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…

Pitching Thoughts

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.

Wave Goodbye

“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.

Sitting Colby?

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.

Splitting Headache

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?

And Finally…

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.

Comments (74)

  1. Great post Stoeten!

  2. I thought they look great,
    every pitcher they’ve seen so far could easily go to the all star game

  3. Well done Stoeten, you hit the nail right on the head in regards to ol’ Zaunie.

    In regards to the wave, I have no problem with it. Kids standing up? Who cares.

    • Fuck the Wave!

      • Fuck the drunk fans. Fuck the guy shouting in my ear or the fans who go back and forth so often I feel like a jack-in -the-box or the guys who leap to their feet blocking my view of the play. God bless the people who are happy to stand up with their hands over their head every so often. They make me smile.

        • Why would you care about someone blocking your view if you like the wave? You’re not watching the game. Stay home.

        • “Fuck the Drunk Fans” he posts to Drunk Jays Fans.

          “Fuck obnoxious morons” would have been more apt I reckon.

          • Do I really need to say that there’s a massive difference between a wasted tool and a good time? Way too many of the former occupying the upper deck on opening weekend. After the Melky homer on Saturday I witnessed a crew of human garbage tossing half empty cups of beer onto everyone below them, including families. The worst. More cops, higher ticket prices, problem solved.

        • I don’t like the wave, but I will agree that fans that can’t stay in their seats for more than 10 fucking minutes without getting up are even worse. If anyone reading this, is one of these assclowns, buy a bloody aisle seat.

  4. Interesting about Dustin. It was pretty weird how the Yanks were squaring up everything.

  5. I agree that Gose should take a more slappy – get the ball on yh the ground approach. He swings to hard with little results and with that type of speed, he should be hitting like Brett Gardener type(who happens to have a good obp too)

    Anyway, Zauns not completely crazy. He’s good TV. Still waiting for him to accidentally spit his teeth out.

  6. I applaud you for your efforts to kill the wave, however I feel like the readers of this blog are the least likely people at the ballpark to start the wave. Its the casual moron fan that doesn’t understand how much of a distraction/pain in the ass they are being.

  7. Sorry for being an immature, moron of a fan, but I like the wave. What’s the matter with some childish humour in the top of the 8th in a low leverage situation?

    • It absolutely was not yesterday. Apology not accepted.

      Hard to watch the game through row upon row of people standing up and flailing their hands, and believe it or not, some people are actually there to watch the game.

      • I was at the game yesterday, first row in section 509 and I apologize since it seems like the few rows behind me were so determined to start the wave.

    • Yeah I liked it the first time I saw it, in a filled stadium in 1991. When I was 12.

      Why would anyone in their right mind care about seeing it a second time?

  8. So the Jays took Gose who everyone knew was great EXCEPT at hitting and now that he is 22 or 23 and hasn’t been turned into Ichiro, the Jays suck?

    Like it’s hard enough to develop great hitters out of prospects that are EXPECTED to be great hitters. Expecting them to “just do it” with a “5 tool” guy, by age 23 is kind of silly to me.

  9. Looking forward to the week ahead. They look like a .500 team. There will be good games and not so good ones. Week 1 showed that if the bats can get going TOGETHER this will be a fun team to watch. Go Jays

  10. Next time someone tells you Montreal is cooler, remind them that they started the wave in the 1st inning during that Saturday game.

    As bad as Friday night went, I have to say that Saturday was legitimately fun. Sold out crowd, less antics, crisper game. Baseball!

  11. Aah. What a cathartic post to read. I feel so good right now, and much less likely to punch my radio tonight.
    Reading tthat was like a good Sunday morning dump.
    Thank you.

  12. i remember when the giants players did a video thing about how the wave was stupid.

    it was pretty awesome.

    seriously just sit down. almost as bad the people at hockey games who stand up and turn around when the play is in front of them

  13. Or how about praising the Jays for still having Gose with a shot at becoming a MLB player. As opposed to Taylor and Wallace who have both cleared waivers.

  14. Ugh… I honestly didn’t realize how many fans actually parrot back Zaun’s idiotic crap as if it’s actual analysis and not the reaction seeking ramblings of a guy who has pretty clearly taken a few too many foul tips off the mask.

    My favourite is when Lind vs. lefties supporters tell you he’d get better if given the chance. As if 856 PAs against LHP and two seasons of being an everyday player since last being anything but unplayable against lefties just never happened. It’s not little league. He is what he is, and what he is should never see a lefty. Ever.

    And then, just when you think the evidence you’ve presented is so overwhelming that they can’t possibly continue to side with Zaun they say something like “Well that’s your opinion. I’ve got mine.” Well I might be of the opinion that the sky will turn green tomorrow, but there’s no more evidence that I’m right than there is that Lind will ever be better than catastrophically bad against left handed pitching.

    Sigh… Preaching to the choir here I know, but that felt good. #ZaunCherryTheWorst

    • Yeah, but what’s the point in sitting him every time the Birds face a lefty and his bat is relatively hot? Bench a hitter on a hot streak? No! You give him a chance against the left hand pitcher because he’s hit them before in his career even though they haven’t been the greatest of numbers. Inconsistent team decisions about where Lind plays is more the culprit. The team would do more harm to him than good by not giving him consistent at bats, especially against more left handed pitching. You don’t take Lind out of the lineup every time a lefty is on the mound regardless of how tough he is to hit. You put him in the lineup and show faith in him as a professional hitter to make contact, and put the ball in play which he has done. I do agree that his numbers vs lefties aren’t great but they aren’t awful. Platooning him in and out of the lineup isn’t good for a guy that can flirt with 400 while putting up the power numbers. It’s not like he’s completely absent against lefties either.

