Monday: Yu Darvish vs. Kyle Drabek
Ah, what might have been. Darvish squares off against the pitcher he would have essentially replaced, Kyle Drabek. Apparently the Jays weren't actually that close to having been the successful bidder on Darvish, as their bid is reported to have been in the $20 million range. If you want to agonize some more, you can read what AA had to say about the whole thing yesterday. Richard Griffin has a few notes on Darvish and the history of Japanese players in MLB. Anyway, Yu the Pitcher. Darvish uses a translator, but does have a bit of personality (warning; this ad is awful). Tonight's game is also on ESPN in the States; I couldn't ascertain the last time the Jays were on national TV in the U.S., but it was a while ago.
Darvish has actually improved in each of his four starts, especially given that the quality of opposition he faced improved in each one - Seattle, Minny, Detroit, New York (I think that's a fair statement). He allowed 5 runs in 5.2 innings that first start, 2 runs (1 earned) in 5.2 the second, 1 run in 6.1 the third, and went 8.1 scoreless innings against the Yankees, striking out 10 and walking 2. If there's been one achilles heel for Darvish so far it's been walks, as he's allowed 15 in 26 innings, against 24 strikeouts. Darvish had impeccable control in Japan, so there's plenty of reason to think he gets the balls on base under control eventually. Everything else has worked out pretty decent for him so far, as he's let to allow a home run and is getting almost 50% of his outs on the ground, resulting in a cool 3.06 FIP (his xFIP is a run higher, but F- xFIP, seriously). Yankee Analysts has a nice analysis of Yu's stuff to date. In short, Yu throws five pitches (six if you count the two and four seam fastball seperately), although he relies most heavily on a 93 MPH four-seamer that reached up to 97 MPH in his last start against the Yankees. After that he throws a slider, cutter and curve in about equal measure, once every 7 or 8 pitches. The slider is probably the best of these offerings, as it sits between 80-84 MPH has late break away from righties. Darvish doesn't throw a change up, instead relying on a split fingered pitch in the high-80s that mimics his fastball arm action. Lefties have hit him better than righties so far, to the tune of .042 points of wOBA.
Tuesday: Neftali Feliz vs. Drew Hutchison
Aw who cares at this point. You do? Okay then, I guess. Neftali Feliz was acquired along with Elvis Andrus, Matt Harrison and Salty in the Mark Teixeira trade. I wonder if the Braves would do that one again? Feliz takes the mound one day before his 24th birthday, though this is actually his fourth major league season, having pitched in 20 games in 2009 before becoming the Rangers closer in 2010 (for which he was the AL Rookie of the Year) and 2011, a role in which he was very successful, posting a 2.73 ERA in 131.2 innings while saving 72 games. Forward thinking organization that they are, the Rangers transitioned him to the starting rotation, where of course he will pitch more innings than that in two-thirds of a season. Texas moved Alexi Ogando, who had a 3.51 ERA in 169 innings to the bullpen to make room for him. So you see what I'm saying about the Rangers being pretty good. Anyway, since Feliz is making the transition from relief to starting, the team is managing his innings, and skipped his last start against the Yankees, though he did pitch an inning of relief. The idea is to have him available towards the end of the year rather than shutting him down when he reaches his innings limit. Which makes sense, although of course games in April count just as much as games in September in the standings. If you're unfamiliar with Feliz's stuff, the easiest thing is to say that he throws hard. As a reliever his fastball averaged 96 MPH, and there are reports of him hitting triple digits. As a starter he works under that, but at 94 MPH he's hardly a slouch in the stuff department; he ran his fastball up to 98 in his last start against the Tigers. In addition to the heater, which he's thrown almost 60% of the time as a starter (down from 80% of the time as a reliever), Feliz throws a slider and change up in about equal measure. Here's where things get a bit screwy with pitch classifications, as Fangraphs suggests he throws a curveball (which he's definitely thrown in the past), which Brooks says he hasn't. I don't know if this is just a problem with his slider being misclassified; I guess we'll find out tonight. The fastball and the change up are the money pitches in any event, so watch out for those. Rajai Davis is the only Jay with more than 2 at bats against Feliz, and he is 3/5, all singles.
