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"Well Rodney hadn't done it"

"The Blue Jays had won it"

"With Arencibia swinging all the while"

"Bonifacio's stolen bases made us smile"

"And Kawasaki dancing on the dugout tile"

It's been a very up and down week in Toronto Blue Jay land. The local twenty-five started off by winning three games in a row (two in particularly exciting fashion) but then lost three in row before winning Saturday on Mark Buehrle's best start as a Blue Jay. They were on happy side of a blowout (May 5th versus Seattle) and the unhappy side (May 8th versus Tampa Bay). There was another Ricky Romero implosion, a walk-off walk surrendered against the Rays (side note: I imagine a pitcher feels much worse giving up a game winning walk than giving up a game winning home run.) and an absolutely dominating performance by pitcher Jon Lester where Blue Jay hitters might as well have been swinging hockey sticks instead of bats.

Then of course, there was the second game of the Tampa Bay series, significant and unfortunately memorable because of the line drive that hit J.A. Happ in the side of the head. I was listening to that game on the radio and the grim horror in the voice of Jack Morris is something I won't soon forget. Being hit by a hard line drive is a fear shared by all pitchers who have ever pitched anywhere, anytime, but it is a fear you are not constantly aware of. A pitcher's focus is always to make a good pitch, to induce weak contact or no contact from the hitter, and so the possibility of the ball coming back rudely to meet you is often forgotten in the back of the mind.
Some pitchers (such as R.A. Dickey) finish their deliveries in excellent fielding position (completely square towards the catcher) and are less likely to be compromised by a hard hit directly at them. J.A. Happ, however, tends to have his momentum swing his body to the right so that the left side of his head is exposed to the hitter, with his glove on the other side of him. This is just he way he pitches, the way that is most comfortable and successful for him. It truly is incredibly fortunate, a miracle even, that Happ was able to leave the hospital the very next day by his own power. Here's hoping for a speedy recovery. 

The game of the week, however, can only be May 6th against the Tampa Bay Rays in Tropicana Field. This tilt of sphere twirlers featured the Blue Jays Mark Buehrle and the Rays Jeremy Hellickson in the first of a four game series.

In the early innings, Buehrle flirted with danger but it was the bottom of the third when danger finally came to dance. A walk to Desmond Jennings followed Sam Fuld's leadoff single, bringing up former Blue Jay walk/strikeout machine Kelly Johnson. Johnson hit a high fly ball up into the roof at Tropicana Field which Toronto centerfielder Colby Rasmus appeared to have tracked, until the ball bounced off one of the rails along the roof and dropped several feet behind Rasmus, scoring Fuld and making it 1-0 Tampa Bay. Ryan Roberts, the next batter, hit a slow rolling ball along the first base line that Buehrle jogged beside, wishing it to go foul without luck. The bases were now loaded with nobody out for Evan Longoria.
In this kind of situation, the best-case scenario for a pitcher is to get a soft comebacker right to you: you're likely to get two outs and a run won't score thanks to the force-out at home plate. (I'm not considering a triple play here because those are the kinds of things you cannot expect or depend upon) The worst case scenario is what happened to Buehrle against Longoria: the Tampa third baseman turned his quick hands on an elevated fastball and delivered it into the left field bleachers. 5-0 Tampa Bay.
At this point I changed the channel. Not because I thought all was lost in this one (okay, I did kind of think that) but because the Maple Leafs-Bruins game was also on and it was my plan to switch back and forth. Once I returned to baseball I discovered Luke Scott and Colby Rasmus had traded two run home runs, Melky Cabrera had driven home one and the score was now 7-3 Tampa Bay starting the bottom of the 4th.

