Batter's Box Interactive Magazine Batter's Box Interactive Magazine Batter's Box Interactive Magazine
Had 'em all the way...

The Blue Jays match their 2004 win total and get back to .500.

And if I had told you in April that Scott Downs would strike out more hitters in a game than any other Toronto pitcher, you'd have beaten me senseless.

For much of the evening, this looked like it was going to be one of those nights. I think you all know exactly what I mean by that.

Julio Lugo led off the game with a double. And immediately thereafter, Scott Downs locked in to something. He struck out five of the next seven hitters, which announced his presence with authority indeed. But with two out in the third. Lugo hustled his way to an infield single, Crawford lined a second hit, and Jorge Cantu cashed in everybody with Earl Weaver's favourite play. One little mistake... Downs then walked Perez but fanned Aubrey Huff for the second time to end the inning.

People have wondered, from time to time, why the Blue Jays even bother to play Frank Menechino anymore. Does he figure in the team's plans for next year? (Who knows - he's certainly not going to get enough at bats to make his $750 K option kick in.) Don't they have young players they ought to be looking at? Oh, no doubt. But the reason Menechino is playing is because John Gibbons still wants to win some ball games, and believes that Menechino can help him do that from time to time. Gibbons thinks winning is a a good thing for the young players to get used to (and I think it's an especially good thing to do for your fans at home.) And despite his unimpressive batting average, Menechino is still a useful offensive player because of his ability to get on base. Not to mention his ability to hit Very Tall Left-Handed Pitchers. I noted just last week that one of Menechino's all-time favourite opposing hurlers was the biggest lefty of them all - Menechino is the only Blue Jay with two home runs off Randy Johnson. And if Randy Johnson doesn't discourage you... well, what chance does Mark Hendrickson have?

Mouse came up after Alex Rios broke off his 0-14 slide with a leadoff single. Menechino doubled to left, and the Jays had two men in scoring position, no one out, and the top of the order at the plate. Alas! - they could only cash in one run, on Reed Johnson's ground out which scored Rios and moved Menechino to third. Hudson grounded out to the bag at third, and Menechino had to hold his ground. Vernon Wells laid off the first pitch, and the second - but he was fooled by the 2-0 and fouled out to the catcher.

Downs worked his way through the next two innings, striking out his seventh and eighth batters to match his own career high. But Lurch was mowing down the Blue Jays as well, and had retired all eight hitters since the Menechino double when Mouse stepped up to the plate again, with two out in the fifth inning. Menechino came through again, this time with his 4th homer of the season, and the home side had cut the Tampa lead to 3-2. And now Hendrickson faltered - Johnson and Hudson both delivered singles, bringing Wells to the plate. Lurch wanted no part of Vernon, walking him on four pitches. Which brought Shea Hillenbrand to the plate, and the pitching coach to the mound. Lurch doubtless said, "Don't worry - this guy I can get." He'd struck out Hillebrand swinging to end the first inning with one man aboard - this time, with the bases loaded, he got him swinging again to end the threat.

After issuing a leadoff walk to Perez in the sixth, Downs started striking out people again. He got Huff swinging for the third time in a row, and on the same play Zaun gunned down Perez trying to steal for the old strike-'em-out throw-'em-out double play. He ended the inning by getting Johnny Gomes swinging at strike three for the third time in a row, and after the Jays went down in order in their half of the sixth, Downs started off the Tampa seventh by striking out Alex Gonzalez, a familiar sight to all Toronto baseball fans. It was his 11th strikeout, the most by any Blue Jay pitcher in 2005, and the second best total by a Toronto LH ever. But he looked like he was being set up to take a Very Tough Loss. In the Jays half of the seventh, Hendrickson finally figured out how to retire Menechino, and while Sparky managed a two out single, he was stranded after the O-Dog's comebacker. Lurch's evening was through, as it would turn out, and he'd done a fine job.

Downs hadn't needed very many pitches to amass all those strikeouts - he came out for the eighth inning and Julio Lugo continued to torment him with a leadoff triple. Lugo had done the same thing leading off the first inning. That time, Carl Crawford had tried to bunt him over, but instead had popped the bunt up to where Downs could catch it. Undeterred, the Devil Rays tried it again, and Crawford almost popped out to the pitcher again. This time, though, a diving Downs could not make the catch, and Crawford found himself safe at first.

