Monday, June 27, 2011

Holdin' it Down

Before the season started, I set the over/under on Jo-Jo Reyes' time with the Blue Jays in 2011 at one month. And by the end of April, my prediction wasn't looking so bad: winless, with an ERA close to 6 and a WHIP close to 2, his spot on the roster seemed tenuous at best. But partly due to a (debatable) lack of better options and partly out of stubbornness, the Jays stuck it out, and to outward appearances he's rewarded them. He's broken out of a "the streak," and managed to get his season ERA down to a pedestrian 4.34. But don't be fooled: Jo-Jo Reyes is not a good pitcher. There's no harm in leaving him in the rotation to absorb innings while the Jays audition and summarily rotate the likes of Zach Stewart, Kyle Drabek and Brett Cecil, but the fact that he has stayed in the rotation while those guys have yoyoed has a little to do with performance, a lot to do with options, and more to do with upside. Reyes is a little like a younger Brett Tomko...a guy who managed to get 30 starts for four years in a row not because of any illusions that he was any good (a single above-average season over the course of a decade would indicate that), but just because he was, well, there. Tomko was one of those creatures that upbeat play-by-play guys (I'm looking at you, Pat Tabler) call "innings-eaters."

Jo-Jo Reyes has thrown 85 innings in 15 starts, so he can't even say he's really that. In those 85 innings, he's allowed 130 baserunners, which is not good. He's struck out 54, which is right in line with his career number but is hardly earth-shattering. His FIP and xFIP are eerily close to his actual ERA - overall, he's doing exactly what we should have expected of him, and that's not much at all.

Which isn't to say, exactly, that I think the Jays - in the position that they are - should release him. The rotation currently hinges on one ace, a converted reliever and two unpredictable "stuff"y young pitchers. Brad Mills has put up numbers in Vegas which suggest a look is in order, but options do matter and supposing Mills were to get clobbered as he was in two awful starts in 2009, you'd like to have insurance behind him that wasn't named Scott Richmond. Brett Cecil will get another shot in time, but his minor league numbers don't inspire confidence that that shot will necessarily go well. There's pitching depth on this team, but it's all over the place developmentally. And another injury will happen (although an optimist could hold out hope that it may hold off until Dustin McGowan has finished his miracle recovery). Anyway, the point is the urge to retain arms is not a ill-founded one.
But I think we can acknowledge that, even at age 26, Jo-Jo Reyes is not a part of this team's future.

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