Tagged: Pillar

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.

 

Barney…Rubble…Trouble!

I had the chance to see this game live. Throughout the game, I was contemplating the large number of law enforcement and security around the perimeter of the field. And then it happened. Two police pinning down and cuffing someone in left field and escorting him out through the bullpen. No idea what he was doing.

Blue Jays win the series today with a 4-1 win over CC Sabathia and the NY Yankees. Justin Smoak homered for the Jays. Not sure where A-Rod was but he wasn’t in the lineup today.

PLAYER OF THE GAME

I give this to Darwin Barney mainly because he doesn’t get much recognition. Pillar would be a close second. Barney had the most dramatic hit with a 2-out single to right field leading to 2 RBIs. He astutely rounded 1st to 2nd to draw the plays to him, to help ensure the 2nd run could get home. That and right field was being played by Refsnyder, usually a 2nd baseman, instead of Aaron Hicks who has the better cannon.

Barney also ends the 8th with a great catch in foul territory against the wall.

CATCH OF THE GAME

Kevin Pillar contributed big time with driving in the go ahead run. He also made a Superman style catch and a couple of other great catches. He was busy today.

REINFORCING THE BULLPEN

The Jays have signed 39-year-old Jason Grilli from the Atlanta Braves in exchange for a prospect, in the hopes that he can turn things around for himself and contribute.

STANDINGS

The Jays are now still in 3rd place in the AL East but W-L 28-26 (.519). This is the first time they have been 2 games above .500 since their 3rd game. They’re 5 games behind Boston, and 2 games behind in the Wild Card race (if there is a race at this stage of the game).

Donaldson’s game

While Jose Bautista sat out his UNdeserved 1-game suspension, the Toronto Blue Jays, well, pretty much Josh Donaldson, overcame the AL East leading Boston Red Sox. A few defensive snaffoos but JD overcame those with 5 RBIs, 2 home runs and a double play off a line drive with the bases loaded. It was the 3rd time JD had 5+RBIs and the first time this season with a multi-home run game. Roberto Osuna remained the pillar of the Jays bullpen with a shutout 9th inning, his 11th save of the season.

Troy Tulowitzki had what are increasingly characteristic at bats with 3 strikeouts and an uncharacteristic overthrow to Justin Smoak at first base. He also got beaned up in the shoulder. The BoSox are a classy team though and you can see the catcher checking on Tulowitzki after the hit. I feel like Tulo plays better without the chip on his shoulder. He’s not a chip on the shoulder kind of guy as opposed to some of the other Blue Jay guys. Maybe if he lets that go a bit, he can do better.

Kevin Pillar and Michael Saunders missed what appeared to be a routine fly ball after getting their signals crossed (or having no signals at all).

Don’t worry, Bautista kept himself busy trying his hand at the PA in the 4th announcing Kevin ‘I can catch everything’ Pillar. And he attended the last game of the Toronto Raptors groundbreaking season with PK Subban.

How sad is this image? KLow gave it everything. What an amazing season. Let’s not forget the Raptors made it to the final 4 with the Warriors, Cavaliers and OKC!

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Jays win 4 games in a row

A 2-run homer for Jose Bautista and a 3-run home run for Kevin Pillar, of all people, won the game for the Toronto Blue Jays Friday night. Kevin Pillar is on that much fire that he punished the LA Dodgers for pitching around Justin Smoak to get to him.

Click to see Game Wrap

The big show is Saturday’s game with the best pitcher in the Major Leagues, Clayton Kershaw playing in Toronto for the first time. You may have caught a glimpse of him for a quarter at the Raptors game on Thursday night.

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The best pitcher in the league (of his generation) vs. R. A. Dickey? We just have to hope that the Jays get lucky and that the Dodgers have never seen a knuckleball.

TODAY’S LINEUP

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.

Passed balls and permeable gloves

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

Estrada was solid and had 9 Ks (strikeouts), even fielding a double play in the 1st inning.

Troy Tulowitzki continued his stellar defense.

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.

Is there a worse way to lose a game?

So R. A. Dickey had his typical bad 1st inning on Wednesday and allowed 3 Baltimore runs. The Toronto Blue Jays then slowly clawed their way back to a 3-3 tie scoring a run in the 3rd, 5th and 7th innings.

