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Just can't get that third one, can they. Just can't get that Sweep Monkey off their backs. On the other hand....

There were some people out there (I heard them speak!) who questioned the wisdom of giving Doc an extra day off to set him to start Monday's opener against the Red Sox. That gave Ty Taubenheim the task of beating Chicago on Sunday. He wasn't up to it, and the Jays had to settle for two of three against the White Sox.

Nevertheless - Gibbons obviously made the right move. A win is a win is a win... but a win against the Red Sox is also a Boston loss. The Jays are better off taking two of three from both the White Sox and the Red Sox, as opposed to taking three from Chicago but just one from Boston.

Last night's game was a dreary enough affair. I, alas, was obliged to stay put, trying to give it my full attention, for all 3:36 of it - which means that as I get home and prepare these notes for you I am indeed talking about last night's game. So I mostly have some Random Thoughts...

I suppose Ted Lilly's mojo over the Red Sox had to go missing sooner or later. In the first inning, he made a mistake to David Ortiz, with utterly predictable results. Lilly was cursing himself out while Ortiz was still finishing his backswing. Ted seemed a little shocked, though, when Loretta's well-hit fly ball in the third actually cleared the fence. Still, heading for the fourth it was a 3-2 game. At which point, Lilly completely lost touch with the strike zone. (For what it's worth, I thought Marquez tended to squeeze the top and bottom of the zone, but gave the pitchers room to work with on the sides of the plate. I watch from a funny angle, though.) Lilly briefly came totally unhinged - walk, double, wild pitch, walk, walk. To his credit, he rallied to get Nixon and Gonzalez, and got a big assist from Catalanotto, throwing out Lowell at home to end the inning after Crisp's RBI single that made it 5-2.

But that was enough of Ted the Tease, and on came Francisco Rosario to work the fifth inning. Now it's time to talk about Manny. On Wednesday evening, Manny treated us to a neat display of what he can do for you in left field. We saw him hustle to the wall, smartly play the carom on Glaus' booming line drive, and gun a perfect throw to second base, driving Mighty Troy back to first. And then a few innings later he came clumping in on Hinske's little looper, which landed somewhere near his feet. He then had a bit of trouble... uh, picking up the baseball. But once he finally had it firmly in his possession, he uncorked another very strong throw and almost nipped Overbay at the plate. The man does have more than 100 BaseRunner Kills, and has led the AL twice. He's not a complete clown out there.

But it's his bat that's taking him to the Hall of Fame. On Monday, Ramirez lit up Roy Halladay for his 50th home run against the Toronto Blue Jays. That's way more than anyone else has hit against Toronto over these 30 years, and I do feel it ought to be pointed out that Ramirez spent more than half his career playing in another division. This is just his sixth year in the AL East.

Manny turned 34 on Tuesday, and Francisco Rosario's fastball hits 97 on the gun. Big deal. The pitcher who can throw a fastball by Manny Ramirez... well, it's merely a theoretical possibility. It's not like one actually exists. Rosario did try, however, and Manny went "whoopee" and pasted that sucker some 420 feet to left-centre. And so it was a 7-2 game, and Ramirez had now hit 51 home runs against the Blue Jays.

Aren't you wondering - what did we ever do to him? When did this start?

Ramirez' played briefly in 1993, but did not face Toronto. His first full season (sort of) was the strike-shortened campaign of 1994. In 8 games against the Blue Jays, he went 6-27 (.222) with a single homer (hit off Mike Timlin.) In May 1995, the Indians came up to Toronto for three games. Manny roughed up Pat Hentgen for two homers in the first game, and hit another against Danny Darwin in the third game. The Blue Jays visited Cleveland a week later, and Al Leiter hit Ramirez in the head in his very first at bat. It was a breaking ball that ran in him, no one seemed too upset at the time - but I wonder...

Oh well, enough about Manny.

The Red Sox tossed a 22 year old kid out of AA to the wolves last night, and the Blue Jays pounded out 11 hits off him in just 4.1 IP. But they had the Rally Killer working full-time last night. They had two men aboard with one out when Glaus ended the first inning by hitting into a double play. They had a run in, the bases loaded, and one out when Catalanotto ended the second inning by hitting into a double play. They had two men aboard with one out when Hillenbrand ended the third inning by hitting into a double play. And finally, they had two men aboard with one out when Overbay ended the sixth inning by hitting into a double play.

If you're wondering why John Gibbons seems to be starting his runners at odd times, even forcing it... well, go read that paragraph again.

