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I’m headed to the ballpark tonight, which is a bad omen for the Jays, considering they’ve yet to win a game in which I’ve been in attendance, but I figured I should mention it anyway, given that my unpreparedness had made it so that this may be all the Game Threat you’re going to get.

Hey, but you know what, after a bit of a doom-and-gloom couple of days with the starts from R.A. Dickey and Dustin McGowan, the Jays still have a chance to win the series. So that’s pretty good, right? And we’ve got a great weekend of baseball in store, too, with Buehrle-Peavy, Morrow-Buchholz, and Dickey-Lester all coming up on the schedule. I mean… it might not go terribly well, but there’s a lot of potential for those matchups to be fun as fuck.

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Way to ruin it, “Neil Peart.”

Reporters are down at the ballpark this hour, and Shi Davidi tweets that John Gibbons confirms that Dustin McGowan will make his next start. I still think they should skip him. Crazier still, though, is that Gibbons, according to a Gregor Chisholm tweet, floated the idea of going with six starters in May, when the club has 20 games in a row. Brendan Kennedy adds that the plan may bleed into June, too. This, of course, is madness, but… let’s maybe not go ahead and believe they’ll do such a thing just yet. Maybe I’m trying too hard to be easy on them, but saying a thing like that makes McGowan feel good, makes Happ feel good, and avoids any sticky issues with the whole manipulation of Marcus Stroman’s service time, which may entirely be the ultimate plan, which they’re not quite ready to concede. Who knows? John Lott notes that it wouldn’t be a straight-up six man rotation, but that Happ would be used occasionally, to give guys an extra day of rest. That is, at least, slightly less egregious, I’d say.

In his game story on last night for the National Post, Lott notes that John Gibbons told reporters he would like to see Dustin McGowan use his curveball more — as he did back when he last was taking regular turns as a member of the Jays’ rotation. In 2008, “McGowan threw his curveball 10.3% of the time, according to Brooksbaseball.net. This year the curveball has accounted for 1.2% of his pitches. He has said that so far, he simply has been unable to resurrect it,” Lott explains. “He relies principally on his fastball and slider. That worked in relief, but not so well in his new role, where he must face batters multiple times.”

McGowan’s current repertoire, in other words, is a problem nearly as big as the fatigue issue I wrote about earlier today. You may remember, however, that Alex Anthopoulos acknowledged this one on a recent Jonah Keri podcast, essentially labelling McGowan-as-starter to be a work in progress still. ““He’s just starting to use his changeup again,” Anthopoulos explained, “which is an out pitch as well — he just fell in love with the fastball-slider combination out of the bullpen — and he’s slowly going to start incorporating his curveball, which can be pretty good pitch as well.”

In a piece that probably deserves its own post, Brendan Kennedy of the Toronto Star goes over all the reasons why the Jays’ planned installation of grass is going to actually take as long as the club is saying it is. Sadly, the company line — like the fact that sod needed for 2018 needs to be planted by 2015, and that the club is still trying to work out the best strain of grass to hold up in the dome’s unique conditions — kind of makes sense.

Somewhat lost in the McGowan mess was another big night at the plate from Brett Lawrie, as he hit a giant blast for the second day in a row, and picked up two more hits in the process. From the start of Tuesday’s game to the end of Wednesday’s, Lawrie’s OPS went up by 140 points… to .575. Of course, the fact that it can move so much so fast is a very strong indicator that, y’know, it’s early. In another on over at the Toronto Star, Mark Zwolinski takes a somewhat Lawrie-focused look in his gamer.

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The McGowan Question

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As I do on far too many nights, I spent a good portion of last night arguing with hopeless doomsayers about how ridiculous it is to draw broad, definite conclusions from tiny samples of data. It was more complicated than that — and more profane, of course, and also a little bit about morons booing their own team as though anybody needs to hear pissy hyperventilating about an outcome their poor little souls can’t deal with like adults — but that really does seem to be the essence of my interactions with the living, breathing straw men out there.

Actually, that key nuance seems to be at the root of much of the general disconnect I hear on a lot of advanced stuff these days, especially when said stats are being slagged by willfully ignorant mainstream guys guffawing at single-game CORSI or two weeks of the defensive component of WAR, as though anybody who believes these newfangled numbers add value to our understanding of sports defends them to the death without even the most basic understanding how to apply them properly. Funny how people who can’t be arsed to learn anything about those kinds of things end up saying awfully stupid shit about them, isn’t it?

