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Howdy, everybody. For those of you who joined us since the offseason: every month, I produce a Blue Jays report card, grading each Jay using my patented GPBRFON system (Grades Produced By Random Firing Of Neurons).

Important disclaimer: grades are not to be taken too seriously. Anybody who writes in and complains that John Doe obviously deserved a B+, not a B, will be cheerfully ignored.



Today's lesson: teams that don't hit for power don't necessarily have to learn how to manufacture runs. There's another approach: the so-called "long-sequence" offense, in which teams score a bunch of runs when several hitters in a row hit singles or doubles. While the Jays don't have much power any more, they have fewer holes in the lineup than they did last year, so prospective rallies aren't being snuffed out by, say, a massive Josh Phelps whiff. Still, any month in which the hitting coach gets fired can't be seen as a total success.

(Aside: was I the only one who kept breathing a sigh of relief every time Alex Gonzalez came up with runners on base and two out for the Rays? He provides more stress relief than Pepto-Bismol.)

Statistics given are batting average, slugging percentage, and on-base percentage.

Russ Adams
.218 .327 .295
He looks like a major leaguer, but he's not hitting like one, at least not right now. He's shown good plate discipline, and has hit the ball hard now and again, so Aaron Hill shouldn't buy himself a Toronto fine dining guide just yet. But the footsteps behind Adams are getting louder. Defensively, he's a legitimate shortstop; he makes occasional errant throws, but he's much better than, say, Chris Woodward. Grade: C-

Frank Catalanotto
.265 .382 .320
Cat's biggest problem is that people expect more from a left fielder. He's not hitting home runs, he doesn't steal bases, and he's not drawing a lot of walks (mostly because, like Hillenbrand, he has conditioned himself to foul off those borderline strikes). The Sparky/Cat platoon isn't a black hole - they're both making useful contributions - but the Jays' competitors are putting Ramirez and Matsui out there. When J.P. starts hauling out Ted Rogers' wallet, he'd do well to spend the money on a big bat or two. Especially since there's no immediate help likely to come from the farm system. Defensively, Cat isn't a natural outfielder, and has looked horribly overexposed out there at times. Grade: C

Gabe Gross
.000 .000 .000
My memory may be playing tricks on me, but he seemed a little overmatched at the plate during his brief time facing live pitching during games that counted. Not that the sample size is large enough to mean anything at all, of course. His big problem is that he and Frank Catalanotto occupy exactly the same ecological niche, and Gross isn't good enough to move Cat out of left, at least not yet. He's still young enough to improve, which is good, as he needs to. As I write this, he has no home runs in 67 at-bats for the SkyChiefs. Grade: Insufficient Data

Shea Hillenbrand
.390 .530 .421
Well, of course he's not going to keep doing that, but he did hit .310 with significant line-drive power last year, so it's not like he's going to turn into Kevin Cash or Chris Gomez or something. His low walk total is partly because he likes to foul off borderline pitches rather than take them for balls; given the width of many umpires' strike zones, it's an understandable decision. However, the hack-and-slash approach may lead to disaster if he goes into a slump. Seems to be able to play both third and first competently, though not at the same time. Grade: A+

Eric Hinske
.289 .482 .366
I'm not entirely convinced he's for real yet: his hot start concealed an extremely ugly dry spell in mid-month. Still, I don't recall his ever having had any hot streaks at all in either 2003 or 2004, so some of the improvement must be legitimate. (And I can't imagine the 2004 version of Hinske hitting a home run off of Randy Johnson, even if it was on a hanging slider. Dude!!) Best of all, he's drawing walks. His defense at first is the best I've seen from a Jay since Olerud was in his prime: despite his being right-handed, he is great at going to his right. He still doesn't really hit for enough power to be a championship-quality first baseman, but that's not his fault. Grade: A

Ken Huckaby
.500 1.000 .750
He was back just in time for the Yankees series. ("Hi, Derek! Remember me?") He is what he is: good glove, no bat, veteran presence, and placeholder for Quiroz. It beats pumping gas for a living. Grade: Insufficient Data

