Saturday, April 30, 2011

The Obligation

"We also have to be responsible and try to win as many games as we can."

..... and that quote, my friends, remains the sticking point for me concerning this whole sordid (well, not "sordid", but you get the point) affair whereby Travis Snider apparently starts over in AAA.

As I've mentioned more than once on these pages, in the blogging game, if you aren't first you're last.... and this post is shaping up to be no exception. I'll probably end up parroting the theme of Griff's piece (linked above) and rip off my own comment found below Tao's post.... which is sure to be much more reasonable and thought out than this self-entitled whining. But that goes without saying.

But aaaaanyway.... how can Alex Anthopoulos state a responsibility to put the most competitive team possible on the field in one breath... but unabashedly admit Jo-Jo Reyes has a major league job simply because he's out of options? And furthermore, if we can make the leap and assume that Jo-Jo is one of the five best starting options in the organization (personally, I can't)... is that really the goal now? I mean, really? To scratch out as many wins possible, development be damned?

It can't be. I'll disagree with Griffin in stating that the Jays braintrust cannot possibly be sizing up the division and calling an audible - building off! Win now on! One look at the roster construction tells us this is most certainly not a club built to win now. All due respect, but Corey Patterson, Juan Rivera, Jose Molina, Jayson Nix, and yes, John McDonald, are not players at the stage of their career who should be leaned upon for everyday contributions on championship clubs.

And quite frankly, friends, it's that roster construction that troubles me somewhat - neither built to win now nor designed to break in future cornerstones. I mean - how many new players are learning at the major league level just exactly what it takes to win? JP Arencibia catching 3 out of every 5 games? Kyle Drabek taking his regular rotation turn? Do we really believe that David Cooper is here to stay?

Early to be sure - not yet May! - but a season scraping the .500 level with a roster largely consisting of players that we don't expect to be contributors on that next great Blue Jays team wasn't what energized this fanbase the winter past.

I'm fairly confident the tune will change in a month or six weeks time, but until then.... ugh.

Quick hitters
My last comment maligning Jo-Jo Reyes, who I'm sure is a proper and decent fellow being tarred and feathered for reasons beyond his control: does anyone believe he will be part of the five man rotation in 2012 and beyond? And if not..... what exactly are the Jays so loathe to lose by trying to slip him through waivers? A potential long relief arm? At the expense of developing someone who will?

If Vegas is such a death knell for young pitchers that the club would have Zach Stewart repeat AA to work out the last few kinks.... how does sending an emotionally shattered Brett Cecil to hitters heaven make the most sense?

Anyone else nerding out with a nightly review of MiLB boxscores for the Jays affiliates as I am? I just can't wait until the short season clubs get underway. No, you're lame. Leave me alone.

Speaking of which, Travis Snider is 3 for 3 in his Vegas "debut" as I type this. Miss you, Lunchbox.

Ripping off my own tweets now, but Jose Bautista is must-see TV. I wish there was a PVR setting for "record all JoBau plate appearances".

So Frank Francisco is eventually going to be the full-time closer, right?

And Marc Rzepczynski is already the new Scott Downs, yes? We're all good with that now? (I am.)

Middle relief is criminally underrated; innings 6 and 7 aren't sexy and those dudes get no love. But I got you, Shawn Camp and Casey Janssen.

One last note on the main post above - don't sweat me. I'm still a believer. I just like to let out some bitch every now and again. Until next week!

Friday, April 29, 2011

Another Detour Through Vegas

The news that Travis Snider had been sent down to Las Vegas following yesterday's game was not exactly a surprise, but it was still unexpected. Coming into the season, there was some notion that the back and forth to the minors and back was over, and that a new regime wouldn't be quite so quick to sit the youngster down or make him pay even more dues.

Well, maybe...not so much.

If you wanted to look at the boxscores, you could note that he expanded on a five-game hitting streak yesterday, but even the positives for Snider have looked ugly and accidental in recent weeks. His four hits in the Texas series were all singles, and not the "screaming-liner-hit-too-hard-to-take-two" sort of single. More of the "I-just-wanna-get-my-bat-on-this" variety.

As much as we love Snider, and root for him to emerge into the 30-homer mid-lineup star that we think he can be, he has looked like a man battling himself in the batters' box all season. He lunges at offspeed pitches, opens up on anything soft or with movement, and perhaps worst of all, he's a fastball hitter who is having fastballs thrown through his bat. He hasn't hit a homer since game five of the season, and in the intervening 20 games, has managed three doubles, one multi-hit game, and 19 strikeouts versus eight walks.

We've said before that a trip to Vegas in all likelihood would serve as batting practice for Snider, who has shown that he can tear up minor league hitting. Still, an extended streak of good hitting, regardless of the opposition, couldn't hurt.

We're not sure if Snider needs this. Whenever he comes back up, we'll still be holding our collective breath to see if he can eventually show a more regular ability to hit major league pitching. So there's an element to this which makes us feel as though the team is merely perpetuating the cycle.

But Snider needs something to change, and in the absence of a better idea to shake him out of his funk, this will do. For now.

The End of the Line? Hardly.
Because this is the fourth season in which Snider has pulled on the Blue Jays' colours at the big league level, some aspects of the fan base have begun to get impatient with his progress. We've had a number of people comment to us on how Travis is "a disappointment", or even that "he's done". And with the demotion, that point of view only gains more traction.

But given the fact that Snider is still only 23 (a reasonable age for a player's first year in the Bigs instead of his fourth), such pronouncements are premature to say the least.

Further to that point: The comp that is coming up (including from the general manager himself, as noted in Parkes' nice rundown of the AA conference call) is Alex Gordon, the one-time untouchable, super-awesome, can't-miss prospect who has scuffled over the past four seasons with Kansas City. After another demotion last season, Gordon has come back and had a decent start to the season for the Royals, striking out less and making better contact.

But here's the salient point on that comp: Alex Gordon's rookie season in Major League Baseball was in 2007, as a 23 year-old.

There's still plenty of time for Travis Snider to right himself, and he's shown in the past that he has the capability to be an above average hitter for stretches. He's displayed enough raw talent with the bat to lead us to believe that with some additional seasoning, he'll provide plus-power for the Jays, sooner rather than later.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Three Up, Three Down - Heroes and Goats of the Season (So Far)

We're a bit past the 1/8th mark of the season, which to our minds provides enough just enough context to start to make judgments on who's been awesome and who's been awful thus far. Ergo: Three Up, Three Down. (New feature! Soon to be abandoned! Oh look...shiny!)

When you're up, you're UP...

1. José Bautista: This offseason's biggest signing and the most contentious talking point through most of the Winter (Sign him! Now! No, later! Too much!), JoBau has rewarded the Jays by being the best hitter in the American League thus far. ESPN's Eric Karabell, on yesterday's edition of the Baseball Today podcast, compared him the Albert Pujols, and while he acknowledged that sounded like "blasphemy", it's hard to argue with his excellence when Bautista leads the league in OBP and SLG, as well as homers. You can't ask for much more than that. (Though a little help would be nice...more on that later.)

