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Six Questions with Bluebird Banter

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Managing editor Tom Dakers answers my questions about Smoak, Stroman, and Scrabble

Kansas City Royals v Toronto Blue Jays Photo By Dave Sandford/Getty Images

Today Tom from Bluebird Banter asked me a few questions about the Mariners, and was nice enough to indulge me by answering a few of my own. We commiserated about being the third-best teams in stacked divisions, players who aren’t doing their ONE JOB well, and more:

1.Same question--the Jays are in maybe the toughest division in baseball. What are YOUR hopes for the season? What path do you see for the Jays making the postseason?

Right now I’m just hoping for ‘better than last year’. Last year was terrible. They got off to a horrible start (1-9), played better in May, got to a game under .500 a half dozen times, but never made it to .500. They were a boring team to watch. Slow, and bad. So I’m hoping for some exciting baseball, and I’ve been getting it. They are a more fun team to watch and that makes me happy.

Playoffs are a long shot. Best hope is the second wild card spot. We are in tough with the Red Sox and Yankees in the division and, with the unbalanced schedule, we are at a bit of a disadvantage in the battle for the second wildcard spot since we get to play the twin Evil Empires so much.

I’m hoping for competitive.

2. Same old-friend question: how is our pal Justin Smoak doing? Is he on track for another All-Star season?

Justin hasn’t been a quite the level of last year, but it is early. He’s had a little hot steak and a little cold streak and he’s missed a few games on Paternity Leave. I’m thinking he won’t be hitting 38 home runs again this year, but I’m hopeful that he’ll be closer to the player he was last year than the player that we all wanted to run out of town before last year.

3. Houston is not a team known for making mistakes in talent evaluation. That said, what the heck happened with the Teoscar Hernández trade? Is he this good?

I’ve been slow to come around that he might actually be this good. In the past he’s struck out so much (37.9% of the time last year) that, even with all the power in the world I didn’t think he could be a star. But he is striking out a lot less this year (23.5%). He looks so much better at the plate. He’s not chasing near as much as last year. He’s willing to let some pitches go by without closing his eyes and taking a hack at them. He’s even taken some walks on some close pitches.

Now, on defense, he has his bad moments, sometimes he’s seems a little slow out there or that his head isn’t in the game when he’s out there. He has all the tools to be a good outfield, decent arm, good speed, just sometimes he doesn’t show any urgency to make a play.

4. Marcus Stroman’s early numbers do not look good. Is he pitching through an injury? To what do you account his early-season struggles?

Marcus had shoulder inflammation early in spring and he missed the first half of spring training but then ramped up quickly to make the opening day roster. Maybe too quickly. Maybe they should have let him start the season in the minors, and build up to ‘full speed’ slower.

Most games he’ll have some good innings and then have that one meltdown inning. In all but one of his starts, he’s had a four-run inning (or worse). I think maybe he’s having a hard time repeating his delivery perfectly each time.

He’s having much more trouble pitching with runners on base (.344/.414/.590) than with the bases empty (.229/.308/.300), so maybe he’s just having troubles pitching from the stretch, but I tend to think it is a lapse in concentration for little stretches of time.

5. Speaking of potential injuries, I watched a Jays game earlier this year and watched Josh Donaldson make some extremely uncomfortable-looking throws from third. His numbers aren’t shockingly bad but I notice his hard contact is down and his soft contact is way up. Is he 100%?

Josh did look terrible for the first few games of the season. I think anyone else would have started the season on the DL, but Josh is stubborn. Convincing him that he should have to sit isn’t easy, but he couldn’t throw and he was having trouble swinging the bat.

I think he’s back to 100%, or at least near that now, but I think he needs to get his timing down again. He was on the DL with a ‘dead arm’ (thankfully they caught it before it spread to the rest of his body) and missed about 3 weeks of playing time. They activated him after just 2 rehab games and talking heads on the Jays broadcasts all were saying he needed more time, but he hit 2 home runs his first day back.

5. Is it hard for Canadians to root against the arguably greatest Canadian of them all, James Paxton?

Hmmmmm. If he was the greatest Canadian of us all, he would have signed with the Jays back when we drafted him in the first round of the 2009 draft. So, no I won’t have any trouble cheering against him.

6. Would you like one gently-used Marc Rzepczynski back?

I loved Scrabble (I called him that because I never did learn how to spell his name), back in the day. But no, we have enough pitchers who can’t get anyone out. We will let you know if space opens. Of course, if you wanted to swap for a slow (make that painfully slow) DH type, who even if you set the ball up on a tee, would still ground the ball softly to second, maybe we could come to an arrangement.

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Thanks Tom! Here’s hoping the Mariners can hang in there against the Jays, but after that it’s back to tough division solidarity...at least until they come to town in August.