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The Jays have a chance to win a series against a good team and Josh Towers gets the start.

Let's just avoid talking about Sunday's game. Towers started and Scott Downs had to come in early. What, did we travel back in time to May when I wasn't looking?

Instead, hear me out on this. I think, through five innings, it's not completely insane to say Casey Janssen and Tom Glavine were almost even in terms of pitching outcomes. Janssen wasn't terrible and Mr. Glavine was saved in the fourth and fifth by the Blue Jays' ability to make fans everywhere curse. When you give up eight hits in seven innings, more than one run is expected. (Fine, seven hits -- I don't know how the hell there was no error on the pop fly that Valentin and Nady just sort of forgot about.)

And this is silly to do, because it's a futile exercise in what-if-ery, but if you remove the two homers from Janssen's record, he and Mr. Glavine had very similar pitching lines through five innings. As Mike Wilner would say, though, "if my grandmother had wheels, she'd be a bus." I'd give Mr. Glavine credit for inducing all those ground balls, but Toronto does this often. Two double play balls in the eighth didn't help, either. Shea Hillenbrand got on base in another questionable way, but Bengie Molina struck out -- again -- to end the threat.

Ah, Molina. Despite his popular sitcom, I'm still not impressed with him. There were two pitches on Friday, two high ones he was crossed up on, that fell out of his glove. He just didn't close it in time. That's a mistake I make. The passed ball in the second was another lazy play. Not only that, anyone else would have: a) had a double on that ball down the RF line and b) beat the throw to first on the 4-6-3 double play. More on that double play in a second.

Carlos Delgado did get his much-deserved ovation, and he collected a fair number of hits to boot. It was nice to see him, but I'm not interested in his return at the moment. Two other former Blue Jays made their return to SkyDomeRogersCentre this weekend. Chris Woodward came home, went up there in the ninth and got the Justin Morneau Treatment. Oh well.

Steve Traschel...well...there's not...a say...about...his Toronto. With the Blue Jays only four games back at the beginning of the day, they made a deadline name only. I didn't evn have to look it up: Brent Abernathy for Mark Guthrie and The Reason People Complain About Baseball. Traschel had 13 starts, none of them memorable, and it's not like he was going to do anything. But you must put this in context: I was 13 years old and became a fan after the back-to-back championships. Years of Felipe Crespo and Robert Person leave you hungry for contention, and I thought this might just do it. As you might recall, it didn't.

How did Traschel do on Sunday, you ask? Hell if I know. The game wasn't on TV, radio, like failure, is not an option, and I'm 111 km away from the stadium.

One thing I did track on Friday and Saturday was the speed of certain baserunners. On any close play at first, which usually meant a grounder to the left side, I timed how long it took for the batter to reach first, measured as the crack of the bat to the foot touching the bag. If the runner pulled up early, I didn't count it -- I was only looking for what appeared to be 100% effort.

So, who was the fastest runner I timed? No, not Jose Reyes. He wasn't even in the Top 3. Carlos Beltran wasn't #1 either, though he was still pretty fast. Vernon Wells was clocked at about average, slightly faster than Delgado. The bottom three times all came from catchers, predictably. I bet you'll never guess who came in dead last:

Even worse -- Molina's bad time was on the double play. Yeah, the Jays still hit into those. (The Mets do as well, but they like to make them interesting.)

Another player who likes to make things interesting is Alex Rios. He didn't have the best time out in right field this weekend, did he? And apropos of nothing, after hitting .360 in April and .362 in May, he's at .241 in June. Now, I'm not saying his hot start was just that, a hot start. But if April's numbers can be obsessed over, so can another month's.

So where are the Jays now? Pretty much where they've been all year. Four (or so) games behind the Red Sox, two (or so) behind the Yankees. The non-Doc pitching still leaves a lot to be desired and B.J. Ryan is still kicking ass. I'll see you in two weeks, when things will be the same.
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The following comments are owned by whomever posted them. This site is not responsible for what they say.
Dave Till - Monday, June 26 2006 @ 09:06 AM EDT (#149755) #
Towers would do much better in a park that isn't so home-run vulnerable. Put him in Atlanta, and he could probably be useful. In Toronto, his mistakes all get gonged into the second deck.

At this point, the Jays need another starting pitcher in order to have a chance to contend. They could probably get by with Janssen as their #5 starter, but Janssen and Towers in the rotation is too much.

