Archive for the ‘Daily Duce’ Category

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Which… Not what I call making love. I’d call it “The Shame-spear… of… hurt”.

“To give you an idea, a crosschecker gave me his mock top 11. Includes Schwarber at 4, Beede at 10, no Kolek in top 11. It’s getting wacky,” tweets Kiley McDaniel of Scout.com here on the morning of the draft. And, indeed, we’re seeing some changes as the final mock drafts filter in from the various major prospecting houses. Changes even from what we were hearing last night, as Kyle Matte was finishing off his outstanding DJF 2014 Draft Preview!

Unlike McDaniel’s scout, John Manuel’s final mock at Baseball America doesn’t have Kolek falling — he has him at three to the White Sox — but he now has the Jays on Kennesaw State catcher Max Pentecost at nine (along with usual suspect Jeff Hoffman at eleven). Pentecost is “athletic, plays a middle-of-the-diamond position and was the MVP of the Cape Cod League last summer, pushing him past North Carolina State’s Trea Turner on most teams’ draft boards,” he explains.

Kolek does fall in the next-to-final mock for Chris Crawford at MLB Draft Insider, though, all the way to the Toronto Blue Jays at 11. Published this morning, he has the Jays going with Trea Turner and the hard-throwing Texas right-hander. Of the suggestion, he explains, “Jeff Hoffman is still an absolute possibilty — and might be more likely — but I just don’t think he gets past the Blue Jays twice.” However, in an update, he shifts things around and has Kolek off the board by the time the Jays are on the clock, sticking with the consensus, which is Turner and Hoffman.

Keith Law’s final mock at ESPN.com has Kolek dropping to eighth, just before he has Toronto on Pentecost, explaining that “the Jays are a big muddle, still on prep arms like Touki Toussaint, Grant Holmes and Michael Kopech, while strongly considering college bats in Trea Turner and Pentecost.” He goes with the industry consensus on pick eleven, though, and suggests it’s going to be Hoffman.

Of course, we’ll all find out tonight, beginning at 7 PM. The draft will be streamed live on MLB.com, and I’ll be live blogging here, trying to pull together everything you need to understand whatever little it is we can about the long-term projects the Jays will embark on today.

Moving on…

John Lott of the National Post looks at the mechanical change Steve Delabar is making in order to get himself back on track. The struggling reliever “knows he has developed a tendency to drift toward third base as he lifts his left knee to start his delivery. As he tries to compensate, what happens next affects both his command and velocity,” Lott explains. “Essentially, I’m going one direction and then I’m trying to throw another. It’s like you’re fighting yourself,” Delabar tells him, before outlining the adjustents he’s trying to make to combat the phenomenon. Interesting stuff.

Sticking with the Post, Lott recounts last night’s victory, and what R.A. Dickey called the “magic act” of Aaron Loup — and what Loup called “one of those lucky nights where you kind of pull a rabbit out of your hat” — that made it all possible.

Richard Griffin of the Toronto Star looks back at the game, reflecting on the underappreciated role of Jose Bautista in the victory, thanks to both his defence and his bat, pushing back at a narrative that should have never been a narrative in the first place with some other unfortunate narrative, suggesting that lately, “quietly, and maybe not so quietly, Bautista has showed signs of stepping back into a leadership role.” Winning = leader. Not winning = not leader. Writes itself, really.

Elsewhere in the Star, photographer David Cooper’s latest MasterGlass video is a horribly blatant advertorial for Cannon, but does tell you some interesting things about how the pro photographers do their jobs at Jays games.

It’s just a game story, really, but at Sportsnet we’re promised (via headline) a piece from Shi Davidi about R.A. Dickey’s struggles to find late-game consistency, which… we get some of, for sure. But it’s mostly kind of just a gamer. Clever.

Sweet, delicious narrative: Steve Buffery of the Toronto Sun looks at tight-knit bunch of players who make up this so-far winning edition of the Jays.

