Posts Tagged 'dustin mcgowan'

Riding With the Wind, ’14: Ready to Go

It’s been interesting since the end of the 2013 season, with fewer moves than expected, rampant speculation, rumours, intrigue, disappointment, and, finally, resigned acceptance.  Without further ado, here’s the 2014 Toronto Blue Jays’ Opening Day 25-man roster with some brief comments:

Starters

RA Dickey; Mark Buehrle; Brandon Morrow; Drew Hutchison; Dustin McGowan

  • There are 2 surprises in Hutch and McG, but they’re good surprises–they both have significant injury concerns but they both pitched very well in Spring Training;
  • Brandon Morrow will once again be a key to the success/failure of the Toronto Blue Jays this season.

Relievers

Casey Janssen; Sergio Santos; Steve Delabar; Brett Cecil; Aaron Loup; Jeremy Jeffress; Todd Redmond; Esmil Rogers

  • This is the strength of the 2014 Toronto Blue Jays, just as it was in 2013;
  • Redmond and Rogers competed for the 5th spot in the rotation, but pitched poorly enough in ST to be relegated to the ‘pen as long relievers/spot starters;
  • this, while somewhat disappointing, gives the Jays admirable depth behind Morrow/Hutch/McG;
  • JA Happ was perhaps the biggest disappointment of ST as he was virtually handed the 4th spot in the rotation;
  • Happ’s back flare-up saved the Jays from having to cut a player who was out of options (Redmond; McG; Rogers; Jeffress), or service time issues (Happ);
  • with the speight of recent pitching-related injuries in MLB, the Jays didn’t need another Ervin Santana type of fiasco by losing a quality arm.

Catchers

Dioner Navarro; Josh Thole

  • Dioner Navarro is a significant upgrade over JP Arencibia in every facet of the game;
  • Thole beating out Erik Kratz was a surprise, as Kratz commended himself with a good ST, however, Thole does have years of experience catching RA Dickey;

Outfielders

Jose Bautista; Colby Rasmus; Melky Cabrera; Moises Sierra

  • Anthony Gose played his way to AAA Buffalo–he may never hit at the big league level;
  • Sierra isn’t ideal as a 4th OF, but he has improved and he’s out of options;
  • Sierra will also see time at DH and possibly 1B against LHP;
  • There are several questions here, and most of them relate to health: if these guys can stay healthy, they can be formidable and productive;
  • the one question that isn’t directly related to health is this: who is the back up CF?  Can a tumour-free Melky spell Rasmus every now and then…?

Infielders

Edwin Encarnacion; Ryan Goins; Jose Reyes; Brett Lawrie; Maicer Izturis

  • Ryan Goins may not hit his weight, and he only weighs 185 lbs.–his defense will need to be Wizard-esque to carry his bat if he doesn’t figure it out pretty soon (Mazeroski-esque is better since he was a 2B, but you get it, right?);
  • Adam Lind will slot in at 1B as well, as might Moises Sierra;
  • Edwin, Reyes and Lawrie NEED to stay healthy: Reyes has a slight hamstring issue and Edwin was plunked by the Yankees (no Granderson payback, I’m sure), but all reports indicate that they’re both okay;

Designated Hitter

Adam Lind

  • chronic back issues and an inability to hit LHP are the questions here;
  • however, both of those issues, while disconcerting, are answerable with the roster as constructed: Sierra and Encarnacion figure to see time at DH, plus possibilities like DH-ing Bautista and getting Sierra to patrol RF are also reasonable game-to-game scenarios.

The Bench will be comprised of Josh Thole, Moises Sierra, and Maicer Izturis and, as you can see, it’s a weakness.  Bounce-back years from Thole and Izturis will help considerably, as would one more player (such as uber-versatile-recent-pick-up-but-more-recently-cut Matt Tuiasosopo).  The problem is that the rotation has health concerns (Morrow; Hutch; McGowan), so the ‘pen needs to be fortified.  The ‘pen has guys who fill the role of swingman or long man, but several of them are out of options (Redmond; Rogers; Jeffress).  This stars ‘n’ scrubs roster was constructed with the related factors of health, depth and options playing vital roles.

This season won’t be like 2013.  Not only does it lack the hype and correspondingly high expectations; it lacks answers to some significant questions leftover from 2013.  The only way we’ll get those answers is by letting them play out over time.  The first several weeks of the season will be very telling for the Toronto Blue Jays.

Opening Day is exciting enough, as the season still has yet to unfold.  This one will be very special as Dustin McGowan is scheduled to start for the Blue Jays against Masahiro Tanaka of the New York Yankees.  Wouldn’t it be nice if the Jays play well this year, and we can sit back in November and say ‘that game set the tone for the whole season’?  Here’s to hoping…

Don’t let the lunatic fringe get you down if the Jays stumble out of the gate.  It could be worse: you could be watching darts.  Enjoy it for what it is.  Go Jays go!

Wes Kepstro

 

 

 

 

 

 

Riding with the Wind, ’14: Signing Santana Opens Doors

Of course it does, Kepstro…haven’t you kept tabs on the situation since last Saturday?  Well, there’s a new wrinkle, potentially, that could emerge, and it might benefit the Jays significantly.

Over at mlbtraderumors.com, someone asked Steve Adams in the Weekly Chat about the Atlanta Braves’ new situation.  Brandon Beachy and Kris Medlen might be out for a long stretch and that team is built to win now.  The problem is that they’re at or near their payroll limit.  Ervin Santana might be no more than a pipe dream for Braves’ fans (the same can be said to/about Jays’ fans), or they might just plain lose out on him.  What can they do if Santana signs elsewhere?

Well, think along with me for a moment.  If the Jays win the Santana sweepstakes, one of their pitchers gets bumped down the depth ladder.  They already have several guys who are out of options who are candidates to be part of the rotation, including Dustin McGowan, Todd Redmond, and Esmil Rogers.  The Jays will need to move one or more of them.

The Bravos will still need an arm or two, and may need to bring a prospect up before he’s ready.  Steve Adams speculated that perhaps Atlanta would look to add an out-of-options arm (he mentioned Kevin Correia), or another inexpensive choice.  The Jays not only have out-of-options arms, they also have JA Happ, all of whom would be well within the Braves budget.

I don’t know if this will happen—there are a lot of contingencies and things that need to fall into place—but it’s one of the scenarios that the Jays face.  Let’s hope it comes to fruition: the Jays are the winning bidder for Santana AND THEN someone comes looking for their surplus arms.  It could happen, right?

Wes Kepstro

The Toronto Blue Jays, 2014: Riding with the Wind

Last season we borrowed from the images painted by glam rocker David Bowie in his classic, ‘Space Oddity.’  Major Tom’s tragic mission strangely anticipated the Jays’ own on-field tragedy.  High hopes led to disappointment in a flurry of injuries and poor performances.

Will this season be any different or will it be more of the same, results-wise?  Jimi Hendrix saw beauty at the Monterey Pop Festival.  He wanted to take that beauty and put it to music, so he thought of the experience and personified it in the form of a woman.  “Little Wing” was the result.  If you’re unfamiliar with Monterey Pop, Jimi Hendrix, or ‘Little Wing’, open another window in your browser, do some reading/listening, and come on back.  If you’re not interested, then this isn’t the blog for you.

The lyric ‘riding with the wind’ evokes an image of Jimi’s ‘woman’ soaring free, no longer earth-bound.  Riding against the wind is difficult, wastes precious energy, and often forces a traveller to seek shelter.  ‘Riding with the wind’ captures an elemental force of nature that can’t be controlled, just harnessed.   It’s about time for the Jays to harness the wind and loose the surly bonds of gravity.

