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The glass is half-empty: two quality starts in Arlington, but the Blue Jays were life and death to escape with a single victory.

The glass is half full. Despite playing some pretty bad baseball, the Blue Jays actually won a game in Arlington, and no one suffered a season-ending injury. Time to get out of town...

Pretty bad baseball? Well, they didn't hit a lick...

Player              AB   H  R 2b 3b HR RBI BB BAVG  SLUG  OBP
Hinske 9 3 1 0 0 1 1 1 .333 .667 .400
Adams 7 2 2 0 0 1 1 0 .286 .714 .286
Catalanotto 8 2 1 0 0 1 3 0 .250 .625 .250
Hill 10 4 1 0 0 0 0 0 .400 .400 .400
Mottola 4 1 0 1 0 0 0 0 .250 .500 .250
Johnson 9 2 2 1 0 0 0 1 .222 .333 .300
Zaun 4 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 .250 .250 .250
Wells 12 2 0 1 0 0 1 0 .167 .250 .167
Hillenbrand 12 2 0 0 0 0 1 0 .167 .167 .167
Overbay 8 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 .125 .125 .125
Glaus 10 0 0 0 0 0 0 2 .000 .000 .167
McDonald 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 .000 .000 .000
Molina 7 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 .000 .000 .000
TOTAL 101 21 7 3 0 3 7 4 .208 .327 .238

And while they did get two quality starts, the rest of the staff did not enjoy their journey deep into the heart of Texas:

Pitchers              IP   H   R  ER  BB   K  HR  ERA
Halladay, W 7.2 6 0 0 2 4 0 0.00
Lilly, L 6 5 2 2 3 6 1 3.00
Janssen, L 3.1 7 5 5 0 1 3 13.50
Schoeneweis 2 2 1 1 0 0 0 4.50
Tallet 1.2 3 1 1 1 2 0 5.40
Ryan, SV 1.1 3 2 2 0 2 0 13.50
Marcum 1 2 1 1 0 3 0 9.00
Speier 1 2 2 2 0 1 1 18.00
Walker 0.2 3 3 3 3 2 0 40.50
Downs 0.1 0 0 0 0 1 0 0.00
TOTAL 25 33 17 17 9 22 5 6.12

Forget it, Jake. It's Arlington.

The Blue Jays are showing a sudden, unexpected vulnerability against left-handed pitching - you know, that portion of the pitching fraternity that they have generally kicked the crap out of all season. Alex Rios, however, has been a large part of that. Rios is hitting .350/.391/.650 against lefties - only Troy Glaus has done as much damage against southpaws. Shea Hillenbrand and Bengie Molina have helped out as well, but while Vernon Wells and Lyle Overbay have hit well against LH, their power has gone missing. And of course, Zaun and Catalanotto generally aren't in the lineup and Hill and Adams haven't contributed a whole lot of offense against anyone.

The Royals will be throwing a pair of southpaws at Toronto in the upcoming series, which means either Chad Mottola goes into the starting lineup, or one of Hinske or Catalanotto will be starting against a LHP. This is not normally part of their job descriptions - Hinske has 15 at bats against LH pitching this season, Catalanotto has just 12. And with good reason - Catalanotto would be a lifetime .300 hitter if it weren't for his .248/.332/.350 career line against southpaws, and the Dude hasn't done any better against them over the course of his career - .232/.293/.384.

On the GDP front, it certainly looks like Shea Hillenbrand's challenge to Jim Rice's season record has fizzled out. (Although Miguel Tejada of the Orioles, with 21 GDP already, is not to be counted out.) Hillenbrand has been stuck on 13 GDP since the 6th of June - that's right, it's been almost a month since he last hit into a DP. He's barely holding onto the team lead, as Lyle Overbay now has 12. Maybe all that starting of the runners really is making a difference. At any rate, the Jays are tied with Texas for second in the AL with 79 GDP. Only Oakland has more, but five other AL teams are hot on their heels.

You may have noticed that Brian Tallet has allowed runs in each of his last two appearances. You may also have noticed how both outings played out in a very similar fashion. Last night, after walking the first batter he faced, Tallet retired 5 men in a row. He came out for a third inning and allowed double-single-double before being lifted. In his previous outing, he retired the first 5 men he faced. He then came for a third inning, faced four batters, and gave up a hit and two walks before being lifted. It probably doesn't mean anything, although his ERA would certainly be more impressive if he hadn't come out for those third innings (4.43 instead of 5.96)....

