Mission ’13, Game 41: Jays win 11-3

Melky’s May Meter


20 hits

Ryan Vogelsong vs. Ramon Ortiz isn’t exactly a marquee match-up. Truly, it would have been difficult to predict even a week and a half ago. Injuries have called for a shuffle in the Jays’ pitching staff, including a four-man rotation and moving Brandon Morrow’s start date to accommodate nagging back issues.

We know exactly how it feels when a good pitcher (Vogelsong) has a tough start to the year, then gets victimized by shoddy fielding. Errors by normally-surehanded fielders Marco Scutaro and Angel Pagan led to a 5-1 lead after the first inning. All of the runs were unearned. They kicked it around a little in the second inning, too, and the Jays scored some more. Didn’t the 8-1 lead look familiar, but a little out of place? It’s no time to gloat. We’ve seen some laughers, but it’s been the other team laughing so far this season.

The Jays’ offense is the focus of this recap, and they’ve obliged by taking the Giants out to the wood house. John Gibbons has received his fair share of criticism for the Jays’ bad start, but he doesn’t get much praise for the job he’s done. One of the experiments he’s done since Jose Reyes’ injury is to put Melky at the top of the line-up, followed by Jose Bautista, Edwin Encarnacion, and JP Arencibia. The team’s offensive surge owes part of its momentum to this particular move. Since Gibby filled out that Melky-Jose-Edwin first line-up card against BOS on May 11, they’ve combined to go 21-46 (.457).

The general upswing by the offense has taken advantage of the extra base runners, as well. The Jays’ improved focus at the plate, mentioned in yesterday’s recap, includes longer at bats, better situational hitting, more walks, more base runners, more runs, and deeper pitch counts for the opposing pitchers. They have taken greater advantage of opportunities, such as errors committed by the opposition. Tonight’s game serves as Exhibit #1. Vogelsong threw 64 pitches in 2 innings; Chad Gaudin threw 72 pitches in 3.1 innings. Eleven runs, 10 hits, 5 BB, and 3 K on 136 pitches in 5.1 innings. Teams are paying for their mistakes.

It’s the middle of the month, so get out the shovels: it’s time to dig deeper. Here’s how the Jays’ offense ranks among AL teams and relative to their position last month:

Total 4.10 1489 1341 164 326 61 6 51 29 7 118 308 .307 .412 .733 544
Rank 12 7 6 10 12 12 t-6 2 t-1 t-4 t-8 6 t-13 8 7 8
Prev. Rk 9 8 11 10 12 5 5 7 3 7 10 2 11 10 11 11

*This info was adapted from: http://www.baseball-reference.com/leagues/AL/2013.shtml

Here are a few observations:

  • The Jays are have played more games than most teams;
  • The Jays have improved from a bottom-of-the-league offense to an average offense;
  • The improvements (SB, BB, SO, OPS, TB) are encouraging, while we need to keep an eye on some of the declines (R/G, 2B, OBP);
  • The Jays steal bases at an 80.6% success rate—this is an underused weapon in the arsenal;
  • In an average game, the Jays get about 8 hits, about 3 of which are xbh;
  • However over the last 10 games they’re 7-3, scoring 68 runs (6.8/gm) on 107 hits (10.7/gm)–prior to that they were 10-21, scoring 107 runs (3.5/gm) on 230 hits (7.4/gm);
  • The drop in OBP is almost insignificant as their OPS has actually improved, leap-frogging a quarter of the AL teams;
  • The Jays ground into a lot of DPs (37; 3rd, AL)–the teams with the fewest GIDP are typically the weakest offensive teams in the AL.

Did anyone see this coming? Sure, Zito and Vogelsong are their #4 and #5 starters, but to beat San Francisco in both games the way they did? The Jays have run their streak to seven wins in 10 games to end the first ‘quarter’ of the season at 17-24. It’s not where many of us thought they’d be, but they’re showing signs of playing to their capabilities. Some are even—dare I say it?—overachieving: Ramon Ortiz (7 IP, 6 H, 1 ER, 1 BB, 1 K) pitched seven complete for the first time since 2007. Thursday is an off day for the Jays, then they head into the Big Apple for a three-game set against the Yankees. Can they keep it going?