Chuck - Monday, June 26 2006 @ 09:37 AM EDT (#149757) #
These days, Towers would need the circa 70's Astrodome.
Maldoff - Monday, June 26 2006 @ 10:00 AM EDT (#149758) #

I actually don't know if bringing up either Marcum or McGowan would be beneficial at this point, and that is part of the Jays problem.  They don't seem to have anyone to bring up to replace Towers.

While Marcum is striking out many more batters than usual (a K/9 of 10.7), he has been very succeptible to the home run (a HR/9 of 1.14).  In addition, he only has 4 starts at AAA this year.  McGowan has been pitching better as of late, but as Gerry mentioned last week, he missed his turn in the rotation last week, so something might be up with him.  Also, command is still a large issue, with a BB/9 of 4.06, and a K/BB of only 2.7.  Those numbers simply aren't good enough yet.

If the Jays are to do anything, they will need to acquire another pitcher, or hope Gustavo comes back early and in great shape (which doesn't seem likely).  if one assume Janssen will remain in the rotation, he is a fine #5 starter, but the team will have a hard time contending with him and Towers at the back of the rotation.

Mike Green - Monday, June 26 2006 @ 10:05 AM EDT (#149760) #
Marcum over his minor league career has struck out about 1 batter per inning.  He doesn't walk anyone.  He's like Dave Bush, and the Jays could use 2 of those.  Sometimes you have to take a chance on a young pitcher because the uncertainty of the unknown is preferable to the likelihood of the known.  No guts, no glory.
Paul D - Monday, June 26 2006 @ 10:23 AM EDT (#149762) #
I thought that Beltran's home run was on a pitch that a home run typically wouldn't be hit on.  Perhaps it was just bad luck?

And let's not get ahead of ourselves.  This team does not want or need Ortiz.

Mike Green - Monday, June 26 2006 @ 10:31 AM EDT (#149763) #
Ortiz falls easily within the "likelihood of the known" class. He's been picked up by the O's; we'll see how far Mazzone magic can go.
Bruce Wrigley - Monday, June 26 2006 @ 10:53 AM EDT (#149766) #

The game wasn't on TV, radio, like failure, is not an option, and I'm 111 km away from the stadium.

Rob, Gameday Audio allows you to choose either team's broadcast of the game.  You could have been listening to Ed Coleman, Tom McCarthy, and Howie Rose on WFAN.    Only $14.95 for the year for every Jays game, guaranteed 99.99% Sauukiuu-free.

Mike Green - Monday, June 26 2006 @ 11:07 AM EDT (#149768) #
Thank you, Bruce.  It goes against my grain to pay for something that is available free, but in this case, there is nothing like choice. 
#2JBrumfield - Monday, June 26 2006 @ 11:16 AM EDT (#149769) #

Why do the Jays insist on impersonating my favourite NFL team, the Detroit Lions, by losing every Sunday? :(

They are now 2-and-10 on the season on Sundays with the only W's coming on Janssen's masterpiece against the Halos and Towers only win of the season in Tampa Bay the following week back in May.   

After a great game Saturday, it sucks they end the week-end on a down note.  The most disappointing part is they seemed to pretty much concede this game by sitting Rios and Glaus.  Towers needs all the help he can get these days.  I could understand one of them getting the day off but not both.  Maybe nagging injuries figured into the equation here.    

Off topic here but did anyone catch the ESPN Sunday nighter?  The White Sox battle back from 9-2 down against Houston thanks to Tad Iguchi's 3 run and 4 run homers in the 8th and 9th only to lose in 13.  The fans went absolutely bananas on the grand slam and I thought for sure they were going to win it but give the Astros credit for bouncing back.  I'm sure the 'Stros and Brad Lidge especially are happy to never have to see the White Sox again for the regular season anyway. 

Even though Clemens is on that team, I'm hope they stay in contention.  After reading a recent article in USA Today Sports Weekly, Clemens will probably ask to go to New York, Boston, or Texas at the deadline if the Astros are out of it.  Gee, it wouldn't be like the Rocket to bail out on a team, would it?

R Billie - Monday, June 26 2006 @ 04:07 PM EDT (#149787) #

Well what can really be said about Towers that hasn't already?  The Jays signed him to a two year deal hoping they had a guy who could give them consistent innings though not necessarily a great performance.  I'm not sure what they based that hope on as last year was unlike any other year in his career and his stuff screams fringe starter.  This year maybe 90% of his starts could arguably be called absolute disasters.  He has undone any advantage there is to having an awesome #1 starter and an awesome closer as well as an unexpectedly good offence and has kept the Jays on pace to finish their usual third place.

