Blue Jays Bullpen Throws Away Game

I had prepared the following as a means of describing tonight’s game prior to the bottom of the ninth inning:

A night like tonight is exactly why fans of the more advanced stats suggest that earned run average tells an incomplete story. It’s doubtful you’ll ever see a better performance from a pitcher in which he gave up four runs than C.C. Sabathia’s tonight. In addition to retiring 16 batters in a row, the runs that were scored against him came off seeing eye singles and a Robinson Cano error.

Blue Jays fans would do well to remember tonight’s game the next time they feel cheated out of a win. That’s not to suggest that Toronto starter Ricky Romero didn’t pitch well, he put in a very solid performance in the Jays 4-3 victory. It’s just that Sabathia was an undeserving loser tonight.

Of course, the Yankees ended up scoring two runs in the ninth inning to win the game in a walk off, and Sabathia ended up the winning pitcher. It’s almost funny, because after all, baseball just has a way of evening when it comes to the luck that’s always at play. Tonight was a perfect example.

The Big Lebowski Quote Of The Game

Sometimes you eat the bear, and sometimes, well, he eats you.

Anatomy Of An 0 For 4 Outing From Jose Bautista

It’s rare to see Jose Bautista struggle at the plate, and there was no clear approach that C.C. Sabathia employed to confound the slugger tonight, which given Bautista’s reputation for video room studies, may be an approach in its own right.

In his first plate appearance, Bautista grounded out to third, taking a ball, then two strikes before swinging at a slider that was awfully similar to the one he saw with the pitch before.

In his second plate appearance, Bautista takes a strike, fouls one off and then swings and misses on a four seam fastball high and away.

In his third plate appearance, Bautista swings at the first pitch he sees, a sinker, which results in a fielder’s choice to end the inning.

In his fourth plate appearance, Bautista grounds out by fouling off the first pitch he sees, taking the second pitch for a ball and grounding out on a Sabathia changeup to first base on the third pitch.

All four of Bautista’s plate appearances ended with a different pitch from Sabathia. In order, Sabathia showed him:

  1. Four seamer;
  2. Change;
  3. Slider;
  4. Slider;
  5. Slider;
  6. Slider;
  7. Four seamer;
  8. Sinker;
  9. Four seamer;
  10. Four seamer;
  11. Change.

That’s what you call no discernible pattern.

Most Important Play(s) Of The Game

Curtis Granderson’s two out single in the ninth inning off Frank Francisco scored Chris Dickerson and increased his team’s chances of winning by 39.3%. From there

Biggest Opportunity Missed

Yunel Escobar’s sacrifice bunt with one out in the fourth inning moved John McDonald from first to second base, but failed to cash in Rajai Davis from third. With two out, Corey Patterson reached base on a walk to load the bases, but Jose Bautista hit into a fielder’s choice to end the inning.

The Aggravating Things That John Farrell Did

I actually quite liked tonight’s lineup. It made sense to me far more than yesterday’s placement of Yunel Escobar behind Jose Bautista.

I’m going to title a post tomorrow: Yunel Escobar is too good to sacrifice bunt. John McDonald bunting at the bottom of the lineup to push a run in is one thing. It’s quite another to make Escobar, the only player other than Bautista getting on base at a good rate, to drop down a bunt.

I’m not really certain why you’d bring in Casey Janssen to start the eighth inning with a left hander due up and a switch hitter following him. It seems to me you go with Marc Rzepzcynski to start the inning and be willing to bring in Janssen to face Rodriguez if Rzep looks at all shaky.

The Statistics You Won’t Believe

Coming into tonight’s game, Ricky Romero averaged 3.80 pitches per batter faced, while throwing 61.3% of his pitches for strikes. Tonight, he averaged 3.57 pitches per batter faced.

Last season Brett Gardner stole 47 bases and was only caught nine times. This year, he’s stolen eight bases and has already been caught six times.

In the last few days, a lot has been made over the idea of lineup protection. This is from Tom Tango in a piece for The Hardball Times from 2006 about that very subject.

Batting Stats For Good Hitters, In Likely IBB Situations (Scaled To 600 PA):

Status wOBA 1B 2B 3B HR NIBB HBP RBOE SO Other Out
Unprotected .380 83 32 3 16 91 10 6 108 251
Protected .376 83 31 3 18 83 10 6 104 262
Leading .382 92 31 3 21 72 7 7 97 270

While it’s more likely that an “unprotected” player will be intentional walked in intentional walk situations. He ends up doing better without “protection” than with it.

Coming into tonight, the Blue Jays had the most innings pitched by relievers in the American League. Their bullpen was third in the American League in xFIP.

Shutdowns/Meltdowns

By giving up two hits and allowing an inherited runner and one of his own to score, Marc Rzepczynski gets an official meltdown. As does Frank Francisco for blowing a save by getting a ground out, giving up a double to Jorge Posada, getting Derek Jeter out, giving up a single to Curtis Granderson, giving up a stolen base to Granderson and then a single to Mark Teixeira that scored Granderson to win the game.

Stray Observations Of The Game

On the pregame show for tonight’s game, Gregg Zaun claimed that right handers comprise 75%-90% of pitchers in baseball. Over the last decade the number is approximately 73%.

The eighth hitters for both lineups tonight were the fastest players on the field.

Watching Jose Bautista complain about balls and strikes with an umpire, it reminds me of The King Of Comedy, and how at the end of the movie, Rupert Pumpkin became a television host and fit in quite naturally as such. Bautista has only really been a star in baseball for less than a year, but he appears to be filling the role without any difficulty or effort. It’s just a natural fit.

Juan Rivera has been playing incredibly well defensively and offensively the last couple of games. While it’s still early, he’s forcing me to eat a slice of humble pie with his fielding ability at first base.

If I was a Yankees fan I’d be upset over the way that the fourth inning went down. Any one of those hits and the error could’ve ended up bouncing very differently.

There was a lot of praise on the radio broadcast for Ricky Romero’s quickness to the plate with a runner on base. In the bottom of the fifth, that quickness forced Curtis Granderson to take off for second base before Romero had begun his windup. Romero was prepared for this and caught him trying to steal.

Anyone calling for Jayson Nix to play third base over John McDonald is mistaken. If you think that there’s a big difference between Nix’s offensive contribution and McDonald’s you’re wrong. And if you think that there isn’t a a big difference between McDonald’s defensive contribution and Nix’s, well, god help you.

I’d like to say that you can’t blame Frank Francisco because he didn’t have a Spring Training this year, but he’s made fifteen appearances at the MLB level now and pitched thirteen innings. If he’s not ready yet, he shouldn’t have finished his rehab stint in early April.

It’s easy to blame the bullpen for this loss, and deservedly so, but fans would do well to remember that the team’s relief corps have worked harder than almost any other in the Majors and done so with a lot of success.