Friday, May 30, 2008
Now anything can happen in a three-game series, so I'm not predicting anything, but I don't think the Angels are a team to be feared. They're 32-23 and playing well of late (7-3 over their past 10), but look more closely at the numbers. When luck's taken out of the equation, they've played worse offensively and have had significantly poorer pitching than the Jays. BP's third-order wins has them at 26-29, and us at 33-23 (that's second-best in the league, just behind Boston). The Angels' outfield situation rivals ours in its feebleness: between Garret Anderson and Gary Matthews, they've given up 450 PAs to a pair of guys who haven't got a .310 OBP. Casey Kotchman and Chone Figgins are the only really good offensive players they have right now, with Torii Hunter being decent (of course, we can't expect Vlad to continue to struggle like this, and he hit well against the Jays in the last series).
We need Marcum to put on a show and one of Burnett or McGowan to come through. Let's win two and get into Yankee stadium with some momentum (although momentum, of course, doesn't exist).
Thursday, May 29, 2008
But lo and behold, we've started to win the close ones. Last night LeRoy, pitching as well as he's ever done (he leads the majors in IP and the league in Ks), was his awesome self, and we scrapped out a 2-1 victory. We're 5-1 in our last six one-run games (9-10 in such games and 3-3 in extras on the season). Frank Thomas has taken his 1.000 OPS with Oakland to the D.L., having suffered leg injuries. We've taken our lumps; is Vishnu now smiling on us?
Wednesday, May 28, 2008
Well, it turned out that Snider has been battling some minor injuries (that's why he's been kept out of the field). But he's also managed to hit .343 over his last 10 games, has batted .293/.385/.609 in May, and is up to .250/.358/.484 overall in AA after that horrendous start. He's also the youngest guy on the roster by two years, and (without checking) must be one of the youngest players in the entire Eastern League. I am a believer.
Some of the faithful at Battersbox have been discussing when Snider will arrive in the majors. If he keeps this up, we'll see him in September, and he could be up to stay by next summer. Given that we've been playing has-beens and utility infielders in the OF corners, I'm pretty excited about the upgrade.
Thursday, May 22, 2008
Anyway, back to the point. As I watched Matt Stairs and Alex Rios take fastballs right down the middle for strike three my first reaction was not “unlucky” but “stupid fucking cunts”. When I watched Alex Rios not advance to second on a passed ball, unlucky was the farthest thing from my mind. So why are we, the Jays fan base, trying to say they are unlucky when in fact they are not? Because we are ignorant fucks worse than Dick Griffin. What the Jays are, if you feel you have to categorize them, is mediocre.
There is a good discussion going on at Batters Box about the averageness of the Jays. One Dude brings up a pretty good point of how Alex Rios is the only player on the team that is doing significantly less than we should expect. The frat boys at DJF raise the issue as well. Hmm, that’s a kind of scary thought, right? The Jays are not actually playing way below expectation? So what should we expect when Alex Rios starts hitting like he can and Shaun Marcum stops his Greg Maddux impression? Probably the team we have now, a .500, mediocre team.
How does the team get better? I’ll start with the pitching because I believe, as of right now, it is good enough to be a playoff calibre pitching staff. Next year, there is one major piece missing in AJ Burnett, and although we can not realistically expect one of David Purcey, Brett Cecil, Davis Romero, Brandon League, or (hopefully!!) Casey Janssen to fill Burnett’s shoes, I think of this group they can adequately give us a solid MLB starter for 2009.
The offence is a whole other issue. For what they add offensively and defensively Wells, Rios, Rolen and Hill are position players on a MLB playoff team. If Overbay can put up a .850 OPS and provide his solid glove work he makes the cut (barely). I don’t know where to put Matt Stairs, but a strict platoon with Kevin Mench should give pretty solid DH numbers. That leaves three players, and three positions in need. An average team (like the Jays are this year) has an average to below average 7-8-9 hitters. A good team has an average to below average 8-9 hitters. A very good team has only one hole in the line-up and an awesome team has none.