What the Jays needed was their star players to be stars and the rest of their guys to be at least average.  Casey Janssen is struggling but at least he gave the team a stretch where he kept them in games.  The Mets are a very tough lineup but for the Jays who are still above .500 to have a starter who is already in double digit losses is just crazy to think about.  Towers is on pace to challenge the single season record in losses on a team that is arguably in contention for a playoff spot.

The thing is they didn't need Towers to be a .600 pitcher.  If he was even a .400 pitcher they would be alright or at least in it.  As it stands they are 6 losses back of the division leader and nowhere near the wild card.  I don't think they can afford to experiment with Towers in the rotation anymore.  He's proven to be so consistently below the bar this season that they really have to start rolling the dice with ANYONE else.  Minor leaguers, waiver wire pickups, heck even the Red Sox are rolling the dice on guys like Jason Johnson.

I know Towers was recalled because Chacin was injured and there weren't any other obvious options.  I know the market for starters absolutely sucks.  This is where you have to think outside the box a little bit.  Maybe McGowan comes up and you hope he can be a .500 pitcher for you.  And furthermore allow your team to get some use out of carrying 12 pitchers.  Designate two "long men" as your fifth starter, guys like Downs, Rosario, League, Tallet, Marcum, etc.

Maybe Rosario pitches 3-4 innings followed by Downs for 3-4 innings.  Reserve two pitchers for those first 6 innings or so and then treat it like a normal game thereafter.  Maybe use them each in one other game before their next 'tandem' start to get some work in between.

Nick - Monday, June 26 2006 @ 09:43 PM EDT (#149824) #

I disagree with the notion that that seems to be gaining steam that the Yankees and Red Sox have had everything go right, the Jays are getting career years from everyone, yet the Jays languish in 3rd place as usual.

I don't think any of the 3 teams stand out as being especially unlucky or having a bunch of guys having career years or down years compared to most other teams.

For the Yankees, few expected much out of Pavano or Wright.  Mussina has been much better than was expected.  Johnson has pitched about in line with expectations.  Sheffield is almost 40.  If a team with a $200 million payroll has no depth behind an aging outfield, that's poor planning, not bad luck.  Matsui had gone many years without getting injured.  The law of averages finally caught up to him.  I think it has been Craig who has repeatedly said that the core of this Yankees team is old, injuries are going to be part of the equation.  It's not bad luck.

The Red Sox have received way, way better production out of Mike Lowell than most Sox fans prayed for.  Curt Schilling, another near-40 year old who missed most of last year and was ineffective in his limited playing has been very good.  Jonathan Papelbon has been the 2nd coming of Mo Rivera after Boston entered the season with a big question mark in the bullpen with Keith Foulke.  If you start the season with David Wells in your rotation and don't expect him to miss at least half of his starts at this point in his career, you're simply not paying attention.

For the Jays, no one expected this horror show out of Josh Towers.  Most expected a return to mediocrity, not one of the least effective three months of starting pitching in major league baseball history.  Everyone knew AJ Burnett's injury history, but after a ~ 200 inning season in 2005, the amount of missed time and contribution of basically zero to the team til practically the All-Star Break has been very unfortunate.  Many predicted Chacin would regress, but months without a league average pitcher is a tough break.  How many at the beginning of the season predicted that Jason Frasor and Vinnie Chulk would both be demoted to Syracuse?  How many thought Justin Speier would allow more than half of his inherited runners to score to this point in the season?  It's easy to point to the offensive heroics of the Jays but the pitching staff has been much worse than many thought.

Last year, the offense was poor as Koskie was injured, Rios regressed, etc.  This year, it's the pitching.  The notion that the stars have aligned perfectly for the Jays, yet they continue to fall short is wrong.  Quite the contrary.  Every year there are injuries, players outperforming expectations, and players underperforming.  Most pegged the Yankees and Red Sox as better than Toronto going into the season, and so far that has been true.  Realistically, the stars need to align for the Jays to break through this year and it has categorically not happened to this point.  How can a season that has seen Ty Taubenheim in the rotation for a month be considered a waste of good fortune?

Mike Green - Monday, June 26 2006 @ 10:27 PM EDT (#149834) #
Actually, the Koskie/Hudson vs. Glaus/Adams comparison is fairly close, depending on how much of an advantage one gives to the old crew on defence, and how one measures the different uses for Hill and Hillenbrand in either scenario.  Koskie is having a much better year, and Hudson's bat has warmed up, so the offensive comparison is not as one-sided as it was earlier in the year.