The off season has been as quiet for AL Eastbound bloggers as it has been for the Toronto Blue Jays.  This blogger has had a tumultuous winter, but is ready and rarin’ to go for the 2014 season.  Can the same be said about the Jays?  TOR traded Brad Lincoln for Erik Kratz, signed catcher Dioner Navarro, cut ties with JP Arencibia, and they may be on the verge of signing Ervin Santana to a 1-year deal.  In other words the Jays, fresh from a 74-88 season, have inflicted a nauseatingly-inactive (passive?) off season on their fans.

They needed pitching, a catcher, a real 2B, and perhaps another OF.  They got Navarro and Kratz, and then complained about giving Navarro too much money over too many years.  Welcome to Toronto, Dioner.  Wait, wait, wait…after a tough season, we don’t need to start this one by complaining.

One thing we can say categorically about the Jays is that they are deeper, roster- and organization-wise, than they have been in years.  This is a good thing.  If Morrow goes down for a few starts I’d rather replace him with Esmil Rogers or Todd Redmond (or Sanchez or Stroman…drool, drool, drool) than Chien-ming Wang, Aaron Laffey, Ramon Ortiz, or, heaven forbid, Brian Tallet.

Also, a healthy RA and Melky and Rasmus and Bats and Reyes and Edwin are better than an unhealthy group with the same names.  Josh Johnson was bewilderingly bad as well as injured, so expectations coming into 2014 were murky.  Drew Hutchison is strong and healthy, and JA Happ, Kyle Drabek, and Dustin McGowan are all talented, somewhat healthy, and competing for roster spots.  Melky doesn’t have a tumour on his spine any longer, meaning LF might not be such an adventure.

That leaves second base.  Last year the carousel included, but was not limited to, Emilio Bonifacio, Maicer Izturis, Munenori Kawasaki and Ryan Goins.  Goins was the cleanest of the dirty shirts, ‘tho Mune gave us a lot of smiles while he filled in for Jose Reyes.  He performed passably at 2B.

The Jays plan to go with Goins at 2B (read, ‘it’s his job to lose’).  Ryan Goins is a shortstop, 25 years old, and doesn’t hit very well.  He’s their secret weapon at 2B, because the others proved they couldn’t handle it last season.  Several rumours (Brandon Phillips, Stephen Drew, Gordon Beckham, Darwin Barney, Nick Franklin, Dustin Ackley, etc.), have surfaced at one point or another only to disappear just as quickly.  It’s always come back to Goins.

Ryan Goins probably isn’t as good defensively as he showed in his 2013 cameo; let’s hope his offense is better than he showed in his 2013 cameo.  He’s one in a long line of good-field-no-hit middle infielders, of which the Jays have had a few.  Even in their heyday in the early ‘90s, they were going to run Manuel Lee or Dick Schofield out there and try to win a title.  Other teams have done the same sort of thing, some very successfully.  One key to success is the quality of the defense.  If it can offset significant shortcomings at the plate, then there’s a chance that he can contribute positively.  Other players in this mold include Ozzie Smith (maybe the best of this type), Bert Campaneris, Omar Vizquel, Larry Bowa, Mark Belanger, Bill Mazeroski, and from way, way back, Marty Marion.  Another key is the strength of the team’s overall offense.  If it can compensate for one black hole in the line-up, the chances of success are greater.

One thing that can be said about the 2014 season: it’s a book that is yet to be written.  The promise of so many pristine blank pages is alluring and exciting.  It’s part of what keeps us coming back for more, no?  Play ball!

Wes Kepstro

 

 

 

Mission ’13: A Mindset Informed by Chris Carpenter

I’ve been following the 2013 playoffs, but not very closely. A story that’s emerged is that Chris Carpenter may be at the end of a storied successful career. Perhaps it’s ironic that his career will come to a close with him on the 60-day DL. Perhaps it’s not. An imposing physical specimen (6’6”, 230 lbs.), Carpenter has struggled to stay healthy. He’s made no fewer than 13 trips to the disabled list. Five of those occasions saw Carp on the 60-day DL.

Drafted by the Toronto Blue Jays in the first round of the 1993 draft, the Jays believed he was an ace-in-waiting.

The timing was good as the team was coming off back-to-back World Series titles and everyone knows that good teams are built on the talent that’s drafted and developed from within, don’t they? I guess we could say that, of all the things it takes to become a champion, talent developed from within the organization is indispensable. And the immensely talented Chris Carpenter was at the top of the class within the Jays’ organization.

Carpenter developed steadily and made the jump to the Majors in his 4th season of pro ball. The results in the minors from 1994-1997 were mixed, and he looked overmatched in his first taste of the big leagues (81.1 IP/108 H/5.09 ERA). He walked 37 and only struck out 55. It’s not Matt Harvey territory, but it was a start.

Everything improved in 1998, as Carp appeared in 33 games, 24 of which were starts. But the really important thing was that he was learning from fellow starters Roger Clemens and Pat Hentgen, and from veteran catchers Benito Santiago and Charlie O’Brien. Sunshine and lollipops, man, sunshine and lollipops.

Chris Carpenter was an established major league pitcher by 1999 and made 92 starts (24, 34, then 34) over the next 3 seasons. He also suffered his first minor injury in 2001, as he was bothered by right elbow pain. Looking back it’s sort of ominous, but that’s what hindsight does: it makes us all seem like geniuses.

2002 was a different story. He missed 108 games, making 13 relatively ineffective starts in and around visits to the disabled list. Out of options and with 2 separate trips to the DL (a 15-day stint and a 15-day-transferred-to-the-60-day stint), the Jays tried to assign him to the minors. He refused and became a free agent. Chris Carpenter’s career with the Toronto Blue Jays was over after 152 G (135 starts), during which he compiled a maudlin 49-50 record and 4.83 ERA in 870.2 IP. The dream of a 1-2 punch of Chris Carpenter and Roy Halladay barely got off the tarmac before it crashed and burned.

His career with the St. Louis Cardinals has been somewhat different. He’s compiled a 95-44 record and 3.07 ERA over 1348.2 IP. The disparity is painful for Toronto Blue Jays’ fans. Did the Jays’ brass err in allowing him to get away? What would it have cost them to keep him? Well, the Cards took a chance and knew they were taking a chance, but Tony LaRussa and Dave Duncan were at the helm. They’d been responsible for more than one career resurrection over the years: think Dennis Eckersley, Dave Stewart, and Bob Welch. All 3 had been effective pitchers previously, but their careers were on the wane; all 3 enjoyed a resurgence under LaRussa’s and Duncan’s guidance.

Chris Carpenter was a different kettle of fish, though. The upside is that he was much younger than their other reclamation projects. The downside was that he represented much more of an injury risk than their other reclamation projects.

This is where LaRussa, Duncan and the St. Louis Cardinals’ brass needs to be commended. They signed Chris Carpenter as a free agent just before Christmas, 2002 (12/13/2002), to a 1 year deal worth $300,000 with an option for 2004. He missed the entire 2003 season because of shoulder surgery; they declined his option. The Cards signed him to another 1-year deal at the beginning of December (12/01/2003) with an option for 2005, and he was Comeback Player of the Year in 2004 (15-5, 182.0 IP, 3.46 ERA). They exercised his 2005 option and then he went out and won the Cy Young Award (21-5, 2.83). He made $2.6MM in bonuses in 2005 and $200,000 in bonuses in ’04

It was a gutsy move by the Cards and it worked out well. Or did it? He started 28 G in ’03-’04, and was left off the playoff roster after both seasons. The Cards are sort of the NL version of the Boston Red Sox: they aim for the playoffs, and when they get there, they expect to go deep. Chris Carpenter didn’t pitch at all in ’03 and helped them make the playoffs in ’04. But in 2005, he was brilliant. He pitched well in the playoffs before the Cards were dispatched in the NLCS. What to do, what to do, what to do…?

