Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Late Evening Early Morning Semi-Drunken Roundup


Anddddd we're baaaack!

We're switching formats here at The Southpaw. When we started up in February we cleverly chose a name that did not imply any particular allegiance to one club but rather the whole concept of left-handedness, leaving room to switch formats/bandwagon jump mid-season to a more successful club. Hedging bets, we're now an Arizona Diamondbacks blog!

Note to readers: I am not left-handed, I'm pretty sure Twitchy isn't. Will definitely is and I would like to think he knows how to throw a mean knuckleball, but we've never actually played catch...

I somehow ended up getting MLB Extra Innings for free from Rogers, so I've been watching bits and pieces of about 3 games a day over the past few weeks. Standings aside, it's abuntantly clear that the Deebax are the club that everyone aspires to cheer for. Ludicris amounts of boner-inducing young talent, a reasonable payroll, weak divisional rivals to pound on. "Tabarnak ma calisse!" as they say in la belle province.

Why else should you love the Deebax? Trailing badly early this afternoon, they clawed back to within 2 of the Astros in the 6th when they called tomorrow's starter Micah Owings to pinch hit. Predicatably, he socked a two-run dinger to tie the game and AZ went on to win 8-7. At 20-8, the Deebax have slam dunked their way to the best record in the ML through April. Tits! That's awesome on so many different levels!

Are you saying that you'd rather listen to suck rock rather than join the country and western movement that's sweeping the nation?

Fine, Jays shit.

I will go on record saying that the listless 11-17 April the Jays just had has probably finished them for the year. Again, early. They saw the soft underbelly of Texas (5 games), Kansas City (3 games), Baltimore (2 games) , Oakland (3 games) and faced a weakened Boston squadran at home (3 games, swept em) yet decided against feasting on a tasty intestine sandwich. They've yet to win a game started by a lefty, which was the one constant last year. I throw my hands up in the air.

This free tang was rejected and there's no plausible explanation for rejecting free tang. None. Whatsoever.

I don't think this is a regular year baseball-wise; with 4 competitive teams in the AL East our division could be won by 90 games or fewer. The Wild Card likewise. The stickey wicket is that a 90-win finish would require at minimum a 79-55 record from the Jays from here on out. Not impossible, but I wouldn't bet a Scottish fiver on that outcome because I dislike losing the few bills that come my way. At the end of the year the eternal optimists will be taking solace in the fact that we staved off the Rays by a game or two. It's not looking good going forward if that's all we've got to cheer for. Piss! Cunt!

I know that this line of thinking is probably disagreable to Will, who puts great stock in the unexpectedly wonderful. It's hard to go against a rabid Jays fan from one of the remoter corners of the Pleasant South. I hope he retorts to this post with ten reasons why my head is stuck firmly up my ass because when we first got going he was supposed to be the brains of the operation.

I will nod my head to each of his arguments, because deep inside I want to believe that the impossible is quite indeed possible. Ironically, I started really watching baseball the very year that the Jays took a 12-24 start and turned it into a 89 win AL East-winning season. They were bulldozed in the ALCS by the A's, but that's another matter.

Should there be less relevant baseball material to write about as the dismal spiral continues, I'll have no alternative but to delve into matters of a personal nature. Coolness: Blair out-ed me in a non-sexual way when he wrote:

And now, while I'm listening to Stiff Little Fingers sing "Johnny Was" here are your lineups ...

My handle does indeed come from an SLF tune, which frankly should go down as one of the greatest songs of all time in my humble opinion. Seeing SLF live (as I did in Leeds, England back in 2002) makes you cool in the eyes of The Dropkick Murphys, and they're 100% punk rock behind the Bosox. I've been soft on Cathal Kelly of the Globe because of our shared Fenian heritage, and frankly, I'm humbled and deeply respectful of Blair for burying this random song reference in his blog.

You sir, merit a tip of the hat.

As I write this no punk rock bands or anyoneworth raising an eyebrow for is behind the Jays. If the Bostonians do Sweet Caroline collectively, how many tears would I shed if we here were capable of doing this one together en masse 30 g strong? The answer is "all of them."

-- Johnny Was

Shout out!

I'd like to give Terry Francona a quick thank you for keeping the Jays in the game.

In the 8th inning of the game, with Lind up and Zaun behind him he goes to Delcarmen. So Lind gets a hit, and he goes to the lefty - Zaun is struggling vs LHP, but for his career he's much better vs lefties. No surprise to me Zaunnie gets a big hit against the lefty. THEN, with Rios, Eck & Rolen up, instead of walking Rios he lets him swing, and he just misses a 2 run double. A sac fly later, and it's 1-1.

Then, with 2 out, and Rolen up & Stairs on deck, he opts to face Rolen. Now, it worked out, but more often than not thats gonna burn Francona.

You see, he did everything he could in that inning to lose every platoon advantage. He could have brought Oki vs Lind, kept him vs Zaun, and then Delcarmen vs the 3 RH batters.

So I'd like to thank Francona for doing everything he can to keep the Jays into the game. Remember that 8th inning series of pitching changes the next time you hear someone asking to fire Gibbons! Cause that was pretty shameful of Francona.

Twitchy.

The Josh Towers Thesis

Jay K., a frequent commentator around these parts, is an old associate of mine with a rabid enthusiasm for wiffleball and an unquenchable thirst for Busch tall boys. Every time he reads a new installment of Checkin' in With Josh at DJF we end up reminiscing over MSN Messenger about simpler times-- specifically 2006, aka The Summer of Lakeport--when it was clear to all and sundry just what was wrong with the Jays (Josh Towers) and want was needed to make them better (the public execution by firing squad of Josh Towers).

In his own words, Jay reflects on happier times:

Yeah, I miss the days in the way back file where we had a direction for our blind rage. Every fifth day that Shit Leopard went out there and wore his spots with pride.

Damn straight.

Just to refresh your memory, JT went 2-10 with an 8.42 ERA in a season that saw the Jays win 87 games and finish 8 back of the Tigers for the Wild Card. His constant, specultacular suckage was pretty much the exact margin separating a very good team from a playoff berth, making him a wonderful scapegoat for more than a decade's worth of frustration with the Jays and life in general. It was simple being a diehard fan back then because it was all so obvious. We needed him to make sense of the world just as the happy denizens of George Orwell's 1984 needed to work themselves up into a Two Minute Hate when the government showed them images of Emmanuel Goldstein. Frankly, I kind of miss the guy.

These days there's really no decent explanation as to why a collection of good to excellent pitchers and a lineup with enough average to very good hitters just can't seem to win. Some of you want to blame Eckstein, but he's come exactly as advertised. Dislike him or no, we got the man JP paid for, and yes, J-Mac should be his defensive caddy without a doubt. Shannon Stewart? His suckage has been noteworthy, but he's now no more than a platoon DH who should be occassionaly seen but not heard over the rest of the summer. Ditto Marco Scutaro. Vernon Wells? There's a growing movement to label him the 2008 scapegoat, but he could very easily have a hot week and silence the naysayers. Temporarily. There's just no single player on the current roster half as detrimental to the club's success as JT was back in '06. And that confuses the hell out us, which is the core of the Josh Towers Thesis.

Regardless of what happens tonight in Boston, there's no denying that the first month of the season has been an unmitigated disaster. The rational side of my brain wants to agree with those who argue that it would be silly to chuck in the towel at 4.5 games back with 5 months left to play. Yet the emotional side that says things clearly aren't working and heads must roll is winning out. I've been reflecting on the state of the franchise (and daydreaming about boobies, as per the norm) for much of the day and have come to the conclusion that if JP doesn't want Gibby to be the scapegoat for the team's failures to date--which I think is honourable of him-- then both men should go sooner rather than later.

