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Gentlemen, start your bats. After a weekend-long funk on the South Side, the Jays' hitters get a nice chance to regroup against the worst run-prevention team in the league. The weakest starter the Jays encountered over the weekend was Jon Garland; the strongest one they'll see in Tampa is debatable. It's probably the guy they have to deal with tonight, though the second guy has pitched very well against them this year and the third is probably the most highly-regarded prospect.

Tonight, it's a battle of underrated #3 starters as Dustin McGowan faces Andy Sonnanstine. Sonnanstine is a control artist who, since April 2005, has handed out 75 walks in 77 professional appearances, all of them starts. He throws a high-80s fastball, a slurve, and Jamie Shields' weird modified changeup. (Shields himself taught Sonnanstine the pitch.) Sonnanstine will throw from several different arm angles to compensate for the unoverpowering nature of his stuff. That package may not make scouts salivate, but it has thoroughly mystified minor-league hitting for the last few years. As a 23-year-old in 2006, Sonnanstine posted a 2.67 ERA behind 21.2% K and 4.7% BB in a full season at AA Montgomery. He repeated that pace at AAA this year, earning a callup.

Despite the gaudy 2006 stats, my trusty Baseball America annual ranked the following Rays prospects ahead of Sonnanstine at the start of the year: Young, Longoria, Brignac, Niemann, Jacob McGee, Dukes, Iwamura, Wade Davis, Matt Walker, Jeremy Hellickson, Joel Guzman, Jason Hammel, Mitch Talbot, Juan Salas, Fernando Perez and Shawn Riggans. Although Sonnanstine has posted very good peripheral stats in the majors this year, he has played as a flyball pitcher and had great difficulty keeping the ball in the park, and he's also struggled to strand baserunners. Perhaps the scouts have a point. However, Sonnanstine's strengths are well-defined. The Rays would be nuts to remove him from their rotation this year. He appears to have very little to gain from further minor-league experience. If he can improve with runners on and get a bit more consistent with his location, Sonnanstine figures to be an annoying pitcher for the next five years. He'll have to fight tooth and nail to defend his rotation spot from the oncoming horde of hard-throwing prospects, though.

Most of y'all will recall Sonnanstine's debut, in which the Rays gave him one hell of an initiation. In that game, Sonnanstine outpitched Roy Halladay, giving up 6 runs over 7 innings to leave with a comfortable lead. The Jay who gave Sonnanstine the most trouble was Adam Lind, 2-3 with a homer and 4 RBI. Alex Rios was 0-4 with 2 strikeouts.

Tomorrow, it's Edwin Jackson. He's faced the Jays twice this year and come away with two no-decisions. He pitched well both times, racking up 15 strikeouts and 4 walks in 12.0 innings and allowing 7 runs; his game scores of 56 and 51 were his third- and fifth-best of the year. The Rays are giving him the McGowan treatment: since he's been jerked around mercilessly for four years, the Rays figure he stands to benefit from a bit of stability... in the big-league rotation. Unfortunately, he's sitting on a 7 ERA, and like Sonnanstine, he really needs to improve to stay ahead of the Rays' pitching curve with all the young arms on the horizon.

Jackson is essentially a two-pitch pitcher with a hard fastball and a slider. The heater tends to start out in the low mid-90s and often picks up steam as the game goes on. He also has a changeup, which he'll break out against lefties, and a splitter. Those are really show pitches. His platoon splits are minimal and his walk rate is the #1 cause of his problems, so it's kind of odd that the Jays have had such difficulty against him. Lyle Overbay is 0-8 with 0 walks and 3 strikeouts. Frank Thomas is 2-3 with 2 walks and a homer and Troy Glaus is 3-5; those are the guys I'd expect Jackson to have the most trouble with.

Wednesday, Jason Hammel takes the hill against Josh Towers in a Getaway Game. This will be Hammel's third start of the year. In his last one, he faced Boston and left with a 1-0 lead in the sixth inning. Unfortunately, the Rays bullpen initiated him by allowing two of his inherited runners to score. Hammel took the loss.

Hammel had his third shot at AAA this year after being rushed to Durham at age 22 in 2005. He finally managed to get his ERA below 4, earning himself a promotion. He throws around 92 with his fastball and tends to throw it high. In the Boston game, the Sox hitters had great difficulty catching up to it the first couple of times through the order, as Hammel did a good job of mixing in his changeup to keep them off balance. His slow curveball, when it's working, is a dirty out pitch that really snaps sharply on its way home. I think I saw a slider once, but that isn't a prominent weapon in Hammel's bag of tricks.

Roster moves! The Devil Rays have shuffled the metaphorical deck in recent days. They traded the ghost of Jorge Cantu to Cincinnati, and dealt Ty Wigginton to Houston for bullpen help in the form of Dan Wheeler. Then they made some internal roster moves as well...

Goodbye: Wigginton (to Astros), ghost of Jorge Cantu (to Reds), Jae Kuk Ryu (to AAA), Seth McClung (to Milwaukee), Raul Casanova (to AAA), Jay Witasick (to DL with a right elbow sprain), J.P. Howell (to AAA), and Shawn Camp (to AAA).

Hello: Wheeler (from Astros), Grant Balfour (from Brewers), Josh Paul (from 60-day DL), Hammel (from AAA), Juan Salas (from AAA), and Ben Zobrist (from AAA).

Ben Zobrist earned his recall by being one of the very best contact hitters in AAA, with notably excellent strike zone control. Here are his stats. He has struggled to get hits in the big leagues, and due to his lack of power, he needs the BABIP demons to rally behind his cause if he wants to see significant playing time in Tampa. According to Advance Scout Saint Bill Chastain, Zobrist won't unseat incumbent starting shortstop Brendan Harris, but he'll see some starts at second and third, as well as short.

Evanston, Illinois native Josh Paul was activated from the 60-day DL after recovering from an elbow injury. Wire reports suggest that Paul, who has hosed 6 of 15 prospective basestealers this year, will receive significant playing time spelling Dioner Navarro. The switch-hitting Navarro was the major-league Triple Crown leader a month ago, possessing the worst BA, OBP and SLG in the majors among qualifiers, but he no longer leads in any of those categories. However, he's still the OPS champ at .541. He did hit a crucial home run in Sunday's victory over the Red Sox which ended the Rays' eight-game losing streak.