Orlando Hudson
.271 .354 .314
As usual, he was streaky at the plate: after a very slow start, he rebounded to produce numbers pretty much near his career norms. His defense, already wonderful, has taken even one more step forward, as he has mastered a quick release on relay throws and double play balls. If he doesn't win a Gold Glove, it will be a travesty of justice. Grade: B+ (A+ for defense, C+ for offense)

Reed Johnson
.277 .426 .404
This month, Sparky volunteered to serve as a human target: his six HBP's pushed his OBP up into the stratosphere. (For those of you who remember the LOL SARAH commercials from last year: "Can you say tar-get prac-tice?") He won't stay at that level, but you've got to like a player who leaves it all on the field every game. His defense in left is superior; putting him in as a late-inning defensive substitute has already saved many runs in key situations. Grade: A

Corey Koskie
.253 .407 .327
His 27 whiffs lead the club by plenty, which is not easy to do, given that so many Jays strike out a lot. My guess is that he's trying too hard at the plate - he's starting a brand-new contract, he's playing for the team he grew up watching, and he's probably feeling overwhelming internal pressure to succeed. Like many of the other struggling Jays, he is drawing some walks, which means that he'll likely find the range soon. All he needs is a few visits to the video room, and some time to get over the culture shock. His defense at third is a significant upgrade from Hinske. Grade: C+

John McDonald
.346 .385 .357
Wow, that's an empty batting average: he has one extra-base hit, one walk, and one stolen base in 26 at-bats. I fear that he will soon become an offensive zero. But his defense is as good as advertised, which is what he was brought here for. I like the idea of having a really good defensive shortstop handy, as there are times when you really need one. Grade: B+

Frank Menechino
.182 .182 .333
Hudson's excellent play and the arrival of Hillenbrand and McDonald have left Mini-Me without much to do. He's still got good plate discipline, so you've got to figure he'll come around. And, at the very least, he's insurance in case the O-Dog tweaks an O-Hammy. Grade: C-

Greg Myers
.083 .083 .154
Whoa. Time flies quickly in baseball. Only two years ago, Crash was on the streak of his life, hitting at a Delgado-like pace. Now, he's likely out of baseball forever. Does this happen to catchers a lot? Darren Fletcher dropped off the map this quickly too. My advice to Gregg Zaun: invest wisely, and enjoy yourself - it's later than you think. Grade: Goodbye and good luck

Alex Rios
.321 .452 .344
He's been so quiet and unobtrusive that I don't think anybody noticed that he hit over .320 this month; I wouldn't have known if I hadn't checked the stats. His problem is that he came up about six months too soon: people are expecting too much from him too early. He's still taking steps forward, and there is still no ceiling on what he could become. Though he doesn't have a home run yet, he has hit a few balls quite hard. When he gets a little older, he'll get a little stronger, and some of those shots will clear the wall. The biggest worry is that he still isn't drawing walks - if he doesn't learn to control the strike zone, he could become the next Robert Perez. You remember Robert Perez, don't you? Robert who, you say? Grade: A-

Vernon Wells
.191 .372 .248
Sadness. I recall that, when Wells was going good, he was successful because his plate coverage was excellent: he could hit anything anywhere in the strike zone for extra bases. Now, he seems to be using the same approach, but his swing is off just a bit, so he's popping up a lot of those balls. His strikeout totals aren't up, so I don't think he's about to take a walk on the Josh Phelps Trail Of Tears (tm). He just might be off to a slow start; he's started slowly before, and players from Texas do tend to shrivel in cold weather, it seems. He'll probably regret predicting a 30-30 season. Defense is still great; like Devon White, he seems to know exactly where a fly ball is going to land, so he always arrives at its destined location with a minimum of fuss. Grade: D- (he gets a passing grade because of his defense)

Gregg Zaun
.286 .514 .402
My oh my. Look what we have here: Going Going is a switch-hitting catcher who has whopped ten extra-base hits, including a grand slam home run. He's drawn enough walks to put his OBP over the magic .400 mark. And he's a good defensive catcher and an experienced veteran without too many miles on him. How could you possibly do better than that? Grade: A+


As usual, I am a lousy scout. In the spring, I predicted that Chacin wouldn't work out (admittedly, I hadn't seen him then), and that Batista would crash and burn. Well, no. The team's pitching has been a tad inconsistent, but there's a world of difference between "inconsistent" and "bad".

