Tagged: John Gibbons

Bye-bye post-season, hello off-season

[sigh] Well, it took a few days to get over the AL Championship Series loss to a decimated Cleveland team who eked out win after win… after win after win… against the cold Blue Jays offence. The offence that was revitalized down the stretch and destroyed the much hated Texas Rangers much to the joy of Blue Jay fans (including myself).

But a 4 day break put the bats back on ice and a game 4 will to win by Josh Donaldson wasn’t sustainable.

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Comments by Jose Bautista before Game 5 about the rookie pitcher that was subbing in for Cleveland, left him a laughing stock when the Jays got shut out.

“With our experience in our lineup, I’m pretty sure he’s going to be shaking in his boots more than we are”

-Jose Bautista

I felt upset by the loss. I wanted them to end their season at Rogers with a win. I knew a comeback from a 3-0 deficit was remote, but just wanted to see one more win. And I think the disappointment had more to do with how they played than the loss itself.

The Twitter reaction was interesting. Most tweeters seemed happy and grateful for the second visit to the playoffs and getting to the final four. I get that. If I wasn’t a bandwagon fan, I would be grateful that I wasn’t reliving the 20 odd years where they didn’t make the playoffs at all.

But, I was mostly annoyed that there seemed to be a stubborn and conscious decision by the team not to adjust their approach. This philosophy comes from John Gibbons no doubt. But every other team with success in the playoffs, studied their opponents and adjusted their approach. It’s just necessary in the playoffs isn’t it? How did the Jays not learn their lesson in 2015 when they were killed by Kansas City’s small ball?

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Well, anyway. I will be asking myself these questions for the next 5 months until Spring Training comes around again. As I watch what I hope is a promising transformation of the Jays into an even stronger team. I’m kind of excited and really hope not to be disappointed.

Of all the pending free agents, the only one I’ll really miss is Edwin.

I hope so badly that he comes back, but the man going to get paid, and the Jays may decide that they want a younger, cheaper, left-handed slugger/first baseman instead.

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I’m hoping the Jays’ head office will spend some money. I mean how much $$ did the fans spend this season? I mean it’s ridiculous really. I personally spent a few thousand dollars, and gosh, I don’t even want to count the number of hours.

It was fun, when they won. It sucked when they lost. It was an emotional ride. I guess that’s what being a sports fan is all about.

 

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!

The Stench of Odor

I’ve never liked Rougned Odor, but I didn’t know why. Now I do. Doesn’t he look like someone?

What I don’t get about baseball is why it’s not ok to flip a bat in the biggest moment of your career, but it’s ok to shove and punch someone? At least, can we drop the bat flip discussion and talk about what a piece of crap Odor is?

So, yeah, the Jays lost, but that is not the headline of Sunday’s game against the Texas Rangers. The full on brawl was. The Rangers pulled a cheesy move and had their rookie (who’s been in jail by the way, for something foolish like a DUI) hit Jose Bautista in the 8th inning during his last at bat of the game, during the 7th game they’ve played, the last meeting of the year. The umps (same ones from the playoffs against Texas last year), issued warnings which probably fueled the fire. They should have left it alone or ejected the pitcher.

So Bautista slid into Odor without hurting him, then Odor freaks out like the freak that he is. After things settled, Chavez promptly hit Prince Fielder nice and gently in the leg. All in all, 5 Jays were ejected today. Tim Leifer (1st base coach), John Gibbons (manager), Jose Bautista, Josh Donaldson (not sure why), and Jesse Chavez. Bizarre and wild game. These two teams are going to go at it for a while.

It’s not all Cecil’s fault

Despite homeruns by Jose Bautista and Kevin Pillar, the Jays couldn’t get the win. Pillar made his first error since last June. And unfortunately, we can’t avoid talking about Brett Cecil again. After Saturday’s loss to the Tampa Bay Rays 4-3, Cecil is now 0-5. This is the most losses in relief at the end of April. Ever. (Well, since 1913). Again, he allowed 3 hits without getting an out.

The scary thing is the Cecil says he can’t change anything and doesn’t want to change anything. He says he feels good and is pitching well.

I’m not to sure. His pitches seem the seem, but the pitch choices may not be. John Gibbons wasn’t happy with his last pitch choice on Saturday.

According to baseball-reference.com he has been playing more high leverage situations in 2016 compared to 2015.

gmLI (game-entering Leverage Index)
2015   1.20
2016   1.96

We know that the Jays have started off slow in the past and weren’t in terrific shape in 2015 when the trade deadline came around hovering at around a .500 record. How are the Jays fairing compared to last April?

