The 6-game homestand

Ok, so the Jays managed to stay afloat over the past couple of weeks while Kevin Pillar and Jose Bautista were out on the DL. In addition, MVP Josh Donaldson and superstar hot bat Troy Tulowitzki had to take a few days off for small injuries. So I guess tied for 1st isn’t too bad considering the offense was weak at times and there were strikeouts galore. The bullpen for the most part has covered for some recent glitches in the starting pitching ie, All-stars Aaron Sanchez and Marco Estrada who have struggled since the introduction of the 6-man rotation. Considering the bullpen also lost a couple of games ie, dominant Roberto Osuna, and struggling Brett Cecil, against the Cleveland Indians, it’s actually quite a surprise to still be in first.

And a relief to have a 6-game homestand against the last place LA Angels and the last place Minnesota Twins.

PITCHING MATCHUPS

RA Dickey (ERA 4.51, WHIP 1.35) vs. Tyler Skaggs (ERA 5.19, WHIP 1.58)
Dickey’s ERA is higher over the last 7 games at 5.68. Skaggs has only pitched 26 innings this season.

Marco Estrada (ERA 3.20, WHIP 1.04) vs. Matt Shoemaker (ERA 4.14, WHIP 1.26)
Marco has struggled a bit his last few starts and his ERA has been 4.38 over the last 7 games. Shoemaker’s ERA however has been better than average at 3.51.

estrada era

Estrada ERA 2016 Season by Game

JA Happ (ERA 3.05, WHIP 1.14) vs. Jered Weaver (ERA 5.47, WHIP 1.53)
This matchup is a no-brainer. Happ has been utterly dominant with a league leading 17-3 record and he’s even better the last 7 games with an ERA of 1.85. He seems to be loving the 6-man rotation.

Marcus Stroman and Francisco Liriano will be starting the series against the Twins.

sanchez_aaron1280-1040x572

Aaron Sanchez will be missing his next start against these last place teams. The Blue Jays are trying to figure out a way to keep him fresh but keep him in the rotation as long as possible and hopefully into the playoffs. He’s been sent down to Dunedin for a break. There’s a cost no matter what you do. You skip starts and you don’t get him pitching and winning. You send him to the bullpen, you lose him for good, but gain potentially a solid reliever, assuming of course he’d be as good as last season. And this is a guy in the Cy Young conversation. What to do…what to do…

OFFENSE

The series vs. the Angels will be a great opportunity to watch one of the best players in baseball Mike Trout. (Here’s hoping he’s off his game.) Our old friend and ex-Jay Cliff Pennington is now with the Angels and we will get to see him again too.

The Angels are in the pits this season but they have 7 batters hitting over .250 in the lineup compared to 6 batters in the Jays. Four of the Angels are hitting over .270 compared to only Donaldson for the Jays.

This series is not going to be as easy as it seems like it should be against a team out of the running. We need a series win and if the offense is working, maybe a sweep!

The 6-Man

There has been so much chatter about the 6-man rotation that the Blue Jays have recently adopted. Jays Front Office succumbed to pressure from somewhere (the players, the media, the fans) and settled on this solution as a means to keep young star starter Aaron Sanchez in the rotation for the time being.

There is the usual division of lovers and haters. The reality is, the extra day of rest probably affects some, not others. Clearly, all pitchers have pitched on 5 days rest before. There are days off built in to all schedules. Estrada for example also spent some time on the DL which meant 15+ days of rest.

People talk about players being creatures of habit and that pitchers have a very tight and strict 5-day routine. Messing this up, could mess them up. Others say that at this time of year, guys are tired and sore if not injured and probably could use some extra rest.

How’s it going for the Jays so far? Well, new guy Francisco Liriano 1st pitched on Aug 5th.

ERA Before Aug 5

Happ 3.09
Sanchez 2.71
Estrada 2.92
Stroman 4.74
Dickey 4.49
Liriano 5.46 (with the Pirates)

ERA After Aug 5

Happ 2.70
Sanchez 4.15
Estrada 7.00
Stroman 3.18
Dickey 4.82
Liriano 5.40

There have only been 2 games each since the change so it’s a very limited sample. It does look like Sanchez may be affected, and to a greater degree, Marco Estrada. Marco has said that he’s felt ‘rusty’. He has even volunteered to pitch out of the bullpen this weekend between starts.

I guess if you think about it, Estrada is probably the one most susceptible to too much rest. He has only an 89mph fastball and is a very fine pitcher. If he gets extra rest, perhaps he has too much power and that throws him off? But then again, what about the back problem and shouldn’t rest be good for that?

