Series Preview Q&A With Jays Journal: Dickey, Rasmus, Butler


April 14, 2013; Kansas City, MO, USA; Toronto Blue Jays shortstop Munenori Kawasaki (left) looks down the third base line with Kansas City Royals catcher Salvador Perez (right) behind home plate during the third inning at Kauffman Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Peter G. Aiken-USA TODAY Sports

The Toronto Blue Jays were the talk of baseball after a mega-trade in November 2012 with Miami, then they added 2012 NL Cy Young Award winner R.A. Dickey and they looked like a favorite in the AL East.

Those projections didn’t quite turn out, as the Jays see themselves at the bottom of the division. The offense has been good, but the starting pitching has been pretty awful to average at best. The Royals catch them on a 3-7 skid over their last ten games, while KC has won five in a row and are – again – within shouting range of the wild card. A three game sweep would be huge for the Royals.

In April, the Royals nearly got swept by the Jays, needing a Sunday walkoff win to salvage a 1-2 series split.

The Royals will send their top three starters out this weekend and face Dickey, Mark Buehrle, and J.A. Happ. Jeff Morten has a series preview from the Blue Jays side of things on Jays Journal here, but I wanted even more insight into the state of the Jays, and asked some questions of Kyle Franzoni, editor of Jays Journal and an authority on Toronto baseball:

It seemed like R.A. Dickey, Mark Buehrle, and Josh Johnson could be a decent trio of starters. Obviously, Johnson’s been hurt, but what about the other two?

Dickey’s struggles have been two-fold; consistency and the home run ball. For three starts, he’ll look like the Cy Young winner the Blue Jays thought they were bringing in, but then the next three will look horrible and he’ll get knocked around. Perhaps its the curse of the knuckleball, or perhaps it was buying too high on a guy having a career year at the age of 37.

As for Buehrle, he started out rough, but he’s rounded out into the type of pitcher you expect him to be. Nothing overpowering, nothing truly dominant, but a solid, middle of the rotation guy. Since July 12th, he’s been fantastic, posting a 5-1 record, a 2.41 ERA, and a 2.93 K/BB ratio. Now, he’ll be overpayed next year for this type of production, but he’s been a solid arm the second half of the season.

That being said, the lineup looks good on paper. Everyone knows Jose Bautista, and Encarnacion has been great again, but who’s been the unsung hero?

I think it would be unfair to not give credit to Colby Rasmus for the transition he’s made this year. Yes, he’s hurt now, but he’s still ranked 5th among Major League center fielders in WAR and 4th in ISO according to Fangraphs. He’s taken a big step forward and quieted some of the naysayers from last winter.

This matchup features two excellent bullpens. If the Blue Jays get a lead after six, who’s shutting the door the rest of the way?

Casey Janssen and Brett Cecil have been perhaps the two most consistent pitchers on the Blue Jays staff this season, and as such, are the go-to guys at the back end of the pen. Missing Steve Delabar hurts a bit, as he’s your swing and miss guy in tough situations in the 7th and 8th inning, but Sergio Santos has done good job in his time back with the team and hasn’t been scored upon in his last 6 outings.

The Royals have had an inconsistent offense this season, but still have a few guys who can do some damage. Who do you want to pitch around?

The rebound of Eric Hosmer has been phenomenal and makes him a tough guy to pitch to, but the one hitter I would always avoid throwing to in that line-up is Billy Butler. He may be having a bit of a down year in terms of power, but he’s tearing the cover off the ball in August with a .358 mark, 5 home runs, and 16 RBI this month.

What’s your prediction for the series?

I’d like to say the Blue Jays can take two games in this set, but with the amount of injuries and the presence of so many Triple-A players in the everyday line-up right now, it would be tough for me to do so. The match-ups with Santana and Shields to book-end the series scare me, so if Toronto has any chance for a win this series, it’s going to take them jumping on Guthrie on Saturday.