Saturday, 31 May 2008

A Feel Good Loss?


Is there such a thing? If there is, I think Dave Purcey took one tonight.

After running out of gas after throwing 5 innings in his last outing, Purcey went deep against Norfolk and ended up getting tagged with the loss. He was dealing through 8, but surrended a solo shot to Scott Moore before getting yanked down 3-0 after 7.1 IP. His control was good, walking only 1, K-ing 6 and throwing 67 of 102 pitches for strikes. He kept the ball on the ground, inducing 11 ground outs to 5 fly outs. This was a good outing despite the outcome.

Offensively, the Chiefs were in deep hibernation; Adam Lind wasn't in the lineup again and we're starting to wonder... JP denied knowledge of anything untoward happening to his starting left fielder for 2009 in his weekly phone-in with Wilner on Wednesday, so I think it's pretty clear that something untoward has happened. One of my colleagues here in the history department at the random Ontario university I go to just got back from a conference in Lake Placid and did a stop over in Syracuse on the drive back home. He was happy to report that autographed Lind photos are a staple at area liquor stores. Cirrhosis of the liver? Seems as good of an internet rumour as any. Tell your friends.

Meanwhile, the Jays are knotted at 2 with the Angels. Scott Rolen, frankly, is the best third baseman I've ever seen ever in my entire life. He's better than the third-basemaning I imagined Mike Schmidt was doing in Philly when I put baseball card sticker books together back in grade two. He is to his position what J-Mac is short stop: an artiste schooled at the Sorbonne.

Rando thoughts: Casey Kotchman is the most fearsome bat in this lineup, would you have predicted that in March? Francisco Rodriguez just ain't right. I think he's going to suffer a major arm injury at some point this summer. The home plate ump here is fucking high, his strike zone is all over the shop.

I'm becoming furious with the extended commercial breaks on Sportsnet. They frequently come back one to two pitches into an AB and we just missed an Eckstein double in the top of the 8th. Occasionally an inning "starts" with one out already. I realize ad revenue keeps these broadcasts free for Joe Blow, but seriously.

Brett Lawrie
, some other Canucks and the draft? A week ago it seemed like the Jays would be overdrafting if they took him and now it seems unlikely that he'll slip to the 17th pick in the first round. My brother likes to brag that The Economist rates Vancouver as the best city to live in in the world, and the lower BC Delta just adds to its superiority by hosting the best amateur baseball league in the country. I really like Ontario and all, but the West Coast beckons.

Do you want "The Roundup" on Saturdays? Leave a comment if you do. I can pound this stuff out and eat bacon and eggs at the same time should popular demand warrant it.

-- Johnny Was

Friday, 30 May 2008

The Roundup

Breathe in. Breathe out. That's it.

In a victory so beautiful it simply could not be televised without running the risk of damaging your retinas, the Jays clobbered the A's 12-0. BA Barajas (3-4, 3 doubles, 3 RBI) was playing like a man who'd like a full-time job this year rather than next, Shannon Stewart socked a dinger, and Jesse Litsch carried on just as he did last time out against the Royals. The sole bit of bad news was that David Eckstein crashed into Aaron Hill (2-3), knocking him out of the game. Stop doing that to superior players, ass! Hill is listed as day-to-day; I'm guessing he won't play tonight and Scutaro, with whom Gibby is now smitten like a school girl, steps in there for him.

And Alex Rios somehow managed to go 0 for 6 and ground into 3! double plays. They're gonna have to invent a new kind of sombrero for that sort of ineptitude. Saving it up for the Angels, I hope.

Tonight it's McGowan vs. Jered "skid, brother of skid" Weaver in LAA past your past your bedtime. Nice Barry Melrose mullet, skid! Sorry, had to get that out of my system. ESPN.com's supercomputer says we've got a 50% chance of victory and Matt Stairs has a 19.2% chance of going deep. I like those odds...

Still, I think we all recognize that adding offense in left field will only help improve the Jays' prospects for success this year. MLBTR has compiled a list of guys who could be available. Aside from the usual suspects, you can add Raul Ibanez, Chris Duncan, Juan Rivera and a bunch of losers like Frank Catalanatto.. Pat Burrell? Hrumph.

Jeff Blair goes War and Peace in the Globe Baseball blog, which is cool and all. The highlights:

* The Jays have been playing coy on the June draft, but Godfrey is pushing hard for B.C.'s Brett Lawrie (3B/C) to sell the fans/ownership on a new Canuck angle. Blair doesn't like nationalism determining draft strategy, and I totally agree. Lawrie's a great-looking player and all, but it's unclear what position he'll end up playing long term. The Jays would like to select Brett Walace (1B/3B) with their first pick, but Keith Law doesn't see him dropping that far.

* Barajas will supplant Zaun as the team's no. 1 catcher.

ELSEWHERE:

* Jorge Posada is expected to rejoin the Yankees within a week or so; right after the Jays leave town.

* The Rays fall 5-1 to the Chisox.

-- Johnny Was

Thursday, 29 May 2008

Get off the Cliche train!!!

I so VERY badly want to bust out the "I told you so" post for the benefit of the Eyore crowd right now but I will wait until the month of may ends before I go there. For now, I just want to do a BJ Ryan fist pump and say "FUCK YEAH!!" and bide my time before I elaborate.

In the mean time, this is a quick note on a completely different subject.

Can someone out there PLEASE tell me what MORON coined the internet fad of using the expression "shit the bed" for EVERY poor performance on the face of the Earth? PLEASE? I have an ever increasing desire to treat that person in a manner similar to the way in which Jack Bauer treats a man withholding information from him.

Repeatedly.

While giggling.

I mean, yeah, MAYBE is was VAGUELY cleaver the first 3 or 4 thousand times it was repeated, but now? After about 300 trillion additional useages...

IT'S WEARING FUCKING THIN PEOPLE!!!!!!!

Please, for the sake of my sanity and the good of all humanity, can we PLEASE move the fuck on to the next too-clever-by-half trendy witticism now?

I'm beggin' here...


How can you resist The Look?

~WillRain

Coming to Terms with Aaron Hill

Mighy Mouse is streaky as fuck. Always has been, (probably) always will be.

Last year was a breakout season of sorts for the slick fielding second baseman, adding nearly .75 points to his slugging % on the strength of 17 dingers and 47 doubles to finish with a nifty .291/.333/.459 (.792) line. Production like that now would probably make him the star of an anemic offense. Heavy metal bands would be writing love ballads dedicated to him.

But it hasn't been all smiles and sunshine for young Aaron through the early going in 2008. Don't get me wrong, I'm not slagging the guy off or anything. His glove work has been unparalleled as per our expectations and I do reckon his bat will heat up soon. Why, the pattern of history absolutely demands it.

It's been high peaks and low valleys month to month since he began his big league career as an injury replacement for Corey Koskie early on in 2005. Cue some B-R action, OPS by month and change from the previous month:

2005

May:
1.040
June: .867 (-.173)
July:
.574 (-.293)
August:
.701 (+.127)
September: .608 (-.093)

2006

April:
.483
May: .827 (+.344)
June: .787 (-.40)
July: .858 (+.71)
August: .515 (-.343)
September: .880 (+.365)

2007

April:
.918
May: .732 (-.186)
June: .690 (-.42)
July: .760 (+70)
August: .636 (-.124)
September:
1.019 (+.383)

2008

April:
.717
May: .617 (-.100)

In 19 months of big league service, Hill has had 10 months where his OPS shifted either up or down by at least .100 points, and that's not even counting Aprils. That, I think, is the definition of streakiness. The other interesting thing is that his monthly OPS almost always zigs after it zags; at no point has he gone three consecutive months with a decreasing OPS.

Based on this pattern I'd bet money Hill is due to get hot, red hot, in the month of June. We might be in store for a period of time where he carries the offense on his back, which would be a pleasant development indeed.

