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For a staff that's been far too hittable this season, the wrong opponent is coming into town. Having said that, they're facing a Texas staff that's been, in some ways, even worse (though against very tough opposing lineups). The next three nights may see a pitcher's duel, but I sure wouldn't bet on it.

Of course, the significance of this series goes beyond a mere matchup between two hard-hitting, soft-tossing clubs. Loonie Day or no Loonie Day, the Jays will have a packed house tonight. One of the biggest misconceptions about the Jays, particularly outside the GTA, is that the Jays have become irrelevant to the city of Toronto.

In 2001, even if there were 18,000 at the games, the FAN switchboard lit up with outrage when Gordo waived Tony Batista. Fans care, but we have learned that fans will respond to winning and winning only. There are still an awful lot of people in Toronto that honestly can't understand why the Yankees always get the Mussinas and the Jays settle for the Sturtzes. To them, baseball is a sport where Toronto can win a title and lead the league in payroll, because it really didn't happen too long ago.

Jays fans want to love the team again. They really do. But whenever the Jays have had an opportunity to recapture the city since 1993, the Jays have turned in poor performances. In 1998, 1999 and 2000, the Jays were at least in an interesting situation in August and early September -- only to get hammered in front of large walk-up crowds by the likes of Boston and Oakland. In 1997, the Dome was rocking on Canada Day against the Expos -- but the Jays allowed Jeff Juden (!) to outduel the Rocket.

This year, Opening Day offered another opportunity to impress a large crowd and sell future tickets, which was again missed. Spotlight's on, Jays. Let's turn this season -- and, at the risk of undue hyperbole, the image of this franchise around tonight.

Oh, and two more things: First, it seems a little silly for a Jays fan living in New York City to be the Advance Scout for the Rangers when Batter's Box's very own Mick Doherty resides in the Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex. Mick, please feel free to be the ombudsperson for today's column: We'd all appreciate your insights and corrections.

Second, thanks to all of you who have offered constructive and helpful suggestions for the Advance Scout column. Please feel free to post with further ideas for improvement. And I'd also like to thank the likes of Mike Moffatt, Rodent, Snellville Jones and several other BB regulars for their kind words of encouragement.

On to the Advance Scout!

