Passing thoughts and whimsy on another humdinger of a game...
Good Fortune Teller: So Yunel Escobar apparently knew that he was going to win last night's game. (Or that's his story.) Whatever the case, he certainly played through the leaner parts of last night's game as though he was trying to make real his premonition. With three hits, three runs scored and two driven in on his game-winning walk-off homer, June-Yell accounted for the bulk of Toronto's offense. Moreover, his defense looks sharp and he is more focused with his plays than anything we saw last year.
If this is the real Yunel, we can't wait to watch him play like this all year long.
Not-Quite-Summer of Jo-Jo: For about two innings, things looked okay for our hero. And if we were handier with Pitch FX and Excel, we might really be able to make some handsome excuses for the object of our affections. As it stands, we'll offer forth two graphs from Brooks Baseball that both give us hope and give us pause.
First, the good (or so we hope), which was Jo-Jo's release point:
We realize this looks like a neat little pile of Skittles, but what it tells us is that his delivery is sound and that there's some good to work with from here on out. Phew.
Now, as to where the balls went when they left Jo-Jo's hand, that's the part that gives us the sadness.
Now, our pile of Skittles is a little bit more splayed out, but unfortunately, way too many of them are placed right in the middle-to-upper section of the strike zone. And there's not many of them that are yellow, which is the tasty look of balls at which the other guys swung and missed. This could be the result of the fact that Jo-Jo did not do a good enough job of mixing his pitches and speeds, generally let fly with fastballs. He tossed 25 four-seamers and 28 two-seamers out of 75 total pitches, with 18 sliders to go along with a pair of changeups and a pair of curveballs. If the A's were sitting on the fastball, they certainly got a healthy dose of them.
Now, if we're going to make some excuses for our best pal in the rotation, we might note the number of green Skittles that are sitting within the strike zone, where they do not belong if a home plate umpire is calling the game in a manner befitting a man who is supposed to be at the top echelon of his chosen profession. So it is possible that after throwing five pitches that deserved to be called strikes go the other way, maybe Jo-Jo was struggling to align his location with the peculiarities of home plate umpire Gary Cederstrom.
Another fun note: Jo-Jo's last pitch of the game is the ball that sits right in the middle of the line that denotes the bottom of the strike zone. So, probably a borderline strike, but one that Cederstrom wasn't giving last night.
Now that we've got you feeling sorry for plight of our hero, here's one last graphy bit that turns the focus back onto him. Below is the at bat to Connor Jackson in the third, in which the wheels start to come off the Jo-Jo Wagon.
You'll note just how high in the zone every pitch in this at bat is. (Ball one is scarcely even visible in the graph. We can't recall a ball being thrown into the press box, but we were watching the game through tears at this point.)
Jo-Jo will likely get at least one more start to redeem himself, and if so, we're hopeful of two things in the next go-round: That he (like his lefty-handed colleague Mr. Squints) listens to the sage words of Pappy Walton and pounds down in the zone, and that he mixes his speeds a little better.
We shoulda known that it was too early to declare the Summer of Jo-Jo, especially when it started snowing again.