Originally posted on The Southpaw  |  Last updated 4/17/12
Well I confess the obvious - no matter how much I know it's going to happen, it grinds my gears to see the Jays lose to bad teams. The thesis for contention is you hold your own against the good teams, play .500 or a bit better, and beat up on the sucky teams. This weekend did not please me in that regard.
However, there's a lot to like so far, most notably the good pitching (despite the recent bullpen miss-steps, the Jays are second in the AL in team ERA, perhaps more impressive they have registered the lowest BAA against in the AL to this point. It's .199 and the second lowest is .230 and that's not nothin'.
By contrast, the incoming Rays are (shockingly) a mess right now on the mound. their team ERA is worst in the AL and they've walked more batters than any staff in the league. The Rays have the worst run-differential in all of major league baseball, the Blue Jays are in the top 10.
The picture is somewhat better for them on offense, not because they've been good (as a team they are middle of the pack, and that's with Carlos Pena thinking he's Pujols) while the Blue Jays are 12th in the league in OPS, but the gap between the two is considerably smaller. If the Jays can show some patience over the next few days and see if the wildness continues, good things should happen.
The projected pitching matchups are...
Romero v. Niemann - Niemann has had only one start and it was below average but not awful. Romero seemed to have found his stride last time out.
Morrow v. Price - Price's problem has been control, he's walked as many as he's struck out and the Jays need to give him every opportunity to continue that pattern.
Alvarez v. Hellickson - Alvarez has been terrific, and Hellickson has been the one Rays pitcher that got results, but he walked 7 and struck out 5 so far and that gives the Jays an opportunity to change that.
Whatever worries you might have had about the Jays bullpen wobbles early on, remember that Tampa's group has two guys who have not been embarassingly bad so far.
On offense, Longoria is of course being Longoria which is to be expected. More surprising is that Pena and Luck Scott are even better to this point. The rest have ranged from ordinary to awful. hopefully the Toronto pitching will force one of the three hot hitters to beat them and not let down against the struggling guys.
I'm optimistic that we're catching the Rays at a good time. Over the last four years the Jays are 25-47 vs. the Rays, and it's time that changed if they want to contend with them this year.
Also of note, Evan Crawford is getting a lot of praise as the new man in the pen even though he's only thrown one relatively meaningless inning. I have no evidence for this, and the journalistic professionals seem to think it's unlikely, but with the Jays continued lack of specificity about the 5th starter opening, I wonder if a left-handed pitcher of Crawford's quality doesn't open the door - on purpose - for Luis Perez to get a shot as the stop-gap #5? The safe money is probably on Laffey simply because he pitched Monday night which puts him on rotation to start again on 4/21 - but I want to be on record with my Perez hunch were I can brag if i turn out to be right.

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