There's nothing particularly wrong with either in their respective roles, it's just that they're not good enough to succeed in this environment. Both have learned much in their time here, but they haven't learned it fast enough. I've sung JP's praises before: he's excellent at identifying scrap heap talent and getting ML production from it (Zaun, Cat, for a time, Towers), he's skinned a few GMs in one-sided trades (getting Overbay and Accardo most notably), and stuck with slumping young prospects (Rios, McGowan) who went on to become elite talents after quite a few other so-called experts wanted to run them out of town.

But he's made a good number of mistakes, too. There's no way he should've run the current payroll up so close his $100 million ceiling if the consequence was running the risk of being locked into a series of bad baseball decisions. The cheapo move to hold Adam Lind, a superior player to Shannon Stewart in every respect, back in AAA for a week to save Super 2 money in 2010 was partly responsible for the horrid week the Jays just had. Going north with Stewart over Reed Johnson to save cash was also a lamentable move.

JP's had to cheap out and make bad baseball decision because of some ill-thought out deals he made in the past. The $126 million Vernon Wells contract may have been dictated to him by Paul Godfrey and the marketing department, but JP should've had the courage to argue tooth and nail against it. He knew well that Rios could have been shifted to centre and a cheap corner OF or platoon could've brought a similar level of production at a fraction of the cost, but signed off on a reckless contract nevertheless. (Any contract worth more than $100 million is reckless in my mind). We should've let V-Dub walk, or traded him on a high after his great 2006. Going multiyear on a rapidly decling Frank Thomas was obviously a similarly bad move, as many predicted at the time he was signed. Even Scott Downs could've and should've been traded in the offseason when he was at peak value rather than given a 3-year $10-million extension. Who has four lefties in the pen, all capable of handing higher leverage innings?

Is this enough to warrant his firing under normal circumstances? Hell no. But things are just going so horribly wrong at present that we might as well make a change for changes sake even if what comes next isn't necessarily a sure thing to be any better.

It's not you JP and Gibby, it's us.

This post is dedicated to Jay and Lakeport breweries, both of whom were integral parts of my oh so very drunken summer of 2006.

-- Johnny Was

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Oops, I did it again!


This loss was pretty brutal, and I shouldn't be posting after it cause I'll probably say a few things I'll regret....

Am I the only one absolutely frustrated with Vernon Wells? It's his third error of the season, and by my count the 7th or 8th time on a routine ground ball it somehow bobbles out of his glove. Maybe it's a wet grass or a bad hop once or twice, but this is getting ridiculous. I don't know if it's a lack of focus, or if he's seriously having trouble fielding somewhat routine plays, but it's getting out of hand now. Watch Wells going forward on routine plays, because I'm positive he's booting a ton of routine plays and not getting called out for it.

This time it cost Doc and the Jays a huge opportunity to gain ground in the AL East. I'll give credit to Lester - he pitched a good game. But Doc was just incredible. His curve, his two seemer, they were as good as they've ever been. He was the definition of an ace in that game. And yet, he comes out with a loss.

The Jays got 4 BB and couldn't do anything with it. When a pitcher hands you so many bases, it's unacceptable not to score on them.

I really got a bad vite when I saw Halladay leave at the end of the game. He was beyond pissed, and I think his frustration went beyond this game. That should count as his fourth straight complete game, and yet he's lost 3 of the 4 games.

Despite all the failed attempts at driving in runners, this game was pretty much over when Pedroia absolutely robbed Wells of a hit in the 8th. If the Jays had built any momentum, it was gone and transferred to Boston.

Tabler & JC brought up a good point earlier in the game. This team will live & die by how Vernon Wells does. And I think it was pretty obvious tonight.

Twitchy.

Dave Purcey, Bâtard Magnifique

Dave Purcey rebounded from his worst start of the year (6 IP, 2 ER, yes, I am aware that he was still very good) with a Halladay-esque performance against the Lehigh Valley Ironpigs, the worst team in the International League by leaps and bounds.

Purcey went 8 strong, allowing only 2 hits and no runs earned or otherwise. The most encouraging sign was that he walked only one while striking out 9. He threw 72 of 100 pitches for strikes and induced 10 groundouts to 5 fly ball outs. Everything about this outing was delicious.

The Chiefs won 1-0, pushing one across in the 9th to make a winner of Big D.

Regardless of where you stand on Jesse Litsch as the fifth starter--and I do think he's adequate in that role no matter how much I rip on him--Purcey is auditioning nicely for the rotation spot that's soon to be vacated by AJ Burnett.

Like Job, poor Doc was made to suffer once again tonight. I'm really in no mood to listen to Wilner after his third straight complete game loss because I don't feel like hearing rationalizations about how much more baseball there is left to play this season.

I'm inconsolabe and need to pour myself a whisky.

-- Johnny Was

The Roundup

Singing Country Lady Mindy McCready confirms that her relationship with Rocket Roger Clemens did involve naked hugging. And so on.

Jeff Blair calls out Vernon Wells, who's been like night and day this year:

It's nice that Scott Rolen has infused the Toronto Blue Jays with a little bit of presence but, really, shouldn't that be Vernon Wells's job?

Good point. Through the first 3-4 series of the year it looked like V-Dub was re-establishing himself as the one-man wrecking crew he was in 2003 and 2006. Since then he's looked like Shea Hillenbrand: dead pull hitter, the patience is gone, the results are disappointing. I will pass on the opening for an inappropriate lemur comment.

The big loser from more of the same from V-Dub this season will not be the handsomely-rewarded centrefielder as much as it will be manager John Gibbons, who still has the Sword of Damocles hanging over his head.

We go into Boston with these three matchups:

Halladay-Lester
McGowan-Matsuzaka
Burnett-Wakefield

I suspect the finale will be the most encouraging game of the set as AJ finally brings it all together and throws a gem against a legitimate offense. It was nice ending the losing streak on Sunday, but now the real business of deciding whether we're going to let this season spiral out of control is about to be addressed and I am feeling more than a little bit of trepidation.

MLBTR reports that the Reds have been shopping an unhappy Ryan Freel with little success. The 32-year-old former Jay is owed $7 million over this year and next. Do you see where I'm going with this? If the Reds were willing to eat some salary to move him and unclog their outfield logjam, Freel (good OBP skills, has hit lefties well, good OF D, basestealing speed) is far more worthy of a roster spot here than Shannon Stewart.

ELSEWHERE:

* The Big Hurt socked a triple yesterday, his first since the dead ball era, and went 3 for 3 with a walk in the A's 14-2 drubbing of the Angels yesterday. Mmhmm.

* Ouch! The Giants move $100 million shitballer Barry Zito to the bullpen. Have I ever mentioned why I dislike Bob McCown? It's not because he's abrasive, that I have no difficulty with. But the man clearly knows nothing about baseball. When JP failed in his bid to resign Ted Lilly and bring Gilgamesh on board in the 2006 offseason, McCown dropped this wisdom bomb: there's money in the kitty, if you can't get two $10 million starters why not go for one $20 million one? He wasn't disuaded by Brunt's (I think it was Brunt) counter argument that the money required to git 'er done was just as silly as the idea of targetting a rapidly declining lefty with fly ball rates that spelled disaster in the Rogers Centre. The Bobcat probably does know alot about sports I don't care a lick for, primarily the CFL, golf, and professional car driving (I'm just pulling them out of a hat, correct me if I'm wrong) but he's a poor source for informed baseball commentary and is thus totally useless to me.

* Things that pass for funny in the lesser divisions of the American League...

-- Johnny Was

Monday, April 28, 2008

The Roundup

That's right, victory! And mercifully, an off day to let it all sink in before taking on the hated (and also reeling?) Boston Red Sox at Fenway. Previews here, yo.

Normally I bury this sort of semi-interesting bit of info on an AL East rival at the end of The Roundup, but this is just too juicy. Rogers Clemens was villified as a drug user and liar after the Mitchel Report came out and here's betting that the Rocket will now likely look back fondly on those simpler times after what's come out in the NY Daily New this morning.