2. Ricky Romero: But he's only 1-3! (And if we thought that the kids reading our blog were the "Jack Morris was a winner" types, we'd prattle on a bit about the meaning of pitcher wins. But that shit's boring to you and to us. The point's been made. The new orthodoxy has won.) RickRo is third in the AL in strikeouts with 33 (versus 10 walks), and aside from one blow up appearance against the Red Sox, he's posted quality starts and looked every bit like an ace and a Cy Young candidate.

3. Marc Rzepczynski: The Father-in-Law won't stop complaining that Rzep has been relegated to the bullpen, and to be honest, we tend to agree at this point. Of course, if Rzep is starting, who's the killer lefty in the pen? He's held the opposition to a .118 BA against in 11 appearances, surrendering four hits against in 10.2 innings, with 10 Ks versus 5 BBs.

...And when you're down, you're DOWN.

1. Aaron Hill: Hill's now hurt, and wasn't exactly killing it when he was in the lineup. A .265 OBP before the injury (lower than two other guys who you're more worried about) goes alongside three doubles and no homers so far this season. Those option years? They're not looking particularly appealing right about now.

2. Juan Rivera: He may have emerged from the crypt in the past few days (the prospect of a future without baseball may have awakened the corpse), but he still has a fair bit of digging to do to extricate himself from the early hole he's dug. Posting a meagre .270 OBP and a flacid .207 SLG thus far. He's not a slap hitter, but those are the numbers of a player who is having the bat knocked out of his hands.

3. Travis Snider: A couple of good at bats in recent days, and an OBP (.271) that sits above that of Hill and Rivera (and Patterson, and Rajai Davis)...and yet, The State of the Great Big Giant Pasty White Hope/Rosy-Cheeked Phenom remains an ongoing concern. This hasn't been the most exemplary start to the season, but there are 141 games remaining to pull it together.

Connective Tissue: The Link Between Snider and JoBau
There's no one getting on base in front of José Bautista, nor is there much going on behind him. So he's not getting pitches to hit, and has been walked more times than anyone in baseball (21). Of his 11 RBI, 10 have come through home runs (7 solo shots! And one three-run dinger).

On the other hand, Travis Snider has little going on ahead or behind him, and has been dealt a steady stream of breaking balls. And so he's walked nine times (okay) and struck out 21 time (aie yay yay.)

The point here is that the go-go Jays who were going to burn up the basepaths are sitting in the mid-pack in terms of getting on base in the first place (.320 OBP, 14th in MLB, 7th in AL). The 2011 edition of the Blue Jays might not be the one that is supposed to compete for a postseason berth, but eventually, this team is going to have to get runners on and create more of a threat than JoBau can muster up by himself.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Bits and Pieces

(See what I did there? With the picture? Bits and pieces? Kibbles and bits? A dog's breakfast? Ah, nevermind. I should stop trying to be clever. A Johnny Mac walkoff pic was the no-brainer call here. I'm sorry.)

Folks, as I always strive for in this space, I'm forced to be honest with you. The club leaves me flummoxed and without any sort of epic to produce in post form - all I have are a few scattered thoughts. Think of these as mini-posts, would you? Please and thanks in advance....

John McDonald, ball player and gentleman
Rehashing my own twitter, um, tweet (I guess?)..... I'm not sure which event gave me greater pleasure: Johnny Mac's walkoff blast (sure, let's call it a blast), or his handshake with Sammy Cosentino after the requisite post-game hero interview. Here's a guy who just won the game for the team (and let's not ignore the magnificent defence).... and he basically says "No, Sam, thank you for the time." Unbelievable.

I don't know what it is about Mac & me this season. I seem to be writing about him a lot; more digital ink than a reserve infielder normally garners. Maybe it's me, gettin' all old, longing for a link to the past - no matter how inglorious the years since '93 have been. Maybe it's a new realization and respect for McDonald's skills - contributions that don't show in a gaudy (or even respectable) OPS.

Or maybe it's just that John McDonald gives me no reason to think he's anything but an exemplary human being and defensive wizard, and goddamn if that isn't the kind of player I can get behind.

Brett Cecil has lost his fastball... and his way
Oh boy. Cecil's last start made his demotion to Vegas a foregone conclusion. Not just because of the missing velocity, nor the missing location. The missing composure was the final straw.

And this isn't meant as any sort of "tsk tsk" head shake here, because it's painful to watch a young player go through that so publicly. Despite the protestations that big Cecil can get by (for now) with an 88 mph heater.... when the confidence goes, it goes. I don't think I carry unique worry when I say that the rotation of the 51's isn't the softest of couches from which to regain that confidence, but if you're the Jays, whaddya do? What else do you do?

Hope he finds another tick or two of heat and remembers how to locate his bread & butter slider - away from the unforgiving Sportsnet cameras, I guess.

Pound down, Cec.

Hey Tao, can we talk about Lawrie? Just for a minute?
At the risk of getting run off this blog like Joe West on a heckler, I've been thinking (quietly) about Brett Lawrie and if maaaaybe there's a case to be made that he'd be better off.... in Toronto.

See, here's the thing. He's absolutely raking (admittedly) early on in Vegas. Crushing the ball. Two more home runs the night of this writing with an OPS north of 1.000. Even translated to non-PCL currency, it appears his offensive game is ready. Not finely honed, by any means, but ready for a big-league test.

If the offense isn't the issue, the bad news comes, as expected, with his defensive play. Errors every other game will not play at the major league level, ergo, not ready for prime time. My answer to that? Brian Butterfield.

You see where I'm going with this? Long viewed as the best infield coach in the game, wouldn't taking reps under the watchful eye and guidance of Butter be the best course toward advancing Lawrie's defence? Or would the negative glare of the aforementioned Sportsnet lenses offset the magic of Butterfield?

In any event, as the Curious Case of Jo-Jo Reyes has proven, player controllability weighs heavy in Blue Jay decision making, so it's likely a moot point until the arb deadline passes. But can we promise to at least talk about it again the day it does?

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Easter Weekend TweetBag! Hippity Hop Mickey Fickeys!

Easter is for TweetBaggery! Also, goldfish putting Lincoln Logs in your sock drawer. That's the story of Jesus! And now, before I offend any more of you, onto the questions.

The Angie Dickinson of the Jays blogosphere, asks: what would you do about Cecil's lack of confidence?

Seriously, those shots of the inconsolable Cecil in the dugout last night were pretty crushing. He looked as though he was going to return home, draw the blinds, and listen to Joy Division until the sun came up.

The cure to Cecil's case of the sads won't be dressing in black, growing out his bangs or stretching his earlobes absurdly out of some misguided sense of tribal...whatever. He just has to pitch better. Cecil's velocity is coming back, but he's got to pound down in the zone and stop flying all over the place with his delivery. And by the way, we were having this same conversation about him last year, and he came around quite nicely in the last half of the season. He'll get there. But sad faces and reassuring neck rubs from J.P. Arencibia won't help.

Next! Softball legend asks: If you could throw just one 110 mph fastball in your life, which Yankee would you plunk?

That's easy. Derek Jeter. And afterwards, we walk towards him and say: "That's for 17 seasons of ostentatious jackknifing away from balls that were likely over the plate. You prat."

And more! All full of bounce and body, asks (amongst about a dozen other questions): why do players still slide head first into 1B when its proven that running through is faster?

