Ferguson: Homers, defense and April road trips for the Jays

Scott Ferguson
4/11/2014 2:09:38 PM
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If home runs were all it took to win ball games, the Blue Jays would be laughing right now. They have homered once every 27.3 at bats, which just happens to be the third best mark in the American League, albeit just 10 games into the season. On top of that, they have the American league co-leaders in that category in Jose Bautista and Melky Cabrera with four a piece.

The Chicago White Sox lead the American League with a homer ever 23.7 AB's. Detroit is second at 24.1 per homer.  Houston leads the National League with a dinger every 22.5 at bats heading into Friday's action. The Giants are second at 24.8.

The Giants and Dodgers are tied for the lead in the National League West, but their records are only 6-4. The Jays and White Sox are both sitting at 5-5. The Tigers are the best of the home runs, slugging teams at 5-2. Houston is only 4-6.

The most interesting team is Kansas City. They didn't get their one and only homer until Wednesday when Alex Gordon connected against Tampa Bay. They are averaging one homer per every 260 at bats, yet they, like the Blue Jays and White Sox, are playing .500 ball at 4-4.

It's really run differential that counts the most -- the difference between the runs you score and the runs you give up. Right now, the top two clubs in that category are Milwaukee and Washington at plus-22. They both have Major League best 7-2 records and lead their respective divisions in the National League; the Brewers in the Central and the Nationals in the East.

I was curious to see how much the Blue Jays' defense had improved over a year ago. This time last season through 10 games, they had committed eight errors, including three in one game against Boston. This time around, they have made only three and that's without Jose Reyes at short.

Overall right now, Baltimore has the top defense in terms of errors made. They have only one, even with the left side of their infield SS J.J Hardy and 3rd baseman Manny Machado missing nearly all of their nine games. Minnesota is second best with just two errors committed. Seattle, Toronto and Tampa Bay have all made three errors, but the M's have only played eight games to 10 for the Jays and Rays. Errors don't tell the entire story because you have to figure in things such as range and double plays not turned and defensive plays not made. Suffice to say, the Blue Jays are much better defensively than they were a year ago.
The Blue Jays start their longest road trip of the young season  Friday night; a nine-game, 10 day affair that begins with three games in Baltimore followed by a day off then three at Target Field against the Twins before three more at Cleveland. This is a key trip. A year ago, they went on a seven-game trip through Baltimore and Yankees Stadium. They went a dismal 1-6 and went from 8-11 to 9-17. They never really recovered from that journey and wound up the season with just 74 wins.

Cleveland's fireballer Danny Salazar, who made his Major League debut against the Jays last season, had a wild outing on Thursday night against the White Sox. He struck out 10 in just three and 2/3rd innings, thus becoming the first pitcher in the modern era to fan 10 in fewer than four innings. But he also got tagged for five runs on six hits, including two home runs; the White Sox winning 7-3.

Being a closer is a perilous business in the American League these days. The Blue Jays' Casey Janssen is still rehabbing his shoulder and has yet to pitch in a game since spring training. The Yankees' David Robertson pulled a groin muscle last weekend against the Blue Jays and is on the 15-day disabled list. Detroit's Joe Nathan, who had been struggling and then complained of going through a dead-arm period during a radio interview, picked up a win for the Tigers Wednesday night at L.A. against the Dodgers after blowing his second save in that same game.

Oakland picked up Baltimore's closer Jim Johnson in an off-season deal. He's had so many problems early this season. Johnson has lost the shutdown role and the A's skipper Bob Melvin is going with a closer by committee approach for the time being.

On the flip side, the Mets - who lost their closer Bobby Parnell to "Tommy John " surgery - turned to ex-Tigers closer Jose Valverde and he has already notched two saves.

Atlanta is off to an amazing start considering three of its starters -- Kris Medlen, Brandon Beachy and Mike Minor -- are down with injuries. They are sitting at 5-4 and until David Hale got lit up by the Mets Thursday night, none of their starters, including Ervin Santana, had given up more than two runs in a game. If you missed it, Santana pitched eight shutout innings in his first start with the Braves the other night.

Thanks to three rainouts, Ricky Romero didn't get his first start with Triple "A" Buffalo until Wednesday night in the opener of a doubleheader at Lehigh Valley. He went four innings, giving up three runs on four hits, striking out four and walking four.

Lefty J.A. Happ, meanwhile, made his second rehab at home for Buffalo Thursday night against the Red Sox's Pawtucket farm club. He gave up just one run over four and 2/3rds innings on five hits, including a home run. He struck out six and walked only two. The only thing the Blue Jays might be concerned about is he used up his 90 pitch limit inside of five innings. Happ could get one more minor league rehab start or could just join the Jays for the road trip. The pitcher, whose rotation spot could be in jeopardy, is Dustin McGowan. He's starting Friday night at Baltimore.

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