J.D. Sussman does a little Shark Hunting at FanGraphs, looking at prospects that a trio of teams would likely have to deal to the Cubs in order to land themselves Jeff Samardzija, including Aaron Sanchez. He echoes what we’ve been on about around here of late: “The competition for Samardzija, who is relatively inexpensive at $5.35M, may be so tough that Sanchez may not satisfy the Cubs as their keystone piece.”

Elsewhere at FanGraphs, Dustin McGowan shows up in a list of May’s wildest pitches, while Tony Blengino gives us some insight into what happens in the draft room of a major league club.

A pair from Bluebird Banter, where Nick Ashbourne looks at the dramatic increase in the number of green lights Jays hitters have received in 3-0 counts so far this year, while @BosmanBaseball gives us some names to watch for the second round. Look out for a forest of maple cocks, there’s the possibility it’s a Canadian. (Best player available, please.)

Lastly, for theScore, Drew has an outstanding tribute to Don Zimmer, the beloved baseball lifer and Pedro Martinez-fighter who passed away last night.

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Is that the one about tariffs?

Sportsnet’s PR department tweets that last night’s game was the most-watched of the season, with 889,000 viewers. I can live with that.

You need to always take playoff odds stuff with giant grains of salt, but this latest piece from FanGraphs will at least provide some salty deliciousness, as they look at the biggest changes in playoff odds from the beginning of the season to the end. Of course, leading the way is the Jays, who FG determined to have a 27% shot at the start of the year, while they now sit on 77%, the fourth-best in baseball. That said, “everything here hinges on mathematical projections, so there’s a certain accuracy ceiling,” they warn. “If you like a team more or less than the projections, then that affects almost every single number. But you can consider this a starting point. It’s a good starting point, for Jays fans.” Uh-huh. Just gotta hang on for 103 more games!

At ESPN.com, Keith Law has his final draft rankings up, and while all of the guys rumoured to be in play for the Jays at picks nine and eleven make his top twenty five, none of them is within his top twelve. As I noted on the podcast, though, I can live with that. It might be simply that they don’t draft as many position players as highly as they do pitchers, but it at least doesn’t feel like they do as good a job in terms of their development as they do with the arms. So take the arms — and figure out how to better develop some hitters. If, y’know, that’s even really an issue (which, let’s be clear, is hardly cut and dried — the Jays have some good bats in the low minors, and have drafted some real projects who wouldn’t necessarily be expected to have borne fruit yet).

Speaking of the draft, I’ll be live blogging it tomorrow night, providing context for everything Jays-related that happens, and grabbing whatever information I can on the guys that the Jays pick at nine and eleven. Because that’s what you do.

Maybe the Jays will draft one of the ten most awesomely- or dumbly-named draft-eligible fellows highlighted in this piece by Alexis Brudnicki for the Canadian Baseball Network. In fact, it’s a decent enough bet that they will, given how often they’ve been linked with Touki Toussaint. But as you’ll see from the link, there are better names than even his!

Brendan Kennedy of the Toronto Star looks a bit at the Jays’ recent draft history, and specifically, their inability to sign their top picks in two of the last three drafts — something that Jim Callis of MLB.com, and formerly of Baseball America, tells Kennedy were due to “unforeseen circumstances” that “would have probably happened to anybody.” Not that anybody would have picked Bickford so high, but hey, when you’ve got baseball lifers telling you he’s got “the good face,” what else are you supposed to do?

In a companion piece, Kennedy looks at the names who have been most often linked to the Jays so far this spring.

Speaking of all this, Ben Nicholson-Smith of Sportsnet looks at the depth of pitching available in the draft, giving brief bios of a tonne of pitchers on the board, at least one of whom you’d have to think is going to end up being selected by the Jays.

