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Do the Jays Pitchers Stand a Chance at the Plate?

Interleague play has not started well for the Jays after dropping two of three to the Chicago Cubs. While the team played seemingly uninspired ball and failed to get the bats in gear yet again, the Cubs are the best team in baseball, so there is a ready-made excuse, indeed. This drops the Jays to 3-3 in interleague play for 2008, leaving them with just 12 games to solidify the myth that they’d be great in the NL.

Tonight, though, the experiment with interleague play takes on a twist – the Jays are on the road, so Blue Jay pitching will be forced to bat. For a team that normally has its starters go deep into games, this means we could be seeing the members of the rotation up three times a night for the next six nights (three at Milwaukee and three at Pittsburgh).

So, do the Jays pitchers stand a chance at the plate?

Luckily for us, an analysis like this doesn’t have to be too deep; most AL pitchers are poor hitters, enough so that the quality of opposing pitching is hardly statistically significant. We can look, then, at the career records of the Jays expected starters.

Dustin McGowan is scheduled to throw twice on this six game trip (tonight and Sunday) and can therefore reasonably expect five plate appearances. McGowan went 2-for-7 last year, his only career plate appearances, hitting two singles, scoring a run, and grounding into a double play. He never recorded a minor league plate appearance, so he is as rusty as anyone, really.

Shaun Marcum is scheduled to pitch Wednesday and may be in trouble at the plate. He went 0-for-4 with a walk and two strikeouts in his only five plate appearances last season and he, too, never went to the plate in the minors.

A.J. Burnett went 0-for-2 with a strikeout and a sacrifice bunt against the Phillies earlier this year. Burnett, however, may be the Jays best bet for hits as he is the only rotation pitcher to have played in the National League. Though Burnett went 0-for-5 in 2006 and 2007 combined, he has a fair amount of experience and a little in the way of success. Burnett is 36-for-260 lifetime, good for a .131 average, with 13 walks and 134 strikeouts. He has recorded six doubles, three triples, and is the only Jay starter to have recorded a home run (and he has three). Burnett can also handle bunting, with 34 career sacrifices. Sure, these numbers aren’t great, even for a pitcher, but in the Jays rotation they are a point of hope, for sure.

Roy Halladay is set to throw on Friday night and will look to improve on the only area of his game that isn’t Hall of Fame caliber, his hitting. 0-for-1 this year, Doc is 3-for-34 lifetime with only two sacrifices and 14 strikeouts. There is added misfortune in these numbers since you would expect Halladay to go deep into any game, creating more plate appearances for him.

Finally, Jesse Litsch, who claims he is still fresh enough from his college days to swing a bat, pitches Saturday and will look for his first major league hit. 0-for-1 this year and 0-for-1 last year, Litsch has a perfect -100 career OPS+ in two plate appearances. Small sample sizes be damned!

So things look bleak for the Jays. If you use career averages and assume no sacrifices or walks, inputting 2.5 plate appearances per game, the Jays can expect a big hole at the bottom of the lineup: 1-for-15 with little or no ‘extras.’

Such is life for an American League team heading to the NL. Nobody expects AL pitchers to light it up at the plate, but the Jays numbers do seem overly impotent (what a thought, for the Jays lineup, right?). For comparison’s sake, the Jays will face Milwaukee and Pittsburgh, facing pitchers with career batting averages of: .200 (Manny Parra), .078 (Ben Sheets), .147 (Dave Bush), .181 (Zach Duke), .155 (Paul Maholm), and .082 (Ian Snell). While not spectacular, they are numbers far better than Toronto’s .285, .000, .131, .088, and .000.

For added effect, compare those numbers to what the Jays normally receive out of the DH spot (I’m scared to even look, but I trudge on): .214/.322/.365 with 10 HR, 37 RBI, and 4 stolen bases. By the way, that means the team’s DH spot has given the lineup worse production than any other position except left field, which is wildly unacceptable. It also means, if you’re an optimist, that the Jays are hurt less by the loss of the DH than probably any other team in the AL.

And for one final point to fret: Jays pitching has only hit one home run ever, a shot by Mark Hendrickson against the Montreal Expos in 2003.

And because I’m rambling anyways, two more points to consider:
• BJ Ryan (0-for-2), Jesse Carlson (0-for-0), Scott Downs (3-for-44), Brian Tallet (0-for-2), Jason Frasor (0-for-0), Shawn Camp (0-for-1), and Brian Wolfe (0-for-0) combine to make the Jays’ relief corps, and combine for a .061 batting average. You know, in case a game goes 12-plus innings and one of them has to hit.
• I realize Roy Oswalt is not a Jay but come on, doesn’t that picture above sum up the article perfectly?

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One Response to “Do the Jays Pitchers Stand a Chance at the Plate?”

  1. Pope Says:

    PLEASE tell me you saw Colon trying to hit last night for the RedSox?

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