Ohhh…so many good things about Saturday’s 9-3 win over the Oakland A’s at the Rogers Centre. The dome was closed. The game was sold out. Not surprisingly, the Jays are ranked 4th in attendance for their home games this year. Oakland’s 5-game win streak is over. The Jays 3-game losing streak is done. All is good.
J. A. Happ pitched 7 innings and allowed 3 runs. He did this despite only 1 strikeout, the first batter in the 1st inning. He also had only 1 walk and the 2nd batter hit a homerun. But otherwise, the Blue Jay defense neutralized the offense.
Gavin Floyd pitched the remaining 2 innings and did not allow any runs.
There was a bit of drama in the 6th when recently traded Liam Hendricks hit Donaldson with a pitch. In the 7th, Happ retaliated by hitting Khris Davis with a pitch (that he caught with his armpit). Gibby didn’t believe these were intentional. Gregg Zaun though for sure Happ’s was intentional. He may not have meant to hit the batter but threw inside as if to say, ‘Hey, if you keep pitching our guys inside, we’re going to have to do the same.’ The way Happ hit his glove afterward, suggests to me that at least he didn’t intend to hit the pitcher. This drama led to warnings issued to both sides.
Blue Jay defense cleaned up. No passed balls. Three double plays. Even Ezequiel Carrera looked great and made 2 Pillar style layout catches in left field. (I disagree with Gregg Zaun about them being TV dives.) I hadn’t realized that Carrera didn’t speak English until Hazel Mae interviewed him after the game. I mean, he’s rarely interviewed!
And the Offense…
Ahh…the offense that we know and love. Bautista and Martin RBIs to start. Then Josh Donaldson and that classic J. D. swing landed a 3-run homer off Oakland’s Bassitt. That broke the Jays 2-1 lead wide open to 5-1.
What did the Jays do different? Well, they started the game playing small ball. Hit by hit. No one tried to be the hero. Even Bautista seemed so happy to get 2 RBIs despite no hits. When the big bats aren’t working, that’s the way to win a la KC Royals right?
Did you notice…
What a good mood Bautista was in? He was smiling and chatty when he got back to the dugout after the RBIs. That must have lifted everyone’s spirits. Overall, a sign of awesomeness to come.
Some mornings when I’m writing a post after the Blue Jays have lost, it feels like I’m writing a post-mortem.
Video Recap April 21
Jose Bautista continued to be angry. Looked like this ump hated both sides with a staring contest with Bautista and an ejection of Matt Wieters of the Orioles in the 5th inning.
After seeing Donaldson’s 2015 catch in the stands on the highlight reel like a hundred times, I didn’t expect to see him miss one. This Trumbo foul shot, Donaldson had in his glove, but dropped when he fell into the stands. This time, he didn’t have Toronto fans protecting his face.
Pitching and Offense
The talk all off-season was ‘the starting rotation…, the starting rotation…’ and the offense was a given. Well the starting rotation is just fine, but what is with the offense?
The 3 key offensive players, Edwin Encarnacion (AVG .299), Josh Donaldson (not Josh MacDonald, Buck) (AVG .284), and Jose Bautista (AVG .276) have been doing fine and Michael Saunders (AVG .321) seems happy in the leadoff spot. The Jays were 5-7 with Pillar in leadoff, and 3-2 with Saunders in leadoff. But the rest of the lineup is still struggling with 2 and a half hitters still below .200.
Passed balls and Permeable gloves
Remember how disappointing Wednesday night’s game was when Joe Biagini got his signs crossed and threw the wrong pitch to Josh Thole. Thole who tends to turn his glove away towards balls pitched towards his opposite side, allowed a passed ball which scored the tie-breaking 10th inning run. Thole looked like he was going to cry. A lot of people asked, why wasn’t Russell Martin in there instead? Well, turns out, the very next day, Martin also allowed a passed ball pitched from Brett Cecil in the the bottom of the 8th. This allowed Joey Rickard to advance to 2nd, which then allowed the tie-breaking run when Bautista couldn’t come up with Manny Machado’s bloop to right field.
Machado also got a fluke hit after his line drive went right through the webbing of Donaldson’s glove. It’s interesting to hear opposing team commentary. The Orioles commentator’s statement was ‘that’s why you’re not supposed to catch the ball with the webbing’. Whatever dude.
Same thing happened to Tulowitzki’s glove on April 5th. This one was predictable since his glove has been on it’s last legs for a while.
Sigh. Overall, considering the Blue Jay bats are stale, they are still managing to hover around a .500 record. If they could just clean up a few things, they could still stay in the running. If they clean up their defense which for the most part is great, AND the bats wake up, they really should be unstoppable, right? Sounds easier said than done.
Another close one.
The Toronto Blue Jays won the 1st of a 3-game series with their archrivals, the Baltimore Orioles. When was the seed of this rivalry planted? Benches got warned back in 2014 after this pitch by Marcus Stroman.