Kenny Rogers won his 11th game last night, tying Roy Halladay and Tom Glavine for the ML lead. Ozzie Guillen said he's thinking about giving Rogers the All-Star start rather than give the assignment to someone scheduled to pitch on the Sunday before the break - like Halladay or Jose Contreras. The fact that it gives Ozzie a chance to use someone from a divisional rival has nothing to do with it, I'm sure. I really don't know if Sparky Anderson, who practically made an art of this particular manoeuver, and Ozzie have spoken recently. Actually, based on first-half performance, either Francisco Liriano or Justin Verlander should probably be the AL starter. But I don't think first-half performance should be the criteria anyway, and at least one of those two probably won't even be there.

Guillen also says that the AL closer for the evening will be Mariano Rivera ("definitely not Bobby Jenks"). Which is fine by me. The Sandman has merely been very good this season, while Papelbon and Ryan have been essentially unhittable - but what the hell. He's Mariano Rivera - you know...the best relief pitcher in the history of the game. I'd say he's earned it.

Deep In the Heart of Nowhere | 35 comments | Create New Account
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Gerry - Thursday, July 06 2006 @ 09:13 AM EDT (#150278) #

JP on the Fan this morning.

They were interested in Weaver but in the end they thought he wasn't much better than Taubenheim

Hillenbrand will miss Friday through Sunday's games as his wife is expecting

Rios might get out of hospital by the weekend, might get to the all-star game with a special boot, and will likely rehab the end of next week and be back in Toronto for the Texas series on July 17th or so

The Jays think the wild card might be out of reach so they need to win the division.  Coming out of the all-star break they will line up their pitching so Doc, AJ and Ted face the Yankees on the second weekend back. 

Pistol - Thursday, July 06 2006 @ 09:34 AM EDT (#150279) #

The Jays think the wild card might be out of reach so they need to win the division

Makes sense.  They're 8 back of the White Sox for the wild card and 4 back of the Red Sox for the division.

Either way I don't think it really impacts the Jays the rest of the way - just try to win as many games as possible.

Jordan - Thursday, July 06 2006 @ 09:47 AM EDT (#150281) #
The evidence is piling up -- Casey Janssen is Josh Towers, a control-and-command guy who can dominate lesser teams but get hammered by strong offences. Not that there's anything wrong with that, especially at the league-minimum salary, but it might be best to keep expectations low and keep him away from the Yankees and Red Sox.

The nine-game homestand after the All-Star Break might well be the turning point for Toronto. The Mariners aren't much of a threat, the Rangers are terrible on the road, and the Jays match up reasonably well against the Yankees. JP has been pretty consistent in saying, since his tenure began, that deals to acquire stretch-drive talent depend in large part on whether the current team shows the stuff of a contender. If the Blue Jays can dominate their next four series -- sweeping two and winning or splitting two, for instance -- then JP is likelier to sacrifice a McGowan or a Purcey to bring in a valuable veteran. But if, between now and the end of the homestand, the Jays merely go 8-5 or 7-6 or worse, then I could potentially see this squad being sellers, not buyers.

So it might all hinge on whether the current club can persuade JP they're for real. Gustavo Chacin's absence is palpable now.

Mike Green - Thursday, July 06 2006 @ 10:26 AM EDT (#150285) #
There is an important difference between Janssen and Towers. During Towers' minor league career after A ball at age 21, he struck out 5-6 batters per game.  Janssen struck out 7-8 batters per game throughout his minor league career, and his stuff is noticeably better. When Janssen was promoted from triple A, I expressed concern that he did not have sufficient experience in the high minors.  The jury is still out whether that concern will prove to be valid with respect to his performance this year, but his medium term outlook remains very bright, in my view.

MGL has a fine analysis of the difference between the leagues in today's THT. It amounts to about 2.5 runs/500 PA.  When analyzing the performance of Koskie, Hudson, Batista, Overbay, Glaus and other transfers, this has to be taken into account. 

Mick Doherty - Thursday, July 06 2006 @ 10:29 AM EDT (#150286) #

the Rangers are terrible on the road

Actually, they are better on the road (20-18) than at home (23-24) right now. Only the Tigers, Yankees and White Sox are better on the road among AL teams.

Chuck - Thursday, July 06 2006 @ 10:40 AM EDT (#150289) #
The glass is half full.

Yes, but the Glaus is totally empty. Am I crazy, or does his swing seem even longer than usual these days? With two strikes on him and men on second and third, I had every confidence that Padilla would just blow strike three right past him, which he easily did.