If you're a reprehensible human being, why not also commit adultory (well, technically statuatory rape because the relationship began when she was 15) with country singer Mindy McCready? Rog denies that the two played hide the hotdog and claims the relationship was on the up and up. He's a believable guy (to Republican fan boys), so I'm sure this will just blow over.

There's a line of thinking that goes like this: Gregg Zaun can't throw, Gregg Zaun is a bad catcher, and finally, Gregg Zaun should be run out of town. Oh, I totally don't see his name in either category here in a list provided by Yahoo's Weekly Rundown, so what gives?

BEST AND WORST AT CATCHING BASE THIEFS (and this week's opponents)
BOTTOM 5 (Worst) CS ATT CS%
John Buck, KC – (at Texas, at Cleveland) 1 12 0.083
Brian McCann, Atl – (at Washington, Cincinnati) 3 21 0.143
Mike Napoli, LAA – (Oakland, Baltimore) 2 13 0.154
Josh Bard, SD – (at Philadelphia, at Florida) 6 33 0.181
A.J. Pierzynski, ChW – (at Minnesota, at Toronto) 3 13 0.230
TOP 5 (Best) CS ATT CS%
Joe Mauer, Min – (Chi White Sox, Detroit) 6 12 0.500
Matt Treanor, Fla – (L.A. Dodgers, San Diego) 7 15 0.467
Victor Martinez, Cle – (Seattle, Kansas City) 5 11 0.454
Paul Bako, Cin – (at St. Louis, at Atlanta) 7 16 0.438
Yorvit Torrealba, Col – (at San Francisco, L.A. Dodgers) 4 10 0.400

Will has speculated that JP should extend Zaun for 2009 at some point this year and I would concur with that line of thinking. Johjima is off the market now (not that it was a smart deal for the M's, but that's another story), so there really isn't much you can do with cash to upgrade at the position. Zaunner is an adequate catcher who'll come cheaply and be classy enough to help transition a rookie, probably Diaz) into his job. Fits like a glove, dudes.

I sometimes say disparaging things about The Sun, but I don't want to give the impression that Bob Elliot doesn't often write a nice, folksy little piece or two from time to time. Despite the horrible week we just had, we're still just 3.5 back in the division. The DJFs like to think that the poor baseball we played was the byproduct of a nasty flu bug going around the club house and there's no reason to find that argument implausible. As I frequently say, the Glass is Half Full (of Sleeman's).

Blair notes that Scotty Downs has some "shoulder tenderness", but there's no indication yet he'll have to visit the DL. It would be less that catastrophic if he did now with the emergence of Jesse Carlson, who picked up the save yesterday.

Wilner credits Gibby for shaking up the lineup yesterday, but still would prefer to see Eck slotted down near the bottom. Agreed, but baby steps. I like that he moved V-Dub down, realizing that salary shouldn't determine where you hit. "No blogaggeness" with the off day today.

ELSEWHERE:

* Jorge Posada will be headed to the DL with a shoulder injury. This had to be expected, I mean in general terms; the Yankees are a very old team and some of these guys are bound to break down over the course of the season.

* Um, the Rays just swept the Bosox. Are we in for a 4-team race in the AL East? I still don't think so, but some will jump to that conclusion.

-- Johnny Was

Fantasy Baseball Week 4

The Toucans have been struggling lately, but there's no reason to complain about how we did in week 4. We faced a tough opponent in ShaveThoseSideburns, and the final score was 5-6-1. That doesn't show how dominant Sideburns was during the week, as they held a 3-8-1 lead heading into Sunday.

Honestly though, I'm not too disappointed, as the Toucans collectively hit 358/518 (OBP/Slug) for the week which is pretty impressive. I had 8 HR, which generally should win you a ton of offensive categories. Unfortunately Sideburns just had probably the best week of the season, collectively hitting 435/578 (OBP/slug) with 10 HR. That's pretty damn good, and you just gotta tip your hat to him for having a good week.

My streaming strategy is what saved the week for us. The Toucans dominated in counting stats like wins, strikeouts and quality starts, while Jon Rauch managed to tie up saves at the last possible minute. If Sideburns made one mistake, it was starting his pitchers when he had a clear edge in the rate stats - ERA & WHIP. He couldn't catch us in the counting stats, so a smart idea would have been to bench his starters and take his wins in ERA/WHIP. He started a couple pitchers, and this was the result. He had both Livan & Nathan, so it wasn't a great night for him. He did get a nice Josh Beckett start, which probably saved the day.

The reason this cost him though, was because I ended up taking WHIP by .02, and I almost won ERA. Otherwise he's up 7-4-1 on the week. Let that be a lesson to all you head2head players - when you have an edge in rate stats heading into the last day, don't start your pitchers! It'll do more harm than good.

Going forward, the Toucans look pretty strong. Longoria has been a terrific pick for us, and Votto continues to rake. Glaus is starting to heat up and we all know what he can do on his prolonged hot streaks. Utley is the hottest player in baseball right now, while Posada & Drew (SS) give us a terrific IF. Beltran, Swisher, Dunn & Corey Hart really need to pick it up though, or the Toucans will remain in the bottom half. Right now the Toucans are 10th out of 14th, but one good week and we're back in the top 6.

This week the Toucans will battle against I'm On My Couch. The couch-potatoes are currently behind the Toucans at 11th, and the psychological battle has already begun. My first barrage consisted of "Hey Couch-Potatoes - better get some comfort food for when I open the can of whoopass". I know he'll be devastated.

Well, that's all for Week 4 of fantasy baseball. But do you think you're capable of psyching out those crazy Couches? Support your local Toucans of Whoopass by posting what you would say to psych out I'm On My Couch. If it's crazy, dirty, and underhanded, all the better! The Toucans need your help more now than ever, Heroes!

Update: I think it'd make more sense if I put the standings for everyone to see..

Rank Team W-L-T Pct GB Last Week Waiver Moves
1. Base Belong to Rios 32-14-2 .688 - 7-4-1 9 4
2. Bluebird Banter 26-20-2 .563 6 10-1-1 11 16
3. The Huck Fleners 24-19-5 .552 6.5 5-6-1 5 13
4. I'm In Your Mind 23-19-6 .542 7 7-5-0 12 5
5. The_Reverend 24-20-4 .542 7 4-7-1 2 2
6. Mulliniks' Staches 25-22-1 .531 7.5 2-10-0 13 5
7. Mockingbird 24-22-2 .521 8 10-2-0 3 9
8. Mop Up Duty 23-21-4 .521 8 8-3-1 8 4
9. ShaveThoseSideburns 20-19-9 .510 8.5 6-5-1 10 3
10. Toucans Of Whoopass 20-23-5 .469 10.5 5-6-1 6 25
11. I'm On My Couch 18-26-4 .417 13 5-7-0 1 5
12. Born to Ghostrun 17-27-4 .396 14 3-8-1 4 6
13. Tao of Stieb 17-27-4 .396 14 1-10-1 14 9
14. Swayze4Life 16-30-2 .354 16 6-5-1 7 7


Twitchy.

Sunday, April 27, 2008

BWNR vol. 3


That's Bi-Weekly Narcissistic Rankings in case you are wondering . . .

Something else that might have crossed your mind - what does the lovely and talented Jewel Staite have to do with a ranking of major league baseball teams?

Absolutely nothing.

But what had you rather have me do - search the interwebs for some lame but vaguely relevant graphic every time I make one of these lists? Or bless your eyes with one of god's more beautiful creations?

Yeah. that was the same conclusion I came to. Besides, there's more than one way to get folks to look at my posts, eh?

On to the list!

I noted last week that early season fluctuations can be radical, and that my self imposed 12-slot limit on movement would occasionally cause some counterintuitive placements. Also, there is still the illusion that some teams are better (or worse) than any sane analysis can support. Bear with me and as we get more and more games played we will seperate the contenders from the pretenders more clearly.

