Drew Fairservice

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If the playoffs started today…YOUR Toronto Blue Jays would travel to Baltimore to do battle in the Wild Card Play-instravaganza, with the winner jetting to Texas for a meeting with the mighty Rangers. An extra AL East team in the playoffs, just like Bud Selig drew it up.

Anything stand out to you? If you answered “the Yankees miss the playoffs!” you’re wrong. It is the second-division also ran Cleveland Indians making the playoffs ahead of those Yankees, with the negative run differential and weak strength-of-schedule making the BALANCED SCHEDULE NOW arguement loud and clear.

Sack tap to Deere5800 in the comment section for the inspiration.

The Blue Jays have something of a tradition during their annual trip to Southern California to play the Anaheim Angels. East LA native and anchor of the pitching staff Ricky Romero hosts a feast at his off-season home, providing authentic home-cooked Mexican meals for teammates, many of whom are eager for a taste of home.

After yesterday’s getaway day victory over the Texas Ranges, the Jays flew into LAX and promptly assembled a deep crew for the run to Romero’s place. Not long into the regal feast, Ricky posted this picture to this twitterfeed. The image is full of happy teammates and a very proud host. So busy is this photo that you just might have missed some key components. Which is where I come in…

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Following the Toronto Blue Jays is nothing if not exciting this year. Never a dull moment, as they say. The rollercoaster of emotions never seems to stop. Beat up on a bad team, lose to a decent team (or Baltimore.) Then the Best Team in Baseball rolls in, tired and a little battered but always willing to go, and the Jays take two out of three games from them.

Ricky Romero “gutted” one out today, if I might borrow form the cliche jar. He walked three and gave up the first big league home run of Brandon Snyder’s career in eight somewhat laborious innings. The Rangers started their B-lineup again but they all count, right?

Romero’s numbers for the season are a little puzzling. His strikeouts are down and his walks up. Thanks to the strong BLue Jays infield defense (and a whole truckload of double plays) his BABIP is lower than ever at .215. Something has to give, I fear. The matter of when remains unclear.

The offense responded nicely to John Farrell’s tinkering, with Kelly Johnson and Yunel Escobar going bucknuts at the top of the lineup. They reached base five times between them, with Johnson’s home run serving at the game’s biggest play, WPAishly.

Edwin Encarnacion hit another home run because that is precisely what Edwin Encarnacion does. And does with panache, might I add.

Joel Carreno made his return to the big leagues, mopping up the nineth inning in convincing fashion. As convincing a fashion as one can pitch the last inning of a getaway day blowout. Carreno remains very interesting to me. I sort of love him as a bullpen option and while my worldview forbids me from voluntarily moving a starter to the bullpen until they prove they simply cannot start, I’d be willing to listen on Carreno.

Other than that, the Jays have the best defense in baseball, according to defensive runs saved. Omar Vizquel will play forever if you let him.

Here is today’s Getting Blanked show, which you are all well served to watch. Crafted with care and all that.

Image courtesy of Mop Up Duty

Send in the clowns! With lefty on the mound and Yunel Escobar still struggling to get on base, manager John Farrell gets wacky with the lineup, sitting down Colby Rasmus and Adam Lind against tough Rangers lefty Matt Harrison. So rejoice, those who wanted to see Edwin Encarnacion hit cleanup! Today is your day!


The dome is open! Which is hilarious. Enjoy being cold, hippies. Put this under the “be careful what you wish for” category.

Fox Sports troll Jon Morosi wandered by the dome last night and wrote about how, if everything goes right and Jose Bautista resumes being one of the three best hitters in baseball, the Jays might be not bad! That’s a relief. I was worried they might be doomed.

Nice look at the Lansing Lugnuts from Gerry at the Batters Box. He is impressed by Aaron Sanchez, just like everyone else.

Travis Snider is on the DL in Vegas. Which is bad but the AAA DL can only be 7 days so all is not lost…

That’s about it. Early game means everybody is at the ballpark, preparing their precious game stories.

And now the lineups, by way of the live box score at theScore.com. And for those of you who’ll be out and about, be sure to follow all the action on your phone with Score Mobile

Toronto Blue Jays Texas Rangers
1. Kelly Johnson (L) 2B
2. Yunel Escobar (R) SS
3. Jose Bautista (R) RF
4. Edwin Encarnacion (R) 1B
5. Ben Francisco (R) DH
6. Brett Lawrie (R) 3B
7. Eric Thames (L) LF
8. J.P. Arencibia (R) C
9. Rajai Davis (R) CF

Ricky Romero, P

1. Ian Kinsler (R) 2B
2. Elvis Andrus (R) DH
3. Michael Young (R) 3B
4. Mike Napoli (R) 1B
5. Nelson Cruz (R) RF
6. Yorvit Torrealba (R) C
7. Alberto Gonzalez (R) SS
8. Brandon Snyder (R) LF
9. Craig Gentry (R) CF

Matt Harrison, P

There exists an old line about relief pitchers needing short memories. They are supposed to forget when they fail as they could well be in a very similar situation the very next day. In a cruel twist of fate, relievers require short memories but when they suffer, fans tend not to forget.

It is the reason Frank Francisco and BJ Ryan and other former saves-compilers leap to the minds of Blue Jays whenever the guy in the job now starts sucking even a little bit. That Frank Francisco rebounded after a crappy May to put together a damn fine season and BJ Ryan posted a ridiculously good season in 2006 and a decent season in 2008 matters little. Blown saves live long in the memory.

