felixteal

The roof open on a late September evening. The about-to-be American League Cy Young winner (for the second time) pitching for his team’s playoff life as the Mariners look to erase a two game deficit in the Wild Card race with just six days to go in the season.

It may not be meaningful September baseball in the way that we want it to be, but you can’t say it’s not meaningful. And you can’t say it’s not kinda awesome, either.

Well, except…

Scuttlebutt

Kawasaki hitting fifth? Seriously??? And how do we think the Royals and A’s feel about that?

What jersey will Strombo wear to throw out the first pitch? Are you in as breathless anticipation of finding out what the fuck the Beastie Boys have to do with anything about this as I am?

Hey! Here’s something that should be a bigger item — and might well will be before the night (or at least tomorrow morning) is through: Jon Heyman reports at CBS Sports that, despite the weird comments from Alex Anthopoulos the other week, the Jays are planning for 2015 “without even a thought they might consider changing managers.” So… that’s something. Something good!

Seriously, though, that bottom of the lineup. Woof.

Next game(s): Tomorrow, 7:07 PM ET vs. Seattle

For those of you who’ll be out and about, be sure to follow all the action on your phone with theScore app.

And now, the lineups… 

Toronto Blue Jays

SS Jose Reyes (S)
RF Jose Bautista (R)
DH Edwin Encarnacion (R)
1B Adam Lind (L)
3B Munenori Kawasaki (L)
LF Dalton Pompey (S)
CF Anthony Gose (L)
C Josh Thole (L)
2B Ryan Goins (L)

RHP R.A. Dickey

Seattle Mariners

CF Austin Jackson (R)
LF Dustin Ackley (L)
2B Robinson Cano (L)
DH Kendrys Morales (S)
3B Kyle Seager (L)
1B Logan Morrison (L)
RF Michael Saunders (L)
C Mike Zunino (R)
SS Brad Miller (L)

RHP King Felix

NorrisArmDome

Pitching: a totally natural human motion, eh?

Well, if you’re going to play the kids, you might as well play the kids, eh?

Despite talk of Todd Redmond getting the ball on Thursday, as the Jays turn to Charley Wholestaff in order to cover for the suspended Marcus Stroman, according to a tweet from Barry Davis, the club has decided instead to give us a little taste of the future: Dan Norris will get the start (which you knew already, because you read the title of this post).

Cool!

Right?

Well… not necessarily.

To be sure, there are things to like about this. Norris is going to be a big part of this club in the coming years, and the Jays’ attempt to get his feet wet at the big league level this month hasn’t exactly gone swimmingly —  save for his debut strikeout of David Ortiz, but even that at-bat was right on the very edge of going wrong — and maybe he’ll fare better getting into his starters routine, rather than being sprung from the bullpen at a moment’s notice.

Having him end the year on a high note seems like a reasonable hope, though I’m not sure we can entirely chalk up his struggles against big league hitters — especially right-handers, the ten of whom he’s faced so far have produced three hits and two walks — to coming out of the bullpen. If anything, working short stints should have given him an advantage over what we’ll see Thursday night, though the fact that his fastball’s average velocity so far in the majors has been just 91.3 suggests that he wasn’t necessarily “ramping up” the way you might expect. But it will be good to see him get an extended look at big league hitters, as to this point he hasn’t pitched more than one inning at a time.

That, though, is the other thing. Norris certainly isn’t stretched out for this.

The Jays are obviously aware of such a fact and will have him on a pitch count — Megan Robinson tweets that John Gibbons says he hopes to get just two or three innings out of his youngster — but even that is a lot for a guy who hasn’t exceeded two innings of work since his final start for Buffalo, almost exactly a month to the day that he’ll be asked to make his debut start in the big leagues. His last outing of even two innings was back on August 31st.

There’s concern there, I suppose, and perhaps with the fact that he’s already logged 128 innings across four levels in 2014, after reaching just 90.2 innings last season, buuuuuuuut at least he’s been getting regular-ish work over the previous month, and at least the club isn’t expecting him to go remotely deep into tomorrow’s game. By the sound of it, the main idea really is to get him into his routine, and having him prepare to pitch at a certain time, rather than throwing him into the fire.