-- Johnny Was

The Roundup


Those of you who watched until the very end in the Wendy's hours of the morning know that it was a nail-biter in Oakland last night, one of those old-timey pitcher's duels that really doesn't need scoring to be exciting. On the unexpected side of the ledger, Doc didn't throw a complete game (coming out after 8 strong), Rich Harden didn't shatter into 1000 tiny shards of glass, and clutchtacularness from Alex Rios? BJ got 'er done in the bottom of the 9th, but did his top steppin'est best to make it dicey, walking 2 without allowing a run.

You will be glad note that today's game is on at the more civilized hour of 3:30 p.m. EST, but you will also be equally saddened to learn that it's not televised, not even on Extra Innings. Again, we are reduced to listening to Jesse Litsch take on Dana Eveland on the radio just as our caveman forebearers did.

We start the day 2.5 back in the Wild Card race with a soft June sched approaching. The Oracle was right to mock those of you who said the season was over and I hope you feel small, real small.

Really not that chuffed to hear that Curtis Thigpen has been recalled, well, and that Zaunner is on the DL for two weeks. My recollection of Thigpen is that he was little better than a right-handed Russ Adams clone: played a bunch of positions, but none particularly well, below average with the stick. He rose through the minors quickly enough, but hasn't really had a good season at the dish since low A ball in 2001 and his defence left something to be desired in the bigs last summer. (You may recall that Gibby lost confidence in him because he didn't cover his signing hand with his glove allowing opposing hitters to tip pitches). And he didn't hit for shit in Toronto, either, going .238/.294/.287 in 101 ABs. He's not a blue chipper like Travis Snider, or a solid A prospect like Adam Lind, so you don't sweep that under the rug so quickly.

Baseball America is somewhat kinder than my own recollections: He's a solid defensive catcher, but his build may not allow him to stay there for the long haul, and he's shown enough athleticism to play other positions. Thigpen has struggled at the plate so far in 2008, hitting .187/.216/.253. BA even goes so far as to call him the 8th best prospect in the organization, though it's likely he gets some added regard for being so close to the majors.

And according to these groupies, he's single and hung like a Shetland. Thanks internet, why did we need to know that? (You can hear the crickets chirping in the Rod Barajas forum...)

My beef with Thigpen was his sense of entitlement. He'd won big in college with Texas, risen through the ranks at a steady pace, and hit the bigs at 24. When he didn't win a spot on the ML roster in spring training this year he pouted to Richard Griffin rather than admit that he still had work to do before becoming a big leaguer. He skulked his way through the first month the season in Syracuse, playing some passive-aggressive mind game where he thought he could hurt the organization by playing shitacular baseball. Though he's hotted up of late, Thigpen has stunk it up this year and is totally undeserving of a promotion. This one comes by default as Robinzon Diaz simply cannot stay healthy this year.

Well, you get to wear the uni again, Big Boy. That doesn't mean we haven't forgotten that you're a bit of a whiner who doesn't have the skills to match the talk. I wouldn't expect to see him in more than a handful of games over the next fortnight; when you get in Gibby's bad books--and early indications are skip is not impressed with his foppish new hairdo--it's a long road back.

Ok, time to rock shit against the A's. Go Jays!

ELSEWHERE:

* Sick Bay: Tory Percival to the DL, Frank Thomas to the DL, Matsuzaka to the DL?

* For those you still following the Roger Clemens Saga, re-enter Mindy McCready.

* While tossers in Boston and New York stuff the All-Star Game ballot box with votes for their own players merit aside, fans in National League parks are actually voting for the best player at each position regardless of team affiliation. You guys are better than us, it's that simple.

-- Johnny Was

Wednesday, 28 May 2008

The Roundup

Sometimes you have to lose a battle or two in order to win the war and knowing that we won't have to see Frank Thomas again until August goes a great distance towards taking the sting out of last night's 3-1 defeat.

The Hurt Feelings struck out (like a little girl) on an AJ fastball in his first AB, doubled in his second, then came out of the game with a sore knee. ESPN says he's been bothered since sliding into home two weeks ago in Cleveland and tweaked it last night, presumably running to second at half speed on the double. I'd say the odds of him appearing again in this series range from unlikely to extremely unlikely.

On to some unpleasantness.

We all thought the Jays were going to be a lefty-mashing squadron because that's the way it's been since pretty much as long as we can remember (2005?). Between this year (.605) and last (.848), we've dropped a staggering .243 points of OPS against lefties as a team, and it's not just a result of the departure of Frank Thomas (fine, and Reed Johnson) and the injury to Vernon Wells. Unsurprisingly, the key cogs in our lineup that usually can be counted on to rake against lefties have really been shitting the bed this year.

Some numbers for our uninjured regulars against LHP (Career v. 2008):

Rios: .289/.349/.464 (.813)*; .260/.296/.360 (.656)

Hill: .301/.367/.454 (.821); .256/.388/.359 (.747)

Rolen: .282/.405/.511 (.916); .259/.333/.296 (.630)

Stewart: .298/.374/.419 (.793); .282/.341/.359 (.700)

Overbay: .279/.316/.433 (.749) ; .208/.250/.226 (.476)

* but .900+ plus over his past two "breakout" seasons

That, my friends, is why someone like Greg Smith can absolutely handcuff the Jays time and time again. The Jays are 5-9 when a lefty starts for the opposition. If you're thinking that it might be a BABip aberation, you're wrong. It's just plain old collective suck. And it's shocking to see that the rot has spread to Rolen, who's looked absolutely fabulous in his month with the club. Overbay had actually hit lefties quite well over his career, but is off to a horrible start against his sinister-handed brethern this year.

To make matters worse, the one guy who had been getting 'er done against lefties, Vernon Wells (.333/.412/.433) is likely a non-factor offensively for the rest of the year because of that broken wrist. And to his credit, Wonder Boy is actually doing well, too, but we all kind of thought J-Mac would've been worked into the lineup against lefties...

Not to get too far ahead of ourselves, but it would appear that the Jays might be the first to face Joba Chamberlain, starter, early next week. Ian Kennedy strained lat has opened a spot in the Yankees' rotation and the pancake-faced Joba is in the process of being stretched out. I would expect him to be on a very strict pitch count, so it might be a good night to leave the bats on our shoulders and let him run out of gas before ripping shit against Kyle Farnsworth.

Putting a bat in the volatile Theo Fleury's hands, not a great idear...

All-Star Game--sorry, Red Sox v. National League game-- voting is a farce. Either come up with a ballot box stuffing software program or just boycott the whole process.

A very special note: The Oracle is doing a PREGAME Wednesday's with JP at 8:30 tonight, so call in and let'er fly. I just might ask whether he really knows who Jason Bay is or not, that guy is two kinds of awesome.

ELSEWHERE:

* How do you say "shoulder fatigue" in Japanese?

* Yankees sign Ben Broussard? Panic in the streets of Boston!

* Fantasy notes: Jay Bruce = Hunter Pence 2.0?

-- Johnny Was

Tuesday, 27 May 2008

Jays 1, Cards 0

With Rolen just passing the 100 AB mark, I think it's time to do a quick check on how he's doing compared to Troy Glaus.

Glaus - 174 AB, 17 R, 2 HR, 32 RBI, 0 SB, 1 CS, 270 (WTF?)/380/402 (782 OPS), and an 843 ZR. The ZR is good enough for second in the majors for qualifying 3B, which is as mind boggling as his 270 BA.

Rolen - 106 AB, 13 R, 2 HR, 11 RBI, 3 SB, 0 CS, 302/380/481 (861 OPS). Rolen doesn't have enough innings at 3B to qualify, but if he did he'd be the leading defender with an amazing 878 ZR.

It's probably a couple of years too early to say we won the trade, but man, the Jays kicked the Cardinals ass so far in that trade.

Twitchy.

The Roundup

I quit hockey at a very early age, mostly because games conflicted with Saturday morning cartoons, but also because I never really learned how to stop without the aid of the boards. In any event, my memories of playing the sport were uniformly negative. The only game I remember vividly was one in which the opposition ran roughshod over my team of 5-year-olds. It seemed like all of the opposing players were twice as big and twice as fast as the best of our side; I don't recall getting my stick on the puck once and I'm pretty sure we lost several touchdowns to nothing.

