Off Day Blues Vol. 4

Monday, July 05 2021 @ 09:36 AM EDT

Contributed by: Eephus

Strobe lights
and blown speakers
and hurricanes
I'm not here
This isn't happening

These 2021 Blue Jays sure have made me want to disappear completely at times this year. It certainly is a Jekyll and Hyde group: very fun and exciting when they're playing well, grotesque and offensive to the sensibilities when they lose. There is some debate in these parts whether this is the year to go all in: personally I'm not interested in trading an Alejandro Kirk or a Jordan Groshans for a gosh dang reliever. The volatile nature of that job makes such an acquisition no sure improvement, plus I'm still holding hope that Nate Pearson can emerge as the 2015 Aaron Sanchez down the stretch. Anyways, as usual with these off day articles, here are some thoughts.

Top of the Fourth

Starters, Starters, Starters

Congratulations to Vladimir Guerrero Jr, Marcus Semien and Teoscar Hernandez for being voting in as starters for the All-Star game. All three are having excellent seasons worthy of selections, are all first time All-Stars, and each took a fairly different road to get here. Guerrero Jr. of course has been long been anointed the next big superstar of the franchise, and while he's clearly been an above average hitter since arriving in the majors... I know some were pretty disappointed (trade Vlad! He's too out of shape!) that he didn't destroy the league instantly upon arriving. Well I think he might have figured it out, folks. Just maybe.

Hernandez was just a young spare outfield part in Houston when Toronto traded Francisco Liriano for him (and Nori Aoki... remember him?). He proceeded to mash for half a season, be a roughly overall average bat for a year while striking out a zillion million times, struggle so much in 2019 that he got sent down to AAA, come back and now become this version of himself. Really his biggest change has been making more contact: batting average can be an overrated stat but going from a .230 hitter to a .285 one is a significant difference. Teo still isn't a very good outfielder at all (Sunday was a rough one for him) but at least the blunders seem less frequent.

Semien sure looks like he's been on a mission to prove his 2019 year was no fluke. A middle infielder who gives you a roughly .290/.345/.540 line is a pretty damn valuable player to have on your side. What has impressed me most is just how steady he is defensively: there's rarely a bobbling of the ball (*cough* Bo *cough*), he gets to everything he should and 99 out of 100 times makes a perfect throw. Remember he hadn't played second base in half a decade, and while 2B is much less demanding than shortstop sure, there is still a different kind of mobility and athleticism required when comparing those two positions. He's gonna get paid this winter, but that's a conversation I'm much less eager to have than other people apparently. For now, enjoy this stud ballplayer playing for your ball club. I know I do.

The YouTube Broadcast

It was definitely a different experience watching this compared to the usual Sportsnet crew (Shulman is still so, so good and elevates whichever of Martinez or Tabler he's paired with). What I liked most were not just the use of advanced stats but actually explaining in a helpful way what they actually mean or why they are such indicators of particular skill (for people watching who may not know). The occasional graphic of what pitch a pitcher had thrown in that at-bat was also a very nice touch, and I'd much much prefer that over the stupid strike box every broadcast now superimposes over home plate. What? No you get off my lawn!

High Time... Cimber-line

The Blue Jays were really Up The Khyber with their bullpen, so they went off and spent some cash (Green Is The Colour after all) by absorbing Corey Dickerson's contract along with reliever Adam Cimber in hopes that their Crying Song with the relief core would end.

(yeah... I recently wrote an article about Pink Floyd).

Cimber is pretty interesting though, a useful pitcher and a fun one to watch with that funky arm angle stuff. I have a soft spot for knuckleballers and submariners (that aren't Darren O'Day) just because they do something unconventional and are slowly disappearing from a modern game so obsessed with velocity. Plus he wears #90. Is he the first Blue Jay to ever do that? Mags help me out!

The Little League That Could

As it is about to begin again this upcoming Saturday, it feels a good time to mention the Toronto Men's Baseball League is about to kick off its sixteenth season this summer. The TMBL of course can trace its beginnings to this very website, when back in 2006 poster/contributor Jobu asked if anybody was interested in playing some pickup hardball. There was enough interest (eighteen year old me among them) to form the then TBBL (Toronto Bauxite Baseball League) and eventually play an entire season at Smythe Park, where the league still plays to this day. The league has rapidly improved in quality over the years, from being basically a "bring your friends for casual baseball" to having multiple serious ballplayers who have played High Park, East York programs, Ontario college ball. We even had a guy who played in the Intercounty League one year. I'm certainly no ringer, but I've settled in as a pesky hitting utility player as my wonky shoulder has lessened my once blazing 52 mph junk fastball (heh).

Only myself and original White Sox coach during that inaugural year, Mike K, have played every season. So here's to another good one, and a shout out to the many other readers and contributors on here who have also played in the league over the years. This one is for all of you as well. 

