Well here’s something that probably should turn into a regular feature, but never quite seems to — but that I’ll make to look like one anyway in order to keep from having it seem too terribly out of place: a collection of Monday thoughts on what was going on over the weekend…
The Jays in 2014 have yet to win a game in which their starting pitcher wasn’t somewhat exceptional, which has weirdly led to a number of fans taking what they’ve seen so far to be a microcosm of what to expect as the season rolls along. Yes, there were wildly divergent starts from R.A. Dickey and Drew Hutchison, and stumbles from Brandon Morrow and Dustin McGowan, following a sparkling effort from Mark Buehrle that even the most cockeyed optimist couldn’t possibly expect to see on a regular basis, but if you ask me, there is a whole lot more to like here than a cursory look at the 3-4 record, or groaning over certain individual starts would indicate.
For starters [note: HEYO?], it’s hard to have an issue with the two veteran anchors in this rotation, even despite R.A. Dickey’s ugly outing on Opening Day in Tampa. Mark Buehrle buehrl’d the shit out of life in his first game of the season (and gets the Astros in his next!), while Dickey rebounded spectacularly in Saturday’s win over the
umpiring crew Yankees. The key there: velocity. Buck Martinez and Pat Tabler beat the point to death, but at least it was the right point: against Tampa in the opener, Dickey’s knuckleball averaged 74.9 mph, and he didn’t come close to hitting 80 with it. On Saturday the average was up to 76.8, and while he didn’t get as much past 80 with it as he has when he’s been at his best, FanGraphs’ velocity chart for him shows that it was definitely more in line with his 2012, and the back half of 2013, than with his back-related dip in form at the beginning of last year.
A tremendous sign, in other words.
The rest of the rotation really isn’t in such dire straits, either, I don’t think. Brandon Morrow and Dustin McGowan are healthy, and as long as that continues to be the case, I think they have a very good chance of being fine. While Morrow wasn’t exactly sharp, it behooves us to remember that it wasn’t until the last days of spring training that he really started to catch up to where he needed to be, and that he’s still probably a bit behind his fellow rotation-mates. The key for me, with respect to his outing on Thursday in Tampa, was that his velocity was where it should be — something that reports were telling us wasn’t the case at the beginning of camp — and that he held it reasonably well, throwing multiple fastballs above 94 beyond the 70th pitch of an 86 pitch outing, according to Brooks.
And McGowan? He was tipping his pitches.
At least the ones from the stretch. Mark Mulder tweeted about this while Friday’s rough outing was ongoing, and both McGowan and Pete Walker acknowledged it after the game. “I’ve got to fix that tipping thing for sure,” McGowan said, according to John Lott’s game story for the National Post. “Even I noticed after the first inning they were just putting good swings on every pitch I threw. I knew something was wrong.”
That wasn’t McGowan’s only problem, mind you, but with it noticed and rectified, you’d think he ought to be quite a bit better next time out. There really is no other way but up from here.
And as for Drew Hutchison? On Sunday he had trouble with command and finding his release point, but since the ability to throw strikes has been his calling card, and since that’s kind of the thing you’d expect from a 23-year-old — the youngest player on this Jays team, in fact — with only about 125 innings above A-ball (and just getting back to the Majors off of Tommy John surgery, to boot!), it just seems like one of those things that’s going to happen occasionally. Didn’t hurt that the bullpen was outstanding in picking him up, too. Either way, though, like everyone else in the rotation, he’ll have his struggles, and like everyone else, as long as he remains healthy, there’s not much reason yet to think we’ll see a whole lot more good than bad.
“How old are you, four? You actually want to start the wave? In a huge crowd of adults who are trying to watch a baseball game like big boys and girls? Seriously? Exactly what the hell will this accomplish? What void in your tiny existence will this fill? I’m serious, I want to know. Did your uncle touch you and this is the way your silent inner torture manifests itself? What gives, soldier? I really need you to explain this to me because COULD YOU SIT THE FUCK DOWN, I’M TRYING TO WATCH THE FUCKING BASEBALL GAME!!!!!”
I wrote that six years ago — to the day, no less! — in The Drunk Jays Fans Guide To The Wave. Apparently there are a whole lot of fans out there who could use a refresher. I mean… for fuck sakes, people.
Lots of people — mouth-breathing JaysTalk caller types in particular — didn’t get why the Jays would give Colby Rasmus the day off yesterday, so soon into the season, and with no proper backup on the roster. We go through this every year, and it’s certainly debatable, and certainly a bigger issue thanks to some awful roster construction on this particular version of the team (after nine innings, back up CF #SignMelkyNow Cabrera sports a DRS of -1, which doesn’t exactly bode well, meaningless a number as it is in such a small sample). However, almost nobody plays 162 games anymore — in 2013 four players did it, three of whom were 1B/DH types (the other was Hunter Pence) — so you have to understand that there will be off-days for everyone at some point, and (forgive the Cito-ness of this next bit) that long-term they may do some good for the player that outweighs their loss for one single game.