They just can't help themselves. And when they are running down that line, there's a moment when their brain says "I can see the base! Right there! GO GIT IT!" And their physical response is: "I'mma GO GIT IT!" And suddenly, they are a superhero, flying through the air on a mission, leaping head first towards Truth, Justice and the Blue Jay Way. Except that their hands slow their momentum as soon as they hit the ground, while the ball beats them to the base. Sad trombone. Parting gifts.

There are two situations in which it makes sense to slide into first: To avoid a tag, or if you are Roberto Alomar, who actually seemed to be able to launch himself through the bag at top speed. The first thing Robbie touched on his way through was the bag, not the ground in front of it, so maybe he makes it there at nearly the same time as running though. At least he does in our cartoony memories.

Bunny hops! Habitual tweetbagger and Roto-Hoedown carpet bagger asks: why are people losing their shit over John McDonald? He's great and all, but am I missing something?

Two things on Johnny Mac: First off, he's exceptionally good in the field, and while we wank ourselves blind over wRC+and RE24, run prevention still matters. And John McDonald is one of the best defenders that we've ever seen in more than 30 years of watching the game. So there's that.

Also, there's those "little things". Yeah, it sounds trite, but when you pay as much attention to as much baseball as we do (and many of our readers and tweeters do), you appreciate the nuance of the game. Like just how hard Johnny Mac had to work to get himself set up to bunt that Mariano Rivera cutter on the safety squeeze to tie the game a couple of nights ago. There's not that many players who execute that play, and McDonald deserves credit for pulling that off.

Quickly! The Easter Bunny is coming! notes: According to @, the Jays' bullepen:bench ratio is out of whack. Who should they be calling up to fix that problem?

You know that we're invariably on the same page as Griff, so of course we agree with him. That the Jays have a bench that consists of a backup catcher and a corpse from the second season of Quincy screams out that there needs to be some readjustment of the roster.

On the other hand, we believe this is an elaborate scheme to get us to say that the Jays should recall Gordie-Dougie Baseball Canada Stud. I refuse to do so. Even if it might be the best option. (Truth is, though, that we'll see a lot of Mike McCoy this year.)

Also...when do we get Brad Emaus back?

One more before we head off to the wilds of Northern Ontario for the holiday. asks: As of yesterday, Jayson Nix is officially the Jays' starting 3B. What's the over/under on how long that'll last?

Was there a ceremony involved with this? Did John Farrell touch each shoulder with a bat and name him Sir Third Baseman, The Nimble! We're not sure about this officialness that you claim.

Nevertheless, we'll play along: Jayson Nix will be the everyday 3B, until Aaron Hill gets hurt, which seems as though it might happen both soon and often. And when Hill's not around, Nix will move to second, and then there's a hole at third. Johnny Mac? Gordie-Dougie? Edwin? Fill that hole in with whatever treats you please.

Thanks again for the tweets, and for your ongoing patronage. We'll be off to a land where cell towers are scarce, so if you don't hear from us, we're probably not dead. Just resting.

(Photo swiped from the web log thingy for Gratz Industries. Hey there!)

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

The Agony, the Ecstasy, and Being Travis Snider

Travis Snider tries so goddamned hard that sometimes, it hurts just to watch him.

Last night, mired in a two week stretch of (vaguely productive) futility, Snider assumed his rightful place in the two-hole of the lineup. What followed, as the game progressed, was a devolution of Snider's mood from determination to frustration to desperation, as he worked his way through an ugly blur of strikeouts, bats snapped over his knee, and absurdly desperate head-first dives into first base.

Snider was going to will his way out of his slump, or he was going to kill himself trying.

It's always been a part of the Snider mythology that he's been a passionate and sensitive guy who struggles to keep his emotions in check. Over the past few years, he's been open to the beat reporters on how he's worked to keep them in check and keep himself balance. But towards the end of last night's game, we began worrying about what he might do if faced with time on the bench or worse, a trip to join Jesse Litsch in Vegas to right himself and tee off on bad breaking pitches and straight fastballs. (As if that would be any help at this point.)

When Snider stepped to the plate in the 10th, it wasn't just the game on the line. We worried that a poor at bat might just result a monumental breakdown. Throwing himself to the ground and pounding dirt until it gave way to concrete.

And then, Snider reached down in the zone with his third bat of the evening, with a level and balanced swing, something that's been in short supply lately. And there it went, an arcing liner, solidly up the gap between the right and centre fielders, to the wall scoring the walkoff winning run. (And if you watch the replay, you can see that fortune smiled on Snider and the Jays, as that ball was inches away from bouncing over for a ground rule double.)

We're certain that the emotion laid bare on the field afterwards by Snider and his teammates on the field was echoed across the country. When someone so clearly wants to succeed as badly as Snider does, you can't help but invest from your own emotional reserves in their success.

That might be why he's our favourite player right now. Because with every at bat, we ache like he aches.

(Photo? Filled with emotion. Reuters, via Daylife.)

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Media League Three-Pitch Softball - with Mike Wilner!

Once again, we're endeavouring to launch a new regular feature, which may or may not reappear. We shall see. Media League Three-Pitch Softball will feature those members of the mainstream media who a) we think are pretty cool and b) will answer our emails. We lob in three questions (nice and easy, right over the plate), and our pals grip and rip at them.

First up: Mike Wilner. You know him as the insightful and imperturbable host of the Jays Talk on the Rogers Sportsnet Fan 590 Blue Jays Radio Network, as well as the overseer of the Home Hardware Out-Of-Town Scoreboard during the radiocasts of Jays games. He also hosts a liveblog during every Jays game, and is a newly converted Twitter fiend (@Wilnerness590). And if we'd thought of it, we would have asked him about Strat-O-Matic. But we forgot.

Play ball!

1) Is there one old wives' tale/old saw about how the game of baseball should be played of which you wish fans and callers would let go? Something that continually comes up that the Jays should be doing in order to win, but that you think is bunk?

-There are a few, but the biggest one I wish people would let go is the idea that "active" baseball is winning baseball. That is, a team that bunts, attempts a lot of steals, hits-and-runs all the time is likelier to win a game than a team that doesn't. I believe that the sacrifice bunt is a losing strategy the overwhelming majority of the time. There's an assumption out there, as well, that the player asked to bunt will get a successful bunt down 100% of the time, which isn't even remotely true. Teams run themselves out of innings all the time, and often bunt with a better hitter to move runners along for a poorer hitter on deck.

Sure, sitting back and waiting for a big hit isn't fun to watch (until the big hit comes, then it's awesome), but I think that preserving your outs and being smart about the chances you take on the basepaths are the way to win over the long haul. And by being smart I mean I'm totally good with Travis Snider and Aaron Hill running the bases like their hair is on fire - so long as they're doing it at the right times, with the right batteries, as they have been. Corey Patterson trying to steal third with one out in the 8th down by five with the pitcher on the hill set to implode? Not so much.

2) Is there a go-to metric that you look to first to get a quick sense of a player's performance? Something that you can see at-a-glance when the need arises that you find most meaningful?

Nope. And I know this is going to upset the WAR crowd, but when I want to see how a player is performing, I look at the slash stats: AVG/OBP/SLG. I find that's the best thing that tells me how someone is doing. I'll admit I have a bit of an issue with the whole idea of "replacement level" and the idea of quantifying how many wins someone's contribution is worth. It's good work that's been done to establish these stats (even though different places measure WAR differently), but I like my stuff a little more concrete. For pitchers, I look at their WHIP, I look at their home runs and strikeouts per nine innings.

