Inbox: Too early to be concerned about offense?
Blue Jays beat reporter Gregor Chisholm responds to fans' questions
Should we be worried about the offense? The pitching has been doing its job, but so far they haven't been getting any run support.
-- Jeremy W., Toronto
The offense is definitely off to a slow start, but it's far too early for the club to be overly concerned about the results. The Blue Jays are only seven games into the year, so they aren't about to start panicking about a lineup that's supposed to be a major strength for the team. If Toronto stays relatively healthy, it should be able to score a lot of runs when everything is all said and done.
The only real issue is that the Blue Jays still appear to be a team that heavily relies on the home run. In a lot of cases, that's not necessarily a bad thing, but the Blue Jays do need to find a way to increase their on-base percentage and capitalize on scoring opportunities when they arise. Through the first week of the season, Toronto ranks 25th in the Major Leagues with a .277 OBP and is hitting just .196 (9-for-46) with runners in scoring position.
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Third baseman Brett Lawrie has three hits, centre fielder Colby Rasmus has two and second baseman Ryan Goins has just one. Lawrie and Rasmus are major components of the lineup and will be heavily relied upon this year, but it's a little too early for major concerns about either player.
Do you think it's time to make Maicer Izturis the everyday second baseman and end this experiment with Goins? Izturis has been playing great so far.
-- Heather B., Waterloo, Ontario
Izturis has been one of the biggest surprises so far. He has multiple hits in all but one of his five games this season and is showing flashes of the talent he had during his nine seasons with the Angels. Izturis is never going to be a player who hits for any kind of power, but in the past, he has been able to hit for a respectable average and on-base percentage.
Throughout the course of his 11 seasons in the big leagues, Izturis has posted almost identical numbers against right-handed and left-handed pitching. He hits .270 from both sides of the plate and his career .712 OPS vs righties is just slightly higher than his mark against left-handers. Even so, the Blue Jays appear content to use him as part of a platoon with Goins, and it appears as though most of Izturis' starts will come against lefties.
The main reason for the platoon at second base is that Toronto is still putting a lot of emphasis on its defense up the middle. The club likes the range of Jonathan Diaz at shortstop and Goins at second, and feels it goes a long way in helping the pitching staff. That's true, but if Izturis continues his current production, it also makes sense to give him a little bit more time at second base during the hot streak, especially considering Goins has just one hit in 16 at-bats.
When is Jose Reyes going to be back? Should we be getting concerned about his hamstring? Those injuries never seem to go away.
-- Wesley C., Kingston, Ontario
The biggest question mark surrounding Reyes is whether his strained left hamstring will linger throughout the season. He's still relatively optimistic about making his return at some point in the second half of April, but it's difficult to imagine a scenario where Reyes will be able to play without any kind of restrictions by that point.
The injury is very similar to the one that Reyes suffered in 2011 with the Mets. In that case, he went on the 15-day disabled list in early July and missed a total of 12 games. Reyes returned later that month, but he only played for a couple of weeks before he reinjured the hamstring and required another stint on the DL. That has to be a concern for the Blue Jays, and it is one reason why the club should take a very cautious approach to his rehab.
The biggest impact that the injury will have on Reyes likely can be found on the basepaths. His stolen-base attempts will probably be down in an effort not to aggravate his left leg, but even still, there's an awful lot of value in Reyes' bat. The four-time All-Star is a career .292 hitter with a .342 on-base percentage, and Reyes is someone who needs to get on base for the likes of Melky Cabrera, Jose Bautista and Edwin Encarnacion.
Are the Blue Jays using a closer-by-committee situation? I thought Sergio Santos was going to be the closer with Casey Janssen on the DL, but he got a quick hook last week.
-- Joel T., New York
Santos will get most of the save opportunities during Janssen's absence, but Blue Jays manager John Gibbons is also expected to play the matchups from time to time. If there's a scenario where a couple of very tough left-handed hitters are due up in the ninth inning, that's when Gibbons could turn to Brett Cecil.
It's not a closer-by-committee in the traditional sense because Cecil won't get that many chances, but it does give Gibbons another option at the back end of his bullpen. There also might not be a lot of freedom for Santos to pitch out of jams in the ninth, and it's possible that Cecil would be brought in to face a batter or two during those situations just like he did against Tampa Bay by striking out Matt Joyce to end the game with a pair of runners on.
Despite all of that, Santos will get most of the work, and he's someone who has proven capable of the role in the past. He recorded 30 saves for the White Sox in 2011 and possesses an overpowering fastball with an absolutely devastating slider that leads to a lot of strikeouts. Santos' main issue is command, and he will need to cut down on the walks in order to secure his role even further during Janssen's absence.
Is this version of Cabrera for real? He looks like he's going to have a great season.
-- Tim F., Ottawa, Ontario
There's always a great deal of skepticism about whether certain players actually had a down year because of injuries or if that is just being used as a convenient excuse. Cabrera's situation was different, though, and it was pretty much impossible to argue against the fact that a tumor growing on his spine had devastating consequences. For Cabrera, it wasn't even just about baseball, it was a potentially life-threatening condition that was thankfully taken care of during a surgical procedure last September.
The end result of that surgery and the ensuing rehab during the offseason has resulted in a completely different player on the field. Last year, Cabrera could barely move in the outfield and struggled to generate any type of power with his legs at the plate. This season has been an entirely different story, as Cabrera is moving relatively well and already has three homers, which ties his total from 2013.
The current rate of home runs for Cabrera won't be sustained, but his average certainly could. Cabrera is hitting .323 this season, and that's the type of production Toronto needs in front of the heart of its batting order.
When are the Blue Jays going to start playing Adam Lind every day? They need his bat in the lineup, and sitting him against lefties seems like a wasted opportunity to me.
-- Bill C., Mississauga, Ontario
This seems to be a rather hot topic of conversation this week, but in terms of the Blue Jays' perspective, nothing has changed. Lind has struggled vs left-handers throughout the course of his career, and there's very little reason to believe that won't be the case in the near future.
It's not like Lind is a young rookie who is looking for an opportunity to prove he can hit lefties. Over the years, Lind has received 797 at-bats vs left-handers and has hit just .220 with a .263 on-base percentage and a .606 OPS. Those numbers don't inspire a lot of confidence, and that is the main reason Lind has been locked into a platoon role for several years now.
Toronto's bench isn't as strong as it has been in the past, and perhaps that's why the Lind vs. lefties debate has once again been renewed. Still, using someone like Moises Sierra or Dioner Navarro at designated hitter makes a lot more sense when a lefty is on the mound.