You have to look closely to see what's got the Toronto Blue Jays off to their 8-9 start in 2016. The top guys are still great. Josh Donaldson and Jose Bautista are putting up All-Star numbers once again. Canadian Michael Saunders has returned to his 2014 form after losing almost the entire 2015 season to injury while Justin Smoak is walking (and not taking PEDs) his way into a regular first base job. Edwin Encarnacion is still fairly productive, even if he's a little bit off from his peak.
The trouble is that pretty much everybody else on the Blue Jays roster has stunk so far:
|Blue Jays hitting statistics through April 21 (Source: FanGraphs)|
It's a far cry from the 2015 club that had every one of its 15 hitters with at least 150 plate appearances earn a wRC+ of 84 or better. Chris Colabello has turned in the worst performance of 2016 for the Blue Jays after he tested positive for dehydrochlormethyltestosterone on March 13. After the quiet completion of necessary appeals, he was suspended for 80 games just before the start of this series. The Blue Jays called up an extra reliever for Friday's game.
The deficiencies past the top five players have led the Blue Jays to rank merely 17th in the league in wRC+ (97) a year after pretty much lapping baseball with their offensive production with a 117 wRC+ and scoring 891 runs, 127 more than their nearest rival.
But the same caveats for April performances I brought up in reference to the A's apply to the Blue Jays. The underperformers should get out of their slumps at some point. Let's just hope it's not this weekend.
Probable pitching matchups and broadcast schedule
All games are on CSN California, with the weekend games coming at 10:00 AM!
|Fri.||4:07 PM||CSNCA||RHP Sonny Gray (2-1, 2.33)||RHP Aaron Sanchez (1-0, 1.35)|
|Sat.||10:07 AM||CSNCA||RHP Chris Bassitt (0-0, 2.79)||LHP J.A. Happ (2-0, 1.89)|
|Sun.||10:07 AM||CSNCA||LHP Eric Surkamp (0-1, 3.68)||RHP Drew Hutchison (1st start)|
The A's will not face Marco Estrada, R.A. Dickey, or Marcus Stroman. Stroman was on turn to pitch on Sunday, but the Blue Jays have announced that they will call up Drew Hutchison and give him a spot start on Sunday. I suppose the Blue Jays could be taking advantage of Colabello's suspension to cycle some pitchers through the squad and give Stroman a start off after his action was limited last year due to injury. Whatever the reason, it's a big break for the A's.
Sonny Gray goes up against Aaron Sanchez, who owns the best ERA among Toronto's starters in the young season. In the early going, it looks like Sanchez has brought his secondary pitches up to a higher level, and he's turning to the change up a lot more.
On Saturday, J.A. Happ represents the first left-handed starter the A's have faced since April 12. Acquired from Pittsburgh last November, he offers a fastball, slider, curveball, changeup combo that's made him more of a flyball pitcher. Good chance we'll see Tyler Ladendorf make his 2016 debut in this one.
Sunday, Eric Surkamp faces Drew Hutchison. Hutchison had a tough 2015, making 28 starts before being moved to the bullpen upon Marcus Stroman's activation. He finished 2015 with a 5.57 ERA, though he did pitch 7+ innings against the A's last August at Rogers Centre and gave up just two runs in a 4-2 win. In Triple-A Buffalo, Hutchison has piled up 20 strikeouts in 15 1/3 innings over three starts, but he's also given up six walks and a home run.
Can the A's take advantage of the Blue Jays holding Troy Tulowitzki and Michael Saunders out of the lineup for Friday's contest?
Tulowitzki (hip) and Saunders (hamstring) get days off for #BlueJays— Ben Nicholson-Smith (@bnicholsonsmith) April 22, 2016
Additionally, Jesse Chavez has been dealing with some back tightness lately, though he said he was ready to play in Thursday's contest. The Blue Jays are already struggling with their bullpen depth, with relievers Bo Schultz, Aaron Loup, and Franklin Morales getting put on the disabled list in the first two weeks of the season.
The only major turnover in Toronto's active roster has been in its bullpen, where Drew Storen, Jesse Chavez, Gavin Floyd, Pat Venditte, and Joe Biagini are toiling away with returners Roberto Osuna and Brett Cecil. The Chris Collabello suspension also led to a call up for left-hander Chad Girodo.
The bullpen has been a mixed bag for the Blue Jays, so far, with the Blue Jays 10th in bullpen ERA in the AL (3.59).
|A's bullpen||Recent usage (pitch count from www.rosterresource.com)|
|Blue Jays bullpen||Recent usage (pitch count from www.rosterresource.com)|
- The A's have started the season 6-0 on the road for the fourth time in Oakland history.
Oakland #Athletics Best Road Starts:— Mike Selleck (@MikeSelleck) April 22, 2016
11-0 in 1981
8-0 in 1990
6-0 in 2016
6-0 in 2013
- On Sunday, the Blue Jays are giving away --- oh of course --- Josh Donaldson bobbleheads honoring his AL MVP award.
- I wonder how the new all-dirt infield (as opposed to the sliding cutouts) plays. It's more aesthetically pleasing, in any event.
- Hopefully Sonny Gray doesn't lose his passport again.
This post was updated the afternoon of April 22 to reflect Chris Colabello's suspension for performance enhancing drugs and changes to Toronto's roster and probable pitchers.