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This is the third consecutive shutout (albeit in a rain-shortened 6 Ĺ innings) Iíve covered in my Game Reports. Spring training shutouts are not the most exciting things in the world to write about, I can tell you.

The good news for the Blue Jays was another sterling effort from Dave Bush, who fired five shutout innings at the Twins before tiring in the 6th (though a flyball that dropped between Vernon Wells and Frank Catalanotto did go for a triple). The bad news has to be that the Jaysí starting lineup was shut down by Kyle Lohse, Terry Mulholland and Juan Rincon. To refresh your memory, Lohse allowed 240 base hits in 2004, and Mulholland started Game 6 of the 1993 World Series for Philadelphia. Yes, that Game 6.

So much for the game recap. Mike Moffatt, cuttlefish wrangler, provided a roundup the other day of various Websitesí predictions for the Blue Jaysí final record this upcoming season. Most of these forecasts involved in-depth analysis of the players and careful scrutiny of the sabrmetric tea leaves. Thatís too much like work for me, thank you.

So I thought I would choose a prognostication system with much less depth and insight: ESPNís Fantasy Baseball Player Rankings. Here are the projected stats for most of the Blue Jaysí 2005 starters, along with their overall rankings at their positions. Judging from these lines, at least, it would seem that Toronto will finish dead-last or close to it in the major leagues this year: every other team places at least one starter in the Top 12 at a given position. The top fantasy Jay is projected to be Vernon Wells, at # 76 overall.

C  28. Gregg Zaun: .251, 28 R, 5 HR, 28 RBI 
1B  22. Shea Hillenbrand, .297, 69 R, 17 HR, 88 RBI
2B  23. Orlando Hudson, .277, 67 R, 12 HR, 60 RBI
3B  15. Corey Koskie, .268, 71 R, 20 HR, 73 RBI
3B  23. Eric Hinske, .255, 75 R, 17 HR, 74 RBI, 12 SB
SS  29. Russ Adams, .277, 65 R, 11 HR, 59 RBI, 8 SB
OF  18. Vernon Wells, .292, 99 R, 32 HR, 107 RBI, 7 SB
OF  81. Frank Catalanotto, .289, 53 R, 6 HR, 40 RBI
OF  83. Alex Rios, .295, 65 R, 5 HR, 49 RBI, 16 SB
SP 20. Roy Halladay, 15 W, 145 K, 3.48 ERA, 1.19 WHIP SP 47. Ted Lilly, 12 W, 154 K, 4.09 ERA, 1.28 WHIP SP 99. Miguel Batista, 10 W, 114K, 4.43 ERA, 1.44 WHIP SP 101. Dave Bush, 12 W, 139 K, 4.20 ERA, 1.33 WHIP
CL 26. Justin Speier, 4 W, 17 Sv, 56 K, 3.91 ERA, 1.23 WHIP
There are a few observations you can make about this list:

1. ESPN really doesnít go out of their way to update their predictions based on spring training developments. If you went into your fantasy draft counting on Miguel Batista to bounce back in the rotation or Justin Speier to pick up a few cheap saves, youíd be unpleasantly surprised when the season began. (In the Jaysí finest dreams, Batista gets those 10 wins and 114 K as a multi-inning closer).

2. Alex Rios is underrated. He will hit more than 5 home runs over the course of a full season ó his mere 1 HR as a rookie was an aberration from his previous totals. If he bats sixth or even seventh, heíll get more RBIs. And I think he could as much as double those 16 steals ó these arenít the old station-to-station Jays anymore.

3. Dave Bush is equally underrated. If youíre looking for a serious rotation sleeper come draft day and youíre in a league with non-Jays fans, pick up Bush to fill your 4th or 5th starter position. He should strike out more batters than that and he should have a lower WHIP than that. If youíre in a keeper league, grab him and hang on tight.