Pitching numbers shown: ERA, IP, H, BB, SO.

Miguel Batista
2.70 10.0 13 3 3
I finally discovered why the Jays moved El Artista to the closer's spot: apparently, Batista has an extremely resilient arm. He could, if called upon, throw 30 pitches a day for five straight days. Also, the development of Chacin meant that he was #6 in the starting pitching depth chart, and he's being paid too much to take on Pete Walker's role.
He had a surprisingly uneventful and fairly successful month, especially considering what most of us were expecting. Low K/IP totals and high H/IP totals suggest that he has been more than a bit lucky, but he's saved six games in seven tries, and that's more than good enough to do the job. Besides, studies have shown that perhaps you don't want your best reliever in the closer role anyway: many of Batista's appearances have been in the ninth inning of games in which the Jays were ahead by three. Grade: B+

Dave Bush
4.97 29.0 29 6 13
I haven't quite figured him out yet. Most of the time, he looks eminently hittable. But, every now and again, something clicks, and he starts effortlessly dispatching batters. Low K/IP ratio suggests, as scouts have always suggested, that he doesn't have overwhelming stuff. This means that there isn't much margin for error - and, unfortunately, there have been a few errors. It's too early to draw any conclusions, however. Grade: C-

Gustavo Chacin
2.48 32.2 26 8 18
Makes pitching seem simple: he hits his spots with his fastball, busts righthanders inside with that nasty cutter, and occasionally throws a change to throw hitters off guard. With his funky motion, his baldness, and his cool sunglasses, he's this close to becoming famous. His K/IP ratio isn't great, so he won't stay at this level all year, but there's nothing that suggests that he's about to crash and burn. His leap forward is one of those rare breaks that a team needs in order to contend. Gets an A rather than an A+ because of his low K/IP ratio. Grade: A

Vinny Chulk
3.75 12.0 10 4 9
John Gibbons appears to have sorted out his bullpen; everybody has a role. Vinny's role is to be the number-one righthanded setup man out of the bullpen, usually coming into the game in the seventh or eighth inning. All of his numbers look good so far: he's throwing strikes, his K/IP is good, and he's only allowed one home run. When was the last time the Jays had a deep bullpen? Was it 1992? Grade: B+

Jason Frasor
4.32 8.1 8 3 7
Behind Chulk, Batista and Schoeneweis on the depth chart, which means he hasn't had much chance to shine. He's been hit a little harder than one would like, but he's basically the same pitcher he has always been, except without the good luck he had last summer. Grade: B-

Roy Halladay
3.40 45.0 37 6 34
Except for one start against Baltimore (when, apparently, he was sick), Halladay has returned to his 2003 form. Actually, right now, he's better than he was in 2003: Doc got off to a slow start that year, and didn't win a game in April. This year, he's already won four, including that wondrous start in which he three-hit the New York Yankees in the Bronx. What a joy it is to have an ace pitcher at the top of his game. (And an ace pitcher who is locked in for two more years after this one.) Would you trade Halladay for any other pitcher in baseball right now? I wouldn't. Grade: A+

Brandon League
6.75 9.1 13 4 8
Perhaps it's for the best: if he had dominated out of the bullpen, he might have followed Billy Koch's career path. You may recall that Koch made his debut in the major leagues only six years ago; now, Billy the K is heckling his former employers from the stands. League has a big-time fastball with lots of movement, and just needs to harness his stuff a bit more. We'll see him again real soon. Grade: D

Ted Lilly
6.98 19.1 26 8 15
Awful ERA and hits allowed totals, but all of his peripheral numbers are good. His K/IP is quite high. He's walked a few too many batters, but not enough to be a problem. He's allowed three home runs, which is more than you'd like but not excessive. My guess is that he's been snakebit, and that he'll be just fine going forward. But predicting what pitchers will do next is like trying to guess who will win the lottery. Grade: D+

