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When Seth McClung shut down the Jays on Friday, the usual complaints were heard. "The Devil Rays always give the Jays trouble." Or, you know, it could just be the fact that even if the Jays win 90 this year, that means they lose 72. (Though this is yet another series in which the Jays did not sweep nor get swept; that's another topic, however.)

Okay, I'll admit having thought that the Fighting Jays show less fight against the boys from St. Petersburg, but I quickly dismissed it. It's one of those things people say so often that they think it's true. But it's not. Or is it?

Let's take a look at how the Jays have played various teams over the last three years. Why 2003? Just because. Before I looked at the numbers, here's what I expected for the AL East opponents:

New York: slightly worse than .500.
Boston: better than New York, but wins no more often than 55% of the time.
Baltimore: large advantage.
Tampa Bay: Well, since you hear *all the time* that the Rays have the Jays' number and these are the same people who said last year that the Jays "are BRUTAL in the clutch," then I have to go with an advantage in the Jays' favour.

As for non-AL East opponents, I think the Jays have done quite well against the Angels and worse than usual against the Tigers. If I had to rank the records of Toronto (again, before looking at any results), I would say:
Orioles
Angels
Red Sox
Devil Rays
.500
Rangers
Indians
Tigers
A's
Yankees

You'll notice that the Mariners, Royals, Twins and White Sox didn't make the list. That's because I cannot remember anything significant about them playing the Jays in the last three years. Call it East Coast Bias (or "unbalanced schedule").

On to the list:
Toronto vs. Each Team, 2003-2005
Team W L Pct
Pirates 3 0 1.000
Angels 17 7 .708
Cubs 4 2 .667
Dodgers 2 1 .667
Padres 2 1 .667
Reds 2 1 .667
Royals 14 7 .667
Mariners 17 9 .654
Tigers 12 10 .545
Orioles 29 28 .509
Devil Rays 28 28 .500
Expos/Nationals 9 9 .500
OVERALL 233 252 .480
Red Sox 25 31 .446
Indians 8 11 .421
White Sox 9 13 .409
Yankees 22 34 .393
Twins 7 11 .389
Athletics 10 16 .385
Brewers 1 2 .333
Cardinals 2 4 .333
Diamonbacks 1 2 .333
Rangers 9 19 .321
Astros 0 3 .000
Giants 0 3 .000

Aside from the Jays somehow playing the Reds (This happened? Really?), here's what we know from the list:

My Estimate Actual
Orioles Angels
Angels Tigers
Red Sox Orioles
Devil Rays Devil Rays
.500 .500
Rangers Red Sox
Indians Indians
Tigers Yankees
Athletics Athletics
Yankees Rangers

Okay, so the rankings were a bit off. I'll never doubt Kevin Mench again.

Let's take a look at that again, removing any team that the Jays did not play in one of the three years. This leaves us with all the AL teams plus the now-Nationals (and OVERALL refers to just these teams):

Toronto vs. Teams Faced Often, 2003-2005
Team
Pct
Angels
.708
Royals
.667
Mariners
.654
Tigers
.545
Orioles
.509
Devil Rays
.500
Expos/Nationals
.500
OVERALL
.481
Red Sox
.446
Indians
.421
White Sox
.409
Yankees
.393
Twins
.389
Athletics
.385
Rangers
.321

Gotta love those Fighting Jays against the Angels, eh?

But wait. The Athletics, Twins, White Sox, Rangers...these are teams that have been better than the Jays anyway. So losing to them isn't that bad, is it?
Here's a new table, this time showing the Jays' record against this team and that team's total "losing percentage" over the three-year period (since the .708 entry for the Angels means they lost 70.8% of the time). A positive difference means the Jays played better against that team than expected.

Team LPct vs Tor LPct Diff
Angels .708 .457 .251
Mariners .654 .537 .117
Royals .667 .595 .072
Red Sox .446 .408 .038
Expos/Nationals .500 .475 .025
Yankees .393 .389 .004
Orioles .509 .541 -.032
White Sox .409 .449 -.040
Athletics .385 .434 -.048
Twins .389 .455 -.066
Tigers .545 .618 -.073
Indians .421 .504 -.083
Devil Rays .500 .588 -.088
Rangers .321 .508 -.187

In other words, the Jays have beaten up on the Royals at about the same rate that the Tigers beat up on them. The Angels and Mariners "lead" the way and the Rangers show up again at the other end -- must be something in the AL West water. Or the unbalanced schedule causing sample size issues.