With runners on the corners, Gibbons summoned Pete Walker from the pen to face Cantu. I didn't like it - I don't really want Walker working in the 1st, 2nd, 8th, or 9th innings - but he got the job done. He struck out Cantu swinging and got Gathright, pinch-hitting, to line out to left field too shallow to score Lugo (although Sparky made the play just a little too exciting.) With Aubrey Huff due up, Walker took his leave, and Scott Schoeneweis entered the fray. The SS LOOGY got quickly ahead 0-2, and then it got interesting. Huff hung in there, fouling off three 1-2 pitches, before grounding out to end the threat. Excellent work by the bullpen, a fine game by the starter, and the home side was still losing, but it was still a one-run game.

But at least Hendrickson was gone. Vernon Wells hadn't swung at the first pitch all night. Granted, they hadn't thrown him a first pitch strike yet. (He had swung at the only two pitches they'd thrown him near the strike zone.) Joe Borowski threw a first pitch strike, perhaps curious to see what would happen. Nothing happened. Vernon watched it go by. He then took a ball, and grounded the next pitch back up the middle for a leadoff single. Shea Hillenbrand, very happy to see the last of Hendrickson, followed with a base hit of his own. Russ Adams was summoned to pinch hit for Aaron Hill - his job was to lay down a sac bunt. Adams came through with a good bunt. Borowski fielded the ball and looked at third to see if he could get Wells. He couldn't, and by the time he turned and threw to first, he couldn't get Adams either. Bases loaded, no one out. Who would deliver the RBIs that the team needed?


Corey Koskie, trying a little too hard perhaps, rolled a double play ground ball to second base. Wells scored to tie the game, but now there were two outs. Hillenbrand was on third, but Borowski quickly got ahead of Zaun 0-2. Zaun fouled off a pitch, took ball one, and fouled off another. And then Borowski again tried to do too much, badly overthrowing a pitch that Toby Hall did well to even get his glove near. He couldn't catch it, and Hillenbrand charged across the plate with the go-ahead run. It stood up as the game-winner, although Miguel Batista did his best to make everyone nervous by distributing a leadoff hit, a wild pitch, and a walk before retiring Lugo to end it.

Two runs in the eighth, without an RBI. I recollect a few days ago hearing Jerry and Warren reminisce about that old, briefly tallied relic of the 1980s - the Game Winning RBI. A statistic that no one thought much of - as Sawkiw noted, if you drove in the first run in a game that your team won 10-0 you could get credit for a Game Winning RBI. It just didn't seem meaningful. As it happens, you could drive in the first run of a game that your team wins 10-9, and yours might still prove to be the Game Winning RBI, if you really want to complain...

I suppose a new and official statistic must always be Very Meaningful. We wouldn't have had a game-winning RBI last night in any event. We did have a Winning Pitcher, however. The Winning Pitcher of last night's game was Scott Schoeneweis. The man who pitched to exactly one batter. While his team was losing. If you want to complain about a meaningless statistic, how about that one? This is not to slight Schoeneweis at all - he faced a tough hitter, at an important moment of a close game - there were two men on base in a one-run game - and he did his job perfectly. But I promise you Schoeneweis doesn't care all that much that he was adjudged the Winning Pitcher.

Scott Downs, even if just between you and me, was the winning pitcher last night. Eleven strikeouts! By a Toronto left-hander? You're kidding me!

Of the top eight strikeout performances by a Blue Jays pitcher, seven of them belong to one man. That of course was Roger Clemens during his two year reign of terror in a Toronto uniform. Clemens struck out 18 men once (a 3 hit shutout of the Royals in August 1998); 16 men once (his fabled return to Fenway in July 1997). He also struck out 15 men twice. He struck out 14 batters three times, a feat also performed by Pat Hentgen (in his famous 1-0 duel with Kevin Appier in 1994.)

Clemens had a 13 strikeout game, and so did Ted Lilly in August of 2004. Lilly's game, a 3 hit shutout against the Red Sox, is the most ever by a Blue Jays southpaw.

Before Hentgen's 14 K game, the team record had stood at 12 strikeouts since... well, almost since Day One. Pete Vuckovich struck out 12 in the course of a 2-0 shutout against the Orioles in June of 1977. Over the next 17 seasons that mark was frequently matched but never surpassed. Actually, no one even matched it until Jim Clancy fanned 12 Royals in just 7 innings in April of 1988 - the Jays won 12-3. Later that season, Dave Stieb struck out 12 White Sox, while winning 6-3 (two unearned runs - it was Dave Stieb, after all). In 1991, Tom Candiotti became the fourth co-holder of the record, but the only one who didn't get a win out of it. Candiotti didn't even get the decision - he struck out 12 Tigers in just 7 innings, and left with the score tied at 0-0. Detroit eventually got to Tom Henke for 4 runs in the 14th inning (it was Henke's third inning of work) to win the game 4-0.

