Watching the Jays lose last night, I came to a realization. It’s probably not what you’d expect from someone watching a game like that. I didn’t realize that OHMYGODTHEBULLPENSUCKSWHAAAA or anything else alarmist that seems, based on my #Jays and #BlueJays searches on Twitter*, to be the common theme today.
(*And if you’re the sort who uses hashtags, I suggest you stick to #BlueJays, lest you get lost in all the chatter about Air Jordans.)
Bullpens are going to lose games, teams are going to blow big leads. It sucks, but it’s a 162-game season. These things happen and I can basically guarantee the Jays will be on the opposite end of games like this before the season comes to an end.
When Toronto bought Jayson Nix just before the season began, I wasn’t really moved in either direction. “It’s a depth move,” I thought. “Nix is just a warm body to provide some protection in case of injury/whatever.”
I don’t think I was wrong to think those things, but…
Nix has played pretty well so far this season. Small samples sizes to be sure, but his OPS is at 1.058 right now. According to Fangraphs, he’s amassed 0.4 WAR through just 8 games. Doesn’t seem like much, but extrapolate it over a whole season and he’s putting up goddamn superstar WAR numbers at that rate.
Now, obviously, Nix is incredibly unlikely to keep playing at this level throughout a whole season. And that’s why I’ve been skeptical of the amount of playing time he’s received so far.
But then it happened.
Leading off the bottom of the third inning, Ichiro (!) hit a weak grounder to third. Ichiro (!) specializes in turning hits like these into, well, hits.
Nix those, fielded the ball cleanly, turned and fired a bullet to first, beating Ichiro (!) to the bag.
It was a nice defensive play and the chances Edwin (E5) Encarnacion makes that throw cleanly are slim to none. Nix made it look easy.
And that’s when I realized that I’m more than happy to see Nix man third every day until he proves he can’t.
With Nix fielding and hitting well, E5 not fielding well and Juan Rivera playing like a turd, it seems pretty clear to me what needs to happen: Nix plays third, E5 DH’s and Rivera rides the pine.
I understand the argument that Rivera needs to play so he can raise his value and become possible trade bait. But just because I understand it, doesn’t mean I like it. I’d much rather see the Jays use a better lineup than handicap their chances at a win in the hopes that maybe someday somebody will take their unwanted player.