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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Season Over For Maicer Izturis?

izturisST2b

According to an email blast from the Jays, an MRI on Maicer Izturis has revealed a complete tear of the lateral collateral ligament in… whichever knee it was that he injured yesterday on the dugout steps in Baltimore. He’ll get a second opinion, but if the first diagnosis stands, he’s looking at a 4-6 month recovery time, and essentially the end of his season.

Izturis had already been stealing all kinds of playing time from supposed “regular second baseman” Ryan Goins, and in the field looked a world away from the 2013 he spent as a hapless defender and, per FanGraphs’ WAR, the worst player in baseball. He’d had a nice little meaningless streak at the plate, too!

Did that mean he was destined to get over-exposed as ol’ Gibbers vainly tried to wring every ounce of value from him possible even after the bat cooled? Well… it’s shitty to say such a negative thing like that on a day that is surely one of the worst of his professional career —  and probably incorrect to suggest that over-exposure can even exist in the way we normally conceive of it on a club that is routinely running Ryan Goins and Jonathan Diaz out there — but… probably?

I don’t mean to be negative on Izturis in a moment like this — shit, I praised him in a Game Threat last week for so far looking much more like the guy the Jays thought they were getting — but there are way too many people in my Twitter feed right now who are frightened about the what this loss means. Uh… it means Goins and Diaz sharing time at second once Reyes is back, which is damn close to what everyone thought was going to be the case two weeks ago. People are similarly mentioning Stephen Drew as a possible replacement, as though two weeks ago they wouldn’t have barely struggled to bother shrugging their shoulders at the idea of Maicer’s possible loss. (Not that Drew isn’t still a very good idea, but this alters that how?)

It was great that he helped out and looked decent for a couple of weeks, but the expectations don’t change after 13 games. Not on the potential of Izturis being good, not on Goins being bad. (Of course, you already entirely expected that Goins wouldn’t hit, right?)

Is this good? Of course not. But there is Goins, there is Diaz (who I think has earned the lion’s share of playing time, despite being the right-hander in the potential platoon), there is Munenori Kawasaki and Chriz Getz and Steve Tolleson and, if you want to move even more pieces (like Brett Lawrie) around, Andy LaRoche and Juan Francisco. This team is rife with replacement-level depth, and this injury means no more today, because Izturis looked back in form, than it would have if he hadn’t had two hot weeks at the plate coinciding with not looking useless in the field.

Don’t get me wrong, I was OK with the Izturis deal at the time, because it looked like he was possibly at a low ebb of his value and had been a nice utility piece in the years previous. Last year proved that he could go a whole lot farther south than I expected, but there was certainly a higher ceiling there than we saw. It’s just… we didn’t expect anything out of him. We got a nice bonus of a couple hot weeks, and that’s great. Yet the slash line had already dipped to .286/.324/.314 (Kawasaki over 289 PA last year: .229/.326/.308), the WAR had fallen by half (from 0.4 when I wrote the Game Threat linked above to 0.2 today), and the defence was never going to look as good as what Diaz or Goins will provide. It’s… it’s fine.

I mean, it sucks for Maicer and his teammates and all that, and it was great to see him looking better than what we remembered, but let’s not anybody act like it isn’t insane to think he was going to keep producing a quarter of a win every two weeks — a half a win per month, or 3 WAR over the course of the year. The difference between having him or Kawasaki as the utility guy isn’t just practically negligible, it may end up being net positive. Relax.

hayhurstlooks

I’m a big fan of Dirk Hayhurst, however, like most people in my line of work and of a certain vintage (and, most likely, a certain level of stubbornness), I absolutely despise Bleacher Report. So, while happy to see him get a good gig, I was partly disappointed when he announced that he’d been hired on as a national MLB columnist there, at the home of what A.J. Daulerio once extraordinarily aptly termed Google-raping SEO “stories”, because I do not and will not read that site.

Except, as it turns out, in exceptional circumstances.