I know we don't want to be turning Glaus into a Punch and Judy hitter, but I'd like to see some steps taken to help him change his approach with two strikes. I'm sure that sounds a lot easier than it is, but there are many sluggers who do this, so it's not entirely radical thinking. And acknowledging that I'm definitely sounding like a broken record with my Glaus-related frustrations, we've already seen him successfully change his approach a few times this season, so we know it's not an entirely foreign concept to him.
Pistol - Thursday, July 06 2006 @ 10:43 AM EDT (#150290) #

Here are the 14 Janssen starts so far.  I sorted them by runs allowed and then split them into three groups - strong, adequate, and poor.  He's had 5, 4, and 5 respectively.

May. 7 LAA W 3-1 7.1 1 0 0 0 1 3 16 4
May. 17 @LAA W 3-0 8.0 2 0 0 0 0 3 9 10
Jun. 30 PHI W 8-1 6.0 5 0 0 0 2 3 8 7
May. 27 CWS W 3-2 5.1 7 1 1 0 2 3 13 3
Jun. 7 @BAL W 5-3 6.0 6 1 1 0 0 5 10 7
Apr. 27 BAL L 7-5 4.0 3 3 2 0 3 0 7 4
Jun. 2 @TB W 13-4 5.1 3 3 2 1 1 3 9 4
May. 12 @TB L 4-1 7.0 7 4 4 0 1 4 11 5
May. 22 TB W 6-4 6.2 6 4 4 2 0 3 13 6
May. 2 @BAL L 9-2 6.0 8 5 5 1 0 3 11 6
Jun. 12 BAL L 6-4 3.1 8 5 5 0 0 4 8 3
Jun. 23 NYM L 6-1 6.0 8 5 5 2 1 3 10 7
Jun. 17 @FLA L 8-2 3.0 11 7 7 1 4 1 9 3
Jul. 5 @ Tex L 9-3 3.1 7 5 5 3 0 1 5 3
Totals 80 82 43 41 10 15 39 139 72

Somehow he's pitched against the O's 4 times already and the Devil Rays 3 times.

The best team he's faced is the White Sox (by far) and he did quite well.

Chuck - Thursday, July 06 2006 @ 10:58 AM EDT (#150291) #
The pattern for Janssen appears to be the long ball, altough a similar analysis might well reveal the same for all pitchers, even those of different profiles (keep the ball in the yard and you'll win, give up homers and you'll lose).

My purely subjective observation is he that he is throwing more meatballs now than he did earlier. Whether he was simply lucky early, and getting away with such pitches, or whether he is being disproportionately unlucky now, paying too steep price for those hanging curves, I can't say.

Another subjective opinion is that batters are working him harder, forcing him to throw strikes. The simple school of thought there would be that as he continues to log innings, teams are more able to assemble an accurate scouting report.

Marc Hulet - Thursday, July 06 2006 @ 11:24 AM EDT (#150292) #
Janssen's secondary pitches are better than Towers'. You also have to keep in mind that Janssen was a position player in college, as well as a pitcher, and has a lot less pitching experience than most players his age. I don't think he focused full-time on pitching until his senior year of college. He is still learning the nuances of pitching and doing so at the major league level... You have to expect growing pains. If Chacin was healthy, Janssen could slot into the No. 5 hole and be a very nice No. 5 pitcher. He's definitely not ready to be a No. 3 or even a No. 4.
Craig B - Thursday, July 06 2006 @ 11:34 AM EDT (#150294) #

MGL has a fine analysis of the difference between the leagues in today's THT. It amounts to about 2.5 runs/500 PA. 

The difference is actually much, much larger than that.  That difference measured by MGL was the difference over a seven-year period, but what matters for our purposes is the gap right now, which is much, much larger than it's ever been as I demonstrated in my April article on the "Talent Gap" (and as demonstrated by 2006 interleague play - AL teams played .611 ball against the NL, indicating that an average AL team could expect to go 99-63 in the NL only or 97-65 against an NL schedule; the difference is probably not that large but not far off).

The strength of schedule adjustment (calculated using weighted 2005-2006 interleague data) that's appropriate to National League players (to put them on an American League footing) is almost exactly 1.12 - that is, NL hitters need to have their offensive numbers divided by 1.12 and NL pitchers need to have their ERAs multiplied by 1.12 to get AL equivalents (but this number would not be adjusted for league averages).  So an NL pitcher with a 4.00 ERA would have about a 4.50 ERA in the AL and a hitter who creates 80 runs in the NL would create about 71 runs in the NL. 

Given that the average NL nonpitcher creates about 60 runs per 500 PA, the proper difference at this time is about 6.5 runs per 500 PA, not 2.5.