* Call them the Anti-Royals: Texas is 11-14, with a record built solely against the Mariners, Angels, A's, Yankees and Red Sox ...
* John Thomson finally got his first AL victory on Wednesday, shutting down the Red Sox ... Buck Showalter praised Thomson thusly: "He really pounded the strike zone and was very aggressive" ...
* Ryan Christenson led off Wednesday's game with a Rickey Special, homering to left ... For good measure, he also made a great sliding catch ... Showalter loves him: "He gets to balls in the outfield, is always prepared and can make the clutch hit" ... Hitting coach Rudy Jaramillo is trying to loosen Christenson's lower body in his batting stance ... But in Sunday's win over the Yankees, Showalter dropped him down in the order and led Carl Everett off ... Showalter has used an incredible 24 batting orders in the club's 25 games ...
* On Thursday, every Ranger in the lineup had a hit by the third inning as Texas bludgeoned Derek Lowe and the Committee 16-5 ...
* Rafael Palmeiro has blamed a lack of "timely hitting" as the team's "biggest disappointment" ... Raffy's up to 497 career longballs ... Although he holds the dubious honour of being the Most Undeserving Gold Glove Winner Ever (he DH'd behind Lee Stevens most of the season), the Rangers are happy with Palmeiro's defence this season ...
* Juan Gonzalez is still in search of his mojo at 255/298/469 ... He had a big series against Boston, but went 2-12 against the Yankees this weekend. Prior to the Red Sox series, he had a 10-game streak with no extra-base hits and no RBI ... Gonzalez has been working on his mechanics, focusing on staying back on pitches and being more selective at the plate ... Interestingly, he leads the league in outfield assists with four ...
* But surprisingly, Everett has found his mojo: 320/386/693 ...
* Power has not been the problem for the Texans. The Rangers are second in the majors in home runs with 42 ... Until Texas' 10-run, no-homer explosion against the Yankees on Sunday, the Rangers had scored 60% of their runs by way of homer ...
* Nor has Hank Blalock been the problem. His 0-for-5 last night dropped his average to .385 ...
* Pitching. Now there's the problem! Texas is last in the AL in WHIP, having issued the most walks in the league by a wide margin ... Colby Lewis, with his 23-16 BB/K ratio, is in big trouble against the Jays on Thursday ...
* But Thomson might pose a problem for the patient Jays: only three walks in 28 innings ...
* Teams are also hitting Texas pitching hard, though not as hard as Toronto pitching has been hit ...
* But Texas starters have pitched better of late ...
* Meanwhile, late-blooming 1996 first-rounder R.A. Dickey has been solid in middle relief ...
* Another comeback in the offing? Ugueth Urbain Urbina has peripheral numbers eerily similar to Mike MacDougal before the Great Comeback on Sunday ...
* Francisco Rodriguez hasn't earned the nickname K-Rod this season. But Alex Rodriguez has, leading the league in batters' strikeouts with 30 ... Juan Acevedo whiffed him to end the game on Saturday ...
* The K's aren't sitting well with A-Rod at all: "I've been bad, I've been really bad, as bad as I can remember" ... So of course, he came through with a 5-for-5 tour de force on Sunday, driving in six ... Michael Young on Rodriguez: "Whenever he's challenged, he comes out a better player" ... A-Rod likes Showalter's approach: "There's a major difference in this club from last year's, and I give a lot of credit to Buck for that" ...
* Joe Torre on the Ranger lineup around A-Rod: "[W]e should have walked him...Tough to walk a guy when a guy with 497 career homers is in the on-deck circle" ...
* Chan Ho Park has pitched so poorly that Texas released Chad Kreuter, who was brought in simply to be Park's personal catcher-slash-therapist ... Heretofore third catcher Todd Greene gets elevated to backup catcher. "Boo-yeah," exclaimed Greene, perhaps apocryphally ...
* The Rangers' first kangaroo court session will be held in their Toronto visitors' clubhouse. Rumour has it the judges will be Greene, Urbina and Everett ...
* Ex-phenom and currently-injured-serviceable-reliever Todd Van Poppel is on his way back, pitching well in his rehab stint ...

Probable Batting Orders

vs. LH

8 Christenson
7 Mench
6 Rodriguez
9 Gonzalez
DH Sierra
3 Palmeiro
5 Teixeira
4 Young
2 Diaz

vs. RH

7 Everett
5 Blalock
6 Rodriguez
3 Palmeiro
9 Gonzalez
DH Teixeira/Sierra
8 Christenson
4 Young
2 Diaz

Pitching Probables

Tuesday: RH Thomson vs. Hendrickson
Wednesday: RH Drese vs. Sturtze
Thursday: RH Lewis vs. Halladay

Bullpen Usage

Long: Dickey R, Garcia R
Short: Shouse L, Yan R
Setup: Cordero R, Fultz L
Closer: Urbina R
Advance Scout: Rangers, April 29-May 1 | 13 comments | Create New Account
The following comments are owned by whomever posted them. This site is not responsible for what they say.
_M.P. Moffatt - Tuesday, April 29 2003 @ 12:57 PM EDT (#102955) #
Thanks again Mike! Another great column.

I like the new formatting.. it's much easier to read.


_Scott Lucas - Tuesday, April 29 2003 @ 01:16 PM EDT (#102956) #
May I chime in?

The Rangers have batted only .229/.299/.383 and scored 2.9 runs per game on the road, but their only road opponents have been Oakland, Seattle and Anaheim.

By my calculations, the Rangers should have scored about 11 more runs than they have so far. Two reasons why they havenít: poor hitting with runners on base and woeful production from the #1 spot. Last year, the Rangers ranked 29th in OBP from the #1 spot (thank you, Detroit); this year, they are 29th again (thank you, Tampa). The Rangers also have the lowest OPS from the #9 spot by a margin of .050. As usual, the heart of the order is a different story. In the #2-#6 spots, no OPS is lower than .855.