The most notable thing about the chart is how high the BABIPs are. Granted, there are some hitters here who will systematically post BABIPs way higher than .310 year in and year out. There's Carl Crawford, whose wheels and history suggest that his .347 BABIP is right where you'd expect it to be. And there are guys who absolutely pound the crap out of the ball when they hit it, like the reborn Jonny Gomes and 30-homer-man-at-last Carlos Pena. I'd probably include B.J. Upton and Delmon Young in that group. However, Akinori Iwamura's .360, Upton's obscene .460 (which lets a guy who strikes out 28.1% of the time hit .337!), Harris' .358, and Josh Wilson's .367 all look like mirages. They constitute a very clear warning that this is a dangerous lineup and pitching to contact might not be the greatest idea in close and late situations given what the Rays can do to meatballs. But if I overheard someone on the subway saying, "Ya know, not only is this team's pitching awful, but they're hitting way over their heads. This team is going to get even worse, and that is possible," I wouldn't really object.

Crawford is day-to-day with a wrist injury, says Sir Chastain. He underwent an MRI today and it's unclear when he will return.

The Jays are sending some of their more contact-happy starters to the hill after tonight, so there's the real danger that the Rays may lead at some point in the series. If that happens, don't despair. Take Salas in this: Once the Jays Fossum to fire up the pen, the Trop will collectively Reyes the white flag and groan, "Dohmann," knowing that each pitching change will only Stokes the fire and bring more excruciating Balfour.

Yeah, the bullpen has a 6.78 ERA. Makes the White Sox look dominant. At least they had a closer, a sidearmer and a knuckleballer.

Gary Glover was the most effective reliever while Al Reyes was hurt; he threw 50 pitches over 2.1 innings to nail down Sunday's win. He's not pitching tonight. He's the only Rays reliever other than Reyes with positive WPA in 7 or more innings.

The out-of-options Grant Balfour (worst pitcher name ever; I'd rather be Rusty Kuntz) was a shrewd pickup, as the Brewers basically had to give him away for something before the end of the year. Balfour is better than at least half the pitchers here and is a solid bet to ascend the leverage ladder in a hurry.

And it'll be interesting to see what role is thrust upon Wheeler. I haven't heard anything, but I do think he's the best reliever here. Reyes has cooled off since his red-hot start, as the homer gods decided to smite him down. In a mop-up outing on Thursday ('cause he was collecting dust 'cause the Rays don't get that many save situations), Reyes gave up four runs. Quoth pitching coach Jim Hickey to the St Pete Times' Marc Topkin, when asked whether Wheeler is capable of doing Reyes' job if Reyes gets traded: "I think he is a rock-solid eighth-inning-kind-of-guy right now. And if you chose to convert him to a full-time closer, do I think he could grow into that role? Absolutely, yeah, no doubt. I've already seen it."

The Credit Section: All offensive stats, pitches per PA for pitchers and league average stats are from the Hardball Times. Pitchers' stats and leverage indices are from Fangraphs. Minor-league stats are from Minor League Splits and First Inning. K% and BB% are strikeouts and walks as a percentage of plate appearances; GB% + LD% + FB% = 100.

Advance Scout: Devil Rays, July 30-August 1 | 66 comments | Create New Account
The following comments are owned by whomever posted them. This site is not responsible for what they say.
Mike Green - Monday, July 30 2007 @ 05:21 PM EDT (#172265) #
Actually, the D-Ray starting pitching has not been half-bad.  It's the defence and the bullpen that has been absolutely vile.  The team FIP of 5.00 is 1/2 a run worse than league average, but they give away another run per game (!) with the leather.  That's what a historically bad .952 DER will do for you. 

Sonnanstine's going to be a fine pitcher. Put a semblance of a defence behind him, and he's going to go all Marcum on the league.

Mike D - Monday, July 30 2007 @ 05:25 PM EDT (#172266) #

Great article, Alex, particularly in your report on the three upcoming starters.

I looked up to see which AL team provided the one dot in the "Good offence, bad defence" quadrant.  The answer definitely surprised me.  Without peeking, any guesses?

Mike D - Monday, July 30 2007 @ 05:29 PM EDT (#172267) #
Mike G, who are the chief defensive culprits on this team?  Iwamura, Crawford and Pena, at least, have solid reputations.
James W - Monday, July 30 2007 @ 05:42 PM EDT (#172268) #
It must be the Tigers, since I know they lead the AL in scoring.  I wasn't quite aware their run prevention was that bad, but I guess when you're scoring that much your run prevention doesn't need to be at San Diego's level.
Ron - Monday, July 30 2007 @ 05:58 PM EDT (#172269) #
The next time somebody says the Rays are a rising/future playoff contender team because of all their young talent (people have said this for 3 years now......) is going to cause me to pull out all my hair.

The Rays have received surprising excellent seasons from Pena, Harris, and Iwamura and the team is still bloody awful. Heck even Al Reyes was lights out to start the season. The front office has dropped the ball on Cantu, Gomes, and Rocco. All 3 had better trade value in the past but the Rays hung on to these players for too long.

Even with a new regime in charge, I know they will find a way to screw up with all these highly regarded prospects/young players. This team is hopeless in my eyes until they win on the field.

I hope the Jays bury this team and sweep em'.

FanfromTheIsland - Monday, July 30 2007 @ 06:14 PM EDT (#172270) #
If the Jays lose this series, I will not be responsible for anything I do. Unsurprisingly. 
AWeb - Monday, July 30 2007 @ 06:45 PM EDT (#172271) #
Actually, the D-Ray starting pitching has not been half-bad.

The team ERA is 6.02, the starters a mere 5.62. Certainly the BP has stunk, but the starters, aside from Kazmir, Shields, and Hammel (2 starts) have as well. The Rays have given 47 starts to 4 different pitchers (Jackson 19, Howell 8 , Fossum 10, Seo 10) who have an ERA over 7.00. Not half bad? Well, that half has been freaking terrible. OK, Texas starters may have been worse (it's close with park adjustments), but that's damning with faint praise.

The Rays have 4 guys (out of 21 total who have pitched for them this year) with and ERA + over 100, and only one more over 90. A team ERA + of 76 barely beats the 72 Wade Boggs managed in 1.3 innings back in 1999 for the Rays. This has been a truly awful pitching staff, which might get better by using some of the prospects, but might not. Young arms the horizon perhaps, but I'll believe this team won't stink when it finally doesn't stink.