Hey, but it’s their brand suicide, right? And so I digress. As for last night, though, a funny thing happened along the way to my petty triumph over these people who, bizarrely, actually exist: Dustin McGowan — whose short outings so far this season, including this most recent one, while certainly a trend to be monitored closely, were nothing remotely yet like some kind reason to send a very talented pitcher immediately packing from the rotation — acknowledged that he’s been finding himself fatigued around the 60 pitch mark of his starts so far.

“The body just feels like I run out of steam just a little bit,” he told reporters, including John Lott of the National Post, who points out that the first six pitches McGowan threw in his final inning of work, the fifth, were balls. “I shouldn’t be feeling that. I should be at a point where I can go 90 to 100, especially the way my arm feels. It feels great.”

Ugh. In other words, what was very reasonably a mild concern around the time McGowan was exiting yet another game — perhaps a bit early (I mean… it sure as fuck couldn’t have gone worse leaving him in, though obviously John Gibbons couldn’t have known as much at the time), but rather understandably, given the admission — is now a thing. And, most unfortunately, a thing that’s probably not going to be overcome by pulling McGowan after 70 pitches, as the manager felt he had to last night.

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The strikeouts are low, the walks are high, the BABIP is crazy, the ground ball rate is off the charts, the ERA, FIP, and xFIP aren’t exactly stellar, and it’s all underpinned by a luck-flaunting HR/FB rate, but Dustin McGowan hasn’t been close to terrible since his late insertion into the Jays’ rotation — certainly not by the long-rope standards of R.A. Dickey, for example — and his stuff still provides more than enough for Jays fans to dream on.

That isn’t to say I think he’s about to get himself on a roll, but you could certainly convince the optimist in me that he might — just as, if we’re being honest, you could convince that same optimist that even if he doesn’t, Marcus Stroman is looking awful good down there in Buffalo, eh? Eh???

And that’s sort of where we’re at with McGowan at the moment. The peripherals haven’t looked so hot — certainly not like the 3.5 win guy he was over 27 starts back in 2007 — but the results have been passable, and nobody should have expected him to jump back in the rotation and re-assume the mantle of the Next Great Jays Starter, either. It’s a process, and you can understand giving him some extra rope, given that McGowan didn’t come out of spring nearly ready enough to be the kind of guy who so far exists solely in our hope of hopes. Obviously it’s not difficult to see why people think such things about him, but his lack of seniority and tangible success make him the man with the most tenuous grip on his rotation spot — the loss of which wouldn’t exactly be a shock, given the way that he got here in the first place (i.e. essentially by default). I mean… you’d like to believe that the Jays will give him a long, long look, but you can fully understand that they need to start getting more innings out of their starters, and that the McGowan experiment may eventually produce enough bad to outweigh the good. Can’t you?

With that as the backdrop, each start for McGowan feels somewhat pivotal — at least as far as his role on this club goes — and while a clunker tonight most likely won’t spell the end for his days in the rotation, hot damn, would the kind of terrific performance we know he’s capable of really put some wind in this club’s sails, or what? Let’s fucking do this! 

Scuttlebutt

The Blue Jays “clearly made the right call,” tweets Shi Davidi, as the Padres announce that “Josh Johnson will undergo Tommy John surgery tomorrow.” Sucks for him. What a talent — and we barely saw a fraction of it. Good on the Jays, though.

Mr. Fancy Access himself, Drew Fairservice, was down at the Rogers Centre for batting practice today, and he reiterates, via tweet, something that Fan 590 Baseball Central co-host Kevin “Mr. Hazel Mae” Barker has been saying since Juan Francisco’s promotion to the Jays: that man “is a 5 o’clock all star. Damn.” I believe it. Now lets see some of that shit in games!

Drew also tells us that Buck Showalter went off on some kind of epic rant (about rosin?), and — apropos of nothing — notes that Adeiny Hechavarria is pretty much the worst base stealer. So… there’s that.

“It’s early, of course,” tweets Chris Toman, “but ESPN has Bautista projected to walk 203 times. Bonds is the only player to draw more than 170 BBs in a season.”

Brendan Kennedy tweets a picture of the Jays’ pitchers taking batting practice in preparation of next month’s interleague games. Get your shit together and get a DH already, National League. Enough of this garbage where you just hand every team a virtually-automatic out once every nine batters.

