Off Day Blues Vol. 1
Monday, April 26 2021 @ 07:36 AM EDT
Contributed by: Eephus
In my mind
and nailed to my heels
All the time
killing what I feel
15-1 game aside, the 2021 Blue Jays have yet to blow out, or be completely blown out, by an opponent. Twenty-one games in, they're 10-11 with a positive run differential (mostly thanks to that 15-1 affair). As this is an off-day, it seems like a good time to step back and take a look at what we've seen so far. It's another one of my rickety gimmicks(TM)! The coupons are in the mail. Anyway lets go:
Top of the 1st
Vladimir Guerrero Jr. -- Most positives with this club so far begin with this guy, current mini slump aside. He's just a different player than what we've previously seen so far, full stop. Not just are his major league numbers finally mirroring his legendary minors output, but he looks so much quicker around the bases and possibly, maybe an adept defender at first base? He's still figuring out the little details of the position, like when to hold the bag and when to step off for an errant throw, but overall he's been... all right there. For that reason, they should keep him right there. Don't mess around, let him learn it. I'm not opposed to a weekly start at third, but a full-time switch? Don't mess with it.
The Bullpen -- Truly the unsung hero of this team so far, even if their excellence has been consistently mentioned. What stands out to me is how few true meltdowns there have been: Jordan Romano seems to be playing shy with the strikezone again (just go up and talk to her, man!) while T.J Zeuch's 7th inning appearance against the Royals may have banished him into places from which there are no returns. Beyond that, everybody right now fills you with confidence that they're gonna put up another zero, even Rafael Dolis' astonishing sleepwalking a tightrope act. They've legitimately been the 2021 team MVP so far. With all the pitching injuries and flat offense, if the pen had been simply mediocre thus far they're probably at least five games under .500.
Matz-a Ball -- Four starts is hardly enough of a sample, but whoever that guy was that pitched in Queens last year seems to have stayed there. There is a lot to like: the consistent mid 90s velocity, the ability to throw quality strikes (2020 Matz also threw strikes, but they were sad strikes) and I've really liked his demeanor on the mound. Nothing seems to faze or disrupt his focus and you never get the sense he's thinking "oh no here we go again" when challenges arise (like his infielders throwing the ball everywhere). I don't think he's this good, but the Blue Jays may have really struck gold here on a 'change of scenery' guy. Sort of a 2016-18 J.A Happ type. I could live with that.
Hyun Jin Ryu -- is still awesome. Rest that caboose, dear sir.
Bottom of the 1st
Third Base -- As Gerry has mentioned, it sure seems like the left side of this infield is jinxed. It's been so bad that Santiago Espinal has genuinely looked like Scott Rolen in comparison to the pylons who've bungled plays over there (I do think Espinal is a good defender though). The avatar of this has of course been Cavan Biggio, who might be unintentionally proving how smarts and instincts can only get you so far at such a demanding position. Biggio is obviously a terrific athlete (he's a damn professional one, after all) but I wonder if his type of athleticism is a bad match for third base: his arm clearly has been an issue on close plays (like throwing on the run) and he wasn't exactly the rangiest second baseman to begin with, where he had significantly more time to react and throw. Sure he played 3B in the minors, I'm not saying he doesn't know how to play the position. It's just... well major league hitters tend to hit the ball at superhero levels of hardness. For now, unless the Blue Jays want to use Espinal more (if he can hit, then please), Biggio still seems like the best option at this point in the season, which isn't ideal. I doubt a trade is on the table for a left-handed hot corner bat quite yet (*cough* Kyle Seager *cough*) and if they were to try Semien there I'd suspect that's a mid-season "we've completely given up on Cavan figuring this out" desperation move, which would also be quite bad.
One last point on Biggio: I have a theory he's one of those "just this side of the field" defenders, as in he picks up the ball off the bat significantly better on the right side regardless of position. People seem to think he's a bad outfielder but from what I've seen he seems perfectly serviceable in right-field. It's in LF he seems way more lost. Just a theory.
Jano -- I just don't know what to think of Danny Jansen's bat, but obviously the conclusions cannot be good. The Blue Jays might be better served by (somehow) using the DH for the catcher when he starts. Thing is, Jansen doesn't look as hopeless up there as the numbers show... and he's looked awful hopeless plenty of times. But even a game when he's finally hitting the ball hard he just can't buy a break. Seriously, in the Sunday game he hit a ball so hard it took the third baseman's glove off, and another line drive in the lights that the right fielder had to close his eyes on... both were outs. We can call Jansen snake-bit but at this point, anyone or anything this unlucky should be called a Danny Jansen.
Shortstop Bichette -- Yeah, that's also been tough to watch. Ask me again in June though: for better or worse he's the shortstop and that won't change anytime soon. And no, I don't think a midseason move to second base solves all of his glove problems.
The Cavernous Nightmare Box -- Seriously, even though the good guys won this one... next series the Blue Jays play in Tropicana Field I am taking a vacation from the team. These games just fill me with an endless sense of dread, like being a genre savvy character in a horror movie. Those moments of "maybe this will be okay!" only for the bloody machete to crash through the door on cue. That 1-0 Sunday game was akin to watching an impending doom that marvelously got stuck in traffic.
Other Bits and Other Pieces -- It sure sounds like George Springer and Teoscar Hernandez will rejoin the team imminently, which is downright awesome news. I assume Jon Davis gets sent down when that happens, but I do hope the other demotion is a fringe pitcher like Ty Tice and not Santiago Espinal (I'm sure his excellent Sunday game helped his cause). If you're rolling with Biggio as your most-of-the-time third baseman, you probably want a late inning defensive replacement over there and that's not Joe Panik. Panik is a terrific defensive second baseman, but like Biggio his limitations become loud and clear over on the other side. Plus, while he doesn't have Davis' speed, Espinal is quick enough to be your extra inning pinch runner, an aspect of this new rule I actually quite like.
Around the league... in this early going, nothing is really catching my eye beyond how insanely good Shane Bieber is, or Joey Votto's awesome triple play a week ago (look it up! It's amazing) and these just incredible Dodgers-Padres games. I still stand by my prediction of the Dodgers just being too good for anybody else, but the Padres are a mighty good team in their own right and have clearly have other plans... plus they finally have jerseys that aren't bland or terrible!
Anyhow, that's all I've got on this off day. Except some trivia perhaps? I saw this the other day and it might be easy, but here goes. Who is the person with the longest tenure spending his entire career with one team as a player, and then managing just one team (a different one) his entire coaching career?
Usual "prizes" apply! Happy Monday to you all.