4. Gregg Zaun could score 28 runs this year accidentally. He could score that many even if he dropped anchor at every base he rounded. Guillermo Quiroz is at least half a year away, and I donít think Greg Myers is going to be able to provide much more than caddying duties. Also, ESPN spelled Zaunís first name as ďGreg.Ē Nice.

5. Is the Jaysí infield really that bad? No, itís not. Russ Adams is still a work in progress, but heís not the 29th-best shortstop in baseball. Orlando Hudson should post those numbers by August 1st. And I have a feeling Corey Koskieís going to provide more power than many people think. As for Hillenbrand and Hinske ó well, okay, those numbers do seem about right.

Certainly, itís a sobering list for Jaysí fans who head into the season with optimism (as most of us do). But these traditional-roto numbers donít tell us how the Jaysí lineup should post a ton of doubles, and how most of these regulars should provide defensive talent ranging anywhere from good to excellent. And I will gladly take the ďoverĒ on Roy Halladay whiffing just 145 batters. Bottom line: I think the Jays will surprise a few fantasy players this year.

So now, of course, itís time for the usual balancing dose of pessimism, and for another installment of Three Things. After discussing, last time, players who will have to step up in 2005, todayís topic is The Larry David Special: Three Blue Jays About Whom You Should Curb Your Enthusiasm.

1. Ted Lilly

Which of these two pitchers would you rather have on your team?

A:   12-10, 4.34, 9.05 H/9, 7.42 K/9, 2.93 BB/9, 1.21 HR/9
B:   12-10, 4.06, 7.81 H/9, 7.66 K/9, 4.06 BB/9, 1.18 HR/9
Probably youíre thinking that itís a toss-up. Pitcher A had better control, while Pitcher B allowed fewer hits; otherwise, their numbers are pretty much identical. Considering that hits allowed is a fairly variable stat, in fact, you might prefer the finer command of Pitcher A. Well, both pitchers are Ted Lilly: the first is 2003 in Oakland, while the second is Lillyís supposed breakout 2004 in Toronto. Now, more advanced metrics do tell a slightly different story: his ERA+ was 98 in í03, 120 in í04, while his VORP was 28.8 in í03, 44.6 in í04. But his success in 2004 can be tied largely to his unusually low number of hits allowed: his Batting Average on Balls in Play in 2003 was .288; in 2004, his BABIP was .258, 7th-lowest in the major leagues. It could happen again in 2005, but 2003 (or worse) could happen too.

2. Frank Catalanotto

Another stats package for you:

Age	AB	OPS+	VORP	
30	249	87	6.0
29	489	111	25.5
28	212	104	10.5
27	463	131	44.0
26	282	106	20.0
25	286	97	11.7
24	213	98	9.5
These numbers are not news: in five of the past seven seasons, the Cat has recorded fewer than 300 AB, posted an OPS+ below 110, and achieved a VORP of less than 12. Certainly, in a couple of those early seasons, Catalanotto wasnít given the chance to play, and Iím sure he could have performed well if handed the opportunity. But the fact remains that his track record is spotty at best in terms of both presence and production. If heís in an every-other-year pattern, the Jays are in great shape. If he repeats 2004, not so much.

3. Gustavo Chacin

I certainly respect the knowledge and instincts of the Blue Jays coaching staff, and if the braintrust says Gus Chacin is ready to pitch in the majors this year, thatís a heckuva vote of confidence. But letís pause for a moment and revisit his 2004 numbers. If you cast aside the gaudy 16-2 record and overlook the 2.86 ERA for a moment, youíll see some very ordinary peripherals: 141 IP, 113 H, 49 BB, 109 K. Thatís more than 3 walks per 9 innings and just about 7 Kís per 9; those are not overpowering numbers. Now consider that this line was posted in Double-A, two whole worlds away from the majors. Chacinís Syracuse sojourn was a success and his baptism by fire against the Yankees was one for the scrapbooks, no question. But once batters get used to that stutter-step delivery, thereís a good chance that heís going to be exposed. I fear that Chacin is going to make more than a few starts for the Skychiefs this season.