Great stuff over at Blue Jays Plus, as they go pitch-by-pitch through Edwin Encarnacion’s second at-bat last Thursday against James Shields, which, of course, resulted in a home run. It’s a detailed breakdown full of GIFs, my favourite of which is this one, showing Encarnacion’s first and second home runs of the game, both on identical mistakes from Shields, side-by-side. And “identical” is the key word here. If you’ve never played at a high level, you hear about “mechanics” and “repeatability” on broadcasts, and can read about it online if you’re especially curious, but here you actually see just how detailed all the movements, and the timing of those movements, really are. It’s pretty remarkable granular stuff about how the game really works on an elite level that can’t be seen until it’s slowed down and given this sort of side-by-side treatment. I don’t know… just maybe something to think of before the next time you yell at your screen for a pitcher to just throw strikes.

John Lott writes awesome game stories, so here’s his game story on last night’s wild one in Detroit, over at the National Post. A second piece looks at the breaks the Jays got on their way to the victory, though one of them — #GibbyTheBest substituting Kevin Pillar for Adam Lind in order to face a lefty — was sort of by design. Though I’m sure the FYOR GOBBSON crowd would have killed him for it if it didn’t work out, so… maybe? Either way, I can live with that.

I didn’t really elaborate as much as I should have on a piece that Brendan Kennedy wrote for the Toronto Star earlier this week about Jose Bautista’s slightly awesome hitting against the shift. Definitely read it, and read some far better elaboration on it than I could have provided, which comes by the way of Jeff Sullivan at FanGraphs. “Jose Bautista didn’t need Kevin Seitzer to be good. Jose Bautista was already really good,” Sullivan concludes. “But with the help of Kevin Seitzer, Jose Bautista has started to do something he hadn’t done, and he’s returned to the uppermost tier of offensive nightmares. Not everyone is going to be able to defeat an extreme defensive shift. But then, not anyone is Jose Bautista.”

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Now I’m thinking of I.P Freely. Now I’m thinking of Ace Frehley. Stan, Ace Frehley…

Contra some of the other noise we’ve heard, Keith Law’s latest mock draft says that it’s “far from a lock” that the Jays are dead set on taking  any specific player at either the ninth or the eleventh pick in this year’s draft — which goes Thursday, and which I’m sure I’ll live blog, or something. He’s now got the Jays taking Touki Toussaint at nine and the Tommy John’d Jeff Hoffman at eleven. This sounds better to me than what we were hearing before — namely, Toussaint, who is constantly being linked to the Jays, at eleven and safer college bat Trea Turner at nine. Hoffman has big talent and not a lot of leverage because of the surgery, and therefore the risk, meaning money to be saved for first round talent elsewhere (i.e. hopefully not Rogers’ fucking pockets). I can live with that. But we’ll have to wait until Thursday to find out. One other name KLaw throws into the Jays’ mix is Max Pentecost, a “toolsy” Kennesaw State catcher he has going to the Reds at 19.

It’s Robert MacLeod of the Globe and Mail on grass. No, he’s not high! He writes an interesting, informative piece about where the Jays’ pursuit of grass stands, from a technological perspective. “The Blue Jays and the [University of Guelph] are close to formalizing a business arrangement that will see the institution oversee the science of getting grass to grow within the stadium,” he tells us, adding that Eric Lyons, an “associate professor in turfgrass science and physiology” at Guelph, “is planning to set aside an area within Rogers Centre – away from the current playing field – to start growing different species of grass to see what best thrives.” Cool stuff. Can all this happen, like, yesterday?

Great stuff from David Laurila at FanGraphs, as he contrasts the draft and minor league experiences of Braves 2nd rouder Alex Wood, and Jays’ 32nd rounder Kevin Pillar — and Pillar waxes nostalgic about the Appalachian League: “We stayed in dorm rooms at a small Christian college. I had a roommate and we were on twin beds. There were no blankets or pillows when we got there. It was definitely culture shock. The college I went to wasn’t great, but Bluefield was like going back in time. Not only the area, but the facilities were a little backwards.” Bluefield is just off I-77, which is part of the route to take via Pittsburgh on the way to the southern Atlantic coast, and… uh… yeah, I think I buy that.