I know there have been great advancements in trying to get luck and other variables out of the equation, but stuff like FIP and BABIP don't tell me how a player is performing - they tell me how, all else being equal, a player should be performing. But luck is a factor, teammates are a factor, ballparks are a factor. When I'm looking at how a player has performed in a given year, how a player is performing in a given year, I don't want to "neutralize" everything.

3) Given the number of new metrics that have become somewhat standard for baseball fans (WAR, OPS, ISO, what have you), is there a historical Blue Jay who you think would be more appreciated by this new generation of fans that they were at the time or have been since?

It's funny, because the first name that popped into my head is Rance Mulliniks. I wanted to pull up someone far more esoteric, like Tom Lawless or Barry Bonnell, but I don't really think either one of those guys was particularly good, no matter how you slice it (though Bonnell had a WAR of 2.1 in 1983 - who knew?). Now that we're into the whole stolen base efficiency, rather than just raw numbers, I think we'd have appreciated Lawless for the 12 of 13 he put up in just 59 games in 1989, though we did love him at the time.

Anyway, I thought of Mulliniks because the dude was a platoon on-base machine who grew into some power near the end of his career. He was a guy who Blue Jays fans thought of as a "professional hitter" (I think it was the glasses) when we weren't just thinking of him as half of Gance Mulliniorg, but dig this - in his 10 years with the Blue Jays he posted an OBP of .370 with an OPS+ of 118. In 1983, he hit .280/.378/.472 against righties. In 1984, it was .321/.380/.440. In '85, .299/.382/.462. In that great '87 season, he hit .306/.367/.490 against righties, and screw the platoon, .389/.450.667 against lefties (tiny sample size alert - 23 PA). He reached his zenith in 1988, with an OPS of .868 against righties and .870 overall. These numbers aren't overwhelming, I know, but his OPS+ from 1983-88 was 124, and he had a .417 OBP in 1990, mostly coming off the bench. This is not the guy we all thought Rance Mulliniks was back then.

I mean, would you have believed that Mulliniks finished in the top 3 on the Blue Jays in OPS every year from 1983-88 save one? And yes, I'm counting 1984, even though he was fourth - it was only one point behind George Bell, and Rance's OPS+ was higher. Seriously, though - name the top three hitters on the Blue Jays through the mid-80s, does anyone mention Mulliniks? Nerp.

Photos courtesy of and
Altamonte Springs Recreation. Nice shorts.

Monday, April 18, 2011

The Bright Side of a Very Bad Trip

When the Jays left town for an 11-day road trip, things seemed pretty frickin' rosy. They'd won two of three games in their first two series, with the allegedly dreadful Mariners and the struggling Red Sox on the itinerary, it seems as though the Jays were ready to roll through the first month of the season.

But it hasn't even remotely played out that way. The roadtrip finished up 3-7, but has felt longer and more miserable than even that record would suggest.

And yet...

(For those of you who hate it when we go into apologist mode, you might want to skip ahead to the comments, where you can begin castigating us for our weak-kneed sycophancy.)

The Jays weren't that far off from coming home with an even 5-5 mark, if Bob Davidson's awful extra inning call doesn't go against them, and if they buckle down against the Mariners when they held their comfortable lead. Obviously, there's no spot in a team's record for hypotheticals, so this is all so much blather. And we'll cop to that.

Still, a team is going to have rough road trips in the run of a season, and given that this one saw them travel to the West Coast and back and facing a tough Red Sox team that was highly motivated to pull their bloated carcass off the mat, we can almost swallow the seven loses.


Mind you, the team is going to have some issues to address, most notably a free-swinging offense that mustered up a grand total of three runs in the past three outings, and ran into outs (which we know some of you scrappy-doodle-dandies love, but it makes us nauseous. On the other side of the ball, there's a starting staff that pitches around the opposition, racking up strikeouts (yay!), high pitch counts (boo!) and early exits that tax the bullpen to the point where reinforcements need to be called in to bail out a 12-man staff (double boo!)

But aside from that...All's well!

One-Two Gut Punch of Outrageous Fortune
We hate to play the game of figuring out what is going on in the mind of the players. Still, we wonder if the meltdown against the Mariners and the blown call against the Angels didn't take some of the spring out of their step. (By the end of today's 9-1 drubbing, it was hard to pick out Juan Rivera from the pack of lifeless zombies shifting their weight around the dugout.)

Up Next - The Evil Empire
Because there's nothing quite like Mr. Steinbrenner's crazy collection of superstars coming to town to help a team out of their funk, the Jays get two games against the Bronx Bombers starting tomorrow.

But a win featuring a fine performance by Kyle Drabek and a manhandling of A.J. Burnett? That might just salve over the wounds of a lousy week.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

What the what?

Fourteen games into the 2011 baseball year, and I have no clue what kind of team the Toronto Blue Jays will be this season. Perhaps I'm exaggerating the point... but am I alone in wondering what the on-field philosophy is with this club, and whether there currently exists the personnel to execute?

Focusing on the offence - this year's club was expected to follow (largely) in the footsteps of the 2010 Jays - a team of rakers with power to spare. Standard "sample size" caveats apply (as they do throughout this post - but what else is there?), but more often than not we've seen empty swings where we might otherwise have seen loooooong fly balls. A pedestrian 12 HR through the first 14 is the end result.

"Offsetting" the reduced power is the increased focus on the running game (cringe). Last year's leadfoots now lead the league in swipes with 19. What? And that's without much contribution from expected burner Rajai Davis.

Travis Snider is the living embodiment of whateverthefuck is going on with this offence. Billed by many (guilty!) as a breakout power threat..... he's belted one (1) home run to go with his five (5!) stolen bases. And who's ol' Lunchbox tied for the team lead in stolen bags with? Aaron Hill.... to accompany his zero taters. Well, at least Adam Lind is mashing enough to cover. No he's not, he's got one. Which beats Edwin's longball production by one.

What the what?

This is the point where I correct my own nonsense and say "it's early". Speaking specifically to Snider's slow - let's use "slow", OK? - start, Sportsnet's handy broadcast graphics tell me he seems to be developing a pattern (Vernonesque, perhaps) in opening his seasons poorly, and I still have confidence he'll warm with the weather, as they (?) say. That crazy HR/SB ratio (not an official stat) will work itself out, as will Jose Bautista's timing.... which hasn't reaaaaly seemed to be there since taking the A's series off.

The power strokes will come around. If I can take away one concern from the first two weeks, it's that the promise of increased aggressiveness on the basepaths has gone completely insane. And while it's exciting as all hell to watch, running into outs..... not so much.

So keep running, Blue Jays. But let's be smart about it can we? And feel free to mix in a few home runs while you're at it.

Not so much to ask, is it?

Friday, April 15, 2011

Friday Tweet Bag! You Tweeted the Questions. We Said Sooth.

Wow we're already half-way through the season and there has yet to be a Tweetbaggery session. We'll fix that in a hurry. Ohhh...Here go hell come!

And some of you took note that we asked to not be put into the position to foretell the future, and we thank you for that. It's made for much better questions. To wit, @bigmf99 throws this down: Don't sell yourself short, if you tried you could say more sooth than most. My q: What is sooth? & How does one say it?

