Saturday, 11 April 2015

Thoughts, Through Four

John Lott/Nat. Post
As awesome as these two kids have been through the five innings or whatever that they've pitched, I still worry a bit about the pitching staff.  I don't have any doubts that Cecil is going to be OK, and he should stabilize the bullpen a bit once he's fully himself again (and reports of his fastball topping out at 88MPH the other night don't really worry me given his spring and the fact that it was 4 degrees in New York).  Aaron Loup is going to continue to be Aaron Loup, getting a mix of outs and walks.  After that, the bullpen kind of gives me the jibblies.

I'm hesitant to use a 4 game sample to determine what we have in Castro and Osuna, as dominant as they've been, and I think it's silly not to think that they're going to end up struggling a bit at some point once the rest of the league kind of figures them out or sees some video or scouting reports.  It seems like the Redmond/Estrada/Hendriks experience isn't one that's built to last, and it that's doubly true if the 8-man bullpen is only contingent on Michael Saunders being on the DL (which it isn't, necessarily... Tolleson could be cut and everything else can stay the same, in theory, but I'm guessing that's not it... likely Tolleson and Hendriks cuts, Saunders and Goins up).

I think I'd be a lot more comfortable still with another right-handed reliever in there.  Whether that's Steve Delabar, Rafael Soriano, Aaron Sanchez, Marco Estrada or someone else... don't really give a shit.  Ask me again in a few weeks and my tune may change if these two keep killing it out of the bullpen, but right now I'd love to see a 2010-Jason-Frasor-type that could come in in the 6th inning with guys on base and get a strikeout to kill a rally.  Maybe that is Castro or Osuna, though, and I'm just seeing their ages and thinking it's not good enough. (As an aside, if Castro is closing, moving Cecil to 8th inning duties, the need for Colt Hynes drastically diminishes)

I'm the same about the rotation.  I don't exactly think that there's even a shred of uncertainty in Dickey or Buerhle.  They're two shitballers that are going to stabilize everything and get six innings in more often than not.  And the way Hutchison looked opening day and in the second half of 2014, I'm not sure he isn't a guy that can be relied upon either... he's been a stud the last half-season, give or take, and he did throw 185 innings last season, striking out a batter per inning.

It's more Norris, Sanchez and the depth that worries me.  I totally reserve the right to change my tune about Sanchez, even after one start, and my point about him will be quick anyway.  It's simply that I'm not going to feel good about him as a starter until I do, and that won't happen until we see secondary pitches develop.  I just fear he's just going to fire smoke and get guys out for a few innings, and then break out the change or curve and get slaughtered.

Which kind of brings me to Norris.  His outing against the Yankees started amazingly, but he was in pretty big trouble the second time through the order.  Yankee hitters were 0-for-8 with a walk the first time through the order, but it looked like they made some pretty hefty adjustments the second time through.  Starting with Ellsbury's second AB with 2 out in the 3rd, things went:

Line drive single (fucked up by a CS to end the inning)
Line drive
Line drive (that happened to find Donaldson's glove and could have been a 2B just as easily)
strikeout (battle back from 3-0)
popout (end the inning)
single (Gregorius running error to give a free out, turning the lineup over)
foul out (end the inning)
Line out (albeit a weak one)

Norris was dominant once through the order, and looked like he was going to cruise through the game, but gave up a lot of solid contact starting the 2nd time through, and if it weren't for the Yankees having two TOOTBLANs over those 13 plate appearances, this may have ended up a little different.

There are obviously some circumstances around this start, which is why we don't worry TOO much about it.  It was Norris' first start of the year and maybe just getting through five was the goal, in which case, yeah, let's mix in the secondary stuff right away and see what we can figure out.  Second, it was cold out there, so we can certainly give the guy a break.  But the point remains, as good as Norris looked in the first three innings, he looked just as bad over the next 3.

Having said all of that, the offence and defence has looked pretty fucking sound so far to me.  Russell Martin hasn't lit it up offensively, and up until yesterday, neither had Jose Bautista, but the team still has 27 runs scored through 4 games.  Devon Travis, Justin Smoak, Jose Reyes and Josh Donaldson have each gotten on base at a rate of 35% or better, and Bud Norris got totally worked over in yesterday's game, which definitely does ease some of my concern about the pitching staff.

We know that Bautista and Martin will come around (Martin's plate appearances have been mostly good, and just don't really show up on a stat sheet), and a 12-9 win is still definitely as much a win as a 4-2 game.  Like I said, I'd love to see another pitcher come around, but to have that many concerns and still be kind of cheesed about being 3-1 to start the year... could be worse.

It really makes the Stroman injury sting.  With him in the fold, Sanchez can be in the pen or in the minors ready as depth.  It would have given the Jays that one extra piece that they can rely upon if something goes south.  Instead, that's Liam Hendriks or Jeff Francis or Felix Doubront or whomever.  And that's fine, I guess, in the sense that nobody's got a legitimate #3 waiting in the minors until someone gets hurt or sucks, and there are times for every team where piecing together a start or four needs to happen.  Fortunately the offence is there for times like that, should they arise.