The Blue Jays do not - repeat, do not - lead the majors in hitting into double plays. It just seems like it. In fact, they don't even lead the American League (hello, Texas!) - but they are next in line. And Shea Hillenbrand went into last night's game tied for the AL lead with 10 Rally Kills, but seeing as how both Miguel Tejada and Michael Young hit into two double plays last night, Hillenbrand now finds himself in a second place tie with Young - Tejada, with 12 GDPs, stands alone. Lyle Overbay, with 10, has fourth place to himself. And if anybody is going to break Jim Rice's record this year, it might be Garrett Atkins of the Rockies who has 13 in 51 games.

Finally, just a thought about the bullpen. Did it not seem like the 2005 team had a somewhat shaky closer, but the rest of the pen was superb? Does it not seem like the 2006 team has a superb closer, but the rest of the pen has been... well, somewhat shaky? For what it's worth, Vinnie Chulk is doing just fine at Syracuse, and I would expect to see him back up here shortly. Also doing rather nicely at AAA is one Ben Weber (2-1, 2.86), who also sports as nifty a K-W ratio (35-4... yup) as you could possibly hope to see. Am I crazy, or might Weber be more useful than Brian Tallet?
Two Out of Three.... Ho-Hum | 41 comments | Create New Account
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Dave Till - Thursday, June 01 2006 @ 07:53 AM EDT (#148098) #
Excellent article, as always.

While Weber may be able to help the bullpen, how much of a pitcher's park is Syracuse? It seems like there are always two or three guys who pitch great in AAA but get lit up when they are forced to pitch in the tater-friendly Rogers Centre. And I seem to recall that Weber got gonged a few times in spring training.

Chulk will eventually be back, I think - though last year's K/IP ratio suggests that he has always been living on the edge.

Smaj - Thursday, June 01 2006 @ 07:56 AM EDT (#148099) #

The bullpen certainly is a concern at this point, specifically BB's.  It has been agonizing to see this group of hard throwers struggle with location on a consistent basis.  Obviously, the starting pitching has not helped matters with their 5 inning performances tiring the bully more times than not (Doc being an exception).  I am sure someone has the data on % of leadoff BB's that come in to score, certainly this is part of the equation when examining the implosion of the Jays bully (BJ & Speier general exceptions).

Interesting to note how the BB's is an issue with Lilly & Chacin (and Taubenheim in his starts thus far) as well.  I will guess (without having the time to research this) that BB's are the single biggest factor affecting this years pitching staff results as compared to last years excellent pitching season.

Magpie - Thursday, June 01 2006 @ 08:32 AM EDT (#148101) #
I will guess (without having the time to research this) that BB's are the single biggest factor affecting this years pitching staff results as compared to last years excellent pitching season.

Really? I would have guessed home runs, which is my subjective impression of This Year's Bullpen. Either way, it's something you can't defend against.

Having no life, I do have the time to research this....

The 2005 team posted an ERA of 4.06 - the other team batted .264 against them, with 185 HR and 444 BB in 1447 IP.

This year's crew has an ERA of 4.95, and by an amazing coincidence, the other teams are batting .264 against them. What's different?

Walks and home runs, but I do think the long balls are more significant. They've allowed 78 HR and 174 BB in 458 IP. The BB/9 has gone from 2.9 to 3.4; the HR/9 has gone from 1.03 to 1.25...
Jordan - Thursday, June 01 2006 @ 10:50 AM EDT (#148109) #

For what it's worth, I thought Marquez tended to squeeze the top and bottom of the zone, but gave the pitchers room to work with on the sides of the plate.

Totally. It was less of a strike zone than a strike bar. These two teams have powerful offences, and that's the main reason why each game averaged 13 runs. But I also found the plate umpiring abysmal, and I'm pretty sure that helped play into the number of walks. I'm just glad the series ended before Larry Young had a chance to make it four consecutive nights of bad calls that went against the Jays.

I hate to use cliches, but the phrase "lack of killer instinct" keeps coming to me when I watch this team. They had three straight opportunities to sweep a series on this homestand, and they missed every one. The Jays start off hot, both in the games and in the series, but can't seem to deliver the knockout blow. Last night's game turned when the Jays couldn't get Hill home from third with one out in the 6th inning, and then Walker gave up the deflating HR to Nixon. You can't blame the offence -- 6 runs or more per game is about all you can ask of any lineup (though I'd be ready to install Marty Pevey at second base right now). Someone other than Halladay and Ryan has to step up and deliver a strong run of scoreless innings.

