Monday, June 24, 2019

Ten weekly random thoughts: Week 12 June 17-23

It was a wild week where the Blue Jays narrowly avoided being swept in a season series to the Angels, and they took out their frustrations on the Red Sox with a sweet series win that shoulda coulda woulda been a sweep if not for the bullpen imploding in the opener. Edwin Jackson (lower back strain) and Justin Smoak (quad strain) joined the walking wounded on the IL and Ken Giles returned after a brief stint on the IL with elbow inflammation. Vlad will be repping the Blue Jays at the all-star game in the home run derby. Hopefully he doesn't kill the pitcher. Looking ahead to next week, the Blue Jays have a three game set at Yankee Stadium. Monday will see CC Sabathia pitching against the Blue Jays for one of the last times in his career. The big southpaw is retiring at the end of the season. Sabathia is 18-12 with a 3.65ERA in 18 starts vs. the Blue Jays There will also be lots of ex-Blue Jays to see in this series with Edwin Encarnacion, Gio Urshela, JA Happ (who will not pitch in this series as he started Sunday), and Kendrys Morales. Tulo is also a Yankee, but he is contemplating his playing future and hurt yet again. After the off-day Thursday, the Blue Jays return home to face the Kansas City Royals. The Blue Jays were 5-2 against the Royals last season, outscoring them 46-31. The Royals are dead last in the AL Central and have a run differential of -59. Here are ten random thoughts from week 12 of the MLB.

1. Let's start with the news that potentially may affect the trade value of Justin Smoak. The 32-year old veteran was placed on the 10 day IL Tuesday with a quad issue. It is expected that Smoak will be traded at or near the deadline for assets, with the emergence of Rowdy Tellez, who has proven capable of handling 1st base duties. Cavan Biggio and Billy McKinney have also seen time at 1st base this season and will be options. Statistically, Smoak has been steadily declining since his 2017 season, where he represented the Blue Jays at the all-star game and hit 38 HR and drove in 90 runs that season. So far this season, in 62 games, Smoak is batting .225 with 12HR and 34RBI. He should attract interest from contending teams looking for an extra bat. However, if the injury persists too long, it may scare teams away.

2. Edwin Jackson was also placed on the 10 day IL with a lower back strain. The 35-year-old has been a disaster since he was basically acquired for free. He was 1-5 with a 12.43ERA in 7 games (5 of them starts). This may be the end of the line for him, especially if Sean Reid-Foley takes advantage of his recall Sunday to the team. SRF will likely start in the KC series.

3. David Phelps made his Blue Jays debut this week after successfuly rehabbing from TJ surgery in 2018. Phelps made 4 appearances this week, allowing 2 runs on 6 hits and a walk while striking out 3 over 4 innings. He's expected to be a setup man in save situations, on the rare occasions where the Blue Jays have a late lead. 

4. Ken Giles also returned from injury after a brief 10 day stint on the IL with an elbow strain. He picked up his 12th save of the season in the second game vs. the Red Sox. He's 1-1 with a sparkling 1.33ERA this season. He should be highly coveted at the trade deadline and is another candidate to rep the Blue Jays at the all-star game. Giles may not be picked as the Blue Jays all-star rep due to lack of opportunities to save. In the meantime, until he's inevitably dealt in a month or so, it's nice to know that the Blue Jays are all but certain to win if they are leading by 3 or less going into the 9th inning.

5. One issue that seems to keep cropping up this season is bunting. Charlie Montoyo, a former Tampa Bay Rays coach, has been utilizing this play a lot more this season. Need I remind everyone that was calling for Gibby's head, and there were certainly a few of you last season, Gibby was fully a swing for the fences kind of coach. The Jays offence last season was largely HR or bust. Of course, Akins and Shapiro were aiming to change the whole approach to the offence with a different voice in the room. I think that bunting has a place in the game. Sure you sacrifice an out, but the odds of a player scoring from 2nd base and 3rd base is significantly greater than if they are at 1st base. Also, a well-placed bunt can beat shifts, especially for players who tend to pull the ball. However, the bunt should be taken off when a player has two strikes against them because if the bunt goes foul, the player is out. It might be a good idea to try a fake bunt once in a while to fool the defense. I don't know the record now, but at one point, the Blue Jays were 6-0 in games where they deployed a successful sac bunt.

6. The Blue Jays lost out on Cody Allen, who opted to sign with the Twins, who are in contention in the AL Central. Allen, who was recently released by the Angels, would have been a risky signing as he was 0-2 with a 6.26ERA in 25 appearances this season. Allen is also 30 years old and that is the age where most players start to decline. I'd rather see the Blue Jays give their prospects some major league experience, such as Justin Shafer.

7. As mentioned in the intro blurb, Vladimir Guerrero Jr. is going to be the 1st Blue Jays rookie to participate in the main all-star festivities, at least the home run derby. This year's all-star game will be at Progressive Field in Cleveland, a ball park that Guerrero Jr. has yet to hit at, and won't before the all-star game as the Blue Jays have already played in Cleveland this season. His father may not be the best person to turn to for advice on hitting at Progressive Field, as Vladimir Guerrero Sr. had just 3 HR in 24 career games at the ballpark.

8. Here's an article looking at where some of the veterans are likely to be dealt. It may be tough to find a taker for Aaron Sanchez, who has yet to prove he is over the finger problems that have plagued him for a few years now. I can see the Yankees acquiring Stroman to add another starter in case Sabathia can't start later in the season. Freddy Galvis is interesting and could draw interest from a team such as the Dodgers. I also think Eric Sogard will find a new home, as he has been a great addition and can play multiple positions. In terms of value, Giles and Marcus Stroman will undoubtedly bring the biggest haul, as they are THE reason the Blue Jays aren't dead last in the league. Another month from now and the Blue Jays will likely be fielding a very different team.

9. Finally, here's an article arguing that Cavan Biggio should be batting lead off. Since his recall a month ago, Biggio has been placed in several spots in the lineup from clean-up to as low as 8th in the lineup. You generally want your leadoff hitter to get on base a high% of the time. Currently, Biggio is getting on base .359 of the time or about once every 3 times he comes up. It is also preferable that your leadoff hitter has some speed to steal a base, prevent a double play or score. Biggio's speed is 27.5ft/s, or slightly above the league average. At this point, I would not bat Biggio in the leadoff spot until he has a few more AB's under his belt. Put him in the 4-6 hole and let him ease his way in.

10. Blue Jay of the week: Trent Thornton who had a strong start this week, allowing a pair of runs on 8 hits and a walk, while striking out 7 over 6.1 innings. He should have had his 3rd win of the season, bur the bullpen blew it. Thornton has emerged as a solid starting pitcher.