The Cards signed him to a 2-year, $13MM deal, laden with incentives and a 3rd year option that would vest based on reaching various performance-related goals. Carp was very good in 2006 (15-8, 221.2 IP, 3.09). It wasn’t up to the standard he set during 2005, but no one was complaining. Oh, and the Cards won the World Series. Carp pitched 8 innings of 3-hit ball, didn’t walk anyone, and struck out 6 in his only start. He pitched 32.1 innings in the playoffs and, though the Mets knocked him around, his postseason ERA was 2.78 in 5 starts.

Then he started 5 ML games total in ’07-’08. Then he made 97 starts from ’09-’11, with 2011 culminating with another strong playoff performance and another World Series win for the Cards. They went to the NLCS in 2012 and Chris Carpenter pitched well again.

Since he established himself as a major league pitcher (1997-1998), Chris Carpenter pitched 3 different sets of 3 ‘full’ seasons in his career: 1999-2001, 2004-2006, and 2009-2011. The other years have seen Chris Carpenter’s career decimated by injuries: 13 G in 2002-2003, 5 G in 2007-2008, and 3 G in 2012-2013, or 21 G in 6 years.

Why did the Cardinals stick with him? Frankly, I don’t know. Toronto also saw the talent and the injuries, and still tried to hang on to him. He chose free agency then missed sizable chunks of his Cardinals career, including his entire first year with them.

Is there a lesson here for the Jays? I think so. The Jays currently have 4 pitchers who are very talented but also very injury prone: Dustin McGowan, Brandon Morrow, Kyle Drabek, and Josh Johnson. I suspect that at least one of those pitchers will make a significant contribution in 2014, and all of them have the talent to do it. The Jays showed that they were learning when they signed the oft-injured Dustin McGowan to a 2-year contract, and he made a contribution in 2013. The other 3 represent 3 pretty different situations:

  • Morrow’s a shoe-in for the 2014 rotation if he’s healthy;
  • Kyle Drabek is coming off his second Tommy John surgery, but threw the ball well in AAA and the ML when given the chance—his control/command are the main issue;
  • Josh Johnson pitched poorly for the most part in a free agent year and has a checkered history when it comes to injuries.

The average of the top 125 ML salaries is $14.1MM; this is the value of the qualifying offer that a team can make on a one-year deal to their own prospective free agent. The Jays would be looney tunes to make a QO to Johnson. However, a one-year deal loaded with incentives makes sense, n’est-ce pas?

The Toronto Blue Jays have a chance to sign a pitcher the calibre of Josh Johnson to a peanuts-level contract loaded with incentives, and turn him into a mid-to-bottom-of-the-rotation guy. After all Chris Carpenter went from $3.45MM to $300K contract with an option and incentives. I know it’s not a straight-line comparison, but why the heck wouldn’t they do it? If they’re all healthy and in the rotation, can Morrow, McGowan, and Johnson average 2.5-3.0 fWAR each? The entire starting rotation produced 7.0 fWAR in 2013.

Wes Kepstro

Mission ’13: Pitching: Whatever Went Wrong, It Wasn’t the ‘Pen’s Fault…

Welcome to installment #2 in our end-of-season-mop-up-with-a-view-to-2014 look at the pitching staff. I knew installment #1 was long, but I didn’t realize how long. Hopefully in keeping with their relative length of stay in a game, our overview of the relief corps will be shorter. No promises, though.

We’ll use the same motif to try to get a handle on what the bullpen did, and perhaps even what it can offer in 2014. Without further ado, here’s our table:

RP

G

ERA

FIP

xFIP

fWAR

Delabar

55

3.22

2.72

3.35

1.4

Janssen

56

2.56

2.74

3.09

1.3

Cecil

60

2.82

2.88

2.99

1.0

Santos

29

1.75

1.84

2.61

0.9

Loup

64

2.47

3.32

3.31

0.8

J Perez

19

3.69

3.71

3.39

0.2

Jenkins

10

2.70

3.95

4.25

0.2

McGowan

25

2.45

3.67

4.20

0.2

Wagner

36

3.79

4.13

3.53

0.2

L Perez

6

5.40

1.85

2.67

0.1

Jeffress

10

0.87

3.43

2.44

0.1

Lincoln

22

3.98

5.48

5.91

-0.3

By the way, the TP samples handed out with this material by Fangraphs weren’t used: http://www.fangraphs.com/leaders.aspx?pos=all&stats=pit&lg=all&qual=0&type=8&season=2013&month=0&season1=2013&ind=0&team=14&rost=0&age=0&filter=&players=0

  • minimum 10 appearances (except L Perez);
  • notable exclusions: the recently-retired Darren Oliver, Ricky Romero, & Kyle Drabek;
  • using our parameters the ‘pen produced 6.1 fWAR (the starters produced 7.1 fWAR);
  • 2 All Stars and a solid-if-unspectacular Closer led Hentgen’s boys in the ‘pen;
  • this table is ranked according to fWAR, but if you peruse the FIP/xFIP columns, they confirm that the Jays’ ‘pen was pretty strong;
  • AA’s desire to get RP who miss bats was successful, as 9 RP recorded 9.0 K/9 or higher;
  • at 0.85, Juan Perez recorded the highest HR/9 rate among the top 7 RP;
  • Steve Delabar made me think of Tom Henke in his early days: if Delabar wasn’t striking batters out (12.58 K/9), they hit their way on (.338 Babip) or walked (4.45 BB/9);
  • aside from Delabar, walks weren’t much of a problem with the guys who made the most appearances: of the 9 guys with at least 30 IP, only Cecil, J Perez, and Lincoln were above 3.25 BB/9;
  • of those 3 RP, 9 of Cecil’s 23 BB came in 11 July APP (9.1 IP), and 9 of Juan Perez’s 15 BB came in his last 5 APP (9.2 IP): not surprisingly, Cecil’s ERA rose from 1.47 to 2.81 and Perez’s ERA spiked from 0.00 to 3.69;

Okay, now to the tie some of this info together. We’ll use the same process as with the starters, but having 3 groups instead of 4: Keepers, On the Bubble, and Goner(s).

