Monday, August 13, 2018

ten weekly random thoughts: week 19 August 6-12

Here we are, just seven week left in the baseball season. Playoff races are heating up with tight races for the 2nd wild card spot in the AL with the Mariners and A's duking it out. The two eams face each other ten more games, starting with a three game set tonight in Oakland. In the NL East, there is a three way race for the division title between the Nationals, Braves and Phillies. The NL Central title is a two-way race between the Cubs and Brewers (the two teams are tied in wins but the Cubs have a few games in hand). Virtually every team in the NL West, except the Padres still have a legit chance of winning the division title. Heading into play Sunday, the Diamondbacks and Dodgers were tied, the Rockies were 1.5 games back and the Giants had an outside chance being 6 games back. The NL West race should go down to the final days of the season, with a one game showdown potentially needed to decide the winner. Don't worry Jays fans, in a few years the Blue Jays will be involved in playoff races. Here are ten random thoughts from week 19 of the MLB.

1. The Blue Jays simply cannot catch a break (pun intended) this season when it comes to injuries. Newly acquired infielder Brandon Drury went down this week with a broken hand. He suffered the injury a couple of games prior to being traded by the NY Yankees after getting hit by a pitch. He played ok in his first 8 games as a Blue Jay. He made a couple of nice defensive plays but had just 24 hits in 26 AB. He'll be in a cast for a couple of weeks and could be back in early-mid September.

2. Drury's replacement, Yangervis Solarte was injured taking an awkward swing Saturday. The Blue Jays recalled catching prospect Danny Jansen after the game and right Sean Reid-Foley. Both will likely start Monday. With Josh Donaldson still a week or two away from returning (he is set to begin sprinting this week) Russell Martin will likely play the bulk of the games at third base with Luke Maile and Danny Jansen platooning behind the plate. I'm really excited to see how Jansen does behind the plate. No doubt, he will be tested by base stealers. If Reid-Foley does half as good as Ryan Borucki has done, he'll have a strong shot at being in the rotation in 2019.

3. Lourdes Gurriel Jr. is continuing to progress from ankle/knee sprains. He's been doing throwing and hitting drills problem-free and has started running progressions and taking ground balls. Hopefully he can return in a week or two.

4. Aaron Sanchez is set to make his second rehab start Tuesday after allowing 4 runs in 3 innings in a Gulf Coast league start this week. He's likely going to need 2 more rehab starts after Tuesday, meaning he might be back sometime in September, unless he has a setback, in which case he'll likely be shut down until next year.

5. Marcus Stroman left his second straight start early on Sunday. His blister popped on him and on TV, the blister looked quite sizable, covering most of his middle finger. The Blue Jays really need to take a cautious approach with Stroman and let the blister heal completely before they let him throw again. His arm is too valuable to risk injury and he won't be as effective if he can't use his sinker.

6. Player's weekend is coming up where all the players will be wearing their nicknames on the back of their jerseys instead of their last names. I personally think it's a fun way to let players have fun in the game. Here are the nicknames you'll see the Blue Jays wearing this year.

7. The AL East is shaping up to see two powerhouses in the Yankees and Red Sox both finish with over 100 wins. Only one team can claim the division and at this point, it looks like the Red Sox have the upper hand. Either way, the Yankees or Red Sox will be difficult to defeat in a one game wild card or even a five or seven game series. Both teams have strong pitching, a juggernaut lineup and solid bullpens. Here are nine other teams who finished with over 100 wins, only to finish in 2nd place in their division.

8. As the season heads into the home stretch, here are 10 X-factors to watch in the coming weeks. The loss of Kenley Jansen is a massive blow for the Dodgers at a time when they are fighting just to make the playoffs. Don't be surprised if the Mariners and/or Brewers try and pick up a starting pitcher, such as Marco Estrada, to give them depth in the rotation. I don't see the Yankees panicking over Judge's wrist just yet as there are still a couple of months left in the season so they can afford to rest him, especially if they concede the division title soon. Can the A's continue their late inning magic? I think Ronald Acuna Jr. will be fine, but the Braves might sit him in one of the two games of the double headers they have coming up. The Nationals pitching staff is about to be bolstered by the return of starter Stephen Strasburg, who will likely be on a pitch count his first start or two, and lefty reliever Sean Doolittle. The Nationals could make a late season run at the playoffs fuelled by the return of the aforementioned pitchers. The Phillies better hope that Seranthony Dominguez finds a bit extra in the tank because they need to win and win often to stave off the Nationals and Braves, who are both nipping at their heels. I think the Cardinals will fall short of the playoffs this year and they can point to the ineffectiveness of those batting 3/4 in their lineup. The Diamondbacks will be hoping Eduardo Escobar stays hot or they may fade into the night. The Cubs will be fine but they need Bryant and Morrow and Darvish to return soon and get into top form before the playoffs begin.

9. A couple of birthday shoutouts are in order this week. As you read this post, I will be celebrating my 34th birthday. Also, a birthday shoutout goes to Batflip who celebrated their birthday Friday.

10. Blue Jay of the week: Justin Smoak, who had 8 hits against the Red Sox this week and continues to swing a hot bat.

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