This is the 10th year for the Rays, and despite acccumlating what has for several years appeared to be a possibly dangerous team, they have improved not at all over that time. First five years : 318 - 490 (.394)  Last five year to date: 300 - 451 (.399). On their current pace, they will have the second worse season in franchise history.

All of that said, I still wouldn't be surprised to see the Jays lose 2 of 3 to them, with the worst part of the Jays rotation coming up. Even Tampa wins 60 games a year (well, usually).
Sanjay - Monday, July 30 2007 @ 08:01 PM EDT (#172272) #

Chacin's option cancelled:

The TORONTO BLUE JAYS have voided the option of LHP GUSTAVO CHACIN to Syracuse of the International League (AAA). CHACIN, 26, will remain on a Major League rehabilitation assignment at Syracuse.

Mike Green - Monday, July 30 2007 @ 09:47 PM EDT (#172273) #
In answer to Mike D's question, the prime offenders were Cantu, Wigginton, B.J. Upton and Elijah Dukes.    It should get a little better for the end of the season now that three of the worst offenders are gone (and Upton is not playing second base), but a DER of .652 is historically bad.
Twilight - Monday, July 30 2007 @ 10:48 PM EDT (#172275) #
I wonder if McGowan will be talking to any reporters tonight...

Nice to see that Wolfe is ahead of both Frasor and League in the depth chart.

JohnnyMac - Monday, July 30 2007 @ 10:52 PM EDT (#172276) #
Again the Jays have shown an inability to close a game out when they have their foot on an opponents throat. The fact that Towers talked about effort in his rant is disturbing because the team is running out of excuses. It looks to me like some players are too comfortable with their positions on the team and are just simply happy to collect their pay cheque. It is disgraceful that a team with this kind of talent hovers around .500.

Perhaps the team should clean house. They have many valuable assets that could be moved.

GregJP - Monday, July 30 2007 @ 10:54 PM EDT (#172277) #

Listen up.  There is some Math involved here, but hopefully your small brain can comprehend this.

Going into tonights game the Jays were a 0.500 team and the Rays were a 0.375 team.  So let's say that the Jays are a 55/45 favourite in each game.

Now Rod I'm going to use an exponent here, but try to follow me.

0.55^3 = 0.166375

This means that the approximate probability of the Jays sweeping the Rays is 1 out of 6.  Also, the game of baseball is such that you can't just decide to go out and stomp a team.  The difference between any 2 major league teams over a sample of 3 games is very very small.

Also Rod, the fact that a player had a hit or didn't have a hit in his previous at bad really has diddly to do with what he'll do in his next at bat.  (especially when it isn't even the same freaking pitcher)

End of rant.  I now return you to your regularly scheduled programming.

GregJP - Monday, July 30 2007 @ 10:57 PM EDT (#172278) #

I guess you can also read the above, as you don't seem to be too far ahead of Rod in understanding how baseball works.

And yes, this is a 0.500 team.

ahitisahit - Monday, July 30 2007 @ 10:58 PM EDT (#172279) #

Ugh, what a terrible game. I'm sorry, but when you lose this many close games (as well as this many games on the road) the manager has to pay. Look at how the D-Rays tied the game, speed and fundamentals. Carl Crawford himself has more SB's than all of the Blue Jays combined.

PS Greg Zaun has the arm of a 7 year old girl.

GregJP - Monday, July 30 2007 @ 11:03 PM EDT (#172280) #
Definitely Gibby's fault that the Jays lost this game.  He used mental telepathy from the clubhouse to force Accardo to walk Gomes. 
Ron - Monday, July 30 2007 @ 11:08 PM EDT (#172281) #
Well the Jays snatched defeat from the jaws of victory tonight. It was a strange decision by Ernie Whitt to send Wolfe out in the 11th inning when League was rested and already warmed up ready to enter the game. I'm guessing Ernie was saving League for the 12th inning if it got that far or if Wolfe got into a jam.

But that wasn't the real kick in the balls moment. In the top of the 10th, the Jays had a runner at 2nd with no outs and the 3/4/5 hitters due up and couldn't cash in. The Jays also had the bases loaded with 1 out in the 11th and once again couldn't cash in. Frankly, they didn't deserve to win this game tonight.

Eric Purdy - Monday, July 30 2007 @ 11:39 PM EDT (#172282) #
So going into tonight we were 23rd in all of MLB with a .667 OPS in close and late situations. Runners in scoring position, 2 outs? 28th overall, .668 OPS. I'd like to say that what we saw in the 10th and 11th didn't surprise me, but who would I be kidding?

I know this kind of stuff probably isn't predictive and could just as easily be the other way with a little bit of luck, but those rationalizations mean very little to me as a fan. It's insufferable watching a team that just refuses to get things done when it matters.

Eric Purdy - Monday, July 30 2007 @ 11:41 PM EDT (#172283) #
Errr, Make that "I'd like to say that what we saw in the 10th and 11th surprised me, but who would I be kidding?"

King Rat - Tuesday, July 31 2007 @ 05:34 AM EDT (#172285) #
"We had some chances," said Gibbons, whose club stranded 10 runners in the loss. " We just left some guys on base. That made the difference."

If I didn't know that this quote was from this write up of last night's game, there'd be what seems like dozens of suspects for the 2007 Blue Jays loss that prompted it.

I have no idea how to fix what ails this ballclub. I do believe, though, that the front office has to change something about it before next April. I never like advocating firing the manager, and ultimately it's not Gibbons' fault that the players aren't hitting in the clutch, but at the same time I can't say the results under his watch particularly inspire confidence going forward. I think the lineup has to be shaken up, but at the obvious positions to do so there don't seem to be any immediate options. It's deeply frustrating, because while as I say I don't think the team as currently constructed can contend I don't think it was unreasonable to hope that they might.

3RunHomer - Tuesday, July 31 2007 @ 06:42 AM EDT (#172286) #

The next time somebody says the Rays are a rising/future playoff contender team because of all their young talent (people have said this for 3 years now......) is going to cause me to pull out all my hair.

The Rays are a future playoff contender team because of all their young talent.

