Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Jays-Sox: They keep underestimatin' ya

Getting a game-face on for a cataclysmic Blue Jays-Red Sox series means amplifying slights real or imagined.

Well, then: It did not escape notice that the Boston Globe's 5 Things To Know About The Blue Jays, a column and a video discussion all neglected to mention Mar-co Scu-ta-ro. Scutaro is only leading the majors in runs scored and bases on balls, has reached base at a .415 clip from the leadoff spot and is keeping everything neat and tidy over at shortstop, where he has started all 41 games.

Scutaro has been a revelation. The Baseball Prospectus 2009 called him a "splendid fielder," adding, "The Jays could do worse" for an everyday shortstop (and have they ever since Tony Fernandez left for the second time after the 1993 World Series). He has been their most valuable fielding out of the "back seven" by FanGraphs' reckoning. How do you ignore that?

(OK, so, the Orioles' Adam Jones has scored one less run than Scutaro while playing in nine fewer games. Runs scored are a partially a function of what the other hitters, like Aaron Hill and Adam Lind, are doing. Fielding-wise, Jays shortstops are helped a little by always getting a true hope from Rogers Centre's turf, but that's neither here nor there).

One reason to be optimistic about the Jays being able to keep this up, albeit with some tapering-off since they're not going to go 107-55, is their fielding. This is just a layperson's understanding, it probably needs to be rigorously tested, but out of hitting, pitching and fielding, the latter probably varies the least according to the strength of the opponent. The Jays have made only 14 errors in 41 games, the fewest in the American League. There is bound to be some evenout, but that should help keep them somewhat afloat. Of course, fielding only buttresses pitching so far.

Anyway, as for the Showdown in Beantown, so-called, it's best to play it light and breezy. It's only May 19 and neither team is throwing its Nos. 1 and 2 starters. The bad man with the knuckleball, Tim Wakefield, who's always tough to predict. Their starters for Wednesday and Thursday, Brad Penny and left-hander Jon Lester, both have ERAs north of 6.50, which should not continue much longer. A result similar to the Yankees series last week is probably to be expected.

The arrival of interleague play, to be honest, might be as much of a concern, since the Jays are only 62-64 in those contests dating back to 2002, when J.P. Ricciardi became GM.

(For anyone wondering, the deepest the Jays have ever gone into a season with only 14 losses was 1984, when they started 31-14.)


Big V said...

I on the other hand, for no reason at all think the jays are going to win 149 games.

eyebleaf said...


How about some love for J.P., Sager?

sager said...

We'll see. This was his make-or-break year. I really figured he only hung on because they figured this wasn't a good hiring period with the team presidency up in the air (just as the Raptors can't get a coach until it's clear where Bosh is headed).

I've probably had trouble keeping perspective, but I never thought Ricciardi was that bad from a purely baseball point of view. I just figured he was around the middle of the pack. Some of the personal stuff, like calling out Burnett publicly when he was hurt, was ill-advised.

He's got a decent regular and a solid backup at most spots. Meantime, you look at ESPN.com and Rob Neyer is railing about the Mets having Jeremy Reed at first base and Angel Pagan in left field.