I feel a little badly, having finished this report, because Frank Catalanotto must think I have it in for him. I donít, really. From all accounts, heís a terrific person and a great teammate, yet all I ever seem to do here is give him the gears. Iím certainly not saying that he, Lilly and Chacin are going to be flops this year, not at all. I just think fans should temper their expectations for them in 2005.

Here's a quick Roundup for you:

- The Star, the Sun, and the Globe & Mail all report that Gabe Gross is making it very tough for the Blue Jays to send him down to Syracuse. I still think Triple-A is the best place for The Gabe, because he needs to be playing every day, not warming the bench and getting two pinch-hit at-bats per week. In the fullness of time, space will be made for him on the 25-man roster -- which, as JP Ricciardi points out in the Sun article, always looks a lot different two weeks into the season than it does on Opening Day.

- Dr. Fence has a report on the continued evolution of Eric Hinske, professional ballplayer. If, as the article suggests, Hinske's days of frustrated bat-throwing and helmet-slamming are past, then that's a very good sign indeed. A lot of players only start to come into their abilities when they stop fighting themselves all the time.

- For those of you wondering how the Jays will solve the nice but imminent problem of three middle infielders (Orlando Hudson, Russ Adams and Aaron Hill) for two infield positions, consider that negotiations between the Jays and the O-Dog about a long-term deal have slowed to a standstill. That could be because Hinske's long-term deal went badly and Ricciardi doesn't want to get burned twice. It could be because there really is no rush to get a contract signed. Or it could be because there's no point making long-term commitments to a player who might be very valuable on the trade market a year from now.

Finally, hereís your Linda Richman Talk-Amongst-Yourselves Question of the Day: which Blue Jay do you think will be the most pleasant fantasy surprise in 2005?

Spring Training: Twins 2, Jays 0 | 27 comments | Create New Account
The following comments are owned by whomever posted them. This site is not responsible for what they say.
sweat - Thursday, March 24 2005 @ 09:20 AM EST (#107327) #
Orlando hudson, or david bush should be the most surprising. These are 2 players you can draft in the last 2 rounds, provided that you aren't in a league with 15 other jays fans.
Craig S. - Thursday, March 24 2005 @ 09:25 AM EST (#107328) #
Well, let's hope that ESPN's projections are as accurate as usual, which is to say, not at all.

I agree with the comments about Bush. I believe he could be a sleeper, although the WHIP they've given him isn't really that bad. They'll need more than those 12 wins from him, too.

Also, how many do they have Wells projected to score? Looks like you had a typo there. I'm hoping it's 109 or above, but that might just be wishful thinking.
Jordan - Thursday, March 24 2005 @ 09:27 AM EST (#107329) #
Sorry, my typo -- V-Dub is slated to score 99 runs. It's fixed now.
Pistol - Thursday, March 24 2005 @ 09:38 AM EST (#107330) #
consider that negotiations between the Jays and the O-Dog about a long-term deal have slowed to a standstill.

I suspect it's simply that they're not close enough on the dollars. Given the offseason I wouldn't be in a big hurry to sign a long term contract if I were Hudson.

Named For Hank - Thursday, March 24 2005 @ 10:06 AM EST (#107336) #
I had a good feeling about Gross, so I took him at the tail end of the draft in a Yahoo league I'm playing, to much derision from a couple of other drafters ("Are you drafting a AAA team?"). Of course, they had Joe Borowski and Barry Bonds.

Blair points out that all of Gross' homers save for one were against pitchers who will make the MLB rosters of their respective teams. What would be the best place to look up who he hit 'em off of? Now I'm curious.

I also took David Bush.
Braby21 - Thursday, March 24 2005 @ 10:06 AM EST (#107337) #
Sorry to Hijack..but I e-mailed Sporstnet about JayZone, and I got this reply.