The Jays can not float with their current LF, C, and SS situation. One of these can remain, and if I had to choose it would be the catching. If Zaun/Barajas are our number 9 hitters and the weakest link in the order we are in a position to do some damage. So, in order for this we need to find an improvement in LF and SS. LF is easy, call up Adam Lind and find a lefty masher to platoon him with. I would try to throw a bullpen arm or two at Tampa and see if they are willing to let Johnny Gomes go (he seems out of favour there). If not him, there are a plethora available. So that leaves SS. There are two free agents that I know about coming into next year, Orlando Cabrera and Rafael Furcal. The also happen to play for two teams that have money and seem to have a desire to retain them. I don’t think the Jays will have any luck prying them away. The other option is a trade. Khalil Greene and Bobby Crosby are two guys that can probably be had. I think you have to do it. It is still not ideal but it is an improvement. (The final option is trying to trade Ricky Romero for Troy Tulowitzki -yes, I had to go there).
I have been talking about next years team but really, we are almost two months into this year and as Wilner always mentions there is still plenty of ball to be played. Billy Beane once said he uses the first two months to evaluate his team, the next two to fix the deficiencies, and the last two to make a playoff push. If a Blue Jay playoff push is really as simple as calling up Lind, and trying to make a swap for Greene and Gomes, is it not worth a shot?
If the Jays don’t improve their SS and LF situations either this year or next they are not going to make the playoffs. I know this is getting ahead of ourselves, but at some point you might have to consider a fire sale. If they were to hold on to Hill, Rios, Marcum and McGowan, - and then trade everyone else of value for young players/prospects, in about three years with Lind, Snider, Cecil, Ahrens, Jackson, Eiland, Arencibia et al ready to join the show the Jays might have a better shot of making the playoffs. The other option is to trade some of those young names mentioned for a real LF and SS. Either way I can live with, but status quo is killing me.
To finish, the Jays are not an unlucky team, they are just an average team. Someone very dear to Dr. K once said “When it comes to luck, you make your own.” I fully believe that. Unlucky is having to watch the EuroVision song contest with your girlfriend- not once, but both semi's and the finals. Although if all songs were like this gem (that unbelievably came in third!) from 2006 it would not be that bad.
Unfortunately the songs are not all like that. In fact they are mostly shit. 25 shit songs. Yes, that is unlucky. (Although since I'm stuck watching, my money is on France this year. Check out the video for France's entry. It has Johnny Mac like style).
Thursday, May 15, 2008
Try this one out for size and tell me if you have an effin' clue what exactly happened:
(Runner on first is Jason Kubel)
Justin Morneau singles on a pop up to shortstop Marco Scutaro. Jason Kubel out at home, shortstop Marco Scutaro to catcher Rod Barajas.
I've been watching the baseball for a couple of decades now and this sounds like no play I've ever witnessed.
(On the plus side, the parade of outs and runners LOB is somehow a bit less painful when I can't actually see what's happening. So I've got that going for me.)
Are the other teams in the division looking forward to increased production from some of their surprising underachievers? The Yankees and the Rays seem to have their share of players off to slow starts (I'm not looking at the Os, because I'm sure they suck, and will soon fade). The Sox, though, have been lucky so far. Their pitching has been solid (you'd think Dice-K would come back to the pack a little, while Beckett will probably improve), but most of their hitters are exceeding their projections. Check out some of these numbers: Cash .375/.435/.475; Casey .345/.415/.448 (both Cash and Casey are part-timers, obviously); Youkilis .318/.393/.591 and Crisp .315/.340/.472. The team has an .817 OPS on the season. Ortiz is going to hit a lot better than he has, but you have to believe some of these other guys will drop off significantly (even Manny isn't going to give them 160 games at his current level). I don't see the Sox running away from the pack this season. The Yankees and Rays are going to be in it too, but they both have significant holes.