Now given the average offensive environment in the NL - the NL's overall offensive environment is about 2% lower once you take pitchers out of the equation - I would adjust those numbers to multiply by 1.14 to get an AL-equivalent ERA for an NL pitcher and divide by 1.10 to get an AL-equivalent runs created for an NL hitter.

Craig B - Thursday, July 06 2006 @ 11:37 AM EDT (#150295) #

When I say "offensive numbers" above, I am only referring to runs created, xRuns, equivalent runs, runs scored, RBI or some other run-denominated numbers.  Anything not denominated in runs (like OPS) should not be adjusted in that way.

Craig B - Thursday, July 06 2006 @ 11:50 AM EDT (#150297) #
Also, I should note that that way that the strength of schedule adjustment is calculated presumes that the difference between AL and NL is equally weighted between pitching and hitting.  I'm not entirely sure that that is the case, but in any event the adjusted numbers accounting for fun environment would incorporate any imbalance between NL pitchers and NL hitters or vice versa.  (The SOSA is calculated in the same way I do those for college players; it also doesn't take interleague play into account, which would for midseason numbers actually reduct the SOSA significantly since most NL players have played 15 or 18 games against AL teams).
Mike Green - Thursday, July 06 2006 @ 11:53 AM EDT (#150298) #
There is indeed evidence that the gap is larger right now than 2.5 runs per 500 PA, but when one tries to put a figure on it using only 2006 statistics, the risk of sample size problems increases.  In other words, Troy Glaus has had a significant decline in his performance in 2006 so far compared with 2005.  Some of this may be related to stronger pitching in the AL, some of it may be related to just normal variation in his performance.  Over a relatively small group of transfers, it's harder to suss this out reliably.
Craig B - Thursday, July 06 2006 @ 12:04 PM EDT (#150299) #

I didn't use 2006 only; I used 2005 and 2006 though weighted towards 2006 for reasons that I've outlined extensively elsewhere (primarily the increasing talent gap as AL teams spend and NL teams save).

That's a total of about 500 major league games between AL teams and NL teams, which I personally believe is large enough to start making judgments about the vast gulf in quality of play, a difference that was actually visible this year (more in non-Jays games, since the Jays stunk out the joint through the entire interleague schedule).  Just as I think you have a pretty solid handle on a team's ability after three seasons' worth of play, I think you have a similarly good handle on a collection of teams after the same amount.

Craig B - Thursday, July 06 2006 @ 12:07 PM EDT (#150300) #

And Mike, my method isn't amenable to the same distortions as MGL's; it's based on macro-level assessments of quality of play as opposed to micro-level assessments of players switching leagues.  My method of arriving at a figure is much cruder than MGL's but also less susceptible to sample size errors and distortions of context; certain players traditionally have adjustment problems when switching leagues and it introduces extra possible distortions that straight measurements of interleague play do not.

Mike Green - Thursday, July 06 2006 @ 12:37 PM EDT (#150303) #
Craig, the NL had a signficant advantage in interleague play over 2002-04.  It was pretty clear that it was not the better league over the time, and that could be discerned from other evidence.  The interleague schedule, including matchups and home field advantages, varies over the years.  I suspect that the actual difference between the leagues now is somewhere between the 2.5 runs/500 PA over the 7 year period in MGL's study and the 6.5 runs/500 PA in yours; I do agree that the 2005-06 off-season saw a significant move of talent from the NL to the AL, but I do not think that it was quite as large as anticipated (Dan Uggla, who knew?).  The NL seems to me to have gotten younger, and it will not surprise me at all if the interleague records are very different in 2007 even if the talent movement in the 2006-07 off-season does not turn out to significant.
Thomas - Thursday, July 06 2006 @ 01:18 PM EDT (#150307) #
I just want to encourage everyone who has the time to vote for Liriano or Hafner in the Final Vote contest. AJ's leading and, whatever you think of him, he doesn't deserve to go ahead of either of those players in my opinion.
Jordan - Thursday, July 06 2006 @ 02:04 PM EDT (#150312) #
Actually, they are better on the road (20-18) than at home (23-24) right now.

Brain cramp.
Craig B - Thursday, July 06 2006 @ 02:12 PM EDT (#150314) #

I do agree that the 2005-06 off-season saw a significant move of talent from the NL to the AL, but I do not think that it was quite as large as anticipated (Dan Uggla, who knew?). 

Dan Uggla, of course, is another brick in the wall of evidence of the NL's general crappiness.  The fact that a team with a payroll lower than A.J. Burnett's is a perfectly good wild card contender in the NL is a sign of how awful the league is.

 The NL seems to me to have gotten younger

This is definitely true, and is another indication that the NL has gotten worse.  Getting younger is always synonymous with getting worse (in the short term, not the long term).

