Ferguson: Positives and negatives for Jays at quarter mark

Scott Ferguson, TSN 1050
5/16/2014 12:38:50 PM
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The Toronto Blue Jays have just passed the quarter mark in the season, at the .500 mark at 21-21. That's not overwhelming, but it's still four games better than they were a year ago when they were sitting at 17-25 through May 17.

More importantly, now, they are tied with the Boston Red Sox for third in the American League East, just a game-and-a half back of the first-place Baltimore Orioles. Not only that, they have the top-ranked hitting team in the American League with a .255 average , 56 homers  and a league-leading 207 runs scored and the top OPS of .762.

They've improved by leaps and bounds in the fielding department, as well. They've committed only 20 errors in 42 games, second fewest to only Baltimore's 19 in the American League.

There are still a few red flags, though. The Blue Jays' team ERA is 4.56, ranked 11th in the American League and worst in their own division. With the problems at the back end of the rotation - Brandon Morrow (DL now), J.A Happ ( struggling until Thursday night) and Dustin McGowan (moved to the bullpen on Thursday) - the Jays have still managed 19 quality starts in 42 games. That's tied with the Yankees for second in their division behind Boston's 27. Tampa Bay has 14 quality starts, largely because three of their starting pitchers have been injured, and Baltimore is somehow leading the division with only 13 quality starts.

Another thing that should be of concern is who the Jays have been beating. They are a combined 10-3 against the Philadelphia Phillies, Cleveland Indians and Houston Astros, teams that have a combined record of 50-70. The Jays are 11-18 against all the rest. Remember, too, over their final 120 games, exactly half are against their own division. Then you have seven against the AL West-leading Oakland Athletics, six against the AL Central-leading Detroit Tigers and 13 Interleague games including four with the NL Central-leading Milwaukee Brewers, three with the St. Louis Cardinals, three with the Cincinnati Reds and a bit of a respite in September with three at home against the Cubs.

The two biggest question marks are how they sort out those four and five slots in their rotation and whether they can start playing better against the teams in their own division with regularity the rest of the way. Right now they are only 7-9 against the East and 16-19 against the entire American League with the season nearly seven weeks old.

- You may have missed it since it was a west coast game, but the Miami Marlins called up 24-year-old right hander Anthony DeSclafani the other night after the injury to their ace Jose Fernandez and gave him his first Major League start against the Dodgers in Los Angeles.  He was almost considered a throw-in in the massive deal with the Blue Jays two years ago, that brought Mark Buehrle, Jose Reyes and others to the Jays.

DeSclafani didn't disappoint in his debut. He pitched six solid innings, striking out seven in a 13-3 blowout of the Dodgers. He not only got his first Major League win, but he stroked a two-run single for his first Major League hit. The funny thing about the hit is, it's one more than the entire Marlins pitching staff had through that night. The Marlins pitchers were a collective 0 for 64. The one mild surprise may be that DeSclafani made it to the Majors before his minor=league teammate lefty Justin Nicolino, who also came over in that trade with the Blue Jays.

- Joel Sherman of the New York Post mentioned the other day that the Mets should deal from strength and package a couple of their young arms for a much needed bat and suggested they go after the Blue Jays' Jose Bautista or Chicago White Sox shortstop Alexei Ramirez. The Mets called up two of those dynamite young arms this week in Rafael Montero and Jake deGrom, who went a combined 13 innings and gave up only four runs total. Still, the Mets lost both games at Citi Field, 3-0 Wednesday and 1-0 Thursday. The Mets, though they are 19-21, are still just two games out of a wild card spot in the National League. The pressure is on them to finally make it back to the post-season. They should be an interesting team to watch as the trade season approaches in late June and then on into July.

- Bad break for former Blue Jays catching prospect Travis D'Arnaud, who went over to the Mets as part of the R.A. Dickey deal. He was accidently struck on the head by the follow-through swing by the bat of Alfonso Soriano of the Yankees on Tuesday night. He experienced headaches afterwards and then was put on the seven-day concussion disabled list.

- Jose Abreu, the White Sox Cuban slugge,r is off to an incredible start in the Majors. He has 15 homers in his first 42 games. He's only the fourth player in Major League history to accomplish that feat joining Wally Berger, Kevin Maas and Wally Joyner. Of the latter three, Joyner had the best career, but was always overshadowed by the steroid-sluggers of the day including Jose Canseco.

- I was wondering the other day if it would be possible for the Yankees' Masahiro Tanaka to win the Cy Young Award, the Rookie of the Year and the MVP Award all in the same season. He and Abreu are the top two first-year players so far. He's already a front runner for the Cy Young and, if he leads the Yankees to a playoff berth, he would have to be considered for the Most Valuable Player as well.

- If you think the Blue Jays' starting pitching is a question mark, how about the Texas Rangers? Over the past 16 games, the Rangers have had one start of more than six innings by a pitcher other than Yu Darvish. Darvish, of course, is the man the Blue Jays will be facing Friday night to kick off a three-game set at Arlington against Prince Fielder and the Rangers.

- The Dodgers are off to much of the same kind of start they were a year ago before the arrival of Yasiel Puig. They are 22-20 and trail the first-place San Francisco Giants by five full games in NL West. Fielding has been a major problem. They've made 36 errors in 42 games and have given up 24 unearned runs, tied with Cleveland for the second most in the Majors.

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