1. Arizona (1)- Has given us no reason to doubt.
2. LA Angels (3)- moving up from #3, have held together well while their top two pitchers have been on the shelf
3. Boston (4)- righted the ship, seemingly, with an impressive run, but now they are skidding on a five game losing streak.
4. Chicago Cubs (14)- big climber this time.
5. St Louis (10)- These two are virtually tied but I don't want to get into a habit of copping out with ties. Since Chicago has been somewhat better since the last list, I went with them
6. Chicago White Sox (6)- Danks and Floyd are proving to be real finds for Kenny Williams so far
7. Oakland (15)- refusing to go away
8. Milwaukee (5)- as other teams move up they slide towards what is probably a mre realistic slot
9. Philadelphia (11)- the slippage of other teams means that the Phillies move up
10. N. Y. Mets (8)- waiting on Pedro...
11. Cleveland (7)- still not playing up to expectations
12. Tampa Bay (19)- I'm not on the Rays bandwagon at all, but got to give props for sweeping the Red Sox
13. N. Y. Yankees (12)- Like Cleveland, Toronto, and Detroit, not impressing early
14. Toronto (2)- an impressive first 12 games, a hideous next 12 games, a drop of the maximum twelve slots
15. Atlanta (9)- could have fallen farther but for the movement of some other teams
16. Florida (28)- up the maximum, they - like Oakland and Baltimore - insist on hanging around and muddying the waters a while longer
17. Baltimore (25)-this pains me, I'll be glad when the LSD-like hallucinations in the standings begin to clear up some
18. L.A. Dodgers (21)- some recovery from a very bad start in relation to their hopes
19. Detroit (13) - have been considerably better the last couple of weeks but they still had some dropping to do based on their astonishingly bad first two weeks
20. Seattle (17)- not impressing anyone
21. Houston (26)- some folks thought this team would be a contender - I don't see it
22. Kansas City (18)-regression to the mean?
23. Minnesota (20)- some of these teams it's hard to say much about
24. Cincinnati (24)- maybe pulling out of their skid
25. San Diego (16)- i really figured they would be better than this
26. Colorado (27)- probably too early for me to say this but those of you who thought last year's freakish September and October run justified O'Dowd - yeah, not so much.
27. Pittsburgh (22) - yet another non-descript year
28. Texas (23)- probably not THIS bad
30. Washington (29)- have to be disappointed that Florida isn't keeping them out of the basement.

~WillRain

Line Up Switch Up

Hey, why the hell not, right?

Gibby decided today to make major overhauls in his batting order and most folks, including your humble corespondent) thinks he's showing some good ideas here - IF he sticks with it.

Here's the way they lined up in K.C. today:

Alex Rios, RF
Lyle Overbay, 1B
Scott Rolen, 3B
Matt Stairs, DH
Vernon Wells, CF
Aaron Hill, 2B
Adam Lind, LF
Rod Barajas, C
John McDonald SS

Now, overlooking the presence of Barajas and McDonald for a second, the rest of that looks mighty good. Rios leading off is appealing for many reasons, not the least of which is because this year (and, IIRC, on his career) he's been a better hitter with the bases empty than with runners in scoring position. Overbay hitting second would trouble me in a vacuum because I really like Hill in the 2 hole BUT given how well this lineup avoids that problem we have been seeing of having all our LH bats bunched together, I think that it works.
Scott "Messiah" Rolen (who's having another ass-kicking game today, BTW!) hitting third is - to borrow a word from my pals at DJF - bonerific!
Stairs cleaning up nestled in between Rolen and Wells is perfectly positioned, Wells out of the clean-up spot is overdue, and the rest of the lineup flows naturally from there. That line-up produces a much more natural R/L balance:

R-L-R-L-R-R-L-S-R

One can only pray that we stick with this when Eckstien returns and the Little Big Man will slide into the #9 spot.

Oh, and just for the sheer joy of repeating it, through five innings of todays game Scott Rolen is:

.444 - .545 - .1.000 - 1.545

He has three XBH in four total hits, 4 RBI and a stolen base! I think we can quit worrying about whether he's ready to hit.

Despite the six game losing streak, I still believe. The light at the end of the tunnel is not a train.

~WillRain

Notes from my couch

Seeing as I'm too massively hungover after a semi-raucus stag and doe to sustain a coherent line of argument, may I present you with a collection of rando Sunday afternoon thoughts:

So, you're probably wondering who won the toonie toss. That would be this guy, proud owner of a 60 of delicious Crown Royal. Sometimes the sun just shines out of my ass.

If you're going with powder blues, you have to fully commit to them. I thought that was obvious enough that it doesn't need saying, but nothing the Royals are wearing this afternoon (royal blue hat, powder blue jersey and white pants) matchs. Watch for Gil Meche on Mr. Blackwell's worst-dressed list for 2008. Fletcher concurs that the Royals are very silly looking.

Wait? Doesn't Fletcher only call games/tell stories about famous hot dogs after any hope of salvaging the season has been lost? What does this all mean? I'm not willing to let this team break up with me just yet.

Nice to see Alex Rios jogging to second base on that drive he hit to deep right centre to open the game. David "don't mess with" Dejesus dropped the ball when he hit the ground making a pretty impressive attempt at a diving catch and buggered the throw back in to the infield, allowing Rios to advance to third. Had he actually been running he might well have scored. I know he did cross the plate, but still. Outfielders who appear to be day dreaming all time can't be productive players, can they?

I call Gibby out for managerial incompetence earlier in the week and today he shows that maybe he isn't just phoning it in. Today's lineup sees a slumping Vernon Wells dropped from the cleanup spot to 5th, with Rolen moving into the 3 hole. And he rewards the skip by socking a dinger in his first trip. Here's hoping that this becomes a permanent thing, because as all three of us here have noted V-Dub's splits against righties clearly show that he shouldn't be hitting that high up in the order. With his job on the line, Gibby may well be ready to go with the grouping of talent that he believes to be the most likely to win rather than what's politically correct.

Anyone interested in forming a competitive wiffleball league? If you don't think this looks like one of the more funner things you could be doing with your free time this summer you're just crazy.

As Gilgamesh deals for the Kansas Citys today, note that he too suffered a labrum injury similar to the one that befell our beloved 2007 setup man Casey Janssen. I'm not saying young Casey will be ready to rock as our 5th starter next year (saving us from more gingervitis), but Meche only missed his age 22 to season and was not, in fact, put down like a race horse with a broken leg. Measured in dollar terms, he's now the "ace" of his staff, but you already knew that didn't you, Saxy boy?

A three error inning? That's impressive. Impressively crappy.

This is about as much sitting up as I can handle for the time being, so I'm signing off here in the 4th inning.

-- Johnny Was

Saturday, April 26, 2008

Lind Up, Inglett Down

Thanks to Rotoworld for making my day...

Blue Jays optioned infielder Joe Inglett to Triple-A Syracuse.
Inglett hit .303/.351/.394 in 33 at-bats while helping to fill in for Scott Rolen.

Blue Jays recalled outfielder Adam Lind from Triple-A Syracuse.
Lind, who likely would have been recalled as soon as Frank Thomas was released if not for a sore neck, was hitting .356 with four homers for Syracuse. He figures to start against practically every righty the Jays face, making him a nice asset in AL-only leagues. Shannon Stewart should receive less playing time.

The last part makes me very happy.

The Adam Lind era has begun. No pressure buddy, but we really need you to save the offense...

Twitchy.

Friday, April 25, 2008

Don't Mess with De Jesus!

David Dejesus really didn't accomplish much of any great importance in tonight's laugher against KC, but I've been holding that one in for weeks waiting for a Jays-Royals series.

If you're not already acquainted with him, you will get to know the young Billy Butler very soon. The butterball Royals DH came close to an .800 OPS at age 21 last year in his rookie season and has computer projection models ringing happily.