The oft-used canard of the unbalanced interleague schedule is just that; if every team in one league plays 18 games against the teams in the other league, and those teams each play 15 or 18 games against the teams in the first league, it makes essentially no difference who you select the games against.  If you want me to prove this mathematically, e-mail me.

laketrout - Thursday, July 06 2006 @ 02:26 PM EDT (#150316) #

I did not get to see the game last night, but what I've noticed in Janssen's last few poor starts is his routine is broken - the routine where sets, rotates the ball feverishly to find his grip then delivers.   He'd been getting warnings from umps that he was taking too long and now it appears opposing managers have picked up it too and batters are constantly stepping out of the box on him with the result of breaking his rhythm. 

It appears Janssen is trying to quicken his delivery, but for a young pitcher, changing his delivery in the majors seems to have frazzled him.  I think he has to go back to his old routine or somehow master a new quicker delivery - I just don't know if doing it on a major league team during a pennant race is the right place.

Mike D - Thursday, July 06 2006 @ 03:16 PM EDT (#150317) #

Hey, it's a (minor) shift of veteran talent from the AL to the NL!  Eddie Guardado to the Reds, for Travis Chick.

Craig B - Thursday, July 06 2006 @ 03:21 PM EDT (#150318) #

I think we'll see a lot more of this month as more AL teams drift out of the tough AL races and ship talent to NL teams who realize that they are in the hunt.  Outside of Pittsburgh and the Cubs, everyone in the NL is in a race at this point (more or less) and there are AL teams giving up the ghost that have a lot of spare talent that could help those teams, most of whom have loaded up on prospects at the expense of AL teams in the past year.

I don't expect the NL's best to provide much of a challenge in the World Series, but I'm betting that in August and September the NL's better teams will be much improved on where they are right now!

Craig B - Thursday, July 06 2006 @ 03:58 PM EDT (#150320) #

Maybe the most interesting thing about Guardado becoming a Red is that he's the best pitcher they've had in Cincinnati since Scott Sullivan or Pete Harnisch.  That's about six or seven years.

Bruce Wrigley - Thursday, July 06 2006 @ 04:02 PM EDT (#150322) #
Excellent catch, laketrout.  I hadn't given that any thought because while I've seen more of Janssen recently, I didn't catch as much of his earlier performances.  If it's true that the umpires are on him to work faster, I'd be interesting in putting a stopwatch on him.
ken_warren - Thursday, July 06 2006 @ 04:30 PM EDT (#150327) #
Craig, the NL had a signficant advantage in interleague play over 2002-04.  It was pretty clear that it was not the better league over the time, and that could be discerned from other evidence.

I believe that the rules difference between the two leagues is more favourable to the NL.  Forcing the AL team to give up their DH or 1B is a pretty big advantage when one team is built to use a DH and their opponents were not.  Requiring the NL team to use their best pinch hitter or bring their best bench player into the game when they go to AL ballparks is not such a hardship in my opinion.

I guess someone could test this theory by calculating the difference between home records and road records for NL teams versus each other and then do the same thing for their interleague games.  I believe that the home field advantage will be slightly greater in interleague games.
Magpie - Thursday, July 06 2006 @ 05:50 PM EDT (#150331) #
I guess someone could test this theory by calculating the difference between home records and road records for NL teams versus each other and then do the same thing for their interleague games.

Last June I assembled most of that data to look into those kinds of questions. I can't remember what I found out, and  had a terrible time finding the link (turns out, it was buried in an anti-Ted Lilly screed.)

But here's the link, and I think I'll review the numbers my own self.
Bruce Wrigley - Thursday, July 06 2006 @ 07:33 PM EDT (#150340) #
I haven't seen it mentioned so FYI for everyone... Gibbons will be taking the rest of this week off and will return on Saturday.  Ernie Whitt manages tonight and tomorrow.
Chuck - Thursday, July 06 2006 @ 07:42 PM EDT (#150343) #
Gibbons will be taking the rest of this week off and will return on Saturday.

Is there some issue over the paternity of Mrs. Hillenbrand's baby?
Bruce Wrigley - Thursday, July 06 2006 @ 07:54 PM EDT (#150345) #
Gibby's dad is very sick and he'll be spending time with him in San Antonio.  I imagine under normal circumstances he might have gone home for the All-Star Break, but he'll be coaching in Pittsburgh instead.  Ernie's a very steady hand on the tiller, so the Jays will be fine.  Hopefully he won't go all small-ball crazy like he sometimes does with Team Canada.
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