Keepers

  1. Steve Delabar
    • Re-sign this guy, and as soon as the ink’s dry get him in touch with the heavy ball program co-ordinator (who’s now an instructor with the Jays);
    • he has shut down stuff and was recognized with an All Star selection;
    • there’s no hint of complaint that he isn’t the Closer or desiring a more prominent role, more money, etc.;
    • he tired and was injured later in the season, but there’s no (major) concern;
    • he’s a high-quality set-up man: perhaps the Jays’ best since Duane Ward;
  1. Casey Janssen
    • Who would have thought that the Jays would get 2 high-quality seasons as the Closer from Casey Janssen?;
    • he has 117 SO, a 2.55 ERA and is 56-61 in save opportunities in his last 2 seasons as the CL, covering 116.1 IP, but he’s been terrific since the start of 2011;
    • It’s a lead pipe cinch that the Jays pick up his $4MM option for 2014;
  1. Brett Cecil
    • Cecil broke out as a RP after using the heavy ball program recommended to him by Steve Delabar;
    • an All Star selection highlighted a solid all-round season;
    • two wrenches have been thrown in the works, though: he ended the season on the DL, and he expressed a desire to move back into the rotation;
    • he’s arbitration-eligible and mlbtraderumors.com guesses that he’ll get ~$900K;
    • get him signed, give him a shot at starting in ST, then move him into the BP where his real value is found;
  1. Sergio Santos
    • 2 long, injury-filled seasons gave way to a successful recovery and a brilliant 29-game stint in 2013 (25.2 IP, 11 H, 5 ER, 1 HR, 4 BB, 28 SO);
    • an effective, healthy Santos combined with an effective, healthy Delabar giving way to an effective Janssen is the stuff of dreams;
  1. Aaron Loup
    • Loup was barely on the radar prior to his initial call-up in 2012;
    • Darren Oliver’s last 2 seasons allowed Loup time to develop into a good LHP out of the ‘pen, effectively replacing Oliver;
    • owing to his tendency to pound the zone (1.69 BB/9), he can get hit a little hard (.299 Babip; 10.6% HR/FB), but it’s a small price to pay for a LHRP of his quality;
  1. Dustin McGowan
    • he spent some time on the DL in 2013 but, as he pointed out, it’s the first time that he’s gone on the DL with something other than an arm/shoulder injury;
    • that said, like Cecil, he’s expressed a desire to return to the rotation;
    • he was effective without being stellar in 25.2 IP: he still has a high-90s fastball and can get hitters out pretty well (2.45 ERA) but the question is, and always has been, his durability/fragility;
    • I like him out of the ‘pen but drool at the prospect of having him offer legitimate rotation depth: he may be the perfect swingman;
  1. Luis Perez
    • I’ve always liked Perez, and sometimes that’s been a little irrational: he tends to be inconsistent;
    • he has 45 SO and 18 BB in his last 47 IP, covering 2012-2013: the BB rate is high(er) but the 2.5:1 ratio is nice;
    • I like his fastball, he seems to be fully recovered from Tommy John surgery, and a surplus of LHP is like having too much ice cream: it’s a nice problem to have;

On the Bubble

  1. Juan Perez
    • I honestly thought they should have dealt Juan at the deadline: he’s 34 years old and was having a career year, but alas…;
    • His injury status clouds his future as a part of the Jays’ organization;
    • If he’s healthy, I’d like to see them sign him to a Minor League deal, send him for rehab, then let him excel at Buffalo;
  1. Chad Jenkins
    • he’s a young guy who pitched well regardless of the role they gave him;
    • the problem is that his stuff doesn’t really “play” over the long haul: his BB/9 was super-low (0.98) in his brief stint (7 APP; 18.1 IP), thereby obscuring his very low K/9 rate (4.42);
    • Frankly, I think this guy would be solid in a big park with long grass or lots of foul territory, like O.co or Safeco;
    • otherwise, I’d like to see him in Buffalo for depth;
  1. Neal Wagner
    • I like Wagner: he put it all together in his age-29 season, was rewarded with a call-up, and pitched effectively;
    • he has a good, live fastball and dominated AAA;
    • if he’s willing, sign him to another minor league deal and have him start the year in AAA;
  1. Jeremy Jeffress
    • my oldest daughter has epilepsy so I have a soft spot for Jeffress;
    • the news that it was diagnosed this season and is being treated effectively with a medication regimen is very good: this may be the first time in his career that he has a realistic chance to reach, or even surpass, his potential and I think we got a glimpse of that after his call-up;
    • this means that I’d like to see him signed to a minor league deal, and send him to AAA to get established;

Goner(s)

  1. Brad Lincoln
    • I don’t care if he goes to Buffalo or is run over by a herd of buffalo: if I see him pitching in Toronto again, I may throw something through my screen. Seriously though, my arm’s not strong enough to do anything like that, but I think the disdain-fueled adrenaline rush gives me the extra MPH to get the job done. Think ‘Edsel’.

Okay, this is longer than I thought but you had nothing better to do anyways, right? Since we’re so many words into it (I confess to using some more than once), we might as well finish it. Here’s what I see from my admittedly-flawed perspective, based on a 13-man pitching staff:

Starters

Bullpen

Potential Swingmen

On the Bubble

1. ???

1. C Janssen, CL

JA Happ, LHP

J Perez, LHP

2. RA Dickey

2. S Delabar

T Redmond

C Jenkins

3. ???

3. S Santos

E Rogers

N Wagner

4. M Buehrle, LHP

4. B Cecil, LHP

C Jenkins

J Jeffress

5. J Johnson

5. A Loup, LHP

D McGowan

B Morrow (inj.)

6. L Perez, LHP

B Cecil, LHP

JA Happ

7. D McGowan

K Drabek

E Rogers

8.

T Redmond

D Hutchison

K Drabek

Obviously there’s room for pitchers to be moved around in this scheme and we haven’t given contractual status much consideration, but this is merely a skeletal framework based on the past. Equally as obvious is that some pitchers potentially fill more than one role. In that case, as you’ve probably noticed, I put them into all the categories into which I believe they fit. Other than AA’s stated desire to acquire at least a mid-rotation starter I have very little idea what the Jays plan to do, so I can comment meaningfully but I lack conviction.

Hopefully this serves as a decent guide or reference point for you as we look forward to the 2013-2014 offseason. The Jays have work to do, yes, but as you can see, there are a lot of pieces (20) with which to work and many of these pieces are high(er) quality. How many other teams have 5 quality LHP from which to choose? At the very least, their ML-calibre depth is encouraging: even the guys ‘on the bubble’ are pretty good options.

Wes Kepstro

It is with gratitude that I acknowledge that files from http://www.fangraphs.com, http://www.baseball-reference.com, http://www.mlbtraderumors.com and http://www.baseballprospectus.com/compensation/cots/al-east/toronto-blue-jays/ were used in the creation of this and the previous piece about the Toronto Blue jays’ pitching staff.

Mission ’13: Did Anthopoulos Boot a Routine Grounder in a Tight Game? A Response to Giving Him a ‘Pass’

Alex Anthopoulos does not get a pass from me. I’m not part of the radical fringe that screams for his head or whines game-in and game-out, but he’s responsible for this mess. I wouldn’t be upset if he was fired, I just don’t think it will happen. A results-based assessment recognizes that they’ve declined every year that he’s been at the helm. 2013 may be slightly better than 2012, but they had to double the payroll to do it.

I, too, think John Gibbons has done okay, given the teams’ indifferent/poor play and the overall circumstances (‘new’ manager; lots of new players). The problem is that someone needs to be held accountable and, since John Gibbons is AA’s man, the finger points at AA.

He rebuilt the farm quickly, then used it as currency to assemble a contender at the ML level. I like that strategy. As a matter of fact, it’s encouraging: it didn’t take long to restock a long-neglected aspect of the organization.

The problem is that the talent he assembled hasn’t contended. This problem is magnified by 2 other factors: an emptied farm; and different rules for draft pick acquisition. No longer can they sign the Miguel Olivos of the world for the purpose of acquiring a supplementary round draft pick when he signs elsewhere. Rebuilding the farm is more difficult now.

A Brief Review

I believe Jose Reyes, Mark Buehrle, and Mark DeRosa have lived up to advance billing. Reyes was injured for 60+ games, but that’s not surprising. When he’s played, he’s played pretty well. His defense isn’t great, but his offense has been good (.347 wOBA; 117 wRC+).

Buehrle had a rough start but has pitched as expected for some time now. He owns a 4.14 FIP and 4.17 xFIP for his career; this year they’re 4.18 and 4.19, respectively. He’s also on pace for 200+ IP.

Mark DeRosa’s real value has been on the bench: he’s a leader and he’s intelligent. On top of that, they’re getting unexpectedly good offensive production from him (7 HR, .328 wOBA, 104 wRC+). Offensively he’s playing slightly above the level of an average major leaguer, which is excellent for a utility player. It means the Jays don’t lose anything on offense when he starts occasionally or pinch hits.

