32
Photo Credit: SpongeBobWiki

Series Wrap: Surely This is Rock Bottom, Right?

They gave us a bright glimmer of hope, and then it all came crashing down. The Blue Jays are now 2-10 on the season after dropping three of four games to Baltimore this weekend, and it’s getting really, really hard to see any light at the end of this tunnel.

What happened?

On Thursday, Francisco Liriano got the start looking to redeem himself after that yard sale he put up in his first outing of the season in Tampa Bay. And he did! Liriano was excellent, going six-and-two-thirds innings allowing just two runs while striking out 10. Unfortunately, the Jays bats were completely limp. 2-1 Orioles.

On Friday, Aaron Sanchez matched up against Wade Miley in what appeared to be the most winnable game in the series. But, since, ya know, it’s the 2017 Blue Jays, that wasn’t the case. The bats were only able to muster three runs off of Miley, and the Orioles got to Sanchez the third time around the order. 6-4 Baltimore.

On Saturday, Marco Estrada had a very masterful ACEstrada-like performance. He twirled seven shutout innings, fooling the Orioles with brilliant off-speed pitches and pin-point accuracy. Roberto Osuna blew the save in the ninth thanks to some unfortunate batted ball luck, but Kendrys Morales saved the day with a walk-off home run in the tenth. I mean, they got shut down by some guy who couldn’t break the Phillies roster out of camp, but a win is a win, right?? Could it be? The beginning of something good?! 2-1 Jays.

Nope. They saved the worst for last. On Sunday, J.A. Happ was cruising, but left the game in the fifth inning with elbow soreness. The bullpen came in and completely imploded, allowing 11 runs on 11 hits over the final four-and-two-thirds. The Jays managed to score four runs in a late-game rally, which seems like a massive breakthrough for the team at this point. 11-4 Orioles.

Things that were good:

  • Not much!
  • Both Francisco Liriano and Marco Estrada had excellent starts. J.A. Happ surely would have been in this category too if he wasn’t forced to leave Sunday’s game with injury. This team was expected to compete based on it’s dominant rotation, and for the most part, the starters have lived up to expectation so far.
  • Kevin Pillar went 6-for-17 over the series with a home run, Troy Tulowitzki went 6-for-15, and Darwin Barney, Ryan Goins, Justin Smoak, and Zeke Carrera all chipped in offensively, too.
  • Kendrys Morales’ walk-off homer on Saturday was great. If not for Kendrys and his two big home runs this season, we could be 0-12! Holy shit!
  • Blah. Maybe I’m just grouchy from watching that hideous game today, but I can’t think of many other positives to draw from this series. There’s still 150 games left to go, I guess? I’m starting to wonder if that’s actually a good thing though.

Things that weren’t good:

  • Oh boy, where to begin?
  • Let’s start with the injuries. On Thursday, Jose Bautista and Josh Donaldson hit back-to-back doubles off of Kevin Gausman in the bottom of the sixth inning. It looked like it could have been the start of something good. But as quickly as baseball gives, baseball takes away. Donaldson aggravated his leg rounding first, the same leg that kept him out of the lineup earlier in the season and throughout most of spring. He left the game, and has since been placed on the 10-day disabled list.
  • Aaron Sanchez had a pretty forgettable start on Friday night. He was cruising through the first four inning, but in the fifth and sixth, the Orioles tagged Sanchez for four runs on three homers and a double. On Sunday, it was announced that Sanchez would be placed on the 10-day DL due to a blister on his middle finger, something he’s been struggling with on and off for two years. That would explain the issues he had Friday, as apparently he was altering his grips and delivery to compensate for it, which ins’t good.
  • And finally, J.A. Happ left Sunday’s game in the fifth inning with elbow soreness. He was rolling really nicely, then, all of a sudden, the trainer came to the mound and he was out. We don’t know yet if Happ is going to miss any time, but fuck, elbow soreness is never a good thing. Pray for Estrada, Liriano, and Stroman. It seems the baseball gods are out to punish the Jays pitchers after perfectly healthy seasons in 2015 and 2016.
  • And pretty much everything else! The bats, they were awful. Jose Bautista went 2-for-15. Russell Martin went 2-for-10. Steve Pearce went 1-for-10. There are a lot of key cogs in the lineup that simply aren’t firing right now. Say what you want about Ryan Goins, Zeke Carrera, Darwin Barney, and Justin Smoak in the lineup, but if Bautista, Pearce, Martin, and others who are expected to hit aren’t hitting, the team isn’t going to win games.
  • The issue is that the team isn’t stringing hits together or hitting for much power. I hate using this kind of language because I feel like it’s massively overstated, but nobody is coming up with a big, clutch hit. Like, on Thursday, the Jays had Zach Britton on the ropes with runners on second and third down by one, and Pillar and Pearce couldn’t drive them in.

