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.
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.
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.
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…
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!
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
Liriano 5.46 (with the Pirates)
ERA After Aug 5
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’.
Nice game today. A bit of everything. Estrada was awesome and finished out 8 shutout innings. Pillar hits a double. Ryan executes a perfect bunt to advance him to 3rd, but neither Bautista nor Donaldson could drive him in. That was kind of disappointing. Then in the 9th, Aaron Loup who was great yesterday struckout one, but then hits the batter and then gives up a homer. He’s replaced with Drew Storen and everyone was nervous. He promptly gave up a double. So Jesse Chavez and Chad Girodo both madly start warming up. But fortunately he got his 2 outs without any further damage and the Jays win!
PLAYER OF THE GAME
I definitely have to give that to Marco Estrada. He went 8 innings and only gave up 3 hits shutting out the Yanks.
HITTER OF THE GAME
Ryan Goins who went 2 for 2 against Ivan Nova with an RBI and 2 runs scored. A double and an opposite field home run! He also executed a perfect sac bunt to advance Kevin Pillar.
PLAY OF THE GAME
I have to say the 3-6-3 double play (Smoak 1B-Barney 2B-Smoak 1B). Love those!
DESIGNATED FOR ASSIGNMENT (DFA)
After 7 games, Jimmy Paredes has been designated for assignment. What does that mean?
Accoring to Wikipedia, a player who is DFA is immediately removed from the team’s 40-man roster, after which the team must either:
- return the player to the 40-man roster within 10 days from the date of designation, or
- make one of the following moves:
- Place the player on waivers
- Trade the player
- Release the player
- Outright the player from the 40-man roster into the Minor Leagues
So we’ll see what happens. They did it to bring Ryan Tepera back up from the Minors (I’m surprised they haven’t yet given up on Tepera). I expect a reversal or another roster move within the week. Tepera has struggled to stay on the roster and Brett Cecil may be back by then.
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.
The Blue Jays get shut out of the game and of the series against the Chicago White Sox and 3 former Blue Jays.
Wednesday was a wasted effort by Marco Estrada and the final result, a 3-0 series win by the Chicago White Sox, a team that now includes Dioner Navarro, Brett Lawrie and Melky Cabrera. In 2015, the Jays only got swept once in a 3 game series. Estrada actually did great with a sore arm and leaving after 118 pitches. He gave up his one bad hit to none other than his old catcher Dioner Navarro who got a triple. Dioner obviously had the advantage of see each of his pitches for a year.
The bullpen is supposed to save the starter. That has NOT happened. More than half of inherited runs are still getting home. This is the highest in the league. The bullpen lacks pitchers who can strike batters out and keep runners on the bases. In addition to the shortcomings of starting pitcher R. A. Dickey, this has been a consistent problem amidst the intermittent problems with batting and defense.
The pitchers that the Jays retained and acquired were pitchers that could limit runs to 3 or less. This was with the assumption that the hitters would hit! This has not been happening as we all know too well.
And defense was a bit of a circus out in right field Wednesday night.
The lineup has been shuffled on an almost daily basis. I think this lack of stability is not helping matters at all.
But I do think we need to move at least Russell Martin down the lineup. His at bats should be limited until he finds it. The wasted batters need to be grouped together at the bottom. Too many runners are getting left on base because adequate hitters are followed by the inadequate.
GIBBY GETS EJECTED
John Gibbons was not happy with a lot of the homeplate umpire’s calls and they argued a fair bit. Ultimately, the homeplate umpire butt his nose in and ejected Gibby even though Gibby wasn’t talking to him. Ridiculous.
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 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.