Melky’s May Meter
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:
*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?