After 1994, of course, 12 Ks wasn't the record anymore. Clemens (twice) and Chris Carpenter (once) would subsequently strike out 12 in a game.

Many Blue Jays pitchers have struck out 11 in a game - in addition to most of the names already encountered, it's something achieved by such worthies as Doyle Alexander, David Cone, Juan Guzman, Kelvim Escobar, Roy Halladay, and Dave Bush - as well as such not-so-worthies as Esteban Loaiza and Jose Nunez. But not very often by left-handers. Of all the LH pitchers who have worn a Toronto uniform, only two have struck out 11 hitters in a game before Lilly and Downs - they would be David Wells (twice) and Al Leiter. Jimmy Key and Jerry Garvin, whose best in a Toronto uniform was 10 Ks, are the only other Toronto lefties to hit double figures.

Jays 4, Devil Rays 3: Almost Frustrated | 25 comments | Create New Account
The following comments are owned by whomever posted them. This site is not responsible for what they say.
Rob - Friday, September 02 2005 @ 09:43 PM EDT (#127288) #
Ho hum, just another win.

Just kidding, of course -- I haven't started to breathe yet. I've been holding it in since about 9:15.

(exhales) There we go. Say, how about that Scott Downs?
JZK - Friday, September 02 2005 @ 10:11 PM EDT (#127291) #
Man, talk about coming out of nowhere. Downs has been nothing short of impressive. Actually, so has Dave Bush; since he returned, he's only had one start in which he gave up more than three earned runs. And Towers has been solid, too. Hopefully, Gustavo will return to his July form and win a few starts. I guess we can only dream about where the Jays would be if they had a healthy Halladay and Lilly. And a cleanup hitter. In such a pitching-poor division, they might have had a shot.

Only 15,000 fans tonight; guess TB isn't exactly going to bring them out in droves.
A - Saturday, September 03 2005 @ 01:47 AM EDT (#127293) #
Was one of the few folks out at Rogers Centre this evening...I noticed that the home plate umpire was wearing his shin guards outside his pants. Anyone hear an explanation on that one? Are we sure it wasn't Leslie Neilson? ;-)
slitheringslider - Saturday, September 03 2005 @ 04:05 AM EDT (#127296) #
I just want to hear some of my fellow Batter's Box reader's opinions on the role of Scott Downs in 2006. He has pitched great in a starting role filling in for Doc and Lilly, is he due for a rotation spot in 2006?

Let's say that Doc, Gus, and Lilly (if he's back) are guaranteed rotation spots, which more than likely it will happen. And hopefully we will land a marquee free agent pitcher. Then we would have Josh Towers, Scott Downs, and prospects (McGowan, etc...) battling out for the last spot. As of this moment, I think it's highly unlikely a prospect will break into the rotation in the spring, as I don't see any juicy prospects ready/have the stuff for the rotation, unless McGowan has a lights out September. You think we should go back to Downs as long man and start Towers? or trade Towers or someone like Lilly, and give Downs a rotation spot?

A few things to think about...
1) Obviously the most important thing is who would perform best over a 162-game schedule
2) Would having Lilly, Chacin, and Downs in the rotation one Lefty too many? (We might have a similar situation in a few years with Purcey, Jackson, and Romero coming up)
3) Obviously, I would see Lilly would be worth the most on a trade market, but what would someone like Towers/Downs be worth, as he definitely raised his market value (although it's probably still not much, but statisically he's the best #5 pitcher in baseball)

Let me know what you guys think!!!
Some call me Tim - Saturday, September 03 2005 @ 04:35 AM EDT (#127297) #
Nice summary, Magpie. I like actually being able to read about a baseball game as it happened - in chronological order. It bugs me that so many summaries in newspapers jump around every which way through the game. Supposedly, that's so a reader can read about the highlights (ending) and then quit reading if they want to. I think the characteristics of the genre of sportswriting should more closely match the characteristics of the events that are being written about.

On another note, I think that, at the very least, Downs deserves a chance to start next year. He has done an excellent job. I honestly didn't think he would be all that helpful, but he's been very impressive.

The Canadian Press article says that Menechino's homer "snapped a streak of 69 innings without a homer for the Blue Jays, who averaged just 2.4 runs a game over that span." We've talked a lot about HISP over the last few weeks, but I have to agree with those (including Geoff Baker, I believe) who have concluded that the main problem the Jays have in scoring runs is not having enough power.
Named For Hank - Saturday, September 03 2005 @ 05:15 AM EDT (#127298) #
Who would deliver the RBIs that the team needed?