That pretty much did in the sport for me and so bitter were my memories that I couldn't even stand to watch hockey on TV for another 15 years or so. Years later, I asked my old man (who was coaching us at the time) what the deal was there in that fateful final game and he told me a rival coach from a small town in the Sarnia area had called him to set up an exhibition game. The only problem was was that he neglected to inform us that he was coaching a team of 7-8 year-olds and was just looking for some soft opposition to build up their confidence. We got to be their punching bag. Good times! And that, in a nutshell, is the best analogy I can come up with for the Royals playing any other team in baseball. I'm somewhat sympathetic to their plight, but maybe they might get more fun out of beach volleyball or stamp collecting rather than the whole baseball thing...

Now that the Jays have swept the Royals out of town and head off on the road on a five-game winning streak, we now know that everything is awesome and only the passage of time separates them an inevitable playoff spot. But what's this? The Rays are the best team in baseball? Seriously, they're on pace for a 98-64 season if all holds up. Time to pack up the tents and go home, lads.

The Jays embark on a challenging 9-game roadtrip that takes them through Oakland (hide your valuables), Los Angeles (Anaheim, presumably one of the whiter boroughs), and the gritty Bronx before the schedule gets really soft--and stays that way--through June. All tough teams in the short term, yes, and I am shuddering at the thought of facing a very angry and still black Frank Thomas wearing Kelly Green and Gold. It's never fun going to the Bronx, but better now than after Jorge Posada comes off the DL or following some major mid-season acquisition (Adam Dunn? Ben Sheets?). Going 5-4 would be pretty swell so far as I'm concerned and I wouldn't jump off the bridge if they went 4-5. I have been on the cusp of naming the Jesus Lizard's "Elegy" the Jays' theme song for 2008 so many times, don't make me do it now...

First things first. Probables for the Oakland series are:

Tonight - Burnett-Greg Smith (LHP)
Tomorrow - Halladay- Harden
Thursday - Lost finale! (For real this time), then Litsch-Dana Eveland (LHP)

Smith and Eveland, usually the types you'd expect the home nine to slap around, both handcuffed the Jays as early season callups back in April and have kept on rolling since proving that Billy Beane's still got it. Expect to see a hearty dose of Kevin Mench, who would do well to live up to his (earned) reputation as a lefty masher. Incidentally, one of the Royals commentators asked his broadcast partner this weekend if he'd rather have one million dollars or Kevin Mench's head full of nickels. True story! Rich Harden might have one of the most "electric" arms in the game, but have the A's ever actually felt confident that he could make it through his start without some sort of major phantom injury?

Wonder Boy returns tonight. Hoo-ray?

Let's rock shit, fellas! I'm semi-enthusiastic for the first time in weeks!

-- Johnny Was

Monday, 26 May 2008

These Are The Daves I Know

It was good, bad and ugly all wrapped up in one for young David Purcey down on the farm against the Richmonds tonight. It was 5 and out for the young southpaw after the Chiefs put up a 5 spot in the top of the 6th to go up 8-1, making his continued mound presence kind of redundant. They might've squeezed another inning out of him, but it really didn't seem worth the bother when he'd reached 90 pitches and had been sitting on the bench for over half an hour. The Syracuses ultimately won a 12-2 laugher even though they tried to give the opposition a sporting chance by leaving Adam Lind on the bench.

As an aside, which of the Kids in the Hall do you resemble most? Sadly for me, it would be Mark McKinney.

Purcey was uncharacteristically hittable on the night, surrendering 6 hits (including a double and a triple) over his 5 inning start. He surrendered only one walk and struck out 2 but got into a lot of deep counts as evidenced by a pitch count of 93 (58 for strikes). Really? The box score doesn't lie. He was successful in keeping the ball on the ground, getting 7 ground outs to 4 fly outs, a positive sign. And it was just the one earned run in a winning effort, so that ERA still looks nice and sparkly.

For the year, Purcey's numbers look more fabulous than Elton John at the Princess Diana-Prince Charles wedding. 57 K :19 BB in 50.2 IP, 1.95 ERA, .194 BAA and a GO/AO of .88. You're not biting on this? Fickle.

If he doesn't stick, well, he doesn't stick. But the indicators for success are all there. As I said last time, you're a right hypocrite if you think 19 ABs aren't enough to evaluate Adam Lind yet 2 starts (one in a sand box park against the sluggingest of slugging lineups in baseball) suffice it to show that Purcey doesn't have the makings of a successful big leaguer. You're not a hypocrite are you, eh?

-- Johnny Was

The Roundup


Must... resisit... temptation... to... shit... on... Royals...

We've got a getaway day game this afternoon at 12:30-ish on your Rogers Cable box at channel 399 or you can go all pre-war and listen to it on the radio (if you live in Toronto).

Four-game sweeps fascinate me; they're a rough equivilant to the bases loaded 3-run double, which is undoubtedly the classiest hit in baseball. There are two schools of thought on today's game. First, it takes a great deal of crappiness and bad luck to lose an entire four game series, thus the baseball gods will take pity on the hitherto hapless Royals and let them leave town with one solitary win. This makes especially good sense considering that they're throwing their worst starter (Brett Tomko) against our best (Shaun Marcum). The second perspective is that the Royals just plain suck and have no business even attempting to beat a top tier starter on the road with their pop gun offense and wacky base-running.

It would be facetious of me to say that the Jays are about to enter a soft and mushy part of the schedule starting in June, but were getting to the point in the season where it's time to make traction and catch up with the big boys. Next month we've got alot of weak opposition: BAL (3), SEA (3 + another road series starting June 30), MIL (3), PIT (3), and CIN (3). On the other side of the ledger, we've got one against the Angels to wrap up a series that starts this weekend, the Yankees in New York (3), and the Cubs (3) and Braves (3) at home. If ever there was a time for a 17-9 month, this is it. And the best part is that there are off days, 3 of them!

I could've done this earlier, but in any event felicitations to Lyle Overbay for breaking Tony Fernandez's team record by reaching base in 12 consecutive plate appearances. McLeod notes that L.overbay's OBP now stands at a robust .453, 4th best in the AL. I'm starting to wonder if I can actually start wearing my powder blue Overbay t-shirt again and, more importantly, if he has fantasy value. (I'm officially putting a voodoo curse on Lance Berkman, Jay. You knew it had to come down to this.)

Several years ago I took some time off from my studies to guzzle Zywiec, party in Krakow and teach English in a Londony-ish city in Southern Poland. I had no family ties there and spoke no Polish, but the run-down former industrial heartland of an old Eastern Bloc country soon felt like home for this transplanted Sarnian. And the country isn't half as grey as German tourist board officials would want you to believe...

In any event, whenever I started teaching a new class, the first lesson had to begin with the inevitable "getting to know you" bit where everyone shares some biographical info. I had a line for hobbies on my little one-page questionaire and had to do my utmost not to burst out laughing when one comely young lass wrote "eating hot dogs". Well, it's because of people like her that the Jays brass have come up with this hackneyed promotion. Some people just really enjoy processed cow and pig parts. I would think that pulling out all the stops to get a winning team on the field is probably the best means of filling your stadium, but I'm just some random guy and don't have a marketing degree or nothing.

No blogaggeness from The Oracle? Sadness! Wilner has been 2 for 2 calling bullshit on those who said Overbay was done and that Reeder (haha, that one annoyed him so damn much) was a better player than Shannon Stewart, but his triumphalism on Jesse Litsch is somewhat... irksome? Not to take anything away from what he did on Saturday (and now taking everything away from what he did Saturday...), but the Royals aren't a real Major League offense and I asterisk that shutout. And I said the same last week when Jon Lester no-hit them.

Fine, Litsch might not be Gustavo Chacin 2.0. He's probably better described as a Chacin-Towers hybrid, combining the best of both and getting by well because of it. But did someone seriously leave a comment on Wilner's blog asking if Litsch would win 20 games and finish the season a Cy Young front runner? Say he could become the next Paul Byrd if you must, but this? Fucking hell! I'm just waiting for someone to say they're glad Janssen got hurt so Litsch got a shot at the rotation this year. Yeah, he's chugging along very nicely for a 5th starter and I'll take that to the money bank, but let's not get too far ahead of ourselves people.