Plus, it was Sabathia pitching — a lefty who would especially be tough on a slumping left-handed hitter like Rasmus. Someone argued at me on Twitter that keeping him out doesn’t show confidence in a slumping hitter, but I think the opposite holds, and maybe even gives you more reason to sit him. Whatever it is, I get the move in the abstract. Not sure I entirely agree with it either, given all the April off-days already, but it’s pretty easily defensible, no matter how much you want to whine about it.
What’s not merely defensible, but is actually laudable, is the fact that ol’ Gibbers held out Adam Lind against Sabathia, in keeping with what he should absolutely always do against left-handed pitching, and in delicious defiance of the micro-splits that suggest Lind has some sort of magic bat against the Yankee ace. Fuck your micro-splits. In that spirit, though, Jays, maybe don’t use them to justify decisions when it’s convenient, too. Let’s just discount these bursts of tiny sample noise and use more meaningful sample sizes. Or let’s play a fun little game!
Player A: 492 PA, .192/.232/.294, 27.6% strikeout rate, 4.3% walk rate.
Player B: 497 PA, .194/.227/.365, 29.8% strikeout rate, 3.8% walk rate.
You got this one, right? Player A is Lind against left-handers since 2010. Player B is the 2013 version of J.P. Arencibia.
Anyone who tells you that Lind ought to be hitting against lefties, this is what they’re asking for. It’s insanity. And speaking of…
Zaun Off The Deep End
I wrote in a Daily Duce last week about Zaun Cherry having popped off about stats and who has the authority to tell anybody what they ought to think about the game — including my salty tweet in response to him. His latest bout of nonsense isn’t quite so egregious, or… it’s at least not quite as antagonistic. As a thing said by someone who many poor souls that follow this team actually take semi-seriously, however, it’s pretty bad.
To wit, from an interview with the Globe and Mail.
As far as the team not always playing the game the way it should be played, can you give an example of the Jays playing the wrong way?
The fact that a guy like Anthony Gose can’t [use his speed to hit] .300 speaks volumes to me about what’s going on in the minor leagues. The fact that he doesn’t spend an hour a day in the batting cage with a coach, whether it’s by his design or whether they have to grab him by his shirt collar. The Jays don’t draft well and they don’t develop players well. There’s a lack of accountability in this organization, from the top to the bottom.
Gose may well not hit — it happens — and I can’t really speak much to the idea of accountability (nor, might I suggest, can Zaun, though he’s obviously much closer to the Jays than I am — not Buffalo so much, though *COUGH*), but the stuff about drafting and developing really gets me.
The Jays would have had a top five farm system were it not for all the talent that they traded away last winter, and it’s universally acknowledged that they have a lot of guys in the low minors who could make big jumps and put them right back into the conversation about the best systems in the game very soon — especially with two first top 11 picks to add to their collection before the end of the summer. Now, you could say that not signing first rounders is part of some sort of a problem, but I think the Jays have played the system well so far in that regard, or at least limited the damage. As compensation for not signing James Paxton, they drafted Noah Syndergaard. For not signing Young Beedah, it was Marcus Stroman.
In fact, they’ve done a tremendous job of identifying talent (and then not signing it): projected 2014 first-rounders Beede and Aaron Nola were both drafted by the club, as was top Cubs prospect Kris Bryant, to cite but three examples. The players look like they made the right choice, money-wise, in turning the Jays down (the latter two were late-rounders who weren’t looking at huge bonuses, it must be remembered, as must the fact that a lot of those types of guys don’t sign, and the Jays have been particularly aggressive with picking guys with strong college commitments that other teams shy away from), but as far as their selections speaking to how well this club identifies talent in the draft? That, plus all the other excellent prospects in the system and now traded away from the system, suggests that Zaun is pretty hilariously off the mark
Furthermore, the first draft of the Anthopoulos era came in June of 2010, and focused heavily on longer-developing high school players. Those 18-year-olds are now 22. There are just 13 players age 22 or younger who have played in a big league game so far this season, so to expect to have seen a lot out of even that draft, let alone subsequent ones, is absurd. Especially so since two of the best high schoolers selected in 2010 to have not yet quite hit the big leagues are Syndergaard and Aaron Sanchez.
Is there something wrong with encouraging people to use their brains and understand things as they are? Can we maybe not let this Negative Nancy dog whistle nonsense actually pass for expert analysis?
I’d write about Roy Halladay throwing out the first pitch on Friday — a cutter that didn’t require his catcher to move an inch (at least from as far as I could tell down the third base line) — but over at Getting Blanked, Drew summed it up beautifully. Great stuff.