Jeremy Hellickson was having a smoother go of it than Buehrle, except Blue Jay hitters were making Hellickson throw a lot of pitches even without getting on base very much. By the fifth inning Hellickson was well over 90 pitches and the Rays bullpen was already warming up. By the sixth inning Hellickson was out and bazooka-armed lefty Jake McGee was in. Of note also here was former Toronto shortstop Yunel Escobar's entry into the game. Maicer Izturis led off for the Blue Jays and sure enough hit a playable ground ball right at Escobar's glove side, except the ball skipped by the glove and into the outfield for what was ruled a single for Izturis. Buck Martinez and Pat Tabler on the television broadcast pointed out a bandage wrapped around Escobar's left wrist, suggesting that an injury there might explain the lack of aggressiveness in fielding that ground ball.
In what was a definitely a fifty points for Gibbons move, J.P. Arencibia came in to pinch hit for Henry Blanco who was the starting catcher, although JP popped up to the second baseman for the first out. Gibbons went to the bench again, this time bringing up righty hitting Mark DeRosa for the lefty Munenori Kawasaki. DeRosa was clearly overmatched by McGee's hard fastball, watching one explode in the strikezone and flicking his wrists helplessly at another. At 0-2. DeRosa flicked his wrists again, but this time connected on a hard low and way fastball and sent it squeaking on gas just over the right field foul corner fence for a two run home run. 7-5 Rays.

The Blue Jays threatened again in the top of the 7th. Jose Bautista and Edwin Encarnacion singled off Kyle Farnsworth and with some agressive baserunning were at 3rd and 2nd with nobody out and Tampa Bay brought the infield in. Adam Lind then bounced a ground ball right to second baseman Ryan Roberts that was hit much too sharply to score a run, except Bautista (Confunded apparently) decided to run for home anyway and was thrown out by fifteen feet. This proceeded to kill the rally and Toronto was unable to score in the inning.
Then came the top of the 8th and the Blue Jays were at it again. Arencibia and Brett Lawrie were on base with one out and Rays manager Joe Maddon decided it was time for his closer Fernando Rodney. Melky Cabrera lumbered up for the Blue Jays in this big spot and without fail knocked a double play ball right at Yunel Escobar, except Yunel again misplayed the ball and wasn't able to get anybody out. The bases were now loaded for Bautista, who knocked a ball into right field deep enough for Arencibia to score. 7-6 Tampa Bay. Rodney however was able to escape the inning still with the lead. 

The top of the 9th was the last chance for the Blue Jays and Adam Lind led off with a walk. In another "Obvious But Still A Good Move" move, Gibbons went to his bench one more time for Emilo Bonifacio to pinch run for Lind. Rodney I imagine is difficult to run on because he pitches without a leg kick, making it more difficult for a base stealer to time his start, yet Bonifacio found a time he liked and jolted off for second. Catcher Jose Molina fired a grenade down but once again Yunel Escobar was unable to catch the ball and it sailed into centrefield. Bonifacio jogged into third base on what was an error on Molina.
Rodney was not keen to surrender the lead so easily. He struck out Colby Rasmus and then got Izturis to ground out to the first baseman playing in, securing the second out for Tampa Bay and keeping Bonifacio standing at third. This brought up J.P. Arencibia for his third at-bat since replacing Blanco. Rodney, who had already thrown over thirty pitches since entering in the 8th, was clearly tiring but worked back to get a 2-2 count on Arencibia.

The thought in the back of my mind was of Rodney's excellent changeup and of JP's likely futility against it. I remarked to the company beside me on the couch: "Changeup low and away" and waited. Rodney threw his 2-2 pitch but instead it was a fastball inside on Arencibia, who had seen enough of it and sent it sailing like an arrow over the left-field wall for a two run home run. The Blue Jays had rallied from being down 7-0 and now were up 8-7. I quipped with a grin: "Shoulda thrown the changeup."
Casey Janssen entered the bottom of the 9th for Toronto and well, he's Casey Janssen. FINAL: 8-7 Toronto.

It was not exactly an exciting game as it was a strange game. There were tons of errors (Yunel Escobar seemed like he was still a Blue Jay the way he was helping us out), bad baserunning and stadium quirks that all came into play. An entertaining game, absolutely, and it was very satisfying to beat Fernando Rodney who always seems to sneak his way out of jams like that.