ELSEWHERE:

* It's hard to say what I want to say about this without coming off the wrong way. Jon Lester has confronted some serious challenges in life with a certain quiet dignity that has earned him a great deal of respect across partisan lines. I too admire his humility in the face of adversity. That said, they way the Boston press twists every detail of his personal life and absorbs it into some meta-narrative about how the Red Sox can take any comer makes me want to fucking wretch. God, you're so fucking self-absorbed, Bosox fans; do we really need this? Please, just let the man go about his business without the agonizing constant health updates on his family members.

* CM Wang says there's nothing wrong with his calf and his wildness yesterday was totally unrelated to any health issues.

* Oh, him? Guess who had game-winning RsBI in extra innings in consecutive games on the weekend? That Jason Bay guy, who's "not exactly tearing it up" according to JP.

-- Johnny Was

Sunday, 25 May 2008

BWNE Vol. 5

Once again, I cleverly entice your eyes to the Bi-Weekly Narcissistic Rankings. Okay, so maybe you don't actually READ them but you at least look - I'll take my attention where I can get it.

This time as last is not the easiest to comment on. In the two intervening weeks saw no less than 16 teams finish within one more or less win of .500 ball. That produces little movement except when those teams get passed up by other teams making major moves. Our beloved Blue Jays won 10 games in the last two weeks, which is more than and other team in the majors, meanwhile some other highly regarded teams continue to flounder. That means I still find myself nonsensically ranking Florida ahead of the Mets (for one example).

It's approaching 1/3 of the season now and the day is coming when we are going to have to start asking "Is Tanpa really THAT good? Are the Tigers really THAT bad?"

1. Arizona (1) - While they were not as overtly dominant this last fortnight as they had been before, the D'Backs are still sporting the best record in the NL

2. Boston (2) - a .500 team over the past two weeks but clinging to the #2 ranking because the Angels did not - quite = steal it away.

3. LA Angels (3) - if I wasn't too lazy, I'd just put these two in a straight tie for #2 but I'm trying to avoid that crutch.

4. Chicago Cubs (4) - Here's another pair that are essentially tied....

5. St Louis (5) - ...but I saw no obvious reason to flip them.

6. Tampa Bay (9) - I may be biased but I'm still not sold despite the fact that (gasp!) the Rays have the best winning precentage in the AL!

7. Florida (7) - That said, at least the Rays have the talent to be up here...who can explain what's going on with the Marlins?

8. Houston (10) - slowly these guys are creeping into "take them seriously" status despite a less than impressive set of names in the rotation.

9. Philadelphia (8) - Like some other teams here, I really don't have any great insight to share about the Phillies

10. Atlanta (13) - Nine wins since the last list, the Braves seem to have gotten their act together.

11. Chicago White Sox (17) - had a rough patch but back to their devision-leading ways.

12. Toronto (20) - hopefully we've seen the last of that team who struggled through the last half of April.

13. Oakland (6) - Seem to be coming back down to earth.

14. LA Dodgers (12) - not a bad two weeks but passed by by hotter teams.

15. NY Yankees (15) - This sort of mediocrity probably can't last so lets pause a moment and savor it, shall we? . . . . . . . . . AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAHHHHHHHH!!!!! . . . . . . . . . .

16. Minnesota (16) - this is just about where this team really is, I think.

17. Texas (24) - no pair in the AL is producing like Bradley and Hamilton. Until they cool off I guess I can hold off speculating on Bradley (actually, I'm about ready to pony up for Bay anyway, as Johnny suggests, but that's another post)

18. Baltimore (19) - benefits a bit from the continued struggles of better teams.

19. Cleveland (14) - Given I still think this is one of the teams we have to worry about for the wild card, the longer they (inexplicably) struggle, the better for the Jays.

20. NY Mets (11) - All you folks who think Gibbons is letting a team under-achieve, check out the tiny tiny thread which holds Willie Randolph to his job.

21. Pittsburgh (23) - Hopefully they don't entertain the illusion of success too long, we can't keep the jet at the airport waiting for Jason Bay forever.

22. Milwaukee (16) - slowly watching things slip away from them.

23. Cincinnati (26) - finally pulled off the marathon win tonight despite not being able to hit Josh F'n Banks for 6 innings.

24. Detroit (22) - you're thinking all any team needs is a really good manager like Jim Leland? hold on just a sec...

25. Kansas City (21) early success is receding in the rear-view by now.

26. Washington (28) - a good couple of weeks by their standards.

27. Seattle (25) - Wheels have come completely off at this point.

28. Colorado (27) - I remember some boardies raving on O'Dowd as a GM based on that improbable run last year. The Rox probably are not THIS bad but I'll hear no more bragging about what a winner O'Dowd has built in Colorado for a while, I suspect.

29. San Francisco (29) - I'm a bit stunned the Padres can't even get past THIS team.

30. San Diego (30) - hard to believe they have such an awful record this year.

The YBD Award for May 2008

Short and sweet this time because I'll be around again with the rankings later on tonight but I could not resist this. One of the Legendary Baseball Geniuses who follows the Jays and has access to and (surprisingly, the knowledge to use) a telephone called into Mike Wilner's JaysTalk post game show today after the game and said, as well as I can quote directly, this:

"The Jays are not out of their offensive problem because they are still hitting .229 with runners in scoring position."

Um, ya, ok.

Hey, dumbass - what good does it do to quote the season total of a statistic which includes within it the slump as if it means any DAMN thing about what has been happening SINCE the slump???

IF we are talking about whether or not the slump has ended - as you were! - then all that matters is what has happened SINCE the slump has ended - if it has.

And just because I know you are too damned lazy (to say nothing of stupid) to look it up for yourself, I'll tell you: the Jays are 35 for 106 w/RISP since the second game of the double header.

that's a robust .330!

So, yeah, You Big Dummy, the offense IS out of that particular slump. Thanks for playing, here's a lovely version of our home game.

~WillRain

Taking 'Em Down a Peg


Starting the day's action the Jays are in third place after finally leap-frogging the O's (how did they string the non-suckage out for so long?) and are looking up at the second place Rays. Yep, them. Nothing to be proud of per se, but let me take the erstwhile contenders down a peg.

It's hard not to feel like your corn flakes have been pissed in whenever someone mentions Frank Thomas' line with the A's. Well, an eye for an eye. Remember way back a month ago when certain folk were touting Eric "The Dude" Hinske as an early candidate for the AL Comeback player of the year? A "New Pena" many said, citing his early numbers as evidence that Rays brass could shake mega-slugger bats out of the retread tree at will.

Hinske was off to an absolutely torrid start the last time his Rays rolled through TO in early this month, boasting a 1.018 OPS when the series began on May 6. And then reality set in. Through May he's hit .197/.234/.361, bringing his overall line down to (a still respectable) .248/.333/.511. In a delicious twist of irony, Rays Index is now talking of the man so recently touted for post-season awards as a DFA candidate.

What's next for The Dude? Reduced PT and probably part-time utility duties, which most pretty much every Jays fan on the face fo the earth knew was the only role he's really fit for.


-- Johnny Was

Friday, 23 May 2008

Tribute to Carlson

I was gonna write something about how the Jays offense has been sucking. But I'm tired of reading & writing about why Wilkerson shouldn't lead off (cause he sucks); or why Lind isn't playing LF in the majors (cause the Jays like hitting a collective 226/307/294 as LF's and Lind might actually do better than that...). So instead, I'm going to write a tribute to, arguably, the MVP of the bullpen.

I'll be honest - if you mentioned Carlson's name to me before the 08 season had started, I'd probably stare blankly at you and say we have enough lefties with Downs, Tallet & Ryan. But you know what, ever since his first appearance, back on April 10th against Oakland, with the bases loaded, I've been a huge fan of the guy.