Team
LPct vs Tor
LPct
Diff
Red Sox
.446
.408
.038
Yankees
.393
.389
.004
Orioles
.509
.541
-.032
Devil Rays
.500
.588
-.088

Looking at just the AL East, we can return to my original statements:

New York: slightly worse than .500
Well...not quite. Make it slightly worse than .400.

Boston: better than New York, but wins no more often than 55% of the time
True, I guess.

Baltimore: large advantage
Heh...no.

Tampa Bay
Now this is interesting. One way you look at it, the Blue Jays have not had significantly more trouble than usual with the Devil Rays -- they've been .500 against them and less than .500 against everyone else. However, the difference between 58.8% and 50.0% is the difference between the Jays' 28-28 record and a 33-23 record over three years. It's certainly not like the Brewers in the 80's, but even if you apply this method to 2003, when the Jays went 8-11 against Tampa Bay and "should" have won 12 of the 19 games played, then you've suddenly got a 90-win team.

By the way, the Jays are still .500 against the D-Rays since 2003 after playing their 62nd game yesterday.

What do those team-by-team results look like with 2006 added, you ask? Rather than post another virtually identical table, I'll just say that the Twins moved up a bit but everyone else is basically at the same spot. This is to be expected with only a handful of games weighted against three years.

Finally, a couple of notes on yesterday's game:

- I made this point in yesterday's TDIB, but I'd like to repeat myself. I finally decided to expect good things from John McDonald and he DaVanoned me.

- Was anyone else surprised at the decision to walk Lyle Overbay intentionally, then call for back-to-back pitchouts on pitches 1 and 2 to the next batter? If they were that concerned over a squeeze play, why not pitch to the lefty batter? If they were worried about a hit-and-run, why put L'Overbay on in the first place? I like Joe Maddon and I'm sure there's a good explanation for it, but it seems like a strange thing to do.

- Josh Towers allowed 10 outfield flies and just one was a home run. This rate (10.0%) is close to half of his previous HR/F rate of 19.8%. One of the reasons I think he'll come around is that 19.8 is very high -- expect about 11 or 12 from most pitchers. Dave Bush, since I have some sort of obsession with him, was in the same boat last year, giving up more homers than expected. Just another reason why I think he would have been a fine member of this rotation, but that ship has sailed.

- The good thing about any Towers start is that you don't get the usual quotes. Isn't that right, Jordan Bastian?
Truthfully? Looking people in the face [was the hardest part]. It's embarrassing. You've lost seven straight games for the team. It was just hard to see these guys. It was just absolutely embarrassing.
This one day doesn't really change anything. I still have to go out there in five days and prove that I can do it.

- How low was Towers' pitch count? I was keeping a tally of his pitches thrown and I started to seriously doubt my ability to count when I tried to add up the little groups of five and kept getting 11 plus 3 more for 58 pitches at one point (possibly through seven innings). Congratulations, Josh, you drove me crazy in a good way. Ted Lilly, however...
Jays vs Rays: 31 and 31 | 28 comments | Create New Account
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GrrBear - Monday, May 15 2006 @ 08:16 AM EDT (#146924) #
Doesn't it seem like Towers pitches better when his job is on the line?  He's been better than one could hope for the last couple of years, but that's when he was scuffling for a job, always fighting to stay in the rotation and prove himself.  Then he gets a guaranteed two-year contract, his very own spot in the rotation, and... blah.  Seven losses later, the buzz everywhere is that Towers is on thin ice, and he comes up with a terrific performance.  Perhaps it's psychological, perhaps it's a fluke (okay, probably a fluke), but maybe Josh needs J.P. to confront him before every start to tell him that he's got to pitch well or he'll get dealt to the Royals.
Cristian - Monday, May 15 2006 @ 10:02 AM EDT (#146930) #
Good analysis Rob, but what does it tell us about how the Jays will do against the Rockies this weekend? : )

I completely understand your memory blindspot regarding the Orioles.  My blindspot involves the Rangers.  I could have sworn we've handled them pretty well over the years.  I suppose if the study goes back farther it would include some more Carlos Delgado homers upon which I base my memories.  I remember Delgado routinely having multihomer games against the Rangers.



Bruce Wrigley - Monday, May 15 2006 @ 11:15 AM EDT (#146931) #
Presented without comment: 2006 MLB Ratings Percentage Index
Parker - Monday, May 15 2006 @ 11:17 AM EDT (#146932) #
So the study tells us that the Jays should be playing a little better against the D-Rays, but they're still not as bad against them as a lot of us want to think.  I can live with that.  Nice work, Rob.

As for Towers, he had a bad stretch last season and managed to rebound.  I'm hoping his 2006 bad stretch is over and it'll be comparatively smooth sailing from here on out.  Now that he's got a little confidence back, hopefully he can combine it with a little good luck in the form of a few more flyballs that don't go over the fence.