Here’s the sordid side of the off season tale:

  • Maicer Izturis is the worst player in Major League Baseball;
  • ‘Ace’ RA Dickey presently has a FIP north of 4.75, which is 4th or 5th starter territory;
  • Melky Cabrera came injured, and has been one of the worst outfielders in baseball;
  • Emilio Bonifacio played so poorly in TOR that he’s already been dealt;
  • Josh Johnson is Ricky Romero 2.0. He may go down as the worst acquisition that the Toronto Blue Jays have ever made (at least Mike Sirotka didn’t play fast and loose with our hopes by subjecting us to AAA quality pitching);
  • Josh Thole catches Dickey, but he can’t hit and he’s not much better behind the plate than JPA; and
  • Mike Nickeas gave them veteran depth at catcher for AAA Buffalo.

Several other trades have produced a mixed bag of results, which is normal. Steve Delabar was a great pick-up, especially since Eric Thames did nothing with SEA and has since moved. Dumping Vernon Wells’ huge contract was a boon, as well. Other acquisitions (Brandon Morrow, Frank Francisco, Jon Rauch, Brad Lincoln, Francisco Cordero, Sergio Santos, Kelly Johnson, etc.) haven’t worked out very well.

What Can They Do?

I’d like to see Bautista dealt. It’s nearing the last opportunity to get a good return for him. His defense has been shoddy in the 2nd half—missed cut offs, misplayed balls, poor throws, etc.–and his offense is nothing like it was a couple of years ago. Trading him, plus some expiring contracts (Oliver, Rajai, etc.) may give them some wriggle room. The expiring contracts are (over) balanced by some arbitration cases (Rasmus, etc.) that loom.

The glaring weaknesses are: the rotation, left field, 2B, C and team consistency. The rotation needs 2 upper level pitchers but so does every other team in MLB except the Tigers. Where are the Jays going to find those pitchers? I don’t know. Someone may want to dump salary (LAA? TEX?), opening previously-closed doors, but I haven’t heard any rumours.

The free agent market, which AA is generally loath to use, isn’t very promising either. Perhaps they can re-sign Josh Johnson and get Tim Lincecum for serious bargains in the hopes that they’ll rebound from their poor performances. One problem is that dumpster diving hasn’t really worked very well for the Jays, partly because it’s a strategy they overuse.

I’d love to see them make a play for Cano, but that’s a pipe dream. Not only are the NYY and LAD likely to get into a bidding war but Jay-Z’s his new agent, and Jay-Z wants to make a splash. AA said he’s looking to go for a defense-first 2B. I don’t know who fits the bill here.

I’m not interested in Ellsbury: more injury-prone players are unnecessary. No, the next 100 games or so are make-or-break for Anthony Gose, AA’s ‘golden boy’. He pouted when he was demoted earlier in the season and has played poorly ever since (regardless of where he’s played). He’s yet another speed merchant that hasn’t performed because he doesn’t fit the Jays’ in-game strategy: they’re boppers, not bunters.

I don’t expect another year like this from Rasmus (Matt Klaassen wrote a good piece about him at http://www.fangraphs.com). I like what CLE and, to a lesser extent, BOS did when they acquired good OF. The Jays need a good all-round, reliable OF to play with Rasmus. They also need Colby to repeat his success this year…

Team consistency is likely going to be an issue again. The Jays have too many players who aren’t good enough to be consistent. Jose Bautista is a good player but a terrible leader. Leaders don’t argue, whine, or make as many misplays as he does. He’s also pretty inconsistent, and the team takes its cues from him. Adam Lind’s not consistent enough to play everyday. Then there are all the utility-level players (Rajai, Izturis, DeRosa, Thole, JPA, Kawasaki). These guys are a petrie dish for inconsistency, especially when they play full time.

Also if they don’t do something about their catching situation, they’re in trouble. They hitched their wagon to JPA, but he’s not a good catcher for reasons that have been flogged mercilessly. What other possibilities exist, though? How about Carlos Ruiz? Chooch is at the end of his tenure in Philly: he wants to stay, but they don’t seem interested. Another former ped abuser, nearing the end of his career, who isn’t wanted by his own team?

The Skinny

Adding it all up, the Jays need: 2 starters, a #1 catcher, a 2B, and an OF. Each one of these players needs to excel on offense or defense, preferably both. To acquire these needs, the Jays have: a bunch of underachieving MLers and a farm that’s been ransacked, but they’ve also ‘promised’ to maintain or increase payroll as necessary.

At this point my guess is we’ll see more of the same next year. There are too many needs and not enough talent or resources to fill all those needs, even if they trade roster players. They’d be selling low on almost everyone on the team. Also, do we seriously expect the ‘pen to be this good again?

Finally…

A key element of strong, contending teams is good homegrown talent. The Jays have Romero, McGowan, Lind, JPA, Lawrie, Pillar, and several ‘pen arms. Another element is good, astute trades that work out well. They haven’t been successful enough on the trade front for me to be confident that another round of trades will make a significant difference.

If Alex Anthopoulos is fired after the 2013 debacle, I won’t miss him. He’s not responsible for the poor play by good players, but he is responsible for the results. He assessed the talent, acquired the talent, but didn’t alter the talent. He’s given hope to the fan base, but it’s been a false hope.

In 2010, he promised 2 trips to the playoffs over the next 5 seasons. 2013 will be the 4th year of missing the playoffs under his direction, and the 19th straight overall. Pittsburgh and Kansas City have positioned themselves for the post-season, and Baltimore has leap-frogged the Jays in the AL East. Toronto is no longer the 4th-best team in their division: they’re the worst team 2 years running with only a fool’s hope of improvement. What more needs to be said? I used to sing his praises. Seeing as how I don’t think he’ll get canned, I won’t do that until anymore he gets some positive results. Why? I don’t trust him.

Wes Kepstro

Mission ’13: Aces Wild: RA Dickey’s Mediocre Season

Perhaps nothing encapsulates RA Dickey’s season better than his own comment after the Jays beat the Astros 12-6 on July 26: “I picked a good night to be very mediocre, that’s for sure”. The problem is that RA has picked a lot of [games] to be mediocre.

The season began with high hopes.  RA was coming off 3 good seasons, culminating in a Cy Young Award. You may recall that he was the first knuckle ball pitcher to accomplish the feat. Star knucklers Wilbur Wood, Phil and Joe Niekro, Tim Wakefield, Charlie Hough, and Hoyt Wilhelm never won it. (Similar to RA Dickey, Joe Niekro also won NL Sporting News Pitcher of the Year, but he was never a Cy Young winner.) This campaign, however, hasn’t lived up to the promise of his past 3 seasons.

RA’s made 26 starts this year, twirling 168.1 IP. He’s well on his way to a 200+ IP season: ZIPS (50 IP) and Steamer (47 IP) both have him pegged for 215+ IP. This is perhaps the only facet of the game in which he hasn’t disappointed. If it wasn’t for the bewildering pitch count restriction imposed on him (and the rest of the rotation), he might have reached 200 IP already.