  15. I really don’t have a problem with the wave. I am “there to watch the game” but the brief period (a second or so) during which the people in front of me are standing up doesn’t cause me to miss much. You miss more when the people in front leave to get a hot dog. I don’t join the wave but my kids enjoy it.

    At this point, trying to end the wave is like tilting at windmills. Might as well try to get rid of the national anthems before the game.

    • All for getting rid of those too!

      You’re probably right about all this, of course.

      • Maybe they should ban cheering as well?

        The wave is for the kiddies, who love it and go home remembering how much fun it was to go to a baseball game, and some of which become life long Jays fans. While I personally find the wave annoying as well, I’d never want to take away something that brings enjoyment to those first being introduced to the great game.

    • Exactly, the wave equals fun for my kids. WTF are people doing coming back to their seats during an inning, standing in the aisle waiting for the people to stand so they can get to their seats. Now there is a problem worth complaining about. Wait at the top of the stairs! This used to be policy, no?

  16. Does RA Dickey need velocity to pitch effectively, and if so, does this make it more difficult for him to become the kind of knuckle ball pitcher who is effective well into his forties?

    • I don’t think it’s such a big concern, as he’s not throwing the knuckler to the top end of his velocity anyway.

      • Here’s the thing, the speed that the knuckler comes out is partially due to the grip. If he needs high arm speed to produce a medium-speed knuckler, then that can go away with age.

    • No, but there is a difference between “effective” & “exceptional”… Dickey with his Knuckler in the 80ish range produced a Cy Young Award Winning Pitcher, Dickey with a Knuckler in the Mid-70′s is probably more like Wakefield who was effective but no one’s idea of a staff ace.

    • The more Dickey is able to change speeds with his knuckle ball when it tops out near 80 mph, the more he`s able to keep the opposing hitters off-balance. It also makes his two seam and four seam fastballs more effective.

  17. “there’s not much reason yet to think we’ll see a whole lot more good than bad”

    I’m not sure if this is intentionally negative, or an unintentional double negative.

  18. Re: McGowan tipping his pitches. I don’t buy it. In the first inning? Without anything to compare it to? Not something I’m willing to accept at face value.

    Ellsbury said post-game he had no idea if McGowan was tipping his pitches, though that’s something you’d expect to hear given they don’t want him to stop.

    Maybe they were just fastballs up and over the plate? I dunno.

  19. Excellent post, Stoeten.

    I think it’s also worth pointing out that the Jays have faced a pretty impressive lineup of starters in the early going: Price, Cobb, Moore, Archer, Tanaka, Pineda, Sabathia.

    And the defense has been, on the whole, terrific.

  20. I might be misremembering, but wasn’t Zaun actually insightful and entertaining at the beginning of his time as an analyst?
    I wouldn’t mind going out for an evening with him, and telling him at the dinner and at the movie that he is not allowed to offer criticism because he hasn’t been a chef or a movie director. I’m pretty sure I could angle a way for him not to be allowed to have any opinions except those on being a former catcher named Gregg Zaun.

    • when he first came out i thought he was awesome, but now i can’t stand him.
      obviously someone who spent considerable time in the majors is going to be able to comment on things on a different level than people who just read stats and watch the games, but that doesn’t mean he’s not a moron.

    • I thought he was great at the start also but I find he looks more like a pompous ass now.

  21. I believe our young pitchers will be fine as the season progresses, I’m more worried about this team stranding base runners and sporadic hitting.

    • Well, you would hope that Lawrie, Rasmus and Edwin would hit a little better than -15, 5 and 40 wRC+ respectively for the rest of the season.

      When those three get going, and Reyes gets back, the offense will be fine.

  22. Great post! I cannot stand the wave… future post idea, the anatomy of a Waver… start making people realize how stupid they look and how the game deserves better. Start a Lets Go Jays chant instead people!

  23. If you want the Dome packed, you need casual fans. With casual fans comes the wave. Or are you proposing a sabermetics exam before someone can buy tickets?

  24. The Wave for 10 minutes or the dipshits continually throwing paper airplanes out of the 500s and yelling “OOOOOOOH…..OOOOOOOOOOOOOH…..OOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH!” as it lands on the foul line?

    I’ll take the wave.


    The only good wave is a Mexican wave

  26. Any update on Happ? I briefly read Tweet about him starting rehab in Buffalo. He can’t stay down without consent once DL stint is up. McGowan then moves back to pen and Kratz back to Buffalo?
    Side note: If Jays brass are strongly considering a fire sale, and with the recent rash of TJ going on, it might be a perfect storm for moving Buehrle/Santos/? by mid-season.

  27. I hate the wave.

    I prefer the chuck. The larger fans pick up the smaller fans and toss them in the air. Catching them is optional.

  28. I could handle the wave if people could understand a tiny bit of the game and choose a not horrible time.

    When your team is at bat and the hit are pumping? Ok fine I can handle it.

    When your reliever is trying to get out of a jam in a close game in a late inning? Sit the fuck down and shut up!

  29. It’s important to remember that it’s not that difficult to have success with first round picks, especially when the team has had so many in recent years. It’s what you do in the later rounds that shows how good you are in the draft. I have no idea if the Jays have been successful in the draft in recent years because the players taken haven’t developed yet. However if they had no scouting staff and just used the Baseball America draft rankings they may have done better, for instance when they drafted DJ Davis, the pick that was projected to go at that spot was Michael Wacha, but the Jays passed on him for one reason or another.

  30. Fuck, I love DJF. Never change Stoet.

  31. Im still very concerned about Brett Lawrie, he went from cant miss to very avg quickly, and this slow start just feels like a .240, 12 hr, 60 rbi season in the making.

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