PITCHING
2015   2016
W-L           11-12  11-14
ERA            4.78     3.89
OPP AVG   .270     .252
WHIP          1.45      1.30

So if they’re pitching better, why isn’t their record better? Maybe the other teams are that much better? Maybe, but actually the Offense is the reason.

OFFENSE
2015    2016
Team AVG   .248    .232
Runs/Game   5.3       4.0
HR                    28         29
RISP             .276      .220
K/Game         7.7        9.3

The biggest problem is the RISP (runners in scoring position) and too many strikeouts. So…hard to blame Cecil and the bullpen completely. If the offense was living up to it’s name, the Jays would be doing well. The team should probably listen to Josh Donaldson and change their approach at the plate.

The Jays get swept…and we wept

The Blue Jays get shut out of the game and of the series against the Chicago White Sox and 3 former Blue Jays.

BULLPEN WOES

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.

LINEUP SHUFFLE

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.

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Carlos Osorio/Toronto Star

 

It’s Time To Switch-Up The Blue Jays Lineup – Bluebird Banter

Due to a poor lineup construction, the Blue Jays are easy to matchup against late in games, and the team is simply wasting runs as a result.

Read article via It’s Time To Switch-Up The Blue Jays Lineup – Bluebird Banter

I HATE LOSING

The Toronto Blue Jays went 42-18 after the trade deadline in 2015, so bandwagon fans were only used to watching the Jays lose less than 1 in 3 games. So far this season, the Jays are losing more than 1 in 2 and it sucks. As a bandwagoner, I haven’t yet learned to derive enjoyment out of watching them play poorly. If they play well and still lose in a close game, yeah I can enjoy that. But games where the whole team looks lacklustre or when after 11 games in the season, there are still 3 positions batting less than 0.200, well, I don’t like it.

HIGHLIGHTS

Of course the highlights of Friday night’s game were Encarnacion’s 2 homeruns. Josh Donaldson however ended his 10-game hit streak and in fact, threw his first error of the season. He had 18 last year.

The other highlight? Seeing John Gibbons signal the bullpen with a 2-handed air quote gesture to call for the amidextrous (not ambidextr-i-ous Buck) pitcher, Pat Venditte.

I also love rundowns. The Jays got Shaw in this not so elegant rundown.

Sigh of Relief

Thank you Marco Estrada! The quiet, humble, understated, under the radar Marco Estrada came out big on this frosty Sunday afternoon final game of the 2016 home opener series against the Boston Red Sox. After losing the first 2 games of the series pretty BADLY (I mean, any loss would have been bad), most of us felt we needed to win. John Gibbons said after the game that there really isn’t such a thing as a MUST WIN so early in the season, but as a bandwagon fan, it certainly felt that way didn’t it? We needed some confirmation that we weren’t out of minds. That the team wasn’t just great on paper. That all the hype wasn’t just hype and that we were in fact headed for a disappointing season. Afraid that despite being good, the rivals were better.

The Jays hadn’t been swept since May 2015 in Houston. The Jays hadn’t lost 3 straight at home since August 2014. Thanks to Marco Estrada, they still haven’t.

Vintage Estrada

Estrada had 8 strikeouts in 91 pitches over 7 innings pitched. To put it in Gibby’s words, he was ‘vintage Estrada’. Smooth. On target. Quietly understated finesse. Estrada in his subtle fashion shut Boston down and the Jays took home the win 3-0.

Thankfully the defense found their groove, like they had to give Estrada everything he needed to quiet the naysayers. Dustin Pedroia almost got home but the defense came alive with power throws by Bautista and Goins and a perfect tag by Russell Martin.

Oh, and Donaldson got his 4th homer of the season. At first I thought I was watching a replay, that perfect Josh Donaldson homerun swing.

And don’t you just love watching Osuna run out to the mound to save the game? Strikeout. Strikeout. Strikeout.

Jose Bautista, who walked twice, has reached base in 20 consecutive games (including post-season), dating to Oct.3, 2015.

The Rogers Centre has had 15 straight sellouts going back to last season. And I think that’s going to continue for a while. I mean, everyone including me, is just hanging off every detail about this team. The expectations are extraordinary. Who knows what’s going to happen but it sure is going to be a fun ride.

 

 

Is a 5-run lead enough? Apparently not.

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.

Grand Slams

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.

 

Why Leon?

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.

Games            W-L
2015                 3-6
2014                 6-4
2013                 4-6
2012                 1-8
2011                 3-6
Past 5 years  17-30

And an even worse Series record…

Series               W-L-T
2015                  1-2-0
2014                  1-1-1
2013                  0-2-1
2012                  0-3-0
2011                  0-3-0
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.

Strike Zone

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!