You really feel the absence of AJ Burnett at times like this. He's hardly another Halladay, but if he were healthy and pitching, he'd be good for at least 6 innings and probably more each start. Way too much Pete Walker and Scott Downs recently.

So, it's June 1, and the Blue Jays are 29-23, within breathing distance of first place in the division, following a very tough schedule, the absence of the putative #2 starter, and a mess in the middle infield. Not bad at all. But I'll say it again: the pitching's got to settle down.

These batting averages (Zaun .345, Hillenbrand .337, Rios .361, Johnson .343, Wells .325) are not sustainable, and Wells and Glaus are very unlikely to finish with 46 and 52 HRs, respectively, as their pace would suggest. Every single hitter on the club is at or well above his career offensive production rate. There's a dry spell coming, and the pitching staff is going to have to get used to 4 runs per game of support, not 6.

Flex - Thursday, June 01 2006 @ 11:13 AM EDT (#148111) #
One positive I suppose from the horrendous problems we've had with the starting pitching is that Burnett, when he returns, will meet with much lower expectations. At the start of the year, with all the hype, we'd have been disappointed with starts of say, six innings and 3 - 4 runs. Now it will seem like a relief.

As for second base, oh my lord. I have never felt such dispair as when seeing our 2B arrive at the plate with a runner on third and less than 2 outs, knowing without one shred of a doubt that he will not get the runner in.

costanza - Thursday, June 01 2006 @ 11:53 AM EDT (#148115) #
Has anyone *seen* Weber pitch this year?  When I saw him in the game he pitched in Ottawa, his delivery didn't seem nearly as "odd" as I'd remembered it being... he looked almost normal.

I'm not sure, though, whether my memory has exaggerated how crazy his delivery was, or if he really has changed it.

Mike D - Thursday, June 01 2006 @ 02:47 PM EDT (#148132) #

I think that the rotation will settle down in time.  I am not nearly so sanguine about the bullpen.

Late last night, I looked up the non-contending teams and, lo and behold, there are three potentially appetizing trading partners who have relievers that (a) keep the ball in the ballpark, (b) are walk-year veterans that non-contending teams would probably part with, and (c) are usually effective. 

The Pirates, Cubs and Nationals all fit the bill.  With the Nats, you always wonder given their pitcher's park, but Mike Stanton will definitely be rented by somebody this season.  The Pirates (Roberto Hernandez) and Cubs (Scott Williamson) have gotten good performances from veteran free-agent-to-be relievers notwithstanding their horrible overall team play.  LaTroy Hawkins is also in his walk year in case the O's fold up their tents.

The Jays might be wise to act quickly rather than get into a bidding war at the deadline for these rent-an-arms.

westcoast dude - Thursday, June 01 2006 @ 03:54 PM EDT (#148138) #
A lot of little things added up to the loss last night but the overriding factor was the absence of Russ Adams' bat.  He may or may not make a fielding error but with Fonzie being an automatic out, the Blue Jays are playing National League rules in American League parks. How management deals with this issue is a litmus test of their ability.
Mike Green - Thursday, June 01 2006 @ 03:59 PM EDT (#148139) #
The bullpen should be fine.  Jason Frasor, Justin Speier and Vinny Chulk have multi-year records of effectiveness, and are young enough that there is no reason to expect any decline, notwithstanding the slow starts of Chulk and Frasor.

It is important to recall that the Rogers Centre has played as quite a home run park so far this year, presumably due to weather conditions, and that the Jays have played many more home games than road games so far.  The offence is not as good as it looks, the pitching not as poor.

js_magloire - Thursday, June 01 2006 @ 04:11 PM EDT (#148142) #
How management deals with this issue is a litmus test of their ability.

The best option for a new 2b I still think is trading Hinske for Kennedy. Remember that Hinske's contract is back-loaded, so $15 million over 5 years is about $3 million per year. That means, in a way, we owe Hinske only $6 million for the last two years. So it would be no loss in a way to give $4 million (of the 10 actually remaining) and Hinske for Kennedy. (Then this does not become a salary dump, but it wasn't anyway by filling up a need. The downside is not having Hinske for next year, especially because it's Hillenbrand's walk year).

The Jays might be wise to act quickly rather than get into a bidding war at the deadline for these rent-an-arms.

