Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Ten in a row!

Ten in a row...roll that around in your mouth a bit. I'm not sure I've felt this much confidence in the Jays since 1993. Right now they remind me of some of my better fantasy teams. You know those mornings when your team had hit four homers the night before and looking at their matchups that day, you just KNEW certain guys (usually Vladdy) were going to jack one again? And you KNEW Jose Contreras was going to toss 8 shutout innings for the win?

That's the way I feel about the Jays now. Maybe it's because Rios and Wells are finally pulling their weight on the fantasy team. But it feels nice, especially when you get two wins in a day like we did today. I was worried after yesterday's rainout that they might lose their momentum, but Burnett really came through to keep it rolling. How can this get any better?

Maybe because Doc is pitching tomorrow?

Anyway, it's good.

Another thing that's been feeling more and more right is having Cito on board. Not because of his tactics- in fact, I've found myself constantly second-guessing his decisions (why won't he pinch hit for macdonald more, let alone take him out of the 2-spot?). The reason I like Cito is because he's a winner.

Now it's rarely my habit to give a guy credit for something like that, or to mention 'chemistry'. Maybe Cito's just been lucky with the timing, but the turnaround we've seen from Rios and Overbay since he took charge has been incredible. Since the switch, Rios has hit .324 with 10 homers and 44 rbi (287 AB). My memory of Cito was always as a 'steadying-hand' type. With the WS teams (especially the '93 team), Cito was charged with making sure a rather stacked team stayed on track. Several of the team's stars (Morris, Stewart, Molitor, Rickey) were new to the team and Cito was there to keep the talent ticking.

That's where he seems to be now. Many of the Jays have been painful underachievers (Rios especially, but think of David Purcey, Brandon League, AJ Burnett ,Vernon Wells) who have had trouble maintaining established levels of success. It seems as if everyone is playing up to his ability right now.

Is it chemistry? Maybe. Because everyone is delivering at once, the motivation is there. Pitchers know that the batters, defense and bullpen will come through (either to pick them up or preserve leads), so all the starters have been comfortable and confident on the mound. Batters know that the man behind them will drive them in, so they're focused at the plate.

A lot has also been made of Cito's insistence that hitters attack good pitches early in the count, which seems to be happening. The Jays a year ago were playing like a bunch of TTO hitters, waiting for a walk. The fact is, though, is the batters on this team look more like Angels than A's. They're contact hitters, and do the most damage if they swing the bat. We've seen it for almost all of them - Rios, Wells, Overbay, Lind... just because some teams and players have success waiting out the count and playing for a walk, not every player is going to succeed with it. Rios and Overbay are doubles, not homerun hitters- they're going to get pitches in the zone so waiting to swing is a waste of time. If they swing, they'll get their knocks. I wouldn't be surprised a bit if Rios could hit .320 over a full year batting the way he is now.

Anyway, that's it for today. I can't wait for tomorrow. See you at 8 eastern.

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