to the Hall of Fame. Rolen went 6-for-11 with three doubles against the Yankees and has hit .341/.405/.508 since, though with just six homers on the season. Accordingly, Cito Gaston has moved him back to the cleanup spot after having demoted him from that spot upon taking over for John Gibbons last June. Adam Lind and Lyle Overbay have also maintained their hot starts, the latter by virtue of not having to face left-handed pitching thanks to the presence of platoon partner and Yankee killer Kevin Millar. Marco Scutaro has come back to earth a bit, but has hit a still-respectable (for a fine fielding shortstop) .290/.364/.403 since the Yankee series and still leads the league in walks (though Nick Swisher is in hot pursuit).
On the flip side, Alex Rios and rookie slugger Travis Snider weren’t hitting in mid-May, and they’re still not. Rios, another Yankee killer, still managed to go 4-for-10 with a double and a homer against the Yankees in May, but has hit just .256/.311/.421 since. Snider was demoted to Triple-A then aggravated an old back injury and has since been replaced by former Yankee David Dellucci, who was released by the Indians at the end of May and signed a minor league deal with the Tribe. Dellucci was just called up this morning.
As for the pitching, I raised red flags about the unsustainably low opponents’ batting averages on balls in play being recorded by starters Scott Richmond and Brian Tallet, and relievers Jason Frasor, Jesse Carlson, and Bill Murphy. Richmond, who starts Sunday, was bounced by Yankees in the second inning on May 13, but rebounded with seven shutout innings against the White Sox and has posted a 3.18 since his Yankee disaster. His season BABIP has actually dropped a point over that stretch. Similarly, Tallet, who starts this afternoon, has been solid with a 4.30 ERA over his last nine starts while his BABIP has also shifted just one point (up to .228).
The rotation suffered from Roy Halladay’s DL stay, but Halladay is back and will pitch on Saturday, still leading the majors with ten wins. Meanwhile, the return of former first-round pick Ricky Romero has further solidified the rotation. Romero will bring a 20-inning scoreless streak into Monday’s game and has posted a 1.91 ERA in six starts since the calendar flipped to June.
As for those relievers, Frasor’s BABIP has increased by 54 points, but that hasn’t hurt his bottom line much. Carlson’s BABIP has increased 85 points, as has shown up in his performance as he’s posted a 7.32 ERA since the start of the Yankee series. Murphy was optioned to Triple-A right after the Yankees left town.
The man Murphy made room for was B.J. Ryan, who has posted a 3.14 ERA since coming off the DL, but with more walks than strikeouts and without a single save opportunity. Those opportunities were going to Scott Downs, but he’s replaced Ryan on the DL, leaving the closing duties to Frasor and his tight-rope act and 2007 closer Jeremy Accardo, who started the year in Triple-A after a forearm injury ended his 2008 campaign prematurely.
All of that adds up to . . . well, the fourth-best team in the AL East, just like everyone thought.
A.J. Burnett faces Tallet today in the first game of an unusual, wrap-around, Independence Day weekend series in which all four games will start at 1:05pm. Burnett gave up five runs in 7 2/3 innings to his former team on May 12, but has been nails in his last three starts posting this line: 20 1/3 IP, 10 H, 2 R (1 ER), 10 BB, 26 K, 0.98 WHIP, 0.44 ERA. Amazingly, A.J. lost one of those three starts, having matched up against the ace of his other former team, Josh Johnson of the Marlins.
Toronto Blue Jays
2009 Record: 42-38 (.525)
2009 Pythagorean Record: 44-36 (.550)
Manager: Cito Gaston
General Manager: J.P. Ricciardi
Home Ballpark (multi-year Park Factors): Rogers Centre (99/98)
Who’s Replaced Whom:
- David Dellucci has replaced Travis Snider (minors)
- Ricky Romero (DL) has reclaimed his spot from Robert Ray (DL)
- B.J. Ryan (DL) has replaced Scott Downs (DL)
- Jeremy Accardo (minors) has replaced Brian Wolfe (minors)
- Dirk Hayhurst (minors) has replaced Bill Murphy (minors)
1B – Lyle Overbay (L)
2B – Aaron Hill (R)
SS – Marco Scutaro (R)
3B – Scott Rolen (R)
C – Rod Barajas (R)
RF – Alex Rios (R)
CF – Vernon Wells (R)
LF – David Dellucci (L)
DH – Adam Lind (L)
R – Kevin Millar (1B)
R – John McDonald (IF)
R – Jose Bautista (UT)
R – Raul Chavez (C)
R – Roy Halladay
R – Scott Richmond
L – Ricky Romero
L – Brett Cecil
L – Brian Tallet
R – Jason Frasor
R – Jeremy Accardo
L – B.J. Ryan
L – Jesse Carlson
R – Shawn Camp
R – Brandon League
R – Dirk Hayhurst
RHP – Dustin McGowan (labrum)
RHP – Shaun Marcum (TJ surgery)
RHP – Jesse Litsch (forearm tightness)
LHP – Scott Downs (sprained toe)
RHP – Casey Janssen (shoulder inflammation)
RHP – Robert Ray (shoulder)
C – Michael Barrett (right shoulder tear)
R – Marco Scutaro (SS)
R – Aaron Hill (2B)
R – Vernon Wells (CF)
R – Scott Rolen (3B)
L – Adam Lind (DH)
R – Alex Rios (RF)
L – Lyle Overbay (1B)
R – Rod Barajas (C)
L – David Dellucci (LF)
Note: Dellucci and Jose Bautista are in a strict platoon in left field, as are Overbay and Kevin Millar at first base.