Archive for the ‘Weekend Thoughts’ Category

mcgowanBAL

Well here’s something that probably should turn into a regular feature, but never quite seems to — but that I’ll make to look like one anyway in order to keep from having it seem too terribly out of place: a collection of thoughts on what went on over the weekend (delayed because yesterday Dirk Hayhurst decided to write something rather interesting that involved the Jays)…

Generalizations

After 13 games, the 2014 Jays are 7-6. The 2013 version of the club was 6-7 at this point, but I don’t think you’d find anybody who wouldn’t say that what we’re witnessing now has certainly has felt completely different than the small difference in record would suggest.

Much of that is down to the fact that the pitching has been more than good enough to dream of big things on, as long as they stay healthy, and the defence has looked much better so far this season, particularly at second base, behind the plate, and in left field. That they’ve actually got some offensive production out of two of those positions hasn’t hurt either.

Also big, however, and somewhat overlooked, is the fact that the bullpen has started the year rolling. In 2013, Darren Oliver and Sergio Santos gave up runs in a tight game-two loss against Cleveland, then Oliver and Esmil Rogers let the Clevelands back into a what would eventually be a 10-8 win the next day. A day later it was Rogers and Jeremy Jeffress handing a victory to Boston in John Farrell’s return.

This year it has been an entirely different story — Todd Redmond’s loss in Saturday’s extra inning loss in Baltimore, and the questionable (yet also justifiable) bullpen usage that led to it, not withstanding – and the club seems to be winning games the way that they’re actually supposed to. As opposed to, y’know, relying on Maicer Izturis to hit crucial home runs, which the 2013 version of the Jays did three times in their first five weeks, including one that tied up the eventual game-two loss, one that plated the third run in a 4-3 victory over Chicago that brought the club’s record to 6-7, and an early May shot in the bottom of the ninth of a tie game in Tampa that brought the Jays’ record up to 13-21. Ugh.

I think what speaks most to why the feeling around this club is different now than a year ago, though, is this little tidbit (stolen from a commenter): the 2013 Jays were at or above .500 for seven days, from a victory on June 21st to a loss on June 28th, and hit .500 twice more in the following three games. That’s a grand total of nine times being at or above .500 at the conclusion of a game for the entire season. The 2014 Jays, after two weeks, have already been at or above .500 at the conclusion of a game ten times — and given that their record is currently 7-6, whether they win or lose tonight, that number is about to move to eleven.

So… yeah, that sure as shit feels better. And with the Twins on the schedule, it doesn’t exactly feel like the party is about to end just yet, does it?

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hutchthrows0407

Well here’s something that probably should turn into a regular feature, but never quite seems to — but that I’ll make to look like one anyway in order to keep from having it seem too terribly out of place: a collection of Monday thoughts on what was going on over the weekend…

Pitching Thoughts

The Jays in 2014 have yet to win a game in which their starting pitcher wasn’t somewhat exceptional, which has weirdly led to a number of fans taking what they’ve seen so far to be a microcosm of what to expect as the season rolls along. Yes, there were wildly divergent starts from R.A. Dickey and Drew Hutchison, and stumbles from Brandon Morrow and Dustin McGowan, following a sparkling effort from Mark Buehrle that even the most cockeyed optimist couldn’t possibly expect to see on a regular basis, but if you ask me, there is a whole lot more to like here than a cursory look at the 3-4 record, or groaning over certain individual starts would indicate.

For starters [note: HEYO?], it’s hard to have an issue with the two veteran anchors in this rotation, even despite R.A. Dickey’s ugly outing on Opening Day in Tampa. Mark Buehrle buehrl’d the shit out of life in his first game of the season (and gets the Astros in his next!), while Dickey rebounded spectacularly in Saturday’s win over the umpiring crew Yankees. The key there: velocity. Buck Martinez and Pat Tabler beat the point to death, but at least it was the right point: against Tampa in the opener, Dickey’s knuckleball averaged 74.9 mph, and he didn’t come close to hitting 80 with it. On Saturday the average was up to 76.8, and while he didn’t get as much past 80 with it as he has when he’s been at his best, FanGraphs’ velocity chart for him shows that it was definitely more in line with his 2012, and the back half of 2013, than with his back-related dip in form at the beginning of last year.

A tremendous sign, in other words.