Random Ramblings

The organization is doing some bizarre and frankly foolish things right now. From the yo-yo they've tied Ricky Romero to, the surprise callup of Chad Jenkins for a spot start after just five (!) rehab innings in AA (although that actually worked out okay) or the carousel of relievers the team employs, it seems to me that General Manager Alex Anthopoulos is very indecisive these days. All these moves are a bit too reactionary for my taste and I think some stability for while might help the team settle down a bit.

Jeremy Hellickson's leg kick reminds me of somebody trying to step up a very big stair.

Stat Line to Chew On of the week:


That is the number of stolen bases and number of attempts the Blue Jays have as a team this season. They are actually tied for the Major League lead in stolen bases, for whatever that's worth.

Division of The Atrocious -- Standings (as of May 12th)

Chicago Cubs             15-22         --
Toronto Blue Jays      15-24         1
Los Angeles Angels   14-23       1.5
Miami Marlins             11-27         4
Houston Astros          10-28         5

Overall, a strange but mildly successful (4-3 record) week for the local twenty-five.

Game Of The Week -- May 5th to May 11th | 23 comments | Create New Account
The following comments are owned by whomever posted them. This site is not responsible for what they say.
ayjackson - Tuesday, May 14 2013 @ 11:16 AM EDT (#272138) #
So if/when we get out of the Division of the Atrocious, what division do we get into?
Mike Green - Tuesday, May 14 2013 @ 11:40 AM EDT (#272139) #
The League of the Mediocre?
hypobole - Tuesday, May 14 2013 @ 01:50 PM EDT (#272143) #
"General Manager Alex Anthopoulos is very indecisive these days. All these moves are a bit too reactionary for my taste and I think some stability for while might help the team settle down a bit."

This probably deserves it's own thread, but how good a GM is AA?

I have a lot of disjointed thoughts on this matter, but I'll start with this. He was supposedly an outstanding fantasy baseball player. And he still is. But MLB baseball is not fantasy. He's excellent at his strengths, but in my opinion, he has some real weaknesses that are and may continue to cripple the Jays. Thoughts?
Lylemcr - Tuesday, May 14 2013 @ 02:10 PM EDT (#272145) #

I have liked a lot of the moves AA has made in the past couple years.  There has been a lot of bad luck (I think they should cut the head of a live rooster during a game), with injuries and players tanking that you would assume wouldn't.

For me, the question is whether it is bad luck or are they a badly run organization and things like player development need to be investigated.

hypobole - Tuesday, May 14 2013 @ 02:36 PM EDT (#272146) #
If you are a believer in biomechanics (which AA does not seem to be) more than a few injuries are not bad luck at all. He hired a pitching coach who does not believe in changing mechanics, and also targeted players with dangerous deliveries. Drabek and Osuna are the 2 of the most egregious examples I know of, but there are others as well.

And as far as fixing mechanics, have 2 MLB pitchers mechanical issues deteriorated so extremely as Drabek and Romero's while in the bigs? I know it was under Walton's watch, though Walker was also part of the decision making process. And Walton was the guy AA insisted on as the pitching coach when he hired Farrell.
Mike Green - Tuesday, May 14 2013 @ 03:47 PM EDT (#272152) #
Thank you, eephus, for an entertaining read.

I think that I'll save my comments, positive and negative, about AA for the end of the year.  He's not the second coming of Branch Rickey, sad to say,  but he's also not the second coming of Peter Bavasi. He is also under 40. 
greenfrog - Tuesday, May 14 2013 @ 03:54 PM EDT (#272154) #
Perhaps someone could institute an "ERA+ Watch" sidebar for Janssen on the site. It's currently up to 624. It could be a mild form of entertainment if the team fails to launch this season.
Ryan Day - Tuesday, May 14 2013 @ 03:58 PM EDT (#272155) #
Sergio Santos is having elbow cleanup surgery, and is expected to be out up to 6 weeks. This will probably not go down as one of AA's best acquisitions. (It's not like Nestor Molina has done much, but at least he hasn't cost $6 million.)
Alex Obal - Tuesday, May 14 2013 @ 04:01 PM EDT (#272156) #
If ever there were a time for Rodney to de-mothball his slider, you'd think it would be against JP Arencibia with two strikes and two out in the ninth inning. Live and learn...