Prospect guy John Sickels writes:

There is absolutely no doubt in my mind that, barring a catastrophic injury of some sort, Butler will be an excellent major league hitter. But the exact shape of that excellence is still a question. He has the long-term ability to hit .340-.350 eventually. He could be a 30+ homer guy if he concentrates more on power at the expense of batting average. With a maximal outcome, he could do BOTH at some point.

I picked Butler in my fantasy league because I like to have a a few players of this pedigree in my back pocket for deadline moves, but I'm thinking I just might hang on to the Chubby Bunny.

There are some obvious similarities between Butler and our very own wunderkind Travis Snider. Physically, they're both stocky (I'm being polite; both have been accused of having "bad" bodies) and would probably be taken by strangers as linebackers rather than ballplayers. Both were early first round picks straight out of high school and tore up the minors. Neither is very accomplished in the field, but Snider could very well end up in the outfield or first whereas Butler's bat earned him such a rapid promotion that he didn't have time to learn to play any position adequately.

Age 18: Rookie League

Butler: .373/.488/.596 (260 ABs)
Snider: .325/.412/.567 (194 ABs)

Age 19:

Butler: A+ .348/.419/.636 (379 ABs); AA .313/.353/.527
Snider: A .313/.377/.525

The biggest difference between the two is their K rate. Butler struck out only 87 times between AAA and the bigs while drawing 70 walks in a combined 532 ABs. Those numbers are remarkable considering the tender age at which he was playing at such a high level. Snider's K numbers have hovered around 25% in both of his pro seasons to date, which has alarmed some.

Snider came through the Appalacian and Midwest Leagues, both of which are known to be highly favourable to pitchers. Butler put up an .887 OPS in AA at age 20 and was up to the bigs the following year after a short 57-game stint in AAA.

Is Snider, 20, a year and a half away from the bigs? Butler was admittedly a more polished hitter at the same age, but Marc Hulet has speculated that Snider may well be simliarly rushed. He feels that if this is the case it would be more the product of JP's need to prove that he's capable of developing star players rather than serving the best interests of the player.

Nevertheless, I reckon you'll hear the two mentioned in the same breath with increasing frequency as Snider's ML debut draws closer.

Zach Greinke was dominant tonight but the bullpen coughed it up on him. And then David Ecstein made his second error of the night on a routine double play feed from Scott Downs. Why would we use J-Mac as his defensive caddy? Oh that's right: thanks asshole, you single-handedly lost the game.

Saviour Scott Rolen? I'd fucking say so. He drew a walk in his first AB, hit a deep flyball to left in his second, hit a hard grounder to short, then went all Stud Powercock and hit a massive 2-run double to put the Jays up 4-2 in the 8th. That's dirtbaggin' boyos! Oh wait, we still lost. To the Royals.

Overbay responded to the allegations that he's got no pop left in the 7th by socking his first dinger of the year to right centre, knotting the game at one. Twitchy brought the issue up here as part of his due dilligence as a statistical observer of all things, but we wanted to believe that Overbay's 2006 season isn't so far in the rear view mirror. Let's hope that turns out to be the case.

Narrator (Jerry Seinfeld tone): What is the deeeeaaaaal with Adam Lind?

It's impossible to get a straight answer. Mlb.com gives us this:

Manager John Gibbons said prior to Friday's game against Kansas City that the hot-hitting Lind could be close to joining the Blue Jays.

"He may be here in a few days," Gibbons said. "He has had the neck problem, but he's getting beyond that."

Right, thanks skip. Miss Cleo is more specific.

There's been a good deal of internet speculation that Super 2 considerations are the sole reason why Lind hasn't been called up yet. I'd rather learn advance calculus than find out what Super 2 actually means, but in a vague terms it's related to a player's service time and arbitration eligibility. Short version: the longer the club holds Lind back, the less risk he becomes a super 2 and the less the club has to pay him when he hits his arb year. So, it's all about money.

I put the question to Blair and this is what he said:

I'm told that service time is, in fact, 95 per-cent of the reason that Lind hasn't been up yet - along with a sore neck which doesn't appear to have hampered him at the plate. My understanding is that the Blue Jays want to prevent Lind from being what is called a "Super-2," that's it's more about arbitration eligibility than free agency. Each year a varied percentage of players without three years of service time are essentially "granted" salary arbitration rights, anyhow. The number isn't fixed, but it is common for teams to figure out how long they need to keep a player down in the minors to err on the side of caution and prevent him from becoming a "Super-2." Unless it's a guy like Evan Longoria, someone who can single-handedly change the dynamic of the team, it's a common practice for Major League clubs.

Players only receive credit toward service time when they are in the majors. Oh ... and I'm told Lind could be up with the big team this weekend. Good thing, too, because this was a team that was short from the left side even when it thought Lyle Overbay was going to hit for power

So, despite having the job security of an Iraqi suicide bomber, JP decides to throw games away in April this year to save the club a few hundred grand in 2010. You've got to admire the man's loyalty to an organization that will no longer be employing him at that point.

Or you pound your fists on the table and wonder how he could profess to having assembled a team that's built to win this year--when the Yankees are at their weakest since the early 1990s and the Rays a year from being a really serious contender--and not scratch tooth and nail for every possibly win.

Fuck you, JP. Fuck you.

If that's the way it's going to be, I suggest you do like Parkes. Enjoy the sport for what it is, get out to the ball game, stare at large-chested broads from the comfort of your dark shades, sign up for credit cards you don't want for a free t-shirt, and most importantly, have a good time.

There's Euro 2008 this summer, as well. As always, I'll be cheering on Les Bleus, mustering up the courage to ask the Mrs. if we can name our first born son Zinedine...

-- Johnny Was

The Roundup


In the words of Mark McGwire, "I'm not here to talk about the past" (three games against the Tampa Ray Rays). Ok, I made that end part up, but I'm still not talking about it.

Scott Rolen will indeed be starting at the hot corner tonight as we kick off a 3-game road set against the Royals, another team that's not quite so lowly as they used to be. There is much talk that no one is expecting him to be the club's saviour, though quietly everyone is indeed expecting him to fill that role. Well, at least I am.

Shit... Dick Griffin writes that Rolen is the answer to the Jays shortcomings, which means that things can only go horribly wrong from here.

Blair is soliciting questions for a mailbag later today, so if you have anything you'd like to ask the old grump, fire it this way.

Adam Lind Watch: speculation grew mid-afternoon that he was on his way to join the Jays when he wasn't in the starting lineup for the Chiefs matinee with Pawtucket yesterday. Sadly, though, the hopes of dozens of like-minded nerds who actually have minor league gamedays open on their desktops were dashed when he came in to pinch hit (hitting a single) late in the game. Lind is now hitting a mere Tony Gwyn-esque .365, falling far short of JP's Ted Williams 1941 expectations for the young slugger.

Gibby responded to allegations that he's "abusing Doc" with a curt "go fuck yourself" (note: not his actual words). Bastian notes that Doc has averaged only 111 pitches over his past 3 starts, all complete games, and there's nothing out of the ordinary in that. I don't mind letting Doc finish games; in fact, when he takes the hill I'm actually expecting him to throw a complete game. It would be quite interesting to see how Cy Young voters would react if he was to put up about 15 CGs this year. How do you even measure the awesomeness of that accomplishment these days? We really should have his DNA sent off to a South Korean lab for human cloning.

Wilner invents the word "pathetictude" to describe the performance of the Jays' bats down in Florida. That's one of the things that I like about Wilner, how he makes up words like "Blue Jayically" and "bloggage". He figures that Lind will be in the lineup tonight, mmhmm... do go on...

