Once again here’s something that probably should turn into a regular feature, and maybe is finally starting to: a collection of thoughts on what went on over the weekend that usually ends up being about anything but, and always make me regret not just putting these all into separate posts that go up over the course of the day…
Sky Status: Not Falling
The Jays actually lost a series, didn’t score a run for two days, and the sky doesn’t even seem like it’s falling. The fact that it was the Cardinals, and that the Jays now have Twins coming to town — sending Ricky Nolasco, Kevinwins Correia, and Phil Hughes to get wailed on, before the boys in blue head to Baltimore for an interesting AL East clash (which we’ll be having a little DJF shindig for during game one on Thursday night at Opera Bob’s!) — certainly has helped to ease the mood.
Really, though, it’s all about the cushion that the Jays have built themselves. Also perhaps the fact that their divisional rivals keep spinning their wheels, with the Yankees and Rays each losing their last two games as well, the Orioles losing two of three over the weekend to Oakland, and the Red Sox salvaging a win out of a series loss to the Tigers. But man, that cushion! It’s not like they can rest on their laurel here, but the Jays right now have twelve more wins than they do losses. The Orioles have one more. The Yankees are at .500. The Red Sox have six fewer wins than they do losses, and for the Rays the number is sixteen.
Like… holy shit!
And as much as you hate to waste a Mark Buehrle gem, as the Jays did Saturday — because lord knows how many more of those he has in him before this improbable run (in which he’s produced more WAR already than he did in all of 2012, and just a half win less than last year) ends — you love what you saw from Marcus Stroman, who as a starter now has 13 Ks, two walks, and a 1.50 ERA in 12 innings as a starter in which he’s held opponents to a .272 wOBA.
Now, Drew Hutchison, on the other hand…
Hutch Didn’t Have Much
There has been much talk of Hutchison’s splits, which continued a couple of unfortunate directions on Sunday. Scott MacArthur of TSN.ca spoke to both the pitcher and his manager about it, neither of whom give much credence to the trends, but they sure are striking. As Scott explains:
Hutchison at home: 5 Games Started, 1-3, 8.72 ERA, 7 HR allowed and a 1.892 [WHIP].
Hutchison on the road: 8 Games Started, 3-1, 2.03 ERA, 3 HR allowed and a 0.973 WHIP.
Hutchison on four days rest: 6 Games Started, 3-3, 5.94 ERA, 14 walks, 21 strikeouts, 7 home runs allowed.
Hutchison on five or more days rest: 7 Games Started, 1-1, 2.62 ERA, 5 walks, 34 strikeouts, 3 home runs allowed.
Now, we know that the Rogers Centre plays hitter friendly, but certainly not that hitter friendly. Digging a little deeper into the home-road splits and what jumps out is the fact that Hutchison has allowed a .326 BABIP in home games, while on the road it has been .257. We’re not working with a lot of data here, but I don’t think it’s an unreasonable guess to figure that he has amplified the drastic difference in the trends trends by overpeforming on the road while underperforming at home. Over time, one would suspect they’ll regress towards a middle ground that is a more “true” representation of what he is. I’d think the same is probably true of the other two areas that really stand out: his 23.3% HR/FB rate at home (compared to 4.6% on the road), and his massive difference in walk rates: 12.3% at home, 4.8% away.
But here’s something to consider that might not immediately be apparent: there is quite a lot of overlap among the two negative trends. Four of Hutchison’s five home starts have been made on regular rest, and six of his eight road starts have been on five or more days rest. I’d be far more inclined to believe that his struggles on regular rest are amplifying the home/road splits rather than the other way around, and that is the real concern here. Park factors certainly aren’t nothing, but the fact that there’s something physical to connect to what we’re seeing, and knowing how few innings are on his arm (though he did reach 149.1 innings over three minor league stops in 2011, he had thrown just 56.1 post-Tommy John innings coming into this year), makes one feel less comfortable about those numbers regressing to the mean.
Maybe they will. Hopefully they will. And while I’m totally just guessing here, I’d at least expect that over time it will be something he’s able to overcome — if, y’know, we even believe what we’re seeing in this small sample is real. But for 2014, I don’t know if it’s unfair to say it’s a concern. Fortunately, it’s one that the Blue Jays see, as we know from their recent rotation shuffle, and all the rumblings about temporarily moving to a six-man rotation back in May. From MacArthur:
Expect Gibbons to cherry pick spots to give Hutchison extra rest over the course of the season but it’s difficult to do at the moment due to a lack of off days. Toronto has two more before the All-Star Break, one on Monday, June 16 and another on Monday, June 30.
The task becomes easier in August when there are five off days in the month and becomes difficult again in September, when there is only one. By that point, though, the Jays hope to be counting on Hutchison in important games down the stretch.
I can live with that.
Keith Law wasn’t over the top in his praise of the Jays’ draft, but that’s about as conservative a spin as I can put on the comments he gave in his Complete AL Draft Breakdown piece at ESPN.com (Insider only). “The Jays have had their troubles in the first round in recent years, but I think they made up for it with their Day 1 selections this year,” he explains. The Hoffman pick is clearly what stands out for him, as he admits not loving the bat of Max Pentecost, or many of the later round selections the Jays made, but it’s second-rounder Sean Reid-Foley who really seals it for him, it seems. The “real value” in the Jays’ draft is in their first three picks, he says, even if he’s not a perfect prospect either. “Reid-Foley had first-round buzz with a not-great delivery that he repeats very well — he takes a huge stride, straightening his front leg like he’s applying to the Ministry of Silly Walks, but he pronates his arm late,” he explains. That said, |He’s got three pitches and throws strikes, touching 95 mph but sitting more 90-93.” I can live with that.
Manny Machado embarrassed himself this weekend, and former Orioles blogger/fan Jon Bernhardt writes at Sports On Earth that he doesn’t want to see him in the Toronto series, feeling that a suspension of ten or more games is warranted for the bat-throwing incident on Sunday that followed the histrionics of Friday night (clips of both incidents in the SoE piece). I can live with that. I can live with this too: Drew tweets a link to a custom leaderboard at FanGraphs showing Machado, Brett Lawrie, and Mike Moustakas over the last calendar year. In reverse order by wRC+ in that span it goes: Moustakas (76), Machado (81), Lawrie (101). Whut???
Schadenfreude alert: Andy Martino of the New York Daily News looks at the case of Travis d’Arnaud — heard of him? — who was recently demoted. “Now the kid is back in Triple-A 18 months [after The Trade], having batted .189 in his first 257 big league plate appearances — and he is not even really a kid, as his next birthday will be his 26th,” he explains. Not all is lost for the Mets, of course — and not just because they got Noah Syndergaard in the deal, but because d’Arnaud, too, can still figure it out — but Martino brings a healthy dose of prospect realism that Jays fans falling all over themselves to declare Alex Anthopoulos utterly clueless (quiet though they’ve been of late) probably ought to take a look at, as well. “The Mets have sold their fans in recent years on a future centered around prospects like d’Arnaud, Zack Wheeler and Noah Syndergaard, but in reality, it will be a win if one of these players becomes a star,” he explains. “That says nothing about them as individuals, and everything about the cruel, Darwinian process of player development (and the perils of building around young players).” Populants of the parallel universe in which the Jays are currently being led to glory by Travis Snider, Ricky Romero, Anthony Gose, J.P. Arencibia, and Brandon Morrow most likely agree.
Lastly, via Dan Toman of right here at theScore, it’s Brett Lawrie’s impression of the Jose Reyes bobblehead that the Jays gave away to the first however-many-thousand customers yesterday. Oh, Brett. At least it’s better than what Machado was blowing up the internet for.