The rest of the rotation really isn’t in such dire straits, either, I don’t think. Brandon Morrow and Dustin McGowan are healthy, and as long as that continues to be the case, I think they have a very good chance of being fine. While Morrow wasn’t exactly sharp, it behooves us to remember that it wasn’t until the last days of spring training that he really started to catch up to where he needed to be, and that he’s still probably a bit behind his fellow rotation-mates. The key for me, with respect to his outing on Thursday in Tampa, was that his velocity was where it should be — something that reports were telling us wasn’t the case at the beginning of camp — and that he held it reasonably well, throwing multiple fastballs above 94 beyond the 70th pitch of an 86 pitch outing, according to Brooks.

And McGowan? He was tipping his pitches.

At least the ones from the stretch. Mark Mulder tweeted about this while Friday’s rough outing was ongoing, and both McGowan and Pete Walker acknowledged it after the game. “I’ve got to fix that tipping thing for sure,” McGowan said, according to John Lott’s game story for the National Post. “Even I noticed after the first inning they were just putting good swings on every pitch I threw. I knew something was wrong.”

That wasn’t McGowan’s only problem, mind you, but with it noticed and rectified, you’d think he ought to be quite a bit better next time out. There really is no other way but up from here.

And as for Drew Hutchison? On Sunday he had trouble with command and finding his release point, but since the ability to throw strikes has been his calling card, and since that’s kind of the thing you’d expect from a 23-year-old — the youngest player on this Jays team, in fact — with only about 125 innings above A-ball (and just getting back to the Majors off of Tommy John surgery, to boot!), it just seems like one of those things that’s going to happen occasionally. Didn’t hurt that the bullpen was outstanding in picking him up, too. Either way, though, like everyone else in the rotation, he’ll have his struggles, and like everyone else, as long as he remains healthy, there’s not much reason yet to think we’ll see a whole lot more good than bad.

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Gibby Vday

Because I don’t want to do a full link dump right now, and have more than just a paragraph to say about some of all this, here are some assorted Friday thoughts…

The Pitching Market

Lots to go over here:

Mat Latos needed surgery on his knee, though it can’t have been too major, as the Reds are trying to say he’ll be throwing again in ten days. Even if he was down for longer, I’m not sure that would have caused them to enter the free agent fray that we’re all watching so intently.

The Mariners, however, are sniffing around. MLBTR has the details, where it’s suggested that Seattle wants to add a starter, and have “touched base” with both Santana and Jimenez, “but is surveying the market in order to find the best fit.”

Jayson Stark of ESPN.com polled 23 executives about the off-season, and they named the Jays the second least-improved team in the AL, behind the Orioles, but with a caveat:

But no one was a match for the Orioles and Blue Jays, who crushed the rest of this field in the voting. In fact, only the Tigers (with four votes) were within 10 of either one of them. But there’s so much certainty within the industry that the Blue Jays are a lock to add a starting pitcher, several of the votes they attracted were on an “until-they-sign-a-pitcher” basis. So they get an asterisk, if it brightens their spirits any.

His colleague Jim Bowden (Insider only) goes even father, I think. Making “bold” predictions for Spring Training, he writes that he thinks the Jays will sign one of either Santana or Jimenez. And furthermore, “once one of these guys signs with Toronto, the other will be stuck without a suitor and might have to wait for an injury before more offers come in.”

That’s a pretty grim assessment of the market for these guys… if you’re one of their agents.

(Bowden also has Stephen Drew going to the Mets for just $16-million over two years, according to his estimation. Uh… maybe do that too, AA.)

 

Anthopoulos Speaks!

Alex Anthopoulos joined Mike Richards In The Morning on TSN Radio this morning, and while I’m not going to transcribe like I normally might (Friday, bro), there are certainly things worth highlighting…

Money quote:

“We still want to sign a starter, and we continue to have dialogue with the free agents.”

He also addressed the pitching situation in general:

“I know there’s probably some sentiment: Why don’t we just go and grossly overpay for some of these guys? And I think like you said, because some guys are coming back from injury, we have some young guys that are close. I think everyone felt ver good about the rotation going into last year, and, you know, now you’re minus what you expected of Josh Johnson, and we certainly don’t expect Brandon Morrow to win two games for us– I don’t think anyone would have thought that was going to be the case. And I think going into last year the one concern — and we talked about it before the season — was the depth behind our five and six.”

“We just didn’t have the depth to recover,” he added, and the big change is now they have ten or eleven starters.