Like with most things, there is probably no one right answer, and the 6-man could be good for some and bad for others. Liriano had a great start today. He will likely replace Dickey in the rotation for next year. But what will happen later this season? I think the Jays will really want to have Sanchez in the playoff run (and playoffs hopefully). If he shows signs of wear, he’ll go to the bullpen right away and likely be a great addition there. If Liriano goes to the bullpen instead, he’ll probably be pretty good there too. Like they love to say, it’ll be ‘day-to-day’.

 

Meet your new Toronto Blue Jays

 

SCOTT FELDMAN

At the trade deadline, the Blue Jays acquired RHP Scott Feldman from their current opponent, the Houston Astros, in exchange for Minor League pitcher Lupe Chavez, an 18-year-old from Roberto Osuna’s hometown, Sinaloa, Mexico.

Feldman has pitched 62 innings, is 5-3, with a 2.90 ERA and 4.23 FIP (Fielding Independent Pitching). He’s thrown 42 strike outs and just 13 walks, 1.2 homers/9 innings and 64 base hits. He has had a favorable 77% strand rate. He has experience with one postseason run with Texas in 2011. Look for his slow curve ball.

MIKE BOLSINGER

The Jays also unloaded an unreliable Jesse Chavez to the LA Dodgers in exchange for Mike Bolsinger. He is a cutter/curveball pitcher who is prone to the long ball. Not sure how much he’ll be playing this season and may have just been a means of providing some flexibility and to move Chavez out.

FRANCISCO LIRIANO

Just a minute before the 4 p.m. deadline, the Jays and Pittsburgh Pirates pulled the trigger on a deal that sent Drew Hutchison to the Pirates in exchange for veteran left-hander Francisco Liriano and two of Pittsburgh’s top 10 prospects, catcher Reese McGuire and outfielder Harold Ramirez.

Liriano is 6-11 with a 5.46 ERA in 21 starts with the Pirates. He has also issued 69 walks in just 113 innings, an average of more than 5 walks/9 innings. Overall, does not seem like a good replacement for Aaron Sanchez in the rotation. He used to play with Russell Martin and maybe the thinking is that he’ll do as well as he did back then with Martin catching him.

OTHER CHANGES

The Jays recently exchanged 28-year-old Drew Storen for 39-year-old Joaquin Benoit from the Seattle Mariners.

The Jays have also designated $2M lefty reliever Franklin Morales for assignment. He only just came off the 60-day DL for left arm fatigue.

 

Big series against the O’s in Toronto

I’ll be at the game tomorrow and this series is expected to be a big one. Will a sweep kill off one team or the other? No. But the Jays could either end up in 1st or deeply seated in 3rd again.

PITCHING MATCHUP

The pitching matchup looks good for the Jays.

  1. Estrada (5-4, ERA 2.94, 3.71 over last 7) vs. Gausman (2-7, ERA 3.77, 4.24 over last 7)
  2. Happ (13-3, ERA 3.27, 2.40 over last 7) vs. Gallardo (3-2, ERA 5.37, 4.85 over last 7)
  3. Sanchez (11-1, ERA 2.72, 1.53 over last 7) vs. Tillman (14-3, ERA 3.47, 4.22 over last 7)

Estrada got pushed back in order to rest him and to have the 3 best pitchers line up against the O’s this series. He could also use the extra rest for his bad back.

Theoretically, the Jays’ pitching could win all 3 games over the O’s as long as the Jays offense is working.

STATS FOR MONTH OF JULY

W-L: Toronto 14-7 vs. 11-12

Runs: Toronto 118 vs. 77

Hits: Toronto 197 vs. 190

HR: Toronto 28 vs. 26

AVG: Toronto .266 vs. .241

OPS: Toronto .785 vs. .677

Blue Jays vs. Athletics Preview

See article via Fansided

Oakland will likely being in selling mode this month while the Jays are in the Now or Never mode with many, many players becoming free agents at the end of this season.

This series should go to the Jays assuming they’re not too rusty from the All-Star Game, which by the way featured 5 Blue Jays: Josh Donaldson, Edwin Encarnacion, Marco Estrada, Aaron Sanchez and Michael Saunders.

 

 

Exhausted

Not to dwell on the longest game in the MLB this season at 19 innings. And the Jays lost. But man, what a game against the Cleveland Indians today.

THE GOOD

Marcus Stroman looked good today and hopefully is making a come back. Also, the bullpen did a fine job putting up zeros for the 9-10 innings that they played, including Brett Cecil. Unfortunately, the bullpen dried up and Ryan Goins had to pitch, and he put up a zero! But then Darwin Barney gave up a homerun before striking the last batter out. At that point, the Jays were pretty much relinquishing the game anyway.

THE BAD

Vic Carapazza. Home plate umpire.