The current Blue Jays bullpen is off to an ugly start. Francisco Cordero blew the “save” last night, reaching “point of no return” status with the fanbase – he forever sucks. No manner of bullpen excellence can save him in the eyes of many. No matter how many clean innings between now and the end of the season, the sight of Francisco Cordero emerging from the left field bullpen will send some fans into fits.

Last night, Cordero coughed up a lead to the Rangers and the knives came out. Did he deserve it? It’s safe to say he does, even though he didn’t pitch that badly. Two quick outs and then Cordero gets ahead 0-2 on Kinsler. As Tabler intones “KEEP THAT BALL AWAY FROM HIM”, Mathis calls for a slider down and away. Cordero throws a great pitch. Kinsler somehow fouls it off.

Coco then comes back inside with a two-seamer down and in, another good pitch. There is very little Kinsler can do with a fastball thrown there. Kinsler fights it off, pullig it well foul. Kinsler dumps the next pitch he sees — another decent slider away — into right-centre field for a single. Simply a great at bat by a great hitter.

Cordero didn’t get hit hard at all in the ninth last night but he still allowed three base runners. Which, as a Capital-C closer, cannot happen. The Blue Jays bullpen, especially in ninth innings, has been awful. Nobody wants to hear that the pen will be better or, more specifically, cannot possibly be worse. The Jays pen has the worst FIP in baseball and the worst ERA and six blown saves. Ugly.

They rank ninth in win probability added, probably the best measure of how good/bad a bullpen can be, thanks to their series of long extra innings games, me thinks. But that masks the front to back awfulness of the pen in general.

The Jays bullpen corps is getting killed by the long ball. As a staff, their home run/fly ball ratio is 21%. The widely accepted baseline for that HR/FB is about 10%. That, last time I checked, means the Blue Jays rate is double what can be “expected.”

Which speaks to the nature of relief pitching, in a way. Casey Janssen was great last season, throwing strikes and keeping hitters off balance. He allowed 47 fly balls and 32 line drives in 2011, if you buy batted ball information. Two of those went over the fence. Two home runs allowed for an entire season. That’s great. But, just like Janssen’s 30% HR/FB rate this year, it isn’t going to stay that way for long.

There is no easy way to fix what is wrong with the Blue Jays bullpen. They just need to keep pitching. The home runs will slow down and the eventual return of Sergio Santos slots Cordero back down into the safety of lower leveraged situations. Farrell already came out and said Cordero is “still his guy” for the ninth inning. Managing to the save is bad. The bullpen as whole isn’t pitching well enough that one guy deserves to take the job from Cordero, sadly.

Late-inning losses (or wins that become losses only to become wins again) sting. They linger. They don’t go away. The volatility of relief pitching matters not when you watch your team gag away wins. But it is a real thing. Shit happens. Shit happens when you pitch an inning at a time with everything on the line.

Spend on a proven closer? Develop an in-house guy? It all has the potential to go pear-shaped when you have one of the game’s best hitters grinding out at bats and flipping innocent singles into the opposite field. It sucks. But it is the nature of the beast.

Got something else on the way but, yup. Brett Lawrie. The mayor of Toronto had a pretty good day yesterday, don’t you think?

Did you know Edwin Encarnacion is very good. It’s the truth. There has never really been any doubting EE’s hitting bonafides except for all the times we doubted Edwin’s hitting bonafidas. Like the time he was DFA’d then sent to Oakland then brought back and then sucked for two months. Other than that, his talent shines through.

Right now, he is killing the ball. He doesn’t really do much else other than hit home runs but who cares? The home runs are plentiful and sure to continue, right?

Outside of Edwin, the offense is singles-hittin’ Eric Thames and not much else. Colby Rasmus is still living off the glory of the multi-homer game in Kansas City while the rest of the team just treads water. The offense is bad but it is only “middle of the pack” bad, not “never going to score again, if only we did the little things like the Twins” bad.

According to Fangraphs, the offense is worth -2.9 weighted runs below average, good for 18th in the league. Among the hitters, Edwin Encarnacion contributed 10 wRAA while Yunel Escobar and J.P. Arencibia are the biggest sinkholes. Jose Bautista, for all his struggles, is still (slightly) ahead of Adam Lind at just more than 2 runs below average.

That this is a middle of the pack offense shouldn’t really come as a surprise to anyone. When they’re bad, they’re bad. But they still hung nineteen runs on the Mariners over the weekend after putting 22 runs up in Kansas City over four games. Sure, those teams are bad. But the runs still count.

Against Neftali Feliz, they aren’t in as tough as last night when Yu Darvish made a weak offense look worse than feeble. He’s going to do that. Feliz throws a four seamer, a two-seam sinker and a cutter along with a a (nasty) slider and changeup. He’s good, too. The Rangers are, as they say, stacked. Good luck, Drew Hutchison. Kyle Drabek showed it could be done so…go out and do it?

And now the lineups, by way of the live box score at theScore.com. And for those of you who’ll be out and about, be sure to follow all the action on your phone with Score Mobile

Toronto Blue Jays Texas Rangers
1. Yunel Escobar SS
2. Kelly Johnson 2B
3. Jose Bautista RF
4. Adam Lind 1B
5. Edwin Encarnacion DH
6. Eric Thames LF
7. Brett Lawrie 3B
8. Colby Rasmus CF
9. Jeff Mathis C

Drew Hutchison, P

1. Ian Kinsler 2B
2. Elvis Andrus SS
3. Michael Young DH
4. Nelson Cruz RF
5. David Murphy LF
6. Mike Napoli C
7. Mitch Moreland 1B
8. Alberto Gonzalez 3B
9. Craig Gentry CF

Not Yu Darvish, P