Game 11: Toronto 2, Texas 4

Saturday, April 16 2005 @ 02:15 AM EDT

Contributed by: Magpie

Not a compelling game. When the other pitcher is completely on his game, it's seldom a lot of fun. If the other pitcher is someone like Johan Santana or Pedro Martinez, it can at least be extremely impressive. But Ryan Drese is nothing like that. It's a little boring watching him beat you.

He's frustrating - it's not hard to get the bat on the ball, it's just hard to do anything useful when you do.

Drese is evolving into a type of pitcher we don't see that often - a right handed Tommy John. There are lots of relief pitchers in this mold, from Paul Quantrill to (maybe) Danny Kolb, but not a whole lot of starters. Some of you older fellas, who go back to the 1980s, may remember a guy named Walt Terrell, who had his best years with Detroit. That's who Drese reminded me of tonight.

Drese gives up a lot of hits (233 in 207.2 IP last year); however, the hits don't leave the park. He gave up just 16 HR last year, which is pretty good anyway, and especially good when you remember the park he calls home. He doesn't strike people out - only 98 Ks last year, 4.25 per 9 innings. But he doesn't walk very many, either. He gets an enormous number of ground balls - an quick examination of the numbers buried in the back of The Hardball Times Baseball Annual suggests that the only starting pitcher in the majors who gets more ground balls is Derek Lowe.

And, like Tommy John himself (and Walt Terrell as well), he is impossible to run against. This needs to be emphasized because when the Jays did get some runners on with the bottom of the lineup in the 8th inning, there were a few suggestions that this might be the moment to go small ball, maybe try to steal a base. But you can't run on this guy. He doesn't allow it. He barely has a windup - he gets the ball to the catcher very quickly.

Which is what you would expect. For this type of pitcher, preventing the stolen base is an essential skill. You see, you need to be able to bunt, and you need to be able to steal bases against ground ball pitchers - if you don't, the double plays will eat your offense alive. Opposing teams managed to steal just 5 bases when Drese was pitching last year. The Rangers turned 26 DPs behind him.

So I came home, and read through the Game Thread, and I thought the Box was a little off its feed as well. Jays players were doing more or less what they have done their entire careers, and tonight people noticed and were taken aback. Shea Hillenbrand hacks at first pitches. Ted Lilly lives in the upper half of the strike zone. That's who they are. It works for them, not always, but often enough to have made them wealthy and successful.

Early in the thread R Billie observed that the Jays hitters were "Rolling over, jumping at the ball, front foot hitting" and from the context it sounded like he was unhappy with the hitters. OK, but when a major league pitcher is changing speeds effectively, that's what happens. It's not a trick, that works by catching the hitter off guard - it's a fundamental. There's almost nothing a hitter can do about it.

Towards the end of the thread, there was a lively debate about the Wells at bat in the 8th inning: with two men on, he turned on a 3-1 pitch and hit it sharply to the left side. Alas, it went straight into Blalock's glove. Dudek and Craig generally approved of Wells' approach; R Billie thought he should have tried to inside-out one through the big hole on the right side. Me, I don't think the inside-out swing is even part of Wells' repertoire, except by accident, and you have to dance with the one that brung ya.

What was there to like, besides gv27's plug for the Box?

Lilly made it through five unimpressive innings without letting the game get out of reach. Which was actually impressive in itself - Texas is a tough place to pitch, a tough lineup, and he clearly wasn't at the top of his game. He survived anyway, and I find that very encouraging. Lilly needed the work as well, and he got some. Brandon League had by far his best outing yet. The pitching was fine tonight. If you go into Texas, and hold the Rangers to four runs, you absolutely can not complain.

Hinske didn't get a hit, but I thought he had good at bats. I think he saw five pitches all four times, but the Rangers pitched him very well. Especially Cordero in the 9th. Hudson made a couple more tremendous plays in the field. Catalanotto looks like a new guy out there - it's been so long since he was fully healthy, I think we'd all forgotten what his game normally looks like.

On the other hand.... I know that my worry, and the worry of many others, was this: where are the runs going to come from? Especially when your best hitter is making errors in Florida (OK, he's also hitting .306). The Jays have scored seven runs total in the last three games, which is the type of output I was afraid of seeing. You can talk about small ball, and situational hitting, and stuff like that until the cows come home (and I'd like to know just where those cows have been, by the way.) But you can't do anything - anything - without baserunners. And this is not a lineup that one can reasonably expect to generate a lot of baserunners. I expect to worry about that... well, all year, I guess.

On the other hand, Wells and Koskie have not even started hitting yet. And they will.

And, finally, we can blame the whole thing on Gord Ash anyway:

July 19, 2000 - Toronto Blue Jays trade Darwin Cubillan and Michael Young to Texas for Esteban Loiza.

Thanks, Gordo.