John E. Sokolowski-USA TODAY SportsThere has been a lot to make of the poor, inconsistent play by the Blue Jays this season. 64 games in and with a 28-36 record to show for it, the team has just not been as good as their capabilities permit. Back in December of last year after the R.A. Dickey trade, I wrote, “the year 2013 will set up either one of the most joyous baseball seasons if the Jays do well, or set the fans up for one of the most disastrously painful seasons if the team fails to meet their high expectations.” It’s been the latter so far, and it’s driven some to the brink of possible tolerance for the team’s direction.
While the possibility of a playoff run is close to statistically impossible this season, the Blue Jays are not a terrible team. Even though the team is 11 games back of first place in the AL East, there are numerous reasons why the Blue Jays should not hit the panic button. Here are just a few of them.
Rome Wasn’t Built In A Day: Neither Will A Playoff Contender
It’s easy to second guess a business decision after you see some of the results come back negative. Both Mark Buehrle and R.A. Dickey have Top 20 worst ERA’s out of 98 qualified starters, Jose Reyes has been injured for most of the year, Emilio Bonifacio has been a weak bat and a weaker glove and Maicer Izturis has the lowest fWAR in the majors.
The Blue Jays are not built solely for an all-or-nothing, one year campaign. Nor should any other team, really. Their core of Jose Bautista, Edwin Encarnacion, Brett Lawrie, Brandon Morrow and Adam Lind are all under contract (club options for Lind and Morrow) through the 2015 season. In fact, the Blue Jays have at least 16 major leaguers under team control through 2015, as this spreadsheet by James. G explains. The team is built to win over the next few years, and it just so happens that very capable guys are not showing off their bests right now.
It’s only now that Anthopolous took the team over the edge by bringing in elite players through trade and free agency. To completely give up on the blueprint and start over after not even one half of one season would be both disastrous to the Blue Jays’ core, front office management and the fans.
It would show the team’s leaders that management are giving up on them, that they aren’t good enough to win. Panicking on a long term plan after short term losses is not a show of confidence in the staff making the decisions, making it exceptionally difficult to bring in any coaches or executives of quality to replace the current ones. Worst off, by selling off elite major leaguers for prospects you give the fans little reason to watch the games on TV or at the Rogers Centre, especially if they have seen 2nd place finishes with much worse talent on the roster. As a matter of fact…
Many Players Are In Abnormal Slumps Right Now
There has been a plethora of players that have been in the middle of career slumps this year. 40% of a season does not constitute the fairest of sample sizes, but we are talking about career worsts and well below career average performance from a number of Blue Jays players. (stats taken from June 11, 2013)
All stats provided by fangraphs.com
All stats provided by fangraphs.com
All stats provided by fangraphs.com
All stats provided by fangraphs.com All stats provided by fangraphs.com
(Click To Embiggen)
When a GM goes out and gets players, they value the contract length and money offered (or what they offer in trade) based on career norms and a mean level of progression/regression, depending on the age of the player. Nobody could have expected Izturis, Josh Johnson, Dickey, Buehrle and Morrow to perform so terribly, all at the same time.
However, there are such things as outlier seasons, good or bad. Excluding Johnson, who is a free agent after this season, these unfortunate players have time to turn it around. It may not be for this season, but definitely in seasons to come. They have proven in the past to be too good to stay playing like this.
Coaching/Front Office Aren’t The Reason Why The Team Is Losing Games
John Gibbons and his coaching staff have done tremendous work in their short time for the Blue Jays. They have Bautista and EE batting in the 2-3 spots in the lineup, which allows them to get more opportunities to drive in runs (including yesterday’s game-tying HR by Bautista). Lind has had limited time against lefties, the main reason for his success. Bullpen management has been fantastic, especially now that they don’t have to come in during 5th innings as much as at the beginning of the season.
The staff cannot, however, wish the pitching staff to perform well. Nor can they make Brett Lawrie, J.P. Arencibia or Emilio Bonifacio suddenly stop striking out and take more walks. They can work on mechanics and plate discipline, but that will take time. Poor performance in short amounts of time cannot be corrected without patience.
Same with the front office. Alex Anthopolous has done a great job for the Blue Jays since taking over in late 2009. His drafting strategies led the Blue Jays to a top 3 minor league system heading into 2012. Since then, he gave up a bunch of blue chip prospects for major league stars. Don’t forget that Jose Reyes and R.A. Dickey, proven stars, are Blue Jays for years to come because Anthopoulos gave up a part of a large pool of drafted players. While it may look to be doom and gloom now, remember that trades are not made in a vacuum and are just a small part of building a playoff contender.
Our Farm System Is Not As Terrible As It Seems
Yes, the Blue Jays do not have a Top 3 minor league system anymore. As of right now, they sit around the 13th-22nd spot, depending on if you ask Baseball Prospectus, Keith Law or Baseball America. However, there are a lot of great players with bright futures. Aaron Sanchez, Roberto Osuna, Daniel Norris and D.J. Davis are just some of the names with the majors on the horizon.
The problem is that there are a lot of high school players being drafted as of late. Because of this, the Blue Jays can expect to see most of their best prospects have an ETA of 2015 or later. Fortunately, the Blue Jays’ most imminent needs are only of pitching and catching options, with Marcus Stroman, John Stilson, Sean Nolin (one start) and A.J. Jimenez expected to make an extended appearance in 2013-2014. It’s unfortunate that the first non-catcher or pitcher taken in this year’s MLB Draft for the Blue Jays came in Round 13, but it might be more of a testament to the strength of the major league team. You can never have too much pitching.
What Can The Blue Jays Do Instead Of Panicking?
They can do many things. Stay the course. Wait for Jose Reyes, Brandon Morrow, Brett Lawrie, Kyle Drabek, Sergio Santos, J.A. Happ, Luiz Perez and (possibly) Drew Hutchison to come back from injury to see just how great the team is as a completed unit. Perhaps make a small trade or two at the deadline. Make some more trades involving major leaguers in the off-season. Almost anything you can think of is a better suggestion than to panic and blow up the team.
Rash decisions occur when you forgo mapping the road and walking the walk in lieu of digging a hole through the center of the Earth to try to get to the other side.