* The major league baseball season is a week old, and it's time to make some comparisons between the 2014 Blue Jays and their 2013 counterparts. One major difference? A healthier Melky Cabrera. .... 2014 Canadians in College Letters of Intent 2014 Canadian draft list 2015 Canadian draft list
By Bob Elliott
A week into the 2014 season, it’s time for The Week in Review.
How does this year’s first week compare to the inaugural week of the all-in 2013 season?
Surely, you remember?
The Jays are 3-4 heading into their three-game series against the Houston Astros Tuesday night at the Rogers Centre. They opened with two series against the Tampa Bay Rays and the New York Yankees.
Three wins is better than the 1-6 start some feared and better than the 2-5 home start last year in three-game sets against the Cleveland Indians and the Boston Red Sox, plus the first game at Comerica Park in Detroit.
Health: A year ago, seven games in, the Blue Jays were without third baseman Brett Lawrie, and Melky Cabrera was playing ... hobbling ... around left field.
The Jays are without shortstop Jose Reyes (hamstring), without their closer Casey Janssen (shoulder) and lefty J.A. Happ (back)
Cabrera may have already won the comeback player of the year award. Well, for April maybe. He homered in each of the three games against the Yankees, and his liner to right with two men aboard in the ninth put a scare into the New York dugout.
Lawrie has shown excellent defence at third but is only hitting .120. Now, the optimist might say that’s .120 points more than a year ago.
Verdict: A year ago today, Reyes was hitting .444 with a small-sample size OPS of 1.146. Reyes was gone after one at-bat this year, but he was taking ground balls on Friday and hopes to only be on the disabled list eight more days. After Week One, last year was healthier.
Starting pitching: The Jays' five starters of Mark Buehrle, who goes Tuesday, Brandon Morrow, Dustin McGowan, R.A. Dickey and Drew Hutchison have combined to work 36 2/3 innings -- 14th best amongst the 30 teams -- with a 4.91 ERA (24th). They have allowed two homers.
A year ago, after seven games they had pitched 37 innings with a 5.06 ERA, 24th in the majors, 12th highest in the AL and had served up 12 gopher balls.
Not much change in the innings logged, but this group has been better.
Hutchison pitched 5 1/3 scoreless against the Rays, pre-season picks by many to win the AL East. And the next night in St. Petersburg, Buehrle worked 8 2/3 scoreless ... and should have had a complete game shutout had Lawrie grabbed Ben Zobrist's two-out liner.
So, two scoreless outings by starters in the first three starts. It took the Jays 16 games to match that number last year. Happ pitched 5 1/3 scoreless in a 5-0 win over the Red Sox in Game 5 of the season, and Dickey put up six zeros in a 3-1 win over the Chicago White Sox.
Verdict: Starting pitching in 2014 has been better, but it’s early.
At the plate, the Jays are hitting .216 as a team, 25th best in the majors, better than the Cincinnati Reds, Houston Astros, San Diego Padres, St. Louis Cardinals and the New York Mets. They have nine homers, 19 walks, 52 strikeouts, and sit 14th in the AL in on-base percentage.
A year ago, the Jays were hitting .224 as a team, 14th in the AL, with 12 homers, 20 walks, and 63 strikeouts, and were 13th-best in the AL at getting on base.
Besides Cabrera, hitting .323 with a .935 OPS, the best the Jays have are infielder Maicer Izturis, who has two hits in each of his four starts for a .500 (8-for-16) average and a 1.092 OPS, plus Adam Lind, .308 the first week with two doubles and a homer for a 1.192 OPS. Lind drew a walk in the bottom of the ninth against the new Yankees closer. Sort of David Robertson facing Phil Robertson of Duck Dynasty (Lind), as former Montreal Expos scribe Donald Campbell suggested.
Jose Bautista is hitting .227 but had three homers and a 1.050 OPS.
And amongst the strugglers are Edwin Encarnacion, .179 (5-for-28) with 10 strikeouts, Lawrie .120 (3-for-25), four strikeouts, Colby Rasmus, .087 (2-for-23) with 10 whiffs, and second baseman Ryan Goins, .063 (1-for-16) with five strikeouts.
A year ago, Rasmus was batting .190 (4-for-21), and Encarnacion .074 (2-for-27) with nine strikeouts. Last year, J.P. Arencibia and Rasmus led with three homers each. Arencibia was hitting .296 with 12 strikeouts, while Rasmus had 10.
Verdict: a tad behind last year.
One week down ... only 26 remaining.