Stroman pitched 7 innings. Bautista shot an RBI double. Tulowitzki got a 2-run double to continue his 3-game hitting streak. He’s had 1 hit in the last 3 games and his is average is now .148. Is it a coincidence that we have also won the last 3 games? Do we need Tulo to hit to win?
Cecil did his job. Osuna shut down the last 4 batters to get his 5th save. I mean do you not have the utmost of confidence in this 21-year-old or what?
There are articles out there talking about the lineup and that changing the order actually has a small effect. There is less than a 1 run differential between the worst lineup order and the best. But it’s still interesting to think about. Right now we have the 3 worst hitters hitting in the 5th, 6th and 7th spots. They are supposed to be there to bring in any of the power hitters who are still on base. Right now, Pillar and Goins are in 8th and 9th. Gregg Zaun says that’s good because they are not hitting often, but if they get on base, the big hitters at the top of the lineup will drive them in. So which is it? Should they shuffle the lower half of the lineup until the bats get going?
Aaron Sanchez has done everything the Blue Jays were hoping he would do and more. Yet, the ‘W’ had eluded him in his first 2 starts of the season. Sunday afternoon he finally got paid with a 5-3 win over the Boston Red Sox. He gave up only 1 earned run, and shockingly, the other 2 were given up during the controversial insertion of closer Roberto Osuna when Shaw hit a 2-run homerun over the right field wall. Controversial because it was not a save situation, thus allowing the Red Sox to see more of the ace-in-the-hole. I did not expect to have to worry about losing the game with a 4-run lead in the 9th with Osuna on the mound. But you know what? In typical Osuna fashion, the homer didn’t get to him and he closed down the rest of the inning to preserve the win. He essentially saved the game from himself!
Jose Bautista homers off Wright in the first inning. The Jays got a total of 14 hits including each member of the starting lineup.
What I saw…
I saw the determination on Ryan Goins’ face when running home on Josh Donaldson’s double. You know, it’s so easy to say things like ‘you suck’ when a player underperforms, but that one look tells you that most of the time, they try very hard at their job, harder probably than most people at their jobs. Yeah they’re easy to target because you have to pay to watch them and they make good money. But Goins made it home and I appreciated that.
Another loss. What should have been a fun and competitive reunion between David Price and his previous team on Saturday ended up feeling like a bit of a debacle. For the most part, Estrada was strong except for the 3rd inning when he got nailed in the leg. This allowed 1 on base. Then Donaldson missed what could have been a double play to get out of the inning, instead leaving 2 runners on for the ensuing 3-run homerun. That was unfortunately the turning point.
Even before this, the game looked promising but started with a bit of bad mojo. Donaldson started the 1st inning with a triple but got caught on camera yelling at his 3rd base coach Rivera. Bautista then followed with what should have been a triple, but the call was that he got tagged out.
Encarnacion later hit a double. Throughout the rest of the game, Angel Hernandez’ strike zone was quite unstable leading to increasing frustration among the batters, who aren’t hitting that well to begin with.
What’s different from last year?
So why is this slump happening so soon? Well, slumps happen but consider this theory. The off season changes that were made to the Jays lineup were meant to fill gaps in skills. The biggest perceived hole was the starting rotation and the bullpen and most changes were made in that area. The starting rotation now seems to be just fine with Stroman, Estrada, Sanchez, Happ and Dickey (well, not so much Dickey), although the bullpen has yet to find it’s groove except for Roberto Osuna who has picked up where he left off last season.
New gaps were created with the losses that occurred during the off season. I believe a big one may be the clubhouse cheering squad. We all know that we lost a superstar pitcher when David Price’s brief stint with the Blue Jays was over and that we lost a speedy leadoff hitter with an on base percentage (OBP) of 0.354 when we traded Ben Revere for Drew Storen, believing that we needed another closer type of pitcher more than we needed Ben. The new lead-off hitter Kevin Pillar’s OBP in 2015 was 0.314 and so far in 2016 is 0.235 (yeesh!). It also seems like Revere was also better defensively in left field than Saunders but it’s harder to know since Saunders has played so little recently. Let’s see if we can make anything of the stats.
Range Factor per 9 Innings
Revere (LF) 2015 2.02
Saunders (LF) 2016 1.25 (only 9 games)
Saunders (LF) 2013 1.74
Saunders (LF) 2012 2.06
Comparing to Blue Jays’ gold standard:
Pillar (CF) 2015 2.99
Pillar (CF) 2016 2.51
Ok, yeah, Revere wasn’t Pillar but Saunders hasn’t been as good as Revere was in 2015 since Saunders played with Seattle in 2012. I omitted 2014 and 2015 for Saunders because he only played LF 3 games.
What about the intangibles?