Marcus Stroman “is ready for the big leagues right now,” he says. And he says he’s really excited about Erik Kratz, and had to catch himself after referring to Kratz and Navarro as a potentially sneaky-good tandem, noting that there’s still going to be a battle between him and Josh Thole. Hmmmm…

 

RIP Jim Fregosi

There has been a great, genuine outpouring on today over last night’s passing of Jim Fregosi, the baseball lifer and former manager of the Jays (and of the Phillies during the 1993 World Series, as well). He was obviously a tremendously respected and loved figure in the game and will be missed by many.

 

Image via the Zubes’ fantastic Valentine’s Day post of a year ago.

RCGrass

Well here’s something that probably should turn into a regular feature, but never quite seems to — but that I’ll make to look like one anyway in order to keep from having it seem too terribly out of place: a collection of Monday thoughts on what was going on over the weekend that really should have just been separated into several individual posts…

Paul Beeston Is No Agromonongist

“I would say, at the very earliest, and probably realistically, 2018,” said Paul Beeston in an interview with Team 1040 in Vancounver (audio here) about the possibility of bringing grass to the Rogers Centre.

Beeston was on the west coast for the annual Vancouver Canadians luncheon, and spent a segment with former Globe and Mail scribe Matt Sekeres and Blake Price, answering the grass question, among several others. And actually, once you get past the initial groan about poor Jose Reyes’s knees on that shitty felt until 2018, and having to keep staring at a rug with all the visual appeal of a meth head’s front lawn (though Alex Anthopoulos has hinted that replacement turf may be coming in the interim), it’s really not that grim.

“The Argos are there until 2017. And, you know, I’m a great believer in the CFL,” Beeston said, as they all do when they’re trying to not poison their own brand with the potential stink of the rotting corpse of CFL in Toronto on their hands. “They’ve got their area to work it out, so they’ve got four more seasons to work it out. We have some real issues that we have to work on, engineering-wise. We have to take down, put it in, put in some type of drainage — and apparently the big thing is air flow. We have to have air flow — our air flow comes down from the top, it’s got to come from the side. Whatever that means, I’m not a agrologist, or whatever it is — an ‘agromonongist’ — or… you know what I’m talking about. The fact of the matter is, we’ve got some things, but I would say, realistically, that 2018. If the Argos left before that, we would expedite it.”

Ahh, pulled it out of the fire at the end, you wily old devil.

But… yeah. It is what it is. And it’s not like Beeston doesn’t know the value of proper stadium to the product he’s trying to sell — he brought up the universally acclaimed experience at PNC Park in Pittsburgh at one point, in fact. So… there’s that. There’s also the fact that, at the very least, he seems to think they can get the changes done between the end of an Argos season and the beginning of the next Jays one. Unless, that is, he just doesn’t want to say that it would be better to give the project the extra two (or, let’s be honest, six) weeks they’d get by waiting until the Jays were the sole tenant and doing the work for the entirety of their off-season.

Ugh. Let’s not even think about it taking even longer, though.

Other highlights of Beeston’s chat were:

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bmostand

Well here’s something that probably should turn into a regular feature, but never quite seems to — but that I’ll make to look like one anyway in order to keep from having it seem too terribly out of place: a collection of Monday morning thoughts on what was going on over the weekend…

Noise Of Jays Being Out On Tanaka Just That

It’s a very long shot that the Jays will be able to sign Masahiro Tanaka. Notice, though, that I’m not saying it was always going to be a long shot for the Jays to acquire him, as though the club is already out. That was the prevailing thought on Saturday night, though, as MLBTR passed along a report from Nikkan Sports suggesting that a bunch of teams had made formal offers to Tanaka, with the Jays not among them. Bernie Pleskoff of MLB.com passed what seemed like merely that along without attribution, simply listing the teams in the report, expressing surprise that the Jays wouldn’t have made an offer, and later half-heartedly walking it back, explaining, “Teams listed for Tanaka are those reported so far. Who knows, there could be even more. Doubt it though.”

Because this is the internet, that, apparently, was plenty to start sourpuss Jays fans tweeting at me about what an affront it was that the club wouldn’t even make a bid. Of course, as I said at the time, colour me not dumb enough to take it as gospel. The ultra cynical could suggest that I’m just twisting myself in knots to keep alive this silly fantasy for my own cynical, pageview-related reasons, and I guess I couldn’t blame them. But what I didn’t say at the time was that, once I started talking about what Pleskoff was saying half seriously on Twitter, I was approached by a person that I trust telling me not to bother even giving it that much attention.

That isn’t to say that I was being told that the Jays did make an offer, or anything like that, but it certainly affirmed my instinct, at least about Pleskoff’s tweets, if not Nikkan. So again: colour me not dumb enough to take it as gospel. (Or to post about it as such.)

