Blankly staring at the Blue Jays hitting statistics filling my screen, I decided to change course. I was curious as to the effect of having Chad Mottola and Dwayne Murphy coaching on the team together. It appeared that our hitters seemed confused with trying the work-the-count attitude that Mottola preaches, which is different than Murphy’s slightly more aggressive approach. But the last few days I have seen them work the counts better and put themselves in better positions to get a decent pitch to hit.
The fact that we are pounding runs on the board against the Rays (back in the day it was the Brewers…couldn’t beat them to save our lives) says something about the culture change slowly seeping through the room. We are blessed with OBP guys like Bautista and Reyes and power guys like Rasmus and Encarnacion. Though the effects of the patient approach are not in full swing yet, it is easy to see why the team was floundering offensively for all of April.
We overuse the word chemistry to define whether a team is working together or not. In many cases we use it as the excuse as to why the Jays are winning or losing. “They aren’t playing together”. “They seem to be working only for themselves”. Thes are two of the things I have heard from my Blue Jays fan base I know. Here’s the crux: how long does it really take to implement a new philosophy? We know John Gibbons has not given the green light to run as much as we would like (though Reyes is out and Bonifacio is destroying his good name by not even getting on base). There is the occasional bunt (Cabrera?….interesting…) and brilliant placements of the ball (Encarnacion making the Rays super-shift look stupid as he wired a hit through where a second baseman should have been standing).
What I am noticing through this first week of May is the counts are getting deeper. The hits seem to be falling a bit more. This is great. However, hit and runs still seem to be few and far between, delayed steals are non-existent. We need to start packaging the hits together more. As for the pitchers, we don’t attack the hitters as well as we could and are prone to lapses of horrid pitching in general (each starter has had their share of high run innings). It all comes down to focus.
If we are truly the veteran team that knows what it takes then the team needs to bear down. Focus. The difference between winners and losers isn’t always talent. It’s desire. The desire to be the best. Have fun with it but know what you are here for. Maybe the NL bats coming over aren’t used to the uber pitching that they find in the AL. We know it is overall a strikeout type league. Once it dawns on them the amount of fastballs they are going to see then they can start looking for that one pitch per at bat. Foul off the close ones and get ready to mash it. Have a plan.
Our capabilities are good power, great speed, deep inning starters and a flame throwing bullpen. We have all that. But talent is only one part of the equation. Let the team gel more and a better idea will have formed at the end of May. With half the roster different from last opening day and so many players from other organizations (Marlins, Giants, Angels, Mets, Nationals, Indians, Diamondbacks), it takes time to gather momentum. My pessimist side says 2014 is the true year (minus a traded Mark Buehrle and possibly Josh Johnson….dependent on performance and the offer of an extension…).
This year is about growing together as a team. We will push for the playoffs but fall short due to our putrid start IMO. Next year though watch out…any of you disagree? Feel free to comment…I am stats poor so if you want to defend me or bury me I am game. Bring it on!