Well, if you dig way way way back, to when Jerry Howarth was in short pants (heyo!), the word "sooth" or "soothe" meant "to affirm to be true". Which, if you really dig around, is kinda what we claim to do around here anyways. So maybe we are a soothsayer. So sooth shall we say from here on out.

Relatedy, @robert_hiltz notes: My Uncle Larry could predict the baseball future, but he croaked. Can you ask him if Cecil's velocity will be a problem this yr?

I see your Uncle...I also see that there was water...maybe he liked water, or there was a lake near where he lived...or you used to spend time with him in water...maybe you didn't realize it, but there was water and it somehow relates the two of you.

Larry is in a good place. But he is cringeing. Larry wants you to know that he watches over you...and so you should at the very least wear a towel around your place, even if the blinds are drawn. Seriously, you can't just tilt your head away when you reach the Other Side. You see all...and he means it: ALL.

As for Brett Cecil's velocity: He didn't come out of spring training last year like a house ablaze, and his fastball velocity is down about 1-2 MPH this year. If he doesn't start to touch 91 or 92 by the end of May, then we'll have worries.

@austinja asks: Any thoughts on where Brett Cecil's velocity went? Why do I lose so much on Roll up the rim to win? How's your fantasy team?

I knew you were going to ask about Brett Cecil. That's why I just answered it above. (#SoothSaying!) As to your other queries: You lose on Roll Up The Rim because the game has gotten harder. There are the same number of winners, but more people desperately buying more Tim's coffee to try to win. In any case, we recommend going elsewhere for your coffee. If you're ever in the National Capital, hit up a Bridgehead. Yeah, sure, it's all fair-tradey and you are waited on by staff with bitchin' tattoo sleeves...but bottom line, they make a tasty coffee. Yum.

And you are in the Roto-Hoedown, aren't you? So are you just looking for an opportunity to gloat? If you must know, we were curb-stomping our fellow Maritimer Luke DeWitt up until last night, and then it all went to hell. It might be a long season.

And another! @
infieldflyrule asks: How awesome is Corey Patterson?

Corey Patterson is WAY awesome. Awesome like a leather jacket. (A nice one. Not a trashy one, or the one with the 8-Ball on the back. Still, awesome...But in, you know, a completely replaceable sort of way. But still. More awesome than a greased-up Lisa Dergan, at the very least. (Please wait until you get home to do a Google Image Search on "Lisa Dergen Greased Up".)

More more more! @
davejhenderson (or "Hendu", as we like to call him) asks: Favorite moment of season so far? Mine would be Joonel's Sac Bunt....uh I mean opposite field walk-off.

More #soothsaying! June-Yell's walkoff was totally our favorite moment so far, along with Snider's scalding hot line drive homer and JoBau's glorious arcing rainbow (all the way!) to beat Seattle on Wednesday. We like homers.

More? Why not?!
@hill_chris asks: what does Rivera need to (not) do to end up not appearing to care with another team?

Wow. There's like a triple negative in the question. We tried to read it four times, but then the universe imploded on itself, and we were spit out into a new astral plane of galactic projections. But if you're saying "Rivera looks like a zombie", we'd say "fo' sho'", and if the further inquiry is "what should he do about it so that the Jays don't trade him", we'd say play better. And then they'll trade him anyway.

And again: Sneaky bugger
@hill_chris turns back time and asks a whole new question: Q: Luis Perez, really? again? Am I locked in a cube, stuck in time and space and I have to answer your questions to free myself? (Only to discover that I'm already dead...NOOOOO!)

To be on the safe side: Luis Perez (not Rivera, as we called him on several occasions yesterday) was called up to be a warm body at the end of the bullpen just in case the Jays had another 14 inning nut-crushing loss. They sent Brad Mills back down so that he could get his regular turn in the rotation, and Perez will hold a spot for Brandon Morrow to come back next week. It's all an intricate slide puzzle, but it seems to make sense when you work it through.

One for the ladies!
asks: who is nix and why no @ yet?

Oh. Here go hell come.

Here's who Jayson Nix is: He is a player with 228 games of MLB experience and the ability to play at least five positions in the field and who hit 13 home runs off big league pitching last year.

Meanwhile, Gordie-Dougie Baseball Canada Stud is a guy who has yet to find a position in the field, has made four errors thus far at third in Triple-A (who you calling E5?) and who last year hit a grand total of eight home runs off of Double-A level pitching.

One day, Gordie-Dougie is going to be a fine player. We think he'll hit 40 doubles and 20 home runs, sorta like Lyle Overbay. (Who just got chased out of town for not being a big "power bat at a corner infield position". Funny about that.)

Moving on! Quickly! Before you all lose interest!
asks: If you had to decide today whether or not to pick up Aaron Hill's options, what would you do?

We'd find a way to trade him, get something compelling back, and let the options be someone else's problem. And if we couldn't do that in one day, we'd hold on to him because the option years aren't that expensive, and his value may increase between now and the end of the season.

Almost home!
asks: How good does the Vernon Wells trade look right now? Ya, ya, Sample size, I know, but still, awesome right?

Hey man, don't gloat. It's a long season, and Vernon will get some of his spaark back. But yes, ultimately, this was a great move, if only because it allows John Farrell the opportunity to mix and match his lineups, and have Juan Rivera hitting in the cleanup spot if he wants. (Wait...what?)

Sneaking one more in - we actually added this after we were already done...too many good questions this week! -
asks: Are all of these close losses a good, or bad sign? Good teams usually have a great record in 1 run games, we do not.

We could be glib here, and tell you that you're reading too much into just a few results. (Which is probably more true than glib. But still.) But there's a really great article from six years ago over at the Hardball Times called "10 Things About One-Run Games", which provides a ton of links and data about who wins one-run games (good teams), and why (because they are good and have good bullpens) and why some teams don't (because they are bad, and they play to score one run). It's a great read, and you could spend the weekend on it. Please do, and report back.

Soothsaying? We go to the Other Side again, as
asks: Any chance you can ask my mother for her meatloaf recipe?

We asked. She said she's still upset at you. It had something to do with your wife...or girlfriend...a female of some sort, maybe a colleague...In any case, you chose this other female over your mother, and she still feels slighted...No meatloaf for you.

But your mother did recommend that you check out the Tao's contributions over on the handsomely-designed Orioles Hangout, where we answered still MORE questions about the season thus far along with jibber jabber from the finest of AL East blogs, Firebrand of the American League, River Ave. Blues, and D-Rays Bay. (Really, those guys are pretty great. Which shouldn't surprise, because the AL East is, as we always say, a division of MEN.)


That's it! Let's close up the old TweetBag, and call it a day. Everybody Wang Chung tonight, and have a pleasant and safe time this weekend. The Ack is back this weekend (wearing Morris Lukowich Jets jersey...soon to become relevant again!)

And say: Why does The Ack always get more comment love than we do? Not that we're bitter.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

A One-Sentence Post on...Being the Man

This is why you open the vaults for a player like José Bautista: To be excellent when the situation calls for it; to lead through performance and not through soundbites and professions of willingness to assume a leadership mantle by default; and to lift a floundering team out of the doldrums when they need it most.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

We Got Ourselves a Losing Streak

One day, you're extrapolating out to a 108 win season, and a few sleepless nights later, you're trying to remember what a win feels like.