This will all be cleared up by Friday’s 5 PM ET deadline, and it’s probably best not to believe any of it until then.

 

Argos To BMO Gathering Steam?

“Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment could expand BMO Field in time for the July 2015 Pan Am Games, its chief executive says — but only if MLSE and the government can come to a financial agreement ‘very’ soon,” begins a report this morning from Daniel Dale of the Toronto Star.

The soccers are up in arms about the spectre of such changes, and rightfully so. BMO is utilitarian, but also kind of perfect. Not only that, it’s theirs. Plus, ”unobtrusive” doesn’t seem to be a word in Tim Leiweke’s vocabulary, so obviously there is trepidation about the scope of the changes that sound more and more like they’re coming.

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caught

No sandwich this time, thank fuck.

Well here’s something that might– but might not– keep on turning its way into becoming a regular feature, but that I’ll make to look like one regardless, in order to keep from having it seem too terribly out of place: a collection of random thoughts ostensibly on this weekend’s baseballing, but which doesn’t actually touch on the games at all.

Except this time they’re mostly just related to today’s odd series-ending Monday matinee.

Should Of Sold High On Janssen

Should of. Casey Janssen made things a bit hairy in his save opportunity back on Saturday, and went full-blown blown save (non-save situation division) today, which… OK, if anybody was commenting on this post and saying that Janssen should be written off after a couple bad outings, I’d rightly be ripping them for it. And I’m not saying he should be written off. But a closer who isn’t overpowering and relies on nibbling, and maybe a little too heavily on favourable calls, isn’t exactly ideal, right? I’ve never quite understood Janssen’s ability to be as successful as he has, and while my lack of understanding certainly doesn’t come close to meaning it isn’t possible that he’s truly great, uh… when it starts to go south a little, on this one I’m probably going to have to be one of those assholes who’s ready to bail a little too quickly. It’s not my nature, but I just find the crazy success he’s had confounding, and would have been entirely fine with the Jays unloading him at the deadline. I just don’t go for that magical closer mentality nonsense, and see a pitcher who really has to be tremendously precise to survive. Of course, maybe [read: obviously] other teams see the same thing I do. To his credit he’s been fantastic for three seasons now, I just… yeah… I don’t know. Especially since it’s not like he has the same excuse as his bullpen-mates this year, who have been overworked considerably, having to cover for the club’s brutal starting pitching. Janssen’s thrown just 38 innings in 2013– and thanks to the one he threw today his ERA ballooned from 2.41 to 3.32. It’d be great if I could believe, but– and I’m not saying this only because of his last two outings– I just kinda can’t.

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a-rod

Well here’s something that might– but might not– keep on turning its way into becoming a regular feature, but that I’ll make to look like one anyway in order to keep from having it seem too terribly out of place: a collection of random thoughts ostensibly on this weekend’s baseballing, but which doesn’t actually touch on the games at all.

A-Rod

Last night on Twitter I extended a hearty “fuck you” to Sportsnet, who inex-fucking-plicably cut away from the Jays game last night in order to show each of A-Rod’s at-bats.* This morning I’ll double down on that, because now it means I’ve got to write about fucking A-Rod, and… ugh, who cares?

Maybe I’m a little too deep into the Inside Baseball bubble here, but the explosion of this as a major international story over these last two days seems pretty odd, considering it has played out pretty much exactly like anyone following BioGenesis would have expected, I think. A-Rod is doing the A-Rod-iest of things (non-centaur division), and while the handing down of the suspension coincided with his return to health, which is a bit odd, uh… what’s new here exactly?

Bud Selig’s overreach and gift-giving to the Yankees is the bigger story, if you ask me, and all that seems reasonably likely to be undone by an arbitrator, so… why the fuck am I watching A-Rod at-bats when so little has changed as to how we view him?

If this story hadn’t been public for months, or if he hadn’t previously been exposed as having juiced during baseball’s pre-testing era, maybe I’d give a shit. But it has, and he was, so… so what? A-Rod is douche, film at 11? I don’t get it. And I certainly don’t get interrupting a game for Jays fans to shove this business-as-usual horseshit down our throats as though we’re supposed to marvel at it, or expect him to cartoonishly emerge from the dugout like a wrestling villain in the throes of a cocaine rush, antagonizing the crowd with a over-sized prop syringe. Though… that, actually, would be pretty awesome.

Meh.

* Technically they went to a picture-in-picture setup, do you could see both, while hearing commentary from Chicago.

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