I can't say I called the homer, but I did feel oddly optimistic heading into that at-bat.
hypobole - Tuesday, May 14 2013 @ 04:05 PM EDT (#272158) #
I'm guessing Cooper told Williams "this guy is going to blow out his arm, only question is how soon".
hypobole - Tuesday, May 14 2013 @ 04:10 PM EDT (#272160) #
One of the commenters at BBB posted this - very interesting. Buehrle gets calls, Morrow and Dickey get squeezed. I guess JPA isn't that bad a catcher, if you can hit the spot where he sets his glove.
Alex Obal - Tuesday, May 14 2013 @ 04:22 PM EDT (#272162) #
Maybe the selection of umpires he's faced has something to do with that? Eight starts in, the sample is small enough that that could make a difference.

You'd also suspect that a guy with a 6.00 ERA isn't hitting the corners very often. The pitches in the gray area are the ones that regress your called strike rate toward 50%. That's also generally where you want to put the ball. I wonder how big Buehrle's advantage would be if you discarded meatballs.

Buehrle's reputation can't hurt, either. His pitching style as well as his character.
Mike Green - Tuesday, May 14 2013 @ 04:31 PM EDT (#272163) #
As the article indicates, low velocity fastballs in the zone are rarely missed by umpires.  Hello, Mark Buehrle.  JPA is very poor at pitch framing, and there is ample evidence of that from this year and previously. 
hypobole - Tuesday, May 14 2013 @ 04:37 PM EDT (#272164) #
JPA is very poor at pitch framing, and there is ample evidence of that from this year and previously.

Your right. I was trying, unsuccessfully I guess, to be facetious.
85bluejay - Tuesday, May 14 2013 @ 04:57 PM EDT (#272166) #
Santos to have surgery,Morrow pushed back to Saturday, Cabrera to have MRI on legs - the hits keep coming.
Man, I was really hoping the Jays could have acquired Jean Segura last year & he's having a breakout year - will likely outperform josh Hamilton - Angels must be kicking themselves.
I've been so disappointed with the moves AA has made in the last year - starting with the Happ trade (still can't believe we give up that much lottery tickets for Happ), that I can't even get excited about the upcoming draft.
The Jays may come back, but so far I think this is the most unlikeable Jays team I can remember - I don't feel a connection to any player  & consequently have only sporadically watched - I've  felt this way since spring training & the manager, while he seems like a nice guy, I would rate him 5th amongst AL east managers  - he seems neither innovative or having the gravitas to command the room - but, he's a nice guy & fellow good christian like his best friend Jerry Howarth.  
greenfrog - Tuesday, May 14 2013 @ 05:03 PM EDT (#272167) #
I can't imagine the turf at the RC is helping Melky's PED-free legs. I believe the turf is a significant "hidden factor" that hinders the team, year in, year out (by contributing to injuries of various kinds and possibly making it harder to attract free agents).
Mike Forbes - Tuesday, May 14 2013 @ 05:07 PM EDT (#272168) #
JPA is a poor catcher. Period.
sam - Tuesday, May 14 2013 @ 06:32 PM EDT (#272172) #
Here here Mike Forbes.  I've been beating this drum for a while.  As an organization I don't know what you do from here.  Santiago Nessy is a long ways-away and needs a lot of things to break right for him to be on the radar.  A.J. Jimenez has injury issues (as well), and while reputed as a strong defender, is coming off TJ surgery and has never hit for much power. 

It's clear to me there's an organizational need here and I would imagine you might see the Jays nab a catcher who can stick with one of their early picks this year.  I thought they would do so last year, but they opted not to draft a "prospect" backstop. 

