Series Preview: Toronto Blue Jays (48-56, 5th AL East) vs Oakland Athletics (62-43, 1st AL West)


Jul 14, 2013; Baltimore, MD, USA; Toronto Blue Jays center fielder Colby Rasmus (28) hits a one-run rbi double in the ninth inning against the Baltimore Orioles at Oriole Park at Camden Yards. The Orioles defeated the Blue Jays 7-4. Mandatory Credit: Joy R. Absalon-USA TODAY Sports
First off thanks to the main man here at JJ, Kyle Franzoni, for pinch hitting the series preview against the ‘stros. But I am back and something has been sticking in me craw. We always talk about the Tampa Bay Rays as a model franchise. The perfect team to emulate. I can understand the philosophy. Think even harder and you realize Oakland and the Moneyball stigma that is attached to it still seems like a pretty decent model in its own right. Both franchises rely on cheap, young, controllable starting pitching. The Blue Jays have tried that but compare the big three young pitchers for the three: Tampa Bay has David Price, Chris Archer, Matt Moore. Oakland has A.J. Griffin, Jarrod Parker and injured Brian Anderson.

All six of these men have had a modicum of success and a great track record leading to their appearances as big league starters. The Jays? Drew Hutchison (injured), Kyke Drabek (injured), Deck McGuire (still at AA). We do have the Stilsons and Sanchezs and Osunas and Stromans of the world but they are still a year away from even getting a sniff of the majors. Once we catch up and have top tier pitching in all levels of the growing Blue Jays minor league system we will be able to be with these two. But right now we just aren’t there yet. Unless things change big the next couple years I am stoked for 2015.

Probable Starters

Game 1: Esmil Rogers (3-4, 3.74 ERA) vs A.J. Griffin (9-7, 3.84 ERA)
Game 2: Mark Buehrle (6-7, 4.50 ERA) vs Dan Straily (6-4, 4.43 ERA)
Game 3: R.A. Dickey (8-11, 4.86 ERA) vs Bartolo Colon (14-3, 2.54 ERA)

Is Esmil Rogers coming back to earth? His pitches seem to lack the pre-requisite movement that upper echelon starters have. He is kind of a skinny boy version of healthy Mark Buehrle. Hits given up in spades, solo long balls but always pitching around the zone. If Rogers can harness his breaking stuff more then he will take another step forward. At this point, teams seem to be adapting to him. Time to adapt back.

25 year old Griffin is plugging along as he did last year. In his last ten starts he has given up more than 4 runs only once. In three of those starts he gave up nothing. With a K:BB of 50:11 in those same last ten games you can see the makings of a great number 2 starter. Pitches lots of innings, keeps damage to a minimum (of 23 home runs allowed, 17 were solo shots) and gives his team the proverbial chance to win most every game he pitches. The way things have gone lately I see this as a potential laugher in Oakland’s favour.

Mark Buehrle tossed his first shutout since May of last year when he blanked the (insert sarcasm here) dreaded Astros on 2 hits. For the month of July he is 2-2 with a 3.41 ERA and 23 strikeouts to 5 walks. The A’s are not a great hitting team this year (well lots of years) so if Buehrle can keep Cespedes in the park, Crisp off the bases and Donaldson in check we may see things roll our way in this one.

Dan Straily will be doing his darndest to make sure that doesn’t happen. Straily seems to be that 4 out of 5 pitcher: 4 games he is great and keeps his team in it and the 5th is a laugher. This month though is ERA is a sparkling 2.94. If he holds true to his 4/5 trend then expect this to be a very well pitched game. With experience on our side rotation-wise, let’s take the Blue Jays in a close one.

At this point I have nothing constructive to say about R.A. Dickey. I know his heart is in it. I know his passion to win is there. I don’t doubt the intentions of this Cy Young winner. What I can say is that despite good intentions, Dickey has been the least reliable starter this year (save for Josh Johnson). His opp BAA is 20 points lower than his career numbers. His WHIP is practically the same. His troubles? A walk every three innings on average and 24(1) homers given up in 22 starts. Is he still injured perhaps or did the NL to AL transition prove to be more than he could handle?

One only need look at 42 year old wonder Bartolo Colon to know that if you know how to locate your pitches you will have success. After starting the season slowly he has been incredible the last two months. In his June and July he has an ERA of 1.77 and given up less than a hit an inning. Overall in 21 starts he has given up only 10 home runs. Considering he is using an average fastball about 95% of the time his numbers are stellar. This could be another laugher…and not in a good way.

Probable Starting Lineups

Toronto Blue Jays

1. SS: Jose Reyes
2. LF: Melky Cabrera
3. RF: Jose Bautista
4. 1B: Edwin Encarnacion
5. DH: Adam Lind
6. CF: Colby Rasmus
7. 2B: Maicer Izturis
8. C: J.P. Arencibia
9. 3B: Brett Lawrie

Oakland Athletics

1. CF: Coco Crisp
2. SS: Jed Lowrie
3. 3B: Josh Donaldson
4. 1B: Brandon Moss
5. DH: Yoenis Cespedes
6. RF: Josh Reddick
7. LF: Chris Young
8. C: Stephen Vogt
9. 2B: Eric Sogard

What impresses me most is that Colby Rasmus is finally getting his due. From month to month he is up and down but with an overall BA of .272 he is slowly creeping higher towards the upper echelon of Major League center fielders. I know he strikes out a ton but he plays stellar defense, hasn’t let the strikeouts truly affect his BAA and has been great with RISP (.329 BA and an OPS of .989). That is some great numbers that may show signs that Rasmus may yet live up to the advanced billing. He is almost 27 so this could be a great precursor to a truly monster season next year. Right now it looks like Anthony Gose may have to become our left fielder if he wants a chance to make this team…and that is fine with me (watching Melky run is painful…truly painful).

For the A’s Josh Donaldson has been a revelation at third. He may finally be the replacement for Eric Chavez that Oakland has sought since the end of the 2010 season. Donaldson leads the team with a .292 BA and and OPS of .863. He plays a decent third and can counted on with RISP (.357 BA, .973 OPS). Seems a lot like Rasmus. Two kids reaching their prime playing premium positions. If Donaldson can add a bit more power he could be one of the top five 3B in the AL.

Final Word

West coast trips are always killers. It may fall that way for the Blue Jays. But sometimes a trip away from home can get the players together and their performances get better…who am I kidding. There is nothing to suggest anything but perhaps 1 win during this 3 game set. These pitchers better start performing now or else they will be cast aside into a smaller roll (R.A. Dickey) or traded outright (Mark Buehrle). We have been stoked about this team and given them the benefit of the doubt to turn it around but it’s too little too late. Start pitching for your baseball lives starting rotation. Chances are if it keeps down this road there will be nothing to look forward to for a couple more years to come.