Excursus: Has anyone else noticed that the pitch count hasn’t worked? Starters are getting injured anyways (Morrow, Johnson, Ortiz, etc.), and now the ‘pen staff is overworked and dropping like flies (Delabar, McGowan, Perez, etc.). But I digress…

So, what’s gone wrong? In short: everything. His K-rate is way down, his walk rate is way up, his home run rate is way up, his ground ball rate is way down, his strand rate is way down, his ERA and FIP are way up and his WAR is way down. It’s hard to succeed when so much has gone awry. This table should highlight the difficulties he’s experienced:

IP

SO/9

BB/9

HR/9

LOB%

GB%

ERA

FIP

xFIP

WAR

2013

168.1

6.84

3.05

1.44

71.6

41.0

4.49

4.78

4.39

1.2

2012

233.2

8.86

2.08

0.92

80.0

46.1

2.73

3.27

3.27

4.5

Sure, 2013 is only partially represented but I ask you: will the next 45-50 IP make much of a difference? He’s not striking out as many batters or inducing as many ground balls. His fly ball rate is up, as is his HR/FB rate (13%). He’s giving up more walks, but he’s not stranding as many base runners. All-in-all, it isn’t really a formula for success.

What’s been the greatest culprit in his downfall? Here’s how he’s done against the AL this season:

Versus the AL East, 2013

Opp

W

L

G

CG

ShO

ERA

IP

H

R

ER

HR

BB

SO

HBP

WP

BAL

0

2

3

0

0

7.71

18.2

22

16

16

5

10

13

1

1

BOS

0

1

1

0

0

13.50

4.2

10

8

7

2

2

5

0

0

NYY

0

1

1

0

0

3.86

7.0

4

3

3

2

1

4

0

0

TBR

2

1

5

1

1

3.00

36.0

24

14

12

4

13

30

0

1

Total

2

5

10

1

1

5.08

67.1

60

41

38

13

26

52

1

2

Versus the AL Central, 2013

Opp

W

L

G

CG

ShO

ERA

IP

H

R

ER

HR

BB

SO

HBP

WP

DET

1

0

1

0

0

2.57

7.0

6

2

2

1

1

4

0

1

KCR

1

0

1

0

0

1.42

6.1

5

1

1

0

2

4

1

0

MIN

0

1

1

0

0

7.71

7.0

7

6

6

1

2

3

1

0

CWS

1

1

2

0

0

5.73

11.0

12

7

7

2

2

7

2

1

CLE

0

2

2

0

0

3.75

12.0

10

7

5

2

7

11

2

1

Total

3

4

7

0

0

4.36

43.1

40

23

21

6

14

29

6

3

Versus the AL West, 2013

Opp

W

L

G

CG

ShO

ERA

IP

H

R

ER

HR

BB

SO

HBP

WP

TEX

1

0

1

0

0

1.59

5.2

7

1

1

0

3

3

0

1

OAK

0

0

2

0

0

2.08

13.0

12

5

3

1

3

9

1

1

LAA

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

SEA

1

1

2

0

0

5.27

13.2

14

8

8

4

4

10

0

0

HOU

0

0

1

0

0

7.50

6.0

7

5

5

1

2

8

1

0

Total

2

1

6

0

0

3.99

38.1

40

19

17

6

12

30

2

2

Inter-League, 2013

Opp

W

L

G

CG

ShO

ERA

IP

H

R

ER

HR

BB

SO

HBP

WP

ATL/SF

2

1

3

0

0

3.54

20.1

19

8

8

2

5

17

0

0

Total

2

1

3

0

0

3.54

20.1

19

8

8

2

5

17

0

0

And just for the sake of comparison: his performance versus the NL East, 2012:

Opp

W

L

G

CG

ShO

ERA

IP

H

R

ER

HR

BB

SO

HBP

WP

ATL

1

1

3

0

0

8.80

15.1

21

15

15

4

8

12

0

0

MIA

5

0

6

2

1

1.80

45.0

35

9

9

4

7

36

2

2

PHI

1

1

3

0

0

3.43

21.0

25

9

8

3

4

22

1

0

WAS

2

2

4

0

0

3.25

27.2

30

12

10

3

7

22

0

0

Total

9

4

16

2

1

3.47

109.0

111

45

42

14

26

92

3

2

If Pitcher W/L is one of your pet peeves, don’t get too hung up on it in these tables: they’re used only for illustrative purposes.  It is interesting to note RA’s HR/9 numbers: ALE, 1.73; ALC, 1.25; ALW, 1.41; Inter-League, 0.89; and 2012 NLE, 1.16.  Neck/upper back problems, a new league, a new team, a new pitching coach, post Cy Young letdown, playing in the AL East, and playing at the Rogers Centre have all contributed somewhat to his struggles.

Also of interest are RA’s home-road splits this season:

Split

W

L

ERA

GS

CG

ShO

IP

H

R

ER

HR

BB

SO

HBP

BK

WP

BF

WHIP

SO/9

SO/BB

Home

4

6

5.79

13

0

0

82.1

82

56

53

19

28

74

4

0

4

356

1.336

8.1

2.64

Away

5

5

3.24

13

1

1

86.0

77

35

31

8

29

54

5

1

2

360

1.233

5.7

1.86

Perhaps you noticed what I did.  Most of the numbers are strikingly similar but 3 categories stand out immediately: ERA, HR and SO. These suggest 2 things: first, that he’s more aggressive at The Rogers Centre, but that he’s getting killed for it; and second, that The Rog is a good hitter’s park.

RA Dickey had 3 good seasons as he developed and mastered the knuckle ball. Now his circumstances have changed dramatically. He pitches for a new team, in a different league, in a new park, with greater expectations placed on him. Lately he’s mused about the changes he needs to make in order to succeed in his new environment. Blue Jays’ fans can hope that his late-career adaptations continue to be successful.  Given the adversity he’s overcome in his personal life and his professional career, my guess is that he’ll figure it out by 2014.

Wes Kepstro

Mission ’13, Game 74: Jays win 13-5

Josh Johnson got the call today as the Jays faced an old nemesis in Freddy Garcia. Perhaps the pitching match-up took a back seat to the Bautista-O’Day tension and the win streak. All of this just adds dimensions to a good intra-divisional rivalry. Johnson looks to continue his effective starts. Freddy Garcia may be just what the doctor ordered to extend the win streak.

Chasing the 1930 Phillies

Game 74

PHI 27-47

TOR 38-36

Game 74 for the 1930 Phillies was about pitching and defense. In the 1930s much of what pitchers did was about ‘containment’. The helium-inflated balls, poor fielding, and hitter’s ballparks made it easier to score runs and harder to prevent them. Also, pitchers didn’t strike out as many batters, preferring to walk them when the situation called for it. Monk Sherlock played 2B again and went 2-4 and scored a run, but was one of 3 Phillies to make an error. SS Tommy Thevenow and RP Hal Elliot also made errors.  The 3 miscues led to 7 unearned runs for the Reds in a 9-5 Reds’ win. Reds’ starter Larry Benton pitched poorly, scattering 9 hits and only striking out one, but he didn’t walk anyone and limited the damage. It was also a pretty good strategy to wait for the Phillies to kick it around a little, because that’s one thing they did well in 1930.  Check the boxscore here.

The Blue Jays jumped out to an early lead—again. A single run in the first inning scored on a rally that began with a broken-bat hit by Edwin Encarnacion. A single, walk, and hit batter later, the Jays led 1-0.

The second inning saw the Jays score a run National-League style. Bonifacio singled, stole a base, was moved along by a Munenori bunt, and scored on a sacrifice fly by Melky Cabrera. Then the Jays scored in a more conventional manner. A walk by Bautista came around to score on a long home run by Edwin Encarnacion, pushing their lead to 4-0.

Josh Johnson struggled a little bit in his first couple of innings, giving up 3 hits and a walk and making 41 pitches. He settled in for the 3rd inning, retiring the O’s in order on 9 pitches.