People have said it for 3 years because it's true. The hitting talent was mostly still in the minors until this season, but now they're putting runs on the board. The pitching talent has begun to arrive in the majors, but lots of it is still in the minors. The entire team is extremely young, but when all the talent arrives and matures, the Rays will contend.

There are no sure things in life, but the future of the Rays is darn close.

ahitisahit - Tuesday, July 31 2007 @ 08:06 AM EDT (#172289) #

If the Jays had Carl Crawford and the 2006 BJ Ryan, I wonder how many more wins they would have. I am sick of these 3-4-5 hitters continually swinging for the fences (and missing) with runners in scoring position.

I'm sick of Gibbons shrugging his shoulders after every loss. Sit out some of these underacheiving chumps for a game or 2.

zeppelinkm - Tuesday, July 31 2007 @ 08:11 AM EDT (#172290) #

My friend's father recently won a charity auction bid to play a round of golf with JS Giguere. My friend was a part of the four-some that got to hit up the links. Apparently, Giguere was saying a major part of team chemistry is how the wives/girlfriends/significant others get along with each other.

Perhaps the Jays problem is that the players just can't adequately focus on the job at hand - closing out ballgames - because they are so mentally preoccupied with their personal issues.

"Why can't Sarah just get along with Vicky? Vicky makes such good lasagna but Troy and Lisa are always getting invited over instead of us because Sarah made that snarky remark a few months ago."

Totally ridiculous, I know.

But then again, so was last nights loss.

Barry Bonnell - Tuesday, July 31 2007 @ 09:34 AM EDT (#172292) #

Brian Wolfe would have lost the game in the 10th w/o that play from McDonald. So they bring him out again and further push their luck with a career minor-leaguer.

My bet is that Gibbons was calling the shots from the back. Ernie Whitt can't be that dumb can he?

Why Wolfe was out there before Frasor, League and Tallet is beyond understanding.

Thomas - Tuesday, July 31 2007 @ 12:30 PM EDT (#172298) #

My bet is that Gibbons was calling the shots from the back.

I'd be surprised if that wasn't the case. Even if Gibbons wasn't communicating directly with Whitt, I'm sure he made his preferences clear for who to use and how long they can go in close situations.

Paul D - Tuesday, July 31 2007 @ 12:45 PM EDT (#172299) #

Dodgers trade Wilson Betemit to the Yankees for Scott Proctor

JP should have been all over that.   Does this thread work as a catch-all for today's trades?

Chuck - Tuesday, July 31 2007 @ 12:56 PM EDT (#172300) #

Would we be surprised to learn of Frasor getting moved today?

Clearly someone who now occupies slot #7 on a Ryan-less bullpen depth chart, and is not a half bad pitcher, would have more value to someone else than he does to the Jays. While he wouldn't fetch a king's ransom, I can see any number of teams that would be happy to have him as their #4 man, as Toronto did earlier in the season.

If Frasor is healthy (and there are no reports to suggest that he's not), last night's game sent a message, especially when Wolfe was sent back out for a second inning.

Real predictions: neither Towers nor Frasor gets moved.

Predictions assuming a world of GM's as trigger-happy as fans: Towers to Seattle, Frasor to Detroit.

Rich - Tuesday, July 31 2007 @ 01:20 PM EDT (#172302) #
Glaus taking a borderline 3-2 pitch with 1 out and the go-ahead run on third nearly drove me insane.  I love the guy, but he's hitting cleanup, getting paid 10 million bucks and he takes a very hittable, very close pitch with the game on the line and leaves it in the hands of the ump?  An absolutely terrible decision.  He has to protect on a pitch that tight and try to either put it in play or at least foul it off and make the pitcher come at him again.  Hill got called out on the same pitch earlier, which makes the decision to take even worse.

I wasn't pleased that League didn't pitch, but the Glaus at-bat was absolutely spirit-crushing.

Frank Markotich - Tuesday, July 31 2007 @ 01:22 PM EDT (#172303) #

They're not going to get any top prospects for Towers, Stairs or Frasor, but if someone offers someone with upside the Blue Jays might as well pull the trigger (certainly with repsect to Towers or Stairs, who are unlikely to figure in the team's plans beyond this year). I'm thinking a minor league pticher with a good arm but maybe command issues who might come around, or a hitting prospect whose lustre has faded recently but could turn it around. Even if it's a 10 - 15% shot of returning a useful major league career in each case, it's a worthwhile gamble given that the guys you give up aren't in the plans.

And I fail to see the allure of Wilson Betemit (I assume Paul D was referring to getting Betemit and not Scott Proctor). Where do you play him? His bat is decent, not great, and his defense is horrible. You can't put him at shortstop.

Mike Green - Tuesday, July 31 2007 @ 01:23 PM EDT (#172304) #
Would I be surprised to see Frasor moved?  No.  I hope that he stays because I think that he is a good and under-appreciated reliever.

Would the Jays likely get fair value for him in light of his usage?  No.  The opposite of "showcasing a player" (hiding a player?) is not generally a good way to get maximum return.

Chuck - Tuesday, July 31 2007 @ 01:44 PM EDT (#172305) #

I agree that hiding a player is no way to showcase him. The message I was referring to was from management to Frasor, about the magnitude of his non-worth to the organization, rather than from management to the other GMs that Frasor is on the market.

I hope he gets moved for his own sake, even if the Jays get nothing in return. Gibbons appears to have a hate on for Frasor that is out of proportion with his sins.

Mike Green - Tuesday, July 31 2007 @ 01:54 PM EDT (#172307) #
Well, there are two ways that can end up...

Dan Fox has a fine summary of baserunning statistics for individuals and teams.  The upshot for the home nine is that, aside from the below average basestealing, the club is entirely average in running the bases at least from a statistical perspective.

scottt - Tuesday, July 31 2007 @ 10:23 PM EDT (#172331) #
Listch is now 4-4 and looks like a veteran on the mound.

Jays didn't hit but played good defense which the Rays didn't. Pretty much the difference in the game.

Thigpen as DH? Interesting move. He was the only guy on the team to get 2 hits and his last out placed Zaun in scoring position. Hopefully he catches tomorrow.

ahitisahit - Tuesday, July 31 2007 @ 10:33 PM EDT (#172333) #

I'm glad the lineup was shaken up a bit. If you're not going to make the playoffs, you might as well find out what works and what doesn't and improve upon it next year. Now, how about stealing some bases and using the legs (I see Zaun stole a base).