The HR/game statistic for the pitchers is very deceptive because the Rogers Centre has played as a home run paradise this year.  The Jays' offence and pitching staff both lead the league in HR/fly. The figures at home are ridiculous while on the road, they're just modestly above normal. I've verified this in an e-mail exchange with David Gassko at THT. 

Mike Green - Tuesday, June 27 2006 @ 11:13 AM EDT (#149847) #
The pitching matchups for the Red Sox-Mets series beginning tonight are great.  Lester vs. Soler in the opener, Beckett vs. Martinez tomorrow and Schilling vs. Glavine on Thursday.  If we're going ot have an '86 rematch in October, these matchups might be repeated although in a different order.
Mike D - Tuesday, June 27 2006 @ 02:02 PM EDT (#149858) #

The HR/game statistic for the pitchers is very deceptive because the Rogers Centre has played as a home run paradise this year.  The Jays' offence and pitching staff both lead the league in HR/fly.  The figures at home are ridiculous while on the road, they're just modestly above normal.

Mike G, this is interesting, but why does it matter to the discussion at hand?  Either the HR paradise will continue, in which case the staff's flyball tendencies will continue to pose a problem, or it won't, in which case one should analyze the roster through the lens of a projected decrease in home run allowed rate when figuring out how to prevent runs going forward.  But in both cases, it's not like the solution is "therefore, the run-prevention problem lies in balls that are beyond Glaus's grasp but within Corey Koskie's."  Toronto's balls-in-play hits against are not high enough to draw that conclusion.  Oakland has been far better at preventing runs, and Toronto's only yielded five more hits in the same number of games.

In any event, as you note, there is less offensive difference (and, in terms of Win Shares, also less defensive difference) between Koskie/Hudson and Glaus/Adams-or-Hill than is popularly believed this year.  I do, however, think that the Jays duo is likely to out-hit the ex-Jays duo for the rest of this year and for the rest of Glaus's contract.  But Koskie's certainly hit well and Hudson's bat is coming around.  O-Dog also plays in a great hitter's park.

Regarding the point about defensive slumps and off-years, Craig and others have really opened my eyes to the somewhat counter-intuitive idea that defensive performance from game to game and even year to year can vary as much as hitting.  It's mind-blowing, but it's true.  It's one of the many recent insights to change the way I think of the game.

Mike Green - Tuesday, June 27 2006 @ 03:58 PM EDT (#149864) #
Actually, the Jays pitching staff does not have a fly-ball tendency.  45% of the balls in play are on the ground, compared with a league average of 43%.  The defence does matter.  Not that the infield defence has been bad, but simply that it matters.

It's easy to infer from Towers' horrible start and the high home run/game rates that the overall team defence has mattered less than last year, but that inference is not correct.  What the club currently has is a pitching staff that in a neutral park would be essentially average in pretty much all respects.

Mike D - Tuesday, June 27 2006 @ 04:10 PM EDT (#149865) #

Mike G, I think we're talking past each other.  I'm certainly not saying that infield defence doesn't matter -- I'm just saying that the delta between the pre-Arizona-trade infield and the post-Arizona-trade infield (which has actually, as you suggest, been OK) hasn't been the reason for Toronto's weaker overall pitching numbers in light of the fact that so much of the damage has come via the home run.  If you want to say that the staff's HR woes are temporary and owing largely to ballparkiness, that's fine, but that doesn't mean that Toronto's run prevention issues are attributable to the Hudson and Koskie trades.   If anything, it's a call for patience with the current pitching staff.  I'm not sure I agree with that call, but maybe the balls will stop flying out.

Meanwhile, old friend Mark Hendrickson was traded, along with Toby Hall, to the Dodgers for Jae Seo and Dioner Navarro.

Chuck - Tuesday, June 27 2006 @ 04:55 PM EDT (#149869) #
Meanwhile, old friend Mark Hendrickson was traded, along with Toby Hall, to the Dodgers for Jae Seo and Dioner Navarro.

Unless I'm missing something, this is a terrific trade for TB. Navarro is the only one in the trade to care about and he ends up a Devil Ray. A 22-year old catcher with close to a 750 OPS in 250 major league AB? Gotta like that.

