Toronto Baseball Guys
Sunday, May 04, 2008
  Jays Party Like It's 1909
Signs that the home run era might be over:

- an error, ground out and sac fly constitute a rally
- a 5-2 game is a blow out
- fans are getting restless past the 2:15 mark of games
- the underused members of your now ridiculously redundant 7-man bullpen have formed a barbershop quartet

Forget the throwback 1970s jerseys, these days the Blue Jays are dialing back the calendar about a century. Combine a team with very good pitching and a complete inability to hit with runners on, and you've got a pile of low-scoring one and two-run games.

For most of April the Jays played the part of a talented journeyman boxer, one who gives his opponents a great fight before falling in the late rounds. Consider:

- they dropped a pair of 1-run games in New York
- they played three close games against Oakland... and lost all three
- they played three close games against Tampa... and lost all three
- they lost back-to-back 1-run games to Boston in the bottom of the ninth

There was also that 14-inning debacle against Texas. Essentially, the Jays have been creating great baseball moments... for virtually every team they've played. The good news is that the team's starting rotation has been as good, if not better, than advertised. There have been almost no games in which the team hasn't been competitive.

The rotation is the equal of any in the American league - a staff that can crank out 7 or 8 quality starts out of 10. The Atlanta Braves of the late 90s wracked up a huge amount of wins during the "dog days" of July and August because they could continue to roll out one quality starter after another, allowing them to both reel off large win streaks and avoid any serious skids. The Jays could be in a similar position.

A friend ridiculed the comparison earlier this week, and rightfully so, insofar as the Jays' rotation lacks the pedigree of a Maddux, Glavine and Smoltz. Then again, Marcum and McGowan are just getting started. Give them five years, and the comparison might not seem so ludicrous.

Of course, the pitchers will have to stay healthy - but on what team ISN'T that true?
If Josh Beckett slips in the shower tomorrow, it's not like the Red Sox can just plug in another 20-game winner. It's encouraging to see John Gibbons monitoring the likes of Roy Halladay and A.J. Burnett and getting them out of games before piling up 125-130 pitches. A carefully maintained and rested rotation should continue to give the team formidable pitching all season long.

Granted, the offense will have to stop hitting like small children with runners in scoring position. Small, scared children. With poor motor control. And astigmatism.
Who've just wet their pants. You get the idea. But with all of the hitters relatively young and close to their previous career standards, the failure to deliver key hits is likely just a statistical fluke, not some lack of character or "killer instinct," despite the insistence of the local media.

Statiscal flukes don't persist, but strong starting pitching does, so expect the Jays to start winning their share of these, quick, low-scoring games.
 
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