Scott Schoeneweis
7.71 7.0 12 7 6
His numbers are awful, but consider how he was used: for a while there, his job was to face every tough left-handed hitter in the American League day after day after day. And some of those guys are pretty good. Once his usage patterns start becoming more normal, and he isn't being worked like a rented mule, we'll see what kind of pitcher we have here. On what I've seen, I'd rate him as worse than Plesac but better than Trever Miller. Grade: D

Justin Speier
7.56 8.1 11 2 4
Baseball can be cruel: at one time in the spring, Speier was slated to be the closer. Now, he's the 11th man on a 12-man staff. When you haven't worked many innings, it doesn't take too many bad outings to turn your pitching stats into crud. I wouldn't toss him over the side just yet. Mind you, I'm not sure I'm comfortable with him out there with the game on the line, either; his three home runs allowed ties him for fourth on the staff. I guess I am not totally unaffected by the delusions of small sample size. K/IP looks bad; is he healthy? Grade: F

Josh Towers
4.61 27.1 32 1 23
His numbers have veered into the surreal: this month, he walked one batter while striking out 23. (Please read that again.) For Josh, it was business as usual: lots of hits, many hard-hit balls, more than his share of long bombs. And, when he has a bad day, it's usually a really bad day. But he never gives up, he can be counted on to throw strikes, and his velocity seems to be up this year; his K/IP ratio has never been anywhere near this good before. There's lots and lots of worse starting pitchers out there. Grade: B-

Pete Walker
1.00 9.0 11 5 7
He's been a bit lucky: he's allowed 11 hits and five walks in nine innings, but surrendered only one run. He won't keep that up, but he looks like he'll be a very useful long man. K/IP ratio suggests that his arm has fully recovered. Grade: B+

Matt Whiteside
18.00 2.0 3 2 2
Rule XLVIII: Relief pitchers always look better in Triple-A. Whiteside showed up, appeared in one game, and got stomped. Right now, it looks like he'll only pitch if two consecutive starters get clobbered, or if one starter gets really clobbered, as Walker is the first man out in such situations. I'm not criticizing Whiteside when I say that I hope that this doesn't happen too often. (The problem with a pitching staff is that 12 men is always the wrong number: you either need 10 or 13, or maybe even 14.) Grade: Insufficient Data


Well, that was an interesting month: the team started off hot as gangbusters, dropped into the tank for five days, and then immediately went back to being hot again. If you had told me a month ago that the Jays would finish the month with a winning record, and that the New York Yankees would not, I would have been a very happy person. And so I am.

Long-term, I don't know whether the Jays have what it takes to achieve anything wonderful. After a strong start, the hitters have mostly stopped hitting home runs, the starting rotation has wobbled at times, and who knows what will happen to the bullpen? But it's been a month, and we haven't written off the season yet, so it's already better than last year - and the Jays have treated us to some memorable games. Even if the team eventually starts to eat the dust of better, more lavishly-financed teams, the Jays are very likely to provide a lot of entertainment value this summer. And, everybody: let's be thankful that we don't root for the Tampa Bay Devil Rays.

Blue Jays Report Card for April 2005 | 10 comments | Create New Account
The following comments are owned by whomever posted them. This site is not responsible for what they say.
VBF - Sunday, May 01 2005 @ 08:41 AM EDT (#114615) #
Nice work, Dave.

Russ Johnson

You've gotta stop listening to those Tampa commentators :)

Paul D - Sunday, May 01 2005 @ 09:06 AM EDT (#114616) #
Russ Johnson You've gotta stop listening to those Tampa commentators :)
Yeah, Chris Speier agrees. Regardless, good job. At first I thought the offence was ba/obp/slg, and I was very very confused. Then I actually read the intro and figured out that the Blue Jays aren't on pace to break any obp records. :)
Rich - Sunday, May 01 2005 @ 09:59 AM EDT (#114617) #
I know Gross is usually a slow starter, and it's only been 67 AB's, but his spring is looking like a mirage right now:
.254 / .333 / .358 without a home run. Don't know if it's the cold weather, but so far it's fair to say that the Jays made the right decision with Gabe to begin the season.