Much to the chagrin of the section 518 RBI pool!
Named For Hank - Saturday, September 03 2005 @ 05:20 AM EDT (#127299) #
I have a question about last night's Yankees - A's game:

When the Yankees take Bernie Williams out of centre field and replace him with Tony Womack during a game, what is that considered? A defensive replacement?

And should we start a pool on what new-to-centre player we'll see in the middle outfield for the Yankees next?
westcoast dude - Saturday, September 03 2005 @ 08:26 AM EDT (#127300) #
The acting Ace torch has passed to Downs. Every start is a quality start and somehow the team gets the win. The culture of the team has to be performance oriented or we're lost.
Downs making the rotation will be a litmus test.
Pistol - Saturday, September 03 2005 @ 08:36 AM EDT (#127301) #
Magpie, you rock.

When the Yankees take Bernie Williams out of centre field and replace him with Tony Womack during a game, what is that considered? A defensive replacement?

In this case it was a 'we're getting killed, let's rest all of the regulars and put in the scrubs' replacement. Mark Bellhorn played SS last night!
greenfrog - Saturday, September 03 2005 @ 09:03 AM EDT (#127302) #
These wins are big. If this team can finish over .500 without a couple of months of Halladay and Lilly, and without a big power (or OBP) bat, that's a fine finish indeed. Besides, if you're trying to market your team to potential free agents in the off-season, it helps to have the "finished over .500, up-and-coming" tag, rather than the "couldn't quite make it to .500, perennial third-place small-market team" one.
PeterG - Saturday, September 03 2005 @ 10:02 AM EDT (#127305) #
I doubt that Downs will be in the rotation next year. I think he is worth bringing back as the long man who can spot start when needed.
seeyou - Saturday, September 03 2005 @ 11:06 AM EDT (#127306) #
Right now, I see it as a battle between Towers and Downs for the five spot in the rotation next year. So, I compared their numbers. Turns out that Downs (in his eight starts) has very similar numbers to Towers:

Downs: 1.32
Towers: 1.31

Downs: 4.02
Towers: 4.04

Downs: 2.9
Towers: 3.75

Choosing between these two will be hard, because: (1) both produce numbers that fit the fifth starter role very well, (2) I don't think either one would be suited for relief pitching (Downs slightly more so than Towers, but I still think he's much better as a starter), and (3) both are at the age when they can no longer really be considered as prospects (Downs = 29, Towers = 28).

If Downs can maintain the tear he's on for the rest of the season, I think I would rather see the Jays trade Ted the Tease, pick up a solid #2 RH pitcher and put Downs as their #5 (having Chacin, Lilly and Downs in the rotation is too many LH for me). However, if they don't trade Lilly, then I would be fine with Towers being #5 and Downs doing spot relief until a rotation spot opened up.
Rob - Saturday, September 03 2005 @ 12:08 PM EDT (#127307) #
Koskie did not get an RBI on the double-play ball? Why? If they had problems turning two and it was a mere fielder's choice, he'd get one, wouldn't he?

But I promise you Schoeneweis doesn't care all that much that he was adjudged the Winning Pitcher.

I don't agree. I see wins and losses for pitchers as two things: meaningless and encouraging. I think, for him, it's "kinda cool" that he got the win, since the win implied that he helped the Otherwise, he could look back at this game and think that he didn't really do anything, facing only one batter. Also, Schotime gets about four wins a year now, so a "bonus" win like this is probably good for him.

Do you think starting pitchers care more about wins? If I've gone six innings and leave with the score tied, and my team scores in the bottom of the sixth, I would feel better than if they scored in the seventh and the win went to whatever relief pitcher came in for the top of the inning. Who knows, maybe it's an ego thing -- "Yeah, I was the winning pitcher on Friday."

Good stuff in this Game Report, Mags. I don't want to look it up right now, but everyone remembers the Bobby Higginson Game in 1998? Yeah, Clemens pitched the day before, and I was so happy to see all those strikeouts in person. How many did Clemens strike out in his last start of 1998? I think it was 13 or 15.

Thomas - Saturday, September 03 2005 @ 12:12 PM EDT (#127308) #
However, if they don't trade Lilly, then I would be fine with Towers being #5 and Downs doing spot relief until a rotation spot opened up.

The problem with this is that good teams do not have both Downs and Towers in their rotations, unless they have a Boston Red Sox style offense. I'm not saying that Downs, especially as he's pitched in August, couldn't be a useful part of a major league pitching staff. However, if both he and Towers are in teh rotation at the same time next year for any significant length of time Jays fans should be worried.

