Are The Jays Really This Bad?

The Jays are 60-75 after a 12-0 loss to BAL and on pace for their worst season, record-wise, since 2004.  A question that I’ve been asked is, ‘if AA’s so good, then why are the Jays getting worse?’  People are right to ask.  Why are the Jays going backward?  Season records of 85-77 and 81-81 have given way to the present 60-75 disappointment.

Narrowly speaking, their .444 winning percentage projects to a 72-90 record for the season.  Are we to be emotionally and intellectually assaulted by ever-declining records?  Are we to be manipulated continually by Rogers’ marketing department?  Have we been sold a ‘bill of goods’?  What gives?

Last offseason fans heard things like, ‘the money will be there when it’s needed’ or ‘we’re building a team to compete long-term’.  Mixed in with comments like these were classics such as, ‘when fans start attending and supporting the team, then we’ll have money to spend’ or ‘it’s not our team policy to give out long-term contracts.’  Since then, fans have been disillusioned by the lack of moves to address in crucial areas of need.  All-in-all, it seems as if the bean counter (Paul Beeston) has his young GM (Alex Anthopoulos) on a short leash.  “Why?”, fans ask, “Isn’t Rogers a gigantic, multi-billion dollar global corporation?”  Good question.  (Spending money indiscriminately isn’t the answer, but that’s another matter.)

Are they really this bad?  Has the GM really assembled poor players that a poor manager can’t turn into a competitive squad?  Maybe.  Jose Bautista’s WAR is one of the top figures in MLB over the last three years.  Now he’s gone for the rest of the season.  Edwin Encarnacion is having a breakout season, as was Brandon Morrow before he was injured.  Brett Lawrie wasn’t all star material before he was injured, but he was solid.  JP Arencibia made strides defensively but still has a ways to go.  Offensively, he was near the top of the heap among AL catchers in several offensive categories.  I’m comfortable placing him among the middle third of AL catchers.  A weakness–1B–was manned admirably by Edwin, then David Cooper.  Then Cooper was injured too.  Adam Lind, who’s about as close to useless as any 1B in MLB has recurring back problems.  Add to these walking wounded Luis Perez, Jason Frasor, Jesse Litsch, Dustin McGowan, Sergio Santos, Drew Hutchison, and Kyle Drabek, and it resembles a hospital roster more than a major league roster.  But do they really miss these players that much?  Yes.  Yes, they do.

I crunched some numbers to try to get a handle on ‘what they were’ and ‘what they are now’.  These numbers are as of the end of the series against Tampa (Sept. 2), and they’re telling.  Let’s start with Jose Bautista and his replacements.  As of Sept. 2, Jose had essentially missed 44 games.  I haven’t factored in his 2-game return.  Following is what he did in 44 games prior to his injury on July 16.  Under him are the combined efforts of Moises Sierra and Anthony Gose.  Note that I haven’t differentiated the games when they played together from the games when one or the other played in RF and Rajai Davis played in LF (hence the 55 games played: they weren’t a RF platoon):

G    AB    R     H    2B   3B   HR   RBI   BB   K
Bautista 44 163 34 42 10 0 15 36 33 31
Gose/Sierra 55 167 16 37 5 1 3 8 9 60

More simply Bautista had a .979 OPS, Sierra .672 and Gose .499 in total.

Bautista’s slash line on May 25 was .231/.335/.467/.802.  It improved to .244/.360/.534/.894 by July 16.  Slowly but surely, he was re-emerging as one of the top players in the AL.

We see something similar with Brett Lawrie and his replacements, Omar Vizquel and Adeiny Hechavarria (they have also filled in at SS and 2B on occasion; I haven’t made those distinctions either):

G    AB    R   H    2B   3B  HR   RBI   BB   K  
Lawrie 34 183 32 52 13 2 5 19 12 25
Vizquel/Hech 33 99 5 22 4 0 1 5 3 26

Lawrie  had a .792 OPS, Vizquel a paltry .538 and the young Hechavarria .546.

One weakness in this comparison is, of course, that they are defensive replacements at 3B and I’m offering offensive stats to make the contrast. (Lawrie’s a top-of-the-order hitter.  He’s been replaced at the top of the order by Rajai Davis, with a corresponding drop-off there, too.)  The reason for this is to demonstrate what the Jays lack in his absence.

A milder but still notable drop is seen in the Arencibia/Mathis trade-off:

G    AB    R    H    2B   3B   HR   RBI   BB   K
Arencibia 30 100 12 27 8 0 7 19 5 29
Mathis 30 101 7 18 4 0 3 14 4 30

For all his faults offensively (ie patience) JP still had a .865 OPS while Mathis is scuffling with a .515 mark.

The Jays aren’t very good but they aren’t as bad as they seem.  Losing this many players (and pitchers, who haven’t been included here) is bound to have a negative impact on the team.  It has also brought to light how shallow they are in the high minors.  Even the high-level prospects (like Gose and Hechavarria) are struggling at the major league level.

This off-season will be important.  If the Jays fill needs by acquiring some higher-level talent.  If they branch out and acquire players other than ‘pen pitchers.  If the players mentioned above return healthy.  If players like Escobar and Kelly Johnson return to form.  They might be a good team.   That’s a lot of “ifs” for one offseason and, to this point at least, we have very little reason to believe that anything will happen.

Wes Kepstro

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