Up next…

The Jays will have an off day to figure themselves out tomorrow before embarking on a run in which they’ll play 16 games in 16 days. They’ll play three games against Boston at home starting Tuesday, then they’ll hit the road for four games in Anaheim and three in St. Louis. Their next day off will come on May 4th.

In the Red Sox series, we’ll see Eduardo Rodriguez, Rick Porcello, and Chris Sale. Both Rodriguez and Porcello have gotten off to ugly starts this season, but Sale has been excellent, of course. It’s hard to say exactly what John Gibbons will do with the starters, as Aaron Sanchez was slated to go on Thursday before he was placed on the DL, and Happ’s injury could add yet another wrinkle to things. I’m guessing Marco Estrada will be moved up to Thursday’s game, as he’ll be going on regular rest thanks to the off day.

But after that? It’s anybody’s guess. We could see Biagini get a start, maybe? Or Mat Latos called up from Triple-A? Who knows! But it doesn’t look good, that’s for sure.

  • Space Ghost

    Prediction: A TFC game will have higher ratings than a Jays game this season. Baseball Central at noon will be cancelled in favour of keeping hockey central on all summer due to the Leafs Stanley Cup victory. And there will be multiple sportswriters suggesting the Jays should consider relocating to Montreal since Toronto is now so totally dominated by the Leafs, Raptors, and TFC that they risk becoming irrelevant in this market.

    Reminder: I have never been wrong.

    • lukewarmwater

      Ghost ironically similar to the leafs the blue suits and bean counter idiots of Rogers will reach the same conclusion of their M.L.S.E. partners when Kessel, Phaneuf and company quit on the team half way through a dreadful year and the fans simply stopped buying leaf merchandise, didn’t attend games despite having tickets, viewing became way down and even local establishments took a powerful beating. Even out here in God’s country a watering hole that caters to the leafs went from 50 fans to 5 fans. It suddenly dawned on Edward, Larry and Bell that damn maybe we have to over haul the whole leaf management and bring in some of the best who have won Stanley cups, Olympic gold medals, ran amazing junior operations. Thus all aboard came in leaping Lou Lamerello, Babs and Hunter. Last night showed their results in a very short period of time.
      I’m going to give the Cleveland crew, sorry if that gets one particular posters pink easter thong tied into knots, but I agree that come the trade dead line we are sellers. We got some good young prospects not quite ready for prime time. In the mean time and in between time to quote the late Ed Whelan we shall relax enjoy Easter and enjoy the game the boys of summer play.

    • fred2

      God you people are so insecure. The Jays have just come off two years of getting within a few games of the World Series, massive viewership, massive attendance and massive engagement. They suck for a couple of weeks, and you’re all ready to fucking contract the team or move it to Montreal. Get real.

      The Jays are still the only significant game in town for most of the baseball season (and don’t give me TFC … they got to the final of MLS and most people could not have given less of a fuck). They sucked for 20 straight years, and Rogers still valued them for the number of hours of television the filled up. Rogers have just plowed a few million into the stadium, and the mechandise sales are through the roof. Again and again fans have shown that if you put a winning product on the field, they’ll support it in droves. They’re just fine. They’re certainly not going to get moved to a city with no stadium, and an uncertain history of support for baseball, and where Rogers isn’t the biggest player in town.

  • Will Murray

    Ugh, yeah. A brutal weekend. As frustrating as the 2-9 start was, I was holding my fire because the team was clearly better than they were showing. Still, if Happ and/or Sanchez miss significant – particularly the former given how vague things are right now about his elbow, this team is in real trouble. As for who comes up? Yeah, Latos might make the most sense. Hopefully he can catch lightning in a bottle for a little while.

  • AD

    This team reminds me of the 2004 Seattle Mariners. Had some great seasons and then…. just got old, realllyyy fucking old. This team has no life right now, jbats and martin look lost at the plate and have for a while now (more than just this season). Tulo continues to be a mediocre hitter since he arrived here. JD is injured and now we have injuries to our starting pitching when we didn’t ahve depth to begin with. I know its still quite “early” but if Im Shatkins I strongly consider blowing it up. Despite it being early, this team just looks old and past its prime. Definitely not a 90 + win ball club.

    • lukewarmwater

      AD well said being out here in God’s country I do recall that Seattle team as I travel down the I-5 to see the Mariners a number of times during the year. They too are struggling despite a fair amount of talent.