I wonder what Stairs' numbers would be like if he played every day? 20 HR seems almost a sure thing.

scottt - Wednesday, August 01 2007 @ 07:23 AM EDT (#172339) #
They always sit Thomas against Jackson.

The stolen base by Zaun looked like a missed hit and run. Thigpen tried to golf a low ball, missed and then took a few steps in front of the plate before starting to jog to first. Paul didn't catch the ball cleanly, but when he picked it up Thigpen was called out.

James W - Wednesday, August 01 2007 @ 11:16 AM EDT (#172349) #
Thigpen was called out because first base was occupied when he struck out.
Mike Green - Wednesday, August 01 2007 @ 11:30 AM EDT (#172351) #
The boxscore tells you that Wells had an RBI double.  Don't believe it.  It was a line drive off the heel of Delmon Young's glove.  It would have been a nice running catch, but nothing special.  The difference in the team defence between the Jays and the Rays is huge, much larger than the difference in the starting pitching.
Chuck - Wednesday, August 01 2007 @ 12:22 PM EDT (#172362) #

The dubious Wells RBI raises an interesting topic (to me, anyway).

You often hear about how young, athletic players can leverage their raw talents and morph into good defenders. It's often stated as a given, kind of like the "those doubles will become homeruns in a couple of years" chestnut. The Rays currently have Upton in CF and Young in RF running around like deer in headlights because their baseball brains are not appropriately synched to their raw physical talents.

My question is this: how much can defense be taught to those who have raw tools and how much is just a pipe dream? What is the realistic likelihood of Upton turning into even an average defensive center fielder? How much of a player's defensive ability is innate and unteachable?

By way of confession, I have long endorsed an Upton move to CF because (a) it gets him out of the infield and (b) center field seems like such a natural fit for him. But I don't truthfully know that he can develop the defensive side of his game as he has the offensive side (at least this year, anyway -- there's some BAPIP craziness happening, but that's a whole other story). There have been many speedy outfielders in baseball who have been below average defenders. Did they not work hard on their defense? Were they simply unteachable? Were they lacking the innate skills required to excel?

Mike Green - Wednesday, August 01 2007 @ 12:40 PM EDT (#172366) #
Can young players with the innate physical tools develop the defensive skills?  Sure.  It really isn't that much different than developping better plate discipline, with the key components being motivation, focus and a love of learning.  Whether they will or not is a completely uncertain proposition.  Personally, I like Upton's chances of putting it together much more than Young's, but that is a very subjective judgment. For parents of teenagers, this is a very familiar topic...

You can see how it works with Alex Rios.  He needed to make adjustments to his swing to develop as a hitter, and although his focus is not great, he had sufficient motivation and desire to learn that it happened. 

Ron - Wednesday, August 01 2007 @ 06:03 PM EDT (#172380) #
I feel sorry for all the fans that called into the post-game show after the Jays won 5 in a row. A lot of them thought the Jays had finally turned the corner and reaching the playoffs this season was no longer a dream. After running off a 5 game winning streak, the Jays went on to lose back to back series to 2 bottom feeding teams. The Jays didn't even face Shields or Kazmir and still lost 2 out of 3. The best news out of the 6 game road trip was finding out Jason Frasor was still alive. What's the point of having a 7 man bullpen if the 7th man is going to only pitch once every 7-10 days?

I will be a much happier man once teams with decent-good starting pitching go to a 6 man bullpen, the save statistic is eliminated, and the win statistic for pitchers is eliminated.

ahitisahit - Wednesday, August 01 2007 @ 06:05 PM EDT (#172381) #
Ladies and gentlemen: your 2007 Toronto Blue Jays. The worst road team since the Calgary Flames.
JustinD - Wednesday, August 01 2007 @ 06:35 PM EDT (#172382) #
So Gibbons brings in League, a groundball pitcher, with runners on second and third and one out and brings the infield in. Predictably, a groundball goes right through the drawn in infield and two runs score.

Gibbons aside,  the rays bullpen in this series, the worst bullpen in all of baseball...13.1 IP 8 H 1 ER 5 BB 11 K's  0.68 ERA and a 0.98 WHIP.

Our offense is brutal. This team is not a contender as currently constructed and the fact that JP doesn't acknowledge that scares the hell out of me.

Four Seamer - Wednesday, August 01 2007 @ 06:41 PM EDT (#172383) #

No question, that was another putrid, if entirely unsurprising, effort by the Jays' bats today.  What was surprising to me, at least as a radio listener, was the extent to which Jerry and Alan expressed their disgust with the 2007 Toronto Blue Jays, calling out Wells, Glaus and Thomas for a season-long lack of production, essentially describing both Thomas and Clayton as washed up, and going so far as to imply that the honourable thing for Thomas to do would be to retire after the season.  Jerry is, of course, a famous homer, and Alan, while refreshingly candid, is very much a gentleman in the booth.  For the two of them to drop the pretense and strongly criticize certain Blue Jays, even in a genteel fashion, suggests that it's not only Blue Jay fans who have had enough with this underachieving crew.

Seamus - Wednesday, August 01 2007 @ 06:59 PM EDT (#172384) #
I agree wholeheartedly.  7 Runs total in a 3 game series against the Devil Rays 3,4,5 pictures.  And that includes today, where the Jays got to face their bullpen for 6 innings.  A 2 - 4 roadtrip against the White Sox and Rays.  Pathetic, really.  Especialy when you consider that if the Jays displayed any clutch hitting whatsoever on the roadtrip, they could have easily gone 5 - 1.

I'm excited about the young pitching on this team, but I think a change is really needed in the offense.

Seamus - Wednesday, August 01 2007 @ 07:01 PM EDT (#172385) #
Sorry.  8 runs in the series.  Blah.
GregJP - Wednesday, August 01 2007 @ 07:27 PM EDT (#172386) #
Maybe I'm in the minority here, but I really believe that this is a 0.500 team, and that they are playing at their true level.

These periods of great hitting followed by periods like the last 3 games are all just part of the natural rhythm of a baseball season.

Not to be mean spirited here, but the fact that Frank Thomas weighs more than he did last year (when he was already overweight) especially at his age is just basically saying that he doesn't give a crap about living up to his contract.

I hated, hated, hated the contract given to Wells, and I'm not in the least surprised with how he has performed this year.