It wasn’t just Edwin Encarnacion who received a Player of the Month honour this week, as MLB.com named Daniel Norris their top minor league pitcher for the month of May. Teddy Cahill explains that Norris’s improved ability to repeat his delivery and throw strikes has carried over from last year, “and his fastball velocity has ticked up as well.” Not that I know a damn thing about it, but it wouldn’t surprise me if the Jays are thinking that keeping his mechanics on track could prove tricky, and that this might be peak value for him on the trade market, but, of course, if they think it’s real, that’s even better.

Sticking with MLB.com, they note that the Jays called up Chad Jenkins today to take Liam Hendriks’ place on the roster. He will, of course, pitch out of the bullpen. That is, if he even pitches before getting yo-yo’d back down the QEW. Think he gets Mike McCoy’s old locker?

Steve Buffery of the Toronto Sun talks to Jose Bautista, who is currently being overshadowed a bit by teammate Edwin Encarnacion, but has still been absolutely amazing.

Elsewhere in the Sun, Ken Fidlin writes about the quiet confidence that the Jays have exhibited all year, and the better mental state that the players seem to be in — and does so even-handedly enough that I’m not even going to scoff. “We lost a heartbreaker to end the streak and then (the Royals) swung the bats well the next day,” Jose Bautista explained. “We just did what we’re capable of the next two days. Now we have some momentum back and hope to take that to Detroit.”

Fidlin’s piece also makes the point of noting something that definitely needs to be remembered in any of the insufferable conversation about the Jays’ attendance “issue,” which is the fact that, for example, “Sunday’s turnout of 38,008 was an astounding number, considering that one line of the subway system was closed, the Gardiner Expressway was closed and the Lakeshore also had lane closures.” He makes the claim that “there isn’t a city in North America that makes it more difficult for fans to get to the games than Toronto,” which… yeah, I don’t exactly buy that one. But the Gardiner closures will definitely take their toll.

Michael Grange of Sportsnet looks at the attendance “issue,” which… you certainly can’t say he’s doing his employers any favours, so points for that. Assuming, that is, that Rogers doesn’t think shaming fans into coming into the ballpark is a productive strategy, which… they usually don’t.

Elsewhere at Sportsnet, Shi Davidi looks at the Jays’ preparation for the upcoming draft, which is a crucial one for the franchise, given their two high picks. Though it’s not like there are drafts that aren’t crucial, one supposes.

More draft stuff, as Your Van C’s looks at the 2012 first round, which produced Marcus Stroman and… um… actually, I don’t want to talk about it.

More SkyDome memories, as Duane Ward looks back at the first game played there, by way of Mark Zwolinski of the Toronto Star.

Bluebird Banter notes that, according to Bodog, the Jays’ odds to make the World Series now sit at 10/1, compared to 25/1 on May 1st. Did something happen over the last month???

The Blue Jay Hunter’s most recent Flashback Friday post took a look into the origin of Edwin Encarnacion’s home run chicken wing — i.e. his taking the parrot for a walk.

Lastly, because why not — and because I hadn’t linked it yet — Ben Nicholson-Smith of Sportsnet looks at Marcus Stroman’s outstanding debut against the Royals. We can’t expect that every time, but shit yes, this team can use this guy.

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And more specifically, Stephen Breyer. Boosh!

As of 3:30 PM ET there were 20 tickets still available (barely!) for tonight’s Pitch Talks #3, which starts at 7 PM tonight and will feature Richard Griffin, Scott MacArthur, Cathal Kelly, Brendan Kennedy, Alexis Brudnicki, and Cashew Mirman. You can still guarantee yourself a ticket via the link above, and should be yet another great event. During the evening they’ll be announcing the lineup for Pitch #4 as well! Not that I’ve heard anything about that…

