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Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Mulliniks’ Moustache #14 – The Case for Optimism

Yes, it’s been a difficult first month of the 2014 Blue Jays season, but only in the sense that every baseball fan wants “their” team to go undefeated. There have been a few injuries (Jose Reyes, Casey Janssen, Maicer Izturis) and the starting pitching we all knew would be a red flag has turned into….a red flag. There’s been too much inconsistency and too many walks.

But the season is not lost! Ignore the naysayers; embrace optimism. The Rogers’ Centre is not yet filled with the hellfire and brimstone that some people think every time the Blue Jays lose. Sure, there’s the aforementioned and ever-present starting pitching struggles and general inconsistency that we all find so frustrating, and even the bullpen – one of the team’s supposed strengths – has started to scuffle a little bit of late, although that is due to overuse (and Alex Anthopoulous’ misguided and stupid decision to keep out-of-option pitchers over better options).

In any event, I digress. Today is a day for optimism! I’d like to take this opportunity to highlight a few of the bright spots of the Blue Jays season thus far, five Beacons of Hope, if you will. Sure, it’s only been 25 games, but there are a few things to be excited about, namely:

Brett Lawrie’s defence 
People tend to bring up the same trio – Manny Machado, Evan Longoria and Adrian Beltre – as the gold standards for defence at the hot corner in the American League. The more I watch Lawrie, though, the more I feel that not mentioning Lawrie in the same breath is doing him a near-tragic disservice. He’s awesome, amazing, and incredible. He’s a feast for the eyes. Add whatever superlative adjective you like, because they all apply to Lawrie’s glovework so far this season. It’s a credit to him that his offensive struggles haven’t followed him onto the field. Perhaps that’s an indication that he’s maturing as a baseball player? GET IITTTTTTTT!

Dustin McGowan isn’t hurt yet 
He’s taken his turn in the rotation every five days with nary a mention of sore elbows, shoulders or knees. Yes, he’s struggled in a few starts, and by his own admission he hits a proverbial wall at around 65 pitches, but it’s great seeing him on the mound. His “stuff” is as great as always, which in and of itself is incredible; how can someone suffer through as many surgeries and lost years as McGowan, and still throw 97, 98 MPH? Who can forget his Aprill 11 start, where he held Baltimore runless through 6.1 innings? It was thing of beauty, a renaissance to 2008. One mea culpa, though: I’m starting to second guess the decision to have him be a part of the starting rotation (a decision I was fully behind before the season started, and one that I actually suggested before the Blue Jays “powers that be” made the same decision). Any pitcher that is capped at 65 pitches should NEVER start, and he would make a great addition to their already-taxed bullpen.

As of April 29th, Bautista’s OPS his 1.053! He leads the league with 27 walks (because teams are pitching around him to face the still-cold-but-maybe-coming-out-of-it-soon Edwin Encarnacion). He’s been on base in every Blue Jay game this year. He has seven home runs already. Despite the occasional mental errors, like bone-headed attempts to steal third base when his team is down by five runs, “Joey Bats” is clearly in the upper echelon of Major League talents, and is quite simply one of the best players in all of baseball. Any time he’s at bat, we’re mere moments away from a possible moonshot. I’m not really going out on a limb to say that we can expect an MVP-calibre season if Bautista stays healthy.

A quick list of reasons I love Dioner Navarro:
  • He’s just fun to watch.
  • He calls a great game.
  • He can steal bases
It’s really incredible, and kind of staggering, to fathom how big of a step Navarro is above JP Arencibia. As we all know, the only thing JP provided was the occasional home run, along with an unwillingness to adapt or learn the myriad finer points of receiving major league pitches. Navarro does that in spades, and so far in this short season, it’s been a pleasure to watch.

Mark Buehrle’s 4-0 start to the season 
(I’m choosing to ignore his fifth start of the season, just for the purposes of this post.)
For a notorious slow starter like Buehrle to have four wins in April is incredible. Even if he just pitches to the same level he’s been at for the last, I dunno…125 years or so (that’s how long he’s been around, right?) then he’s looking at a 15-17 win season (I know, I know…pitcher wins: who cares). In any case, his first month of the season (2.16 ERA, 1.23 WHIP, averaging 6.6 innings per start) isn’t anything to thumb our noses at, especially for the tenth-highest-paid starting pitcher in baseball.

Yes, I’m only focusing on five elements to the Blue Jays 2014 season, but it’s important to remember that our boys in blue aren’t out of it by a long shot. If only a few things turn around and they get on a hot streak, they could easily be leading the division. There are 137 more games left for crying out loud! It’s been said before, and it’ll be said again: a baseball season is a marathon, not a sprint.

And now, for no reason whatsoever, is Bar Rafaeli:
Don't tell si.com about this please

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