Here’s one of the many little-known difficulties of being a baseball fan in Newfoundland: evening ballgames don’t start till 8:30 pm, and can reliably be counted on to not finish till well after 11:00. Combine that with numerous family events during my week-long trip to The Rock, and this is why I haven’t laid eyes on a game in several days. It used to be worse, actually: when matches started at 7:30 ET instead of 7:00, it was 9:00 in Newfoundland. And west coast ballgames didn’t get underway till midnight. We Jays fans had a lot of crosses to bear growing upon the east coast.
Ouch! It hurts to fall from what I thought was a pretty secure second place and wake up this morning in third. Baird Brain enjoyed a brilliant 11-0 week against Chatsworth, while my team got thumped 10-2 by the Thunderbirds. Every week, I confidently assume that my hitters will keep me in the match, and hope that my pitchers will take a category or two, but no strategy is immune to disasters in Head-to-Head play.
Carlos Delgado, obviously tired from carrying the Jays and the Walrus on his back all season, sported a nifty 143/294/214 line for the abbreviated week. Milton Bradley chipped in with 133/235/333 and Bernie Williams was so bad (071/235/143) I traded him. When Marlon Byrd and Scott Spiezio are your hitting "stars," you're in trouble. Three of my starters didn't even pitch, and the ones who did were awful. Enough of this whining -- Jurgen wants to see the standings.
The Terrible Twenty in April and the first ten games of the Dirty Dozen have exposed the young, improving Jays as a team that isn't ready -- yet -- to defeat the Beasts of the East. There are no more illusions of contending this year, which may be a good thing. The pressure's off; the Jays can stop trying too hard and just play ball.
Tonight, a pitcher I like a lot (Mark Hendrickson) faces one I loathe (Jeff Weaver, Chronic Underachiever). I was surprised and disappointed eight days ago, when Weaver pitched his best game in a long, long time to handcuff the Jays at the Dome. Tonight, it's possible he'll let the home crowd get into his head -- Lord knows, there's not much else in there -- or maybe, the more relaxed Toronto hitters will have a better approach. Lurch has to accept that he's not going to pitch a perfect game. Six innings of minimizing the damage would be a successful outing against an awesome lineup that's in a very good groove.
Carlos Tosca doesn't want Bobby Kielty to get too comfortable. The newest Jay is at first base tonight, with Delgado the DH. I really like the switch-hitter in the 5-hole betwen Carlos and Eric Hinske; it means Kielty might get to tee off again on a lefty reliever (see Fossum, Casey). Interesting that Tom Wilson is the catcher; with a lefty going tomorrow, I was sure it would be Myers again tonight. Crash was 2-for-4 yesterday, but he may be hurting.
Which Jays club will show up for the Yankee series this weekend? The reeling Jays that got bombed by the Bombers in April here, or the doubles-happy lineup that swept New York away in May?
It's just a two-game whistle-stop for the Jays this time before the Jays return home. It's somewhat melancholy to consider, but even a two-game sweep will render our not-quite-ready-for-prime-time club just 5-7 in the pivotal 12-game stretch against Boston and New York.
The Yankees are playing excellent ball, particularly offensively. Mark Hendrickson shakes off the rust and tries to take advantage of Death Valley in left-centre tonight; I'll be there. Doc goes for his Fantastic Fifteenth against Andy Pettitte tomorrow night.
On to the Advance Scout!
I've been thinking lately (always a dangerous practice, I know), and was wondering:
It's certainly not baseball-related, but here is a nice article
about blogs from the BBC.
A fine article, yes, but a story about blogs that did not mention Aaron Gleeman? No tea for them!