I can live with that. And I can certainly live with getting a look at the player about whom, when he was called up in early September, Craig Goldstein and Mark Anderson of Baseball Prospectus wrote this:

Norris can come at hitters with a four-pitch mix that is fronted by a quality fastball and slider combination. Norris can run the fastball toward 95 mph when he needs a little extra and sits comfortably in the low 90s. His fastball has very good movement and he can work it east-west with ease. The slider comes in around the mid-80s with plus potential, giving Norris two pitches that can be high-end major-league offerings.

Behind the fastball, Norris is still developing his arsenal. Both the curveball and changeup are a little rough around the edges, though they each flash potential to be average pitches at peak. In my viewings the curveball showed more potential to become an average pitch, with the changeup resting in the fringy range.

The command profile still has to come along to match the primary two pitches, but he shows an ability to move the fastball around the zone and can take the hitter out of the strike zone with the slider. Norris’ ability to move the fastball around the zone at a young age hints at the potential for an advanced control-and-command profile that should serve him well against the best hitters in the world.

Yep. I can definitely live with that.

Meanwhile, Megan Robinson tweets that Marcus Stroman will only be available as a reliever from here out, with Jays’ rotation for the club’s final six games looking like this: Dickey – Buehrle – Norris – Hutchison – Happ – Dickey. Brendan Kenedy adds that John Gibbons says the decision to move Stroman to the bullpen, and not have him face Baltimore had nothing to do with trying to alleviate any tension given what happened the last time Stroman faced the O’s. Good on Gibbers if it really was, though.

griffbag

Another week, another Griff Bag! Aka Richard Griffin’s latest mail bag from over at the Toronto Star! On time and everything!

Uh… almost.

As always, I have not read any of Griffin’s answers.

If there’s a question you’d like me to answer, unless it’s about fucking Ricky Romero and J.P. Arencibia, submit it to Griffin here, and maybe he’ll select it for a future mail bag. Fingers crossed!

Q-Richard Stoeten,

I was just wondering why Kendall Graveman did not show up on any top 25 prospect lists for the Blue Jays. I did not even see him on the revised list that came out later in the season.

Thanks,

Rob

Graveman didn’t show up on any of those lists, quite simply, because he wasn’t really a prospect. Frankly, he may still not really be a prospect, though that depends on your definition, and whether he’s able to sustain his success going forward.

There are thousands of minor league ballplayers, and the vast majority of them aren’t really considered prospects — as in, they’re org. guys — players not considered capable of actually making any sort of impact at the big league level, but there to fill roles at the various levels of the organization as they doggedly work to try to upend the projections, catch a break, or find a way to make it “click” and get themselves noticed.

That’s essentially what happened this season for Graveman, as he discovered — accidentally, as John Lott of the National Post explained back in August — a grip for a cutter that he was able to use to tremendous success as he blazed through the Jays’ minor league system. But his story isn’t quite so simple as that. Graveman was old for the levels he began at, so his meteoric rise needs to be taken with a grain of salt. And his status coming out of the draft is somewhat misleading as well: he was an eighth round pick, but 2013, after MLB had imposed limits on draft spending, including a set pool for their picks in the top ten rounds, which caused some teams — like the Jays — to circumvent the new rules by taking college seniors, who, in their last year of draft eligibility, have limited negotiating leverage. Graveman, in other words, was selected because he’d accept a bonus much smaller than the slot value of the pick used to select him — he accepted a $5,000 bonus, despite the pick having a slot value of $150,000.

Of course, that doesn’t mean they would pick just anybody. As a senior at Mississippi State, Graveman pitched for a team that were runners-up in the 2013 College World Series, and was the highest drafted pitcher from that club. But in terms of being a prospect? He was fringy. His velocity wasn’t seen as great — his fastball has averaged 93 so far in his brief big league career, though a large part of that number being higher than expected is surely the fact that he’s pitching out of the bullpen — and without the cutter that seems to have turned him into a groundball machine, there wasn’t a whole lot to dream on. Certainly not as much as some of the serious big-armed young prospects the Jays boast at the minor league levels, and so that’s why the evaluators compiling those lists — and the scouts and various members of organizations they trade notes with — didn’t pay him much mind.

One can only hope that the changes he’s made are for real, and he’s one of the guys who can inspire all those others to keep pushing.