  • lukewarmwater

    Cam to quote Bill Clinton I feel your pain. Bottom line as you astutely pointed out the baseball Gods have let the rain pour down on the Jays after two years of having remarkable health with the starters. No sense kicking the team when it is down. Some of the veterans looking like old veterans. The kid for Baltimore who opened up the lead is the type of youngster we can hope and pray will be ready in a couple of years, hello Jr. This might be a blessing in disguise as it will force Shapiro and Aitkins into starting a rebuild quickly due to the injuries and the age factor showing on some of our vets who have a lot of mileage in their career, especially Joey Batts and Martin.
    Similar to the leafs I’m just sitting back and enjoying baseball and hoping that you and Andrew write more articles on the farm system rather than wasting time on poor Mike Wilmer and his cast of calls. Happy Easter Sunday to everyone. One of the cool things about getting older is that you can raid the grand kids Easter basket when they are not watching. Damn I’m fast as I make a scoop play on that nice Easter chocolate bunny from the basket. Kids eat too much chocolate anyway. I’m saving the parents a dental bill.

  • Rob Ray

    This team is beginning to remind me of the Phillies from five years ago, in that overnight they became very old, very expensive and very bad. As you all know, the Phils went to the World Series in 2008 and 2009, lost the NLCS in 2010 and the lost 3 games to two in the NLDS, with Chris Carpenter besting Roy Halladay in the deciding game 1-0, this came after the Phillies had won 103 games during the regular season. The next year, it all started coming apart. They only won 81 games, followed by a 69 win season in 2013. By that time, Hunter Pence at age 29 was the only regular under 30. The y had regulars like Placido Polanco (age 36), Juan Pierre (age 34) and Jimmy Rollins (age 33). They had expensive players who were hurt and underperforming like Cliff Lee ($25 million), Ryan Howard ($25 million), Cole Hamels ($19 million), Roy Halladay ($20 million), Chase Utley ($15 million) and Jimmy Rollins $11 million). In short, horrible contracts that could not be moved. It totals $115 million on just six players. The Blue Jays are suddenly looking very similar, although the contracts aren’t nearly as bad. $20 million apiece for Tulowitzki and Martin. $19 million for Bautista. They can get out from under Bautista after this year. I love Josh Donaldson, but he needs to stay healthy to worth extending beyond next year. He will be 32 or 33 by the time he starts his next contract. Pillar and Travis are the only regulars younger than 30 at 28 and 26 respectively. If this keeps up, this team is headed for a total rebuild. I’d like to see Stroman and Sanchez stay as foundational building blocks. I have faith in Shapiro. I know he knows what he’s doing. He drafted well in Cleveland (Kipnis, Lindor, Lonny Chisenhall and Jose Ramirez) and made shrewd trades (Corey Kluber for Ryan Ludwick, Casey Blake for Carlos Santana and also picking up Carlos Carrasco and Michael Brantley). AA didn’t really leave much in minor league system. I’m not really throwing him under the bus because he was in a “win now” mode, and flags do fly forever. Most of the high end prospects he moved were pitchers, not position players (save for Travis D’Arnaud whose career currently is at a crossroads). In the future, I’d like to see the organization develop high end position players, in particular, a catcher, as in 41 years of trying, the best catcher the Blue jays have ever had come up through the system is Pat Borders and that’s really not saying much. There’s more I could say but time won’t let me. Maybe I’ll say more later.

    • AD

      Totally agree, very similiar to my point. I used the 2004 mariners as an example but that phillies team is more recent. Bautista and martin in particular look absolutely terrible and have for quite a while. They are not the same hitters they used to be. Neither is tulo who has been a league average hitter since he has been here. A rebuild is inevitable and im really starting to think it will start this season.

    • lukewarmwater

      Rob Ray I always felt that under A.A. we tended to over emphasise pitching prospects especially at the high end of the draft. Hopefully Shaitkins will be more balanced as I totally concur we need good young prospects who are every day positional players. With the likelihood of us being sellers in late July, this should give the new crew even more of an opportunity to trade for and draft young kids. The rebuild is likely on. It will take time but if Shapiro and Aitkins who you pointed out have succeeded in drafting and trading live up to expectations, perhaps they will have the success of the leaf management team. Obviously it will take considerably longer. But as you pointed out the Philly analogy is totally appropriate.

    • Seguaro

      Agree with most of your assertions. Imagine if management had listened to the majority of fans and signed Bautista to a five year contract – would have been Ryan Howard 2.0.

    • Teddy Ballgame

      I get what you’re saying, and agree, but as you say a big, big difference is that the Jays contracts are not nearly for the same term, so there is more than a possibility some team would trade for, say, Tulo. And while the next few years might suck, I think we have the best possible front office talent to shepherd a quality rebuild.

