Game Threat: Jays (29-26) @ Red Sox (32-22)

Red Sox
Photo via Reddit — would love to know who made it so I can give them credit!

Throughout the spring on the Birds All Day podcast, as we thought about the upcoming season, Drew and I talked about the Boston Red Sox as a potentially very scary team, but a volatile one. Volatile in the sense that, if everything went right — and especially if the aging Dustin Pedroia and David Ortiz stayed healthy and the hugely talented trio of Mookie Betts, Xander Bogaerts, and Jackie Bradley Jr. turned their big potential into consistent production — they could be so dangerous offensively that whatever starting pitching problems they seemed like to have would be rendered irrelevant. (We also figured they might get something out of Pablo Sandoval, speaking of irrelevant concerns).

On the surface, that’s pretty much how it seems to have gone down. So far, at least.

But that’s just the thing. There are silver linings for folks like us — ones that, not to sound defeatist, will still exist if the Jays hit a bump in the road as they begin a three game set at Fenway tonight, with R.A. Dickey on the hill against David Price.

For one, despite their excellent play so far the Red Sox haven’t jumped out to anything close to an insurmountable lead. The Jays sit 3.5 games back, having won eight of their last ten, compared to Boston’s five.

More importantly, at least to me, while several of the Jays’ key players have underwhelmed at the plate (to say the least), the key drivers of Boston’s big offence, while deeply and obviously talented, are playing over their heads. In some cases drastically so.

Ortiz is off to his best start ever (think Edwin’s second half laser show in 2015), with a 198 wRC+ over the season’s first two months. That’s well above his career high of 175, set way back in 2007, the 170 he put up in 2011, and certainly the 134 and 138 marks he’s posted over each of the last two years.

Pedroia’s 133 wRC equals his career high from 2011, looking very robust compared to the 114, 114, 98, and 116 marks he’s posted over the last four seasons.

Betts is the young hitter of theirs I believe in the most, and right now his wRC+ sits at 133. Part of me thinks I could take the over on him there, and yet… Pedroia is a very good offensive player, and that’s his career high!

You can probably infer, then, what I think of Bogaerts’ 145 mark (with a .401 BABIP and a walk rate of just 7.3%), or Bradley’s 167. For comparison, Josh Donaldson is currently at 136, and Jose Bautista at 127 — equal to Travis effing Shaw. 

These are outstanding ballplayers, and the dip in form you can only expect will probably come over the next four months will still make this a hugely powerful offence — especially if Hanley Ramirez (103 wRC+) wakes up. But we’re still talking about a dip in form for a team that, on Monday, could look back and find these underachieving Jays right on their fucking asses.

Let’s not go anointing anybody just yet, eh?

Scuttlebutt

An outstanding tribute to the retiring Bob Elliott from John Lott over at Vice Sports.

Speaking of Elliott, Minor Leaguer of Bluebird Banter tweets (presumably while listening to PTS) that Bob McCown said that a Rogers exec told him he couldn’t have Elliott on his show anymore after he wrote about Paul Beeston and ownership. Seems a good time to remind you that we’re providing completely independent Blue Jays coverage over here! *COUGH*

Nick Ashbourne of Sportsnet looks at Joe Biagini and how he might be as good as he is lucky. 

John Gibbons says the Jays will stick with an eight-man bullpen until Troy Tulowitzki returns from the DL, according to a tweet from Gregor Chisholm. Y’know, unless they don’t.

Ben Nicholson-Smith tweets that the Jays flipped Marcus Stroman and R.A. Dickey in the rotation for a couple of reasons: to split up the sinkerballers Stroman and Sanchez, and because, according to John Gibbons, they’re being a bit careful with Stroman’s innings — though, of course, any limitations there are not going to pose near the problem that Aaron Sanchez’s will.

TV: Sportsnet

Next Game(s): Saturday @ Red Sox, 4:05 PM ET; Sunday @ Red Sox, 1:35 PM ET
And now, the lineups…

Toronto Blue Jays

Jose Bautista(R) RF
Josh Donaldson(R) 3B
Edwin Encarnacion(R) DH
Michael Saunders(L) LF
Justin Smoak(S) 1B
Devon Travis(R) 2B
Kevin Pillar(R) CF
Darwin Barney(R) SS
Josh Thole(L) C
RHP R.A. Dickey

Boston Red Sox

Mookie Betts(R) RF
Dustin Pedroia(R) 2B
Xander Bogaerts(R) SS
David Ortiz(L) DH
Hanley Ramirez(R) 1B
Travis Shaw(L) 3B
Jackie Bradley(L) CF
Christian Vazquez(R) C
Blake Swihart(S) LF
LHP David Price
  • b4 the windup

    Top of the first, seeing how Price was getting so squeezed — like, NO ump that I’ve noticed has so (mostly) consistently called that left-side pitch especially (that I’m sure the pitch-tracker would’ve shown to be on the line, at least) as well as others, a ball — I was thinking Dickey was gonna be in trouble. Wrong again. Dickey was terrific. Makes it almost a more valuable win when before-hand, seeing it’s Dickey against Price, I’m hopeful but not betting any part of the farm. Taking that tough first one (again, Price), first of three, sets the wknd up nicely. Hope the extra day’s rest helps Stro settle back to the best-or-close of what he does and I hope that we do better against their knuckle-baller today than they did against ours, yesterday. Team’s looking not-bad at all. Hoping for more.