What’s this? Dirk Hayhurst writing for theScore??? About the Pirates-Brewers brawl? Yep. Sure is. Read it, and welcome, Dirk!

Things aren’t changing in this particular corner of theScore universe (read: at DJF), save for some cosmetic stuff, I promise, but if you’re wondering about just how awesome the turn we’ve taken is, how about reading Drew on how Manchester United became just another club? Yes, it’s at theScore.

Elsewhere over at some place called theScore, Chris Creamer of Sportslogos.net takes us through ten MLB teams that wore uniforms for a city other than their own — and the Jays are among them. When and why? You’ll have to click the link and find out.

Seriously, though: surely you can tell from the fresh coat of paint that you’re on the new-look theScore.com, but that doesn’t mean there isn’t a tonne still to check out. Very soon we’ll have links to all the other sections in the navbar here, but in the meantime, hit the link in the previous sentence and go to town, then download the app, then go to town some more. Nobody asked me to say this, but seriously, if you’re a sports fan (and, FYI, you are) it’s the best — I have people say to me all the time how much they love it, before they even know that this is the company in which DJF Island resides. We’re excited, OK??

Lastly, it’s the 100th anniversary of Wrigley Field’s opening, and only Andy Gray of @si_vault celebrated appropriately.

TV: Sportsnet

Next game: Tomorrow, 7:07 PM ET, vs. Baltimore

For those of you who’ll be out and about, be sure to follow all the action on your phone with theScore app.

And now, the game one lineups… 

Toronto Blue Jays

SS Jose Reyes (S)
LF Melky Cabrera (S)
RF Jose Bautista (R)
DH Edwin Encarnacion (R)
1B Juan Francisco (L)
C Dioner Navarro (S)
CF Colby Rasmus
3B Brett Lawrie (R)
SS Ryan Goins (L)

RHP Dustin McGowan

Baltimore Orioles

RF Nick Markakis (L)
DH Nelson Cruz (R)
1B Chris Davis (L)
CF Adam Jones (R)
C Matt Wieters (S)
SS J.J. Hardy (R)
3B Ryan Flaherty (L)
2B Jonathan Schoop (R)
LF David Lough (L)

RHP Chris Tillman

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Really. And is it me, or is it 1987? A winged collar. Are you…doing this?

Shi Davidi of Sportsnet looks at the patience Jose Bautista has shown thus far this year — patience he’s had to show, as the player with the highest percentage of balls seen in all of baseball (though part of that is due to his approach, his tremendous eye, and the fact that so far he’s swung at fewer pitches than anyone).

Elsewhere at Sportsnet, Shi recaps the game, with a focus on — what else? — Lawrie’s moustache. Gotta get them clicks, son.

In another one from Sportsnet, Arden Zwelling looks at the troubling trend of R.A. Dickey’s late game fades — and though the Jays’ nominal ace had one of his least disastrous games of the season yesterday, his numbers on the third time through the order somehow got worse. Hitters seeing him for a third time in a game in 2014 are now hitting an ungodly .433/.564/.733. Sure, numbers on every pitcher tend to worsen the longer they’re left in, and the more chances hitters get to time them, but that’s a hell of a jump from the wholly reasonable .237/.333/.368 batters have hit off Dickey the second time through the order, and the sparkling .150/.244/.250 the first time through.

Dickey, for his part, doesn’t sound terribly concerned, telling reporters like Robert MacLeod of the Globe and Mail that the issue in late innings is simply that he’s not as sharp. “Because the pitch does something different in all their at-bats leading up to that third-fourth time through the lineup it’s much more of a stuff thing for me rather than a lack of what the pitch is capable of doing multiple times through the lineup,” he explains.

Meanwhile, Josh Thole tells Richard Griffin of the Toronto Star that the way Dickey’s knuckler looks a whole lot like the way it did in 2012.

Chris Toman tweets a link to Brooks Baseball, and tells us that Dickey threw nine fastballs last night (after throwing 25 to the Orioles — likely because his knuckler was working better in the dome than in the cold), and that he induced a season-high 15 swinging strikes. So… that’s at least somewhat encouraging.

John Lott of the National Post, with a lede that will send you running to YouTube for some L.L. Cool J videos (preferably ones with scenes from The Hard Way cut in), tells us about Casey Janssen, who tells him he’s simply slowed down his rehab process, but hasn’t had a setback. “We realized it wasn’t going to heal doing what I was doing. And so instead of putting our foot on the gas we had to take it off a little bit and listen to my body a little bit more,” Janssen explains, also noting that he’s not in pain.