This team would be so much better if the Wells money would have been given to a C and SS that were not complete black holes.  There would have even been money left over to sign a stopgap CF like Lofton.

If you go through the Jays present roster position by position I don't see how you can possibly see this as a 92+ win team.  Both the Sox and Yankees will win at least that many games, so that's what it would take to make the playoffs.

Ryan Day - Wednesday, August 01 2007 @ 08:17 PM EDT (#172387) #
I hated, hated, hated the contract given to Wells, and I'm not in the least surprised with how he has performed this year.

You're not at all surprised that, at the age of 28, he's hitting worse than he ever has in his career? It'd be one thing if he slipped back to "pretty good" mode, but he's never been a below-average hitter in his life.

This team would be so much better if the Wells money would have been given to a C and SS that were not complete black holes.

Like who, exactly? Julio Lugo?
VBF - Wednesday, August 01 2007 @ 08:45 PM EDT (#172388) #
I feel sorry for all the fans that called into the post-game show after the Jays won 5 in a row. A lot of them thought the Jays had finally turned the corner and reaching the playoffs this season was no longer a dream. After running off a 5 game winning streak, the Jays went on to lose back to back series to 2 bottom feeding teams. The Jays didn't even face Shields or Kazmir and still lost 2 out of 3

You're right Ron. We should have always listened to you. And the next time you post which will probably be after the Jays lose a series--you'll be right again.

As for this Wells contract complaints, there is absolutely no indication that premium free agents cannot be signed because of his contract. In fact, that's the reason it was backloaded as such--so that they could still be players in the free agent pools for shortstops and catchers.

So until JP actually states that they aren't going to sign x shortstop (whose name isn't Alex Rodriguez) because they can't afford him, your case is complete moot.
GregJP - Wednesday, August 01 2007 @ 08:51 PM EDT (#172389) #
You're not at all surprised that, at the age of 28, he's hitting worse than he ever has in his career? It'd be one thing if he slipped back to "pretty good" mode, but he's never been a below-average hitter in his life.

Wells' OPS this year is very much in line with what it was in 2005, and in fact he already has almost matched his doubles total from that year.  I just didn't think it was a very good idea to sink that much money into a player who has only had 2 truly elite (0.900 OPS) seasons in his career with 3 or 4 above average years mixed in.
I realize that he is also a great defensive player and a "team guy", but that was just a crazy deal IMO.

Like who, exactly? Julio Lugo?

I'll acknowledge that Lugo has mostly sucked this year, but even a gawd awful Lugo is better than Royce Clayton.  Lugo has probably performed at the 20th percentile of what might have been expected, while Clayton has been exactly as putrid as everyone (except JP Ricchiardi) knew he would be.

Maybe Lugo has suffered the same fate as Renteria and would have been much better in a Jays uniform.
deep dish - Wednesday, August 01 2007 @ 08:54 PM EDT (#172390) #
A bad display by the Jays, and I think that the announce crews have some obligation to be the "voice of the fans" so I agree with their criticism.   

I am a  fan, and can't really scout hitters, or pitchers and I don't really know how to evaluate minor leaguers.  In the offseason we talked about a shallow bench, we talked about weaknesses at shortstop and catcher, we talked about unproven pitchers in the off season.  Most of us knew we need a lot of things to go right to win.  Going down the lineup - Reed Johnson was mostly a platoon guy in the past, Aaron Hill was a good player but young and probably doesn't have a high ceiling,  Alex Rios had never showed top level skill for an entire year, Vernon Wells sometimes goes from a very good player to a very average one, Troy Glaus and Frank Thomas play similar roles in a hitters lineup - power bats, low-average, not much speed - putting them together in a lineup may result in a lot of double plays, Lyle Overbay good defender, good hitter few people expected problems here, Greg Zaun is old, Jason Phillips wasn't a major leaguer for any length of time, Royce Clayton was not really a good hitter or defender anymore, John MacDonald is a bench player and most of us didn't see much of a role for Matt Stairs.

Most of our doubts came to light, and we saw injuries, and off-years for good players like Overbay and Wells offset somewhat by good play at times by Aaron Hill, all-star play by Alex Rios, and very good play by Matt Stairs - who probably saved this season from being a total loss.

There may be reasons why JP couldn't account for those holes - budget, free agents who said "no" - but its his job to fix those holes.  There have been players on the Major League roster of the 2007 Toronto Blue Jays who have been passed up by all 29 other clubs which demonstrates to me, serious problems with our roster management.  JP brought us guys like Jason Phillips, Sal Fasano,  Jason Smith, Victor Zambrano,  Tomo Ohka, John Thompson, and Victor Zambrano.    Zaun didn't age suddenly, and our situation at shortstop did not appear overnight - it was JP's job to manage those risks.  I understand we are mid-budget team and have to take risks, but there is a difference between taking a risk and being careless.  I don't mind risk, but I saw carelessness. Plain and simple, the buck stops at JP.   I can't open a winery in Saskatchewan and say it failed because the weather got cold.

On field John Gibbons has been at the helm for off-years from Lyle Overbay, Troy Glaus, Frank Thomas, and Vernon Wells --- guys who have had all-star and MVP years in the past.    I am just a fan, I don't know the problem that is why there are professionals who try to figure out those things - and John Gibbons is the man accountable to that role.

I suck at math so please don't try to explain away my criticism by mathematical and statistical  proofs that  this team is actually a good team that is playing bad.  Fact: this team isn't winning, and it didn't manage obvious risks.  Opinion: The 2007 Toronto Blue Jays are the most boring, and least watchable team I have seen this organization field since I started paying attention in the late 80's.  

In some ways .500 isn't really a bad record, but do we really need to wait for a total meltdown before we make changes? 

ahitisahit - Wednesday, August 01 2007 @ 09:14 PM EDT (#172391) #

I guess the thing that irks me the most is the play on the road. They played so well in their last homestand, beating a team ahead of them in the wild card race. Then they hit the road and don't know how to win at all.


GregJP - Wednesday, August 01 2007 @ 09:38 PM EDT (#172393) #
I think some of you need to take some kind of a statistics course, or at least a course in sample size as it relates to baseball.

A 3 game series (or 6 games for that matter) is such a small sample size in baseball that virtually anything can happen.

