Yu Darvish takes the mound for the fifth time this season, and will do so for the first time in Canada as the Texas Rangers head to Toronto to take on the up-and-coming Blue Jays. To help preview this series, we've brought in Tom Dakers from Blue Bird Banter, SB Nation's Blue Jays blog.
Toronto is off to a fairly nice start, but when are the Jays realistically expected to contend for a playoff spot?
Well, this year is a bit of a long shot, though the Red Sox look beatable and the Yankees are ageing, but we are a little lacking in depth in the starting rotation, though the starters have done a good job up until now. The back end of the rotation consists of pitchers who are 24, 22 and 21 years of age and have a grand total of 38 major league starts. It's a lot to ask of pitchers to be consistent when they are that young.
Realistically next year or the year after should be when the Jays contend for the top of the division. They have a lot of good prospects in the minors and they should have some money to invest in payroll in the future.
Jose Bautista is off to a slow start -- what gives? Have pitchers finally figured him out after two years of massive production?
I'm thinking or maybe it is hoping, that this is just a slump, he has always been a streak hitter, the good part about Bautista is that even when he is slumping, he gets on base. His timing seems to be just a little bit off, but he seems to be making better contact, the last few days. I think it is more to do with Jose's timing being a little bit out of whack than anything the pitchers are doing differently.
What's been the difference between 2011 Kyle Drabek and 2012 Kyle Drabek?
Well, strikes. That's been the major difference. He is throwing more strikes. The other difference is that he seems to be controlling his emotions better. Last year it seemed like every time he gave up a hit or every time he had a call go against him, he would get very visibly upset. This year, less so. He still has his moments but, fewer of them. Of course, he looked pretty good for his first few starts last year, so I wouldn't guarantee that all his troubles are behind him.
The team also has him marking the spot where he wants his front foot to land. Last year he often would spin out of his windup and land so he wasn't lined up with the plate. It made it hard to throw strikes. It has helped.
How do you expect the Blue Jays to attack Yu Darvish?
Our batters seem to be taking more pitches than they have in the past, not that that has been helping all of them put up better numbers. There is a fine line between taking a lot of pinch and letting hittable pitchers go by. I think you will see the Jays watch a lot of pitches, especially in the early innings. I'm not sure it will help them.
Not many have realized, Edwin Encarnacion is off to an excellent start with 7 homers and an OPS over 1.000 -- why has he been mashing, and where would you expect his numbers to be at the end of the year?
Edwin has always been one of my favorites, but he has gotten off to a slow start the last couple of seasons. It always seems to take him awhile to get his timing figured out. He's always had a long swing and it has taken him a month or so to get to where he can make good contact. Last year he hit .291/.382/.504 in the second half of the season. They tell us that he has shortened his swing some this year, (if he has, he hasn't shortened it all that much), but his timing is much better to at the start of this year.
Of course, this year he has been mostly DHing, with the odd start at first base and he spelled Brett Lawrie at third for a game (poor guy made an error on the first ball hit his way). It seems that he is a much better hitter when he doesn't have to worry about using a glove. Last year they really messed him up by telling him he would DH and then, a couple of days before the end of spring training, changing their minds and announcing he would be the regular 3B. Edwin is one of those guys that really really needs a full spring to get his glove working properly. He had a tough start defensively, and then carriex his defensive troubles to the plate. He was better when they put him back at DH.
I don't expect him to OPS over 1.000 all year, but I think he'll be good. He'll get us 30+ home runs and 100 RBI with a batting average around .290.