"Thank you for your recent email. Unfortunately, at this time, JZone will not be back this season. Our apologies that we are unable to assist you further."

That sucks, I was a huge fan of that show.
Joe - Thursday, March 24 2005 @ 10:16 AM EST (#107338) #
I continue to maintain that people have decided that last season is the "true" level of our Blue Jays, and that 2003 was an enormous abberation. By that logic, in 2005 we can expect a slight year-over-year improvement in many categories.

I'd like to join the chorus of people saying "It just ain't so." If 2003 was an abberation, so was 2004; you can't have most to all of your regular starters out for an extended period of time without suffering as a consequence. For that reason, I call phooey on projections that place the Jays with, for example, 73 wins; double phooey on those who say they're one of the worst teams in the majors. I expect a thoroughly average team next year once everything is said and done; perhaps a bit light on the hitting, a bit strong on the pitching & defence. 81-81 is a very realistic projection in my view.
Pepper Moffatt - Thursday, March 24 2005 @ 10:17 AM EST (#107340) #
Mike Moffatt, cuttlefish wrangler

I picture a cuttlefish falling out of the sky and me riding it like a bronco, a la Dr. Strangelove.

I'm a little surprised we didn't hear Lilly's name in more trade rumours this off-season. Given his contract status and his numbers from last year, I think he could fetch the Jays more than what he's worth to the team.

Pepper Moffatt - Thursday, March 24 2005 @ 10:25 AM EST (#107341) #
I'd like to join the chorus of people saying "It just ain't so." If 2003 was an abberation, so was 2004; you can't have most to all of your regular starters out for an extended period of time without suffering as a consequence.

I suppose there's something to that, but it's not as if the 2005 roster is the same as the 2003 one. Delgado is gone for one, as well as Kelvim Escobar, who would likely be the #2 starter on this team. Shannon Stewart is gone. Mike Bordick and Josh Phelps, who were terrific in 2003 are gone.

Of course, there are many talented players who are here now who weren't around in 2003. 2003's rotation was Halladay, Escobar, Lidle, Hendrickson, and Doug Davis. This year's looks better. But given all the changes, I don't know how relevant 2003 is anymore.

Pepper Moffatt - Thursday, March 24 2005 @ 10:27 AM EST (#107342) #
One last point :)

If you take an average of the 2003 and 2004 seasons, you get 76.5 wins, which is about what people are predicting.
Named For Hank - Thursday, March 24 2005 @ 10:30 AM EST (#107343) #
But given all the changes, I don't know how relevant 2003 is anymore.

How about as relative as 2004, when they had the majority of the team on the DL and Dave Berg in the outfield?

Named For Hank - Thursday, March 24 2005 @ 10:31 AM EST (#107344) #
"Thank you for your recent email. Unfortunately, at this time, JZone will not be back this season. Our apologies that we are unable to assist you further."

I guess I didn't get the hosting gig.

Pepper Moffatt - Thursday, March 24 2005 @ 10:34 AM EST (#107346) #
How about as relative as 2004, when they had the majority of the team on the DL and Dave Berg in the outfield?

I think that's completely fair.

When you do these projections or predictions, I think you have to completely throw out the performance of the team in previous years. Largely because personnel and player usage will be a fair bit different. Instead you need to look at the composition of the team, what you think they'll do, how you think they'll be used, etc. when making your prediction.

This is what ZiPS, DMB, and PECOTA does and why I think they're likely to be more accurate than the Vegas line and predictions in magazines and newspapers.

uglyone - Thursday, March 24 2005 @ 10:49 AM EST (#107348) #
I know most statistically-minded fans are panicky about Gustavo....but I'm not one of them. The fact is his pre-2002 stats aren't very useful, because that year he developed a nasty cutter which has changed his entire profile. As well, his peripherals aren't nearly as mediocre as some worry...and they're showing distinct improvment. Thirdly, it's all about this kid's HEAD - he's got the mental toughness, and that's why he's being moved up so quickly. Here's some semi-interesting stats I broke down a couple of days ago....

