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’.
After a weak start against the Phillies when the Jays played without Edwin Encarnacion, his return and hitting has helped the Jays blast the Phillies in the last 3 games of their home-and-home series with 31 runs including 5 home runs in last night’s game!
The last game of the series was a 13-2 beat down on a young Phillies starting rotation.
Encarnacion has been killing it over the past 6 games.
UPCOMING SERIES AGAINST THE BALTIMORE ORIOLES
As it stands, the Blue Jays are now 1 game behind Boston and 2 games behind the AL East leading Baltimore Orioles. This upcoming series in Batlimore for the Jays is HUGE and could have a significant impact on the standings. Unfortunately, the Orioles are coming off a series win against Boston which should give them some confidence. The Jays are coming off scoring 31 runs in the last 3 games against the Phillies which should also provide them with some big time mojo.
The Jays are still a couple of weeks from getting Tulowitzki back. Good or bad? The Jays have been doing just fine without him in the lineup. We’re still waiting to hear of Bautista will be out after leaving last night’s game having majorly stubbing his big toe. Carrera is nursing a rolled ankle. Tonight’s lineup will be interesting.
Friday Sanchez (6-1, ERA 3.38, Last 7 games: 4-0, ERA 3.83) vs. Wright (3-3, ERA 5.31, Last 7G: 2-1, ERA 5.40)
Saturday Dickey (4-7, ERA 4.16, Last 7 games: 3-3, ERA 3.25) vs. Gallardo (1-1, ERA 7.0)
Sunday Stroman (6-2, ERA 4.76, Last 7 games: 2-2, ERA 6.12) vs. Tillman (9-1, ERA 2.87, Last 7G: 5-0, ERA 2.72)
Baltimore’s Yovani Gallardo is just coming back from the disabled list and hasn’t pitched since April 22. Toronto’s Aaron Sanchez and R. A. Dickey are my favourites to win. Marcus Stroman unfortunately has his work cut out for him.
Go Blue Jays!
The Jays have won the 1st game in their series against division rivals the Boston Red Sox. The Jays have a 4-game win streak and a 4-series win streak that they’re trying to make 5. R. A. Dickey beat the Red Sox for the 1st time after 9 losses, and David Price lost to the Jays for the 1st time in 5 years.
Two home runs for the Jays by Edwin Encarnacion and the newly rehabilitated Devon Travis. Since Jose Bautista took lead off and Devon Travis came back, and with Troy Tulowitzki on the disabled list (DL), the Jays have been hot. Not smoking yet, but hot. That is without Bautista or Donaldson heating up.
What’s been the turning point? Well, Russell Martin’s been starting to hit after an abysmal 1st 3rd to the season. Ryan Goins who has been a cold hitter has been replaced by Travis. And Tulowitzki, who had been starting to warm up a bit before going on the DL, has been replaced with Barney who has been great defensively and getting timely hits offensively. That has turned the lineup around.
The starting pitching remains strong and Dickey’s getting stronger. Stroman however, has been wavering a bit. And the bullpen just got an infusion of strikeout skill with the acquisition of Jason Grilli, who has done just fine in 2 appearances.
Here’s hoping the team stays healthy and keeps it going! Today’s game starts at 4pm.
First of all, thank goodness the Toronto Raptors won tonight because worse than losing in the first round again, in game 7, this time it would have been after having a 14 point lead heading into the 4th quarter. Man, winning by 5 is just too close for comfort.
And it was a great Sunday as Toronto’s other team, the Toronto Blue Jays also won today on ace pitcher Marcus Stroman’s birthday. He pitched 8 intelligent innings allowing only a solo homer. Josh Donaldson and Troy Tulowitzki both had homeruns, but the best played part of the game was the 9th inning when Darwin Barney pinch hit for Ryan Goins and lead off with a double. With Donaldson also on base, Edwin Encarnacion did what he had to do and got an RBI groundout. Tulo’s homer was then the icing on the cake.
AND yesterday, Toronto’s other team with die hard fans, the Maple Leafs, didn’t actually win a game but won the first round draft pick. The best news they’ve had all year. All in all, a great weekend for Toronto sports.
Stroman was the starter Monday night and he held the Chicago White Sox back allowing only 1 run into the 7th inning. The Blue Jays led 5-1 when he got the hook after allowing 2 singles then getting nailed in the left arm off the bat of ex-Blue Jay Dioner Navarro. He shook it off but then pitched 4 balls to Austin Jackson. I think John Gibbons thought he was hurt and couldn’t pitch, but it turned out to be a disastrous decision to yank him.
Brett Cecil came in with 2 outs, and got yanked with still only 2 outs after allowing 3 runs. Gavin Floyd replaced him but also allowed 2 runs.
So what is going on with Brett Cecil? The lights-out, go-to, left-hander from 2015? So far in 2016, he has notched 4 LOSSES despite being a middle reliever and having pitched only 8.2 innings! His ERA is now 5.19 compared to 2.48 last season. On Monday’s game, he came in in a fairly low leverage situation with 2 on but a 4-run lead. The lead dropped to 1-run and he couldn’t get an out.
Looking at this year’s scatter plot vs last year, it looks like he’s given up on the changeup, but otherwise, looks fairly the same except for a slow end curveball.
Batters do not appear to be whiffing at the curveball and sinkers. So maybe he has to figure out another way to strike batters out? Personally, I think he’s just out of shape. He looks off balance on the mound and he has gained all the weight that Dickey has lost. He had been a bit better lately until this game, but boy do the Jays need him to sort himself out. Imagine how the playoffs would have turned out if Cecil 2015 had not been injured and had played when the team needed him?
Another close one.
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.
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?
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?
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.