Monday, July 9, 2018

ten weekly random thoughts: week 14 July 2-8

What an emotional week it was this week as Jose Bautista made his return to the Roger's Center after he and the Blue Jays parted ways this summer. Bautista would be the Blue Jays best hitter if he was on the team, which says a lot about how the offence has struggled this year. If things stay the way they are, the Blue Jays will finish the year without a batter hitting .300 for the second straight season. Devon Travis was the last Blue Jay to finish the season batting .300, back in 2016. It is likely the team will get worse in the coming weeks as the best players on the team are traded away to contending teams looking to add the final piece that will lead them to glory. Here are ten random thoughts from the 14th week of the MLB.

1. The Blue Jays lost a third starting pitcher to injury this week as Marco Estrada left his start Tuesday after facing just 4 batters and throwing 12 pitches. He was diagnosed with a mild strain to his right glut muscle. It will be really interesting to see what the Blue Jays do if Estrada is unable to make his next scheduled start on Tuesday. The Blue Jays could call someone up from the minors or do what the Tampa Bay Rays regularly do and have a bullpen day where each pitcher throws an inning or two. It is likely that Joe Biagini would get the "start" under this scenario and be allowed to face the Braves lineup once. The problem is the Blue Jays only have 3 bench players who could hit for the pitcher, meaning at least one pitcher would have to bat for themselves.

2. On Saturday, the Blue Jays saw reliever Rhiner Cruz go down with an apparent knee injury after an awkward step on the mound. Cruz made his return to the majors this week after pitching in the Mexican league 2014-2016 and in the Braves minor league system in 2017. Cruz pitched 3.1 innings of relief this week, allowing a run on 2 hits and 2 walks against the Yankees Saturday and 1 hit vs the Mets on Wednesday. The Dominigan Republic right-hander also struck out 4 batters this week. He'll likely get another look when he is healthy again.

3. Starters Jaime Garcia and Aaron Sanchez both started throwing programs this week as they work to return from respective shoulder and finger/landing foot ailments. As this is Gracia's second stint on the DL with an injury to his pitching arm, look for the Blue Jays to be extra cautious with his progression. Sanchez looks to be closer to returning. He will miss his Tuesday start, but might be able to pitch the final game before the all-star break.

4. JA Happ had a very rough start against the NY Yankees and he certainly didn't do the Blue Jays any favors in getting the best deal for him. Happ has struggled lately with command of his inside fastball, a key out pitch for him. Despite the recent rough outings, Happ will almost certainly be heading to Washington next week as the Blue Jays representative in the all-star game.

5. Other Blue Jays who will be at the festivities next week, and playing if healthy, are prospects Bo Bichette and Vladimir Guerrero Jr. Both Guerrero and Bichette have been tearing it up in AA New Hampshire. Up until June 7, when he injured his knee, Guerrero had been batting .407 with 11 HR and 55 RBI. Bichette has cooled off in recent weeks after pretty much matching Guerrero Jr. hit for hit. Look for both players to receive promotions to AAA Buffalo in the coming weeks.

6. With the trade deadline approaching in the next three weeks, here are seven difficult decisions facing several of the likely buyers and sellers this season. At this point, we have a pretty good idea of what teams will be looking to acquire assets to give them an edge in the playoffs and to get them to the playoffs (NY Yankees, Boston Red Sox, Houston Astros, Seattle Mariners) and what teams will be looking to sell off assets to gain draft picks and prospects for the future (Blue Jays, any team but Cleveland in the AL Central, Baltimore Orioles, Miami Marlins). The biggest name out there is likely Orioles third baseman Manny Machado, who is batting .310 with 21HR and 59RBI.

7. John Gobbons was in a fiery mood on Saturday, getting himself ejected for arguing balls and strikes. I have noticed this season that fewer managers/players are getting ejected this season. It could be that the umpires are letting managers say their two cents or that the umpires are indirectly acknowledging that they are not perfect at calling the game. The advancement of replay a few seasons ago eliminated the need to argue calls because managers can challenge almost anything but balls and strikes.

8. The Seattle Mariners will have a really interesting decision to make in about 6 weeks when Robinson Cano is eligible to return from an 80 game suspension for using a banned substance. He spoke with the media today on the situation. One big factor is that Cano will not be allowed to play in the playoffs due to a rule surrounding suspensions. Also, his replacement Dee Gordon has been playing very well in the field. It is likely that Cano will platoon with Gordon in the final 6 weeks of the season. His future with the Mariners past this season may be in doubt with his reputation tarnished.

9.  The MLB all-star rosters were announced on Saturday afternoon. Not surprisingly JA Happ will be the Blue Jays representative at the all-star game in Washington. I'm happy to see Canadian Joey Votto picked as one of the NL reserves. I was disappointed not to see Adrian Beltre picked to play. He is batting .296 with 4HR and 26RBI. The MLB may have a pair of interesting decisions to make if JA Happ and/or Manny Machado are traded to a team in the NL or another team period. Personally, I think both should be allowed to play and represent the Blue Jays and Orioles respectfully, since neither team has another player that really deserves to make the all-star team. Don't be surprised if Aroldis Chapman pulls himself from the all-star game. He left Saturday's relief appearance after facing one batter due to knee tendinitis. One player who fans picked that maybe didn't deserve to go based on his stats: Bryce Harper (.219 batting average, but he had 21HR and 50RBI). Check out some facts about the all-star teams here. These are your 2018 all-stars. Now the fans get to vote on a final player for the NL and AL rosters. The Home Run derby goes Monday July 16 and the All-Star game takes place the next day.

10. Blue Jay of the week: Ryan Borucki. The Blue Jays rookie southpaw is bringing back memories of Ricky Romero. Both pitchers threw at least 6 innings and gave up 2 or fewer earned runs in their first three MLB starts. It really gives hope for the future of the Blue Jays rotation.

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