Major League Baseball scheduling teams in the same league to play a two-game series has always been an enigma to me. You see it quite often when an American League club is facing someone from the National League, which is one of the reasons why interleague baseball is so fun to watch because it’s weird and obscure and the leagues have different rules and some teams haven’t faced each other in years but then when they do it’s only for two games, but that’s for another day. Of the five two-games series the Toronto Blue Jays play this season, four of them are interleague matchups. The fifth one, for some odd reason, was this week as the boys in blue took on the Boston Red Sox at Fenway Park and left town after splitting the series. Why couldn’t they have stayed one more night to decide the series? These two teams play each other 17 more times this season, why not tack on another one of those games to this series and save Thursday’s off-day for when the dog days of summer hit and the team could really use it? With that being said, the person tasked with scheduling a team’s 162 games in 180 days and coordinating with the schedules of the other 29 teams has a harder job than most of us, and given all of the Blue Jays’ injuries I’m sure they’re happy with a couple of days off in a four-day span. Let’s break down the two games that were sandwiched between Toronto’s travel days in this edition of Nick’s Notes.
Changing of the Guard at the Leadoff spot?
Marcus Semien was doing a fine job at the top of the Blue Jays’ batting order, until he wasn’t. Since clubbing three home runs in his first six games as a Blue Jay, the shortstop-turned-second baseman has struggled at the plate with a recent four-game hitless streak culminating his reign at the #1 spot in the lineup. Manager Charlie Montoyo decided to make a switch Thursday, penciling in Cavan Biggio to lead off while Semien was moved to the sixth spot. Blue Jays Twitter had been wanting a change atop the batting order, but replacing one guy whose batting average sits below the Mendoza Line with another sub-.200 hitter wasn’t the most ideal solution.
— Jonah Birenbaum (@birenball) April 21, 2021
Thankfully, both Biggio and Semien contributed in their new roles. Cavan didn’t get a hit, dropping his average to .146, but he walked twice, scored a run in the first inning, and drove in another in the second. Meanwhile, Semien recorded his first multi-hit game in nearly two weeks and also crossed the plate in Toronto’s 6-3 victory over the Red Sox. Big-ticket free agent pickup George Springer is the leadoff hitter we’ve all been waiting for, but until he gets activated from the injured list Biggio should be able to hold his own in a spot where he’s looked very comfortable in the big leagues, evidenced by his 41 runs scored and .817 OPS in 54 career games batting first. Hopefully Biggio will serve as the spark the Blue Jays have been looking for from their one-hitter, and if not then we shouldn’t have to suffer for too long as Springer could be ready to go by the time the Jays return to Dunedin on April 27th.
Is More Playing time In Store For Lil Thicc?
The Blue Jays’ offensive production (or lack thereof) from the catcher’s spot has been abysmal to start the season, but how bad has it truly been?
The answer is bad, real bad, as in the worst in all of baseball bad.
Through 18 games, Toronto’s catching tandem has a league-worst .354 OPS, and it’s gotten to the point where we’re left wondering what can be done to fix the black hole that comes to the plate once every time throughout the order. We always talk about how useless pitchers are when they’re forced to bat, but four teams’ pitching staffs currently have a higher OPS than the Blue Jays’ catching, which really tells you how bad it’s been.
Last night, a Blue Jays catcher finally did something with the bat as Alejandro Kirk, pinch-hitting for left handed-hitting Rowdy Tellez, hit an RBI single in the ninth that gave Toronto a much-needed insurance run after the Red Sox had cut the lead to just one.
— Toronto Blue Jays (@BlueJays) April 22, 2021
Obviously this is just one instance where Kirk made a positive impact at the plate, but given how poor starting catcher Danny Jansen has batted we can’t overlook any offense coming from the position. While both backstops have been objectively bad in the early goings, the Blue Jays could benefit from giving more at-bats to Lil Thicc, as Dean likes to call him, to see whether he can build on the .983 OPS and low strikeout rate that won the fanbase over across a small sample size last September. It’s too early to give up on Jansen, whose plus offense is how he ascended through the minor leagues so quickly, but maybe let’s give him some more time in the batting cages while we see what Kirk can do in the starting lineup.
“Oops, My Bad On That One”
Cavan Biggio getting some swings in, meanwhile Lourdes Gurriel Jr getting some water bottle flips in and knocks over someones drink.
— Nick Reid (@_NickReid) April 22, 2021
Last night, the Sportsnet broadcast gave us an absolute gem from the visitors’ dugout feed. Biggio is locked in, taking some imaginary cuts after striking out swinging to end the previous inning, meanwhile, Lourdes Gurriel Jr. was practicing another totally baseball-related skill in the background. I don’t know how long Gurriel Jr., who has the best hair in the Majors and protects it at all costs, had been flipping that water bottle, but his fun appears to get cut short when he knocks over someone’s drink on the second throw we see in the video.
His expression after spilling the drink is that all too familiar “Aw damn, I screwed up” look that we all have from time to time, as all there is left for him to do is pick the cup back up and walk away as if nothing happened. That way if a guy looking to sip on his coffee finds it in disarray on the floor, Lourdes can act like he was on the other end of the dugout. However, the live feed caught him committing the crime, and I’m glad that Sportsnet gave us this unfiltered look at Gurriel Jr.’s dugout shenanigans. Every kid who’s had to sit in a dugout for too long has done something similar to make the end of a game go by faster.