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?
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.
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.
Tonight’s game against the Texas Rangers was Jose Bautista’s 1000th game as a Blue Jay.
The Rangers got an early lead in the 2nd when catcher Bobby Wilson hit his 2nd grand slam ever. Estrada had a rough start. There was hope in the 5th but only 1 run scored and the Rangers got another in the 6th on a passed ball. It seemed that the game was lost, but in the top of the 9th, Jose Bautista hit a double. Justin Smoak then brought him in with a home run making the score 5-4. Then, Tulowitzki followed up with a solo shot over the fence, tying the game at 5-5.
Again, I thought the umping was crooked and inconsistent. Obviously I thought he was calling against the Jays more often then for the Rangers. Ezequiel Carrera was again disappointing in centre field.
AND, in the 10th, Drew Stubbs who is not a home run hitter, hits a home run off Gavin Floyd, beating the Jays 6-5 in extra innings.
Did you know…?
Sam Dyson actually started his Major League career in 2012 with the Toronto Blue Jays.
R. A. Dickey was drafted by the Texas Rangers 20 years ago!
Batting Average = the ratio of a batter’s safe hits per official times at bat = hits/at bats = H/AB.
Walks don’t count in the numerator or denominator. A season batting average over .300 is excellent. For non-pitchers, below .230 is poor, and below .200 is unacceptable. The level .200 is also called the Mendoza Line named after Mario Mendoza, a stellar defensive shortstop with offensive shortcomings (hmm, remind you of anyone?).
Sabermetrics, the study of baseball stats, considers Batting Average a weak measure because it doesn’t correlate well with runs scores, therefore isn’t a great predictor of performance. It doesn’t account for walks or power, as compared to On Base Percentage and Slugging Percentage as well as On-Base Plus Slugging (OPS).
Right now, Michael Saunders is in 9th place in the American League with a AVG of .328. Justin Smoak is the only other regular on the Jays who is over .300. ‘Joey’ Bautista is below .230 and ‘Tulo’ Tulowitzki, Russ Martin and ‘Go-Go’ Goins are all below .200.
The Blue Jay Team AVG of .235 places them 13th out of 15 teams in the AL. They are however 7th in Runs at 150.
Clearly, the offense is the greatest weakness right now and if not for the amazing starting pitching for the most part, the Jays would probably be dead last. But, maybe, just maybe, things are starting to warm up and if all the pieces can fall together, they are going to be awesome.
Starting the season in AAA must be a hard pill for Drew Hutchison to swallow. But he gave a good effort in his spot start on Sunday and the Jays won 6-3 leading to a series win! Everyone got a hit except Troy Tulowitzki who did get a walk. Jose Bautista had a homerun and none other than Ezequiel Carrera who’s had the weekend of his career.
Sadly for Drew, he’ll be back with the Bisons Tuesday. Not only is he not in the big leagues, he’s in BUFFALO! That kinda sucks.
Full House Home Opener
I was one of the 48 871 who was at the Rogers Centre for the home opener of 2016. Marcus Stroman pitching. Josh Donaldson playing despite his calf strain. The place – was – packed! Josh gets presented his AL MVP award by George Bell. New logos are unveiled. And the players run onto the field with their names announced, but oops! The announcer skips Michael Saunders who runs out while the announcer’s already moved on to Russell Martin. Ouch! The nice, polite Canadian, who’s dreamed of playing for the Blue Jays, who missed ALL of last season with a busted knee, who no one talked about because we all talked about Stroman’s busted knee, finally gets to start the 2016 Home Opener…and they skip his name…
What else was funny? I don’t know how many times clips from last year’s playoffs will be on the Jumbotron this season, but I loved seeing David Price up there celebrating with the Jays, and he and his team watching it from the Boston dugout.
In 2015, the Blue Jays went 93-69 scoring a total of 891 runs, by far the most runs in the League. Now, how many times did the Jays score 7 or more runs? 57 times.
How many times did the Jays LOSE when they scored 7 or more runs? 4.
So the probability of winning when they scored at least 7? 93%.
Well, unfortunately Friday night’s game went against the odds.
The bottom of the 4th was an awesome half inning. The Jays went into it behind 2-1, but then, Michael Saunders gets on base, Russell Martin gets his first hit of the season, Ryan Goins gets on, then Darwin Barney hits a single and Saunders scores. Kevin Pillar is then hit by pitch right in the helmet, and Martin scores. (You can tell Pillar used to play football, because he never seems too bothered by getting hit in the head!). So with the bases still loaded and no one out, who comes to bat but the AL MVP, Josh Donaldson, who proceeds to hit the 2nd Grand Slam of his career! So perfect, and we ultimately leave the inning with a 7-2 lead.