GREAT

Michael Saunders scored on a single by Edwin Encarnacion in the 3rd. Josh Donaldson got his 6th homer of the season on a line drive to right centre field. He’s on pace to hit 59 homers this season! Possible? Heck yeah! (Well, on the other hand, he’s also on pace to have 187 strikeouts.) And Edwin got another RBI on a line drive double to score Saunders in the 7th to tie the game.

Things were looking promising for Josh Thole when he threw Nolan Reimold out trying to steal 2nd base in the bottom of the 9th, a la Russell Martin. But the elation wouldn’t last…

BAD

Ubaldo Jimenez’ pitching windup. Looks like his arm gets dislocated behind before he sling shots it over his head. This is after a praying mantis set-up.

WORSE

#1 Pillar’s 1st at bat was pretty ugly. He pretty much gave up that he was looking for one away, (as he always does), so of course they jammed him up on the inside.

#2 Ryan Goins stole 2nd base in the 4th inning although didn’t make it home. But in the 6th, he was thrown out at home on a line drive single by Josh Thole.

#3 I’m liking Michael Saunders in the number 1 slot for hitting, but not so much his baserunning. Twice on Wednesday he made a mistake baserunning from 3rd base. In the 1st inning he succumbed to the double play after the pitcher caught the line drive by Encarnacion and threw Saunders out at 3rd.

Then in the 7th, he again didn’t stay on the bag until the pop fly was caught and by the time he went back to tag, he was too late to run home. Luckily, he was then sent home by Edwin with his double. So is there a stat for baserunning? Turns out there is.

BsR (Base running runs above average, includes Stolen Bases or Caught Stealing)
Saunders -0.7 compared to Pillar 0.5 and Donaldson 0.6.

So yeah, Saunders needs some baserunning practice.

WORST

What’s worse than a catcher that can’t catch? The bottom of the 10th. Extra innings. I’m not sure why Gavin Floyd wasn’t left in to pitch the 9th. He’s certainly doing better than Storen, and if the Jays successfully made it through the 9th, they knew they would need another arm. But after switching to Storen for the 9th, which he barely got out of, they had to bring Biagini in for the 10th. He loaded the bases but that wasn’t the worst of it. Josh Thole had a passed ball with Adam Jones batting, and the ball got far away from him so the winning run scored. Is that not the worst way to lose or what?

 

Tulo needs to hit

Another close one.

Rivalry

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.

Highlights

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?

The Lineup

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?

Kevin Pillar hates leadoff

Kevin Pillar has demonstrated that he is not a leadoff man and is much happier down in the bottom 3rd of the order. Who would have predicted that moving Kevin Pillar from the leadoff position to batting 8th would set him on such a roll? He went 3 for 3 on Monday and 3 for 4 on Sunday after the batting order switch. Michael Saunders who took over the leadoff spot went 1 for 4 plus a walk on Monday and 1 for 5 on Sunday. Saunders had been hitting .281 vs. Pillar’s .205. After the switch, now Saunders is hitting .268 vs. Pillar’s .273. Interesting.

My Questions

Why is it that despite both guys saying they don’t change their approach depending on the position, does it seem that Pillar is much more comfortable down in the number 8 spot? Is it pressure? Do the pitchers pitch differently to them? More fastballs to those lower in the order? Do we also lose the benefit of stolen bases? Pillar stole 25 in 2015. Saunders stole 21 in 2012. I’ll have to look into this further.

Video Highlights (this announcer has some major issues pronouncing people’s names)

The Blue Jays’ starting pitching continued to shine with J. A. Happ giving up only 1 run in 7 innings, now with an ERA of 1.89. Another glimmer of hope. Cecil didn’t allow any runs and his ERA is now down to 4.76.

What I loved…

I loved seeing Encarnacion move. In the 4th, he showed his agility snaring a barely fair drive down the 1st base line.

The Jays are now back to a .500 record and back to 2nd place in the Division.

Not your average bandwagoner…

Ok, remember how I said I bought the MLB.tv subscription? I was able to watch much of this game live while I was at work even though it was at 1030 in the morning!