We're in a losing streak, friends.

And this is no garden variety losing skid. This is a junk-caught-in-a-zipper level of frustrating pain. Losing on dodgy calls, extraordinary pitching performances and ugly, late inning implosions is enough to drive you a little bit crazy, even this early in the season.

Being a glass-half-full type (okay, probably not really, but for the sake of argument, let's pretend I am), we'd say this: The Jays have been in every game they've played this season, and aside from the bullpen meltdown, there hasn't been a lot of truly bad play over this past spell. So relax. It's all gonna come back to us soon enough.

(And if you are really a cynical monster who feeds off negativity, here's a quick hit for you: Holy shit, are Lind/Hill/Snider ever going to make good contact with a ball again? Because we can't remember the ast time they weren't feebly fouling something off or swinging through a fastball.)

Purcey Snatchers
Let's get one thing clear straight away: David Purcey is 28 years old. He might stick around for another 10 years in the bigs, occasionally having a halfway decent year of getting lefties out (à la Arthur Rhodes). But he is what he is at this point, and for a team that building towards a brighter future, there are better options for the Jays, even if Purcey's controlability and affordability are taken into account.

There may well be a few suitors for his services, as Alex Anthopoulos intimated to the beat corps, which means that the Jays might be able to finagle a bit of Minor League depth out of this set of circumstances.

We know that you're all sick of our professions of love for him, but remember that Jo-Jo Reyes is two years younger. Plus, Marc Rzepczynski is three years younger, as is Brad Mills.

Purcey deserved a shot at showing what he had this year, and if roster pressure wasn't what it is, then maybe a longer look would be in order. But having too many arms for too few roster spots is just about the nicest problem we can think of having.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

So Much Blame, So Few Strikes

You see how happy those guys are, right there? That's how pissed we are. Tired, grumpy, and frankly, just a bit stabby.

We're sure that someone might want to go back through our Twitter feed, and assess some blame to us for attempting to cash out at 2 am last night when the Jays had a 7-1 lead. Yes, it did occur to us that we might be tempting fate by walking away from a game still in progress, but we're not so silly as to assume that our decision to head towards Sleepytown was in way really responsible for the shit-tastic bed-shitting that ensued.

And OH! What a spectacular evacuation from the the pitching staff!

On a night when the men who swing clubs hang seven runs on Felix Fucking Hernandez, King of the Two-Seamer, Archduke of the Sinker and Commander-in-Chief of the 90 MPH changeup, you'd expect your pitchers just to go out and throw strikes. It's not much more complicated than that.

This is the Mariners, and this is Seattle, and this is Safeco Field. You could put the ball on a tee for last night's opposition, and they probably don't score eight runs in the final three innings. And yet, somehow, the Jays' pitching staff looked utterly Canadian in their unwillingness to impose their presence on the strike zone. ("Oh, excuse me. Sorry. Pardon me. I'll just leave this pitch down in the dirt. Oh no really. I insist.")

And don't go stroking anybody's ginger beard after his performance last night. Sure, Jesse Litsch pitched in and out of trouble for several innings, and performed some escape routines that would make Houdini envious. There were no runs on his ledger, but he also only got 15 outs for his team, and left 12 for his partners in the bullpen. That's not a good start. That's not, as one departed soul used to say, pitching like a man.

And here's a funny thing: Carlos Villaneuva, who gave up the first run of the game, pitched like an hombre. Yes, Milton Bradley got ahold of one of his pitches - a good pitch in a good location - but he also exited the game quickly, and when things got dicey after a walk to Justin Smoak, he nutted up and threw some goddamned strikes.

(And yes, the strike zone last night was tight. Look at the pitch charts on Brooks Baseball, and you'll find more than a handful of balls that were either inside the zone or just on the cusp that went for balls. If it's a Sunday afternoon, the Jays might walk away with a 7-1 win, and David Purcey walks away with strikouts and a hold. But that only underlines the fact that you can't try to counteract bad calls on the margins of the strikezone with more nibbling around the plate.)

We were about to close this off with a clichéed "today is a new day." Except that it just occurred to us that yesterday happened today. Which only serves to make us feel angry and sleepy at the same time. Let's hope the Jays can cap off a terrible Tuesday on a much better note.

Monday, April 11, 2011

The April Afternoon of Jo-Jo, and Other Observations

Ok, we've probably worn out this meme before it even really caught on, so from here on out, we'll try to find a more nuanced and mature way to express our mancrush for the Jays' peripheral sixth starter.

(Also, our affections are beginning to float over towards tonight's pink, round, efficient and gingerbearded starter. And there's only so much room for mancrushes in our cold, cold heart.)

After some early inning scuffles and a handful of deep counts, Jo-Jo gutted through a much needed seven-inning, quality-start-worthy performance to keep the bullpen rested. It didn't always look pretty, but we give our hero full marks for working through his delivery and eventually getting the ball down in the zone as he should have from the start. And had the Jays not been utterly flummoxed by Jered Weaver's nasty stuff, maybe he walks away with a meaningless win to look pretty in his top line stats.

We won't bore you too much more with Jo-Jo, except to say that he's pitched better than a certain goggled, squinting starter who still has options. So think of that what you will.


It shouldn't surprise that Rajai Davis might be on the shelf, as he's limped away from a number of plays so far since returning from his ankle ouchy...

You're already mad enough at umpire Bob Davidson. So we needn't say much more. Though Dustin has a nice rev-you-up-all-over-again piece on him over at Getting Blanked. He's a curious character in Jays history...

Travis Snider's been pretty great in the field so far this year, even playing a couple of innings of credible CF for the injured Davis. As for Saturday night's brutal gaffe that led to the winning run, we'll chalk it up to fatigue and focus on the vast improvements that he's shown in his footwork so far...

José Bautista is pressing, having only eeked out a couple of excuse-me singles in the Angels series. He seems to get legitimately upset after each failed at bat, but we hope that he chills out and relaxes and finds that swing again...

Finally, the outstanding Mariner blog Lookout Landing has a breakdown of the upcoming series, replete with smart words and bar graphs. Go ahead and read it, but don't go getting any ideas about what your hometown blogs should be doing in terms of prep work...

Sunday, April 10, 2011

A two-sentence post on.... Broken Promises

I know I promised the loyal a post with actual Blue Jays content this weekend, but it's well past midnight and my blood continues to boil. Fuck Bob Davidson.

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Here's the thing about all this

During one of my many periods of inactivity here on the blog during the spring session and opening week (um, sorry?), I came to a personal realization. Well, that's not exactly the truth. I've known it all along. I suspect many of you have as well.

I'm just not very good at this blogging business.

Now, hold up. I already know what you're thinking (because we're tight around here, friends). This isn't a pity party, it's not a troll for supportive comments, and it's not a #humblebrag. Allow me to support with facts & revelations:

I am not good with statistical analysis. While I've embraced the catch-all OPS, I suspect that's already been abandoned by the advanced statistical community. Like, seriously, don't ask me to explain VORP or UZR, because it would be a lesson in fail. I want to get better.... but thus far I have not succeeded. This despite me carving out a living pushing around numbers. Go figure.

I cannot fully comprehend Pitch FX and Charts and the like. Maybe that's an overstatement, but when dudes pull out the charts showing break and pitch speed and what that means about actual performance vs results.... I'm the kid in the class asking again.

I do not possess the ability to seduce you with magical powers over the written word. Oh, I can get my point across in layman's terms, sure. But I don't think I'll ever be asked to write the foreword of too many books. Which makes me somewhat of an odd fit with our gracious host here, no? That dude can write.

I don't have it in me to be overly critical of the home team, and I don't intentionally court controversy. I just don't, what more can I say? I suppose I live in a sort of fantasy world whereby I think "maybe Jesse Litsch does read this blog, and who am I to tell him there are better options for the rotation" (totally not what I think, Jesse). I mean.... I'm sure I do come across dickish (magical powers of verbage!) from time to time, but that's just going to happen. I don't mean to be a prick, I swear!

I could never "do my own thing", because I'm tapped out after a few posts per week. As if you couldn't already tell. In other news, earth is round.




..... and yet, I enjoy doing this. It's like a purging of my baseball soul when I can open up and let 'er go in discussing this team and this game with those of you gracious enough to read. It's fun and it's liberating, and I'm glad the Tao hasn't locked me out yet. Given the paucity of hard-core baseball fans around my parts, it gives me the pleasure of discussing the game with a collection of folks as passionate as I am. Regardless of differences of opinion - and isn't that what makes it fun anyway? As long as you're not being, er, dickish, of course.

(but as an FYI, Tao can put the kibosh on my stay here, guilt-free and at his own discretion. We've had the discussion.)

All of this to say..... you're stuck with me for another season. Until further notice, anyway. Hell, I might even give you an actual Blue Jay-related post this weekend. Wild, right?

Friday, April 8, 2011

Whipping Boys: Someone to Despise

We get it: Juan Rivera's body language sucks.

His swing looks as though he's wielding a 20-pound bat, and it looks as though someone has slipped five pounds of sand in each of his cleats. He looks as though he's not necessarily thrilled to have been moved to Toronto, and from the tenor and tone of the tweets and emails we receive, the feeling is mutual.

(All of this is compounded by the fact that John Farrell has used him too high in the batting order at times, making his lifeless corpse smell that much more noxious.)

We also get that Edwin Encarnacion has had a less than stellar start to the season, both in the field and at the plate. (Though he's made a couple of nice plays in the field lately, which don't seem to stand out to the cynical braying hordes.)

But here's the thing: Like all players, these guys are assets, and right now, they have a depressed value. But if you're at all smart at playing a market - or frankly, if you're not completely brain dead - you don't sell off assets at the bottom of their value. And there remains some upside for Rivera and a lot of upside for Encarnacion that needs to be explored before the team casts them off without anything in return so as to speed the arrival of Gordie-Dougie Baseball Canada Man.

(And while we're dropping our oblique reference to the third baseman of the future, let us note that we probably shouldn't be quite so coarse in blaming him for the expectations that people have placed upon him, lest his older sister come kick our ass or strangle us with a hair band. And the truth is that we're as geeked to see him get here and contribute as any of you, but we also know that his development and the team's is best served with him getting some time in at the Triple-A level.)

We're going to repeat this mantra often in the next few weeks, so get used to this: It's a long season. We're six games in, and people are already referring to players as "garbage", which seems like a pretty harsh way to speak of your fellow human beings. (They are people, you know.) Let's just calm down, and observe the first month so that we can get a truer sense of what this team is, and what sort of value these pieces have.

It doesn't make any sense to heap scorn on players and boo your own guys in the first weekend of the season when they've barely had the chance to create an impression for this year.

And by the way: EE had a better season at the plate than Travis Snider last year, and has a higher career OPS than Aaron Hill. So before you send him packing because he got eaten up by two balls on Opening Weekend, you might want to see if he has something to offer in the 25 weeks of baseball that remain.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Yu, Knee

Since when did this season turn into the Yunel Escobar show?

Within the space of 24 hours, he went 6-for-8 with four runs scored and a walk-off homer. Also, he got his grill really familiar with the knee of one of those LaRoche boys while performing one of the ugliest slides we've ever seen. And we played softball with drunken fat men.

Escobar's injury is concerning, given both what he's produced thus far in the season as well as the potential long-term impact of head injuries. He certainly looked like he was in significant discomfort when taking his position in the field for the next inning, but here's hoping that the long term effects are minimal.

Escobar will be out of the lineup for this afternoon's matchup, but we'd be hanging off of every dugout shot of him if only we could find a way to sneak out of the office to watch the game.

(And BTW MLB.TV, we would shell out the money today for your service if we could watch Jays games online instead of being blacked out from the Georgia Strait to the Northumberland Strait ot the Beaufort Sea.)

Lunchables: The always fun has yet to post the numbers for Travis Snider's first screaming line drive homer of the year, but we felt for the dude who had the ball rip through his grasp. Though his pals gave him grief for his inability to come up with the ball, he's not the first fan to flinch when a whistling laser from Snider's bat came their way.

Check out the prudently short arms that this fan in Cleveland (they exist!) developed when trying to make a barehanded grab on this 119.7 mph liner off Snider's bat last May. It was the fifth hardest hit homer in all of baseball last year, and if there is one skill or attribute above hustle and grit and heart and intagible leaderificness that we really appreciate, it's guys whe hit the ball hard like they've got a grudge against it.

Game Time! Today's the sort of day where being a working stiff outside of the GTA really sucks, because we'd really like to take some strategic consultations down to the Dome for three hours this afternoon.

RickRo versus that punk Trevor Cahill at 12:37. We'll be hanging off of every tweet for the rest of the afternoon.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Yu's the Man

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.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

It's Jo-Jo Time

The Summer of Jo-Jo begins. And make no mistake: This is more than an affectation that we attempting to torque into a meme.

From the moment the Jays acquired the lefty from Atlanta last year, we saw the potential for him to reclaim his status as a potential mid-rotation arm on a good team. It could be that he gets bumped from the rotation in a week's time, and he gives the Jays 100 innings swinging back and forth between starting and the pen. Or maybe he really does stick, and turns into an inning eater to support the bright shining arms at the front of the rotation.

However it plays out, or whatever manner of value he provides, we believe with the entirety of our being that Jo-Jo Reyes will be a valuable part of the Blue Jays this year. And it starts tonight.

We're positively giddy.

Monday, April 4, 2011

Take Away Thoughts from the First Weekend

Before we start picking through the minutiae, indulge for this moment: Good gravy it was lovely to see baseball this weekend. Sure, we can spend six months musing on hypotheticals and theory, but there's nothing quite like real games that matter.

(And make no mistake: There are 159 games left, but the margin for error for an American League East team is so small that the "meaningful" games start early on in the season.)

With that said, here are a few thoughts on the weekend.

The Crowds, For Better, For Worse: Mostly, we should be saluting the strong crowds throughout the weekend. Bringing in more than 110,000 spectators for the first three games shows that there is a renewed interest in the team amongst some of the more casual fans. So bully for us.

Now, about the bad shit: When you pack the house on a Friday-Night-Opening-Night, you're certain to attract a some number of hooligans and ne'er-do-wells, as has happened before. Friday night's game was not nearly the complete shit show that the 2008 opener devolved into, with just one (apparently highly-entertaining) girl fight breaking out. Still, the Jays' in-game promotion department should probably settle on the fact that they can't just hand potential projectiles to the Opening Day crowd.

