In the absence of proud new dad Craig B, your humble correspondent is here to provide some news and notes from around the majors.
Rain washed out the Hew Haven Ravens, driving the entire ballpark crowd into a booth at the local Denny's. The Skychiefs and Alley-Cats only wish rain had wiped out some sorry pitching performances.
The Blue Jays have the "A" team in against Victor Zambrano. After facing some tough opposition in his first four starts, LH Mark Hendrickson can be just a little more aggressive with his fastball tonight. It's a good opportunity for Lurch to build some confidence and prove he belongs in the rotation. I can't think of a better night to start a winning streak.
I threw together some stats for the Jays through the 'terrible twenty'
Well, the Terrible Twenty is finally behind us and the Jays are off to Tropicana Field -- among the more bizarre venues in sports, and a stadium that has been surprisingly unkind to the Jays since the spectacularly unsuccessful Tampa Bay franchise joined the American League.
The Rays' Achilles heel has been, without question, starting pitching. Tampa starters are conceding home runs, giving up base hits, issuing walks and generally failing to eat innings. While some of us here at Batter's Box -- yours truly definitely included -- have bemoaned the Jays' wildly risk-averse offensive strategy against the stellar staffs of Minnesota, New York and Boston, this appears to be a series where patience at the plate should lead to a boatload of runs in the Bay. Now, if only the Jays could concentrate in the field and get some relief from the bullpen.
On to the Advance Scout!
Some more awfully attractive pitching lines in the minors, not to mention some breakout performances at the plate, in a 3-0 Monday for Toronto's farm teams.
Jayson Werth gets the start in RF (and bats second) against Tampa lefty Joe Kennedy. Dave Berg is at 2B (hitting ninth) for the same reason. With three hockey playoff series going the limit tonight, this may not be our busiest game thread -- happy channel flipping.
Through all the comical misplays in the field, the self-immolating bullpen, the lack of base-stealing and cautious running of the bases, the strength of the 2003 Blue Jays has been hitting.
Nothing to do with Jordan, it's a racetrack term meaning an eighth of a mile. Today, if the baseball season was a mile race, the Blue Jays would be approaching the 220 yard marker. In track and field, or thoroughbred racing, they don't worry much about that split; it's too soon to be meaningful. The opening quarter time is considered worth recording, and we should have a better idea about the 2003 Jays when they complete the next 20 games. It's fun to look at them through a microscope, but binoculars are useful too.
Radio only on the FAN 590, first pitch shortly. The Red Sox have chosen to rest Nomar and Todd Walker. Damian Jackson and Bill Mueller up the middle are not quite as scary. It's Lidle's turn to shoulder the weight of the team's slump; let's hope he responds positively.
Three weeks of play, three different first-place teams in our Yahoo league. I'm aware that my sudden rise to the top of the standings is about as significant as the K.C. Royals' fast start. My pitching (except for Cliff Politte) has been superb, as Jason found out in a 10-1 shellacking -- 61 IP, 3 W, 5 SV, 2.21 ERA, 0.95 WHIP and 3.07 K/BB should earn a few category wins in most matchups, and this week it was good enough for a 6-0 split. Heading into a collision with Billies Bashers, with the Gashouse Gorillas on deck, no trash will be talked here -- I'm not overconfident, just cautiously optimistic.
It's not easy to lose 9 of 10; you have to do a lot of little things, wrong. The standings this morning are embarrassing; last in the East, second-worst in the league. The statistics aren't much better: last in fielding percentage and errors, worst in both facets of the running game -- basestealing and SB allowed -- 12th in team ERA, and so on. Disappointing? Sure. Time to panic or give up? Sheesh. An ace-like start by the ace will give this club a good chance to win today (catching and throwing the ball better behind him will help) and it won't require a complete overhaul to turn this team around. The Terrible Twenty is 90% over, and an 8-12 mark through that brutal stretch can still be salvaged.
