The Natty Nats travel to America Junior for a three-game set against the Blue Jays. Ramon Ortiz will kick things off tonight against A.J. Burnett, who is making his second big league start since returning from a dastardly ulnar collateral ligament sprain. We might remember Burnett from the lavish dinner he attended at The Forge Restaurant back in November, compliments of Jim Bowden and Mister Moneybags himself, Tony Tavares.
The Jays (since that's what they seem to prefer being call these days) are a stealthy contender in the American League. Despite suffering a spate of injuries (Burnett, obviously, included), and despite tolerating Little League-level (forget replacement-level) quality from back-end starter Josh Towers, they stand 4.5 games behind the Red Sox in the American League East. Of course, the Jays have to deal with both the Red Sox and the Yankees---and, this season, there is no assurance that the AL wild card slot will be granted to a team from the East. Bluebird Banter takes a look today at some of the issues facing the Jays this year (injuries, ineffectiveness, some criticism of Jon Gibbons' handling of the pitching staff) and down the road. It's worth a read.
A cursory look at the AL stats suggests that the Jays are an interesting club on offense. They rank first in batting average, third in on-base percentage, and first in slugging percentage. The sum of first, third, and first is, of course, seventh in the league in runs scored. A bit odd, to say the least.
A slightly less cursory look (i.e., pages two and three of ESPN.com's stats) yields nothing in particular that would explain this dissonance in the rankings. Toronto ranks near the bottom in stolen base percentage, for instance, but the team doesn't run much. A peek at the more expansive numbers offered by Baseball Direct (via Stats Inc.) demonstrates that the No. 9 slot in Toronto's batting order (mainly the second baseman) has been a complete sinkhole, even by the standards of your garden variety, AL-average No. 9 hitter:
Cat. Jays AL Av.
AVG .190 .244
OBP .238 .297
SLG .240 .344
That's right, gang. Toronto's No. 9 slot has a collective 478 OPS. Put another way, that's 75 percent of the production (641 OPS) the average AL No. 9 hitter provides. Put yet another way, that's about four-fifths of what Cristian Guzman produced (574 OPS) last season.
As Giants fans like to say, "EEEEEE."