Looking For (And Finding) The Good News

There really are things to be happy about right now…for example, Kevin Pillar and Justin Smoak

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Blue Jays 4, Angels 5

It’s becoming almost as frustrating as it is familiar: the Jays losing by a run after a late inning rally. Amongst the positives that I perpetually seek amongst the tea leaves:

  • Casey Lawrence looked very OK, that grand slam not-withstanding. Statscast apparently supports the eye test on that one—it had no business getting out of the park. Chalk that one up to bad luck and a tailwind. Still hurts, though.
  • José Bautista hit that ball hard in the eighth which is so very nice to see the day after his late inning heroics. Again, some bad luck from the unlikely glove of Kole Calhoun made the difference there. Still hurts, though.
  • They scored four runs again which is, as I have pointed out before, the magic number for success this season. Maybe not last night, though. Which is why it still hurts.

Oh well.

On the up side, of course, the game gives me an excuse to highlight a couple of players I’ve wanted to write about a bit more fully for a few days: Kevin “Superman” Pillar and Justin “Not So Terrible” Smoak, who together combined (again) to provide the bulk of the Blue Jays offence.

Superman, for real?

There was a lot of buzz in the Blue Jays/Rogers friendly-press during spring training about Pillar’s “new approach” at the plate and for those weeks in March it sure looked like he was keeping away from the crap off the plate and swinging harder at good pitches. I remained unconvinced, though, since it is very rare for a crappy hitter to suddenly become good. I even (and to my eternal shame) scoffed at the venerable Tao of Steib for suggesting that Pillar would “flirt with .300 for most of the season”.

Tao…mea culpe, mea maxima culpe.

I have to admit, I’m becoming a true believer, and it wasn’t just the home run last night (although that certainly didn’t hurt). He has looked different at the plate this season and it shows no sign of going away. He’s more patient with borderline pitches, more aggressive with the good ones and only rarley makes one of his patented dives across the plate trying to smack at garbage low and away. I’m not quite yet at Gideon Turk level of adulation for Pillar, but, well, I can admit that there may be grounds for at least some of his boundless faith.

But one word on Pillar before I move on, and it may prove to be the word too far, but I’m sorry, as great a centre fielder as he may be, the greatest centre fielder in the American League is Kevin Kiermaier. I’m ready for you, so bring it if you wish…

He’s actually OK, like I’ve been telling you

Waaaaaay back in February I had the following exchange on Twitter with Jonah Jeri

Now, putting aside for the moment that I apparently forgot how to do a slash line and accidentally put in a projected OPS where SLG should go (perhaps occasioning Mr Keri’s brief reply: “LOL”), I’m feeling pretty smug about that tweet, because beside my projected (and corrected) slash of .270/.320/.430, Smoak’s current .269/.309/.558 looks positively conservative.

Now, I can practically hear Keri’s voice in my mind reminding me that it is very early for individual stats and that we really do have to wait until at least the All Star break before any conclusions can be drawn and that for some stats you can’t really be sure of a statistically useful number of at bats until virtually the end of the season. And he’s right, of course he’s right, I know that.

But, oh what the heck, nyah nyah nyahnyah nyaaaaah! Justin Smoak isn’t terrible, he isn’t! He and Pillar are doing really well, and it’s for real!

So there.

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