The Jays knocked out starter Freddy Garcia in their half of the 3rd inning. A single by JP Arencibia came around to score on a long double into the right-center alley by Maicer Izturis. Izturis, in turn, came around to score on a double by Emilio Bonifacio that rattled around in the right field corner. TJ McFarland relieved Garcia and induced a ground out to JJ Hardy by Munenori Kawasaki. Bonifacio scored on a Melky Cabrera single off the pitcher’s mound into center field, making the score 7-0 Jays. A double into the right-center alley by Edwin—I called it, ask my wife—scored Melky and Bautista, who had walked. By the end of the 3rd inning, Edwin was only a triple short of the cycle and drove in 4 runs. The Jays stretched their lead to 9-0.

Josh Johnson came out in the 4th and retired the side in order on a couple of lazy fly balls and a liner to Bonifacio at second. This is one of the aspects of the pitching staff that has improved lately: when the team scores runs, the pitchers are getting them back out there quickly.

Josh Johnson threw 41 pitches in his first 2 innings, but only 23 in his next 2 innings. When he struck out Nate McLouth to end the top of the 5th, he’d retired 11 straight and only needed 12 pitches to do it. He’s in a groove and the Jays have a nine-run lead.

Similarly, TJ McFarland has settled in a little. He set down the Jays in order in the 4th inning and also in the 5th inning.

Josh Johnson hit a speed bump in the top of the 6th inning as Machado and Markakis opened the inning with back-to-back doubles. As Jack Morris mentioned, Johnson sort of fell in love with his fastball, and the Orioles are too good a team to feed them a steady diet of heaters. A ground out by Adam Jones moved the runner to 3B but led to a couple of discussions between the umpire, the runner, and Buck Showalter. An error by Bonifacio brought the runner home from third base before Johnson buckled down and induced a lazy fly ball and struck out JJ Hardy. The Orioles cut the Jays lead to 9-2.

TJ McFarland did exactly what I praised the Jays’ staff for doing: getting the hitters back up to bat quickly after a productive inning. Chris Dickerson hit a lead off single to right and was followed by Ryan Flaherty, who homered. The Orioles trimmed the lead to five with none out in the 6th inning. Aaron Loup came on in relief. Loup allowed a single by Machado, but erased him on a double play to end the inning. The Jays led 9-4.

Colby Rasmus took back one of those runs forcibly, as he homered to right off lefty McFarland. The next play was strange as JP hit a ball down the 3B line which Manny Machado fielded cleanly. The umpire signaled fair ball immediately and his voice was audible, but Machado didn’t even attempt a throw to first. Apparently he expected a ‘foul’ call and didn’t know what to do when he didn’t get it. JPA was safe at first on one of the strangest infield singles you’ll ever see. Arencibia advanced to 3B on a double by Maicer Izturis before McFarland recorded a pair of outs and was relieved by Pedro Strop. Rajai Davis, who singled off Strop to win game 1 of the series, pinch hit for Melky Cabrera with runners on second and third. Strop hit Rajai right in between the ones on his number 11 jersey to load the bases for Jose Bautista. Bautista then lined a double to the right-center alley to clear the bases and extend the lead to 13-4. Edwin grounded out to short to end the inning, just after hitting a long, loud fly ball just left of the foul pole.

Is this a turnaround game for Jose Bautista? He and RP Darren O’Day started a little feud in game 1. O’Day made a comment after striking out Bautista, to which Bautista took exception. When game 2 was on the line, Showalter brought in O’Day to pitch and Bautista homered. He said a few words to O’Day as he rounded third and O’Day responded in kind. Today, Jose was 0-1 after his first plate appearance but it was his second plate appearance that made it look like things were turning. He walked. That’s it, that’s all. Then he walked in his third plate appearance. Then he doubled to the right-center alley in his 4th plate appearance. He’s hit several homers in this cold stretch, but mostly because he’s a dead-red fastball hitter and pitcher like to throw fastballs. Other than that he wasn’t striking the ball with authority very often. Thee walks tell me that he’s seeing the ball well and has a good idea of the strike zone. The double tells me that he’s able to put it all—the strike zone concept, the knowledge, and the swing—in a nice, tidy package with a bow on it.

Juan Perez pitched just about the ugliest scoreless inning in Blue Jay history. Adam Jones and Chris Davis singled to start the inning, and switch hitter Matt Wieters came to the plate. He hit a ball past the bag at 3B, which Maicer fielded and turned into a double play. A passed ball by JPA advanced Davis to 3B before Perez induced a ground ball out to 3B by JJ Hardy.

Dustin McGowan came in to relieve Perez in the top of the 9th inning and struck out Dickerson but gave up a solo home run to Ryan Flaherty. It was his third HR of the series. Let’s put it this way: if the Jays keep Markakis, Jones, and Davis quiet and someone like Flaherty gets a lot of hits, the chances of sweeping Baltimore increase dramatically. A McLouth ground out and a Machado strike out brought this one to a close.

The Jays are winning in every conceivable way at this point. At times they’ve pitched well, hit well, fielded well, and run the bases well. At times they’ve put it all together in the same game (game 2 vs TEX). Sometimes the bombers carry he load, while at other times the Smurfs make the difference. Whatever the case, this team is playing as expected. Next up is Tampa Bay in Tampa, where the Jays have trouble winning. It’s another opportunity for this team to show that they are for real and they aren’t going away any time soon.  They’ve won 11 straight and counting.

Wes Kepstro

Mission ’13, Game 61: Jays win 4-3 in extras

Mark Buehrle was in tough today. Not only was he facing a good-hitting Rangers team, but his opposite number on the mound was Yu Darvish. Darvish has been fantastic this season, striking out batters at a pace similar to Nolan Ryan did in the late ’70s. He gives his team a chance to win every time he takes the mound. Mark Buehrle hasn’t. He’s a pitch-to-contact guy who has given up a lot of contact this season (.304 BAbip).

Chasing the 1930 Phillies

Game 61

PHI 23-38

TOR 27-34

Five game series’ with a pair of double headers sure are a thing of the past but game 61 for the 1930 Philadelphia Phillies went no better than the previous 8 games. Monk Sherlock had a triple and 4 total bases, but it wasn’t enough as the Phils went down to their 9th loss in a row. The Pirates, led by Dick Bartell, got 11 hits, 7 of them for extra bases. Check the boxscore here.

A tendency among Blue Jays hitters when they’re pressing is to swing at the first pitch. The Jays are struggling offensively of late, so they need to be creative. Last night’s game was a case in point: they scored 6 runs on 4 hits, and only had 6 hits in the game. Walks, sac flies, and HBP all contributed. Today their bats are in the LOO (low-offensive output) again.

The 3rd inning was Buehrle’s first real test. He put 2 on (BB, swinging bunt) with 2 out, bringing switch hitter Lance Berkman to the plate. Buerhle induced a foul pop-up from the slugger, ending the inning.

The 3rd inning was the 3rd time the Jays put two runners on base. Edwin drew his 2nd BB of the game and Lind singled to left-center field. JP Arencibia struck out, but Colby Rasmus ripped a triple into right-center field. He scored when Jurickson Profar’s throw to 3rd eluded Leury Garcia and bounced into the stands. Make it 3-0 Jays.

Yu Darvish gave up 4 H, 3 BB, and 3 R (2 ER) in his first 3 IP. He managed this while throwing 63 pitches. By way of comparison, Mark Buehrle threw 46 pitches in 3 IP and was only at 57 pitches after 4 innings. Typically pitchers with a high number of Ks will throw more pitches than a pitch-to-contact pitcher, but his high pitch count is a testimony to a lack of control rather than getting a lot of Ks in the game.

