Monday, July 16, 2018

ten weekly random thoughts: week 15 July 9-15

Well, we made it to the all-star break and the Blue Jays have a record of 43-52, a few games better than their record of 41-47 last year, but the season started a few days earlier and the all-star game is a few days later so the Blue Jays are exactly where they were last year. If anybody could use the all-star break it is the exhausted Blue Jays bullpen. Toronto starters have not consistently been pitching past the 5th inning, which has led to overuse of some arms. Ryan Tepera strained his elbow because of being used too many times. Other bullpen arms are been less effective lately. The all-star break is coming at the perfect time as several injured players are getting close to returning. Here are ten random thoughts from week 15 of the MLB.

1. The Blue Jays received both good and bad news on the injury front this week. Kevin Pillar left Saturdays game prior to the bottom of the 4th after injuring his SC joint. Depending on the severity of the injury, Pillar could miss anywhere from a couple of weeks to a month. In his absence, Randal Grichuk will likely be in center field and one of Dwight Smith Jr. or Curtis Granderson will be in right field, with Teoscar Hernandez continuing to occupy left field. Pillar will be re-evaluated in three weeks. Lourdes Gurriel Jr. is also out after being injured in the game on Saturday. Gurriel Jr. was conked in the head by Red Sox starter Eduardo Rodriguez, who also was injured on the play and left the game with an ankle injury. Lourdes stayed in the game but was diagnosed with a concussion the next day and subsequently placed on the seven day DL. With the all-star break upon us, he could only miss a few games.

2. Jaime Garcia made his return from the inflamed shoulder. He lost his starting job to hot rookie Ryan Borucki and slightly better 5th starter Sam Gaviglio. This is the second year in a row that the Blue Jays have had their 5th starter not pan out. Last year, Francisco Liriano was the 5th starter and in 18 starts, he had a 5-6 record with a 5.88ERA. Liriano was traded to the Houston Astros at the trade deadline and was used sparingly in their bullpen. Garcia is 2-6 in 13 starts with a 6.16ERA. I sincerely hope that the Blue Jays use Garcia as a long-man and keep him stretched out so he can save the bullpen arms in the second half. Garcia pitched the bottom of the 8th in Sunday's game, giving up 3 walks in 2/3 of an inning.

3. Danny Barnes is also ready to return to the bullpen after the all-star break. Barnes has had a rough season with a 4.60ERA in 30 appearances. I see Barnes as being a middle innings reliever, coming in around the 6th inning to pitch an inning at most. Hopefully Barnes used the time on the DL to reset and work on things mechanically so he can be effective when called upon. Ryan Tepera made his return to action on Sunday after rehabbing an inflamed elbow. Tepera pitched the bottom of the 7th Sunday walking one and striking out one.

4. Looking ahead at the schedule, the Blue Jays have the opportunity to sweep the first series and win the second series. They face the Baltimore Orioles, who they swept over 4 games June 7th-10th. Baltimore may or may not be a significantly weaker opponent when they come into Toronto over the weekend. Trade talks for Manny Machado and Zach Britton have been ongoing and one or both may be gone. Baltimore has 70 losses and will almost certainly be looking at a 100+ loss season. After the Orioles leave town, the Blue Jays will be facing the Minnesota Twins, another sub-.500 team, who the Blue Jays took 2 of 3 from April 30-May 2. The Twins have been having a similar season to the Blue Jays so expect a close three games. It is important for the Blue Jays to have a strong home-stand because after that, they embark on a lengthy 10 game road trip with stops in Chicago, Oakland and Seattle (I'll be there for the first game and my first MLB game!).

5. I think JA Happ will get one or two more starts in a Blue Jays uniform. As the Blue Jays best player and pitcher, he will be dealt to a contending team. Happ has had rough outings his last three starts, not helped by the defense and lack of run support by a hit/miss offence. Happ is slated to start next Sunday against Baltimore, just 8 days before the trade deadline. It is also possible he might be skipped if a trade is imminent. Either way, enjoy his appearance at the all-star game and cheer hard if he does pitch next Sunday because Happ has done a solid job the last 3 seasons.

6. Another starter who's start might be up in the air is Monday's scheduled starter, Marco Estrada, who has missed a pair of starts due to a strained glut muscle. Estrada could be the ace of the staff once Happ is traded, especially with the health status of Aaron Sanchez and his troublesome finger up in the air. The way it stands right now, the Blue Jays rotation August 1st will likely be Marco Estrada, maybe Aaron Sanchez, Marcus Stroman, Ryan Borucki and Sam Gaviglio/bullpen day. The Blue Jays could acquire a starting pitcher in a trade that would be inserted into the rotation too.

7. The bullpen could also look different after the trade deadline as there are a few attractive arms that a team like the Boston Red Sox might look at, such as John Axford, Tyler Clippard and Ryan Tepera. Roberto Osuna could be on the trading block as well but I don't know how hard the Blue Jays will shop him. Osuna pitched his first relief appearance in the minors over the weekend, so depending how he does, he might attract an offer from a contending team.

8. The Boston Red Sox are my pick to win the world series. They are having a first half very similar to the one the Chicago Cubs had in 2016, although the Cubs lost 4 in a row heading into the break, whereas the Red Sox are winners of 12 of 13. Boston has a potent lineup led by leadoff man Mookie Betts, who leads the majors in batting average, slugging%, on-base% and on-base%+ and JD Martinez, who leads the majors in RBI (79) and is tied for the lead in HR (28). They have a strong rotation led by David Price, Chris Sale and 2016 Cy Young winner Rick Porcello, who consistently get 21 outs. Their closer Craig Kimbrel is second in the majors with 29 saves. He possesses a fastball that goes into the upper 90's. Overall, this might be the most complete team in the majors.

9. Big news on Saturday as the St. Louis Cardinals fired manager Mike Matheny and hitting coaches John Mabry and Bill Mueller. Matheny is the second manager to be fired this season (the Cincinnati Reds fired manager Bryan Price earlier this season). Mike Shildt was named interim manager for the remainder of the season and Mark Budaska and George Greer will replace Mabry and Mueller. The Cardinals were 3rd in the NL Central, 7.5 games back of the 1st place Chicago Cubs and 4 games back of the 2nd wild card spot with a record of 47-46 heading into play Sunday. Matheny had been the Cardinals manager since 2012, taking over for the legendary Tony La Russa, and had a record of 591-474 and took the Cardinals to the World Series in 2013 where they lost to the Red Sox. Joe Girardi could be a possible replacement when the team searches for a permanent replacement in the off-season.

10. Blue Jay of the week:Justin Smoak, who went 7-24, including 4 HR this week. Smoak has been showing his all-star form from last season lately. Too bad he couldn't have done this all year. He might be in Washington either with or instead of JA Happ.

I'm taking a brief hiatus from blogging this week until the Blue Jays start playing on Friday. I'll be checking in and commenting on what others post this week. Enjoy the all-star game and I'll chat with everyone real soon.

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