  • Carl Jung

    The new front office should take a page out of the previous front office’s book and target 20-somethings that other organizations are willing to trade for the right price.

    Morrow, Escobar, Lawrie, Rasmus, Santos, Saunders, Donaldson & Wallace/Gose/Travis all at least had some potential.

    Whereas guys like Liriano, Morales, Pearce, Upton & Smoak’s extension were all bets on 30somethings with limited ceilings in the first place.

    This “raise the floor” scheme has been a disaster that has resulted in a number of immovable contracts (Upton, Smoak, Morales).

    Rogers doesn’t like spending good money after bad so it’s probably back to a $100 million payroll for 2018.

    Ugh.

    • fred2

      And while we’re at it, Upton basically cost nothing, and Smoak costs not very much.

      Oh and Smoak is one of the few hitters with semi-respectable numbers right now.

      Learn some facts.

    • Nice Guy Eddie

      20 somethings like Mark Buehrle, Jose Reyes, Dickey, Tulowitzki? Upton Smoak and Morales are a disaster? Immoveable contracts? What nonsense. The immovable contracts are the $134 million they owe over the hill guys in Martin and Tulowitzki. You can usually tell fans of the previous front office because their griping usually isn’t very intelligent.

      • Carl Jung

        Donaldson (7.6), Sanchez (3.9), Stroman (3.6), Happ (3.2), Pillar (3.2), Estrada (3), Tulo (2.8), Travis (2.5), Martin (1.9), Osuna (1.8) provided 33.5 fWAR in 2016 for about $70 million.

        Half of these players are in their 20s and half are in their 30s.

        While this group is one year older and more expensive for 2017, this is a decent base from which Atkins can supplement.

        Atkins had five key areas to address and ended up with Bautista, Liriano, Morales, Pearce and Smoak – all 30somethings – as his RF, LF, 1B, DH and 5th starter.

        You can usually tell fans of the current front office because their griping usually isn’t very intelligent.

    • Nice Guy Eddie

      Tellez? He’s barely hitting .200, and has an OBP of .270. He’s done nothing since his first two plate appearances. 5 singles in 32 at bats. I suspect they quit throwing him rookie meatball fastballs.

      • Mule or etc...

        Yep he’s 22 and has 32 ABs at AAA. Time to put a fork in him. I mean, sure he started off AA last year slowly and then only improved every month after that but so what? Why do these guys think they are in the minors? To learn? Frankly unless a second trimester fetus can slug .500 in the Independent League there’s no point of even bringing it to term.

  • Rob Ray

    To further elaborate on my post down below, I know they’ve only played 12 games and that there’s 150 games left in a season that is not a sprint, it’s a marathon. The teams offencive struggles though are of great concern. It took Martin forever to get going last year, so he could be the type who just needs time at this stage of his career. Jose never hit above .230 last year when he was healthy, so the injuries may have been masking a decline and Tulowitzki has never been an elite hitter since he’s been here. I like Tulo’s defencive game and the little things he does, like calling time out to tie his shoe every time the pitcher has to run hard to cover first base so the pitcher can regroup and catch his breath, but like Martin and Bautista, he’s not worth $20 million dollars a year. I love Josh Donaldson, but he played with an undisclosed injury (or injuries) all last season which slowed him down. He will be 33 years old when he begins his next contract and quite honestly I’m apprehensive about investing big money in players after they reach a certain age. The steroids era is over and players are once again aging naturally. Remember how Roger Clemens suddenly discovered the “Fountain of Youth” at age 35? Well those days are over. Players generally peak between 27 and 32, with some slippage between 33 and 35 and that after that a steady decline. I don’t care how well a guy takes care of himself or what his workout regimen is, you cannot beat Father Time. Roger Clemens and I are almost the same age to the day ( I chose “Rob Ray” for my user name because he and I were born on the same day) and believe me, I didn’t suddenly “find it’ at age 35. What I’m saying in short is that Donaldson may only have a couple of years left of peak performance on his next contract. If he’s willing to take 3 years at $75 million, I’d say “yes”, but if he’s looking for 7 years and $175 million, then it’s time to move on, and if that’s the case, possibly move him while he’s at peak value. Once again, it’s only 12 games. But if injuries start to overtake this team ( I still haven’t heard about Happ as of this posting) and 40 games in they’re 12-28, then it’s time for a rebuild. That of course would create more questions. I like John Gibbons, but is he the guy to oversee a complete overhaul and work with young players? Would the fan base be patient enough to endure a couple of 90+ loss seasons while the club rights its ship? One thing I know for sure is that this is baseball, and a team’s fortunes can swing dramatically in just a year or two, so regardless of how bad things might get, there’s a light at the end of the tunnel.