Friday, April 28, 2006

Yankees Host The Toronto New Jays

The Toronto Blue Jays got tired of looking up in the AL East standings at the Yankees, Red Sox and/or Orioles over the last 12 seasons and decided to try to do something about it this past off-season. Sure, they had tried things before. They brought in J.P. Ricciardi and his moneyball background as general manager prior to the 2002 season. They changed managers six times. Nothing worked, so this past winter they went out and spent cash in addition to make some deals with NL ball clubs.

They brought in a new closer, B.J. Ryan (Orioles), with a 5-year, $47 million deal. They bolstered their starting rotation by giving the Marlins' A.J. Burnett a 5-year, $55 million contract. They solidified their catching needs and added World Series experience by inking Bengie Molina (Angels) to a 1-year deal. Ricciardi was saddled with a myriad of corner infielders, none of which were anything special. He took care of that by sending previous closer Miguel Batista and gold glove second baseman Orlando Hudson, somewhat reluctantly, to the Arizona Diamondbacks for slugging third baseman Troy Glaus. Starting pitcher David Bush, outfielder Gabe Gross and another minor leaguer were sent to the Milwaukee Brewers for slick fielding first baseman Lyle Overbay.

With the first month of the season completed, the results have been mixed. Burnett, who has landed on the DL a number of times already in his career, has already been on it twice with elbow issues. Ace Roy Halliday missed a start with a strained forearm, and Josh Towers has been outright awful. Gustavo Chacin has brought some steadiness to the rotation, winning all four of his starts despite a 5.11 ERA. Ted Lilly is 2-1 despite struggling with shoulder problems. Outside of Ryan and Justin Speier, the bullpen has been shaky at best.

As for the other new additions, Glaus has had a pretty good start, hitting .267-6-16. Molina is batting .294 with 7 RBI in 13 games. Ryan has been outstanding; he hasn't allowed a run in 10 appearances, has saved 3 games, and struck out 8 batters in 10 innings while issuing just one walk. Overbay is hitting just .272, but does have 11 RBI.

The biggest key to the Jays 11-9 start has been the play of Vernon Wells. A notoriously slow starter, Wells is hitting a sizzling .400 with 9 home runs and 23 runs batted in. His OPS is a gawdy 1.216 and he has had at least one hit in 19 of the Jays' 20 games.

Another Blue Jay outfielder that has begun to blossom is Alex Rios. Often compared to Dave Winfield, the 6'5" right fielder had yet to produce any power in the major leagues. Over the past two seasons he managed just 11 home runs in over 900 plate appearances. This season Rios has already hit 6 home runs in 57 official at-bats.

The Blue Jays were willing to give up some defense in order to give the second base job to super hitting prospect Aaron hill, but Hill has struggled, hitting just .191 thus far. He and shortstop Russ Adams, also a second year player, have combined for 5 errors. Frank Catalanotto and Reed Johnson have been platooning in left field, with a comined .397 average. Shea Hillenbrand has been the main designated hitter, batting .318, but has just 1 home run and 7 RBI.

All in all, it looks like the Jays may very well be looking up at the Yankees and Red Sox once again.


Series Pitching Match Ups

Friday (7:05-UPN): Roy Halladay vs Jaret Wright
Saturday (1:05-YES): Josh Towers vs Randy Johnson
Sunday (1:05-YES): Gustavo Chacin vs Mike Mussina


The teams split their first two meetings in Toronto. Randy Johnson got hammered in a loss to Gustavo Chacin, but Mike Mussina came through the next afternoon in defeating Ted Lilly.

The Yankees were 12-6 against the Jays last season, splitting their wins evenly at home and on the road.

Yankees Hitters vs. Blue Jays in 2005:

Johnny Damon.33916
Derek Jeter.443210
Gary Sheffied.236516
Alex Rodriguez.322614
Jason Giambi.21304
Hideki Matsui.270113
Jorge Posada.38318
Robinson Cano.298410
Bernie Williams.25019

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