Archive for the ‘Daily Duce’ Category


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 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 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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When I get back from the bowl store, I want this apartment to be a crab-and-cancer-free zone.

Mike Wilner tweets that John Gibbons says Colby Rasmus feels better, and that he might play tomorrow, and “if not, hopefully Friday.” Since tonight’s Game Threat is probably just going to be a picture of some idiot Cleveland fan, consider this your scuttlebutt.

R.A. Dickey was frustrated with himself after last night’s outing — despite it being halfway decent (especially if it had been scored correctly *COUGH*), and him throwing the knuckler with as much velocity and as big a variation in speed as we’ve seen this season. Shi Davidi of Sportsnet gets post-game quotes from the Jays’ ostensible ace, and it turns out he still expects more from himself, especially in terms of going deeper into games.

Elsewhere at Sportsnet, Ben Nicholson-Smith explains that Dickey could help himself by issuing fewer walks. He only issued two free passes last night (though he also hit a batter in his near fall-apart appearance in the seventh).

Two more from Sportsnet, as on the eve of what could be J.A. Happ’s last turn in the Jays’ rotation (depending on how it goes, of course), we’ll look back to what Davidi wrote after his start on the weekend, after which the Jays stood by him, at least for the time being. Meanwhile, Shi also talks to Cleveland’s starting catcher, Yan Gomes, who is a different player now than when he left the Jays. Well… yeah, let’s fucking hope they didn’t know what they were giving up.

At FanGraphs, Mike Petriello awesomely looks at how awesomely Jose Bautista is awesomely doing more with less this year. “In retrospect,” he concludes, “it all seems so simple. Don’t help the pitcher by making outs on their pitches. Accept the walks when they’re given to you. Crush the balls that you can, especially now that you’re healthy. It’s simple, yet ever so complicated. Bautista is making it work, he’s doing it at a pace we haven’t seen in a few years. It’s been sinceChipper Jones and Manny Ramirez in 2008 that a player 33 or older had a wOBA higher than what Bautista is sporting. It’s still early, of course; it’s also not like we’ve never seen Bautista produce at a high level, either. With his injury concerns not a concern at present, and a plate discipline / power combination that should be envied by all, we’re seeing Bautista production like many — myself included — thought might have been gone forever.”

Elsewhere at FanGraphs, Tony Blengino looks at the Wild, Wooly — and Mediocre American League, and ultimately pans the Jays’ chances, despite their being bunched among many clubs currently with a shot. “At some point, the five-team AL East logjam will begin to break, and an upper and lower division will emerge,” he explains. “The guess here is that the Jays’ utter inability to keep the opposition off of the scoreboard — and their own starting pitcher in the ballgame — will be their undoing. Jays’ starters have averaged only 5.51 IP per start, better than only Tampa Bay among this group, and these guys don’t have Alex Cobb or Jeremy Hellickson coming back. Their greatest strength is obviously their offensive power, ranking first in the AL in home runs and second in SLG. The Adam Lind/Juan Francisco combo has overperformed to date. A continuing MVP-level offensive performance from Jose Bautista is a prerequisite for ongoing contention. Second base is an offensive sinkhole. Their pen has been bad, and heavily leaned upon, and their staff is second in the AL in walks. There are numerous leaks here that should eventually combine to take this team down.” Not unfair, but… ouch.

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Not as weird as I kinda wanna fuck New Fat Mike.

Comments are back up and running today. Apologies to those who dare enter that little cesspool for yesterday’s glitch.

Shi Davidi tweets that John Gibbons said this afternoon that Brett Lawrie is getting closer, and will play either tomorrow or Sunday. “He’s not going on the DL,” Gibbers said.

Awesomeness from GROF over at theScore, who looks at how Jose Bautista has single-handedly kept the Jays in contention, which… maybe not single handedly, but how fucked would they be without their superstar and his start at the plate, which has been overshadowed by Troy Tulowitzki’s, but is still thoroughly impressive. Jose sits second, behind Tulo, among MLB leaders in wRC+.

Elsewhere at Getting Blanked theScore, with Mother’s Day coming up this weekend, Drew celebrates baseball’s best moms.

Gregor Chisholm tweets that the main reason that Juan Francisco chose to come to the Jays was a recruiting job done by his friend, Edwin Encarnacion. Nice. Also: seriously, I know Kyle Kendrick is Kyle Kendrick, but holy awesome what these bats have done against Hamels, Lee, and Burnett this week. Holy awesome.