He comes in with the bases loaded, and I'm just thinking "please god, just don't let him give up a grand slam...". I didn't have much faith in him until I started seeing that ridiculous breaking pitch, and that mid 80's fastball. For his first major league game, he was pretty damn calm and controlled. And before you know it, he's got his first major league strikeout. In his first major league appearance, with the bases loaded, he gets out of the jam and keeps the Jays in the game. That made a hell of an impression on me.

Not even a week later, the Jays were playing the Rangers. All the relievers had been used, and Gibbons went to his last Southpaw. Carlson dominated for three innings, allowing 1 hit, 2 walks, and 4 strikeouts while keeping the Jays in the game, giving them every chance to win. Sure, AJ messed up in relief, but I'll always remember how Carlson dominated for 3 innings. Some of the hitters got to face him a second time, which usually means trouble for relievers. But Carlson adjusted to the hitters, and still got them out.

Whenever he comes into the game now, I'm just expecting him to get out of it without a problem. He's become a huge part of the bullpen, and he's definetly earned his spot. His stats are unbelievable - 1-0 record, with one save to his credit. He's got a 1.77 ERA, 22:6 K:BB, and a 0.93 WHIP. He's pretty damn effective against both lefty & righty hitters.

Honestly, I don't know where the Jays would be without him. I'm positive he's singlehandedly saved 2-3 games for the Jays. And I'm confident in the fact that once the league has seen him, and they know what to expect, Carlson will still find a way to adjust, surprise them and get them out.

So here's a salute to Jesse Carlson, the Southpaw who defied the odds to become one of the best arms in arguably the top bullpens in the game.

Twitchy.

The Roundup

The Jays appeared to have channeled a bit Tony Fernandez last night, the 1990 Tony Fernandez who decided that he would never stop at second base on any ball hit to one of the outfield gaps. It didn't really pan out with a pair of men thrown out at second trying to stretch singles into doubles (and a botched hit and run later), but a win is a win is a win even if it featured reckless rather than aggressive baserunning. Scott Rolen and Brad Wilkerson, you know what you did, though I reckon they were only following orders from above.

Things that were double plus good: AJ Burnett (solid start) and Lyle Overbay (homer and double, his OPS creeps up towards .800). Honourable mention to Joe Inglett, the starting DH!, for a run-scoring triple.

The Oracle says this: STFU about Lyle Overbay not having any power, if Stairs is out for any length of time with a sore neck Adam Lind might be on a Greyhound back to TO, Brad Wilkersuck is awful, and Ernie Whitt for manager? Seriously?

Ok, Jays you're wooing me. I'm listening to your pitch. Reel me back in. The Royals are coming to town, yeah, the Royals, the only team with more difficulty scoring runs than the Jays. I don't care how good Zach Greinke is, it's time to start...

Has anyone else noticed that the Rogers Centre has sounded about as raucus as a funeral parlour through this homestand?

I really don't see how you can have limited instant replay in baseball. Home run calls but not plays at the plate? Why not all late inning close calls in tight games? And then why not balls and strikes? I'm not opposed to instant replay in our games, but god forbid the introduction of any new rule changes that might allow Bosox and Yankees games to draw out any longer than they already do.

This seems like a good place to bury the following: Frank Thomas is hitting .282/.394/.462 for an OPS+ of 143 as an Oakland A. Fuck me.

Nobody as of yet has tried to engage us in a debate over whether Marco Scutaro should grab the lion's share of the PT at short even after all hands are healthy. MLBastian throws some numbers at you: Since taking over at short for Davohn EckDonald, Marco Scutaro has hit .333 with a .414 on-base percentage in 15 games. So, what say you?

Also courtesy of Bastian, the Jays have the best bullpen ERA in the AL despite losing last year's closer Jeremy Accardo and handing innings to castoffs like Shawn Camp and Armando Benitez. I was wondering last night if Jesse Carlson might Hideki Okajima his way into some rookie of the year consideration...

Since JP likes old crappy players who used to be on his radar, could Brian Giles be a trade target? I seriously hope not, but he'd be much, much cheaper than other options.

ELSEWHERE:

* The Yankee organization is run by a scoundrel, so don't be surprised that LaTroy Hawkins was the second NYY reliever to be suspended for head-hunting. The fish rots from the head down, as the old Moldovan proverb goes.

-- Johnny Was

Thursday, 22 May 2008

The Roundup

This team is seriously in danger of losing me and there's absolutely no way more of this horseshit can compete with the 2-hour finale of Lost tonight. "Malaise" is right, Blair.

After reading Will's post about GIDP my mind wandered to something I read a few years back about Crystal Palace FC, an English football club that had some success back in the early '90s to go along with the second coolest name in the sport after Arsenal. A journo from one of the trashier British tabloids took in a Palace practice and was struck at how lackadaisically the players went through the motions. When he questioned the team captain about why they blew off practice, he was told that "practicing makes us tired." Well no shit, you just can't argue with that logic.

Sometimes things are bad because they're supposed to be bad.

Ah, back to the ol' Bullshit Detector above.

A good number of JaysTalk callers phone in without the foggiest of ideas about what they're going to say (like the guy who wanted to trade for Juan Pierre), but I had reached the conclusion the discourse was somewhat more intelligent for Wednesday's with JP. Someone inevitably asked about trading for "Canadian Boy" Jason Bay (right after somewhat ironically slamming Matt Stairs), prompting two things from JP. First, JP asked the caller to throw down and tell us all who he'd trade. The caller said Jesse Litsch, prompting a paradoxial reply that The Body was too valuable/cost efficient to us, but had little trade value in the eyes of other clubs. Uh, ok?

But it was the second thing that threw me. Paraphrasing, JP said something to the effect of "First, he's not available. And I don't know if you've checked the numbers but he's not exactly tearing it up." Not available? His availability is the worst kept non-secret in the sport. He's more available than Dunn or Griffey, that's for sure. The Pirates might wait until they fall further out of contention before making a move, but they simply cannot afford to keep him in '09. If you think Neal Huntington is foolish enough to believe that he's got anything remotely approaching the 4th best club in the National League you're off your fucking tits.

"Not exactly tearing it up." Bay has a .259/.392/.487 line for a 132 OPS+ to go along with 10 HR. If that's not tearing it up, I don't know what is. And sorry, Scott Rolen is the Greatest Blue Jay Ever, but Bay has the same offensive profile and is slightly out-hitting Rolen Thunder to date, not to mention the rest of the sad sack flaccid little bats that round out the rest of our lineup. I wish I had an entire team of guys like Rolen and Bay.

It's awfully tempting to give up the ghost on this year. I think we all knew that it was going to take a monster V-Dub year a la 2003/2006 for us to seriously be in contention and his replacement for 2+ months by Brad Wilkerson can probably be singled out as the most glaring reason why we're thrashing vainly in the quicksand. John Hale at the Mockingbird sliced through the fog by showing all and sundry that the bats haven't been any better in May despite the team's improved record. It basically comes down to this: you make an impact trade right quick or you accept mediocrity and start making up a list of guys you dump for prospects at the trade deadline. Don't worry, we'll be on that soon enough.

Speaking of trade bait, David Eckstein had a setback in his rehab outing and isn't expected to rejoin the big club tonight as expected. I swear I saw Hector Luna come into last night's game as a pinch runner, I swear it!

Alex Rios can add "horrible baserunner" to his CV according to The Oracle. You do have to credit the guy for coming up with creative new ways to lose games on a nightly basis.

Darren Thomson of Vancouver, B.C. is the first recipient of The Southpaw Award for Courage and Valour in the Line of Fandom for calling Dick Griffin out on his assinine "four guys, six years" assessment of JP's draft record. Well played, sir. And I encourage you to read on because Dick begins one answer "Fo’schizzle less ster-izzle my Rot-izzle." Seriously. And in the next one he assuses Rance Mulliniks of being a chronic masturbator. I am not making this shit up.

ELSEWHERE:

* It begins. A-Rod off the DL, Joba Chamberlain to the rotation. Pardon me while I choke on my own vomit. But it looks like CM Wang might have a calf strain... resisting temptation to make "wang" joke, moving on...