John Northey - Saturday, September 03 2005 @ 01:54 PM EDT (#127311) #
Hmm. Wonder if the Jays would consider a rotating 5th man, have it be Towers if it is a team that is primarily right handed, Downs if it is a left handed team. When one pitches the other is available in the pen. Heck, even making them a two man team, one starts the other comes in the 6th based on who they are facing, or just alternating. Might be a way to maximize both of their talents, keeping one ready to step in if/when someone else gets injured.

No matter what, this will be an interesting offseason though as we now have Halladay/Lilly/Chacin/Towers/Downs/Bush all worthy of rotation slots and McGowan almost ready plus a few in the minors who are not far away. So 6 guys ready, another almost ready, and more on the bubble (plus Pete Walker of course). Nice problem, but how it is dealt with will determine how the Jays do in '06 and '07.
Pistol - Saturday, September 03 2005 @ 04:15 PM EDT (#127316) #
"If they had problems turning two and it was a mere fielder's choice, he'd get one, wouldn't he?"

Rob - Saturday, September 03 2005 @ 06:04 PM EDT (#127323) #
Well, why should one situation get an RBI and not the other?
Zao - Saturday, September 03 2005 @ 07:47 PM EDT (#127337) #
Was one of the few folks out at Rogers Centre this evening...I noticed that the home plate umpire was wearing his shin guards outside his pants. Anyone hear an explanation on that one? Are we sure it wasn't Leslie Neilson? ;-)

hehe. Nope that was Larry Vanover, he seemed to have some sort of Nike track pants with the zippers down the sides, instead of the grey pants, and the shin guards were hanging out the bottom. It looked pretty silly especially knowing Larry, I'm sure he felt pretty stupid. The umps must've lost their luggage or something because the base umps had improper shoes. They're supposed to have 100% black shoes and their shoes were black and white.
James W - Saturday, September 03 2005 @ 08:05 PM EDT (#127339) #
Hitting into 2 outs is awful enough that scorers won't give you an RBI for it.
costanza - Saturday, September 03 2005 @ 08:27 PM EDT (#127342) #
Is that a rhetorical question? You're talking about two different events, with one outcome worse than the other.

What if there had been one out at the time?
Rob - Saturday, September 03 2005 @ 11:19 PM EDT (#127356) #
I don't understand why Koskie gets an RBI if the middle infielders fail to turn two and just get the lead runner. It's the same ground ball out.
costanza - Sunday, September 04 2005 @ 12:01 AM EDT (#127359) #
No, it's two outs, which is a completely different result. Different result, different scoring. Why is that hard to accept?

Again, what happens if the play occurs with one out?

Do you give Koskie an RBI, even though the run doesn't score, just because he would have gotten an RBI if the middle infielders failed to turn two?
Joe - Sunday, September 04 2005 @ 12:23 AM EDT (#127360) #
I think it's pretty clear that both RBI and Wins are a totally artificial, wholly useless stat. That they still exist, and are so entrenched, shows that people in baseball just don't haven't thought critically enough about the game for far too long.

Think of this situation: Home team is winning is 3-2 going into the ninth. The closer gives up 2 runs. He has clearly not done his job, but he eventually is able to retire the side. The home team comes up in the bottom of the ninth down a run. The other team's closer is also off his game, and allows one run before loading the bases. The first pitch to the next batter up is a curveball, but the pitcher, nervous after blowing the save, and knowing that the game is on the line, slips a bit, and it hits the batter in the leg.

Two things have happened: The completely ineffective home team's closer has received a win, and the batter, without demonstrating any of his ability, has received an RBI.

Of course this is not news to most of the people on Batter's Box. But I wish that the message that RBI and Wins are entirely useless and meaningless stats would filter itself into the consciousness of the average baseball fan, commentator, and writer.

CeeBee - Sunday, September 04 2005 @ 07:20 AM EDT (#127364) #
But they ARE NOT entirely useless and meaningless stats. They may not be as important as some people think but that does not make them useless and meaningless.
Paul D - Sunday, September 04 2005 @ 10:25 AM EDT (#127370) #
They're useless in terms of the fact that there's no reason to use them. Using RBIs to evaluate a hitter won't tell you anythign that a more advanced stat will tell you, and most of the time will tell you less, or lead you to the wrong conclusion. That's what makes them useless.
Jays 4, Devil Rays 3: Almost Frustrated | 25 comments | Create New Account
The following comments are owned by whomever posted them. This site is not responsible for what they say.