There's really no reason why we can't stay in the race in what looks to be a mediocre division. There's hope yet.
Friday, May 9, 2008
I like the signing, though. Mench is 30, so he probably hasn't fallen off a cliff yet. He hit a tasty .314/.343/.558 in 164 PAs against lefties last season, and has hit lefties at .305/.361/.558 over the past three years. That's a lot better than Jason Michaels, whose name I floated a few days ago. This is exactly the kind of signing we needed. I guaran-damn-tee that a Stairs/Mench platoon is going to be vastly superior to Thomas the rest of this year at DH. Well done, J.P.
As for Wilkerson, I'm not so sure. He hasn't hit well since 2004. I don't see him as an upgrade for LF. If this means we cut Stewart when one of the SSs come off the D.L., I'm okay with it, as long as Adam Lind re-enters the equation.
- Bob Dylan
As I was trudging home from the Dome in a suicidal funk last night, this line came on my Ipod, and it struck me as an appropriate epitaph to our season thus far. Of course epitaph isn't the right word because we're far from dead (or, in Dylanese, "it's not dark yet ... but it's gettin' there"), but you know what I mean.
Last week Razzer or Canate made the point that we seemingly haven't won any of those games that by rights we should lose, whereas we've lost a bunch that by rights we should have won. We're a decent team battling it out with a number of other decent teams for a spot atop the division and a wild-card place. The difference between all these teams at the end of the long slog will likely be based on which teams won more of those games they had no business winning. By this metric, we're a miserable failure.
Yesterday's game, of course, managed to fall into both categories at once. Heading to the bottom of 9 down three runs and facing a pitcher with a 0.27 WHIP and 0 runs allowed on the season is not a situation from which you expect to emerge victorious. I turned to my buddy at the start of the half-inning and asked what he thought our percentage chance of winning was. He said 10%. I countered with 5%. But once we rallied quite brilliantly for three runs to tie the game, things looked promising, and when Rios led off the bottom of ten with a triple (!!), surely our odds of victory were the exact mirror image of those above - that is to say, we should win a game from that situation at least 90-95% of the time. Not this time, junior.
We need to start winning a few of these, pronto.
A couple of thoughts:
- Stewart, to nobody's surprise, struck out when a simple fly ball would have won the game in the 10th (so did Stairs, but he's been good enough so far that he deserves a bit of slack). Every time Stewart comes up to bat, we're faced with the reality that Reed Johnson is in Chicago, Adam Lind is in Syracuse, Frank Thomas is in Oakland, Barry Bonds is in purgatory, and we have a massive sink-hole in the 2-spot. I hate the fact that JP is forcing me to resent a guy I used to like quite a bit.
- anyone who thinks we'd be a better team without VW (did anyone catch Jamie Campbell the other night, in a fit of overwhelming whiteness, call him "Vee-Double-U" instead of "Vee-Dub"?) is out to lunch.
- at the game last night I kept looking at our lineup on the big screen and checking out the OBPs and SLGs by the names. The OBPs, on the whole, are not atrocious. The slugging, on the other hand, is off the charts pathetic. There it was, in stark quantitative ugliness - all we are fucking capable of doing is walking and singling. And you know, if station-to-station is your bread and butter, you'd better get a goddamn hit with runners in scoring position once in a while, or you might end up going 20 straight games without ever scoring 6 runs.
- the guys over at Drunk Jays Fans had a nice bit the other day discussing the booing of Hinske. They're right, of course, that the booing stems mostly from the fact that the fat bastard sucked like a thousand hoovers, but there's a part of me that always feels guilty booing a guy simply because he sucks. If he tries his best, plays for the team, etc., it's hard to justify the booing (not that it's stopped me in Hinske's case). Ideally, a guy should be booed when he's a massive twat, not a bad player - see, e.g., Vince Carter. Well, good news. I have a story from a reputable source about Hinske, as a Jay, bitching about having to do some charitable appearances and insisting to his teammates that they should be paid for showing up to such events. At this point I don't care a great deal if this story is true (although I believe it is) - I'm just glad I can now boo the uncharitable, cancer-kid-hating, douche with a clear conscience.