 

The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly

First, the good.

I love, love, love seeing Russell Martin throw out a base stealer. It’s such a perfect way to end an inning. He had a 44% Caught Stealing % for 2015!

And how about Justin Smoak stealing second (while getting beaned in the helmet)? I didn’t know he could steal bases! He hasn’t stolen a base since 2012 and this was only his 3rd time in his career.

And Michael Saunders has been really solid so far. I loved seeing him push hard to run to first which they called safe on the field, but the hit was overturned on review.

I didn’t have the impression that Sanchez was at his best. He certainly made some beautiful pitches and he didn’t seem to be physically struggling throwing the ball but didn’t look too comfortable – maybe it was all mental. His mom and step dad were in the audience. Certainly his stepdad looked crazy nervous. If my son were a pro athlete I’d be super nervous too!

Then, the bad.

It was surprising to see Pillar miss one. Could he be a bit stunned from yesterday’s smash in the head? We’ve gotten so used to him catching impossible plays that’s it’s unnerving to see him miss one.

Shocking that Tulo missed one too but when I saw the replay, he actually had it, but the ball had busted through that ratty old glove. The same one where the ball got stuck in the webbing the other night. That glove cost us 2 plays, but how many plays has it saved?

Another surprise was Brett Cecil who hit Kevin Kiermaier with a pitch, Kiermaier representing the tying run, and who seems to be an aggressive baserunner. Cecil looks like he’s put on a few pounds. He also gave up a HR to Forsythe and broke his 38 game runless streak.

The Jays seemed to have many chances to run away the runs but somehow struggled to cash in with the 9 hits, the team RISP 2-for-12 and LOB of 11, UNTIL the top of the 9th.

The UGLY!…

OMG I got a headache. I don’t even know what to say, just like Gibby who’s mad as hell. Of course, I am referring to the last play of the game. Goins and Donaldson single and Jose walks. Edwin Encarnacion has bases loaded and the baserunners are ready. Edwin hits a ground ball to Evan Longoria who throws to Forsythe at 2nd getting out Jose Bautista who then made a legal slide BUT caressed Forsythe’s ankle with his hand which may or may not have resulted in the overthrow to first, thus disrupting the double play. The on field call was that Edwin was safe and that the 2 runs that came in gave the Jays a 4-3 lead. On review, they overturned the call…

The MLB introduced the new rule in its announcement:

Under new Rule 6.01(j), which has been added to the existing Rule 6.01 on “Interference, Obstruction, and Catcher Collisions,” slides on potential double plays will require runners to make a bona fide attempt to reach and remain on the base. Runners may still initiate contact with the fielder as a consequence of an otherwise permissible slide. A runner will be specifically prohibited from changing his pathway to the base or utilizing a “roll block” for the purpose of initiating contact with the fielder. Potential violations of Rule 6.01(j) will be reviewable using instant replay. Also reviewable will be “neighborhood play” calls, which previously were exempted from replay review.

Here is the text of the new rule (the ‘j’ is the new amendment):

RULE 6.01(j) — SLIDING TO BASES ON DOUBLE PLAY ATTEMPTS

If a runner does not engage in a bona fide slide, and initiates (or attempts to make) contact with the fielder for the purpose of breaking up a double play, he should be called for interference under this Rule 6.01. A “bona fide slide” for purposes of Rule 6.01 occurs when the runner:

(1) begins his slide (i.e., makes contact with the ground) before reaching the base;

(2) is able and attempts to reach the base with his hand or foot;

(3) is able and attempts to remain on the base (except home plate) after completion of the slide; and

(4) slides within reach of the base without changing his pathway for the purpose of initiating contact with a fielder.

To me, not being a player from the ‘old days’, don’t disagree with the league and the players association trying to prevent the bad injuries that have happened. But I think the call by New York Tuesday night, did not represent the intent of the new rule. And even if we followed the letter of the law, Jose fulfilled ALL 4 criteria and the announcement clearly states that ‘Runners may still initiate contact with the fielder as a consequence of an otherwise permissible slide.’ What a bad way to ruin an amazing comeback play, an ugly way to end a game. Now that does not represent the spirit of the game. First of all, Cash (the Tampa Bay manager) shouldn’t have asked for a review in the spirit of the game seeing as his player was not at risk of getting hurt. Second, should the reviewers not be looking for good evidence to overturn? If you watched Sportsnet, Buck Martinez and Pat Tabler thought there was no way it would get overturned. However, if you watched the Tampa Bay network, they thought for sure he should get called out. So either, they are more informed than Buck and Taby, or, your team bias determines how you see it. Anyone else feel that there’s a bias against the Canadian team sometimes?