Forgot to wear his glasses or something. Had an unusual strike zone and couldn’t decide where it began and ended from pitch to pitch. The worst umped game I’ve ever seen. But that wasn’t the worst of it. He couldn’t stand the fact that he didn’t know what he was doing and ejected EE, Gibby, AND Russell Martin. Martin looked like he was going to kill him.

I think it erodes the MLB reputation and the game to let guys like this umpire. IGNORANCE and ARROGANCE are a brutal combination. He really ruined today’s game.

But the Jays also had the bases loaded 3 times and couldn’t score. Mainly because they were so frustrated by the strike zone and had their biggest hitter thrown out.

CLICK TO WATCH HIGHLIGHTS

WHAT’S NEXT

Tomorrow’s pitcher for Cleveland was used today. No idea who is going to take his place. Hopefully someone Estrada can beat. Jays need some sleep!

Closure for Tulo

So Troy Tulowitzki’s much anticipated return to his previous home of 10 years was an eventful one. His new team, the Toronto Blue Jays won the series against the Colorado Rockies 2-1, but it was a series of ups and downs. Tulo got a standing ovation his first at bat and he took the time to raise his helmet to all his fans. For him, the bitterness of getting dumped unceremoniously from the team that he thought he was going to start and end his career with, had stuck with him for the past 12 months. He knew it was going to be a long 3 days of staring at his old team in the opposing dugout, staring at his old managers and coaches.

He started 0-5 in his first at bats but then blasted a solo homerun to start a 6-run inning, and that my friends is what they call closure. His new team got whipped game 1 but won the next 2 to close out the series.

Link to Game 3

WHAT’S NEXT

A 4-game series at home against the team from which the Blue Jays got their new President/CEO and GM, the Cleveland Indians.

THE RUBBER MATCH

Dickey (5-8, ERA 4.23) vs. Carrasco (3-2, ERA 2.73)

Stroman (6-4, 5.23) vs. Tomlin (9-1, 3.32)

Estrada (5-3, 2.81) vs. Bauer (6-2, 3.19)

Happ (9-3, 3.70) vs. Kluber (8-7, 3.50)

Unfortunately tough match ups this weekend. Based on recent play, the pitching matchup is in Cleveland’s favour, so we will need the offensive bats to be at their best!

Phillies Phail

After a weak start against the Phillies when the Jays played without Edwin Encarnacion, his return and hitting has helped the Jays blast the Phillies in the last 3 games of their home-and-home series with 31 runs including 5 home runs in last night’s game!

The last game of the series was a 13-2 beat down on a young Phillies starting rotation.

Encarnacion has been killing it over the past 6 games.

UPCOMING SERIES AGAINST THE BALTIMORE ORIOLES

As it stands, the Blue Jays are now 1 game behind Boston and 2 games behind the AL East leading Baltimore Orioles. This upcoming series in Batlimore for the Jays is HUGE and could have a significant impact on the standings. Unfortunately, the Orioles are coming off a series win against Boston which should give them some confidence. The Jays are coming off scoring 31 runs in the last 3 games against the Phillies which should also provide them with some big time mojo.

The Jays are still a couple of weeks from getting Tulowitzki back. Good or bad? The Jays have been doing just fine without him in the lineup. We’re still waiting to hear of Bautista will be out after leaving last night’s game having majorly stubbing his big toe. Carrera is nursing a rolled ankle. Tonight’s lineup will be interesting.

PITCHING MATCHUPS

Friday Sanchez (6-1, ERA 3.38, Last 7 games: 4-0, ERA 3.83) vs. Wright (3-3, ERA 5.31, Last 7G: 2-1, ERA 5.40)

Saturday Dickey (4-7, ERA 4.16, Last 7 games: 3-3, ERA 3.25) vs. Gallardo (1-1, ERA 7.0)

Sunday Stroman (6-2, ERA 4.76, Last 7 games: 2-2, ERA 6.12) vs. Tillman (9-1, ERA 2.87, Last 7G: 5-0, ERA 2.72)

Baltimore’s Yovani Gallardo is just coming back from the disabled list and hasn’t pitched since April 22. Toronto’s Aaron Sanchez and R. A. Dickey are my favourites to win. Marcus Stroman unfortunately has his work cut out for him.

Go Blue Jays!

Breathe

Ok, Blue Jay fans have been holding their breath a lot this season. For us bandwagon fans who only started watching in August and September last year, we’re not used to the Jays losing and not blowing out the competition. This year, they’ve been weaker in terms of offense and in the bullpen, but maybe it’s a positive sign that they’re still able to grind out some wins.