- congrats to Razzer who, if I'm not mistaken, finished up his last exam yesterday. Raz, hope you enjoyed the giant kick in the nads the Jays got you as a graduation gift.
Wednesday, May 7, 2008
Canate, set me straight. Surely I'm missing something. From where I sit, we could have Johnny Mac batting 1 through 9 and we'd be a .500 team by virtue of eighty-one 1-0 wins. With an average lineup (which I've resigned myself to accepting is what we have), we should win 95 games going away.
Is it the Ravenswood talking, or do I have a point?
Even then, this move makes no sense. In the best case, McDonald's going to be out a few days. The difference between McDonald and Velandia is probably very little: the former is probably a little better in the field, the latter a bit better at the dish. So why not just DL McDonald immediately, bring up Velandia, and keep a real bat on the roster?
Maybe J.P.'s been blinded by Stewart's recent surge past the .650 OPS mark. So far this year, he's demonstrated that he simply does not understand the concept of the small sample-size.
Tuesday, May 6, 2008
The guy has been around too long to go through what he's going through in this here third inning, seemingly on a regular basis.
He blew through the first two innings, striking out five of six. Then the #7 hitter leads off the third, bloops a fluke single, and the freakin' wheels fall off. A.J. walks the next guy - the utterly shite and completely non-Overbayesque Gabe Gross - on 4 pitches. Before you can say "Gross is terrible - throw a goddamn strike", three runs are in.
With the way our offence is going, we might not overcome a three-run deficit if we're given 81 outs to play with instead of 27.
If it's a question of discomfort while pitching from the stretch, then Arnsberg needs to do something about that. If it's a mental thing (more likely), A.J. should be seeing a child psychologist. Christ, I thought A.J. was supposed to benefit from his closeness to the Doc. Well, it looks to me like not an ounce of the Doctor's mental toughness has rubbed off on our problem child.
Come on, now. Let's get those runs back. And let's pray the Rays don't get a single baserunner the rest of the way.
Or if not Michaels, some other free talent. Just sign someone, JP. These guys are out there. We don't even have to cut Stewart: with our deep starting rotation, we can send down one of the pen guys. But we need to close up this hole on offense.
Monday, May 5, 2008
His outings have been 1.1IP, 1IP, 2IP, 3IP and 3.1 IP, in that order.
It looks like they are stretching him out, something advocated by the likes of Razzer and Canate for a few years now.
That, combined with Eckstein batting 9th and being replaced by McDonald in the 9th, as well as the awesomeness of our pitching has me very, very happy.
Friday, May 2, 2008
That's the number of runs we've scored over the past ten games. A total of 25 runs: 2.5 per game! Alex Rios and Lyle Overbay have OBPs near .400, and Stairs and Rolen are off to hot starts. Everyone else stinks. Most worrying is our utter lack of power (and that applies to Rios, Overbay and Stairs too). I'm not sure there's a more frustrating offensive recipe than combining a decent base presence with a complete absence of extra-base hits. When Aaron Hill is driving the ball better than Vernon Wells, we have a serious problem. Part of our futility can be ascribed to bad luck with men on base, but not all of it. I'm not sure that our offensive ceiling was ever as high as I'd hoped. Take a look at the numbers: is there anyone, other than Lind, who you're willing to bet will significantly improve?
The lineup obviously looks better with Rolen and Lind than it did a week ago, but we still need another bat. I don't ever want to see Marco Scutaro start at 1B again.
If only we had Troy Tulowitzki. Oh wait, he's hitting .156/.226/.238 in 114 PAs, and is out until the All-Star break.