Weekend Wrap: The Kauffman Kurse Edition


A dig into numbers and performances and story lines from the past weekend of Toronto Blue Jays baseball (probably), brought to you by Draft Kings — get your Daily Fantasy Sports on at Draft Kings! 

Welp. So that didn’t go very well. Chalk it up to Kauffman Stadium ghosts, or whatever, but the Jays hitters continued struggling to score runs, as they did in their surprising series win over Houston last week, losing two of three in Kansas City to the dumb Royals.

That makes for a 4-3 road trip against a very good Astros team and a bad one that happened to win the World Series last year.

It’s a mark I think just about any Jays fan would have gladly taken going into it, but which can only feel discouraging after the piles of strikeouts the club racked up in Houston (welcome to the team, Melvin Upton Jr.!), and two losses in KC that always felt like they would have been in reach had the offence been able to put together *anything*.

Of course, it’s easy to say that the club looks listless or disinterested or lazy or whatever nonsense you want to apply here, but that’s more a function of results than anything real about their effort. Such is baseball sometimes.

That said, Jose Bautista continues to have a nightmare season for somebody who audaciously hinted at contract demands north of five years and $150-million just a few months ago, raising his wRC+ to just 113 on the season with a walk and a single on Sunday, and getting thrown out at third base for the second out of the third inning, decimating what might hav been a rally with the Jays then only down 2-0.

Also, the aforementioned Melvin Upton Jr. has looked a whole lot like his former self so far in his Blue Jays career, and that ain’t good. When I first wrote about rumblings of the Jays’ interest in Upton back on July 15th, his wRC+ stood at 106 for the season — slightly above average, despite his high strikeout numbers and low on-base, and certainly not bad for a guy who plays good outfield defence and is a good baserunner. Since then it has slumped to 89 — a wholly untenable number if this is Upton’s audition for more playing time both down the stretch and into next year.

Justin Smoak is a similar batter — a guy who neutralizes his high strikeout totals with enough power to end up grading out as passable — and similarly has been disappointing of late because the power just hasn’t been there. He has just five extra base hits since July 4th, and Upton is still looking for his first as a Blue Jay. They’re better hitters than that, but when the rest of the lineup is quite firing on all cylinders, you certainly notice their deficiencies.

On the pitching side — as blameless as they mostly are in these losses — you’d like to see Brett Cecil and Marcus Stroman look a little more like what we expect from them, too. Though I’d suggest not wiping away too much the progress both of those pitchers had made over previous outings just because of some cheap hits and a couple of errors on Stroman’s part, and a fugly meatball that Kendrys Morales crushed on Cecil’s. They’ll be alright. I think.

Performance notes…

Did I say that the Jays’ lineup isn’t quite firing on all cylinders? Because while, sure, that’s true of the group as a whole, Devon Travis has been absolutely on fire of late, hitting a pair of leadoff home runs (and three in total, after he went deep in the ninth to put the Jays ahead on Friday), and being a constant threat at the plate.

I’ve found that Jays fans have a tendency to get a little ahead of themselves when it comes to Travis. You’ll hear them say things like he’s got batting titles in his future (as if anybody pays attention to that anymore), or projecting genuine stardom for him, which is pretty rich, and a whole lot to ask of a guy who was traded for the wreckage of Anthony Gose and who Keith Law somewhat famously snarked as a non-prospect at the time of the deal. He’s certainly shown more than that in his time in the big leagues so far, but I’ve always been quick to try to pump the brakes a little on him. And yet… boy, does he look like he can really hit.

Heading into Sunday’s game, Travis sported a 128 wRC+ over 474 big league plate appearances, which includes a couple months of 2015 when he struggled because he wasn’t right, physically. He came into this season late and didn’t find his rhythm immediately, slumping to a 9 wRC+ (.150/.188/.250) over his first 16 games. Since then once again he’s been spectacular. Take out those first 16 games, and coming into Sunday’s action Devo was slashing .348/.390/.584, for a wRC+ of 161.

Thats’s incredible stuff right there. And while it’s definitely still premature to assume that this is what he is and that there aren’t adjustments and counter-adjustments that will need to be made as his career, one kind of feels better all the time about him really being something on the level of this terrific. And by “one” I, of course, mean “I.”

Also, this was fun as hell:

What do you meme?

The Man In White again, Royals? Seriously?

Am I surprised that this load of debunked nonsense is embraced in a market where they actually think the Royals are a good baseball team? And could I say with a straight face that I don’t kind of delight in bringing up how hopelessly baseless that years-ago ESPN piece was?

No, I’m not, and I couldn’t. But come on!

Heading into Sunday, among Blue Jays’ regulars only Michael Saunders, Kevin Pillar, and Russell Martin had significantly better home splits than road splits. Josh Donaldson, Edwin Encarnacion, and Justin Smoak have been about the same in both splits, while Tulo, Bautista, and Devon Travis have hit *better* on the road. MAN, THOSE JAYS CAN EVEN CHEAT RIGHT!


* * *

Also, this forever. For-ever. Forever and ever and ever and ever.

My god. (And it was both the radio and TV broadcasts doing it, too.)

Up next…

The Jays’ schedule isn’t quite as relentless for the rest of this month as it will be in September, when they’ll almost exclusively play against the AL East rivals, with a road trip to Anaheim and Seattle thrown in for good measure. But by no means are things going to be easy, despite the lowly Twins and the reloading Yankees coming up over the next three weeks, and a weak-but-dangerous Rays team that comes to Rogers Centre this week. The Jays had better take care of business in those ones especially, with a scary Astros team visiting next weekend (and surely looking for revenge after the Jays’ big series win in Houston last week), and a trip to Cleveland coming up the weekend after that.

Monday – Wednedsday vs. Tampa Bay, 7:07 PM ET

Thursday – Off

Friday vs. Houston, 7:07 PM ET

Saturday – Sunday vs. Houston, 1:07 PM ET

That Sunday game will feature a Dave Stieb, Pat Hentgen, and Roy Halladay bobblehead giveaway, so… you’ll probably want to get in line approximately now.

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