Paul Beeston was on the Fan 590′s Baseball Central today, and Jeff Simmons of Sportsnet offers a summary. Among typically rosy comments about bringing grass to the Rogers Centre in the face of rumours of the Argos’ move to BMO breaking down — “It’s very important for us to get grass. We’re one of the two teams that don’t have it. We don’t want to rest players because of the turf. We want to be like the rest of baseball and attract free agents.” — and unsurprising, but surprising-that-he-said-it comments about waiting until the end of the year to make any kind of decision on re-signing Colby Rasmus, he address the attendance “issue,” saying that he’s not concerned about it, and that “last year we kind of broke their trust,” referring to the fans. Yeah… I’d say that this winter, and its typically indifferent turning off of the tap from the behemoth corporation that owns the club and has similarly help keep the franchise mired in mediocrity over its first thirteen seasons of ownership, probably had a little bit to do with that, too. You can’t usher in a new era, pull back the reins a year later, drop the same “if everything breaks right maybe we’ll make a deadline move” narrative that fans have heard ad nauseam for over a decade, and expect people not to get skittish about pouring their hard-earned money into coporate coffers from which it may never reappear, all for the right to forgo watching on their giant, crystal-clear TVs with their own cheap beer, in exchange for pissing away $11 for awful corporate beer in plastic seats, surrounded by braying assholes. Which isn’t to say that it’s not great to go to a game or anything, or that it won’t be outstanding if they really do manage a stretch run, but… y’know.

Alex Anthopoulos also made some public comments today, showing up on Prime Time Sports on this afternoon. Megan Robinson tweets that he says that the recent pitching shuffling has been because “we’re so conscious and focused on keeping this team extra healthy,” and adds that he says in the overall, “I’d like to see if we put two great months together, back to back. Stroman is going to be an important part of that.” AA also says that he’s leery of opening up contract discussions with players mid-season, because such talk ends up consuming the clubhouse, but — per a tweet from yours truly — he also insists, “I have every confidence in the world that we’ll have the resources to sign [Melky and Colby].” He can’t say anything else, but it’s pretty meaningless, of course. Don’t hang him with silly words in this P.R. game, though. He’s just doing his job.

Mike Harrington of the Buffalo News writes about a bad day for the Herd — and subsequently the Jays — as four Bisons pitchers wound up injured, including three (sorry, Ricky) potentially useful pieces for the 2014 Jays: Neil Wagner, Sean Nolin, Rob Rasmussen, and Ricky Romero. According to a tweet today from Harrington’s colleague, Amy Moritz, Nolin is fine, but Wagner has been sent to Florida to be re-examined. She adds that, according to Buffalo manager Gary Allenson, Romero could be out a while with a calf issue, while Rasmussen is day-to-day with a bruise. (And the Bisons’ official account now tweets that Wagner, along with John Stilson and ouftielder Brad Glenn, has hit the DL.)

Another Bisons move is the fact that on Sunday the Jays optioned Liam Hendriks back down there, seemingly returning the Jays to a five man rotation, with Marcus Stroman awesomely ready to awesomely be a part of it. A corresponding move (and an official announcement) is supposed to come down today at some point. Jamie Ross of MLB.com has the details. (Oh, and Bobby Korecky cleared waivers and is back with the club, too. If I don’t bother to add a link, will anyone notice? Let’s find out!)

John Lott of the National Post looks at how tremendously the Jays have been aided this year by the defensive shifting schemes produced by their analytics department, unlike last year, when they dumbly went away from shifting following the departure of Brian Butterfield, who had previously been setting up infielders without the aid of technology. Hmmm, almost like the team should actually be listening to and valuing what that department can bring, eh? Great piece, also. Read it.

Speaking of, Brendan Kennedy of the Toronto Star looks at how Jose Bautista has adjusted this year in order to beat the shift.

Amazing stuff from FanGraphs on Bautista recording a 9-3 putout in back-t0-back games (with drool-worthy GIFs!). Not only is it remarkable because there have only been done 29 of such events in the last 25 years, but also because the vast majority of runners being thrown out have been pitchers. Nails much?