Here's hoping, anywyay.

Mike Green - Monday, May 15 2006 @ 11:59 AM EDT (#146934) #

The big play in yesterday's game doesn't look like much in the boxscore (SF-Wigginton).  For those who weren't watching or listening, here's the scene.  Bottom of the 4th, Jays lead 2-0.  With one out, Towers throws one away and Crawford ends up at third.  On the next pitch, Towers pings Gomes (perhaps intentionally) and puts runners on first and third.  Wigginton hits one to left-centre which takes Wells to the track.  Towers' confidence is unshaken, and he takes it into the ninth inning.

On another note, Chris Costancio has an interesting piece in today's THT on less familiar prospects.

ScottTS - Monday, May 15 2006 @ 12:18 PM EDT (#146935) #

<i> Now that he's got a little confidence back, hopefully he can combine it with a little good luck in the form of a few more flyballs that don't go over the fence. </i>

<p>

Unfortunately, Tower's next scheduled start is against Colorado.

In Denver.

injyjs - Monday, May 15 2006 @ 01:06 PM EDT (#146936) #

Unfortunately, Tower's next scheduled start is against Colorado.

In Denver.


Oddly enough, Coors Field has played as a pitcher's park this season. Of course with offense apparently higher across the board, this may mean nothing.
Bruce Wrigley - Monday, May 15 2006 @ 01:10 PM EDT (#146937) #

In particular, Coors has become a poor home run park.  The humidor is working.

Cristian - Monday, May 15 2006 @ 01:21 PM EDT (#146938) #
I won't be surprised to see Reed, Wells, and Rios play every Colorado game.  It will be fun to see them track down flies in that spacious outfield.
TJ Caino - Monday, May 15 2006 @ 02:30 PM EDT (#146941) #
Dayn Perry has Toronto ranked 8th in the most recent installment of his power rankings posted yesterday. He notes that we have had the hardest schedule in all of baseball thus far, and have 9 or our next 12 games against sub 500 teams.

Meanwhile ESPN on May 12, ranked a 19-15 Blue Jay team 5th overall.

Mike Green - Monday, May 15 2006 @ 02:41 PM EDT (#146943) #

Early season park factors are not very reliable at all.  Measuring home vs. road scoring,  they are very susceptible to vagaries of the schedule (strength of the opponents' starting pitchers and offence in the home and away situations).  To give a sense of it, Rogers Centre is "playing", in this sense, as an extreme pitcher's park so far this season.

Coors, although not the historically unique place that it was before the humidor, was still the best place to hit in 2004-05.  I doubt very much that the result will be much different when 2006 is finished.

TJ Caino - Monday, May 15 2006 @ 02:48 PM EDT (#146944) #

Other things to report from my daily bout with procrastination:

The Jays are currently second in team EQA behind the Indians, and immediately ahead of the Yanks and BoSox. The top 8 teams are in the AL:

Team EQA
CLE .295
TOR .289
NYY .288
BOS .279

The Jays have 7 players with an EQA over .300: Cat, Rios, Wells, Reed, Glaus and Shea.

Vernon Wells is the second Vorpiest player in the league, behind some guy named Albert Pujols.

Halladay is 7th in pitcher VORP. And BJ Ryan is 6th in Relievers Expected Wins Added.

TJ Caino - Monday, May 15 2006 @ 02:50 PM EDT (#146946) #
** Add Gregg Zaun to the list of Blue Jays with an EQA over .300. His partner in crime, Benjie is sitting at .255.
Wildrose - Monday, May 15 2006 @ 03:56 PM EDT (#146952) #
Keeping in this vein of how the team sits offensively,  I thought I would look at how the Jays stack up at their respective positions using  THT'S  runs created which is park adjusted  and a counting stat.

You have to give some credit to Mickey Brantley, with a full spring training behind him he has the team second in the A.L. in runs scored per game, just behind Cleveland. Personally I never saw this coming.

Here's the respective position ranks (roughly) according to runs created in the A.L.

Catcher:  #4-  The Zaunlina  combo is doing fairly well. If it was my team Zaun once he gets over his calf problems would catch even more regularly.

First: #7- I'm a little surprised, but there' s lots off good hitters at this position. ( note, even though Hillenbrand plays first on occasion, I used Overbays numbers here for sake of simplicity)

Second #14- Ouch! Obviously it can't get much worse than this, amazingly despite Hill's poor performance the team still ranks second in total team offence.

Short #6- Not as bad as I thought.  Adams sits near the middle with a host of of other players , many of whom however, are superior defenders.