I can still get my Dirk fix through his personal blog — and from Bigger Than The Game, a review of which is still coming, and would have been here sooner had I not left my copy on the damn couch when I road tripped to the southern states last month! — which is great, especially for juicy Rogers- and Jays-related tidbits like this one, which came from a piece Dirk wrote after he was irked by a former colleague saying his snark towards the Jays on Opening Day may have been driven by “sour grapes”:

I was also the guy who, half way through the season, tweeted that the music Rogers Jays coverage was playing on every Blue Jays highlight package—two song choices, Metric’s Stadium Love, and Monster Truck’s Sweet Mountain River—had gotten to a level of annoyance that, when combined with the abysmal Jays season, made me want to leap off the CN Tower.

Twitter followers loved it. Rogers management… not so much. I was back roomed and told never to do that again. I laugh about that now because, when it happened, I was like, “but, it is annoying—you know it, I know it, and they (the fans) know it.”

Delicious stuff, right?

Less delicious, however, is what he laid on the organization today, in one of the few non-”What time does the Super Bowl start?” pieces available at BR.

“This team has too many Latinos on it to win,” mused the old scout beside me. “Get too many of them together on a club and they take over. The club divides, has no sense of itself. They might not be terrible. I mean, them boys can play, but they ain’t gonna win no championship. They’re too emotional to go the distance.

“No, no”—he shook his head—“I ain’t seen no team with this many Latinos in the lineup win.”

. . .

The comment didn’t shock me. Spend enough time around the inner workings of the game, you’ll hear this kind talk. Mostly from its antiquated members who’ve been overexposed to the same idiosyncratic, psychosomatic, superstitious behavior that brought players classic baseball rules of thumb like, “The darker the skin, the tighter the spin.”

What may be shocking to you is that this scout was a valued decision-maker. An evaluator of talent whose job it was to see what the team needed in order to win. He was the kind of old dog that was brought in by young, sabermetrically inclined officials to help bridge the gap between eyes-on baseball experience and cold, mathematical production analysis. His big contribution so far: the team was dark.

And the club this person is talking about? The club that he worked for?

Your Toronto Blue Jays.

Yowza.

[Edit: As some commenters have pointed out, it's not explicitly stated who the scout works for, however, the second paragraph is only just ambiguous enough to leave open the possibility that this could be a scout there to watch the Jays on behalf of another club if you squint real hard. Seems fairly clear that the team he's been hired by as "an evaluator of talent whose job it was to see what [they] needed to win” is the team he made his “big contribution” to by saying that it “was dark.”– AS]

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reyescalls

They’re ballplayers, it’s an off-day, so let’s not make more of this than what we need to — plus, the Jays would have landed in Minneapolis last night, so they’re on Central time, too — but this is some pretty funny stuff from the Jose Reyes’s Instagram. What could possibly have been going on?? I’m sure any flu-like symptoms will be cleared up before the Jays take on the Twins on Tuesday night.

Reyes, who has left the team for Florida, and will  explains:

Buenos Dias my people yo sabia que me extrañaban pero y que fue se fueron en sentimiento XX XX XX XX XX XX XX UNO no Es guachiman XX XX @encadwin @ellembo @joeybats19 tienen que paral

Google translate warps it pretty good, but you get the idea… mostly:

Good Morning my people I knew but they missed me and was feeling left in XX XX XX XX XX XX XX Is not ONE watchman XX XX ellembo @ @ @ encadwin joeybats19 have to stud

Er… like I say, mostly. For those wondering, El Lembo is Moises Sierra. And each double-X is a smiley face (WordPress is dumb sometimes).

So… yeah. At least a little funny, right?

 

Crotch grab in the direction of @JordyRamone for the heads up.

kawasakiMTL

Maicer Izturis left today’s game with a left knee sprain, and it was serious enough that he was placed on the DL immediately following its conclusion. This means that until Jose Reyes returns — which, barring setback, won’t be long, given that he’s no longer travelling with the club, in order to be down in Dunedin for a rehab assignment — the Jays needed to find themselves a spare middle infielder, and they have done so by bringing up last year’s super special spirit animal, Munenori Kawasaki.

It makes sense, and it’s nice to see him get some more time in the show, as last year he brought everything you could possibly hope for from a depth infield piece. However, Izturis was going well, and looking a far cry from the worst player in baseball (which last year, according to FanGraphs’ WAR, he was), so — surprisingly — this feels like a bit of a loss. Especially when you remember precisely where the club’s middle infield depth is at, and you see a tweet from Barry Davis explaining that Izturis says that he “tripped on dugout stairs just prior to game. Felt 2 pops. Says he’s concerned with what he may have done to it.”