23 Years Old - AA

D.Bush: 14gs, 81.0ip, 7-3, 8.1k/9, 2.1bb/9, 1.14whip, 2.78era
G.Chacin: 25gs, 141.2ip, 16-2, 6.9k/9, 3.1bb/9, 1.14whip, 2.86era

Yes, this was Bush's first look at AA, and it was Chacin's 4th....and yes, Bush has better peripherals....BUT, of course, Chacin doesn't have to be as good as Bush to be good.

I also decided to add up Chacin's 4 starts at AAA/MLB last year to make the post-AA sample size a bit more useful (although it's still not much), and to see if that split would make a bit more sense in a comparison with his AA numbers:

AA ball: 25gs, 141.2ip, 16-2, 6.9k/9, 3.1bb/9, 1.14whip, 2.86era
AAA/MLB: 4gms, 25.2ip, 3-1, 7.0k/9, 2.1bb/9, 1.17whip, 2.45era

Not much of a sample size even then....but it does seem to make more sense. Now I really wish I had the monthly splits for his last two years, because while his numbers show distinct improvement from season to season, I suspect that this improvement can probably be observed month to month as well. I have a hunch that late season monthly splits of those AA numbers would resemble those AAA/MLB numbers even more.

Here's how his peripherals break down from season to season and level to level.....(but, again, I have a hunch that his monthly splits would show the progression even more clearly....as he seems to have gained more and more control of that cutter since he first started using it).

22 yrs AA: 7.1k/9, 3.8bb/9
23 yrs AA: 6.9k/9, 3.1bb/9
23 yrs AAA/MLB: 7.0k/9, 2.0bb/9

Those numbers aren't stunning, but if he can post 6-7 k/9 and 2.5-3.5 bb/9 this year, that's more than good enough for him to have some success as a #4 starter.
Gerry - Thursday, March 24 2005 @ 10:57 AM EST (#107350) #
Uglyone:

What makes people nervous about Chacin is the cutter. Who remembers the last player who developed a cutter and had a great season with it? Box fave Esteban Loaiza, is who and he crashed somewhat the next year. That is the Chacin issue, is the cutter back this year?
MatO - Thursday, March 24 2005 @ 11:02 AM EST (#107351) #
I think it's wrong to use Chacin's full season stats from 2004 at AA since quite obviously something clicked around July 1 and he was a completely different pitcher from then on. On the other hand, I'd be much more comfortable with Chacin if he developed a breaking pitch to neutralize lefthanders.
Named For Hank - Thursday, March 24 2005 @ 11:05 AM EST (#107352) #
I like uglyone's point about Chacin's mentality. That's also a big plus with David Bush for me, and why I'm excited to see Bush pitching the home opener for the team. If all goes well, it should be a big boost for him.
sweat - Thursday, March 24 2005 @ 11:07 AM EST (#107353) #
That really sucks about the Jzone, I was a fan of the show. Kind of surprising that it wont be back, considering the added effort to attract Jays fans back to the park/sportsnet.
Even if Jzone was a 15 min show coupled with a reduced sportsnet highlight show(desk, center whatever its called) would be cool. It's just nice to see the plays of the week from the jays and the majors. Showing this type of thing before a game would make sense, as im sure more than a few people watching sportsnet half an hour before the game could live with seeing some baseball related programming.
Named For Hank - Thursday, March 24 2005 @ 11:11 AM EST (#107354) #
Maybe we should start calling for the Orlando Hudson show again. Imagine -- a short weekly show that's clips of the highlights of the week plus O-Dog interviewing teammates and opponents.

I'd love to do a Chris Isaak Show-style fictional representation of Orlando Hudson's life.
Dave Till - Thursday, March 24 2005 @ 11:28 AM EST (#107355) #

For that reason, I call phooey on projections that place the Jays with, for example, 73 wins; double phooey on those who say they're one of the worst teams in the majors.