* Bleech, even worse! Bartolo Cologne (haha) started and took the win for the Bosox last night. He clearly did not use his rehab stint to lose weight, though.

-- Johnny Was

Wednesday, 21 May 2008

I stood all I can stands, I can't stands no more

OK, seriously, what the fuck?

We are now up to 58 double plays grounders in 48 games. That's a pace for 196!! And while I was as excited about anyone, more than most, about the moderately neato offense the Jays put up last week, I'm not so encouraged that I can lay aside the fact that we can outhit the Angles 20-9 in the last two games and lose both of them.

If that's not enough, we get THIS little nugget of insight from Gibbons referred to in Blair's column today:

Gibbons made clear that Eckstein shouldn't expect to be in the lead-off spot when he returns. He plans on sticking with Brad Wilkerson in that role and likes Aaron Hill in the No. 2 spot. That means that Alex Rios will need to hit his way out of his slump in the middle of the order.

I'm FAR from a "Gibby must go!" guy but, fuck, that attitude is just flat unacceptable. Wilkerson is hitting .167 as a Jay and a .477 OPS - and that in over twice as many attempts as Adam Lind got before Gibby decided he had no job for him.

UN - AC - CEPTABLE. I don't give a fuck who you are.

It's questionable you have such a hitter even on your team, given the man's past few years, it's fucking strange you have such a guy in your lineup but maybe what with injuries you have to, but there is NO JUSTIFICATION for leading off a guy like that.

End of discussion.

Compound that by having Rios, who's mired in an 18 for 95 slump (.189) in the #3 spot (traditionally your best hitter) work out of his slump at that critical point in the order....astounding!

And if that's not enough, Rod Barajas is smoking the ball in May and yet the manager of a team who's punchless offense is putting HIS head on the black keep trotting the slumping Zaun out there more often than not. I'm a fan of Zauny and i don't trust Barajas been desperate times call for desperate measures.

There's no doubt in my mind that the team is snakebit offensively at the moment....it only takes watching the incredible number of balls which are very often clean hits that are somehow getting caught over the last few weeks, but that said, when you are fighting or trying to fight your way out of such a situation, you do what you have to do to maximize the tools you have to work with.

Right now Stewart needs to be leading off (and he's not great shakes but in May he's hitting about exactly what we thought we were going to get from Eckstien when we signed him) and Rios needs dropped down and Barajas needs to be getting more AB until he cools. Hell, as hot as he is right now Scutero leading off makes vastly more sense than Wilkerson.

I've always thought Gibby was pretty decent as a manager but if he's actually determined to continue leading off Wilkerson, then I'm not standing up for him any more when folks rag on him. Making a questionable move is one thing, losing your damn mind is something else.

~WillRain

The Roundup

That, my friends, was a stinker.

McGowan finished with what looks like a pretty solid line, though the box score doesn't show that he slow danced with the devil on numerous occasions and did not look particularly sharp (Juan Guzman-y, if you will). Aaron Hill and Alex Rios have to fight for sole possession of the goat horns because both had pathetic ABs in the 9th with the bases loaded and a wild Franky Rodriguez on the mound.

An overly aggressive Hill chose to weakly pop up a ball low and inside on the second pitch he saw, whereas Rios came up determined not to swing at anything (except those two pitches he fouled off, but still...) I'd have choked on my lemonade at the audacity of Rios leaving the bat on his shoulder for a 3-2 fastball had I been drinking any at the time. Hopefully lessons will be learned seeing as those two chuckleheads provided text book examples of what not to do in that situation.

The Oracle sums it up best in a short and sweet lede: "It was as though the last week didn’t happen." True dat. After a solo shot to open the Jays first, the club couldn't score despite getting 8 hits and taking 7 walks. The Angels might have won it on defense, but the Jays total lack of hitting with RISP was deflating after a week of good-ish baseball. Sigh.

Nevertheless, even after last night the Angels are still only 19-39 at the Rogers Centre since 1996, so the odds of them winning again tonight are about as good as the Jays chances of sweeping a series in Texas. Impossible!

Marcum-Garland tonight and again this one isn't televised for those of you without a Rogers cable box. Children's hockey in late May, eh? You chose to be born in this country so don't come complaining to me.

Expect Wonder Boy to return from his hip flexor injury for Thursday's game. The question still remains: should Marco Scutaro be grabbing the lion's share of PT at SS? I don't know and it's not really a debate I'd enjoy having.

Do you dare take a glimpse inside the twisted mind of a madman?

ELSEWHERE:

* Derek Jeter is not headed for the DL after being hit in the wrist by from BB-chucking O's starter Daniel Cabrera last night. Erick Aybar of the Angels probably is after dislocating his pinky at the Rogers Centre. In the grand scheme of things, there's little more than a marginal impact over the remaining two games of the Jays-Angels series.

-- Johnny Was

Tuesday, 20 May 2008

Dave Purcey Bulletin

After getting Shellac'd by the Phillies in Philly on Friday, Dave Purcey was back on the Greyhound to Syracuse for some home action against Sergio Santos and the Rochesters this afternoon. And as clever as it is to suggest that he use "My Black Ass" as his new intro music for future major league starts, he was great once again pretty much as he has been in each of his minor league starts this year.

Purcey threw up goose eggs for 6 IP and left in line for the win, but Brandon League suffered a minor meltdown in the 9th for a blown save before the bats won it in the 10th. Normally I don't really bother to note who got the W and who wore the goat horns, but Purcey did match up with some guy named Francisco Liriano, of whose exploits you may be familiar.

In the end, Purcey surrendered 5 hits, walked 3 and K'd 5. The rest of the ledger is somewhat of a mixed bag: on the plus side, he kept the ball on the ground, inducing 8 groundouts to 3 flyouts; on the negative side, well, sort-of-negative side, he threw 80 pitches, only 49 of which were strikes. That low pitch count must've been imposed since he was throwing on 3 days rest thanks to the abbreviated outing on Philly.

We knew coming into this year that at age 26, it was time for Purcey to shit or get off the pot. He's been excellent in AAA as the raw numbers indicate (57:19 K:BB in 50.2 IP, 1.95 ERA, and .194 BAA), but has looked very much out of his element in 2 big league starts. Hrm, if we've all been saying said that a 19-AB ML audition for Adam Lind was ludicrisly short, why would one jump to the premature conclusion that Purcey can't translate his minor league success into something more?

Does that mean he joins the rotation some time later this year or next? Maybe, but his development doesn't have to follow a predicable linear path for him to become a contributor to the big club in the short term. This familiar lefty didn't really find success until age 27 and didn't find his true calling until the following year. Maybe some low leverage relief innings would help with the rookie jitters. In any event, we continue to observe closely.

-- Johnny Was

The Roundup

I return to you punch drunk from the desert heat (and margartias) of Arizona and haven't seen a Jays game since Thursday, though I'm aware they they put on radical exclamation point on a crucial road trip my taking 2 of 3 from the Phillies of Philadelphia.

Don't start planning the victory parade, yet, though. The wheels looked like they were about to come off in Cleveland and this club returns home just as capable of losing 5 in a row as the opposite. Enter the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim, California, United States of America, not Mexico.

The Jays have looked great against the Angels, even when they were a playoff team, over the past few years. Last year they were 4-3, 6-4 in 2006, and 5-1 in 2005 for a cumulative 3-year record of 15-8. Whereas, say, the Rangers might be a poor-average team that has given us fits over the years we seem to be the bug in ointment for the Angels. So bring on the AL West leaders without fear in your heart.

Random trivia courtesy of Baseball Almanac:

Did you know that "On August 25, 1979, the Angels set a team record for hits during a game with twenty-six (26) versus the Toronto Blue Jays?" That was a 24-2 win if you didn't open the box score. Serious pwnage, but odds are you hadn't even been born then, so who cares really?

