Monday, April 4, 2011

Reasons for Optimism, Causes for Concern

The beginning of every season, (like the start of any blog) offers broad expanses of hope and stronger probabilities of disappointment. Looking at the first few games, what threads of hope can we latch onto and what shades of decline can we fear?

Be Merry & Rejoice!

Jose Bautista: His swing and his eye look as good as at any time last year. He looked a little anxious when hitting with men on and the Jays behind on Sunday, swinging at a couple balls at his laces, but otherwise has almost had a perfect eye at the plate.

Travis Snider: Aside from a bobble transferring to his throwing hand, Snider has looked brilliant in Left Field. Why he can't be the backup Right Fielder is a mystery- and the way he's looked on his jumps and routes, he may be a viable emergency centrefielder as well, if given the chance. At the plate, Snider hasn't shown any power in the early days, but his approach at the plate looks solid.

J. P. Arencibia: At the plate, he has looked marvellous, far better than his spring had led us to expect. While he has obviously gotten a pair of home runs and a triple, all of his other at-bats are sources of optimism. In these few early games, Arencibia hasn't chased bad pitches or been overly aggressive, he's rarely (if at all) swung through a pitch, and he's recorded at least three long fly ball outs. His power is clearly real. Perhaps of even greater importance is his play behind the plate. He's thrown out one runner attempting to advance, and has looked good blocking pitches in the dirt. There has been nothing to suggest that Arencibia will be a weak defensive catcher as yet.

Adam Lind: Defensively, Lind has looked like he's incredibly nervous out there, yet he's done just about everything right (one somewhat high underhand throw to the pitcher covering notwithstanding). At the plate, there have been mixed signs. He's hit some balls hard, but has rolled over on others, resulting in weak ground balls.

Ready the bunker, the Jayscopalypse is upon us!

Juan Rivera: While he's shown respectable plate discipline, he has barely hit a ball with authority yet.

Aaron Hill: While he's not popping everything up, Hill hasn't been making good contact, and continues to look pull-happy and over-aggressive at the plate.

Brett Cecil: News of Cecil's diminished velocity leaked a week ago, and the unanimous reaction of the Jays commentariat was that it wasn't of significant concern. Given that Cecil hit 92 on the gun, his maximum velocity doesn't appear to be truly concerning. However, by the fifth inning, and after just 50 pitches, Cecil was clearly spent, throwing mainly 84-87. Gameday puts his average fastball at 88.5, but that is clearly a major over-estimate, as Gameday misidentified a great number of pitches in the mid-80s which might be either sliders or fastballs. Both Cecil's top velocity and his endurance bear watching and merit concern.

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