Read the rest of this entry »

chart (3)

Yeah, I guess 14-4 is impressive… hahahaha — for 1992! Try a 28.8!

Nothing to be upset about here — not even home runs from Gose and Pillar! And a walk from the latter! Keep building your value, boys! Pompey made a great diving catch in centre and went two-for-five with a couple of infield singles where he showed off the kind of speed that allowed him to steal more bases in 2014 than both of his fellow young outfielders.

Not that the game was remotely entirely about Pompey, of course. I’m just hoping to see enough from him to make me less concerned about the idea of the Jays actually going into 2015 with a Gose/Pillar platoon in centre. Sean Nolin and Kendall Graveman got into this one, too, and… meh. Same goes for another pretty good outing from J.A. Happ — a guy who might have actually built so much trade value that the Jays shouldn’t deal him!

In other words, a win! I kinda remember those! And against a team fighting desperately to make the playoffs, no less.

I can live with that.

I’m at the Rogers Centre doing a podcast — more on that later! — so this is all you get.

Hey, it’s more than J.A. Happ is giving you right now.

jeterthinks

Don’t worry, there’s nothing about this idiot in here. Looks like he’s having thoughts, though!

1.

We’re really getting down to it now, as only seven games remain in this Toronto Blue Jays season. All seven of the remaining games are at home, with four against the Mariners and then three with Baltimore, and two of them — Thursday’s tilt with Seattle and Saturday’s with the O’s — have 4 PM start times. Hopefully people actually show up and maybe encourage the club to reconsider the dearth of such contests on next year’s schedule (because 4 PM games are awesome, FYI).

Of course, the one with Baltimore was moved from it’s original 1:07 PM slot because — I think I’ve got this right, but I can’t for the life of me find a link to confirm — FOX decided not to include it among the national games it was going to carry at that time, but because FOX’s deal give its national games exclusivity (i.e. no other games can be shown at the same time their national games are on), in order to be on local TV in Baltimore it needed to be moved. Which is to say: it’s not as though the Jays are intentionally experimenting with start times to see what the response is. And the 4 PM start against the Mariners is just a getaway day thing — it’s the last day of a brutal three city road trip for Seattle, which went from Anaheim, to Houston, and now here — and obviously for TV purposes, a weekday game starting at 10 AM Seattle time isn’t going to fly, hence the late afternoon start here.

And why am I talking about this, you ask? Because holy piss, have the Jays ever taken to going out with a whimper. Winners of only two of the ten games they’ve played since sweeping the Cubs, the club… well… it’s been bad. And if you’re the Mariners, even being half a continent away from home and at the end of a really long road trip, you’re probably not feeling too intimidated by the notion of the Jays being spoilers, with the second Wild Card spot just a game-and-a-half back for Seattle.

If for no other reason, I want the Jays to be spoilers just to render Jeff Blair’s trolling vis-à-vis James Paxton and unsigned draft picks in his piece from this morning at Sportsnet – in which he at least acknowledges that the compensation pick for missing on Paxton (the Canadian who, sadly, has been outstanding for the Mariners through 90 big league innings over the past two seasons, posting a 1.91 ERA, albeit with a FIP and xFIP more than a full run higher) was Noah Syndergaard, though doesn’t mention that Tyler Beede begat Marcus Stroman, or that there are a whole lot higher hopes for Jeff Hoffman than there would have been on Phil Bickford.

2.

The lighthearted-ish reminder of Paxton’s existence, and success (and passport, and original draft status) isn’t remotely the most frustrating thing about Blair’s piece, though. It’s not through any fault of the author’s, but that comes in the next bit, where he talks about the Jays’ reported plans to have Ryan Goins play in the Dominican Republic this winter.

Blair rightly suggests that Goins showing up in Dunedin next February as a fully formed hitter would be a miracle, but comes a little too close to validating this dog of an idea — even if he kinda doesn’t.

In 1998, after hitting .220 in 83 games, Montreal Expos manager Felipe Alou sat down Jose Vidro and told him to play winter ball and come into camp in shape ready to win a job — or else. Alou wouldn’t even guarantee the switch-hitting Vidro a bench job. Point taken: Vidro played all winter in his native Puerto Rico and, in 1999, hit .304 as a regular before going on to a career that saw him earn three all-star selections and finish with a .298 career average over 1,418 games.