Tonight's matchup should be an interesting one as Dustin McGowan takes on Angels ace John Lackey. As Juan Guzmany as McG has been through the first month and a half of the season, he still remains a lock down stud at home (2-0, 1.86 ERA, .614 OPS against), where he throws tonight. In general, McG has been more hittable, given up more BBs and registered fewer Ks than he did last year. Getting a start against a relatively impatient, free-swinging club might help him get back on track. Lackey, just off the DL, is one of the best starters in the AL and looked good last week against the Chisox in his first start of the season. Is a low-scoring 2 hour, 20 minute affair in the cards? Perhaps.

If you too disappeared into an alcohol-induced haze over the weekend, no better place to catch up with the Jays than by checking in with Senor Mike Wilner.

Why has Alex Rios sucked so heartily thus far? Don't ask Cathal Kelly because he doesn't know.

The sched gets a little soft and gooey for the next 19 games: the Angels (6) are a very good team but don't have much luck with the Jays, the Royals (4) are still the Royals, which is a polite way of saying they only suck a bit less than in the past, the A's (3) defy expectations, the battered Yankees (3) and wrapping up with the expectation-defying Orioles (3). Let's start rollin', boys!

ELSEWHERE:

* No hitters against the Royals (or Orioles) are less special than no-hitters against proper teams, so forgive me the lack of any Jon Lester love.

* As they like to say at Ghostrunner on First, this is more gay than 9 guys blowing 8 guys. Why this Yankee Stadium construction worker opened his fat gob (to Yankee fans presumably) in the first place is beyond me. Will they order a complete demolition of the new stadium and greater security screening for the crew on rebuild? Only time will tell.

* Random trivia, part II: Did you know that roughly half of big league managers are, like John Gibbons, former catchers? What's Pat Borders doing? He used to be a catcher. I caught a few innings (with a second baseman's glove no less) back when I was 10, too. Hello, job offers?

-- Johnny Was

Sunday, 18 May 2008

Mornin Observations

After watching AJ's dominant outing against a very strong Phillies lineup, I wanted to check out his splits with Barajas. It always seems like he's incredibly dominant when Barajas is his battery-mate, and lousy with Zaun. Nothing against Zaun of course, but AJ & Barajas look like they have tremendous chemistry.

Here are the splits (Ba/OBP/slug) for AJ with Barajas & Zaun behind the plate:

Barajas: 207/286/303 (589 OPS)
Zaun: 368/438/566 (1.004 OPS)
I'll give Zaun the benefit of a 450 BAPIP, compared to a 250ish one from when Barajas is behind the plate. But those splits make it pretty damn clear that Barajas needs to be catching AJ everytime out. The only way to win this year is to make sure AJ opts-out, and he can only do that if he has a winning season. And if he has a winning season, the Jays will be in the playoff race.

Lineup issues

Now, it's been said time and time again that the order of a lineup makes little to no difference on how the team performs. So if that's the case, feel free to skip this and read on to Will's brilliant post about the minors...

Alright still here? Cool. Now, when Gibbons was making the lineup back in the AL parks, you may have noticed some platoon issues - 2 RH batters, 2 LH batters in a row. Things like that. My lineup tries to eliminate that, while keeping everyone in line with their respective skill set:

1st - Alex Rios, CF - I know, people hate him leading off. But he was struggling before he was moved to the leadoff spot, and he'd have slumped hitting 1st, 3rd, or 9th. He's the catalyst of this team, and we need guys to get on base for the middle of the lineup to drive them in. Rios gives us that "Sizemore" type player at the top of the lineup, and gets shit going.

2nd - Lyle Overbay 1B- He's a good doubles hitter, but more importantly is the 370+ OBP. You wanna score a lot of runs? Put a high OBP guy at the top...Vs LHP Eckstein can bat second when he returns.

3rd - Rolen 3B- best hitter on this team. He's not a HR slugger, but he has a high slugging %, so he'll be a perfect fit here. Also has a ridiculously good eye, as seen by the 15 pitch at bats he had in Minnesota.

4th - Stairs, DH - He's the big HR guy, the classic slugger, and the obvious choice against RHP to bat fourth. Mench, when he's healthy, can play RF and bat fourth against Southpaws.

5th - Aaron Hill 2B - A surprising choice, but he's capable of hitting 5th, mainly because the options behind him suck. Stairs would bat fifth vs lefties.

6th - Gregg Zaun C - Except for when AJ is pitching, Zaunnie bats 6th. Great OBP to start a new rally once Stairs clears the bases. Hill bats here vs LHP

7th - Stew LF - You all know I'd rather have Lind here, but realistically Stew's the guy we need to hit 7th. Overbay bats here vs LHP.

8th - RF Wilkerson - Just filling out roster spots at this point....Zaun bats here vs LHP

9th - David Eckstein SS- nuff said. Stew or Wilkerson can play LF and bat here vs LHP.

So the final result of my lineups are:

vs RHP - Rios, Overbay, Rolen, Stairs, Hill, Zaun, Stew, Wilkerson, Eckstein

vs LHP - Rios, Eck, Rolen, Mench, Stairs, Hill, Overbay, Zaun, Wilkerson/Stew

I think my lineups are a lot more intimidating, and better served against late game so that opposing managers can't go too the loogy or RH set up man and go through 2-3 hitters in a row and have a platoon advantage.

Twitchy.

The Unsung Heroes

We seem to say far too little on this blog about minors leaguers in the Jays system. And when we do it's usually David Purcey or Adam Lind or Travis Snider. But there are other fine performances going on in the Jays system - delivered by guys who are not only not in the Big Three, but are often the sort of guys that Baseball America and Baseball Prospectus and the like can't be arsed to pay any attention to.

but if Shawn Marcum has taught us anything, it's that you don't have to make the top 150 prospect list to have bona fide major league ability. so her are a few names the causal fan might not recognize, but who stand a chance of making some big league noise one day:

Davis Romero (LHP) - Who is he? He's a slender (5' 10" 160#) lefty who's having a remarkable comeback from torn labium surgery (corrected per feedback comment).

Usually expectations for the first year after surgery are very tempered, and labium surjery is even less predictable than TJ, but DR is defying that convention. The 25 year old LHP is starting in AAA and has a solid ERA of 3.86 and 30 K's in his 26 innings of work as a starter. what's more, if you take away one disastrous start, that ERA falls all the way to 1.52 in his other seven appearances. And his line is perfectly reflective of the rest of his minor league career. While he's starting with Syracuse, he doesn't go deep into games and he probably doesn't have the stamina to start in the majors (though he did average 6 IP per start in AA in 2006) but if his minor league performance is any indication, you can look for a ton of high quality set-up innings in a blue Jays uniform sometime relatively soon.
One thing that is sometimes discussed among Jays' fans is the potential of trading Brian Tallett at some point, given the emergence of Jessie Carlson. Well, whether or not Carlson proves to be a long term keeper, Davis Romero is the guy who's going to someday make Tallet trade bait.

Brandon League (RHP) - Included here simply because he's no longer a rookie and thus kind of "off the radar" in terms of prospect discussions. He's got a 15:2 K:BB ratio in his last 13 IP in AAA and seems to have gotten his issue under control, yet the major league pen is so crowded there's no way for him to get reps in the majors. Interestingly, in 4 of his last six appearances he pitched 3 innings and pitched them well. The speculation has started in JaysLand that perhaps he's being stretched out for a return to the rotation. I could get enthused about him either way, I just don't want to see him wasted in middle relief....and I'd prefer that when he became a prominent major leaguer, as he's likely to do, it be in a Jays uniform.

Scott Campbell (2B) - The 23 year old native of New Zealand has been one of the biggest surprises in the Jays system. Drafted 300th overall (in the 10th round) by the Jays in 2006, he was bounced from low A ball (where he was good but not great) in 2006 to AA in 2007 and he's been ripping up the Eastern League all season. The kid is an on-base machine (.401 at the moment) with a high average (.338) and middling power for his position. He needs some defensive versatility to have a future with the Jays, since he's behind Aaron Hill, but if 2B is his only position, he'll still be a valuable trade chip soon if this level of performance holds into AAA. i think given that there's nothing impressive blocking him, he might get the promotion in mid-summer.