Jason Kershner's arrival and Doug Linton's departure weren't unexpected, nor are they the last of the roster moves; it's a minor tweak in a positive direction. There are (for now) three lefty relievers in competition amongst themselves to avoid the axe; maybe that will inspire Doug Creek (who got his man yesterday, only to be betrayed by Delgado's glove, then was rattled enough to lose the next lefty batter). On the radio, Tom Cheek speculated that Jayson Werth would join the big club in Tampa, with Reed Johnson being returned to Syracuse. Werth's been hitting well (1.001 OPS) in Florida, and Tosca isn't aftraid to use him -- again, not an earthshaking adjustment, but it can't hurt.
Yesterday at 2:20 p.m., Jay William Burley became the youngest member of the the ZLC. Mother and son are doing fine, and efforts continue to scrape Dad off the ceiling. Jay, a 7-pound, 12-ounce, switch-hitting, ambidextrous pitcher, is a likely Blue Jays' draft-and-follow selection in June, 2021. At just under two feet, he's not as tall as some prospects, but those Burleys are crafty. Congratulations and best wishes to Craig and his family.
Or, put differently, some questions about the first 20 games on the Jays schedule, 19 of which are in the books and the last of which takes place on Patriots Day in Boston tomorrow morning. I suggested back in the spring, when reviewing the schedule and taking into account the fact this team had a steep learning curve ahead of it, that no one should be shocked if the Blue Jays were 6-14 at this point. Should they cough up another loss tomorrow, this team will have hit that sorry prediction square on.
So these are the questions that spring to mind this Easter Sunday:
1. How the hell did this happen?
2. Are these guys really as bad as this?
3. What should be done now?
Matinees today (1:20) and tomorrow (2:05), followed by breakfast baseball at 11:05 Monday morning, as that's Marathon day in Boston. I'll be listening to Tom and Jerry today (and wishing Mike made the road trips) as we're leaving shortly to visit the in-laws, but it's also on Sportsnet and NESN. I expect there will be a hockey game on TV when we arrive, so I won't see or hear much of the later innings; I'll have to get the inside scoop from the ZLC tonight.
Tanyon Sturtze takes the ball for a team that's lost 8 of 9 and needs a lift. The big righty was very tentative in his Yankee Stadium start, walking seven, but he did beat the Red Sox in his previous outing, and as a Massachusetts boy, pitching in Fenway has some extra meaning. The Jays usually hit Derek Lowe well enough, knocking him out in the fifth at SkyDome 11 days ago, so Tanyon won't need to toss a shutout. If he throws strikes -- and his infielders catch the ball -- he could be 3-0, a far cry from the 4-18 debacle of 2002. If Tanyon turns it around, maybe Mr. Halladay will build on that Sunday. If not, there's extra (self-inflicted) pressure on Doc tomorrow.
First-guessing the lineup, I'm hoping Woodward is good to go, as Bordick, 2-for-14 since Chris got hurt, is living up to his good-glove, no-hit rep. I'd like to see Berg (especially his .919 OPS) at 2B, with the excitable, erratic Hudson on the bench. I don't care how many highlight-reel plays Orlando makes -- they do not cancel out the easy ones he muffs. Last night, what was already bad enough (Tam had turned a 3-2 lead into a 4-3 deficit) was made much, much worse when O-Dog mishandled a ball right at him and failed to make the inning-ending double play. The kid was playing with joy when he first came up last year, and that does make him fun to watch, but now he's pressing, and hurting the team. If a little vacation doesn't help, I have a vision of a longer trip in Hudson's future.
MLEs, translations of minor league stats to a major league context, were pioneered by Bill James. Conceptually, they are the first cousins of park neutral batting stats. Both attempt to adjust for distortions of the statistics created by the various venues in which professional baseball is played.
James found that by applying the appropriate park, league and level of competition factors, a player's performance in AA or AAA, translated to the big leagues, was a surprisingly accurate predictor of what that player would do in the major leagues.