The Twins are riding high, coming into tonight's series in a tie for first place with the Royals. Toronto, meanwhile, leads the league in runs scored per game and have the same run differential as Minnesota, but find themselves with a 22-27 record and in last place in the AL East (being 3-10 in one-run games will do that).
You can find my answers on the Twins at Bluebird Banter, so be sure to check those out. In the mean time, here's what Tom and I spoke about in regards to his Blue Jays.
The AL East looks pretty tight in the easy going. Is that something you expect to continue through the summer?
Yeah, I think we are looking at 5 deeply flawed teams, I don’t expect any of them to suddenly become competent enough to run away with things, though I’ll admit, if any of the 5 can play .500 ball, that could be enough to run away with the division.
I expect it will be tight all the way. Maybe one of the 5 teams will fall back and end up 20 games under .500, but I’d expect most of the teams will stay within about 5 games of .500, each keeping just close enough that they can at least kid themselves that they are in the race, and not one of them building any real lead.
Chris Colabello was a nice story for the Twins for the first month last year before pitchers figured him out. How's he been able to have so much success for the Blue Jays this year? Is his job safe?
His success comes mostly from ‘hitting them where they ain’t’. His batting is supported by a .509 BABIP, which just might be unsustainable. I mean, I’ve been wrong before, but I have a feeling that number might drop given time. He is making good hard contact, FanGraphs has him at a 30% line drive rate. And he’s shown a good eye at the plate, but the laws of gravity will have to catch up to him at some point, even if he hasn’t studied law.
His job isn’t exactly safe, though it is hard to believe he wouldn’t stay on the team if he were to continue hitting .386/.440/.578, but, right now, he’s getting playing time because Michael Saunders is injured and Jose Bautista has shoulder inflammation that is keeping him from playing the field. When Bautista is able to play the outfield again, Colabello could platoon at first base or DH, positions that he’d be far better suited for than outfield.
How did Danny Valencia end up in left field?
A number of injuries and some impatience on the part of the front office. Michael Saunders wrecked his knee in spring, stepping on a sprinkler head, he tried to return too quickly and now is on the DL for another month. Jose Bautista is only able to DH since hurting his shoulder. And Dalton Pompey, anointed as our center fielder at the end of last season, was sent down to the minors after 80 at bats.
So, basically, Valencia is playing the outfield because someone has to.
Valencia doesn’t exactly look great defensively, but compared to Colabello, he’s a Gold Glover. If you ignore the lack of range or the inability to play a ball off the wall, he’s kind of ok out there.
There is the problem that he doesn’t hit RHP much at all and taking a base on balls seems to be against his religion, as it is for so many Blue Jays (he has 1 walk in 73 plate appearances this year). But, against left-handed pitching, his bat is good enough that you can live with his glove in the outfield. At least until some real outfielders show up.
With four players slugging over .500 at this point in the season, how confident are you that Toronto's offense can score enough runs to be competitive all year?
I think, with everyone healthy, we likely have as good an offense as there is in baseball. We lead the league in runs scored by a long way and that’s with several players that have been injured early in the season. The Jays have scored 255 runs, the Yankees come in second in runs scored with 221. I’d be surprised if anyone caught up to us.
It would be nice if the offense was a little more consistent. Some games, surprisingly often, we score 10 plus runs in a game. Other times we struggle to get 2 or 3 runs, and with our pitching 2 or 3 runs just won’t do.
What's happened to Toronto's pitching? Is there potential to turn a few things around so that you can beat the Yankees into submission?
For the first month of the season, our starting pitching was terrible. Terrible is to mild a word really. We thought getting a starting pitcher to reach the 5th inning was a deep start. For the month of April, our starters were only averaging 5.4 innings per start and had an ERA of 5.20. Of course, with the bullpen left to do that much work, it didn’t look good either.
Things seem to be turning around. Over the last couple of weeks, the Jays have an ERA of 4.21. And each of the starters have stepped up. Drew Hutchison threw a complete game shutout in his last year, with no walks and 8 strikeouts. Aaron Sanchez threw 14 innings over his last two starts. Mark Buehrle had a complete game and went 7.1, respectively, in his last two starts. Our 5th starter, Marco Estrada, has had two 7 inning starts in a row. And even R.A. Dickey threw a complete game this month. So there is hope.
And, yeah, I’d love to beat the Yankees, nothing would make me happier.
What's the direction for the organization at this point? As an outsider I see a few veterans and a couple of younger players - are the Jays going to encounter a transitional period soon?
It really depends on what happens the rest of this season. Blue Jays CEO, Paul Beeston, is leaving the team after this year and, if the season goes badly, I’d imagine whoever comes in to take his place will want to clean house. GM Alex Anthopoulos is in the last year of his contract and, I’m pretty sure, it is playoffs or dust off that resume. There are some good young players in the Jays system, but mostly pitchers. On the batting side, there isn’t much for immediate help.
Jose Bautista and Edwin Encarnacion have one year left on their contracts, so there will be some thought to a push to put it all together for next year, but the team has been trying to put together a winner for years now and we don’t seem to be getting much closer.
Basically, a lot depends on where they finish this year and who they get to take over the CEO job. Until we know those answers, there is no point in guessing what might happen.