Brett - Sunday, May 01 2005 @ 10:21 AM EDT (#114618) #

Thanks for the Sunday morning read, Dave. I've been curious about how the nine spots in our lineup have fared compared to the rest of the AL, so here's what we've got:

#    OPS  RANK
1   .699  #11
2   .648  #11
3   .597  #13
4   .689  #11
5  1.025  #1
6   .865  #2
7   .701  #7
8   .855  #1
9   .724  #5

Our #5 hitters have mostly been Hillenbrand, but Vernon Wells is hitting .360 with 18 total bases in 25 at bats in the #5 spot.

Our #8 hitters are Zaun and Hudson.

Hillenbrand is batting .433 in 30 at bats in the #3 spot. That tells you all you need to know about Vernon Wells' performance (a .130 average and .449 OPS, to be exact)

I guess the questions going forward is when will the top four guys get better, and how long can the bottom five guys continue to carry the load? And will Gibbons decide to move Wells down a couple of spots?

Other astonishing numbers have been the 1.185 OPS from Baltimore's leadoff hitter (Brian Roberts, who also has 10 SB in 11 attempts), and the .996 OPS that Tampa Bay has received from their #9 hitters (Alex Gonzalez, Nick Green, Jonny Gomes, Joey Gathright, Eduardo Perez, Alex Sanchez). No other team is over .800 in that spot.

The rest of the Rays' lineup... eh, not so good.

Dave Till - Sunday, May 01 2005 @ 10:41 AM EDT (#114621) #
Changed "Russ Johnson" to "Reed Johnson" - thanks for spotting that. *blush*
Dave Till - Sunday, May 01 2005 @ 10:44 AM EDT (#114624) #
And "Chris Speier" to "Justin Speier". Blame diminishing mental faculties, morning, absentmindedness, or random chance for my errors. :-)
Rob - Sunday, May 01 2005 @ 10:49 AM EDT (#114625) #
Be prepared to blush again over Chris Speier.

A fun feature, Dave. I disagree on Cat's defense -- I don't think he's as bad as everyone makes him out to be, but that's hardly anything to get worked up over.

The grades, in order, for no reason other than to marvel at Roy Halladay:

A+ Hillenbrand
A+ Zaun
A+ Halladay
A Hinske
A Johnson
A- Rios

B+ Walker
B+ Hudson
B+ McDonald
B+ Batista
B+ Chulk
B- Frasor
B- Towers

C+ Koskie
C Catalanotto
C- Adams
C- Menechino
C- Bush

D+ Lilly
D Schoeneweis
D League
D- Wells

F Speier
Mick Doherty - Sunday, May 01 2005 @ 11:03 AM EDT (#114628) #
He still doesn't really hit for enough power to be a championship-quality first baseman, but that's not his fault.

Gosh, that might be a really interesting angle to explore ... what championship team of recent vintage had the worst-hitting 1B ("worst" being extremely relative here)? My first thought is the 1990 Reds, with the immortal Todd Benzinger, who was a fine major leaguer but a placeholder at best. If you go back a little further, the amazing 1984 Tigers went, if I recall correctly, primarily with Dave Bergman at 1B.

Who else?

Rob - Sunday, May 01 2005 @ 11:26 AM EDT (#114630) #
Franklin Stubbs?
Joe - Sunday, May 01 2005 @ 12:19 PM EDT (#114636) #
I just about have to bring up the "subjective vs objective" topic, specifically with regard to Josh Towers. Ok, if you're saying "He earned a 79 on the final exam, so he gets a B+" in proper objective style, I can buy it. From the other side, though, if you're saying "How good a Josh Towers has Josh Towers been in April?" he can't help but get an A+. Josh Towers has been a mindbogglingly good Josh Towers so far.
Blue Jays Report Card for April 2005 | 10 comments | Create New Account
The following comments are owned by whomever posted them. This site is not responsible for what they say.