More Jays content from FanGraphs, as Jeff Sullivan looks at how Edwin Encarnacion hunts, and follows up on the piece with more EE goodness.

Richard Griffin of the Toronto Star looks at Encarnacion, the Jays’ underrated superstar — who just won the club’s player of the month honour for May, and well do so for the AL, as well. He’s been pretty good!

Trying to capture the Steve Simmons demographic, apparently, someone at the Globe and Mail titled Robert MacLeod’s Friday piece, The Buehrle Way: Don’t rely on analytics, rely on your catcher. Ugh.

Blue Jays Plus gives a nice bit of glowing background on Touki Toussaint, who they claim to have been told the Jays will take with the eleventh pick in this week’s draft, as if anybody possibly knows. That’s been a hot rumour though, so it wouldn’t be surprising — nor would it be bad, given the upside. BJP also looks at Trea Turner, who the Jays are apparently “locked in” on taking — another rumour that’s been making the rounds heavily of late, and a strange one, as he’s actually a college position player (SS). Do the Jays even do that???

Lastly, the Marcus Stroman/Eric Hosmer “Wow” Vine made it into Jonah Keri’s latest power rankings piece at Grantland, and the Jays, for the first time this season, are in the top group. Nails much?

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Well, I’m not here to buy douchebags, so it doesn’t really concern you.

Following up the earlier stuff about the Jays’ tight payroll, twitterer @Cameo60 tells us that Mike Wilner was on the radio today, confirming that he’s heard what Shi Davidi has heard about the Jays’ draft budget (unless it was just a repeat of what Shi said, which I guess is possible), which is that they “have enough $ to get what they need done, they don’t have as much as in the past.” Well, since teams can now only spend a small amount above their bonus pool allotment without severe penalties, no one has as much as in the past. But if that’s a suggestion that they’re going to spend below their limit, that would certainly be dumb.

Interesting post from Blue Jays Plus, where Gideon Turk tweets at Keith Pelley about this sort of stuff, and gets some surprising responses. For example, after being asked last night “Do you mind giving the Jays some extra cash now so they can add to the roster?” Pelley responds, “why????” Presumably that’s a “why … are you possibly moaning about this after a ninth straight win????” and if so, it’s somewhat understandable. Told that he was being asked this “because Liam Hendriks isn’t getting us into the playoffs, and AA shouldn’t have to borrow money from the players,” Pelley wisely skipped the unserious posturing as though anyone half reasonable could believe Hendriks is long for the rotation and jumped straight to the borrowing bit, responding simply that “he doesn’t.” I know, it’s really, really easy to whine about Rogers. But who’s to say that Paul Beeston’s reluctance to ask for budget increases isn’t at the root of what happened this winter, and not the fact that, as Gideon theorizes, Pelley is “the man who has been in charge of stopping the Blue Jays from landing numerous players via free agency and trades these past few years”? I certainly don’t think it’s clear one way or the other, but hey, rage away. I’ve been there.

Oh, and now there’s also this:

The Jays are fun as fuck right now. You know this, I know this, and now a whole lot of people know it too. One of them is Grant Brisbee, who wonders at SB Nation whether the Jays are really this good, quickly looking at who is or isn’t performing to expectations, and finding that “it turns out that when the Blue Jays aren’t all hurt, ticking off the old, vengeful gods, and playing J.P. Arencibia, they’re pretty danged okay.” Not only that, “baseball would be better if the Blue Jays were really this good,” he says.

Great, interesting stuff from GROF over at theScore, as he examines how often teams with retractable roofs will open or close them.

Another day, another series of Jays talkin’ on ESPN’s Baseball Tonight Podcast, as Buster Olney and Tim Kurkjian marvel at the offence that has been on display at Rogers Centre this year. Starts around the fifteen minute mark, and isn’t a terribly long discussion (despite its inclusion in the episode’s description), but I’ve already written this much about it so… yeah. There ya go.

Elsewhere from ESPN, Mark Simon looks at which teams have been best and worst at turning various types of batted balls into outs, and we find the Jays among the league’s worst in terms of turning fly balls into outs. PLAY DEEPER, COLBY!