All three Ranger starters have Component ERAs significantly worse than their real ERAs. In other words, bad peripherals abound.

Thomson has the ERA I would have expected (4.50) but his other stats are ugly. Sure, he has a 22/3 K/BB ratio, but his history suggests heís not THAT good at striking out batters or THAT good at avoiding walks. Heís also allowed a ghastly six homers in 28.2 innings and a .319 average-against. If he pitches that way against the Jays, odds are that his ERA will take a hefty jump. When on, Thomson combines good location with a sinker that chews up hitters behind in the count.

Drese is awful, even worse than his 11.49 ERA suggests. He hasnít surpassed three innings in three of his four starts. His average-against on balls in play is a softball-esque .516. Maybe heís unlucky, maybe heís really that bad. Toronto should light him up. Texasí best chance is for Showalter to yank him early and hope for three good innings from longman R.A. Dickey while the offense eats away at Torontoís lead. Drese offers a wide assortment of ineffective pitches.

Lewis is promising but his 4.45 ERA is a fraud. Lewis has allowed 23 walks in 28.2 innings and a .397 OBP-against. Like Thomson, he canít continue to pitch this way and expect to maintain an ERA in the mid-fours. Lewis cooks with gas but is striking out only five per nine innings. Lewis is just 23, and while not remotely in the class of a Prior/Peavy/Foppert, he should be a dependable starter before long.

The bullpen has pitched quite well recently. By some strange coincidence, both Jay Powell and Todd Van Poppel are on the DL. Meanwhile, the quintet of Urbina, Francisco Cordero, Aaron Fultz, R.A. Dickey and Brian Shouse have an aggregate ERA of 2.20 in 57 innings pitched.

Not-quite-ready-for-primetime 3B Mark Teixeira will almost certainly start against the lefty Hendrickson and might start Wednesday. I wouldnít be surprised if he sits against Halladay. Blalock will start Wednesday and Thursday but is iffy for Tuesday. Blalock usually sits against lefties; when he does start against them, he falters (career line of .111/.216/.111).

Though it pains me to say so, I expect Toronto to win two of three.
_snellville jone - Tuesday, April 29 2003 @ 01:17 PM EDT (#102957) #
Better get to these guys early, their bullpen has been lights out. Cordero from the right and Fultz from the left have combined for a 2.00 ERA in 27 IP while striking out 33 in the setup role.
_Mick - Tuesday, April 29 2003 @ 01:38 PM EDT (#102958) #
Mick, please feel free to be the ombudsperson for today's column: We'd all appreciate your insights and corrections.

I was just about the say that Scott Lucas, Austin-located as he is, would certainly be better qualified than me to offer insights, but I see he's already proven that point.

... it seems a little silly for a Jays fan living in New York City to be the Advance Scout for the Rangers

I can't support that conclusion, as a former New York Yankees fantasy correspondent living in the Metroplex!

I will look to add a few thoughts shortly. Here's one, by the way: HEY TORONTO MANAGEMENT! CLAIM DOUG DAVIS OFF WAIVERS!

Freakin' Rangers call him up for one three-inning start then designate him for assignment. Davis might be, as some -- Scott, I think -- have claimed, the classic AAAA pitcher. Or he might be, as I have been advocating for three years, Jamie Moyer waiting to happen.

He's already twice the pitcher Sterling Hitchock is at 5% of the price.
_Scott Lucas - Tuesday, April 29 2003 @ 02:05 PM EDT (#102959) #
If anybody claims Davis, it should be current Milwaukee (and former Texas) GM Doug Melvin. Davis needs a new home.

Davis had a 1/18 BB/K ratio in AAA, totally uncharacteristic for him, but at least he was throwing strikes. Once back in the bigs, he reverted to nibbling the corners, a bad idea against any team, much less the Yankees.

