TORONTO — Relief pitcher Jason Grilli had his US$3 million team option for the 2017 season picked up by the Toronto Blue Jays on Saturday morning. The 39-year-old Grilli was traded to Toronto on May 31 from the Atlanta Braves. He pitched 42 innings for the Blue Jays, striking out 58 with a 3.64 earned-run…
Seemed like a pretty obvious move. Really the Jays are probably figuring it’s pretty cheap insurance. Kind of like Justin Smoak. Except that Grilli actually contributed pretty consistently through the season.
Seems like the Jays are going to let Osuna stay on as the closer. Unless of course another big option comes along, but they tried and failed that move last year didn’t they? (a la Drew Storen) Osuna was so good this year, why should they even try to move his to start? With a terrific core returning, I imagine they will leave him be.
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:
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.
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.
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.
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).
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.
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!
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 GAP BETWEEN THE BEST AND THE WORST
I have come to realize the baseball season is a real grind! And that whether your team is good or bad, they will win and they will lose. The Toronto Blue Jays have played 28 games so far in the 2016 season and they have won 46% of them despite their offense, which is supposed to be their greatest strength, has been weak. Their only consistent hitter so far is the reigning America League MVP, Josh Donaldson, who seems to be on track for another MVP calibre year. The worse team in the league is the Minnesota Twins who have won 30% of their games and the best team, the one that swept us at home, the Chicago White Sox, has won 70%. This difference between the best and the worst is amplified because they are still in the 1st quarter of the season, but not a super huge gap.
So, to follow a whole season will be tumultuous. I get that. I would like to see smart plays. Good plays. Few mistakes. Then you can say you were beat by the better team.
TORONTO TEAMS TAKE IT DOWN TO THE WIRE
At around 1030pm Tuesday evening, Toronto fans were jointly going wild when both Kyle Lowry of the Toronto Raptors sinks a hail Mary 3-pointer from half-court to tie the 1st game of their playoff series against the Miami Heat. This took them into overtime. Almost simultaneously, Toronto Blue Jay Justin Smoak, hit a homerun in the bottom of the 9th, after 8 innings of shutout baseball, to tie their game against archnemesis, Texas Rangers sending that game into extra innings.
SMOAK’S GOING TO REMEMBER THIS ONE
Overall, a super boring game for 8 innings, many runners left on base, but an awesome win nevertheless!
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.
Despite a really strong 8-inning outing by Marcus Stroman Thursday night, the Jays found themselves down 2-0 after the 4th inning, when in the 5th the reigning MVP Josh Donaldson launched a 424 ft 3-run homerun to the centre field 2nd level.
With the Jays leading 3-2, Tulowitzki drove a homer down the left field line for a nice insurance run. It was more like a REassurance run, letting everyone know that the Tulo that we know and love is still in there somewhere just making his way out.
Did you notice…?
Do you know what I’ve noticed that’s really cute? Have you ever noticed that whenever Smoak closes out a game at 1st base (and the Jays have won), Donaldson and Smoak will meet each other on the mound and hug? Maybe they just get there first for the team high 5s. Or maybe they’re buddies? I never see them hugging anyone else.
Anyway, Osuna the bett-a man. He’s a Mexican rock.
Thank you Ivan Nova. With the Yankees relief pitcher on the mound, the Blue Jays scored 4 runs in the 8th inning Wednesday night. The Jays had only scored 4 runs after the 5th inning in all the 8 previous games of this season. The final score of 7-2 was a sight for sore eyes.
Here are the highlights. Try to ignore the guy who keeps calling Goins ‘Goings’.
The die hard experts joke about us bandwagon fans. Silly bandwagoners freaking out over a few games. Well, so what? We bandwagon fans are spending $$$ on hats and jerseys. We bought one Tuesday night and it cost $185 + $30 for the 40th anniversary crest + HST!! We’re in it to win it. We’re not in this to grind out losses season after season. We want to cheer the team on as they win win win! What’s wrong with that? I’m sorry if I don’t enjoy watching them lose.
As a newbie fan of course I don’t understand sabermetrics but there are some stats that appear to be easy to understand, maybe hard to interpret, but isn’t that part of what we love about baseball? The stats and what picture they can paint. For example…
Smoak vs Colabello. I have this impression that Smoak is a bigger hitter and better defender than Colabello even though it seems like the Jays use Colabello more when they need hitting and Smoak for defense. So I tried to see if the stats support this.
2015 Games Hits HR RBI SO AVG BB% K% OBP SLG OPS
Smoak 132 67 18 59 86 0.226 8.8% 26.2% 0.299 .470 .768
Colabello 101 107 15 54 96 0.321 6.1% 26.7% 0.367 .520 .886
2015 G Inn Putouts Assists Errors
Smoak 110 687 666 44 4
Colabello 34 240 248 11 1
Hmm, that’s a lot of numbers but looks to me like Colabello edges out in both categories. Am I misunderstanding something? Or is it that Colabello’s kind of casual, flaccid way just doesn’t look as imposing as Justin Smoak’s 6’4 240lb frame.
One other question I had was does Kevin Pillar swing at a lot of pitches outside the zone? He seems to love chasing the down and away outside the zone. This seems to be an easy one to answer.
Kevin Pillar Plate Discipline compared to Jose Bautista.
The O-Swing% is the percentage of pitches outside the zone that the batter swings at.
O-Swing% 40.9% vs. 22.8%
Yep, compared to Bautista, Pillar swings at a LOT of pitches outside the zone. How do you get a lead off hitter to work on that?
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.