Yesterday I linked to Jonah Keri’s latest power rankings for Grantland, but didn’t include this tidbit: Jonah looks at “cluster luck” — a concept he explains thusly: “when a team’s batters cluster hits together to score more runs and a team’s pitchers spread hits apart to allow fewer runs, that’s cluster luck” – finding that the Jays have been the fourth luckiest team in the majors in that regard so far. Amazingly, though, it’s all on their pitching, and the hitters actually have a negative cluster luck number. Wacky.

And one last ESPN.com item, as Keith Law’s chat from last week wasn’t terribly heavy on Jays-related tidbits, but did provide us one Schadenfreud alert, after KLaw was asked whether he could envision Tyler Beede slipping out of the first round. “Absolutely,” he said. “He was not good at all yesterday. And teams are concerned about the makeup.” Take the money, kids.

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Oh, piss on the swear jar!

Barry Davis tweets that the Jays, who begin today with a three game lead in the AL East (thanks, in part, to pitcher Yovani Gallardo’s pinch hit walk-off double for the Brewers over the Orioles last night), have not led the division by four or more since 1993. Do it!

Hey, so you know all that talk about the Jays having interest in Jeff Samardzija? Yeah, well, those Orioles could entirely blow them out of the water on an offer, if they really wanted to. And according to chief Chicagoland rumour monger Bruce Levine of CBS Chicago, they might be willing to. He says that the O’s “appear to be the leading team of interest” in the pursuit of Samardzija, and that Baltimore’s pitching-rich farm system (at least on the top end) is why. Some combination of Dylan Bundy, Kevin Gausman, and Hunter Harvey scoffs at your offer of Aaron Sanchez and Marcus Stroman.

As here, not all of Baltimore is necessarily behind this possibility. High ranking official among the O’s Twitterati, Jon Bernhardt, tweets a sarcastic plea: “Please, Orioles, continue to gut the farm for another Cubs pitcher off to a hot start who you have no intention of paying long term.”

Dan Connolly of the Baltimore Sun tries to unpack this whole Samardzija-Orioles business, and in doing so pretty much provides you with all you need to know about it.

Another prospect to throw into trade discussions, of course, is Dan Norris. He continues to look like he’s too good for the Florida State League — or at least his stat line does — and today Baseball Prospectus noted him for having one of the best outings in the minors last night. “The stuff has never been the question for Norris, but control issues threatened to keep him from reaching his ceiling. Unlike fellow Blue Jays prospect Aaron Sanchez, however, Norris has made great strides this year in that regard, lowering his walk rate to a very acceptable 2.6 BB/9,” they explain.

On the other hand, Jesse Rogers of ESPN Chicago notes that Keith Law and Buster Olney spoke on a recent podcast about what a good fit Samardzija would be for the San Francisco Giants. This, my friends, is why the Cubs aren’t about to budge on dealing him just because the Jays want him. There’s going to be a serious market for his services.

Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe tells us that the Jays aren’t interested in giving up Drew Hutchison for the Shark. Gee, thanks Nick. Non-sarcastic thanks for this one, though: regarding the Jays’ belief in their ability to take the AL East, and their pursuit of starting pitching, “whether it be Samardzija or someone else, the Jays have all hands on deck, including special adviser Fred McGriff.” Hmmm. I wonder if the Crime Dog has a desk somewhere near the analytics plant.

Did you hear that the Jays are playing well? So did a lot of people, it turns out. To wit:

- Dave Cameron of Fox Sports looks at “positive regression.” He says that staying the course seems to have worked well for the club, but zeroes in on second base as an area requiring improvement — the top priority, he thinks, rather than on the mound. Interesting. Also interesting: the 2013 Jays gave 31% of their plate appearances to players who were below replacement level. Yeah… that’s not going to end well. Which, of course, it didn’t.