Sunday’s game against the Baltimore Orioles started with a 5-run first inning and then a 7-1 lead, but ultimately, the Jays squeaked out a 10-9 win with the tying run at 3rd, and the go-ahead run on 2nd. Jason Grilli’s strikeouts were absolutely needed and we have to give high praise for the sac fly catch by Ezequiel Carrera right at the wall that could have easily been a double. Who didn’t breath a sigh of relief after that?

HIGHLIGHTS

Russell Martin’s 3-run homer in the 6th.

Edwin Encarnacion even stole a base for the 1st time this season to manufacture a run. Even Kevin Pillar got his farthest home run of the season.

STANDINGS

The Blue Jays are 35-30 (.538) heading into tonight’s game against the NL’s Philadelphia Phillies who are 29-34 (.460). The Jays are currently 2.5 games back of 1st place Boston Red Sox and Baltimore Orioles who are tied for 1st place and who are heading into a series against each other. The Jays are in 6th place overall in the AL and are tied for the 2nd Wild Card spot.

UPCOMING SERIES AGAINST THE PHILLIES

Dickey (4-6) vs Eikhoff (3-8)

Stroman (5-2) vs Eflin (0-0) 1st major league appearance

Estrada (4-2) vs Hellickson (4-4)

Happ (7-3) vs Nola (5-5)

Based on the last 7 games stats for each pitcher, Estrada is the one clear favourite to win. Dickey and Happ are pretty evenly matched. Eflin hasn’t played in the Majors yet, so we’ll see if Stroman can regain his mojo and beat him.

63 Games

Ok, there are only 99 games left to go and how are the Blue Jays doing? Well, most would say compared to last year’s Jays, they haven’t hit their stride. There have been glimpses of brilliance this year, but for the most part, we’ve witnessed enough meltdowns that there is no lead big enough that instills enough confidence in us to relax.

The Jays had a good run of winning 5 series in a row that included the Yankees and Bosox. But lost their series to Detroit with a couple of ugly ones. So far this current series with the division leading Baltimore Orioles, they are split 1-1. The Jays won last night with a walk-off home run in the 10th inning off the bat of Edwin Encarnacion. Normally I would say great! But I attribute this one to luck. EE had gone 0-for-19 before that at bat, and he pretty much just swung as hard as he could and he got it over the opposite field wall. The Jays couldn’t ‘manufacture’ a run. I think they just got lucky off a relief pitcher who had only given up 1 other home run this season. That to me says that we can’t yet expect that to happen often.

The highlight was that the bullpen including Chavez, Osuna, and Storen didn’t give up any runs.

So how are the Jays doing compared to 2015?

After 63 games, the Jays record is 33-30. After 63 games in 2015, 33-30!

Ok, doesn’t seem so bad, but big changes came at the trade deadline bringing in Troy Tulowitzki, David Price, Ben Revere, and LaTroy Hawkins. A big boost like that is not expected this year.

The split for 1-run games so far is 7-12 (.368). In 2015, 15-28 (.349).

A lot has been said about how poorly the Jays have done in 1-run games. But it seems like it’s pretty how it was last year, if not slightly better.

How did the Jays do by month in 2015?

Wining percentage 2015:
Apr  .478
May  .414
Jun  .667
Jul  .480
Aug  .778
Sep  .667

So far in 2016, Apr .440, May .586. So in fact, May this year was better than last year. Maybe June will be better like 2015.

How is the hitting compared to 2015 and is there hope for improvement?

I think it’s hard to compare because there has been some shuffling in some positions, but clearly the team as a whole has not been hitting as well as last year. Let’s look at the players who played full-time both years and see who’s got room for improvement.

If looking at batting average, on base percentage, and on base plus slugging…

Josh Donaldson is clearly not his MVP calibre self, but this year’s numbers are not that much different from 2014 so he might not repeat his 2013 and 2015 performances.

Jose Bautista‘s batting average is lower than 2015 but actually he’s not too far off his 2016 projections.

Kevin Pillar probably isn’t too far off his potential looking at his career performance so although not performing as well as last year, may not be expected to get much better over the year.

Russell Martin is below his previous 2 years with the Jays, so he is the one guy clearly hitting under his potential and who will hopefully continue to move back towards his usual level of hitting.

Edwin Encarnacion has also not yet hit his stride. He’s traditionally been a slow starter so he should get to where he’s been and we should see continued improvement.

Justin Smoak on the upside has been better than 2015 having the opportunity to play every day.

So is there hope for the offense? We could see a dramatic improvement in the hitting. We need 1) Martin and Encarnacion to get back to where they’ve been on average. We’d also like to see 2) Tulowitzki figure out how to get back to his pre-Blue Jay self. That would be a mega-boost to the offense.