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Monday Bantering: Thoughts on the First Month

Toronto Blue Jays v Cleveland Guardians - Game Two Photo by Ron Schwane/Getty Images

It has been such a strange start to the season.

The Blue Jays are 17-13, which should make us happy. They have been through a very rough part of the schedule. They played 30 games in 31 days and played some excellent teams. Today is their third off-day, counting the rainout as an off-day, and they have had a doubleheader. That does make it tough to work on things.

Anyway, the starting pitching has been quite good. If Kikuchi can continue the improvement, he showed in his last start. It will be that much better. If Ryu comes back and pitches anywhere near reasonably, the starting pitching looks like a strength.

The leverage guys out of the pen have been doing the job. It would be nice if we could get them more than one run to work with occasionally. No bullpen will be perfect when they never have more than a run. The back of the pen guys....well, they seem to be able to do the job of turning a blowout into a bigger blowout, but that’s ok.

Defensively....it has been a mixed bag. Chapman has been excellent. Lourdes, to me, looks much better in left. Espinal is terrific. Teoscar’s numbers are excellent in right, though he wasn’t great the last couple of days. Vlad keeps improving. Kirk seems fine behind the plate, and even Buck (I hope his treatment is going well) and Pat seemed to give in to the one-knee thing being a good idea. Springer seems like a perfectly average CFer, with the ability to make some spectacular catches.

On the flipside, Bo has not been good. However, he seems to be as streaky as a defensive player as a batter. I think, eventually, he will end up at second, but it won’t be a mid-season move.

And that brings us to the offense. By the numbers, they have been league average and considering that offense has been down across the league, that doesn’t look good. We expected much better.

I’ll say, off the top, that I hate that MLB changes the ball every season. It seems stupid to me. The league wants to ban shifts, to get more offense into the game. But they want to deaden the ball, to get less offense into the game.

Guys doing well:

  • Vlad. It is hard to complain about a 161 OPS+. And yet we do. Part of it is that we buy into the story that great players never had a bad game in the past. They did. Guys, since the beginning of baseball, have had slumps. One of my baseball truisms is that bad teams tend to blame the best players.
  • George Springer has been great too. And, he’s had some ‘clutch’ moments.
  • Santiago Espinal must be at the 90% percentile of what we could have projected for him. And I wouldn’t bet against him continuing to be.
  • Zack Collins started amazingly. Since April 21st, he’s hit .118/.211/.235, which is closer to what we would have expected. If you want to get fans, broadcasters and all on your side, start hot.

Not doing as well:

  • Alejandro Kirk: Exactly average by OPS, but we expected better. He has been better of late: .303/.378/.424 over his last 11 games (arbitrary endpoints are fun) but he has looked better at the plate.
  • Matt Chapman has almost been about league average by OPS and surprisingly, his strikeout rate has dropped from last year. The .239 BABIP seems to suggest he’s been hitting in bad luck. And his ‘hard hit’ rate is up a lot from last year (41.7%, up from 30.1%). I’m guessing he’ll improve, but it is a guess.
  • Bo Bichette: The flip of the start fast rule is that people won’t notice that you have slowed is if your start slow, people won’t notice when you start hitting. In his eight May games, he hit .313/.353/.531, which is about what we expect from him. I’m glad that the ‘send him to Buffalo’ stuff has died. No, you are not sending your All-Star SS to the minors because he has had a couple of bad weeks. Wouldn’t that be a wonderful message to send to your team?
  • Lourdes has also been about league average with the bat. Since he has started poorly in the past, I’m hoping that starting out average is a good sign for his season.
  • Tapia and Zimmer: Both are fine as fourth or fifth outfielders. They have been playing too much. I’m hoping they will be playing less in the future. They are excellent as defensive replacements or pinch runners.