The Blue Jays Need Maicer Izturis To Be Useful

The Blue Jays have new players up and down their lineup — Russell Martin, Justin Smoak, Josh Donaldson, Michael Saunders, Devon Travis, etc. Dalton Pompey basically qualifies here as well. But one incumbent player may end up being just as, if not more, important than all of the new acquisitions — middle infielder Maicer Izturis.

Signed early in free agency after the 2012 season, Izturis hasn’t really done what the Blue Jays had hoped he would in a Toronto uniform. He was, by WAR, the worst position player in the game in 2013, and then he missed all but 11 games in 2014. Ankle and knee injuries were culprits, though the ankle injury in 2013 may not explain the near-career low walk rate and career-low pitches per plate appearance. Either way, Izturis hasn’t gotten good results for awhile.

That is going to need to change this season. Last season, the Blue Jays second basemen were 98 Brett Lawrie plate appearances away from being one of the very worst in the American League. With Lawrie off to greener/golder pastures this season, he’s not going to be saving Toronto’s keystone this year. The job is an open competition, but they need Izturis to be the player he was in Anaheim — that .320 to .350 on-base percentage guy. Steve Tolleson had some good batting average on balls in play action last season, and even that didn’t get him up to average offensively. And Ryan Goins would have killed to be Steve Tolleson. It’s hard for a middle infielder to be plus defensively and still be a sub-replacement player, but Goins and his 26 wRC+ pulled it off. There’s also Ramon Santiago, but he also sports a sub-.300 career wOBA.

Then there’s Devon Travis. Travis could very well be on the verge of a breakout season, but he’s got to get the chance to play first. While he could break camp with the big club, the expectation is that he’ll instead get his first taste of Triple-A ball. That will leave Izturis in the pole position at second for the early part of the season, perhaps as much as the entire first half. If he, or Goins/Santiago/Tolleson, is rocking a sub-.300 wOBA for nearly half the season, it’s going to put a damper on the Jays’ newly assembled offense.

It’s not just second base where Izturis may be pivotal. In a radio interview the other day (listen around four-minute mark), head alliterative power Alex Anthopolous said that the team would ideally keep Jose Reyes on the bench on day games after night games on turf. I was curious to see how many games this was. There are 16-19 of them, depending on your point of view. Here are 17 sets of games, with the first game being a 7 p.m. start and the second being a 1 p.m., or earlier, start:

Blue Jays, 2015 Days After Nights on Turf
Night Game Day Game Opponent
17-Apr 18-Apr ATL
25-Apr 26-Apr tb
8-May 9-May BOS
22-May 23-May SEA
5-Jun 6-Jun HOU
9-Jun 10-Jun MIA
19-Jun 20-Jun BAL
23-Jun 24-Jun tb
26-Jun 27-Jun TEX
30-Jun 1-Jul BOS
17-Jul 18-Jul TB
31-Jul 1-Aug KC
12-Aug 13-Aug OAK
14-Aug 15-Aug NYY
28-Aug 29-Aug DET
4-Sep 5-Sep BAL
25-Sep 26-Sep TB

I said 16 and not 17 above, because the July 17-18 set is in the first series after the All-Star break, so Reyes may not need the blow at that time. There are two more sets of dates not listed above as well. On Sept. 18, the team plays at 7 pm against the Red Sox, and the next day they play them again at 4 pm. Now, that is technically a day game, but it is sort of in that gray area, and that series figures to be important. Then, the penultimate game of the season is a 6 pm start, and is followed by a 3 pm start in the final affair down in Tampa. Again, if the Blue Jays are in it, this might be an important set of games.

So, conservatively we’ll say 16 games where Reyes is ideally on the bench. From Toronto’s perspective, it is likely that those are the only 16 games that they would have Reyes sit in a perfect world. But our world is rarely perfect, and if Reyes misses time in addition to these prescribed days off, he might only get into 120-130 games this season. And the man left in the middle will likely be Izturis. In five of the six seasons from 2008-2013, Izturis suited up at shortstop at least 15 times, including 28 times in his first season north of the border (18 starts).

There is a chance that Jose Reyes plays the full season at perfect health, and only needs a day off here or there. There is a chance that Devon Travis wows the team in spring training and is the starter from jump street, and never looks back. But there is a bigger chance that Maicer Izturis is going to see plenty of action this season at both middle infield positions, and after a season down and then a season out, it’s hard to know what to expect from the Venezuelan native. But his production is likely to be an under-the-radar key to Toronto’s season.





Paul Swydan used to be the managing editor of The Hardball Times, a writer and editor for FanGraphs and a writer for Boston.com and The Boston Globe. Now, he owns The Silver Unicorn Bookstore, an independent bookstore in Acton, Mass. Follow him on Twitter @Swydan. Follow the store @SilUnicornActon.

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Jays fan
Guest
Jays fan

Ughh

Whoever fills in at LF will alos be key now that Saunders is lost for half the season… Heres praying that Dirks is healthy and can be productive…

everdiso
Member
everdiso

still don’t get how a meniscus tear gets a 4-6 month timeline.

that’s usually a 4-6 WEEK timeline.

George
Guest

All-Star break in 4 1/2 months. That’s worst case estimate. If the meniscus is repaired, it takes longer than if it’s just trimmed up a bit.

Expo45
Guest
Expo45

The issue is whether they repair or remove the meniscus. If removed, it’s 4-6 weeks, but the joint will wear faster. This can lead to more injuries down the road, and often really serious arthritis later in life. Athletes often do it anyways because of the quicker timeline. Saunders opted for a repair, which is slower but has better longterm outcomes and will likely improve his post-baseball quality of life. As a Jays fan, I hate to lose him but can’t say I blame him at all.

siggian
Guest
siggian

As I understand it, you have two options: repair or removal. If you remove, it’s a 4 to 6 week recovery. If you repair, it’s 4-6 months recovery. The problem with removal is that you hugely increase the chance of arthritis and other problems in the knee later in life.

Dwayne Wade is an example of why you might want to choose repair instead of removal, if that option is available. He’s now dealing with a semi-functional knee. He’s not nearly the player he was and he’s now saying he should have chosen repair.

/Not a doctor; nor do I play one on TV

everdiso
Member
everdiso

thx guys. that explains it.

Walter White
Guest
Walter White

Just FYI, Saunders opted for the removal route. He’s expected back by the end of April.

everdiso
Member
everdiso

apparently the damage ended up dictsting removal anyways.