Jays Have a “Murderers’ Row”, Travis Snider, and More


Today was a great day because the Jays finally wound up on the right side of an “upset”. The reason I am calling today’s win an upset, even though the Jays are good enough to win on any given day, is that Cliff Lee had been so dominant of late that it was already written by many that they would easily beat the Jays and their starter, Jo-Jo Reyes. Not only did the Jays beat Lee up some, but they did so after Lee got what is usually enough run support to make it an automatic win for him, and the Jays made it a win through the strength of the middle of their lineup.

Eric Thames, Jose Bautista, and Adam Lind have been on fire of late and the fate of the Jays should be different than it has been due to their sheer dominance and steadfast production. However, it hasn’t always been favorable for the Jays, mostly due to the lack of production from the remainder of the lineup, as pointed out ineptly by Ricky Romero a short while ago.

Due to their outstanding performances of late, I am now comfortable in calling the Thames-Bautista-Lind combination in the 2-3-4 holes of the Jays lineup “Murderers’ Row”.  The term has been used often in MLB, but rarely if ever when it comes to the Jays. For the season, the Jays version of Murderers’ Row have the following lines:

Thames: .329 AVG – .370 OBP – .566 SLG

Bautista: .328 AVG – .471 OBP – .679 SLG

Lind: .310 AVG – .359 OBP – .555 SLG

I know that Thames hasn’t been up very long, and that the book on him has yet to be written, so a slump could come at any time in his case. However, so far, he certainly has made a huge impact on the Jays lineup by making the best of the opportunities that hitting in front of Bautista and Lind provides. Unlike those who were in that hole before him, Thames is hammering those extra fastballs all over the field, and the return of Yunel Escobar at the top of the lineup will only enhance his opportunies overall. He has hit safely in his 9 last games with the Jays, and managed 6 hits (2 HRs) in 12 ABs against some of the best pitching in MLB during the Phillies series.

To say that Thames has been a refreshing addition to the lineup is an understatement at this point. He has been….the second best hitter in the lineup, and that’s saying a lot when Lind would normally occupy that spot.

The Jays also made a huge move after today’s game, designating Juan Rivera for assignment. THANK YOU, THANK YOU, THANK YOU Toronto Blue Jays for finally making the right moves!!! Between this assignment and the switch made with Nix and McCoy, I’m ecstatic! Travis Snider will make a return to the lineup, and I can’t wait to see how he looks in the lineup. I’m positive that he’ll have a new approach at the plate, so look for any changes that you can find and let us know your thoughts as you observe them. Regardless of how Snider does, his youth will be refreshing, as will his defensive abilities and his speed on the base paths.

I’m not sure what will happen to Juan Rivera now, but I really like what the Jays have done of late. Well, I can’t really fault them since it’s exactly what I was asking them to do! The lone member still in AAA that I thought should get a shot once again was Brad Mills in place of Jo-Jo Reyes, but with the Brett Cecil call-up, that honour will likely go to Jesse Litsch. In any case, it’s already in the cards that this will be addressed soon by the Jays.

So… what now?

Well, the Jays will now have a much “closer to opening day” looking roster than they’ve had for a while when Snider and Escobar return to the lineup. Something to the order of:

Escobar – Thames – Bautista – Lind – Encarnacion – Hill – Snider – Davis – Arencibia

Will likely become the more regular lineup, with John McDonald, Jose Molina, Corey Patterson, and the recently promoted (in place of Jayson Nix) Mike McCoy. Am I alone in thinking that this lineup, and bench, could finally do more damage than it has all year long? Patterson performs best against the very best pitching, so having him as an option off-the-bench definitely makes the bench better overall. The defensive outfield behind all Jays pitching should be much better with Thames and Snider at the corners and Davis in center, and when the Jays feel that Patterson is the better option than any of the 3 for matchup reasons, they can start him at any of the 3 spots. McCoy is a spark plug that plays all positions aside from catcher, and we all know what Molina and McDonald provide.

Don’t underestimate the impact that great OF defensive players can have on the outcome of games. Juan Rivera proved that to us many times this week. The return of Travis Snider is a welcome one that should help pitchers out in two ways. First, they get better D in the OF. Second, the also get better D at the hot corner since Jose Bautista was freed up by these moves to play 3B full time. When looked at as a whole, the Lind-Hill-Escobar-Bautista infield rivals any infield in MLB in terms of offensive output, and an outfield of Snider-Davis-Thames has a lot of promise. Add in the power of Arencibia and Molina’s great year at the plate, and the Jays are looking much better now.

Rajai Davis showed some life against Lee and the Phils today. If he can get going, and Hill can also start hitting consistently, the Jays have the talent to do some serious damage in the second half. I’m not exactly sure how many wins that will bring them since a lot of that depends on the pitching staff, but since the amount of runs scored on a consistent basis has been an issue all year long, I expect their second half  will be much better than the first.

The Jays have ironed out some kinks in their operations, have finally made some commitments that point towards a youth movement, and they are set to begin welcoming the firt wave of minor league all-stars that are making headway through the minors. If the newly minted “Murderers’ Row” can continue to mash and bash as they have been able to do of late, the Jays could be in for a great run. There’s one week remaining before the All-Star break, so we’ll get to see how the new changes settle in before the team, or most of it, gets a breather the 11th-13th of July.

Final Take

Whatever most of us felt Eric Thames had left to prove before he became a legitimate top-end prospect is now obviously behind us. He’s the real deal, and could be very hard to move out of the lineup for the remainder of 2011 if he manages similar performances from here on out.

After all, when you hit a HR off Cliff Lee in the 8th inning to tie a ball game, you have top-end talent to offer. It seems that Thames is here to stay, and that meant there was no room for Juan Rivera.

Great call Blue Jays. Keep’em coming!

Additional Note

There’s been a lot of talk about how Jays players were slightly offended that Roy Halladay got so much of an ovation. I’m not sure at all if that’s the case, but if it is, my message to them would be two-fold. First, grow up. Second, earn the right to get the same ovation, then you can make a comment about it.

Besides, I’m almost positive that all current Jays players respect Roy Halladay a ton, so I can’t see it being a big deal to them. Toronto loves Doc, and Doc loves Toronto. If it wasn’t for so much mediocrity occuring while he was a Jays pitcher, he would still be in that uniform today. That’s a fact. So, why wouldn’t fans keep cheering him? He left for all of the right reasons in my opinion, and had already waited more than enough to see if the Jays could make his dream of a championship – or even the playoffs – happen.

That’s my take on the Doc Ovations.

– MG

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