Ryan Patterson (OF) - Having an up and down season, shows flashes and then fades. Might be "the next Reed Johnson" someday but doesn't have the reputation for balls-out play that Reed does.

Brett Cecil (LHP) - actually, this guy is a high profile guy who most people put up in the top Five prospects for the Jays but perhaps you have been asleep since we haven't said much about him here (and I assume you get all your Jays news from The Southpaw, right? I said am I right?) Well, anyway, this kid, who was a supplemental first rounder for the jays just last year) is 21 and in AA and has a 3.18 ERA. He's reeled off 3 straight starts of 4.2IP and allowed only three ER in those 14 innings. He's still not going deep into games - the Jays say that will change as the season wears on - but unless he hits a roadblock, this kid will likely finish the season in AAA and come to camp next spring with an outside chance of making the majors. He could be a reliever in the bigs right now, but the Jays will keep him starting as long as he shows promise there.

Brian Dopirak (1B/DH) - maybe this guy was signed for organizational filler but at some point you have to take notice. The former Cubs Minor League Player of the year (who hit 38 doubles and 39 homers in Lansing when it was a Cubs affiliate) saw his power drop markedly in the two succeeding seasons. Signed as a minor league free agent, the 24 year old is having a fine, though not quite as powerful, campaign in Dunedin He's on a pace to top 40 doubles and 20 homers but more importantly for his future, he's sporting a robust .425 OPS this year. Whatever the teams original intent, as soon as Snider can play the field again, he needs to get kicked up to AA and see if he can maintain.

Kyle Ginley (RHP) - You gotta love THIS guy! In nine starts on two levels, the little noticed 17th round draft pick in 2006 has only posted an ERA of 1.35 and he's striking out almost a batter per inning and only given up two home runs. The 21 year old has been slightly more prone to the walk at High A than at Low A but has otherwise been just as good. Nathan Staner (RHP) -

Nathan Staner (LHP) - He's 24 and in Lansing so he's too old for the competition. He needs to be jumped up to AA to see what he really has to offer, but with that caveat, - boy he's ripping up low A ball. 45K in 40 innings, a 1.67 ERA, only eight walks and one home run allowed. LH pitchers tend to run a bit behind on development anyway. So you can't write him off, but I'm impatient for the Jays to really test this guy.

Cody Crowell (LHP) - I think I'm the only one out there talking about this guy. sometimes I do pick up on a nice line and brag on a guy who never turns out....usually something I didn't know about him that the organization did, but this guy certainly has impressive numbers. The 22 year old lefty has a 1.59 ERA at low-A Lansing and an incredible 29 K's in 17 IP.

Edger Estranga (LHP) - another 22 year old lefty reliever, he sports a 0.73 ERA and a solid K rate. Both these young men need promotions to a more challenging level.

Marc Rzepczynski (LHP) - This guy got some notice last year, then opened the season on the DL. He has two starts at Lansing now and has seemed to pick right up, He bears watching.


Justin Jackson (SS) - He's been in an awful slump since coming back from a stint in the DL but he clearly had his stroke working in April (he had a .941 OPS in the first month of the season). The 19 year old evokes visions of Tony Fernandez physically and is said to be a similarly talented defender and possesor of "tools." it would be a very good thing if he came as fast as Fernandez did, and had a similar career. Because it's so easy to compare him to Fernandez - one of my very favorite All time Jays, I can't help but be the number one cheerleader for Justin Jackson.
If he succeeds to the level of his abilities, he's going to do a whole lot to repaid JP's drafting image.

Eric Eiland (OF) - The 19 year old left handed hitter is just getting his start in Low A ball after being held back in extended spring training, but the guy who's said to have more Tools than Tim Taylor is off to a blazing start in a small sample (4 games). Keep your eye on this one.

Johermyn Chavez (OF) - The one guy listed here without an impressive stat line to talk about, the 19 year old Venezualan still bears watching. He had an encouraging April but is currently 7 for 50 in May.

So, halfway through the first half, here's one man's informal Dandy Dozen ranking of the Jays most promising minor leaguers:


1. Travis Snider
2. David Purcey
3. Brett Cecil
4. Adam Lind
5. Brandon League
6. Justin Jackson
7. Eric Eiland
8. Kevin Ahrens
9. Davis Romero
10. Scott Campbell
11. J.P. Arenchiba
12. Kyle Ginley


~ WillRain

Friday, 16 May 2008

A little self congratulation....

I note with interest that Stoeten has conceded that the boys at the Tao were the first to use the ever-more-popular appellation "The Greatest Blue Jay Ever" in reference to Scott Rolen.

That may perhaps be true, but they were not the first one to exhibit irrational exuberance in regards to the Main Man. that would be your truly. Here's a comment I made on February 20 on this very blog:

"Scott Rolen is a "difference maker" - no, Scott Rolen is THE Difference Maker for the Toronto Blue Jays."

Is it MY fault that was said in relative obscurity? So, maybe "The difference maker" didn't catch on. You still got to admit I didn't need to see Rolen set the world on fire in late April to acknowledge his greatness. I've also already said in public, and say here and now again...I think that when winter gets here the Jays ought to go ahead and talk to TDM about taking another 2/3 years onto his current deal.

He's. Just. That. Good.

So there.

~WillRain

Long Weekend!


I'm off to celebrate British Imperialism just as Queen Victoria would've wanted it: by flying to Phoenix for a bachelor party trip. (S: she's a great girl but there's still time to back out of the wedding if you're scared, buddy.) We'll be taking in the Tigers and Diamondbacks game tomorrow and hopefully all of our indiscretions from that point on will be private. I'll post some photos of Chase on Tuesday if I don't end up drunkenly trading my wife's camera for a bag of magic beans.

Normally I hate interleague play more than the terrorists hate our freedom, but I admit to a soft spot for the Phillies of Philadelphia. Just 2 of 3 puts us back at .500 and creates some breathing room between us and the last place Yankees. (No, it's not hypocritical to blow it off as an early season anomaly when we were in the basement and snicker when they're at the bottom of the barrel.)

And Big D starts tonight, which should obviously be of interest to you all because it certainly is to us. May your fastball be fast and your curveball break greatly.

Somewhere my beer is getting warm...

Have a safe and awesome weekend, fellas!

-- Johnny Was

Thursday, 15 May 2008

Time to start our own trade rumour

This one's for Johnny. As you're all well aware, Johnny's been championing Khalil Greene to be our SS of the future. He is struggling now, but keep in mind this is a SS who has a career batting line away from Petco of 275/326/503 (830 OPS). On top of that, Greene is a pretty elite defender, as he's currently 9th out of 27 for qualifying SS's in ZR.

So why do I bring this up? Well, I was reading ESPN's Rumblings & Grumblings when I saw this:

EYES ON SAN DIEGO: Here's one AL executive's nomination for a club that could go into early selling mode: The Padres. "The vibes we're getting is that they already know it's not happening for them this year," the exec said. "So they may be the first team that tries to be opportunistic." Among the Padres the shoppers figure to keep their eye on: Khalil Greene, Kevin Kouzmanoff (to open third base for Chase Headley), Randy Wolf and any bullpen arms the Padres would talk about.

Now, if they trade Kouzmanoff to open 3B for Chase Headley, one of the positions that they'd have an opening in would be the OF. While I'd love to see Adam Lind develop as a Jay, it's clear that JP and management feels differently. His trade value couldn't be lower, but could an Adam Lind for Khalil Greene swap be a possibility? I'm sure JP might have to add more to it - who I'm not quite sure. But would Kevin Towers, the Padres GM, have an interest in a LH batting LF? Hey, you never know. I'd love to get Greene, because outside of Petco he could be one of the top offensive SS's in the game.

Oh, and if that's not enough for you, what about this gem? Despite a 586 OPS this season (buy-low candidate...and yes I know 586 is pretty bad), Greene is hitting 801 (OPS) with runners on base, and he also has a 948 OPS (!!!!) with RISP.

So with that in mind, I think it's time to start our own trade rumour. Khalil Greene will become a Toronto Blue Jay sometime this season. Get er' done JP!

Twitchy.