It’s Monday. Time to check our Blue Swagger for the week.
This week’s installment comes at a volatile time for the Toronto Blue Jays. As the club struggles, falling further behind in the standings, the glimmer of hope being trampled on by inept play, and fans voicing their displeasure with the team in droves, many questions are being asked about this season and the future.
The answers start with confidence in the face of adversity. No matter the odds. No matter the judgements. You cannot move forward unless you can get back up and start moving.
Jose Bautista got up and started moving the moment he was thrown out of a game recently. He refused to let an event dictate how he would feel or play. Neil Davidson of The Canadian Press reported Bautista saying, “I don’t think that I should come to my job and worry about performing and on top of that try to convince the world that I’m a good person or that I have good intentions within my team. I don’t think that’s my job. I think my job is to come here and ply hard and try my best. And I think I do that every single day.”
He’s right. Even though many Toronto media experts believed that Bautista was wrong to get himself ejected, he does not have to justify his feelings to us. From the replay, Bautista did not seem to communicate anything disrespectful except his opinion about the calls. The umpire didn’t agree with Bautista standing there for the few seconds that he did and immediately told him to leave. Because he did not leave as quickly as he was told, he was tossed.
Gibbons is right too; they needed him in the lineup, not in the locker room. And that is exactly what Bautista did since then. He commanded the lineup with his bat for the last week.
Since the incident, Bautista has hit five home runs in five games. He hit 6 RBIs with an OPS of 1.339, creating turmoil with the bat for opposing pitchers. Bautista could have let the umpire’s decision boil over into more games, arguing calls and striking out to overcompensate for a lack of faith in their judgement. Instead, the native of San Domingo, Dominican Republic relaxed and played his game with confidence, striking out only twice in twenty-two at-bats.
That’s not a sign of anger. That is determination to overcome a mistake. Whether he agreed with the umpire or not, Bautista put it behind him and continues to prove to all the critics and haters that they cannot push him into self doubt. It’s not his job to make you like him. It’s his job to help win ballgames for the Blue Jays. Put down the pitchfork for a while, regardless of your feelings, and just enjoy the scene Bautista is creating for as long as it lasts.
Marcus Stroman’s performance against the Boston Red Sox was the clear winner, locking up this weekly praise with a huge amount of swagger. That is until Drew Hutchison made a statement against the New York Yankees.
In 7.2 innings of work, Stroman allowed only 5 hits, a run, and a walk, while striking out 6 Red Sox batters for the win. The StroShow even patted manager John Gibbons’ rump while exiting the mound stage right. This exuding of confidence was matched by the righty from Lakeland, Florida.
Hutchison worked 7.0 innings, giving up only one hit, no runs, and two walks. He struck out 9 Bronx Bombers on his way to the victory. It was the second great outing in a row for Hutchison.
His recent success has a lot to do with his pitch selections and overall confidence. Hutchison was more dependent on his fastball in 2012, using it 76% of the time, according to FanGraphs.com. Sometimes, when a pitcher is more predictably using his fastball, hitters tee off by thinking it likely will be a straight pitch to hit. Especially for a young pitcher still learning to create movement to fool big league hitters, a predictable fastball can be either a strength or an Achilles heel. In Hutchison’s case, it proved to be the reason for his inconsistency. He would either have excellent outings, because his fastball was not hittable, or he would give up a number of runs.
In 2014, especially in his recent outings, Hutchison has used more variety. He used the fastball only 66% of the time, while using more of his slider (21.4%) and changeup (12.6%). In his game against the Yankees, Hutchison was able to impose his will on the batters to get a fairly equal variety of strikeouts, flyouts, and groundouts.
This confidence in his other pitches has allowed Hutchison to reach further into ballgames. He can throw a good fastball in the seventh inning because he saved his arm from getting burned out. To throw the gas, you have to have gas in the tank first. Considering how many pitchers have thrown their last 90 mph fastball still at the peak of their careers, Hutchison will still have that Blue Swagger on the mound in the future, when others will be wondering what might have been for themselves.
Often when people are angry at someone, they demand that person feel punished for their mistake. We want that person to feel how badly we feel about the event in question. Certainly, our justice and penal systems were based on that principle. Even a student is forced to spend time in detention for breaking a rule. However, what is that person learning? If you commit this mistake, then you will suffer a consequence. Again, we cannot argue against that idea, when it has often worked in the past, but there is more to it.
Investing our time into giving someone the confidence to fix a mistake is another option. Sometimes, it is the only option that will work. Sometimes there is nobody but ourselves to make that investment. Jose Bautista must have felt that way when reporters hounded him and made his one act seem like the only reason why the Blue Jays have fallen in August. Drew Hutchison must have felt that way when he was injured and alone, trying to resurrect his young career that may have been forgotten so easily in Major League Baseball.
Nobody is saying that we should be happy for losing, for being tossed out of games, or for poor outings on the mound. The point is that nothing would get better if that investment was not made to walk with that swagger to get the job done right. Each pitch is its own story. Invest your time to doing things right; don’t spend time worrying about how angry you should feel. Nick Saban can’t be the only one who sees that.
** Note: If you agree or disagree with this installment, please comment your thoughts here as well as on Twitter @JaysJournal or @BrookerHaas and the JaysJournal Facebook page.