I think that the Jays will finish 75-87 if Batista and Chacin both bomb in the early going, and 80-82 if they don't.

But I fear a meltdown if everything goes bad. Here's the worst-case scenario for April:

  • Lilly is out for longer than expected.
  • Halladay isn't all the way back to top form yet.
  • Bush experiences growing pains.
  • Chacin and Towers get stomped.
  • If Lilly is out, the Jays will need a fifth starter (Walker?), since they don't have many days off in April. This starter gets stomped.
  • Batista fails horribly as closer, walking the ball park, trying all of his 43 pitches, and then giving up long balls. He retreats, terrified, to long relief.

If all of this happens (and I'm not saying it will), the Jays could be out of contention before spring actually arrives in Toronto.

The good news: the offense won't be as bad as some people think. Sure, Delgado is gone, and that's a huge hole to fill. But there aren't likely to be any total offensive zeroes in the lineup (unless Huckaby plays much); Phelps, Woodward, Cash and Berg are all gone. (If Hinske doesn't hit, Hillenbrand will take first, Gross will take LF, and Hinske will take a hike.)

Ryan01 - Thursday, March 24 2005 @ 11:35 AM EST (#107356) #
NFH, here ya go:

Gross' home runs
1 - Franklin Nunez
2 - Jesse Crain
3 - Kevin Millwood
4 - Jesse Crain
5 - Anastacio Martinez
6 - Jason Johnson
7 - Ryan Vogelsong.

Not a particularly outstanding bunch but all quality pitchers.
uglyone - Thursday, March 24 2005 @ 11:36 AM EST (#107357) #
The other thing I like about this year's chances is that unlike last year and the year before, there's not much in the way of expectations on this team, which will hopefully allow them to get off to a better start.

They've really started off poorly the last couple of years with all the expectations to contend on them, and it's killed their seasons before they even started. Sure maybe those teams weren't that good, but they were definitely better than they showed in those 1st months.

Pistol - Thursday, March 24 2005 @ 01:21 PM EST (#107361) #
"But there aren't likely to be any total offensive zeroes in the lineup (unless Huckaby plays much)"

I read in one of the papers today that JP said that Myers being on the roster or not was going to be a decision made at the last minute. Maybe I'm reading too much into that, but it doesn't sound good for his chances to make the team.

Would the Jays go with Huckaby in that case or is there a possible minor trade out there for a backup C?
Four Seamer - Thursday, March 24 2005 @ 01:29 PM EST (#107367) #
I read in one of the papers today that JP said that Myers being on the roster or not was going to be a decision made at the last minute. Maybe I'm reading too much into that, but it doesn't sound good for his chances to make the team.

It was reported earlier in the spring that Myers might not be ready for Opening Day. Is it possible JP was alluding to the chance that Myers might start the season on the DL?

Pistol - Thursday, March 24 2005 @ 01:55 PM EST (#107381) #
Whoops, by one of the papers I meant MLB.com. I'm not sure the Dr wants to be lumped in with that group.

I can't find the specific quote anymore so perhaps that is the case, but it's not as if Myers is actually hurt, so I can't see him being on the DL to start the season.
Four Seamer - Thursday, March 24 2005 @ 02:04 PM EST (#107385) #
I can't find the specific quote anymore so perhaps that is the case, but it's not as if Myers is actually hurt, so I can't see him being on the DL to start the season.

But surely the Jays could send him on a rehab assignment, if he's not yet in perfect game shape as a result of their babying him along because of the severity of last year's ankle injury?

Brian W - Friday, March 25 2005 @ 12:53 AM EST (#107463) #
I don't see this anywhere else, so here is an article about Ed Sprague having observed steroid use, but claiming it was only after he left Toronto. click here
Spring Training: Twins 2, Jays 0 | 27 comments | Create New Account
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