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Blue Jays Orioles Baseball

Continuing our impromptu “You Be You” series, let’s have a look at something rather delicious that was posted over at Orioles Hangout, a Baltimore fan forum that features some delightfully unhinged ramblings, apparently. And, unsurprisingly, didn’t have a whole lot of love after last night’s big win for the Jays, Brett Lawrie, or his “supposedly Canadian” maple bat.

Take it away, “section18″ (everything [sic'd]):

I agree with you 100%. Lawrie has joined the CHEATERS Club in Toronto. With their supposedly Canadian maple bats and the guy who flashes signs in CF this will be a bad series for us. It is what it is. Toronto crushes the ball with some of the longest HR’S you’ll ever see. Their players know they are cheating and act like jerks on the field and in the dugout. Some day MLB will investigate. Their announcers even joke about their long HR’S in Toronto. They say on the air “Wow.” How did he do that?

Lawrie I believe hit his first HR of the season the last Sunday game recently at OP. He hit a homer to deep left field that went to the concourse area where fans walk just below the lower reserved seat section. It was like a lazer. I was at the game Rasmus hit the two out two strike pitch to tie the game off Hunter on Saturday night when they were here recently. I believe they said it was a high outside 97 mph fastball he pulled and crushed to right field. They were still talking about this HR a week after he hit it and they wondered how he pulled that pitch and hit it that far. The guy was a bust with St. Louis and gets traded to Toronto and suddenly finds his HR stroke just like Bautista and Encarnacion. You can google the story from last season or the season before when the Red Sox bullpen saw a guy in the CF seats flashing signs to their hitters. I think they had already hit several HR’S that game and Boston stopped the game and told the umpires who made the guy move. I noticed after the last HR tonight they hit Buck was looking out to the outfield it seemed a long time. We need someone from the team to sit out there in CF and look for the guy. On their next long HR Buck needs to ask to see the bat and have it checked. Not sure about the rule on this. I know the old pine tar story but this is different. I haven’t been watchingToronto closely this year when they bat to see what kind of bats they are using. Last year their HR guys were all using black bats. It’s harder to spot anything on a black bat.

Back to Lawrie. I’ve read and heard players talk about him and they say he is a real jerk and most players don’t like him.

So. Good.

Now, blithely painting with a broad brush when it comes to deranged fans is… kind of what we do around here, so I’m just going to go ahead and say that Baltimore fans are pretty clearly fucked in the head. Because that’s hilarious. Not that anybody needs me to point that out, of course, it’s just… man, the legs that ESPN’s half-baked Man In White story — aka “Worst Cheaters Evar!!!” —  has managed to have is pretty astounding. Y’know, given that it was utter horseshit and about as statistically sound as the person above’s steaming C.H.U.D. of a mud monkey of a turd of a comment.

 

Crotch grab in the direction of commenter pastlives for the find. Image of the comment’s author (who might actually, literally, be the best) via Center Field Gate. [Not seen: tinfoil hat].

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Great catch from Dan Toman, who was quick to throw the following Vine out into the digital ether, while the Blue Jay Hunter’s Tumblr had another part of the… um… festivities?

I don’t even want to know.

Hard to fault young Brett for feeling good on a night when he broke a 3-3 tie with a three-run bomb — or any of the Jays, really, after what looked like it might be yet another disaster for R.A. Dickey, who cruised through five innings before a Steve Lombardozzi pop up double (not taken by either Melky Cabrera or Jose Reyes) was followed by a Nick Markakis walk and a Nelson Cruz blast to open the scoring. Shit, it looked like it might get worse when Dickey managed to walk (and HBP) the bases loaded before getting out of that inning. Or when a single and a ground rule double from Markakis created a gigantic jam as Dickey finally, mercifully was pulled in the seventh — a jam that nearly erased all the good of Edwin Encarnacion’s game-tying three-run blast in the bottom of the sixth, but was spectacularly worked out of by Neil Wagner and (mostly) Brett Cecil, setting the stage for Lawrie’s eighth-inning heroics (and another three-run blast off the bat of Melky Cabrera, to boot).

Or, at least, so I heard from Twitter while watching the basketball game.

Anyway… yeah… you be you, Brett Lawrie. You be you. Whatever the hell you are.

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