Since nobody puts it in perspective better, here's the warm hug that is MW trying to soothe your jangled nerves:

All is not lost because the Blue Jays are actually a good team, all evidence to the contrary. They sit 4th in the league in on-base percentage and 5th in the league in ERA. Eventually all those runners, all those chances, will turn into some scoring. They’re hitting .260 as a team, but .234 with runners in scoring position. Worse still, just .216 with RISP and two out. I mean, that’s Yankee bad! But things even out over the course of 162 games, and by the end of it all, the Jays’ hitting in all situations should be about the same. Which means they’re due. Of course, they’ve been due for a six- or seven-game winning streak for a few years now, but that’s another story.

The power outage is what’s so hard to explain. Tied for last in the league in home runs, 11th in the league in doubles. It’s baffling, but I honestly don’t think there’s any reason to believe it won’t come around. Even without Frank Thomas, the Jays should get enough offense from Hill, Rios, Wells, Stairs, Rolen and Overbay to make them a better-than-decent line-up, and Eckstein, Zaun and (hopefully) Lind are all better-than-average bats at their positions. This is a team that should score, and not just against the Red Sox. And I believe it will.

Doesn't that feel better?

Ken Rosenthal
concurs with JP's assessment that John Gibbons is an easy target and doesn't deserve to be fired. And yet that still might happen (for both men) if this slow start drags on much longer.

Frank Thomas
claims to be quite happy to be back with the A's. I note without commentary that he was 0 for 3 with 2 walks in his re-debut (is that a Wilnerism?) with the Kelly Green and Golders. There you go, guy. An everyday gig. Prove the naysayers wrong.

Marc Hulet of fangraphs takes a look at rookie catcher Robinzon Diaz. We all know he's a bad ball hitter who rarely walks (or strikes out), but I found this interesting:

One other interesting knock on Diaz throughout his career is that he tended to take it easy and never really gave his all. People have said that he is a good player, who could be a very good player if he dedicated himself to the game on an everyday basis. As a result, Diaz could end up being a lot like Florida’s Hanley Ramirez, who has posted much better numbers on the center stage that is Major League Baseball, than he ever did in the minors.

Yes, indeed. If JP could move Barajas this summer to a contender short on catching (hello, Cincinatti), or just outright release him, we'll probably end up seeing more of Diaz in the second half. I prefer Brian Jeroloman in the long run, but we'll likely be going with a rookie catcher to platoon with Zaunner in '09. If Zaunner re-signs, that is.

Go Jays!

-- Johnny Was

Surveying the damage


Well, well, well.
Jobu is clearly not pleased. Time to start searching for a live rooster.

in the last 11 games, the Jays are 3-8, and in that time almost everything that can go wrong HAS gone wrong. A lot has been said - rightfully so - about the hitting in general and the hitting with runners in scoring position in particular, but the starting pitching has also been uncharacteristically sucktitudinious as well.

Here's how the team has preformed over that ugly stretch of games:
[key: ab/h 2B-3B-HR RBI bb/k BA OBP SLG OPS]

Eck'n    40/10  1 - 0 - 1  5  3/3  .250  .302  .350  .652
Hill 43/11 4 - 0 - 1 4 2/4 .256 .289 .395 .684
Rios 34/11 1 - 0 - 2 5 2/6 .324 .361 .529 .890
Wells 40/10 0 - 0 - 1 4 4/5 .250 .318 .325 .643
Stairs 30/10 0 - 0 - 2 5 1/1 .333 .355 .533 .888
Overbay 28/8 1 - 0 - 0 0 11/7 .286 .487 .321 .808
Stewart 23/4 1 - 1 - 0 2 4/3 .174 .296 .304 .600
Zaun 29/9 2 - 0 - 1 2 7/3 .310 .444 .483 .927
Barajas 17/1 0 - 0 - 1 1 1/1 .059 .111 .235 .346
Inglett 25/6 1 - 1 - 0 1 3/1 .240 .321 .360 .681
Scutero 28/7 1 - 0 - 0 5 6/4 .250 .382 .286 .668
McDonald 9/1 0 - 0 - 0 1 1/2 .111 .200 .111 .311
Thomas 22/3 0 - 0 - 0 1 2/3 .136 .208 .136 .344
Diaz 4/0 0 - 0 - 0 0 0/1 .000 .000 .000 .000

That's a collective team total of:
372 - 91 - 12 - 2- 9 - 36 - 42 - 44 - 7 - .245 - .321 - .360 - .681

Note, if you will, that Rolen and (presumably) Lind are about to step in for the collective efforts of Scutaro, Inglett, Stewart (v. RHP at least) and Thomas.
Collectively those 4 have an line like this: .204 - .310 - .276 - .586

The rest of the team combines for:
274 - 71 - 9 - 0 - 9 - 27 - 27 - 33 - .259 - .326 - .391 - .717

Even if Rolen isn't 100% with the bat yet we should see an improvement there right away. If we can get Eckstien, Hill, and Wells out of their collective slump the overall hitting should be in much better shape. Given that the power outage and the RISP situation is freakishly abnormal, one HAS to assume that these will even out as most statistical anomalies tend to do.

In short, there's nowhere to go but up and the probabilities suggest the upturn will come sooner rather than later.

On the pitching side of the ledger, we find this:

Halladay - 17.0 - 20 -  9 - 9 -  2 - 10- 4.76 - 1.29
McGowan - 17.0 - 21 - 10 - 9 - 10 - 12- 4.76 - 1.82
Burnett - 6.0 - 7 - 5 - 5 - 7 - 6 - 7.50 - 2.33
Marcum - 12.1 - 9 - 7 - 6 - 7 - 6 - 4.38 - 1.30
Litsch - 8.1 - 17 - 9 - 9 - 2 - 9 - 9.72 - 2.28

Ryan - 3.0 - 3 - 0 - 0 - 2 - 5 - 0.00 - 1.67
Downs - 5.0 - 4 - 1 - 1 - 1 - 8 - 1.80 - 1.00
Accardo - 3.0 - 4 - 4 - 3 - 0 - 0 - 9.00 - 1.33
Tallet - 4.2 - 9 - 2 - 2 - 3 - 2 - 3.86 - 2.57
Frasor - 4.2 - 5 - 2 - 2 - 2 - 2 - 3.86 - 1.50
Carlson - 8.2 - 6 - 2 - 2 - 2 - 12- 2.08 - 0.92
Camp - 3.2 - 2 - 0 - 0 - 0 - 4 - 0.00 - 0.00
Wolfe - 2.1 - 2 - 0 - 0 - 1 - 0 - 0.00 - 0.43
Do complaints about the pen as a whole, but the starters are defiantly out of whack.

Again, this is so wildly aberrational that it's virtually certain to be brief. I have my doubts about Litsch, and there's no predicting exactly when AJ gets a grip on his curve again (but he will) but there's no way the starting staff as a whole continues to struggle like this.

For someone such as myself who has very lofty expectations, this season has been excruciating. But I take comfort in knowing that we are at rock bottom right now, it can't possibly be that this is the real talent level of this team.

Oh, and before i stop I have to give a big shout out to the folks who have been cursing Gregg Zaun and demanding Rob Barajas supplant him. I invite you folks to consider their respective stat lines above and repent of your heresies. I once said "Even if Reed Johnson is the question, Shannon Stewart is not the answer" now I say "Even if Gregg Zaun is the question, Rod Barajas is most assuredly NOT the answer."

~WillRain

Thursday, April 24, 2008

The Roundup

First, the apologies.

Perhaps I was overly quick to assume that Gibbons was rotating his few good players through rest days for no particularly good reason, but it came out yesterday that there's been a flu bug going through the clubhouse. Why this wasn't stated a few days ago is unclear, but anyway, perhaps Gibby should team up with Don Cherry to shill for Cold fX? Sorry, skip! I'll never doubt you again.