Despite the disparity in their 2006 performances to date, is Hendrickson really a shoo-in to outperform Seo for the balance of the season? I know that LA has a "win now" mentality and would thus be willing to trade Navarro's future for some rotation stability, but the words caveat emptor come to mind here. Hendrickson just looks like trouble waiting to happen. Low K rate. Low K/BB ratio. Unreasonably low BABIP. His HR rate is down from previous years, so perhaps that is the byproduct of some change in his approach. But then again, perhaps it's just a fluke.

It's quite the seller's market for SP when Navarro is the price for Hendrickson. I think it's pretty clear that the Jays will have to solve their rotation issues in-house.
Pistol - Tuesday, June 27 2006 @ 05:02 PM EDT (#149871) #

That's pretty much my reaction as well.

It's interesting that Navarro has already been in 4 organizations. 

Mike Green - Tuesday, June 27 2006 @ 05:14 PM EDT (#149872) #
I don't know.  Hendrickson's line-drive rate this year is way down at 10%, and he's been disproportionately facing tough offences in the AL East.  In the NL West, I can see him maintaining this year's performance over the next few years.  5.2 strikeouts/9 innings in the AL East is equivalent to about 6 in the NL West, and you can work with that. 

Navarro is interesting.  My guess is that he will need to develop a bit more power to be a valuable player in the medium term.  Whether he can or not, and whether he can avoid injury, are big questions. 

Bruce Wrigley - Tuesday, June 27 2006 @ 05:45 PM EDT (#149875) #

Hall is a pretty useful player, and Navarro is currently injured.  I don't know what the Dodgers are going to do with Hall, presumably flip him to someone else; Sandy Alomar is playing very well for them as Russell Martin's backup (Martin's a Rookie of the Year candidate, by the way) and I can't see the Dodgers carrying three catchers when they are hurting at so many positions.

If the Dodgers are able to plug Hendrickson into their rotation and get a good 5th starter performance out of him, the deal doesn't look awful for them provided they can flip Hall for something tasty.  They better do it quick though, as they are nominally in contention and need a lot more than Mark Hendrickson to make that stick.

This may mean that Kevin Cash gets one more shot at redemption, right?  (Until Navarro comes back from whatever is ailing him).   Or maybe the Rays are going to try Shawn Riggans.

AWeb - Saturday, July 01 2006 @ 02:18 AM EDT (#150059) #
Koskie's current Zone Rating isn't sustainable. His last three years : .793, .779, .783 (2003-2005).
Major league leaders in those years :  2003 Chris Stynes, Colorado (.810). Koskie second.
                                                            2004 Beltre, .838. Koskie ninth.    
                                                            2005 Chavez , .817, Koskie middle of the road.

No one this century has had a ZR at third as good as Koskie right now, and while he may be a very good defensive player, on grass for the first time, it's unlikely 33 year old Koskie is suddenly better than ever. Glaus' rating does appear sustainable though, it's right in line with his usually full-year numbers (it's bad, but not reprehensibly bad).

So reasonably, maybe give Koskie a 10-15 run credit for defense.

On offense, an important factor that can't be overlooked, especially with Koskie, is playing time. A good OPS is only worth runs when in the lineup. Koskie has shown a long history of being injury prone. Glaus has already played an extra 5 games this year, counting the SS adventures. Glaus is now at .887, Koskie at .848, with Glaus coming off his worst 2 weeks of the year (except for tonight). Offensively, Glaus is worth 10-15 runs a year extra, even assuming Koskie stays healthy, and at career best hitting levels and Glaus stays where he is.

So if Koskie maintains great defense, health, and career best offense levels, he's about a wash with Glaus as he has performed to this point. And don't forget, Koskie was traded, in part,  because he stunk last year, and was injured again, going into his age 33 season. Not a great bet to rebound at career best levels. As forthe rest of the infield defense...I'll just say I miss Hudson.
Mike D - Saturday, July 01 2006 @ 12:59 PM EDT (#150072) #

On offense, an important factor that can't be overlooked, especially with Koskie, is playing time. A good OPS is only worth runs when in the lineup. Koskie has shown a long history of being injury prone. Glaus has already played an extra 5 games this year, counting the SS adventures. Glaus is now at .887, Koskie at .848, with Glaus coming off his worst 2 weeks of the year (except for tonight). Offensively, Glaus is worth 10-15 runs a year extra, even assuming Koskie stays healthy, and at career best hitting levels and Glaus stays where he is.

Excellent analysis, AWeb.  I agree completely.

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