So what happened? How did we end up losing our much anticipated Home Opener 8-7? At the top of 6th, Marcus Stroman got yanked after he loaded the bases. Then Brock Holt proceeded to hit HIS Grand Slam with Jesse Chavez pitching. How irritating that they rained on our Grand Slam parade! The crowd was shocked. It was silent at Rogers Centre as all 48 871 of us watched the ball sail over the right field wall. Silent as the 4 BoSoxers trotted around the bases. Chavez then got out of the inning, with a flyout and a strikeout, and walked back to the dugout, shaking his head. And then in the 7th, Storen left 2 runners on and these 2 scored with Brett Cecil on the mound, putting the Red Sox ahead 8-7.
The Jays made a comeback attempt in the 8th replacing Barney with Smoak to hit, then replacing Smoak with Carrera to run. Carrera proceeds to successfully steal 2nd base, and the crowd is cheering again. It looks like we’ve got a chance when Donaldson gets into the batter’s box, but no, he grounds out to end the inning. So, guess what, who’s going to play 3rd base now? Russell Martin who proceeds to field a groundball and throws out the runner at 1st.
In total, the Jays went through 6 pitchers, Stroman, Chavez, Storen, Cecil, Floyd, Biagini in that order.
Seem a bit unusual to you? I get that Gibbons is feeling out the bullpen, and they need to work or the Spring Training work is wasted, and yeah, the bullpen failed us. But obviously the decision to bring Chavez in for Stroman wasn’t a good one. Easy to say in retrospect. His win probability in a clutch situation 2015 was 0.01. I’m assuming bases fully loaded is considered high leverage?
Should Floyd have come in next instead of Chavez? Should Stroman have been left in?
Maybe there was no intention to use Floyd but they were forced to later when Cecil didn’t have it? Maybe the 5-run lead at the time seemed a safe enough position to have Chavez pitch? Not sure.
As with the last game, I would argue that a WIN would have been a big deal, it being the home opener and the most anticipated sports event in Canada for the past 6 months, and that they needed to bring out their best and do what they needed to win, then hey go ahead and start experimenting after that. They say 10-15 more games and they’ll have the bullpen settled. Man that sounds like a long time. The sooner the better.
The Jays lost the 4th game of their opening series 5-3 to the Tampa Bay Rays and ended up with a 2-2 series tie. It would have been nice to start the season with a winning series especially since the Jays have traditionally faired poorly at Tropicana Field.
Past 5 years 17-30
And an even worse Series record…
Past 5 years 2-11-2
The Jays however are getting good at stirring up news and dissent. Never mind the turmoil that Jays’ manager John Gibbons stirred up with his ‘dresses’ joke. But there were a lot of questions around his decision to replace Gavin Floyd, the experienced long reliever, with Arnold Leon in the high leverage 8th inning when the Jays were hanging onto a 3-2 lead with the Rays having a runner on 1st and 3rd. This was Leon’s first major league appearance. I think that if you’re going to pull the pitcher here, you replace him with a shutdown reliever right? Was Gibby thinking that they might get a repeat of 20-year-old Roberto Osuno when his first pitch in the Major Leagues was vs. Alex Rodrigueswith 2 runners on base in 2015 when he struck him out? Check this out. Cool as a cucumber.
Poor Leon is the next player in line to go down to AAA when Estrada joins the lineup. And was that situation the right time for Leon to get some work? I guess however, that 2 runners on base wasn’t quite the situation when Leon started warming up but wouldn’t it have been safer to leave Floyd in? He might have had a better chance of avoiding the 3-run homerun that ensued, but who knows?
I don’t really understand why Osuna or Storen couldn’t come in. Storen played or warmed up the last 3 days, but was he tired? It was only the 4th day of the season! And Osuna I guess is the 9th inning pitcher, but if you don’t get there, then there is no bottom of the 9th!
I think when the Jays make logical decisions, there’s a sense of comfort in their ability, but when they start making strange management decisions, it starts to get very confusing. There are more high tech ways to figure out if a pitcher needs rest than just looking at how many days in a row they threw a ball. The Blue Jays for sure must have access to that.
Other things I didn’t love about Wednesday’s game was the home plate umpire Laz Diaz’ strike zone. It was all over the place! Does umping get better later in the season as well?
And the rationale to take out Saunders and replace him with Carrera? Saunders had been hitting the Rays well, so were they worried he was tired too?
And of course, we all held our collective breath when 3rd baseman Josh Donaldson limped off the field with a strained calf. He tweaked it after his 3-run homer in the 3rd inning.
I expect it will take much more than a strain to keep Donaldson away from the home opener. I hope so since I’ll be there at Rogers Centre and he’ll be sorely missed if he doesn’t play!
Rogers Centre is going to be a packed house. Does anyone else find it strange that Tropicana Field’s seats are so empty during their season and home opener? Is it because they finished 4th in the AL East in 2015 and 17th overall? Or is it because all the snow birds from Toronto have made their way north? There are 42 active players born in Florida so you’d think that Floridians must love baseball. Or was it just because they played during the weekdays. Well, Rogers Centre will absolutely be thumping on Friday. It’s going to be awesome!