- Jonah Keri of ESPN.com doesn’t quite put the Jays among the elite clubs in his power rankings just yet (they’re 8th he says), but they’re moving up, and he details why: power. Notable for an Edwin’s Parrot GIF appearance and a plug for some mighty fine work by GROF.

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GREAT SCOTT!! “PC”… stands for “Personal Computer”… I just this moment got that…

Apologies for the non-typical image on this post, but… come on. Our old friend Scott Johnson, as he always does, nailed it.

Hey, and since we’re being atypical today, before we get into the real good stuff, let’s begin the ol’ Duce with a friendly reminder that tomorrow the Jays and Red Sox play at 4:05 PM ET, which means that if you’re in Toronto you should totally cut work early and head to Opera Bob’s (Dundas St. W at Ossington) for our little shindig, co-presented by the folks behind the outstanding web series I’m involved in, Sports Bar Heroes. There will be $5 pints, $4 tall cans, $2 hot dogs, and hopefully a better performance from the Jays than when we last tried this on Opening Day. Here’s the Facebook invite, if you’re looking for a map or something.

Before we move on from Arencibia, and hopefully — though surely not — for the last damn time, NotGraphs deliciously tells us about his “brother,” J.Q. Arencibia, and his bitterness at being fired from his job as an accountant. Hilarious stuff.

OK, now to the real stuff: Rob Rasmussen! It sounds absurd, but that was a hell of a big league debut last night for the just-called-up lefty, facing one batter — David Ortiz — and inducing a crucial out. Shi Davidi of Sportsnet spoke to him after the game about reaching the majors, and his mindset after falling behind to Big Papi. In the same post we get a nifty video of that alright play Brett Lawrie made.

Before the game yesterday, Davidi also wrote about Rasmussen,  who he says is hoping to make the most of his chance in the majors — and, given that J.A. Happ didn’t kill the bullpen yesterday, might now have more of a chance to, as it’s still possible Todd Redmond will be given Saturday’s start, which could give Rasmussen the chance to stick around.

Sticking with Sportsnet, Arden Zwelling was in Buffalo for Marcus Stroman’s start on Tuesday, and he writes about it and about the ideal role for the young right-hander — which is the one he’s currently in: starting.

Another Sportsnet piece sees Davidi suggesting that the Jays have a golden opportunity in front of them, as the mediocrity of the AL East sinks in. Or, at least, that’s what the clickbait-y headline says, though it’s mostly just a game story. Headlines. What a world.

Over at theScore, GROF also looks at baseball’s weirdest, wildest division. To wit: “Fangraphs projected standings tip Toronto as the eventual champ with just 84 wins – a grand total of five games ahead of the last place Orioles when their computations are complete. Baseball Prospectus uses PECOTA to construct their projected standings, producing a slightly different result. BP has the Yankees taking the division with 83 wins, the Blue Jays second with 82 and the Red Sox, Orioles, and Rays finishing right around 80 wins.”

Carson Cistulli of FanGraphs looks at the most improved pitchers this season, based on the preseason projections and the current ones. One of the top five is, unsurprisingly, Drew Hutchison. Atop the list is name we might remember from his surprisingly good outing at Rogers Centre a few weeks ago: Dallas Keuchel of the Astros.

Elsewhere at FanGraphs, Jeff Sullivan looks at a new trick being employed by Mark Buehrle: a two-strike sinker to right-handed batters. “Buehrle’s always been a little bit deceptive and a little bit finesse, and it’s not like you very often see a pitcher in his mid-30s make an approach adjustment. But if you dig beneath the 2014 Mark Buehrle surface, you notice something you can’t un-notice. Of his 31 strikeouts, 20 have been called. This is unusual, and this has an explanation,” we’re told.. And that is the sinker. “What used to be an almost forgotten pitch has become a favorite weapon. Previously, Buehrle’s sinker accounted for about 6% of his strikeouts of righties. This year, that’s up to 61%, as Buehrle has caught hitters unprepared for his sinker’s location and movement.”

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