Don’t worry, Blair hasn’t gone insane. He continues:

It’s true that at his worst, Vidro was at least three times the hitter of Goins. But he was also about a third of the athlete. All Goins needs to do is become less of an easy out to play a role in 2015 – at the very least, a bench-player capable of spelling off Jose Reyes at shortstop. Playing winter ball is no longer viewed as a cure-all, but in Goins’ case it might be a start.

Knowing the Vidro example, one could say that Goins showing up in Dunedin next February as a fully formed hitter of any sort could be one of those “stranger things have happened” sort of miracles, only… I’m pretty sure Vidro’s “transformation” was a whole lot less strange than the Jays actually getting anything offensively out of Goins would be.

Vidro was two-and-a-half years younger at that point than Goins is — 1998 was his age 23 season; this year for Goins is age 26 — and in Triple-A that year (playing for Ottawa!) he slashed .289/.361/.391, which followed a terrific .323/.370/.523 stint there the year before, as a 22-year-old. Vidro didn’t have great success in Double-A, but on the levels either side of it he consistently put up very good on-base numbers, with slowly developing power, all while being young for the levels he was at.

Goins, on the other hand, has shown a little in terms of on-base skill in the minors, but it has mostly been driven by BABIP and an ability to take walks at an average-ish rate, which he’s come nowhere near duplicating at the big league level. Yes, the big league samples are small, but they’re fugly as fuck – .212/.231/.297 in 296 PA, or a wRC+ of 39 (100 is average, don’t forget — Colby Rasmus, Brett Lawrie, and Dioner Navarro are all almost exactly at that mark, while Bautista and Encarnacion are above 150).

And yes, there are some spots — quite a few even — on Goins’ minor league track record that can almost make you think he could be something bordering on passable. He put up a hopelessly hollow .284/.337/.353 line this year in Buffalo, for example, albeit driven by a .342 BABIP. In fact, his career line in over 2500 minor league plate appearances is .275/.331/.373. Shit, with the outstanding defence he brings you almost understand why the club would continue to hope he might show something with the bat, but it’s not actually like that line is particularly good. If he could come close to duplicating it in the majors — a tall order, especially when we’re not talking about a still-developing prospect, but a guy who is going to turn 27 in February — it’s really not far off from what Munenori Kawasaki has done over the last two seasons (.247/.328/.307).

Is that — is Goins’ best case scenario — actually good enough? Maybe barely? But how can they possibly keep waiting for it? How can they possibly go into another season without an obviously better option?

If they’re at all serious, they simply can’t.

3.

- In case you missed my post-game post on Friday, I’m not terribly thrilled with the prospect of Anthony Gose and Kevin Pillar manning centre next season either, for obvious reasons.

- Shi Davidi reported at Sportsnet on Sunday that Marcus Stroman’s suspension has been reduced from six games to five — because baseball would prefer to wait until a much uglier incident happens before they actually get serious about head hunting. “A bullpen game, likely started by Todd Redmond, is expected to cover Stroman’s next scheduled turn,” Davidi writes. At least this means Stroman will be able to assume his rightful place at, or near, the top of the Jays’ rotation come next April, rather than taking the fourth game of the season, or something, because he was serving the remainder of his suspension. Meh.

- MLB’s PR team tweets that a committee has been setup to study the pace of the game. That works.

- Lastly, if you can get past the annoying autoplay when you click the link, and the even worse scoffing from Dave Perkins about the root of the Jays’ problems being in their fundamentals and inability to make a proper relay throw (seriously), there was some interesting talk on Prime Time Sports on Friday about whether Paul Beeston, Alex Anthopoulos, and John Gibbons will return for 2015 — the round table generally agreed that they all would, which I tend to agree with — and, not for the first time, with the notion that Beeston might have eyes for the vacant MLSE presidency. Enjoy that, Leafs fans! (I’d have written more about this, but apparently I needed to spend the majority of this post pointing to the obvious about Ryan Goins).

- Lastly, not Jays-related, but friend of the blog Ben Johnson has written about how Labatt is planning an expensive, intentionally misleading ad campaign for Shock Top. In fact, that’s the title of his post at Ben’s Beer Blog. Read it.

Yep.