Last night's JaysTalk was pretty solid because there was actual stuff to talk to JP about rather than the typical nitpicking/Chicken Little routine of most callers. John Lott of the National Post provides a quick and dirty summary here. The good news is that Scott Rolen will most likely be activated tomorrow. The bad news is that JP really sees no rush to promote Adam Lind (hence the above pic) and will leave him to demolish AAA pitching while Shannon Stewart trolls for walks, interspersing them with the rare single, on the big club.

Yes, and true to my prediction yesterday, he did mention that Shannon Stewart is a "lifetime .300 hitter."

Now, JP has a weird thing about not wanting to make players feel like they're entitled to anything for fear that it might undermine their work ethic or competitive drive. I don't mind that. It is, however, blatantly obvious to all that Lind is "the guy", but I suppose we're going to have to wait for an injury for him to get his turn. If, as JP admits, the team is getting on base at a great clip but isn't scoring because of a low SLG%, you'd think there'd be all the more reason to callup a youngster with a 1.000 OPS in AAA. I find this massively disappointing.

Wilner has been one of the loudest voices in the draft Barry Bonds movement, so it's no surprise that he concludes that JP probably wants to sign him, but Godfrey and Ted Rogers/money are obstacles. Overbay's struggles were mentioned, but in his case--not Frank Thomas' of course--20 games is too small a sample size to jump to any conclusion. Mmmhmmm.

Jesse Litsch is not about to lose his job, according to Bastian. When Gibby blew up on him the other day it was kind of like a dad finding out his son has been smoking weed: he felt really let down, but he'll probably let things slide, because, you know, they're blood. And because everyone goes through that phase.

Blair reveals that the press in TO and TB, the players, and everyone aside from a less than sellout crowd thinks it's an awful idea to play regular season games at a spring training facility. It's actually kind of offensive, really. The Bosox and A's get to play in front of 50, 000 screaming Japanese fans in Tokyo, the Dodgers and Padres get to play the first MLB exhibition game in China, and we play in front of a crowd that's possibly 50% under the age of 10. Just a detour on the way to Space Mountain.

Blair also shares our concern for the precipitous decline in Lyle Overbay's power production.

Are the A's going to sign Frank Thomas or what? MLBTR says there's more than one team expressing interest. It would amount to a massive bitch slap to JP from his mentor Billy Beane if the Big Shit Disturber did indeed go back to Oakland.

On a related note, Marc Hulet at Fangraphs expects the Jays to promote Travis Snider aggressively. He figures JP wants to prove his drafting prowess to one and all, adding a second impact player drafted under his watch to the roster (Aaron Hill being the first). There's that Marcum guy, too, but interesting nevertheless.

ELSEWHERE:

* We were lucky to play the Tigers when we did, because now they're wringing the necks of the opposition like supper chickens.

-- Johnny Was

Double Take

Brandon League - You still know who that is right? I know, been a while since we heard the name and all. So I figured being his biggest supporter I'd give you an update on how he's done so far.

He was sent down what, around April 10th? Well he's pitched in 3 games so far. I thought they said he was being sent to AAA to actually...you know...pitch often. But hey, what do I know? Anyways, so far he's pitched 4.1 innings, with a 3.5 GB:FB ratio, and 4 K's. Awesome, right? Oops, he's still walking every other batter - he now has 5 BB to go along with his 4 K's.

My solution - Brandon obviously can't see the catcher - he needs new prescription glasses! Duh! Get on it, Brandon!

As for last nights game, it's obvious this team can't string together a rally. Here's a reason why, look at the hitters batting sixth to second - Barajas, Zaun, Diaz, Inglett, Eckstein, Stewart.

Yeah, that's really gonna get'er done. We're lucky if we get 2 of those guys on base within the same game. Now, look at the players occupying those spots a week from now:

Rolen, Overbay, Zaun, Lind, Eckstein, Hill.

Now, you can argue about the order of them, but it's pretty clear that those guys are gonna be in that general area of the lineup. Notice how at least 4 of them can hit for power, and all of them have average to above average on base capabilities? They need Rolen & Lind up ASAP - might as well let Rolen adjust in the MLB, cause his replacements aren't doing any better.

But at least with that lineup, there are zero auto outs, which will allow this team to create...and I know this is a foreign concept for the Jays....A RALLY.

The pitchers aren't stupid either. They know the offense isn't getting it done, and I'd bet that they're pressuring themselves to throw a perfect game everytime out, cause let's be honest, we're gonna need one every time out just to have a shot in any game. With Rolen & Lind up here, who make the lineup deeper and allow the team to actually string some hits together, there's a chance that the Jays might score a few runs. And if they do that, I guarantee the pitching will improve knowing that they can allow a run or two (but thats all!) and still have a shot to get a W at the end of the day.

Twitchy.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

A Message for MLBTV!

See the photo, m'boys! it expresses my feelings quite directly.

I figure a reliable provider of good service deserves positive word of mouth, and folks like yerselves deserve the opposite.

Ya see, here I sit - AGAIN - unable to view the feed I bought and paid for for reasons unexplained and inexplicable. This makes, I believe, the 3rd major issue I have had in the 19 games in which I have attempted to use the service. That's a 16% failure rate.

Of course it's true that when one has such difficulties one should take it up with the tech support people in the employ of the company you are unhappy with.

I would, of course, be happy to do so and thus hopefully resolve the issue.

Except for one thing: if you greedy inconsiderate bastards have a link anywhere on your site that allows a person to access such support, I'd certainly like for that sumbitch to be a bit more predominant because I can't find the damn thing. Since I can't do that, I come here and i bitch....and I will keep on bitching....until you fuckers get your act together.

It may not hurt you, but at least I have an outlet.

~WillRain

Purcey, New York. 72°F, partly cloudy.

Resident favourite Big Dave Purcey was good but not great in his first outing back with the bus-riders in Syracuse. It looked like this:

Syracuse
PlayerIPHRERBBSOHRERA
Purcey (L, 2-1)6.05324912.16

The D behind Big D was less than stellar, leading to an unearned run. Ironically neither of Syracuse's 2 errors was made by Russ Adams. In going 6 complete, Purcey threw 63 of 104 pitches for strikes, induced 3 groundouts and 6 flyouts, striking out 9 and walking 4 (against a patient Bosox affiliate). He surrendered a solo homer to George Kottaras.

This is pretty much typical Purcey: lots of Ks, a few more walks than you'd like to see and not to many hits.

If Gibby railed against Litsch last night because he doesn't have "stuff", the club might as well send him down to Syracuse to work on his sinker, just as our friend Jon Hale suggests. If Gibby was railing against Litsch because he wasn't throwing strikes, he's not going to be happy with Purcey, either. Pick your poison. They'll probably continue to go with Litsch until he pitches his way into a demotion, and the Vegas odds on that aren't long.

Adam Lind went 0 for 4, dropping his average to .355. He clearly needs to bring it back up to Ted Williams 1941 territory before earning a call to the big club. Rios is sick, too, but whatever.

The Syracuses lost the game 3-1, ending a nifty little 8-game winning streak.

As I write this the Jays are trying not to lose to the Rays again, but are finding that to be a mean task as they are fielding a team that is 5/9ths declining veterans, raw rookies and career minor league utility men.

Rando notes from the 8th inning:

* Robinzon Diaz made his ML debut, making outs of the first pitch of his first two ABs. Since he was DHing, he must've had time for a talk with Denbo between innings because in his third trip he took 3 straight pitches, 2 balls and a strike, fouled three more off, then hit an easy grounder to short. His PPA skyrocketed from 1 to 3! That's ML patience. Rance "likes his approach", even though it doesn't necessarily fit with the Denbo system. I don't really know what to think about him yet.

* Barajas played first for Overbay tonight, which fits with the strategy of "resting" one of the team's few productive to semi-productive bats in favour of roster filler. I thought it would've been Hill, but I guess he can take tomorrow night off for J-Mac as the Rays look to complete the 3-game sweep.