It’s back! Richard Griffin has a new mail bag up at the Toronto Star, and I’ll have a fresh hijacking for you Monday morning … most likely. (Podcast early next week, too, I swear!)

Elsewhere in the Star, Griff looks at Marcus Stroman from the ol’ “small stature” angle, which seems less and less of a concern the more people see him. Maybe different because he’s working out of the bullpen right now,

In this GIF from Dan Toman of Gamereax, we see that Marcus Stroman deals in filth. Even when he misses his spot. So good.

Measuring the Dick: It would be easy to say that it’s been a tale of two “seasons” so far for R.A. Dickey. The ol’ Dickster has pitched to a 3.65 ERA over his last four starts, holding opponents to a slash line of .240/.324/.365, compared to a 6.26 ERA in his first four and a slash line of .264/.375/.414. However, among those first four starts are the one where he was terrific against the Yankees, and ones against Minnesota and Houston, each of which he began by going four scoreless, before things started to unravel — especially since John Gibbons, in retrospect, probably left him in too long. In other words, he’s actually been pretty good. Not an ace — not the guy who tore the National League to bits two years ago — but not exactly the blow-up machine fans were worried about earlier. I tweeted last night that, according to Brooks Baseball, Dickey threw his hardest knuckleball of the year last night, and the velocity chart at FanGraphs bears that out as well. He’s about where he wants to be, apart from the walks, and it’s not unthinkable that he can go on a bit of a run. Aren’t nice thoughts nice?

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I know how not to let my son run off in robot pants with a fistful of knifes!

Remember when some Jays fans kinda didn’t like Mark Buehrle? Maybe it’s just that as I get older I have more of an affinity for the old guys and the soft-tossers, but holy shit… so good.

According to a tweet from Ben Nicholson-Smith, John Gibbons told the Fan 590 that Adam Lind will be activated from the DL tonight. No corresponding move has been made yet, but I think that rustling sound you hear is Chad Jenkins packing his bags.

MLB and Apple made waves yesterday – mistaken waves, apparently — after a bunch of fan podcasters found that their podcasts had been removed from the iTunes store. Awful Announcing has the details, including (at the bottom) MLB’s statement after the P.R. battle truly got away from them, blaming Apple for mistakenly removing entire podcasts, when all they wanted removed were copyright-infringing logos. Mmm hmm. Ah, but everything is fine as far as we’re concerned: DJF isn’t going anywhere — we missed last week because Drew was on vacation, yes, and have been recording intermittently so far this year because that’s how I roll, it turns out, but actually the aim is to get one done later today (or at the very least tomorrow). Just… y’know… don’t quote me on that.

Wendy Thurm of FanGraphs rather awesomely calls bullshit on MLB regarding this.

At (Insider Olney), Buster Olney wants to talk about whether to talk about Melky Cabrera and PEDs (i.e. is it OK to be a total asshole and openly wonder if he’s cheating again). I could imagine writing a post full of outrage about this if I could actually muster a single solitary fuck. Can’t, though. In fact, I’ll tell ya: I’ll probably be a whole lot more indignant at the Jays fans all whiny about some perceived bias against the club.

Richard Griffin of the Toronto Star gets reaction to Olney’s piece from the clubhouse, where Jose Bautista — who knows a thing or two about bogus PED accusations — defends his teammate and friend.  ”I think if you did something wrong and you were caught and you pay your dues, that should be it. (Failing once) doesn’t mean that you’re always going to be doing something that’s illegal or not allowed,” Jose said.

Baseball America has their first mock draft of the season up, and in it they speculate that the Jays will go for loud tools, as they often do, and might take a risk with one of their two early picks — like with Jeff Hoffman, who will miss the rest of this season with Tommy John surgery, but who wouldn’t have otherwise been available by the time the Jays were picking. Seems to have worked well for the Nationals and their pick of an injured Lucas Giolito in 2012.

At North of the Border, Gregor Chisholm transcribes the impromptu State of the Franchise session that Alex Anthopoulos had with the media on Tuesday.

Great stuff from the Blue Jay Hunter, as he looks at the ever-changing batting stance of Colby Rasmus.