Third #1- Now it starts getting better. Glaus is tied with Mora for total runs created at his position, even ahead of A-Rod.

Left: #1- The Johnalatto platoon, even if you factor in Johnson playing 3 games in Centre/Right is the AL's best.

Centre: #1- Wells. Is he when you combine his quality defence the early season  M.V.P ? It says here-YES.

Right: #1- The Rios/ Hinske combo is essentially tied with Blake of Cleveland and the Dye/Maciowiak  Chicago pairing.

D.H. # 5- Tough position to assess, since teams rotate many players through this slot. Hillenbrand has done a solid job as the teams primary D.H.


Can they keep this up? Ricciardi in the off season wanted to upgrade his offence, but I'm sure even in his wildest dreams he didn't expect this ( nor did he expect the pitching to fall back as far as it has). Is this a sample size fluke? We'll see.









 
Wildrose - Monday, May 15 2006 @ 04:08 PM EDT (#146953) #
You could make a pretty strong arguement that Jim Thome who's created 43 runs to  Vernon's 33 runs created , is actually the MVP, since I doubt Vernons defence has saved 10 cumulative runs over that of the  average centre fielders this early in the season , but I just can't make myself vote for a D.H./First base type.
Mike Green - Monday, May 15 2006 @ 04:24 PM EDT (#146954) #

Hill's defence has been a pleasant surprise though.  He makes the odd mistake, but he has good lateral range and turns the DP very well.  BP's FRAA has him taking back on defence about half of what he has given away with the bat.  ESPN' defensive statistics show him as having an above average Zone Rating, with a superb double play rate, even accounting for the slightly above average number of baserunners that the starting pitchers have allowed.

My sense of it is that Hill has been focused on learning his new position, and his batting has suffered so far.  I am not worried.

laketrout - Monday, May 15 2006 @ 07:10 PM EDT (#146957) #
...and he's simply too good a defender for his lack of hitting so far to hurt the team.   His bat will come around - he's just not patient enough at the plate and hitting the ball right at fielders.    As long as he keeps playing stellar defence whatever help he can provide with the bat will be a bonus for the team.
Chuck - Monday, May 15 2006 @ 07:27 PM EDT (#146959) #
You could make a pretty strong arguement that Jim Thome who's created 43 runs to  Vernon's 33 runs created , is actually the MVP, since I doubt Vernons defence has saved 10 cumulative runs over that of the  average centre fielders this early in the season , but I just can't make myself vote for a D.H./First base type.

You could also argue on behalf of Wells, stating that the gap between his RC and either the norm or replacement level (whichever argument you prefer) at his position exceeds Thome's gap at his position.

Even if Thome's RC exceeds Wells', a combo of Wells plus an average DH would be more valuable than Thome and an average CF. Thus, an argument could be made that the league leader in RC is not necessarily the MVP.
Wildrose - Monday, May 15 2006 @ 08:12 PM EDT (#146961) #
You could also argue on behalf of Wells, stating that the gap between his RC and either the norm or replacement level (whichever argument you prefer) at his position exceeds Thome's gap at his position.

I agree absolutely. Context is everthing. I just wish the Hardball Times would publish league positional norms.

Having a system that  factors in individual  defence and the relative value of pitchers would also be quite good. It seems like were getting there though, slowly but surely.
  
Magpie - Monday, May 15 2006 @ 10:31 PM EDT (#146967) #
he's simply too good a defender for his lack of hitting so far to hurt the team

Are you kidding? Ozzie Smith wasn't a good enough defender to get away with this kind of offense.  Of course it hurts the team.

Hill is hitting .192, his OBP is .225, he's slugging .267. It hasn't hurt the team as much as Josh Towers' first seven starts, but it's been way more destructive than Russ Adams' throwing arm.

I'm pretty sure he'll hit better than he has (I'm also pretty sure Adams will throw better than he has and Towers has actually demonstrated at the major league level than he can pitch better). All the same, I'm beginning to remember the career of Rich Dauer...
King Ryan - Tuesday, May 16 2006 @ 12:55 AM EDT (#146973) #
One thing that's worth keeping in mind with regard to Hill is that he only has 8 strikeouts.  Granted, he's only walked four times, but the point is he's not getting fooled too badly.  He's just not getting the hits when he puts it in play.  His batting average on balls in play right now is .202, which is unsustainably low.  At the end of the year it will almost certainly be at least .270.   Expect a hot streak which will even this out.

I've never really had high hopes for Hill (sorry,) but he should still have at least an Orlando Hudson-like line at the end of the year, and for a good-fielding second baseman, that's just fine.  I prefer Hudson, but hey we've been over this ...

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