I just don't see Davis ever having an important role on a good team. Even at his best he allows too many baserunners. His stuff is so-so and he has zero margin for error. He is indeed better than Hitchcock and plenty of other gainfully employed pitchers, but that in itself doesn't mean deserves a rotation spot in the Majors.

But I would've said the same thing about Moyer circa 1990, so who knows.
_Jordan - Tuesday, April 29 2003 @ 02:11 PM EDT (#102960) #
I will look to add a few thoughts shortly. Here's one, by the way: HEY TORONTO MANAGEMENT! CLAIM DOUG DAVIS OFF WAIVERS!

Mick, I couldn't agree more: I noticed Davis was waived by the Rangers (who evidently have more pitching than they know what to do with) and was hoping Toronto might take a flyer on him. His Triple-A ERA is 3.22 in 300 IP and his K/BB ratio is better than 2-to-1, and that's in the PCL. He needs some work, clearly, and I imagine it would have to start with his confidence. But the talent has always been there.

Another terrific job, Mike!
Gitz - Tuesday, April 29 2003 @ 02:23 PM EDT (#102961) #
If Davis is to have a Moyer-esque career, which I doubt, he'll have to wait about five years. Though he had some good years every so often early in his dealings, Moyer didn't become consistent -- and get a consistent shot to stay in the rotation -- until he was 33.

"They" always say power pitchers can last into their 40s, but is there any reason Moyer, a power pitcher's doppelganger, couldn't? How much different is he than Wakefield? And Wakefield may throw harder than Moyer.
_Mick - Tuesday, April 29 2003 @ 02:34 PM EDT (#102962) #
I should admit, if it's not obvious, that Davis is one of those players I just got attached to as a fan (kind of like Gitz and Jeremy Giambi), and I can't explain it. But I really do think he has a productive major league future ahead of him, especially if (as seems likely) he becomes one of those guys who keeps getting changes because he's left-handed and once shut out the Yankees, and never gets more than the veteran minimum salary.

I should also admit that in the early 1980's, I swore, absolutely promised that Frank Pastore was going to turn into Tom Seaver. So my track record is, uh, spotty on this front.
_Ryan - Tuesday, April 29 2003 @ 02:49 PM EDT (#102963) #
The Jays owe it to Davis to give him a shot after the pounding they gave him in his major league debut. Even Homer Bush took him deep.
_Jordan - Tuesday, April 29 2003 @ 04:00 PM EDT (#102964) #
Four hits and a home run by Homer Bush? A win by Joey Hamilton? Effective relief from Paul Spoljaric? Surely this a boxscore from some Bizarro Blue Jays universe!

Not got diamond
Not got no men
Got no bat and no ball
And that be all
Not got bleachers
not in spring or fall
Got no dog and no drink
No umpire's call
Waddaya want?
No play ball!

No, no
Red Jays
No play ball!
Gitz - Tuesday, April 29 2003 @ 05:53 PM EDT (#102965) #
Very nice poem, Jordan.

Looking at that box score, it's interesting the Rangers took Davis out with two outs in the eigth inning -- why not let him finish the inning?

(After Davis surrenders the Bush homer in the 8th.)

PITCHING COACH: I don't think Doug has his best stuff today, Skip. Want that I should I go git him?
JOHNNY OATES: Nah, all those home runs and doubles were just flukes. Let's see if he can get Stewart out. But get Venafro ready. I want to keep this at a 14-run deficit.
Coach - Tuesday, April 29 2003 @ 06:42 PM EDT (#102966) #
The bullpen has pitched quite well recently.

Yeah? Well, ours has been pretty good too, for the last few innings.

Tonight would be a huge win, and two out of three in the next seven series would make the Jays 24-23 heading into the May 22 midterm with the Yankees. I'm not predictin', I'm just sayin'.

Jordan's song is great -- no dancing or hand signals.
_DS - Wednesday, April 30 2003 @ 04:00 PM EDT (#102967) #
Who says that this board doesn't get read?

Jays just claimed Davis off waivers.
Advance Scout: Rangers, April 29-May 1 | 13 comments | Create New Account
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