Whoa! According to Ben Lindbergh’s latest look at pitch framing over at Baseball Prospectus (not paywall’d!), Dioner Navarro was responsible for the best framed pitch of the entire month of April. Could he have shored up a serious deficien– oh, wait. He also had the worst and the fourth-worst framed pitches. Ugh. Though, to be fair, Ben describes his skills thusly: “Navarro’s career framing runs total rests at -33.2, but most of the deficit came in his rookie season; since then, he’s been only a little below average.”

Elsewhere at BP, Jay Jaffe joins the Effectively Wild podcast to talk about “team entropy and the AL East.” I haven’t listened yet, so I’m not sure if those are two separate subjects or not.

Back to pitch framing, where at FanGraphs we look at the strange recent acknowledgement of the phenomenon from one of the people whose opinion on it truly matters most: an umpire. On Tuesday, Paul Nauert, home plate umpire in the Dodgers-Nationals game, told Washington catcher Jose Lobaton that he might get more strikes called on the heavy, sinking fastball of Blake Treinen if he held his glove better and didn’t let it get pulled down by the natural sink. An umpire said that!

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And I hope you know a good appraiser, because if that’s not paste, I’ll eat my hat.

Dustin McGowan was terrific yesterday, and more than earned himself a chance to continue this rotation experiment that’s 14 years in the making, going seven innings on 101 pitches, giving up three hits, three walks, just one run, and striking out five. John Lott of the National Post had one of many game stories, and explains that “Sunday’s start brought a new challenge. Although he wore the [insulin] pump and pitched deep into the game, his blood-glucose levels began to spike early – in part, he said, because of the adrenaline rush that competition brings – and he had to give himself a manual insulin injection. That, along with the pump, restored his blood sugar to its proper level by the end of his session, he said.”

When McGowan exited, it was time for Marcus Stroman to make his big league debut, and it wasn’t without blemish. Josh Harrison tripled over Colby Rasmus’s head and scored on an Andrew McCutchen sac fly. Stroman gave up just the one earned run in his two thirds of an inning, but seemed to be a little amped up, throwing 21 pitches and just 12 for strikes. In a second piece for the Post, John Lott has all the quotes you’ll need from him, as well.

Shi Davidi has more on Stroman for Sportsnet — including a video clip of Barry Davis talking to the former first round pick at the top of the piece, and the kids admission that he was “amped” during his outing.

At Blue Jays Plus, Joshua (aka @House4545) explains why it entirely makes sense that the Jays are having Stroman begin his career in the bullpen, despite the howling of many fans about how this is supposedly some kind of organizational cock-up. He notes, for example, that the Jays — for all their roster management blundering — certainly do seem to at least understand that a starter is much more valuable than a reliever. He also explains that, in addition to being a way to manage Stroman’s innings, this whole thing is “a no-lose proposition. Either both [Dustin McGowan and J.A. Happ] shove for the foreseeable future and Stroman becomes a much-needed bullpen weapon or, more likely, Stroman gets his feet wet in the pen for a week and then takes his rightful spot in the rotation.”

Stroman was the subject of the latest The Call-Up piece at Baseball Prospectus. In the section above the paywall, we’re given the lowdown, and while it’s mostly a healthy heaping of praise, we are given the usual words of caution: “Stroman’s biggest hurdle to reaching his front-end ceiling remains his size. He has little trouble maintaining his stuff and turning over a lineup, but the lack of downhill plane on his offerings leaves him susceptible to the long ball, and prone to fly balls in general. Through his first 25 pro starts he has been able to keep hitters honest by bolstering his change piece and improving his situational pitch selection, but it’s likely Stroman will always be a fly-ball pitcher, and as a result will see more than his share of balls leave the park. The hope, and expectation, is the young power arm should be able to minimize the overall damage through his ability to miss bats and limit free passes, with his above-average command serving as the lynchpin.”

That “above-average command,” of course, wasn’t on display from the “amped” and sleep-deprived Stroman during his debut, but that will certainly change over time.

At (Insider Only), Paul Swydan makes four suggestions that he thinks will turn the Jays’ season around, including upgrading at second base — with Emilio Bonifacio suggested as a possibility (no, really!) — and finding a platoon partner for Colby Rasmus. He’s maybe not quite in Adam Lind, “how fucking obvious does this need to get?” territory yet, but Rasmus has been fairly abysmal against left-handers for his entire big league career, save 131 plate appearances in his breakout 2010 in St. Louis. Darrin Mastroianni or Kevin Pillar seem like viable internal options that would have some use on the Jays’ bench — if not for the fact that, y’know, they’re evidently not interested in such things.

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