Mike D, please email your point to J.P, or someone get this info to him. Because I am worried about the bullpen. I think Rosario will be a solid edition. On another note, if the Jays managed to get Zito, and we had a healthy Burnett, my friend commented: "it would be over."

The guy has to be on the Jays payroll.

The guy's name is Buck Canyon. He's a 100% hired actor by the marketing at the Blue Jays. Which doesn't mean that the other parts of the organization, let alone Wells, approve of him. I think it's childish.

Admin - Thursday, June 01 2006 @ 11:07 PM EDT (#148158) #
The best option for a new 2b I still think is trading Hinske for Kennedy.

I think the best option for a new 2b is trading magic beans for Kennedy.
JB21 - Thursday, June 01 2006 @ 11:46 PM EDT (#148160) #

I think the best option for a new 2b is trading magic beans for Kennedy.

I think the best option for a new 2b is trading Alfonzo for Kennedy.

StephenT - Friday, June 02 2006 @ 12:54 AM EDT (#148163) #
fyi: In-context Jays stats (and former Jays, etc.) for the first 2 months have been posted at .  e.g. Delgado has had a lower EqA than Overbay so far this year.
VBF - Friday, June 02 2006 @ 05:45 AM EDT (#148165) #

Earth Shattering Rumour from the Toronto Star today:

Are Jays and Leafs Teaming Up?

Say it ain't so, Ted.

Mike Green - Friday, June 02 2006 @ 09:33 AM EDT (#148168) #

Nice, as usual, StephenT.  It's fun to see Prince Fielder and Josh Barfield there with Carlos Delgado and Jeff Kent.

Jordan - Friday, June 02 2006 @ 09:42 AM EDT (#148169) #

Bad news for the Yankees -- Gary Sheffield might be out for the season.

I give it two days before the New York Post suggests the Yankees acquire Alex Rios from the Blue Jays in exchange for Carl Pavano.

Flex - Friday, June 02 2006 @ 09:44 AM EDT (#148170) #
In today's Sun, proof that, as I mentioned a couple of days ago, Scott Downs was pitching scared to Boson:

"I know I can do it,' Downs said. "Just for some reason the past couple of (times) I've been trying to be too fine. That's really about it. I'm feeling good. My stuff is good. It's coming out all right. It's like I'm almost trying to miss bats and not trying to give up the big hit."

Arnsberg hates it when pitchers try to avoid contact. I'm sure he's already sat Downs down and read him the riot act.

Flex - Friday, June 02 2006 @ 09:46 AM EDT (#148172) #
Ugh. That's Boston. Carry on.
Jordan - Friday, June 02 2006 @ 10:14 AM EDT (#148176) #

Further to my thoughts yesterday about the lack of killer instinct, above, here's Gregg Zaun in the Star:

"We just haven't been able to develop that killer attitude ... that, when we've got somebody down to keep pounding them into the ground," said Gregg Zaun the other night as the team readied for its seven-game haul through St. Petersburg and Baltimore.

"You've got to remember, we've been playing some pretty good teams the world champion twice, Boston we keep running into, New York. Tampa and Baltimore, they always play us tough, too. There's no cream puffs in this division. So you've got to give them (other teams) credit but I still think most of the blame lies in here (the Toronto clubhouse).

"We've certainly addressed it," Zaun continued. "We've talked about it ... about taking the next step, developing that attitude because we know its going to be to (needed) win ball games later in the year."
Wildrose - Friday, June 02 2006 @ 11:02 AM EDT (#148177) #
Nostradumbass ( love that line) gives out his Blue Jay report card.
Wildrose - Friday, June 02 2006 @ 11:05 AM EDT (#148179) #
Escobar hits paydirt.
Pistol - Friday, June 02 2006 @ 11:24 AM EDT (#148180) #

Gary Sheffield might be out for the season.

Those are the kind of intangibles that make Hillenbrand underrated.

Mike Green - Friday, June 02 2006 @ 03:25 PM EDT (#148185) #

My June copy of Toronto Life arrived today. They have a regular feature where a Toronto celebrity is asked to describe an ideal 24 hours on an unlimited budget; this month Paul Godfrey was featured.  One part of his ideal day included a press conference where  "Ted Rogers, J.P. Ricciardi and I would happily announce the signing of another player, someone like Ichiro Suzuki, the excellent right fielder with the Seattle Mariners."

Memo to Paul: "Right field seems to be in pretty good hands.  How about a second baseman or a starting pitcher?  I do like the choice of North 44 for dinner though."

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