Bottom of the Fourth

Ryu Versus Guile

There's no question the ace of the Blue Jays pitching staff has been struggling the past month. A lot of this has aligned with the departure of Danny Jansen to the injured list, and Magpie I think recently made a good point about Ryu being a rhythm pitcher: somebody who prefers a catcher who can think along with him and thus there won't be many instances where he shakes off his catcher. There is something to that, and for a pitcher like Ryu who has to be so precise and fine with hitting corners and changing speeds... just adding another challenge to all of that can be problematic. I recently read a Twitter thread with some interesting statistical insight: basically that Ryu's biggest issue in his bad June wasn't decreased spin rate or a drop in velocity... it was that he was just throwing bad pitches over the heart of the plate, especially his cutter... while his off speed stuff was missing those valuable corners. Jansen is now back, and it will be curious to see how Ryu does throwing again to his preferred backstop.

The YouTube Broadcast

I do like roundtable discussion-like shows... I've semi-recently become a fan of Red Letter Media and their hilariously boozy insights into what makes terrible movies so terrible. That format is a little bit different when broadcasting a live baseball game, and harder to capture that type of off the cuff comradery. RLM videos usually feature a bunch of dudes who are filmmaking friends and have long established on screen chemistry, heck even Mystery Science Theatre 3000 back in the day would watch a movie a few times to come up with interesting jokes. Trying to capture that type of discourse, with a bunch of random commenters who haven't worked together nearly as much, while live... it's no surprise the conversations constantly seemed directionless, random complaints of the 2021 game, or just dumb. It's also irritating that the female commentator, Sarah Land, seemed stuck in the Hazel Mae role of giving on-field reporter/various updates because Mark DeRosa and Brian Kenny talked endlessly about nonsense over each other. Kenny by the way is bloody terrible: we give Buck and Tabby a lot of (well deserved) grief about not following the game when going off on vague tangents... Kenny though just would not shut the heck up at any moment, like he was in the movie Speed and he'd explode if he stopped talking obnoxiously for five seconds. Let the game breathe, dude.  

Link In The Lost (Chat)woods

I'm pretty done with this guy. Those 1/3 appearances where he looks like he'll never figure out how to throw a strike again, and doesn't... that's just not gonna fly. It'd be nice if he didn't get so upset when he gets pulled in those instances also. I get the competitiveness but... come on man. 

Around The League In 80 Days!

Schwarber's Shots -- In 21 games as the Nationals leadoff hitter this season, a position he only assumed in early June... Kyle Schwarber has hit 16 home runs and has a batting line of .338/.416/.974. Small sample size rules apply, sure, but that's one heck of a sample. It's helped Washington sneak back into the playoff race and probably means we won't be seeing Max Scherzer drop his pants elsewhere in 2021 (sorry, I just find that whole thing hilarious).

Miracle By The Bay --  With a record of 53-30, the best team in baseball right now is... the San Francisco Giants? Who on Earth saw that coming.

The Giants surprising success has been fueled by two major factors. First, a bunch of mid 30s veteran hitters rediscovering their prime form (Longoria, Posey, Crawford, Belt) while supported by a strong... um supporting cast. San Francisco is second in the National League in runs scored. Their other ticket has been starting pitchers who likewise seemed washed up, only now to reach heights their former organizations couldn't have even dreamed of. Kevin Gausman might start the all-star game (I mean, if Jacob deGrom didn't exist)... Anthony DeScalfani is 8-3 with a sub 3 ERA... Alex Wood has been healthy and basically slightly worse than Robbie Ray... Jake McGee is a lights out closer... Johnny Cueto has given them good innings... it's insane how much lightning they've caught in this bottle.

Will it last? Maybe. Depends on the pitching (as most of these things do): they're also second in the NL in ERA at 3.26, thanks to that strong rotation and steady bullpen. It's a heck of a division though with the Dodgers and Padres breathing down your neck, but at the very least... barring catastrophe... I'm pretty confident the two NL wildcard teams will be the silver and bronze winners of the NL West. Which doesn't bode well for the...

Cincinnati Reds -- As Da Box's resident Reds fan, well it seems like they're in that dreaded middle ground. They've won as many games as the Mets (with three more losses) but instead of leading a division they're seven back of the first place Milwaukee Brewers. They score lots of runs, headlined by two elite hitters in Jesse Winker and Nick Castellanos, but give up a whole lot of them too (12th in NL ERA) thanks to a very questionable bullpen. Huh, sounds familiar.

Hard to say what they're going to do, since with the NL West so strong at the top three, the Reds likely need to win the Central to make the playoffs. They've been flirting with .500 most of the season (also familiar) but in this case they're going to have to win some games in these next few weeks before the trade deadline, chisel away at the Brewers lead, to perhaps be a buyer at the deadline instead of a seller. Though to be honest, it's kinda hard to think what they'd sell anyway beyond starters Sonny Gray or Wade Miley. Starter Luis Castillo has had a horrible year, Mike Moustakas is on the 60 day IL, Eugenio Suarez is batting .176/.258/.369 with such dreadful defense they moved him back to third base, Joey Votto makes a zillion dollars a year (I'd still take him though) and their bullpen (outside of Tejay Antone and Brad Brach) might be worse than Toronto's. And like Toronto, July will be a critical month in deciding the fortunes of their 2021 season.

All right everybody, enjoy the off day.