Saturday, April 12, 2008

You Must Be This Tall to Ride the Rollercoaster

Hold on real tight, because baseball season has begun. That means that teams and their fans who are high and giddy after winning streaks are bound to be humbled by a few losses. It’s no reason for panic; it’s baseball.

One of the beauteous truths of this game we love is that the ratio of success to failure is lower than that of virtually any other sport; the well worn bromide is that the very best hitters are unsuccessful six or six and a half times out of ten. Batting average being held in the low esteem that it now is, it might be better to point out that even the most successful teams lose 35-40% of their games. That’s just the way it is. Teams like Baltimore will fall back to earth, and teams like Detroit will start to win. And teams like Toronto? They’ll have their streaks, too, but dropping one series in April – even to a “rebuilding” Oakland club and a couple of pitchers we’ve never heard of – is not cause for undue alarm (which isn’t to say minor adjustments shouldn’t be made).

All three of those Oakland games could’ve gone either way – a couple of one-run games and a third late-inning misfire are all that separates the team from a hot streak and an apparently panic-inducing losing streak. The starting pitching, generally speaking, remains rock solid (other than AJ being AJ). Accardo and League looked off, that’s true.

The offense couldn’t squeeze out what they needed when they needed it, but then they went out the next night and rapped out 13 hits and scored 8 runs. Another 4 runs tonight – not a lot, but enough with Halladay on the mound.

So this is how it will go, by and large. A few wins, then a couple of losses. The braintrust will shuttle the bit players back and forth to Syracuse (Coats goes down, Inglet comes up and goes 3 for 4; Randy Wells rides a bus while Carlson comes up and looks good). Gibbons will toy with the lineup (like moving AARON HILL INTO THE 2-HOLE behind Eckstein, where he goes 2 for 4 with 3 RBI). The hope is that they’ve put together a good enough team - a team that stays fairly healthy - to only lose 60 or so times, give or take, and that the Jays will end up on the right side of those 1 or 2 or 3 games that separate the AL wildcard winner from the other teams that come pretty close but fall just short. That’s what it will come down to.

It’s April, and April’s a funny month in baseball. You spend all spring gearing up for the real games, and when they do come sometimes it takes a while for things to fall into place. Right now the Baltimore Orioles are leading the toughest division in baseball. Right now a catcher is the hottest hitter in the NL. April’s like that. It doesn’t mean much; the sample size is too small to really say anything at this point. But I think we all know the Jays have got a hell of a pitching staff, and the potential to field a very powerful offense. So far? The signs are encouraging, I’d say. Wells looks healthy. Hill continues to develop. Rios gets on base. And so on. But how will it shake down? As much as we like to extrapolate and prognosticate, we’ll have to watch the remaining 151 games to find out.

Go Jays.

No comments: