Showing posts with label Brandon Morrow. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Brandon Morrow. Show all posts

Monday, September 17, 2012

The Mondays: Various and Sundry Items from the Weekend

Photo courtesy @james_in_to. You should follow that dude.
At this point in the year, it's hard to look at a series between a couple of also-rans to pick out the marginally interesting bits of something-or-other that stand out as being meaningful. Give me a second, and let me squint real hard...

Good Morrow: I spoiled myself (and my brother and his lovely companion) and got nice seats behind the plate for Brandon Morrow's start yesterday, in part because I wanted to get a good look at his location and movement. (Also, I thought I was joining a friend in that section, but it turns out he has trouble discerning the difference between 128 and 120. Bully for me, though. It worked out well.)

Morrow ended up with an overstuffed pitch count early on in the game, in part thanks to a few singles and the heart-stopping adventure that is Moises Sierra's defense in right. But I also found that he was spending too much time down and away from Red Sox hitters, trying to coax swings from them on breaking pitches. But as the game wore on and Morrow needed to get more economical in the fourth, fifth and sixth innings, it seemed to me that Morrow was working inside with his fastball more often, eliciting weak swings on hard stuff. It was pretty to watch.

To say that a player has "ace stuff" is a bit of an empty statement at this point, because so many pitchers do. What distinguishes players who assume that role is how they use what they've got. Beyond the quality and velocity of Morrow's pitches, he shows an ability to bear down in tight situations, select the right pitch and to hit his spots when he needs to.

My biggest concern with Morrow going forward - and what prevents me from calling him a bona fide "ace" - is his ability to stay healthy throughout the entire season. I certainly recognize that this year's injury wasn't an elbow or shoulder issue, so maybe there is solace to be taken from that fact. But Morrow's health is not a concern that I consider separately from the economy of his outings, because he needs to have some easier innings if he's going to make it through more than 200 of them in the coming seasons.

Hech Variations:  It was a treat on Sunday afternoon to get a good look at Adeiny Hechavarria, both at the plate and in the field at his natural position. Seeing him smack a tater late in a tight game was just the gravy on top of the sundae.

After his early big league struggles, Hechavarria has posted a .725 OPS (.294 OBP, .431 SLG) in his last 22 games, and he looks increasingly comfortable at the plate. His swings are more aggressive and less defensive lately, making the notion of him as an everyday player next season seem less remote.

(If the low-.700's OPS scares you, it's worth noting that in 2011, the average output for an MLB shortstop was a .317 OBP and a .380 SLG, while second base was .320/.389. There's a lot of failure that you have to bear at those premium up-the-middle positions.)

There's a pretty interesting argument that we could have as to whether if Hechavarria needs to play shortstop for the Jays to get full value from him next year. It looks as though his glove will be among the elite at the position, and shifting that over to second base might squander some of his best attributes.

This isn't an attempt to rush Yunel Escobar out the door, as I don't think that he's as bad as he's looked at times this year. But the Yunel-or-Adeiny discussion has gone from vague chatter over the past few years to a fairly substantial question for 2013 and beyond.

All This and More...: If you missed the Blue Jays Talk post-game show yesterday, I snuck into the radio broadcast booth and chatted with Mike Wilner yesterday afternoon. If you want to hear us talk about Adeiny/Yunel, ponder minor league affiliates, swoon over Shin-Soo Choo, or other sundry items that came up, check out the audio at the bottom of Mike's post-game blogpost yesterday.

Friday, June 15, 2012

Tommy John is a Punk



How convenient.  Our host 'round these parts, the Tao, has jetted off to parts unknown for God knows how long, leaving yours truly in charge of providing Jays-related content, at a time when it's fully understandable that the fanbase is growing increasingly perturbed and inconsolable.  I'm going from comfortably posting on the weekends (or not, as the case may be), to getting tapped for more regular duty at the exact time that the team slipped into a losing record for the first time all season, coupled with a meteor shower of injuries to the starting rotation.

I NEVER SIGNED UP FOR THIS, TAO.

The Twitterverse damn near blew a gasket tonight when Drew Hutchison became the third Jays starter this week to tiptoe off the mound in the first inning and disappear into the dugout, presumably to navigate a maze of MRIs and/or flight schedules to Birmingham, the home of Dr. James Andrews. (Aside: I picture Dr. James Andrews owning a foreboding-looking castle on the top of a mountain somewhere, and you have to pound a giant medieval door knocker to get in the place.  And it's always raining.  I'm sure his office is much better lit than I'm imagining, though.)

Lost in the rush to start hacking off our own arms and sending them to SkyDome as replacements was the fact that the Jays won tonight, with some yeoman's work put in by the bullpen being the most significant factor (because they sure as hell didn't hit much, although it was good to see Brett Lawrie drive a couple of balls hard to the wall.  We'll forget about his little baserunning escapade in the eighth).  That losing record?  Back to even-Steven.  No matter how much rending of garments takes place, the fact remains that the team is still competitive.  Nobody's printing post-season tickets, but they're hanging tough. 

Don't tell that to Fox Sports' Jon Paul Morosi, though.  After Hutchison's injury, Dr. Morosi (I can only assume he's a medical doctor, and moreover one who is capable of diagnosing arm injuries from a TV screen) tweeted that it was time for the Jays to start selling. I'm not here to tell you that the Jays will hang around a wild card race with a mess of starters on the DL, but if my knowledge of 1970s crossover country hits has taught me anything, it's that you have to know when to hold 'em and know when to fold 'em.  I just don't think it's time to start selling every last piece just yet.  Maybe let's wait until we're a little closer to the deadline?  Please?

I feel awful for Morrow, Drabek and Hutchison, but you may have noticed that apart from that, I'm basically an optimist when it comes to the Toronto Blue Jays.  My reasons for that are pretty simple, when it comes right down to it:  I have a family, a job, a mortgage and a real life that all provide me with my quota of stress.  I don't need to let baseball, of all things, add to it.  When things turn negative for the team I support, I try not to get too grouchy or complain too much.  I try to take it with a bit of good humour.  A couple more wins this weekend will help with that.

Monday, April 30, 2012

Thoughts from the Weekend, and for the Week Ahead

So if you were following along in the social media spheres, you may have noticed that we made a somewhat impromptu expedition down to Toronto to catch our first live games of the year.

(And yes, we're sorry for not giving you all more advance notice, but it was a bit of a last-minute thing, and we were not expecting to come over for tea and inconvenience you. We really didn't want to put you out.)

Gleaned below are a few thoughts and whims from this weekend past, and for the week ahead.

Flipping for Edwin: We're not trying to be that guy who says he told you so. So we won't. But suffice to say, there is a reason why we're happy he's stuck around. Can you imagine if he were a member of the Oakland A's right now?

Encarnacion's first month (.361 OBP, .644 SLG, seven homers, four-should-be-five steals) builds on at least three strong months in 2011, and gives the indication that maybe he's found a spot where he belongs. Letting him serve as a full-time DH and occasional first baseman and putting him in the middle of the lineup looks good on him.

And if you want a measure of how well Encarnacion is doing, how about the pitch thrown into his ribs with plenty of intent on Sunday afternoon? Maybe he was plunked because the Mariners found his bat flips a bit too pimped out over the weekend, but we'd imagine that the frequency with which he was making the ball leave the park likely enhanced the case for a painful free pass. 

Different Paths to Success: We were pleased to see two outings by the starting rotation that were quite good, even if there is some qualification that prevents them from being regarded as great.

We were especially pleased to see Brandon Morrow "announce his presence with authority" on Saturday, striking out nine again five hits and no walks. We understand the concept of pitching to contact and getting an arm like Morrow's deeper into games, and it would have been nice to see him get through the seventh. But when he's eliciting weak check swings or powering his fastball through swings all day long, we realize just how much we enjoy the version of Morrow that strikes guys out.

(It also makes us wonder if it's possible for Morrow to go 120 pitches on a regular basis, and whether if the pitches beyond his 100th would be of sufficient quality to merit his staying in the game.)

In some ways, Henderson Alvarez seems like Morrow's polar opposite, in that he seems not to have a put away pitch that can get him strikeouts in a tight spot, but the approach seems to work for him. More or less.

For a pitcher who gave up just one run in six innings on six hits, Alvarez seemed to be on the cusp of losing control of his start throughout Sunday afternoon. Four of the six hits were for extra bases, but somehow, the only run that scored was on Chone Figgins' lead-off homer. A homer that he hit, we would add, after Alvarez had his way with him to get the first two strikes of the at bat.

It's possible that Alvarez could be an effective pitcher with a K/9 under 6.00, but we would still like to see him find an approach that allows him to get swings with the stuff he already has in his repertoire.

Adam Lind Hits Fourth: No real item here. Just a reminder, so that you're not caught off guard when the lineups get posted.

As for the rationale, we'll say this: We don't necessarily agree with the notion that lineups need to alternate righty-lefty-righty all the way through. We wouldn't mind see right-handed batters hitting back-to-back (Bautista and Edwin!), but it's probably a good principle to keep your left-handed bats separated, especially if they are vulnerable to being isolated and choked off by a decent left-handed reliever. Though this also raises the question of why a player with such profound platoon splits would be found in the middle of your lineup.

D'oh! Just when we'd reached the "acceptance" stage in the Kübler-Ross model, we skip back all the way to "denial". Expect to see "anger" and "bargaining" at some point in the series versus the Rangers.

Timing is Everything: The 4 pm start on Saturday afternoon was an interesting and pleasant change for us. We're reasonably certain that the last time we attended a late afternoon weekend start, José Canseco was the starting DH for the Jays. On a completely selfish level, the later start allows for some of us from outside the GTA to make our way into town in the early afternoon. But it also lets the game lead into a Saturday evening out, which makes for great atmosphere and good business for the restaurants and bars across the entire downtown.

We heard from some on Twitter who found the timing inconvenient for a whole host of reasons, but considering the crowd of more 30,765 that tuned out, we wonder if the later start on Saturday isn't a better fit for the market.

Infinite Puns for Yu: Of course, Yu Darvish's arrival in Toronto will spur all sorts of discussion about the Jays' rationale for not laying out more and more and more money in order to secure his services. This is why we're relieved that the Jays enter the game on a winning note, and hopeful that they can smack him around for a few innings.

Considering how much swing and miss the Jays have in their bats lately, that might seem like a stretch. But the bats have to bust out at some point, and a dominating start by Darvish will only breathe more life into what we think should be a non-story at this point.


Thursday, April 19, 2012

It's Best to Look Away


We're torn between the temptation to walk away from last night's ugly 12-2 loss and call it "just one of those games", or conversely, to pick through the wreckage and make a big deal out of everything. Being the notorious fence-sitting people-pleaser that we are, we'll probably do a bit of both.

Come along as we tread lightly.

OMG! What's Wrong With Morrow?: Slow your roll, there, Hoss. It was one bad outing against a team that's got a pretty decent lineup. And shall we remind you that Morrow had two starts to begin the season that were really quite good? Morrow looked as though he was having trouble getting the ball to do what he wanted, and his delivery was askew. Tack on a strikezone that was erratic at best and it adds up to a lousy outing that isn't necessarily indicative of anything. At least, not yet.

The Dubious Benefits of an Eight-Man Pen: We're still trying to figure out why the Jays need as many pitchers on their active roster as they carry, especially given the fact that such a scenario results in Carlos Villanueva playing the role of Jamie Vermilyea, rotting away for 10 days between appearances. Los Del V looked as though he was only vaguely familiar with the concept of pitching last night, and had no feel for getting his breaking ball over the plate and out of the dirt. But what could you expect?

And now we're seriously supposed to be intrigued by the notion that the Jays are going to bring another arm up any day now to pitch on Saturday? What happens to Jesse Chavez - and make no mistake, it will be Chavez - after he's done the one start? Does he park his butt in the bullpen and stare off into the stars, waiting weeks for his next opportunity to get the ball? Maybe he and Villanueva can play catch and reminisce about the good old days when they were big league ball players.

And in case you're interested, Darren Oliver is currently on five days of rest, Casey Janssen has had four days and Evan Crawford has had three days to ponder his 13-pitch outing.

It's probably true that the Jays don't have a whole slew of hitters who are banging down the door to come and get at bats in the big leagues. What are they going to do with a useful roster spot: Plug Mike McCoy into it? Bring up Travis Snider to let him sit on the bench and clean up around JPA and Lawrie's bachelor pad?

Let's Change the Subject: Last week's Tweet Bag brought us a number of great questions that were good enough to merit a more thoughtful answer, but that we didn't have the time to ponder in the moment. One of those @danemcburnie, who asked: If you had to pick someone to have a repeat of their best year, who would be the best choice: Rasmus, Johnson or Lind?

We were going to toss this off quickly and likely make some allusion to our Colby fixation, but the more that we considered this question, the more that we became entangled in it.

If you choose Johnson to repeat his 5.9 WAR season of 2010 (26 homers, .865 OPS), do you not also have to admit that such a season inevitably ends up with him playing elsewhere? Either by the trade deadline or in free agency? And is that such a bad thing? It could be that he'd become a very tempting asset this season, and might bring back several decent prospects in return if this is his level of competence.

Or would you choose Lind to repeat his Silver Slugger season of 2009 (.932 OPS, 35 homers, 35.7 weighted runs above average)? That sort of production in the middle of the Jays order might be the biggest contributor to the team's offensive success this season. Wouldn't this be the best bang for our buck? Aren't those the sort of numbers that you'd expect from your first baseman?

Or would we want to see the all-around performance of Colby Rasmus at his 2010 levels, when he posted a 4.3 WAR (.361 OBP, .498 SLG, 23 homers and 12 steals)? For a player at a premium position who is young and still has some projectibility, this would be a great output for this season, and would augur well for the future, wouldn't it? Also, wouldn't it just be nice to see Colby have that sort of year to hush some of his critics?

We could make the argument for any of the three. We think that the most beneficial to the Jays' chances of winning now would be Lind, while the most beneficial for the long term might be Johnson, and the season we'd most enjoy watching would be a great year for Rasmus.

If we remove our own fandom out of the equation, the answer probably comes down to Johnson versus Lind. We'd lean towards Lind, if only because the notion that Johnson might be racking up some of those numbers in another team's uniform seems a bit less appetizing to us.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

30 Jays in 30 Days - Brandon Morrow is Ready for His Close-Up


Who: Brandon Morrow, No. 23. Right-handed starting pitcher. 6’3”, 195 LBS. 27 years old.

Provenance: Santa Rosa, California. Drafted by Seattle in the first round (5th overall) of the 2006 draft out of the University of California. (Berkeley!)

Contract Status: Signed three-year, $21 million extension to avoid arbitration this past January.

Career Stats: 4.37 ERA and 1.38 WHIP in 187 games (71 starts) over five seasons with the Mariners and the Jays. In 523.1 innings pitches, has struck out 585 batters (10.1 K/ 9), walked 263 (4.5 BB/9).

2011 Stats: 4.72 ERA, 1.29 WHIP, 203 strikeouts and 69 walks in 179.1 innings over 30 starts.

Nerd Alert: Morrow posted a 3.53 xFIP (25th in MLB) and 3.31 SIERA (14th). Which, in case you’re not predisposed to such ways of measuring things, is pretty good.

Looking Back: Morrow’s 2011 never seemed to fully get on track, especially given the astronomical hopes that had sprung up after his otherworldly 17 strikeout, one-hit masterpiece at the end of the 2010 season.

The Jays brass has been cautious with Morrow – maybe even to a fault – and didn’t allow him to make his first start of the season until April 23rd. Moreover, they were quick to pull him out of games early in the season, at times not allowing him to pitch his way out of his own trouble. Both decisions irked Morrow, who seemingly wants the team to take the training wheels off and let him go.

Though the ERA wasn’t anything to write home about, Morrow managed to impress in two rate stats of note: His strikeouts per nine was the best in the American League at 10.2, and he dropped his walks per nine to 3.5, the lowest mark of his career. His 1.29 WHIP was also the lowest of any year in which he served primarily as a starter.
As the nerd stats seem to indicate, Morrow was also extraordinarily unlucky, especially when it came getting double play balls. He was on target to go the entire season without the benefit of a GIDP until his second-to-last start, in which he elicited one from the Tampa Bay Rays in a 5-1 victory.

It’s difficult to tie Morrow’s pitch selection to those aforementioned results, but it is worth noting that he back off on throwing his curve ball (from 12.2% in 2010 to 5.6% in 2011) and his changeup (from 14.1% to 6.2%), while relying more on his slider (15.3% to 26.6%). Every pitcher is different, and they find whatever mix works for them, though working as a fastball/slider pitcher certainly makes sense to us. (Come on, look at the name of this blog. How could we not love a guy who deals a wicked slider?)

One pitch that doesn’t show up in Fangraphs’ pitch type breakdown is a cutter, which Morrow affirmed on Twitter that he was working in to his repertoire towards the season’s end. It will be worth watching to see if he continues to mix it in this year.

Looking Forward: So Brandon Morrow puts up basically the same ERA as Brett Cecil last year, and somehow, we’re figuring that he’s a staff ace who’s almost ready to assume the mantle. Funny how that works.

The separator is that Morrow has the ability to miss bats, and to overpower hitters when the need arises. He was somewhat susceptible to the long ball, which is a problem for a pitcher in the AL East, but his stated recognition of a need to pitch to contact earlier in games might help to minimize some of the damage that comes with those big flies.

Morrow enters the season as the number two starter, and we certainly feel as though he could be the best pitcher on the staff on any given day. But even being that high up the pecking order, Morrow should feel the push from the young pitchers coming up quickly in the next year or two.

When you look at the SIERA rankings, you see Morrow’s name alongside James Shields, Matt Garza and Dan Haren, that exactly the class of pitch with which we think he belongs.

2012 Expectations: Maybe we said this last year as well, but this year, we really mean and really think it will come to pass: Brandon Morrow is going to come into his own this year. With a little luck and some good defense behind him, an ERA in the mid-to-low 3.00’s doesn’t seem out of the question.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Omar's Coming, and That Other Signing

The more rational side of our brain is chastising the goofball side for giving any consideration to the Blue Jays' signing of Omar Vizquel to a minor league deal. (Especially given the news much more significant deal that dropped at almost the same time.) And yet, we just can't help ourselves.

The truth is that we'll be somewhat surprised if Vizquel actually makes the team out of Spring Training. On the other hand, the Jays have a dearth of depth in the middle infield, and we wouldn't mind if they need to keep Vizquel on the bench for the occasional pinch-running/bunting/late defensive replacement role. In other words: The Johnny Mac Role.

Moreover, Vizquel's OPS in over the past two seasons as a bench player is .647, which is better than that of whippersnappers Mike McCoy (.546), Luis Valbuena (.528) and even John McDonald (.637).

Speaking of Johnny Mac: If you tilt your head and look at this the right way, it's like the Jays have let Luke Skywalker go but managed to pick up Obi-Wan Kenobi. Vizquel was John McDonald's mentor when he was scuffling early in his career, barely keeping himself above another assignment to the Buffalo Bisons, and McDonald always spoke well of him whenever they met again on the field.

Funny, but in spite of his 23 years in the Majors and 11 Gold Gloves, we figure that every second question that Vizquel will field when and if he comes to Toronto will be: "So what's Johnny Mac really like?"

What's In a Number?: For the most part over his career, Vizquel sported number 13 in honour of Venezuelan shortstop hero Dave Concepcion. That's with the exception of last season, when manager Ozzie Guillen - another Venezuelan shortstop - had beaten him to the punch. As a result, Vizquel requested and received a special dispensation from Chicago White Sox legend Luis Aparicio - another Venezuelan shortstop - to wear his retired number 11 last season.

It seems unlikely that the Jays would have Brett Lawrie give up his uniform number for the sake of a bench player, especially after having printed up and shipped thousands of "Lawrie 13" jerseys and t-shirts this offseason. We half-joked on Twitter that maybe Vizquel could make a request to wear Robbie Alomar's number 12 next season, just to keep that particular streak of un-retiring numbers alive.

Perhaps the most fitting tribute that Vizquel could pay in these parts would be to wear John McDonald's number 6 next season. We can hardly think of a way that he'd endear himself more to the fans.

How Old Is He?: Not to bag on Vizquel too much for his age, but we'll confess to have completely forgotten about his five year stint in Seattle at the start of his career. But can you blame us? It happened 23 years ago!

A quick bit of perspective: Vizquel's rookie season took place five years before 41 year-old Darren Oliver's rookie campaign. As he headed north for the first time as a big leaguer, the number one song in America was Mike + The Mechanics' "The Living Years", and the number one movie at the Box Office was "Fletch Lives".

In his first game against the Blue Jays on April 26, 1989, he faced Dave Stieb and a lineup as follows: Lloyd Moseby, Rance Mulliniks, Ernie Whitt, George Bell, Fred McGriff, Pat Borders, Nelson Liriano, Rob Ducey, Jesse Barfield and Manuel Lee. Vizquel struck out twice, once at the hands of Stieb and again at the hands of reliever David Wells.

When Vizquel played his first game in Toronto on May 8th of 1989, the Jays' home park was still Exhibition Stadium.

And his first big league homer? July 23rd, 1989 against the Blue Jays, off of Jimmy Key.

That Other Signing: There are few Jays who we root for more than Brandon Morrow. Before last season, we sincerely thought that 2011 would be a revelatory year, and that he'd bust out into a full blown ace by the season's end.

Of course, it didn't play out that way, though we continue to take solace in the nerd stats (of which we possess the most tenuous understanding), which seem to indicate that Morrow's been incredibly unlucky in recent years. With the backing of a better outfield defense, especially with Colby Rasmus in centrefield, we're optimistic that there are better years ahead for Morrow.

Moreover, with the signifcant packages of propects that teams are giving up for Mat Latos or Gio Gonzalez, we're happy to have Morrow in the fold for the next three or four seasons. A quick scan of the ratio numbers posted by the three pitchers might lead a homer like us to believe that the Jays didn't need to empty out their farm system to get an emerging top-of-the-rotation starter.

Morrow - 10.2 K/9, 3.5 BB/9, 2.94 SO/BB

Gonzalez - 8.8 K/9, 4.1 BB/9, 2.16 SO/BB

Latos - 8.6 K/9, 2.9 BB/9, 2.98 SO/BB

If the Jays didn't already have Morrow in their system, there's a lot of us who'd be salivating at the prospect of acquiring him right about now.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Panic and Reason, and Their Proper Use

Remember how sanguine we (Jays fans, not the imperial blogging "we") all were this Winter and Spring, when we looked forward to a season where the Jays could fall to ten games under .500, but we'd all be okay with that, because we trusted the direction and the measured approach of
the new leadership team.

Well, now. Didn't that get blown all to shit in five weeks.

The past week has been significantly less than stellar. Okay, fine: It's been something of a disaster, which only serves to magnify the questions that leap out over every managerial decision and roster move. Last night's decision to pull Brandon Morrow was certainly open to criticism (we're sure he could have cleared the bases and given up five runs all on his own), and it is just one of a whole series of questions that have arisen from John Farrell's on-field management style.

And yet, we keep coming back to this: Do we really want this team to change its approach because of one bad week (out of 26 weeks in the season)? Do we really need to hit the panic button now? Why?

Two things (which are actually one thing) strike us about the reaction to the current state of affairs for the Jays, and how it relates to our pre-season expectations.

1) We Expect A Patient, Longer View from the General Manager...Except When We Don't, Like Right NOW! NOW! NOW! NOW! NOW! NOW!

In the offseason, we all cheered the moves that sacrificed some of the short-term, on-field strengths (Vernon Wells' 3.8 fWAR, for instance) in favour of a slow build, bringing in higher-ceiling prospects and building through the system. But string together a week and a half of crappy outcomes, and suddenly, it's all GORDIE DOUGIE BASEBALL CANADA STUD NOW OR WE SHOOT THE DOG!!!

Is the Jays' lineup very thin right now? Indeed, it is. But does that mean that the immediate callup of Gordie Dougie or Eric Thames or the return Snider is going to suddenly turn this team around? Is letting Jo-Jo Reyes walk and DFAing Juan Rivera and Edwin Encarnacion really going to make this a stronger lineup? And if your answer is: "Well, it couldn't hurt", you should probably rethink that proposition. Because yes, it could hurt. It could make this team weaker. It could turn this team into a 100 loss proposition if it gets stripped down to José Bautista and Adam Lind and lots of prayers.

(And if you haven't been paying close attention to Gordie Dougie's Strikeout-to-Walk ratio down on the farm, it looks like this: 27 Ks, 8 BBs. Now remove the maple leaf from your lapel for a moment, set aside your arguments about how many t-shirts Gordie Dougie is going to sell, and tell us that you really think that AL pitchers wouldn't have a field day exploiting his profound desire to swing the bat.)

The Jays shouldn't change their approach to player development or roster construction just because they've had some crappy outcomes in your most recent memories. Take a deep breath, step back, and look ahead at the 20 weeks remaining in the season. Even if the whole thing turns into an unmitigated disaster, it doesn't make sense for them to run around frantically switching things up, losing players on waivers and starting arb clocks early.

We're fans, and we're passionate about our team. But we should expect the management team to take a cold, rational approach to constructing the roster.

2) We Expect the On-Field Management to Be Deliberately Boring, and the Manager Should Adhere to the New Orthodoxy at All Times.

So we established that we expect the roster moves to come fast furious to satiate our needs to rid ourselves of players who are less than compelling for a bunch of guys that most of us have barely seen and none of us have ever seen in the big leagues.

But God forbid that John Farrell tries anything with his lineup.

"Corey Patterson is playing the wrong position! He's hitting in the wrong place in the order! Edwin as cleanup? Absurd! Why does Juan Rivera still get a turn? Why are we running? Why is he pulling this guy now, and why is that guy getting the call from the pen, when THE NEW BOOK CLEARLY STATES THAT HE SHOULD BE DOING ALL OF THIS DIFFERENTLY!"

John Farrell's had this team for six weeks. Maybe we don't necessarily agree with each and every move, and just how much he seems intent on doing all the time. (Trust us when we say that defending the incessant running game is a stretch for a guy like us.) But we just came off of several years where our throwback Manager chiselled his lineups and strategy into granite, and only deferred from the initial strategy when absolutely compelled to do so. (Which, we'd note, most of you hated. And before the season, you applauded the notion of a manager who was willing to improvise to get the most out of the lineup he had.)

So here's what we understand from you all: The GM should be running around furiously swapping out pieces randomly to see what fits, and to just DO SOMETHING. But the field manager should set his lineup, sit back and DO AS LITTLE AS POSSIBLE.

We know it's tough to think in these terms now, because losing sucks and because losing ugly (as the Jays undeniably have) sucks even worse. But when you're feeling frantic as the team's faithful, roll back your thought process to where you where when this was all theoretical. And don't confuse the outcome with the decisions. Because we're still playing a much longer game than last night's nine innings.

One last thing...on Morrow
Part of playing the longer game is keeping some of your powder dry for when you really need it. While we'd concur with much of what Dustin Parkes draws out on his Getting Blanked article on the removal of Brandon Morrow from last night's game, we'll offer up this counterpoint: Brandon Morrow is a very important piece to this team's future, and he's also a concern healthwise. If Farrell saw something that made him think even for a moment that there was something physically amiss with Morrow, then he had to be willing to get him out of the game and let him sort it out between starts.

And here's the difference between the call that Farrell had to make, and the one that many of us (yours truly included) were making last night and this morning: Farrell's call has consequence. If he, in the moment, sticks with Morrow and pushes the heretofore fragile pitcher's physical limits and then helps to push him beyond his breaking point, we're bemoaning for the next decade how he ruins arms and how our shot at glory was blown up by careless use of the precious commodity of that transcendent arm.

And as John Lott's National Post game story notes, Farrell claimed that injury wasn't a concern right before dropping in a mention of Morrow's elbow. If he was concerned, we're not going to second guess him.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

List-o-Mania - Five Guys Who Give Us Worry

Hey! It's a new recurring series of posts!1

Why? We've probably gone to the genius well once too often around here2, and would prefer to indulge in some hacky, almost-writes-itself filler to make us feel like we've done our blogging job and that we've kept you distracted by baseball fun for an extra three-to-five minutes of your day. You're welcome.3

Besides, people love lists, and love to comment on them (YOU FORGOT THE MOST IMPORTANT THING/GUY/STUFF! IDIOT!). And we are, above all, a comment whore.4

On with this week's exciting episode: Five Guys Who Give Us Worry...or The Proactive Analysis of Potential 2011 Whipping Boys.

1. Yunel Escobar: We know that there's some notion amongst us Jays fans that there was a magical healing power that washed over the Cuban shortstop once he left those bad guys behind in Atlanta. Look at that behind the back flip! Look, he hits homers! Drag bunts! But take a step back, and you see Escobar posting a sub-.700 OPS in his time with the Jays, with his numbers sliding backwards month-over-month.

2. Brandon Morrow: If only because we've started to recognize that we're starting to take it as an article of faith that he'll be a Cy Young contender this season, and we're not even sure if he can pitch more than 175 innings. Also, we worry about his diabetes. Which is kinda weak and vaguely offensive, but still. Pitching as a starter takes a lot out of a body, and we worry about the ongoing impact through the hot months.

3. Travis Snider: We keep seeing flashes of that nascent premium-level talent. But it keeps getting run off the rails by tweaky injuries. And this rib thing? Yikes. We keep seeing this year play out for Snider like one of Jeff Bagwell's late-career, injury-addled seasons.

4. Adam Lind: We worry about Lind on both the offensive side as well as in the field. While we have a suspicion that you'll see a return to form at the plate (perhaps even fueled by the happy vibes of playing first base), the helpless flailing that we saw from him against lefties last year occasionally gives us knots in our gullet. And as for the first base experiment: We figure he'll be okay, but we can see some spectacular eff-ups, which we hope won't pile up.

5. Kyle Drabek: The jump from Double-A to the fourth spot in the rotation isn't that small of a leap. Drabek pitched well enough in his brief September callup, but can he give the Jays 180 quality innings? Can he withstand nights in New York and Boston, where the umpires will offer him a postage stamp sized strike zones into which he can pitch? Is there enough movement on that fastball?

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1. Which likely means this is the last time that we do this.

2. ...or not.

3. Condescending much? I really need to check myself...

4. Seriously. We crave your approval.

Monday, August 9, 2010

A storybook weekend

We'll confess to be a little overly obsessed with "the narrative": The ongoing story of the Blue Jays, which is written page by chapter by volume as every game, series, and season goes by.

The narrative, of course, is really only clear in retrospect, and a large part of what we spend our days doing around this blog is an attempt to anticipate or divine what the moment we're immersed in presently is going to mean for us a week or a month or a year onwards. Is this a turning point? Is this the moment we recall where the team's fortunes changed? Is it merely a spectacular moment, or is it something more?

We're not so bold as to assume that we know what this past weekend - and indeed, the entire week of series wins against the Yankees and Rays - really will mean in the grander context, years down the road. Maybe it doesn't need to mean anything at all, and we should all just savour the moment.

But how can you try to be measured and rational after performances like those? We can't remember the last time that we were so giddy from watching our team. From the brilliant Friday start from Brett Cecil, Saturday's otherworldly debut from J.P. Arencibia and Brandon Morrow's nearly perfect Sunday, it felt really great to be a Blue Jays fan this weekend.

You should celebrate the other J.P., too
In the midst of Arencibia's brilliant Saturday, a number of hacks felt the need to make an obvious joke at the expense of the former general manager: "You love this J.P.! You hate that J.P.! Ho ho!"

And yet, as we looked around this weekend, we saw a team whose foundations were laid by J.P. Ricciardi: Arencibia, Snider, Hill, Lind, Cecil, Romero, and Marcum were all drafted by the former GM, while Bautista, Overbay, Downs and Frasor were all acquired by him along the way.

We don't doubt that it was time to move on, and we think that Alex Anthopoulos has done some very smart things which would not have been undertaken by Ricciardi. But as this team starts to turn itself around much more quickly than many imagined, keep in mind that the team and its farm system were left in fairly good stead by the former GM.

Sunday, August 8, 2010

A two-sentence post on...The Toronto Blue Jays

Undoubtedly caught up in the moment (but who cares?), but I haven't felt this good about a Jays team since 1993.

Sort of feels like the future is arriving before our eyes, doesn't it?

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Having that nearly-annual moment...

Where we realize that the Jays are not going to be at home over the Canada Day weekend.

(Mind you, they were at home last year, and there were plenty of photos of RickRo in his Canada Day duds to prove it. But we settled on the image above because of the gratuitous presence of Ed Sprague. We thought it proved our point.)

Okay, this is probably where we turn into a big sooky-baby spoiled kid in the mall parking lot, wailing at not being spoiled enough and blowing angry snot bubbles out of our nose. But is it too much for MLB to just do the Jays a solid and maybe let them play at home every July 1? The team is stuck in the perpetual Group of Death year after year, so the least you can do is give us one day to attract some extra proud Canadians down to the ballyard to hear some Trooper blasted over the loudspeakers and have some fireworks set off in the Dome.

We complain to avoid the real problems...
If Ricky Romero were to throw a perfect game, it could end up being one of those 10-hour long deals, because the Jays bats seem to go somnombulent when he is on the mound. Watching Aaron Hill whiff at Jake Westbrook's slider last night like he was channeling the Retro Handsome Alex Gonzalez made us wonder if the boys don't just breeze past the scouting reports when the good pitchers are on the mound.

When is a 4.50 ERA impressive?
It's impressive when you think that the pitcher still has a number somewhere in the mid 6.00's, until you realize that Brandon Morrow, tonight's starter against the Cleveland Racially- Insensitives, has given up a grand total of five earned runs in his last 34 innings of work, dropping his ERA down to respectability.

There's a part of us that wants to think that Morrow can become a younger, cheaper version of A.J. Burnett, with less douchebaggery and fewer excuses attached. Over the past month, Morrow's certainly been the far better pitcher of the two.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Happy Blue Jay Miscellany

Be forewarned: I'm about to be an insolent little prick and rankle the feathers of the truest of optimists among us here in Blue Jay land. Ready?

The Blue Jays will likely miss the playoffs again this season. That's not to say they will definitely miss the playoffs. It certainly does not say that I hope for anything less than post-season baseball for the team. What it does say is that the Yankees, (Devil) Rays, and Red Sox are very good baseball teams. I don't see any of them faltering dramatically. I also don't see Exec of the Year Alex Anthopoulos (where's the Jack Z love now, huh? HUH?!) mortgaging the future - his vision of the future - to take a run in an insanely talented and crowded AL East this season.

Donnie Downer or what, right? I know. I'm sorry. What can I tell you? That's how I see the season shaping up. But let me tell you something else:

I'm enjoying this season - this Roy fucking Halladay-less season, no less - more than any season in a number of years. This is a team with a strong core - built on pitching - that seems poised to settle into definite contender status in the immediate and foreseeable future. This is a team that will run out a 5-man rotation built among the best of Marcum, Romero, Cecil , Morrow, Drabek, Jenkins, Rzepczynski, Stewart, and McGuire (if the dude wises up and signs - more later).

I'm not particularly sold on the bats as currently comprised, but there's definite hope with Lind and Hill (there both better than this, c'mon), Snider (hurry back!), a resurgent Vernon Wells, and a crop of youngsters (Wallace, Arencibia, Emaus, etc) from the freshly stocked farm on the way.

And there's more good news:

Brandon Morrow has a chance to be really, really good
Oh boy. I can't say for certain which attribute impresses me more: his ability to clock an easy 96 (I refuse to say "cheese") on the gun, or his ability to dial it back and reign it in when his mechanics fall out of line and he has trouble spotting the zone. He's AJ Burnett without being a headcase. That's a good thing, friends. He's also developing that fantastic character trait which seems to be prevalent amongst the Jays young arms - battling it out when taking the mound without their best stuff.

I'm not saying Morrow should necessarily be mentioned in the hot-topic "who is/will be the ace?" conversation....but don't sleep on this arm.

Aaron Hill and Adam Lind are better than this
Let's not sugarcoat this. To date, the pair that last season carried the club on their backs have been.....bad. Mendoza-line bad. Regardless of their second halves, the year end lines will not be pretty. It's hard to finish with respectable stats when you approach the all-star break scraping .200.

But both are too talented and too devoted to the craft to continue the shittacular output for a full season. I'm optimistic. Why wouldn't I be?

More minor league shenanigans - welcome back Auburn Doubledays
Apart from the coolest name in the minor leagues (debate for another team), the Jays short season A-ball team begins play this weekend, with another crop of prospects to (stress over) follow.

I would tell you that roster notables include SS Gustavo Pierre, C Carlos Perez, OF Marcus Knecht, and P Asher Wojciechowski, Drew Hutchison, and Daniel Webb....but what do I know. Very little, that's what.

Feel-good stories make you feel good
What can I say? I'm a sucker for them. Here's the draft-day memory of an undersized right hander drafted in the 42nd (!) round by the Jays. A book-end for Timmy Collins? I'm down.

Catcher backlog?
The Jays have one of the season's top offensive catchers on the major league roster. They also have 5 or 6 legitimate catching prospects lining up nicely in the queue....with Arencibia knocking on the door from AAA after surpassing Brett Wallace as that team's top offensive force. I'm not saying the Jays will be out of contention by the trade deadline....but if they are?

Deck McGuire aint mad at us
Seems early reports (cough GRIFF cough) of ol' Deck's sour attitude on being drafted by the Jays were a tad premature. Still, it looks like a drawn-out negotiation that will come down to the August signing deadline. Which sucks, because apart from a lost year of development within the Jays system, we'll likely be robbed of seeing Deck McGuire, Auburn Doubleday.

And that would just about blow what's left of my mind.

Friday, June 11, 2010

This rotation is doing just fine without what's-his-name

It's probably easy to forget this after the shit kicking that the Jays took in the first two games of the Rays series, but their rotation - or, at least 60% of it - has been something to behold thus far into the season. Take a gander through the league leaders, and you'll find three Jays starters in the top 20 of the ERA, WHIP and Ks.

Ricky Romero is currently sitting in third in strikeouts (86), ninth in ERA (3.06) and 17th in WHIP (1.20), while Shaun Marcum is 15th (65), 16th (3.38) and 7th (1.13) respectively. Brett Cecil doesn't have the innings to rack up the counting stats, so he's sitting back in 39th overall in strikeouts, but his 3.22 ERA is good for 13th while his 0.99 WHIP places him third. (And if you need him, Brandon Morrow's 74 Ks are good enough for 7th. So there.)

Maybe this has crept up on some of you who were inclined to follow along with the notion that the absence of Roy Halladay was going to create a giant sucking vacuum in the rotation, and that the 100-loss season would certainly ensue because one-fifth of the starting corps was gone. "A bunch of guys named 'Who?'" is the laugh line that we seem to recall.

But last night's awesomely manly performance by Cecil brought us back to remembering how much we've enjoyed the pitching performances from the top three so far this year, with the occasional quality start from Morrow tossed in for good measure. The Jays numbers as a starting rotation sit in the middle in both the AL (6th of 14) and MLB (16th of 30) in terms of ERA, although with the improvement seen in Morrow, the expulsion of some of the lesser lights and reinforcements on the way (Litchtits!!!1), we're cautiously optimistic that the starting pitching can actually improve.

With a team that is sitting three and a half games back in the Wild Card chase in a season that was supposed to be lost before it got underway, we really hope people start to recognize how much great baseball our guys are playing, and how close this team is to making the next step.

(And yeah, we're a hopeless booster for this team. We wouldn't have poured all of these hours and all of the effort into this little ratfuck of a blog if we weren't hopelessly devoted to this team. If you want someone to be cynically aloof about the Jays in 2010 and in the future, there are an infinite number of options out there for you.)

Speaking of next steps...
It's the National League for the next two weeks, and we have a whole lot of stuff to say about the Rockies, Padres, Cards and whoever. But we'd rather leave The Ack something to talk about this weekend.