Wes Kepstro


12 Responses to “Mission ’13, Game 41: Jays win 11-3”

  1. 1 wrayzerblade May 16, 2013 at 8:41 am

    Overall Jays are playing much better. I really like the jump in OPS and would love to see them run rampant on the bases but at the same time it’s hard since you don’t want to lose a baserunner with a slugger at the plate. These big wins have been masked by the fact opposing defense has been awful agains them (making up for some early bad bounces) but they are creating runs something they couldn’t do to save their life before so all in all we have to feel optimistic about these improvements

    • 2 Wes Kepstro May 16, 2013 at 10:50 am

      Agreed, sort of. They’re better offensively and the bad bounces are sort of balancing out, but big offense is also masking suspect pitching. There have been very few quality starts this year, and at least two of them have come from Chad Jenkins and Ramon Ortiz. Owing to these two factors they can’t employ the ‘big slugger/no steals’ strategy. Other teams won’t kick it around very frequently, and their pitching isn’t good enough. Then there’s the defense…

      IMO, their success will hinge largely on their offense. Their offense needs to be well-rounded and balanced in order to make up for their weaknesses in other facets of the game. Run in non-traditional running counts, run to pressure the defense, hit and run, run and hit, walk, work the count, walk some more, use the whole diamond. There’s enough power that they don’t need to worry about it much: it’ll just happen. It’s the other facets of the offense that, if properly developed and polished, will make up for sub-par pitching and defense.

      Is this a model for a championship team? No, but it’s a model for a winning team that recognizes its own strengths and weakness, and plays accordingly. Playing to strengths optimizes the value of less-valuable players. This paves the way for acceptable returns at the deadline, whether they’re buyers or sellers. It’s also a model for a well-managed team, and Gibby still needs to prove he’s that guy.

      • 3 wrayzerblade May 16, 2013 at 4:34 pm

        great point… I didn’t take into consideration the suspect pitching and lack of quality starts… you still win with good starting pitching and until the Jays get that it’s hard to take them seriously as a contender… it’s too much to ask the offence to carry the load every night

      • 4 Wes Kepstro May 16, 2013 at 4:51 pm

        Agreed. Their offense is deep and capable, but there are still 121 games to go. It’s asking them an awful lot to carry the load for that long…

  2. 5 @ALEastbound May 15, 2013 at 10:24 pm

    Let’s get it! Looking a heck of a lot better at the plate recently. When every hitter is basically hitting at 40% of their career levels these types of outbursts aren’t unexpected…

    • 6 Wes Kepstro May 15, 2013 at 10:28 pm

      Offense, better. Defense, better. Pitching, coming around. Keep the line moving.

    • 11 Idiot Fan May 16, 2013 at 8:33 am

      Jenkins and/or Ortiz just don’t miss enough bats and there stuff is going to get figured out. We need that rotation to get healthy and JJ/Morrow to start pitching to their abilities.

      • 12 Wes Kepstro May 16, 2013 at 11:02 am

        JJ and Morrow can’t seem to stay healthy for long enough for their abilities to matter very much. When they’re down, the Jays need to scramble to fill holes. Filling holes means using guys like Jenkins, Ortiz, Laffey, Gonzalez, and the 2012 AAAA pitcher carousel.

        I agree that Jenkins and Ortiz are short-term options, but what other option(s) do they have? San Diego beat Baltimore last night: in that game the starters were Jason Marquis and Freddy Garcia. Accommodating JJ’s and Morrow’s injury proclivities means the Jays need BOTH Marquis AND Garcia on the roster. To your left, the rock; to your right, the hard place.

        They gambled that guys like JJ, Morrow, Reyes, et al, would be healthy. So far, they haven’t been.

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