We're a bit past the 1/8th mark of the season, which to our minds provides enough just enough context to start to make judgments on who's been awesome and who's been awful thus far. Ergo: Three Up, Three Down. (New feature! Soon to be abandoned! Oh look...shiny!)
When you're up, you're UP...
1. José Bautista: This offseason's biggest signing and the most contentious talking point through most of the Winter (Sign him! Now! No, later! Too much!), JoBau has rewarded the Jays by being the best hitter in the American League thus far. ESPN's Eric Karabell, on yesterday's edition of the Baseball Today podcast, compared him the Albert Pujols, and while he acknowledged that sounded like "blasphemy", it's hard to argue with his excellence when Bautista leads the league in OBP and SLG, as well as homers. You can't ask for much more than that. (Though a little help would be nice...more on that later.)
2. Ricky Romero: But he's only 1-3! (And if we thought that the kids reading our blog were the "Jack Morris was a winner" types, we'd prattle on a bit about the meaning of pitcher wins. But that shit's boring to you and to us. The point's been made. The new orthodoxy has won.) RickRo is third in the AL in strikeouts with 33 (versus 10 walks), and aside from one blow up appearance against the Red Sox, he's posted quality starts and looked every bit like an ace and a Cy Young candidate.
3. Marc Rzepczynski: The Father-in-Law won't stop complaining that Rzep has been relegated to the bullpen, and to be honest, we tend to agree at this point. Of course, if Rzep is starting, who's the killer lefty in the pen? He's held the opposition to a .118 BA against in 11 appearances, surrendering four hits against in 10.2 innings, with 10 Ks versus 5 BBs.
...And when you're down, you're DOWN.
1. Aaron Hill: Hill's now hurt, and wasn't exactly killing it when he was in the lineup. A .265 OBP before the injury (lower than two other guys who you're more worried about) goes alongside three doubles and no homers so far this season. Those option years? They're not looking particularly appealing right about now.
2. Juan Rivera: He may have emerged from the crypt in the past few days (the prospect of a future without baseball may have awakened the corpse), but he still has a fair bit of digging to do to extricate himself from the early hole he's dug. Posting a meagre .270 OBP and a flacid .207 SLG thus far. He's not a slap hitter, but those are the numbers of a player who is having the bat knocked out of his hands.
3. Travis Snider: A couple of good at bats in recent days, and an OBP (.271) that sits above that of Hill and Rivera (and Patterson, and Rajai Davis)...and yet, The State of the Great Big Giant Pasty White Hope/Rosy-Cheeked Phenom remains an ongoing concern. This hasn't been the most exemplary start to the season, but there are 141 games remaining to pull it together.
Connective Tissue: The Link Between Snider and JoBau
There's no one getting on base in front of José Bautista, nor is there much going on behind him. So he's not getting pitches to hit, and has been walked more times than anyone in baseball (21). Of his 11 RBI, 10 have come through home runs (7 solo shots! And one three-run dinger).
On the other hand, Travis Snider has little going on ahead or behind him, and has been dealt a steady stream of breaking balls. And so he's walked nine times (okay) and struck out 21 time (aie yay yay.)
The point here is that the go-go Jays who were going to burn up the basepaths are sitting in the mid-pack in terms of getting on base in the first place (.320 OBP, 14th in MLB, 7th in AL). The 2011 edition of the Blue Jays might not be the one that is supposed to compete for a postseason berth, but eventually, this team is going to have to get runners on and create more of a threat than JoBau can muster up by himself.