Wilner on Jays: A precipitous drop off

October 3, 2012, 2:52 PM

The Blue Jays beat the Twins in their penultimate game of the season, holding on for dear life after taking a four run lead through five to sneak away with a one-run victory.

Rookie Chad Jenkins picked up the win, his first in the major leagues, throwing five innings of three-hit shutout (on three days rest) before allowing a single and a home run in the sixth and handing it over to the bullpen.

Jenkins, along with Drew Hutchison and Deck McGuire, was expected to be a piece of the Blue Jays’ puzzle this season, but he and McGuire had awfully poor showings in double-A New Hampshire, and the plan to have them both up and helping came off the rails. Jenkins at least put a few strong starts together late and that, combined with the Blue Jays’ desperation for arms that could throw multiple innings, earned him a call-up and he has really turned things around. He looked strong in picking up the win Tuesday night, and 11 of his 13 appearances have been very good ones.

The opposite of very good, though, has been the year Kelly Johnson has had for the Blue Jays this season, and he put the exclamation point on it by striking out looking on a fastball over the inner black in the second inning. It was the 159th time Johnson had to walk back from the dugout directly from the batters’ box this season, tying Jose Canseco’s club record for strikeouts in a single season, set back in 1998.

Canseco did hit 46 home runs that season though – 30 more than Johnson, who did come back nicely from tying the record by hitting his 16th of the season in his next at-bat. He grounded into a double play his last time up, and with Omar Vizquel getting a start in the season finale and a left-hander on the mound for the Twins (Scott Diamond – Guelph represent!), Johnson won’t likely get the opportunity to take sole possession of the strikeout mark Wednesday night.

It’s been a precipitous drop-off for Johnson, who was one of two Blue Jays who carried the team early on – along with Edwin Encarnacion – until the rest of the offense hit its stride. Through the first five weeks of the season, Johnson hit .269/.383/.472 for an excellent .855 OPS, with seven home runs – a number that wound up being almost half his season total.

Though a leg injury slowed Johnson mid-season, and perhaps playing through it was a mistake, play through it he did, and he’ll wind up behind only Encarnacion, Colby Rasmus and Yunel Escobar in games played for the Blue Jays this season. But from May 9 on, the day after Johnson belted that seventh homer, he has hit just .213/.293/.336, with 126 strikeouts in 399 at-bats.

Picking up Johnson last season for Aaron Hill and John McDonald was a good gamble to take, as over the course of his career he’d easily been the most productive hitter of the threesome, and the Blue Jays thought they could get a couple of first-round picks in compensation for his leaving in the off-season as opposed to Hill, who would have walked away for nothing, but it certainly didn’t work out – in any facet -and second base is a position that needs addressing in the off-season.

NOTES:

Thank you all so much for continuing to do such a great job of voting for Tom Cheek in the first round of fan balloting for the Ford C. Frick Award for Broadcasting Excellence.

The second round, which cuts the remaining group of 41 down to just three, has less than a week remaining, so it’s even more imperative now to keep voting – once a day, every day, until voting closes at 5:00 PM Eastern on October 5th – to make sure those who elect the Frick winner are well aware of just how much Tom deserves to be honoured in Cooperstown among other broadcasting legends, how much he continues to mean to Blue Jays fans all across the world, and how important his contributions were to baseball fandom across this country.

So please, be even more diligent than you have been so far and make sure to go to www.facebook.com/baseballhall, then click on ’13 Frick Voting and cast your vote for Tom. He’s on the first page now, so it’s even easier! You can vote once every 24 hours, so please do so as often as you can. For more reminders, follow @VoteTomCheek on Twitter and like the “Send Tom Cheek To Cooperstown” page on Facebook.

Thank you, you’re doing a wonderful thing for a wonderful man.

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