Things we can’t look to statistics for. We lost the smiles and cheery Southern personalities of Price being from Nashville, Tennessee and Ben Revere originating from Atlanta, Georgia.
They say the clubhouse atmosphere hasn’t changed but I don’t believe it. There is no cheering squad left. We have the angry superstar leaders in Josh Donaldson and Jose Bautista. We have the polite Canadians in Michael Saunders and Russell Martin. We have the ‘I’m better than you think’ guys in Kevin Pillar and Chris Colabello. And we have the quiet pillars of the infield mega-defense in Troy Tulowitzki, Ryan Goins and Darwin Barney. But where are the happy, fun guys?
New guys: Drew Storen, J.A. Happ, Jesse Chavez, Gavin Floyd…anything memorable about these guys’ personalities?
Now, Stroman is super high energy, and he’s always smiling so I guess he’s the only bit of cheering quad left, but he’s got a lot he’s trying to prove and a huge chip on his shoulder that Price and Revere didn’t have.
On paper, this team as a whole looked better, but, are they still having fun? Of course, I miss David Price as the whole team clearly does, and it sucks that he went to a division rival, but I also miss Ben Revere because not only has Kevin Pillar failed to fill his lead off hitting shoes, we’re also missing some of that smooth Southern Comfort.
Thank you Ivan Nova. With the Yankees relief pitcher on the mound, the Blue Jays scored 4 runs in the 8th inning Wednesday night. The Jays had only scored 4 runs after the 5th inning in all the 8 previous games of this season. The final score of 7-2 was a sight for sore eyes.
Here are the highlights. Try to ignore the guy who keeps calling Goins ‘Goings’.
The die hard experts joke about us bandwagon fans. Silly bandwagoners freaking out over a few games. Well, so what? We bandwagon fans are spending $$$ on hats and jerseys. We bought one Tuesday night and it cost $185 + $30 for the 40th anniversary crest + HST!! We’re in it to win it. We’re not in this to grind out losses season after season. We want to cheer the team on as they win win win! What’s wrong with that? I’m sorry if I don’t enjoy watching them lose.
As a newbie fan of course I don’t understand sabermetrics but there are some stats that appear to be easy to understand, maybe hard to interpret, but isn’t that part of what we love about baseball? The stats and what picture they can paint. For example…
Smoak vs Colabello. I have this impression that Smoak is a bigger hitter and better defender than Colabello even though it seems like the Jays use Colabello more when they need hitting and Smoak for defense. So I tried to see if the stats support this.
2015 Games Hits HR RBI SO AVG BB% K% OBP SLG OPS
Smoak 132 67 18 59 86 0.226 8.8% 26.2% 0.299 .470 .768
Colabello 101 107 15 54 96 0.321 6.1% 26.7% 0.367 .520 .886
2015 G Inn Putouts Assists Errors
Smoak 110 687 666 44 4
Colabello 34 240 248 11 1
Hmm, that’s a lot of numbers but looks to me like Colabello edges out in both categories. Am I misunderstanding something? Or is it that Colabello’s kind of casual, flaccid way just doesn’t look as imposing as Justin Smoak’s 6’4 240lb frame.
One other question I had was does Kevin Pillar swing at a lot of pitches outside the zone? He seems to love chasing the down and away outside the zone. This seems to be an easy one to answer.
Kevin Pillar Plate Discipline compared to Jose Bautista.
The O-Swing% is the percentage of pitches outside the zone that the batter swings at.
O-Swing% 40.9% vs. 22.8%
Yep, compared to Bautista, Pillar swings at a LOT of pitches outside the zone. How do you get a lead off hitter to work on that?
I was at the Rogers Centre for the first game against the Yankees this season. I had expected not to see too many empty blue seats but the attendance was only 28000+. I guess because it was a Tuesday night.
I was kind of embarrassed when a NY fan and a Toronto fan started brawling in the 100 seats. I mean who does that at a baseball game on a Tuesday night? That was probably the most interesting that happened Tuesday night unfortunately.
The only highlight was Jose Bautista’s 2-run double.
But no doubt, Cecil’s a bit of a disaster right now. It isn’t a ‘slow start’. His ERA is over 10! Even my inexperienced eyes can tell that he’s moving more slowly than last year. He seems off balance after the pitch is released. I think it’s because he’s gained at least 10 lbs. And he wasn’t that slim to begin with. Maybe he can take a lesson from Aaron Sanchez. Get in shape and it’ll all come together.
Tulowitzki, Colabello and Martin are all hitting below 0.150. One might say, ok it’s early, but neither Boston’s or the Yankees roster stats looks like that. They’re digging themselves pretty deep holes to hit themselves out of. The Jays have the 2nd worst batting average right now.
Hitting against that Yankees bullpen didn’t help one bit. I have to admit, they’re pretty scary and will be scarier once Aroldis Chapman returns. The Blue Jays’ bats and bullpen need to get it together…and quick.