Bob File started for Dunedin in their 1-0 victory, pitching a 3-up, 3-down first inning. Vince Perkins (now 4-4, 1.25 in High-A) went the next five frames (2 hits, 5 BB, 5 K) to earn the win, but he's walking way too many at this level. File's return to active duty is a pleasant surprise, and Carlos Tosca said yesterday he could be back with the Jays before the end of the season. We all remember File's 60 appearances in 2001, with a 5-3 record and 3.25 ERA, but last year was a disaster. He suffered an oblique strain, and eventually had surgery to remove a portion of his collarbone. Speaking of rehabbing relievers, Cliff Politte is scheduled to pitch for Syracuse on Tuesday and Thursday, then rejoin the Jays next weekend if he's deemed ready.
New Haven had a field day in Akron, pounding 19 hits in a 9-1 romp. Cam Reimers (7-3, 2.90) scattered six hits in seven innings, didn't walk a batter and fanned eight. John-Ford Griffin, now slugging .474 with 13 HR and 73 RBI, was 2-for-3 with a pair of walks, and Alexis Rios boosted his league-leading average to .350 with a 3-for-5 effort. The Ravens, hitting .301 as a team, are leading their division.
The inimitable John Gizzi did as he pleased
in taking his Jimmy Fallonesque turn at Da Box's "Weekend Update" last week -- from nowhere
, actually, he did so twice
-- and while I hope that doesn't make me Tina Fey, here are a few thoughts to chew on during a slow July Sunday nearing the century mark in games for this 2003 season ...
Roy Halladay may be the American League's best starting pitcher so far this season, but is there any more surprising ace in baseball than Sidney Ponson? Sir Sidney notched his 13th win of the year yesterday, and the Rangers really must be considering whether or not a knighthood might turn around Chan Ho Park ...
Speaking of the Rangers, much was made of the fact that the recent "All-Star" Game (seriously ... with Lance Carter in uniform, can you bring yourself to write "All-Star" without putting the phrase in quotes?) featured opposing starting pitchers in Jason Schmidt and Esteban Loiaza ...
The Jays, about 16 hours after snatching defeat from the jaws of victory, must either regroup, or settle for a split of this series. It's the great Pedro Martinez taking on journeyman John "Way Back" Wasdin and his 45.00 ERA. They shouldn't even bother to play it, right?
Not so fast. A Toronto win is unlikely, not impossible. Wasdin knows Fenway Park pretty well; he's pitched there 90 times (7 starts) for an 11-5 record with two saves. In 182 IP, he's walked 51 and struck out 138; his ERA is 4.30 with the Monster looming over his shoulder. Sure, he got lit up in his Toronto debut, but it was a very tough spot and he deserves another chance. The guy does have a perfect game in AAA this season.
Pedro is 6-2, 3.19 in 13 career starts against the Jays. But he hasn't faced the 2003 version, and had a 4.70 ERA against last year's team, which batted .295 against him in four meetings. Tosca the master juggler is at it again, stacking his lineup with seven lefty swingers. Reed Johnson sits, with versatile Bobby Kielty in right. Cat's in left, and Howie Clark is the DH, leading off. These Jays won't roll over -- this could be a better game than you think.
A little over one week ago, we invited readers and authors to post a mid-season list of the top 10 Blue Jays prospects.
To create a composite list, I chose an MVP-style point system with the top prospect receiving 13 points, #2 receiving 10, #3 receiving 8 points and on down the line to 1 point for #10. In other words, points were awarded on a 13-10-8-7-6-5-3-2-1 basis.
Something has to inspire the Jays' slumping starter. He's been absolutely awful recently -- 0-2 with a 14.54 ERA in July, 2-5 and 9.20 over his last eight starts -- and the Red Sox love hitting against him. Cory’s allowed a .354 AVG in two outings against them this year, and is 1-2, 7.12 in five career starts and five relief appearances vs. Boston. Bill Mueller, David Ortiz and Manny Ramirez are a combined 10-for-16 off Lidle in 2003; Manny’s 6-for-12 lifetime.
Cory is well aware that his career record prior to this year was 5-15, 5.17 in the first half, and 20-7, 2.92 after the break -- could that knowledge restore his missing confidence? He also watched Doc and Kelvim shut down the BoSox the last two nights, so there's at least a chance he'll follow suit.