Going forward then with Arencibia, for the coaching staff, someone needs to get Arencibia to be more accountable behind the plate.  Someone has to be on his case about his sloppy and lazy play and that's a daily, demanding job.  It literally involves giving him stick every half inning about a ball he didn't block, or blocked incorrectly.  Questioning pitch selection, and reminding him every time he misses a pitch to beat the ball to the spot.  That person might be Sal Fasano, however, bringing him on right now would be a clear challenge to John Gibbons' control of the club.  The only other guy with any catching pedigree on the staff is of course John Gibbons, and handling Arencibia the way he needs to be handled (like a minor leaguer) would eat significantly into his more demanding duties of actually running a baseball club.  So it's an issue that has no clear answer this season. 

For me, I have to question Jays' management.  This is a major issue that the Jays clearly overlooked or misjudged this offseason.  Someone in the front office clearly thought Arencibia had turned the corner and was ready to be a pro's pro and they have been proven painfully wrong.  He has regressed substantially and from my understanding of reports and watching diligently between innings the guy that kept Arencibia in check last year was Wakamatsu.  Arencibia was poor last year, but worked hard and to me was not the defensive liability he is now.  I question the hiring of DeMarlo Hale.  It's not to say Wakamatsu should have been retained, but more along the lines of why wasn't someone who has a catching background one of the coaches (not just a manager)?  Hale, to me, is somewhat redundant as the Jays presumably have several guys who can work with the outfielders. 

hypobole - Tuesday, May 14 2013 @ 07:48 PM EDT (#272174) #
I've mentioned this before (defensive indifference) but it's on AA. Brought in Corey Patterson, Juan Rivera, Eric Thames, Rajai Davis and I've heard pushed for Bonifacio in the Marlins trade. Melky wasn't going to be a plus defender nor Reyes. Even Lawrie was considered a poor defender when he was acquired. How many plus defenders has he brought in - Escobar and Gose?

His style seems to be fantasy baseball.
Richard S.S. - Tuesday, May 14 2013 @ 11:47 PM EDT (#272188) #
As much as happened last offseason, A.A. didn't have an unlimited amount of money to spend, he just did extremely well with what he had. Complaining about it is shortsighted and of questionable judgement.

Making judgements after just 40 games is unwise, it's only a minor portion of the season. Through 60 games, two full months, one third of the season is not a small sample. June is just around the corner when deals can be made.

But if the need to feed your own ego is that desperate, go ahead. Just remember, being objective is very hard, some people can't do it.
hypobole - Wednesday, May 15 2013 @ 12:13 AM EDT (#272189) #
AA has been GM since October 2009, not 40 games.

What is your objective evaluation of Anthopoulos?
uglyone - Wednesday, May 15 2013 @ 02:23 AM EDT (#272192) #
criticisms of AA are pretty simple.

1) he cares too much about stolen bases and home runs, and not enough about OBP or defense.

2) he gets too cute with his bench, preferring to stack it with what he sees as pure role players instead of players who can actually contribute with the bat. It's a big concern that every year we have literally 1 or 2 of the very worst hitters in baseball on our bench.

3) He actually changed one of his approaches this offseason for the better - for the first time, he didn't go spend big money on relievers. He let the collection of good cheap arms fight it out and right now the decision is looking good - the numbers for Janssen/Santos/Oliver/Cecil/Delabar/Loup are pretty stellar. For now, I'll ignore that the while the dollar cost is cheap, the price of Snider/Thames/Molina was pretty steep....even if none of those guys are making us regret trading them. So this isn't a criticism anymore - I like what he did with the bullpen this year.

I still think AA does a good job of acquiring top talent when it comes available, though, so I won't complain too much.
BlueJayWay - Wednesday, May 15 2013 @ 08:10 AM EDT (#272196) #
Yep.  Arencibia is a big minus defensively (subjective eye test and saber stats bear this out) and a big minus offensively (no explanation needed).  Catcher is such an important position.  I don't think the Jays are winning anything with JPA as their main guy.

What is scary to me is management seems to love him.  But as I said on another forum recently, to me he's like the bellwhether for managment, in that their trust of him makes me not trust them.

Game Of The Week -- May 5th to May 11th | 23 comments | Create New Account
The following comments are owned by whomever posted them. This site is not responsible for what they say.