Wednesday: Matt Harrison vs. Ricky Romero.
As mentioned, Harrison was a bit of a forgotten man in that Teix trade, and it's easy to kind of just think of him as a guy, but he isn't a slouch by any means. Harrison is a power lefty who runs his fastball up to the mid-90s (though he's still warming up this year, sitting at around 91) and features a wicked curve. He also throws a mid-80s slider and a low-80s change, though these are not plus pitches. Harrison started the season strong before getting knocked around by Tampa Bay, after which there was some speculation that he might have been tipping his offspeed pitches. Whither Cito. The Jays have hit him well though, as lifetime Rajai Davis is 2/10, Bautista 3/7, Escobar 3/5, Mathis 4/5, JPA 2/3, Thames 2/3, Lind 3/8 (please don't use this as an excuse to bat him cleanup, John Farrell).
Ian Kinsler 2B
Elvis Andrus SS
Josh Hamilton CF
Adrian Beltre 3B
Michael Young DH
Nelson Cruz RF
David Murphy LF
Mike Napoli 1B/C
Yorvit Torrealba C/Mitch Moreland 1B
Napoli and Torrealba split catching duties pretty evenly, with Napoli shifting to first for most other games. Mitch Moreland plays first base when Napoli catches. David Murphy starts in left and Hamilton plays CF against righties, while Craig Gentry plays CF and Hamilton starts in left against lefties. Gentry comes on as a defensive replacement for David Murphy in pretty much every game, shifting to CF while Hamilton takes LF.
Hamilton left Sunday night's game against Tampa with a sore back and expects to play on Monday. Hamilton is hitting .395/.438/.744, which I guess is okay... The Rangers had five 4-win position players in 2011, with Michael Young just missing at 3.8 fWAR, and this is with Nelson Cruz having a down year, by his standards. Cruz has started 2012 slowly too, hitting .247/.312/.376. Cruz is on a cold streak this last week, striking out or grounding out in nearly every at bat... I feel like Ian Kinsler gets lost in the shuffle a bit, but he's really one of the best players in the majors. His batting lines are generally good but not superlative - he hit .255/.355/.477 last year (with a .243 average on balls in play), but he's one of the best defenders and baserunners in the majors, and had a 30-30 season last year. He walks more than he strikes out, which is almost never (7 in 105 PA this year) and has massive power, regardless of position.
I don't normally delve too deep into bullpen stuff, but the Rangers' is excellent, allowing 13 runs in 57 innings (a 2.05 ERA), with a ridiculous 52/4 K/BB ratio. Alexi Ogando's been particularly good, 1 run in 10.2 innings with an 11/0 K/BB, while Mike Adams, Mark Lowe and Koji Uehara have also been great. Joe Nathan's proably been their worst reliever so far, allowing 4 earned runs in 9.2 innings, with a 10/1 K/BB ratio.
Jays Stuff: Some nice stuff from ESPN Fantasy about EE's hot start [Insider only, sorry!]. Meanwhile Brett Lawrie has been helping the Jays reach out to some, er, non-traditional fan groups by appearing at Victoria's Secret in the Eaton Centre this morning. He got presented with a pink sequined bat by Victoria's Secret model Elsa Hosk. Nice work if you can get it. [Some pictures - PG, this is a family site - here.] Money Quote: "we really want to meet Brett Lawrie,” Chung said, although she admitted that he favourite Blue Jay was actually catcher J.P. Arencibia." To be fair, JPA is a looker.
Infirmary: Just Hamilton, who as mentioned is scheduled to play as of this moment.
Song to Advance Scout By: In honour (hm, maybe not the right word) of Darvish's start, Japanese fusion (metal/electronic/punk) band Mad Capsule Markets (they sing in English) song Good Girl, which I would describe as being pop-metal.
Chart: Thanks to Fangraphs for your data, even if you do do stupid power rankings.