Ugh. And that’s the “good” news! (Well, apart from the awesome performance the Jays just put in today).

The bad news — the first bit of it, at least —  is that the Jays are back to an eight-man bullpen, having chosen to avoid the difficult questions about just what the fuck to do with J.A. Happ, activating him from the DL and returning Erik Kratz to Buffalo to create room.

Happ is certainly a better pitcher than he showed this spring, so having him in the bullpen as a left-handed long man seems fine enough thing in the abstract. As part of an eight-man bullpen, though, it’s obviously dumb. But the Jays are in a tricky spot here. Casey Janssen, like Reyes, is about to begin a rehab assignment, and when he returns it will either be at the expense of Esmil Rogers (deserves demotion, but is out of options), or Neil Wagner (deserves to stay, but has options). Remove Happ and Rogers when Janssen comes back, and you have a pretty fine looking unit, but, of course, it’s not so simple, because doing so would carve off a hefty bit of depth from the organization.

Sure, everything is going swimmingly now, and those guys are fairly fungible — maybe more so than Alex Anthopoulos wants to admit, especially with Stroman, Hendricks, Nolin, Jenkins, Walden, and (when he returns from the temporary inactive list) Stilson as perfectly fine depth pieces in their own right (plus Jeremy Jeffress potentially about to be “sneaked” through waivers). But they’re also probably less fungible than fans, who have a tendency to always err on the side of sending some scrub’s sorry ass packing, want to believe, either. Rogers and Happ have logged real big league innings, been parts of big league rotations, and as much as they’ve also done those things fairly poorly, they’ve got the kind of stuff that makes organizations at least think they’ll be able to survive in the majors, and that actually does say something.

Not a whole lot, though. And it would be nice to see a resolution to this roster construction nonsense here sooner rather than later — Happ for the bench bat the club so badly needs again, maybe?

Of course, with injuries, things tend to have a way of sorting themselves out, and that’s likely another reason Anthopoulos is holding his nose and choosing this option for the moment. At least, let’s hope it’s for the moment.

Hey, and while we’re hoping for stuff, let’s hope that Colby Rasmus’s hamstring is doing alright, too. That’s because, according to a tweet from John Lott, he didn’t leave the game because of the crooked scoreline, rather it was due to hamstring tightness. John Gibbons says that it’s not considered serious, for whatever that’s worth. And Lott adds that Rasmus says he felt it “kind of grab” after lunging to catch a Nick Markakis drive in the fifth inning, but that, with tomorrow’s off-day he hopes it will be OK.

So does the man who manages this clusterfuck of roster, too, I’m sure — Melky, Jose, or Moises will see time in centre if Rasmus can’t go… unless they make yet another unwanted move and find a way to bring up Anthony Gose.

Ugh. Ideally it won’t come to that.

Sunday Threat: Jays @ Orioles

Tough loss last night, no doubt, though the instant, drunk, Saturday night nitpicking of bullpen management, baserunning, outfield positioning, and the throwing up of arms and batshit posturing like this team can’t hit can pretty much fuck off and die. Other than that nonsense, though, it was a hell of an entertaining evening of baseball, and not too far unlike what you’d expect to see from a mid-April night game in Baltimore. OK? Relax a little. Act like you’ve done this before.

You might think that a 7 PM start on a Saturday might give me enough time to do up a proper Game Threat for this one, but you might think wrong. You also, more likely, might not care about whatever the hell the Game Threat says, as long as there’s a fresh place to comment without having to scroll back through pages of gibberish, in which case… everybody wins! (Maybe even the Jays!)

Maybe there will even be a fresh threat tomorrow, stay tuned!!!

Hey, and for good measure, here are two real pieces of scuttlebutt: John Lott tweets that Jose Reyes felt good running the bases today, and that both he and Casey Janssen are Dunedin-bound, as they’re set for rehab assignments. Lot also tells us that the Jays are not saying what their plans are for J.A. Happ, as he continues to rehab and gets closer to full “health” — *WINK* — after a strong showing in Buffalo yesterday. Ol’ Gibbers “won’t say what factors will determine whatever that decision will be,” he adds.