* Stairs socked a pair of dingers, and hit two deep fly ball for good measure, earning big cheers from a "home" crowd that doesn't appear to be paying much attention to anything on the field. He's probably the most feared hitter in the lineup now.

* That 5th inning ralley was something: Inglett single, SB, SB, runner on 3rd with none out. Eckstein K, Stew hits an easy infield fly, and Hill grounds out. I told Jay K. earlier I figured Doc would take another CG loss tonight, and it's sure looking like that'll be the case.

* Looking forward to listening to JaysTalk as I watch the D-backs with the mute button on. There have been several managerial moves over the past three games that were clearly indefensible, so it'll be interesting to see how Wilner does crowd control.

-- Johnny Was

The Invisible Man


What's going on with Lyle Overbay? As we come to the end of April it almost stops being a small sample size and it starts to become a cause for worry. It's not like he's a slow starter in April - he has an 813 OPS for the month over his career, and in his first year as a Jay he posted a 770 OPS. Not great, but it's better than the 705 OPS he has now.

I was looking over at Fangraphs, which has every stat imaginable about any player. The weird thing about Overbay is that his BAPIP is ridiculously high at 365. So as bad as he's been, he's been getting lucky and is potentially going to get worse. He's had an above average BAPIP for his career, but even 365 is high for him.

Another thing I noticed is that his BB rate is just through the roof at 15%, well above his career average of 11.2%. So it's possible he's getting pitched around because the guys behind him aren't exactly threatening with the bat - this includes any combo of: Stewart, Scutaro, Inglett, Bajaras, Zaun (and he's not half bad either) and McDonald.

Usually a sharp rise in BB rates are proof that a hitters bat speed is declining. Bill James first hypothesized about it, and they explain it quite well in this Hardball Times article. But I think it's too early in the season and too small a sample size to even suggest that this is the case.

Another possibility could just be that despite Overbay's claims that his hand is ok, it might not be 100% yet. He might not be in any physical pain, but it's possible Overbay may not be at full strength either. Maybe I'm reading too much into the stats, but his LD rate has dropped (17.3% now vs 23 for his career and even 20.9% last year). So what this shows is he isn't hitting the ball as hard, which explains why the power is gone - he isn't hitting the ball to the gaps or over the fence. His GB rate has drastically increased to 55.8%, compared to 47.1% over his career and 48.6% as recently as last year. This helps to show why despite hitting in less than 1/4 of the AB of last year, he's hit into almost half as many double plays. He's not a fast guy, and he's hitting the ball on the ground - probably the worst combination for a hitter. Finally, Overbay's flyball % has dropped to 26.9%, which is a bit lower than his career rate of 29.9% and last years 30.6%.

So what's the problem? Overbay is taking a ton of pitches, either because he can't drive the ball with power (and he knows it) or he isn't getting a pitch to hit thanks to the fact he's usually got a bunch of AAA scrubs hitting behind him. It could just be really poor hitting mechanics that are leading to Overbay's inability to drive the ball with any strength or lift. Overbay's a doubles machine, but he's hitting the ball into the ground way too much, and not hitting it very hard which leads to the GIDP and easy outs. Until he starts lifting the ball, and driving it to the OF he's not going to be much better than he is now.

Twitchy.

The Roundup


I'm growing mildly annoyed at Rance's inability to note that someone does something "well" rather than "good." Rance, you don't not speak English no good. That translates into hillbilly as "you don't speak our shared language very well."

Normally I let this sort of thing slide, but I am in an uppity mood when it comes to the Jays these days. For the record, I do believe that Rance is a pretty sharp guy--especially compared to the Special Olympian he works with--and was a damn fine hitter in his day in a Frank Catalanatto sort of way. And I'm old enough to remember seeing him leg out an inside the park home run in KC so many years ago. That was cool.

Sorry Rance, I just needed to vent. It's not your fault the Jays are playing like a collection of sad-sack losers.

Holy shit, but did we not call it a week ago? Blair reports that Jesse "the Body" Litsch's hold on the fifth starter's spot is as tenuous as the continued existance of a jelly donut in the ginger-haired youngster's sight line. Heyo!

The ugly:

Litsch, 2-1, has totalled just 19 innings in his four starts, giving up 28 hits, including three homers. Once again, pitching without his sinker – Hinske said he didn't see the pitch once from Litsch, and while he went out of his way to commend the former Rays bat boy for having “good stuff.”

Litsch said the secret to regaining the sinker – aside from extra video work – will be “just throwing it a lot.” He said he has not had command of the pitch this year, at least not more than occasionally.

Last night's effort prompted a barrage of F-bombs from the usually mild-mannered skip.

I don't particularly want to talk about last night's game anymore, but Wilner raises a question about the quality of the infield, especially on the right side, at this minor league facility we're playing at seeing as both teams' first basemen badly misplayed semi-routine ground balls. I am quite pleased that the indignity of playing at Disneyworld will not be imposed on any other team next year.

JP will be doing his weekly Wednesday interview with MW later today and will even take questions from (irate?) callers. A sneak preview:

Caller 1: Why don't we sign Bonds, JP? He's just what we need, and plus, it'd drive Richard Griffin bat-shit insane, which is part of your MO, right?

JP: I know he's a great hitter, but he'd cost at least $10 million (probably pro-rated) that we just don't have. Do you think we'd have taken Shannon Stewart over Reed Johnson to save $1.5-2 mil or so if I had the money to sign Bonds? The guy's also a raging asshole, too, which doesn't particularly bother me if he performs on the field, but those of you who've commented on the docility of the Toronto media have no idea the shitstorm that bringing him in would cause.

Caller 2: So, when are you going to get around to calling Adam Lind up?

JP: When we feel the need. He's coming off an injury and Stewart is a career .300 hitter. We just need the bats we have presently to start hitting.

Caller 3: Scott Rolen is basically being called on to be the saviour of this club as it faces (another) early season collapse. How do you expect him to react to the pressure?

JP: He's a dirtbag, always plays hard and always will play hard regardless of the circumstances. He's a big bat in our lineup, but we've gotten a pretty nice contribution from Scutaro early. I think he'll be fine.

Editor's note: Scutaro is in fact JP's second cousin, so he is bound by an unspoken oath to this his grandmother's sister never to speak ill of the career utility man.

And so on. Wilner will dismiss the less coherent rants of the Chicken Little set, as he always does. It should be must listen radio.

I'm not really a fan of the Sun's monosyllabic baseball coverage, but Bob Elliot did put together a nice little piece here on buyouts that were much worse than the one JP just orchestrated with what's his name on the weekend. Did Elliot write this as a rebuttal to Griffin's ass-hatted article the other day calling Thomas the worst free agent signing in team history? If so, an extendo hat tip to you, sir. It's just money, people. And we come out ahead in the offseason. Let's stop talking about this now, mkay?

If you have the stomach for it, here's Dick's new mailbag.

Yesterday the Tao of Stieb commented on a Carlos Delgado return to TO. We like the Taos (tacos, too) and they do admit that the very idea is "irresponsible speculation." Just noting that this stat geek at fangraphs has flow charts and VEN diagrams (whatever those are) showing that King Carlos is indeed at the end of a very great career. I'd argue that after just getting married and fathering a child in the last year or two, Delgado's mind is elsewhere. Since we all agree that he was a fantastic human being, it's probably better to think he faded away from the game he once dominated to be a family man rather than because he couldn't bring it anymore.

Some Friday in the not so distant future, look for him and the Mrs. in the comfy green chairs at the Rogers Centre.

ELSEWHERE:

*
The Tigers have quickly come to the realization that Miguel Cabrera can do the least amount of damage defensively at first base and have promptly moved him there. Should've happened in spring training, but still.

* This is the Josh Beckett we know and love! The one who gets hurt all the time! And racism at Fenway? What is this, the 1950s? Or any continental European football match today?

-- Johnny Was