The Rangers finally solved the problem of how to get a run across the plate against Mark Buehrle in the 6th inning. Jeff Baker hit a long home run on the first pitch he saw to make the score 3-1 Jays. Two batters later Craig Gentry doubled into the left field corner. The Rangers doubled their hit total for the game with these 2 hits. A meeting with pitching coach Pete Walker resulted in a one-pitch out to end the inning. Buehrle used only 92 bullets in 7 IP.

Steve Delabar relieved Buehrle to start the 8th and immediately created a problem by walking Elvis Andrus and Jurickson Profar. Lance Berkman lined out to CF and Andrus advanced to 3B, but a wild pitch moved Profar to 2B and removed the ground ball double play possibility. He then struck out Adrian Beltre on a 97 mph full count fast ball and then got Nelson Cruz to pop out foul on a 3-1 count.

Lefty Neal Cotts came on in relief to pitch the 8th inning and the 1st batter he faced, Adam Lind, singled to left field. The hit made Lind 4-4 on the day and 27-53 (.509) since being held hitless by the Rays. Lind now has 4 games in his last 7 when he’s had at least 3 hits.

Casey Janssen came on to close out the game and struggled just enough to blow the save but not the game. He gave up a single, a walk, and then a bloop single to pinch hitter AJ Pierzynski, scoring a run, and a sac fly to Elvis Andrus, to tie the game at 3-3. August 27, 2012 was the last time Janssen blew a save opportunity, a stretch of 18 such appearances. It also brought to a close the long stretch of scoreless innings twirled by the Jays’ ‘pen.

An old friend, Jason Frasor, relieved Neal Cotts with one out in the 9th and pinch hitter Mark DeRosa coming to the plate. Frasor struck out DeRosa. Rajai Davis singled to right, bringing Jose Bautista to the plate. Davis stole second, then Bautista flied out to CF to end the inning.

Dustin McGowan came on in relief in the 10th inning. It’s his first appearance with the Jays since 2011. He walked Berkman, then an error by DeRosa at 3B put Beltre on with no one out and Jay killer Nelson Cruz coming to the plate. McGowan hit Cruz to load the bases with no one out. Jeff Baker struck out, and John Gibbons called on Juan Perez to get the final two outs. A lazy fly ball by Aneury Martin was caught by Jose Bautista, who then loaded up and fired a rocket to home plate, getting Lance Berkman by 10 feet. Dustin McGowan and Juan Perez combined to pitch a scoreless inning. It was tense, but it was a successful return for Dustin McGowan.

I didn’t have a good feeling about this game. The Jays had their foot on the Rangers’ throat, and didn’t finish them, then Bautista snatched the momentum away from the Rangers with his throw to the plate. Let’s see what the Jays do with it.

Edwin grounded out to start the 10th inning for the Jays. Robbie Ross relieved Jason Frasor to pitch to Lind and struck out both Lind and Arencibia.

An uneventful top of the 11th inning—aided by a double play—brought the Jays up in the bottom of the inning. Emilio Bonifacio dumped a single into right, then stole second with Mark DeRosa at the plate. DeRosa walked, but Rajai grounded out to the pitcher.

Ross Wolf relieved Robbie Ross in the 12th inning, and Jose Bautista greeted him with a lead off single. It was just his 3rd hit in his last 35 ABs. Uncharacteristically Edwin swung at all 3 pitches he saw and flied out to right field, failing to advance Bautista. Adam Lind grounded to Lance Berkman, who turned a DP to end the inning.

JP Arencibia and Colby Rasmus opened the 13th inning with base hits. The situation screams for a sac bunt by Maicer Izturis, which is why the Rangers infield met at the mound. A failed bunt attempt was fielded by AJ Pierzynski and Arencibia was thrown out at 3B. A Bonifacio grounder off the pitcher was snared by Profar, who tagged out Izturis as he ran toward 2B. DeRosa grounded out to Andrus to end the inning.

The Jays must be conceding this one: Brad Lincoln is in to pitch. True to form, Lincoln walked the lead off hitter. Lincoln’s only had 2 appearances this season when he hasn’t walked at least one batter. Lincoln didn’t hold Andrus on very effectively; Andrus stole 2B. Profar then sacrificed him to 3B. Another bunt failed to score Andrus and Beltre grounded out harmlessly to DeRosa. Lincoln held TEX scoreless.

Jeff Baker doubled with one out in the top of the 15th inning against Brad Lincoln. Lincoln then hit Leonys Martin with a pitch to put runners on first and second with one out. A ground ball to Edwin was bobbled, but he flipped the ball to Lincoln for the 2nd out. Pierzynski grounded out to Bonifacio for out #3.

Adam Lind drew a 4-pitch walk and JPA singled to left center in the home half of the 15th inning. Lind went to 3rd, and the Jays put another runner 90 feet from the plate. Colby then popped out, Izturis grounded out, and Bonifacio lined out to end the threat.

The Jays have an interesting situation facing them. Josh Thole pinch hit for DeRosa, but Arencibia stayed in the game. Thole, though he has no experience, moved to 1B and Edwin shifted to 3B. An infield of JPA-Thole-Boni-Izturis-Edwin might be the worst I’ve seen. Also, Aaron Loup is the last RP, and every out made by Lincoln seems like a gift.

Aaron Loup relieved Brad Lincoln in the 18th inning. He gave up a lead off double to David Murphy and hit Pierzynski. Murphy was caught off 2B and Pierzynski moved to 2B on the rundown.

18 innings was all it took. A one out single by Emilio Bonifacio caused too much of a disturbance for Ross Wolf, who threw a ball away trying to keep Boni close. Boni advanced to 3B and scored on a base hit by Rajai Davis. TEX (1-19) and TOR (2-17) were 3-36 with RISP. This is a good win for the Jays.

Wes Kepstro

Injured Dustin McGowan May Miss April

Dustin McGowan may not pitch in April, as per MLB.com:

Dustin McGowan will be out until at least the end of April because of a right foot injury.

McGowan has been sidelined since March 26 after being diagnosed with plantar fasciitis. He will not throw for at least the next five-to-seven days and will then need to start building his arm back into game shape once given a clean bill of health.

Blue Jays manager John Farrell estimated that whatever time McGowan ends up missing, before beginning to throw, it will take the same period of days to rehab from the injury.

Let’s say he misses two and a half weeks, he’ll need two and a half more weeks to get back to the game status he was in when he came out,” Farrell said.

“I would think at a minimum [two rehab starts]. We’re certainly not going to rush anything. As I stated the other day, you get any kind of foot or leg injury we don’t want that to show up in his shoulder and we’ll take every precaution needed.”

McGowan was set to start the season as Toronto’s No. 5 starter. He returned last September following a three-year absence because of multiple surgeries and proceeded to go 0-2 with a 6.43 ERA in 21 innings.

Analysis: A fifth starter isn’t needed all that often in April given the extra off days and with the hopeful resurgence of Kyle Drabek this might not be a huge loss.

 


AL Eastbound On Twitter!

  • What a surprise the #BlueJays not in on Rusney Castillo. Who wants a potential 4-tool OFer that will cost nothing but #Rogers money? 19 hours ago
  • Baseball needs to focus on shortening games. You should be allowed three total dugout "leaves" to visit mound, challenge etc. That's it. 3 days ago
  • I was tempted to live bet the Jays heavy after Melky hit that 2-run jack. I was that optimistic, glad I didn't. 5 days ago
  • @SoberJaysFan @dougiejays I agree. Gibby talks slow but he isn't dumb. Fans have really soured on Francisco but he still better vs R 5 days ago
  • @dougiejays @SoberJaysFan the only splits Gibby respects involve bananas and ice cream. 5 days ago

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