Ramiro Mendoza’s a perfect 2-0 (allowing just one earned run) since returning from the DL; he’s gone five strong innings each time, beating the Yankees and Jays. Carlos Tosca keeps inventing new lineups, and I like what he's done tonight. Of course, Vernon Wells is back, and he's gone deep twice, doubled and driven in six runs off Mendoza in just six AB this year. Mike Bordick is 5-for-13 lifetime against the righty, the shaky-fielding Chris Woodward just 1-for-5, so who would you play at short? Howie Clark is the DH, batting second, with Bobby Kielty in the 5-hole and Tom Wilson (2-for-3 off Mendoza) hitting sixth. I have a hunch that the Jays, in a positive frame of mind, will score a few runs, so if Lidle does find his groove, it could be another good game.
The CBL is shutting down for the year, with plans to re-emerge in 2004. You can read the full details from the CBC
. The league will shut down following the All-Star game on July 23 in Calgary.
According to the advance box score on Yahoo (usually posted shortly after the lineups are set, and accurate all year, except for last-minute changes) Bobby Kielty is batting third and Vernon Wells gets a very rare night off. Jayson Werth is playing CF and batting ninth. Mike Bordick is back after 11 days off on a personal matter, hitting seventh and playing shortstop.
The lineup juggling could be a response to Tim Wakefield being on the mound. V-Dub has just four singles in 17 career AB against the knuckleballer; Woodward is a mere 2-for-11. Bordick, Myers, Delgado, Hinske and Catalanotto have fared well in previous meetings, although nobody really teed off the last time the Jays faced Wakefield, ten days ago at the Dome. He lasted seven innings, allowing just one run and striking out seven.
It's the enigmatic Kelvim Escobar for the good guys. "Rested Kelvim," as Mike D called him, had one of his patented brain cramps -- more like a spasm -- when asked to face the Yankees on three days' rest in his latest. That's the only really horrible start he's made since being banished from the bullpen for inconsistency. He went seven solid innings, allowing three earned runs, four nights earlier vs. the Red Sox, so if he's not distracted by the trade rumours, he could get back in the groove. Two talented but unpredictable pitchers, plenty of hitting talent on both sides -- anything could happen tonight.
In The Pitch
, a Kansas City weekly, Andrew Miller recounts a trip to the ballpark with Bill James
. If you want plenty of background and personal stuff, you'll enjoy this.
There's also an interesting recent piece
by Ben McGrath in the New Yorker
:To some, he’s a philosopher-hero who brought baseball out of the Dark Ages; others consider him a calculator-punching pedant with too much time on his hands. The once proud and conservative Red Sox, by hiring James to be their Senior Baseball Operations Adviser, have joined the ranks of those teams—such as the Oakland A’s and the Toronto Blue Jays—which are now emphasizing the principles of “sabermetrics” as an alternative to the steadfast reliance on weather-beaten scouts with radar guns, hunches, and cigars.
McGrath suggests that the public is witnessing only part of the management revolution in the game.“What I’m trying to do is to create ways to think about the real problems of baseball front offices in an organized way,” James had told me earlier in the spring. “I’ve actually had some really interesting insights into the game and developed some very interesting methods in the few months that I’ve worked for the Red Sox, and it’s very frustrating not to be able to discuss them with the public.”
I'm sure similar innovations are being adopted in Toronto; proprietary stats and methods of analysis that the Jays would never share with their competitors. As fans, the ZLC may be "enlightened," but we're still very much in the dark.
Today, we have a special guest on Batter's Box, as a longtime reader and friend, Aaron Gleeman of Aaron's Baseball Blog
(the finest one-man baseball website in existence) graces us with his views of the Stewart-Kielty trade. This article is reprinted from Aaron's blog.
Thanks Aaron, we hope you're back often.