If Accardo gloves the comebacker in game 1 (he was 6 inches from doing so) the Jays win 2 out of 3 and all is relatively good in Jays land.

The last 14 Dodgers/Giants games have been won by the visiting team.  Why?  No reason at all.  Just one of those random statistical anomalies.  The Jays have been below average in the clutch this year.  Why?  Just one of those things.  Replay the year and they might be one of the better teams in the "clutch"

When you throw everything into the blender (lack of clutch hitting, bad on the road, bullpen better than expected, etc.) this is a 0.500 team.

To be a 90-95 win team you need to be significantly better than average. 

You can't have Towers in the rotation.
You can't have Clayton/McDonald playing SS
You can't have  Zaun  as the number 1 catcher


timpinder - Wednesday, August 01 2007 @ 09:54 PM EDT (#172394) #

This is definitely the most frustrating Jays team I've watched in the last decade.  The pitching has been a nice surprise (post Ohka/Zambrano of course), but I'm going to have stress related heart problems if I keep watching this lineup.  But on paper at least, Johnson/Overbay/Rios/Wells/Glaus/Thomas/Hill/Zaun/Clayton should be a decent lineup.  And it's true that seven of the starting nine are performing well below their career norms.  But I agree that something still has to change.  In my opinion one of Glaus or Thomas has to go, replaced by a young OBP type hitter with at least average speed (LaRoche would have been perfect, and from what I've read he was available).  I can't imagine anyone taking Thomas' contract, so Glaus would likely be the one to go.  Also, if Lind starts hitting again, he should come up in September and be given another shot, platooning with Johnson who would face lefties.  This team has been bad against right-handed pitching and with Overbay hitting 2nd or 3rd and Lind hitting 6th or 7th, the right-handed hitters could be broken up.  Having another good left-handed hitter in the lineup to face righties, and replacing a slow, high K and oft injured 3B with a young, high BB, high OBP, relatively fast 3B could make a big difference.

I don't know, grasping at straws I guess.  But this is so hard to watch. 

Is there any chance that Thomas gets picked up if he's placed on waivers?


China fan - Thursday, August 02 2007 @ 12:22 AM EDT (#172402) #

    The single most depressing fact of this season is Ricciardi's claim that he "likes" this year's lineup and he plans to bring it back in 2008 and he doesn't see any need for changes.  He has even claimed that this exact same lineup could be a first-place team next year.   Basically he is saying that we -- the Jays fans -- are doomed with this same mediocre lineup for another 18 months.   (Perhaps he'll sign a free agent to replace Clayton at SS in the offseason, but othewise he appears happy with everything.  And there aren't any good shortstops available in the offseason, so basically we're stuck with essentially the same lineup for 2008.)

   Now, I suppose it's conceivable that the entire lineup could suddenly and spontaneously improve next year, and each of them could revert to their career-best performances.  But it's rather unlikely.  Basically he is dooming us to another season of hoping and praying that these guys suddenly get better.

  This is particularly depressing because of how it undermines the unexpected improvement in the young pitching this year.  The Jays have been extremely fortunate to have such dramatic improvements from McGowan, Marcum and Litsch this year.  (Yes, I know that some of us expected good things from Marcum and McGowan, but nobody predicted Litsch's emergence and even the Marcum-McGowan improvement was always a best-case-scenario, and far from a sure thing.  Who expected Marcum to be one of the top 10 pitchers in the league this year?)

   So, to sum up, the Jays have been handed an unexpected bonus in the emergence of three excellent young pitchers, and it's all wasted by a lineup of mediocre hitters -- and Ricciardi expects us to sit through it again next year, just on the off-chance that the lineup might suddenly make a dramatic improvement.  Does he expect the ownership and the fans to just accept these assurances on blind faith?  He expects people to buy tickets and renew their season tickets just on the off-chance that this lineup will miraculously revert to their career seasons next year?  It's bizarre, and frustrating, and infuriating.  We should be excited about the young pitchers, but instead we have to accept the likelihood of another mediocre season in 2008 because Ricciardi is complacent and content.


timpinder - Thursday, August 02 2007 @ 01:13 AM EDT (#172403) #
Well, I expect that Overbay, Wells, and Johnson will hit better next year, based on their career norms.  Glaus' power numbers are low this year, and Hill's AVG and OBP are lower than usual.  So realistically, I do think that the offence will be a little better next year, even though I'm not convinced that Thomas or Zaun will improve because of their ages.  But like I said before, I'm thinking 87-91 wins if healthy.  They should be better, but not quite good enough to make the playoffs, in my amateur opinion.  A couple of changes would be nice, not the least of which would be the addition of Lind in the lineup against righties, assuming he regains his form.
BigTimeRoyalsFan - Thursday, August 02 2007 @ 01:59 AM EDT (#172405) #
To be a 90-95 win team you need to be significantly better than average. 

You can't have Towers in the rotation.

And the unwarranted bashing of Josh Towers continues. Timpinder, you could not be any more wrong. Let's examine every single playoff team (if the season ended today) and their starters. Some of these guys may not be in the rotation now but that is irrelevant for these purposes.


Boston - Tavarez (18) 5.08
Detroit - Robertson 5.06 (18) Maroth (13) 5.08
Anaheim - Santana (19) 6.22 Colon (16) 6.72
Cleveland - Lee (16) 6.38 Westbrook (13) 5.85 Sowers (12) 6.93
New York - Pelfrey (9) 5.92
Milwaukee - Suppan (23) 4.97
Arizona - Owings (17) 5.13
Los Angeles - Tomko (11) 5.57

Toronto - Towers (13) 5.08

In case you can't comprehend what this means timpinder - Josh Towers has absolutely nothing to do with the Blue Jays inability to post 90-95 wins. Every single playoff team has a starter as bad as Towers, if not worse, and most of them more than one. What's the difference? Their offense doesn't stink. Good teams are happy to get 6 innings, 4 runs out of their "#5" starters every outing because that gives them a chance to win the game, albeit with some effective pen work. What would that work out to? A bloated 6.00 ERA. Stop taking out any frustration on Towers, and direct it all towards Wells, Glaus, and Thomas. If the 3-4-5 of this lineup would be rolling all the minor flaws in the team (C, SS, "Towers") would me masked, as they are on ALL playoff teams.

scottt - Thursday, August 02 2007 @ 07:29 AM EDT (#172410) #
The Jays were supposed to have a strong offense and average pitching.  Turn out they have great pitching and can't hit with runners in scoring position.

