Even the most optimistic part of my brain couldn't have expected this. The Minnesota Twins were always going to be a good measuring stick to start the year. They were the 2010 AL Central champs, and have 2 of the better, and more consistent hitters in baseball (Mauer, Morneau)
The first 2 games have not even been close. Our beloved Jays have had their way with the usually scrappy Twins.
It all started in the bottom of the 1st on Friday night. Rajai Davis showed that he has bought into the "Hustle and Heart" mantra by running out an infield single. Nobody on last years' team is even close on that play, and he was safe by a step. Davis took it to the next level even before another pitch was thrown. Carl Pavano picked him off cleanly, but rather than a half-hearted slide, or simple jog down to second, Davis battled through a run-down (and tweaked an ankle) to get back into first. Before another Jay had a chance to swing a bat, Davis had fully planted himself between the ears of Pavano. Pavano quickly ate himself immediately afterwards, leaving a pitch over the plate to Escobar, walking Bautista on 5 pitches, and hitting Lind. By the time Pavano composed himself, it was already 4-0 Jays.
Moneyball followers will tell you that stealing bases goes against all the statistics. There is an excellent body of research that demonstrates this from a statistical point of view. But I highlight Davis' escapades in the first last night to show that statistics can't tell you what is going on inside the heads of players. There is a mental component to the game that never shows up in the box score. If Davis were picked off, or caught stealing, it would have been easy to point to the needless risk, and the lower probability of scoring a run. Instead, Davis sparked a huge rally, and basically sewed up a win in the first inning.
Moving to the rest of the game, it was a party for the next 7.5 innings. Bautista and Lind went back-to-back in the 5th. JP Arencibia continued to make good first impressions. Somebody needs to convince him that every game is his first of something! Everyone played well. It was a great way to generate some goodwill in the city, and hopefully draw some bigger crowds for the rest of the year.
And today's game was also exciting. John Farrell made a controversial decision to sit Snider, and overall didn't regret it. He also quickly re-inserted Travis after Liriano was pulled. This was also a very shrewd move. Farrell kept Snider in the dugout until the previous at-bat ended. This kept the Twins from warming up a Lefty to face Snider. Snider mashed the first pitch he faced into right field, and picked up 2 RBI for his efforts. not bad for his first swing since batting practice!
It would be easy to get caught up in this inertia, but it is worth remembering that it is a VERY long season. There are still 160 games left to play, but a good start is a good start. The Jays are playing the game on so many levels, and it bodes well for future success. I was really worried about my 89 win projection, but less so after seeing the new Jays style. They still have the long-ball threats, but the whole team has bought into a completely new mental game. It's really fun to watch.
Some other notes: Be sure to check out some new Jays blogs that I have found: Angry Birds Baseball (all links on the right side bar) is written by Ethan Rotberg, who designed my new logo. He's actually a writer, and I've read his first 2 posts, They're good. Jaysprospects.com is a great way to follow some of the progress in the Jays' farm system. High Sock Mojo is well written, woman's perspective on the game (so is Hum and Chuck, but everyone reading this should have read Joanna's material by this point.)
If you are on Twitter, check me out @5thstarter. I am really enjoying the dialogue, especially during games. It's like watching the game, and sitting beside 20-30 of the most passionate fans of the team anywhere. Everyone that I follow is a huge fan, and really knowledgeable. I'd invite you to give it a try, and if you hate it, you can always delete your accout like Jose Bautista did. (Heyo!)
So, everyone strap in. It's going to be an amazing ride!