No one was in any particular danger - which only facilitates the thought process for the idiot goons who get their kicks out of throwing shit on the field - but the delays are a pain in the ass, and senseless.

Final thought on the crowds: Blue Jays crowds tend not to be terribly raucous, and that's okay, frankly. Yes, the echoes of silence in the closed Dome can create some uneasiness. But that's just who we are. And if it bothers you enough, then let yourself become the SuperFan that you wish for. (But try to be more interesting than the guys who scream: "You suck!" all game long.)

It's really just a shame that with the extraordinary upside that this team has, the crowds have chosen to reserve their most vocal moments for booing one of their own players. Which brings us to...

Good Edwin, Bad Edwin: Make three errors in two games, and suddenly every thinks you're a terrible player.

(Okay, maybe not so suddenly.)

Yes, we're a bit of an apologist for Edwin Encarnacion, so take this for what you will: We actually liked his game this weekend, especially his newfound speed out of the box. EE twice reached on errors this weekend, but they were errors that he helped to create by getting out of the box and down the line quickly.

As for the errors: The short hop on Friday was a tough play with which he tried to do too much, while the liner on Sunday was another difficult (though makeable) play. But let's not run him out of town like Larry Murphy based on three bad moments. (And by the way: Booing him out of town isn't going to speed the process of getting Brett Lawrie to Toronto. So shut that shit down right here and now.)

Pitching Dopeness, Pitching Wackness: Friday's start by Ricky Romero and Staurday's outing from Kyle Drabek were remarkably fine-tuned performances for the beginning of the season. Both changed speeds and locations well, and kept the Stars-and-Scrubs lineup of the Twins in check for the first two days.

And if it were still the fourth inning on Sunday, we could have roped Bret Cecil into that same group. Except that Cecil began letting the ball sail up in the zone, his tragic flaw.

It seems to us as though there's something askew with Cecil's foot plant, or it could be that when he gets into this trouble, he is too upright and never quite gets his body driving on a downward plane towards home. (Pappy Walton and Pat Hentgen would probably punch us in the face for talking about stuff that we don't really know. But we'll stand by this.)

(And by the way: More interesting, graphically astute analysis of the weekend starts by Drabek and Cecil can be found over at Ghostrunner on First.)

Surprising Mancrushes: Watching two games of Mike McCoy in centre for an ailing Rajai Davis, we were actually pretty impressed with his ability to field the position. (We sat in the centrefield seats on Saturday, and spent a lot of time observing the outfielders' positioning. And while Kyle Drabek's mastery meant that it wasn't a busy day, we appreciated some of the heads up play that we saw.) McCoy may not get more than 100 ABs this year, but as a guy who can cover off the middle of the diamond defensively, there's some value to him as organizational depth.

The Leader Leads through Leading Leadership: It's hard to criticize José Bautista, especially given the quick start to his season. Still, we watched him this weekend, and he seems to have taken his role as a leader on the team very, very seriously. It seemed as though he never stopped talking to teammates (this chatterbox nature might be why Alex Anthopoulos has bonded with him).

Given that there was plenty of complaining about the lack of active leadership in the clubhouse over the past decade, we're willing to go along with JoBau's chatty routine. As long as everyone is happy to listen, then this is great, we suppose. But it is a fine line between talking TO your teammates and talking AT your teammates.

(Why am I complaining about this?)

Other Stuff, Quickly, with Ellipses: The Saturday and Sunday lineups were not necessarily what we'd have used, but at least Farrell is willing to mix it up a bit...Not that we expected much from Juan Rivera, but even at that, he has been pretty lifeless so far...Loved the path to the ground balls that Snider took on Sunday to throw out one runner and hold the other. Saved two runs, and he looks swift tracking down balls as well...We can make the argument as to why Lind was right to jump on the first pitch (presumed to be a fastball strike, except that it was a breaking ball low) from Joe Nathan with the bases painstakingly loaded in the ninth, but it would probably sound like contrariness for sport.

Up Next: The Athletics. And The Summer of Jo-Jo begins in earnest.

Friday, April 1, 2011

This Could Be the Start of Something Big

It's Opening Day, which means that we must be talking about new beginnings. And that might seem pat, because there are 29 other cities in which writers and bloggers guys at the end of the bar are currently waxing poetic about the new possibilities that lie before their ball team.

But with the number of new faces in new places that will be around the diamond and in the dugout tonight, this year's edition of the Toronto Blue Jays feels to the long-suffering fan like something more than a new iteration. It isn't merely a page turned, or a new chapter that has begun. It's a whole new volume whose spine is about to be cracked.

Not that we're completely done with the past: The new face of the franchise was brought to the team by the much-maligned former GM (in a move that elicited little more than shrugs at the time). So too were the much-praised fielding guru and hitting coach, the Opening Day starter, the Slugging Phenom, the Catcher of the Future, the Enigmatic Third Baseman, and the Accidental First Baseman.

There are many pieces around the club to remind us of the past. But a tweak here and a reinforcement there, and somehow, it all looks brand new.

When we look down towards the field of play tonight, we'll see the largest piece of real estate patrolled for the first time in a decade by someone who isn't Vernon Wells. And truly, few will benefit from the revitalized and renewed feelings of warmth towards the franchise than Rajai Davis. We've spent a few days working on paens in his honour, somewhat willingly oblivious to the two-plus wins that the Jays lose in this swap, and to the fact that Wells' value in one of his "down years" (3.2 WAR in 2005) was roughly the same as what Davis produced in his most prolific season (3.3 in 2009).

(Nor did we pay much mind to the fact that Rajai is less that two years Wells' junior, so this wasn't exactly a Rod Stewart-level trade-in of the old model - literally! - for the much younger version.)

But the move to Davis feels like something more than the swapping of numbers, no matter how articulate the metric might be. There's a weight that has been removed, allowing the team the flexibility in their payroll, in the lineup and in the field that feeds into a new energy, and a whole host of possibilities for clever management.

Which raises the other most significant change, new bench boss John Farrell. For a team that needs to be that much more clever than every other team in professional sports - no hyperbole intended - the Blue Jays have brought in a new manager who is something more than the retread with a reputation or the "good guy" baseball lifer getting a break. Farrell seems to truly approach the game with a vibrant intelligence that isn't weighed down by any overbearing ego.

The Jays entered their search for a new manager last year, and through the legendarily exhaustive process, they came away no only with the best man for the job in the top role, but several of his fellow candidates filling out the coaching roles around him. In bringing in Don Wakamatsu to focus on the catching mentorship and game-planning, and Luis Rivera in a truly unique "eye in the sky", non-uniformed coaching role, not to mention the retention of Brian Butterfield and Dwayne Murphy through the transitional phase, the Jays have added heft to throughout their instructional staff.

(There's a part of us that thinks that sometime soon, the granularity of roles and the player-to-coach ratio that the Jays have instituted this year will be the model to follow.)

We'll take in tonight's game sporting the now-shelved for good powder blue colours sported by the 1985 team. But as much as we think kindly on the past, we've shelved that volume of the team's history. We're ready to look forward, and to follow along with these new Jays as a new legacy is forged. Because as we open the new book, the possibilities are truly inspiring.

Play ball.