They have been terrible on the road, but amazing at home. 

They have lost a lot of 1 run ball games. That has a lot to do with not having a leadoff hitter for most of the year, not being able to retire basestealers and rarely stealing bases.

On the bright side, the pitching staff is young.

Thomas was a bust but he didn't cost the team anything other than money. He's in upgrade over Hillenbrand. I think they should tell him they'll alternate him with a left handed bat next year (Lind maybe). Does he not get a third year if he collect enough plate appearances? I don't think that's desirable.

I believe the offense can be turned around with a short stop that can hit lead off to plug in the two hole.  Not an easy find.

I would have like the Jays to get that young catcher from the braves. It would have been costly, no doubt.

BigTimeRoyalsFan - Thursday, August 02 2007 @ 07:47 AM EDT (#172412) #
I think they should tell him they'll alternate him with a left handed bat next year (Lind maybe).

They should be platooning him right now. I have seen enough of Frank Thomas this season to be quite sure he has hit a serious career decline and that Matt Stairs should be starting against RHP. I am sick of watching the Big Hurt's at bats, which inevitably end in one of four outcomes - a useless walk (because it takes 2 hits to score him and the Blue Jays can't piece together hits);a weak, shallow popup; an off balanced, clumsy looking strikeout; or a crappy single he didn't make good contact on so it falls in. And maybe once a week he will toss in a HR for good measure, just to keep everyone thinking he might actually have something left.
Dave Till - Thursday, August 02 2007 @ 08:55 AM EDT (#172417) #
My $.02:

Towers' problem is that he gives up a lot of base hits and a lot of home runs. That's a deadly combination. His 18 home runs allowed is second on the club (Marcum is first, but he doesn't allow as many baserunners). And I'd bet that a lot of those long bombs were with runners on. I think that Towers might do better in a ballpark that is less homer-friendly.

The pitching has improved a lot this year, but I think a lot of it is infield defense. The pitchers that have taken huge strides forward tend to give up ground balls - and McDonald and Hill are getting to just about everything hit up the middle. A saving of a hit or two a game is a huge difference, and it's showing up all over the stats.

McDonald is the best defensive shortstop I've seen in a Jays uniform since the young Tony Fernandez. Tony had a better arm (and that wondrous flip throw to first), but McDonald makes up for it by being able to throw from his knees, accurately and with some power, after diving for a ball. I've never seen anything like it. If only he could hit. If only. Sigh.

As for Thomas: his skills are clearly fading, but the biggest problem is that he isn't a good fit for this team. The Jays have a boatload of right-handed hitters with home-run or doubles power - Glaus, Wells, Rios and Hill all bat right. Because Thomas can't run, the other hitters are forced to try for extra-base hits to bring him in, which may be why they're trying too hard. And, because Thomas can't field, Glaus can't be moved to DH when his aching legs need a break, and Stairs doesn't get enough playing time.

Thomas isn't actually having a bad season, if you don't compare him to his past: he's still hitting for some power, and he's easily leading the team in on-base percentage. But he might not be the best fit for the Jays right now. Unfortunately, I doubt that they would be able to move him for something of comparable value that would be a better fit.

The biggest problem with the offense as a whole isn't Thomas's fault: they're not getting on base enough. Their .325 OBP is third-worst in the league. And they're not getting on base because they're just not hitting the baseball often enough. I don't know how you fix that - maybe they're trying too hard. Or perhaps the Jays need a new hitting coach.

As for the team's management: I find it hard to judge a general manager, since almost all of what he does goes on in private. I don't know what options were available to the Jays. Were there hitters out there who were a better fit than Thomas, or was he the best they could get? (If you're going to blame him for Thomas, you have to give him credit for Stairs and Accardo.) If the Jays fire J.P., would the new guy be able to do a better job?

Same thing for Gibbons: is there anything he can do to get the hitters to hit? He's doing a decent job managing the pitching staff, except for that mysterious decision to overuse Burnett in early summer. If they fire Gibbons, they'd probably feel obliged to give the job to Ernie Whitt - and I don't think that Whitt would be a good manager.

Mike Green - Thursday, August 02 2007 @ 09:06 AM EDT (#172418) #
I agree with Dave's diagnosis of the team's ails.  As for the treatment, it is a little early to judge.  Talk to me on September 1.
AWeb - Thursday, August 02 2007 @ 09:33 AM EDT (#172420) #
is there anything he can do to get the hitters to hit?

That is someone's job, isn't it? I see Gibbons and J.P. as in very similar positions. Neither does anything notably awful, and there are worse choices out there. But at some point, shouldn't these positions be bringing more to the table? Actually, that describes a lot of the players this year too, but I'm looking at the manager here.  Gibbons is not getting great performances out of his hitters (and some managers do help with that, like Cito used to). He doesn't seem to keep the conflicting egos and gripes under control; last year fighting players, this year two bit players have come out and called the heart and readiness of the team into question (Zaun, Towers). The pitching staff is doing well, but is he doing anything to help?

For those that want Gibbons to stay, a question : what is he doing that generic replacement manager XYZ doesn't? This team does appear to need shaking up, so I don't see continuity as a desired result right now.
DH - Thursday, August 02 2007 @ 09:51 AM EDT (#172425) #

As for Thomas, given the current waiver period, let's say the Jays place him on waivers, then:

A) Would someone put in a claim? Are the Yankees, Angels, Indians and Twins that desperate for a big hitter that they'd absorb his salary?

B) Would the Jays let him go for nothing? I.e. would salary relief of $10mn be worth calling the project a failure?


paulf - Thursday, August 02 2007 @ 11:53 AM EDT (#172436) #
Apparently Chacin's option was voided by the league and/or PA. They were concerned that the Jays were trying to cheat him out of service time by optioning him while rehabbing.
Seamus - Thursday, August 02 2007 @ 02:21 PM EDT (#172455) #
I've tried to be optimistic about Thomas, but at this point, I think it would be great if someone picked him up on waivers.

There seems to be a consensus that this year has been the most frustrating in recent memory.  I would love it if someone compiled the most heartbreaking games or moments from the 2007 season.   It would be kind of cathartic.  Loads of games spring to mind.

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