The Growth of Aaron Sanchez

This is the Aaron Sanchez that as a Jays fan I thought was getting.  The most important starter currently in the Blue Jays rotation. He is also the biggest wild card.  He has grown leaps and bounds in just a handful of starts.  Realizing that he doesn’t need to clock it up to 97 every time that he wants to get somebody out.  Whether it’s been Russell Martin, Pete Walker, or maturation, it really doesn’t matter.  Sanchez is learning how to pitch.

Sanchez is the one guy in this starting 5 that can match up with another ace and go toe to toe in a must win game.  Hutchison is going to be a dependable starter, but is not a true ace.  And you can’t roll out Dickey or Beurhle in a winner take all game.  So it will fall onto the shoulders of a 22 year old starter.  It was a beautifully executed game against the first-place Astros yesterday.  Knowing that this is an all or nothing team.  If you can throw strikes, and not give up the long ball they will struggle.  The Jays had a perfect game plan put in place, and it was executed flawlessly.  Sanchez was constantly getting ahead in the count.  Keeping the Astros off balance.  Not trying to over power them; giving them nothing that they could knock out of the park.

Even against the Nats the starting pitching was out in full force.  Dickey was a hard luck loser against Jordan Zimmerman, but he pitched well enough to win that game.   Beurhle has thrown complete games in three of the past four starts. The rotation is beginning to come around.  Estrada and Hutchison have been consistently throwing 6-7 innings each start.  This game becomes easy when you have a rotation that continually gives you quality starts.  Slowly, this team is starting to gain confidence that they don’t need to win every game 10-8.  Knowing that any pitcher that takes the mound can throw up some zeroes after they have put up a few runs on the board makes a world of difference.  The walks have been cut down, which stops the big innings from happening.  It can be a beautiful game when you throw strike one.

As bad as the pitching has been prior to the past two weeks, they actually measure up against each starting rotation in the division fairly well.

New York Yankees:  CC Sabathia, Masahiro Tanaka, Michael Pineda, Nathan Eovaldi, and Adam Warren

Baltimore Orioles:  Ubaldo Jimenez, Chris Tillman, Miguel Gonzalez, Wei-Yin Chen, and Mike Wright

Tampa Bay Rays:  Chris Archer, Jake Odorizzi, Erasmo Ramirez, Nate Karns, and Alex Colome

Boston Red Sox:  Clay Buchholz, Rick Porcello, Wade Miley, Joe Kelly, and Eduardo Rodriguez

Toronto Blue Jays:  R.A. Dickey, Drew Hutchison, Mark Beurhle, Aaron Sanchez, and Marco Estrada

When you compare all of these starting rotations you don’t see much difference talent wise.  You see a couple of aces on the Yankees in Pineda and Tanaka, and another ace in Archer in Tampa, and that’s about it.  The Jays and the Red Sox have far and away the best two offenses in the AL East.  If these quality starts continue by the starting 5, the Jays could be right there in September.

There isn’t much waiting in the wings as far as pitching goes. Daniel Norris is pitching fairly well in Buffalo, and would be the call-up in case of injury. But it pretty much ends there.   It would be really nice to see J.A. Happ in a Jays uniform right now.  This is the rotation that will need to get the Jays there.  Will it be enough to get them into a wild card game, or a division win?  I have about as much confidence in that as I do in Ricky Romero to throw a strike.

What the Josh Donaldson home-run meant to the Jays season

That game winning home run that was hit last night didn’t feel just like a game winning home run. It felt like a wake-up call to a team that has under-performed for the past three years. One of the most important things that I took from last night’s game was that they were for once able to get by a terrible start from a starting rotation member. Usually this is the type of game that the Jays lose. Dickey gets roughed up. Ruin a night of production from both Bautista and Donaldson. This changed with one swing of the bat.

Now we have seen what Josh Donaldson and Russell Martin can do for the Toronto Blue Jays. They lead by example. Show intensity when it’s required. Battle with each and every pitch. It’s a confidence that hasn’t been seen with the Jays for quite a while. A couple of proven playoff performers. They know how to get there, and are trying to get the Jays back into the race.
There is nothing more infuriating as a Jays fan than watching a bunch of high priced talent goofing around in the dugout when the team is five games under .500. Watching a player flip his bat after a long home run when the team is down by five, or watching the outfield jump into each other after their lone win on a 1-5 home-stand. There is a time for playful fun in baseball. When Donaldson cracks a game winning home run to start a bit of a winning streak is a great time for that. This is a team sport and the Jays have been playing as individuals for far too long.

I am cautiously optimistic. Keeping tabs on other teams in the AL East it seems as though this division is winnable. Even with a mediocre record it is ripe for the taking. Every team in the AL East is floating right around .500. Injuries are piling up for multiple teams. The Red Sox already fired their pitching coach. If the Jays can pull off any kind of run they can play some meaningful games in September. They really need the starting pitching to put up a streak of quality outings. You know the offense will be there.

We have sung this tune before. The Jays are always a game away from a complete over haul of the lineup or a player away from competing for the division. Again they are at the same crossroads. If they don’t feel as though they can compete in September then they have to start dealing. As a fan I just want some consistency. I don’t want to hear Dickey talk for three years about how he is just about there. I don’t want Bautista to whine about the strike zone. A stuttering John Gibbons having a non-chalant interview that starts with his over-used “well.” Just shut up and start winning. Have some owner ship over what’s expected of this team. One thing that I do know is that Martin and Donaldson have both been there before. They are battle-tested. You are starting to see the mark that they are putting on this team. Here’s hoping that other players will continue to follow their lead and the Jays can make a bit of a run.