Tagged: Saunders

Saunders very ‘unclutch’

via Fangraphs: Michael Saunders has helped or killed the blue jays

 

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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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Saunders Squanders

I am sorry but Michael Saunders has no idea how to run bases and he is the key to the missed opportunity to win Monday night. He has made a few mistakes by not running the bases correctly, mostly not waiting to tag and running too far off the bases. Jose Bautista sacrified himself in the epic rematch against Sam Dyson of the Texas Rangers, but Saunders failed to get to 3rd and then he got tagged out at home. Terrible. Terrible. Terrible. Ok, Saunders did get the lone RBI, but still. Darwin Barney should have been brought in to pinch run for Saunders instead of for Justin Smoak later.

Ryan Goins in the 7th should have bunted but instead swung and grounded into a double play. He then decides to put down a crappy bunt in the 9th and gets the lead runner out.

The Jays would have a decent record right now if they could just clean up these basic plays. I mean what’s the point of Spring Training? Just to let the minor leaguers have some fun? The Jays are now 2-7 in 1-run games.

The biggest waste is that R. A. Dickey has finally gotten out of a bad April and actually did well today, but his effort was totally wasted.

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?

 

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!

Clubhouse Cheer

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.

Bad mojo.

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.