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Everything is coming together, it seems, for the Red Sox. David Ortiz has won the DH job, and he's flourished. The bullpen's roles have solidified, and they've flourished. Johnny Damon's been dropped in the order, and he's played better with less pressure. Can the Jays take them down a notch with a big weekend?

It'll be tough, and trotting out John Wasdin in the very ballpark where he earned his infamous nickname seems almost gratuitous. Similarly, Pedro Martinez against Kelvim Escobar (we'll call this edition "Rested Kelvim") will obviously also be a tough matchup. But I do like Halladay and Lowe this evening, provided the hitting switch can be flipped back on.

Meanwhile, the Jays get to trot out their shiny new outfielder/DH this weekend. It'll be interesting to see Carlos Tosca's lineup construction over the weekend.

On to the Advance Scout!
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Here's a thread I've been wanting to start for some time: what are your favourite baseball books? (Other than Baseball Prospectus, Moneyball, and the Bill James collection, of course.)
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The players and managers cared about the outcome in an exciting All-Star Game. The Toronto dynamic duo made us proud, contributing with their bats and their gloves, and Doc got to watch, so it couldn't have been much better for Jays fans. A Myers pinch-hit single would have been nice.

From Richard Griffin's column in the Star:

"It was almost like watching a regular-season game in terms of managerial strategies and intensity of players. The new slogan for the All-Star Game, "This Time it Counts," seemed appropriate in the comeback victory for the American League."

This is better than alternating years, or a coin flip. Bud got one right, I was wrong. The players took it more seriously than I expected, and the unwritten rules about using your roster have been modified. His manager should be co-MVP for leaving him in there, but Garret Anderson's pretty good, eh?
As detailed in this article, the Blue Jays have traded Shannon Stewart and a PTBNL to the Twins for Bobby Kielty.
Laments Jim Caple on ESPN's Page Two.. Caple and Eric Neel are doing a tour of all the major league ballparks (lucky stiffs) and awarding points as they go.

Skydome gets 66 (better than the Big O at 49 but a way behind Pac Bells 91). Though many of the points seem to be awarded due to the close proximity of Hooters and a bizarre love of 'Lets go Blue Jays'.

The overall assessment ' a pretty decent place to watch a game'.
Rickey Henderson, who was recently named MVP of the Atlantic League's All-Star Game, is back in MLB after signing with the Dodgers.

Rickey's back!
In case anyone is interested, Rob Neyer today will be on Seattle's public radio station, KUOW, at about 5:00 p.m. Toronto time. He'll be discussing his latest book (of course) and the evolution of the Mariners, among other topics.

I'm not 100 percent sure you can listen on-line, but I'm darn close to being 100 percent sure, which is darn more reliable than some darn people have been lately.

Here's the link.
About 2 weeks ago, I posted mid-season park factors, adjusted for road park. Here I will present current factors calculated using the same method, as well as Offensive and Defensice rankings based on park-adjusted runs per inning.

I recommend that a park factor composed of 70% 2003 and 30% 2002 be used to evaluate a player's offensive or a pitcher's defensive contributions. Nevertheless, only the 2003 park factors were used to derive the team offence and defence rankings.

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There was only one objection to the idea of offseason trading in our Yahoo league. What remains to be determined is exactly when it will occur. In last week's BBFL thread, there were a couple of good suggestions, and many of you made comments in your e-mail votes. The floor is now open for more specific proposals and discussion. I like the idea of both a post-season trading period, and a window immediately prior to freezing keepers for next year's draft. I don't even care if it's unlimited trading all winter, but some may object to that. Thanks to Spicol for volunteering to maintain the offseason rosters, and with Da Box moving to yet another bigger and better server this month, I'm sure we'll be able to have some league pages on the site.

The proposal to add a fifth keeper also passed, receiving 15 "yes" votes and four reasonable objections. By a 12-7 margin, we chose to maintain the status quo on OF eligibility. Because it's a first-year league, the Head-to-Head format was new to many, and there had been much debate about our scoring categories, I thought there might have been other concerns, but we seem quite content. At the "winter meetings" we can talk about additional rule modifications, including "no more midseason changes," which at least one owner strongly supports. The suggestion to process undisputed trades faster in the future is worth discussing, and other ideas may be forthcoming.
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My new article discussing Baseball Primer's All-Star selections, complete with misspelling of Brendan Donnelly's name, has just been posted. I'll take this opportunity to let the Boxites (Bauxites?) name their own All-Star teams. Hey, it's better than contemplating twelve Blue Jays losses in fifteen games.
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Jordan's away this week, but a few results from the farm yesterday are worth mentioning. Vince Perkins, in a FSL doubleheader against Daytona: No runs, one hit, three walks, nine strikeouts in 5.2 IP. Brandon League, in the other game: One run, three hits, two walks and three Ks in 7 IP. Nice bookends; Vinny's using up his pitch count quicker. Tim Whittaker (.364 OBP) caught both games for Dunedin, going 3-for-8 with two runs and 3 RBI.

Auburn won again, and though Vermilyea and Mulholland weren't completely untouchable this time, RH Shaun Marcum struck out four of the five batters he faced. That's four scoreless pro appearances totalling six innings for the Jays' third round pick, a converted shortstop who also closed for Southwest Missouri State. He's allowed three hits and two walks while striking out ten.

The news wasn't as good in Syracuse, where Kevin Cash had a double and a couple of walks, but RH Juan Pena was lit up again in relief, and Gabe Gross went 0-for-4.

Alexis Rios, on his Futures Game homer off Clint Nageotte: "Fastball away, I hit that all day." Lexi has talent and confidence.
If the Yankees had won yesterday, the Jays would be only two games over .500 and we'd all be holding our breath today at the Escobar-on-short-rest experiment. Thanks to those terrific two-out at-bats by Clark, Woodward, Stewart and Catalanotto in the seventh, four games over looks very different. The six-run explosion in the eighth was a collective sigh of relief turning into a celebration, and the Toronto hitters can continue the party this afternoon against Jeff Weaver, a winner just once in his last eight starts. Carlos Delgado has ripped the chronic underachiever to the tune of 480/649/840 and Eric Hinske (438/471/938) is also looking forward to more batting practice. This season, the Jays beat Weaver at the Dome in May, though Jeff shut them out (3 hits in 7.2 IP) in the Bronx during their April funk.

Super Kelvim got the W on the road against the Yankees May 23 in just his second start, lasting five innings. They will see a stronger, more confident version today. Escobar is overdue for a little luck; he has a loss and two no-decisions to show for his last three starts, which were all pretty good. "Luck" includes a little help from the 'pen for a change, but they shouldn't use Acevedo today; Juan had a lot on his mind Saturday, which had an obvious negative affect on his performance. The only lineup shuffle for the Jays has Hudson returning to 2B, giving Tosca a .400-hitting lefty stick off the bench.
Well, here we are. At the All-Star Break, the Blue Jays are 49-46, 3 games above .500, 9 games out of first place in the AL East, and 7 games out of the Wild Card spot (behind Boston, Anaheim and Oakland). The consensus is that they’re out of contention for a playoff spot, and that the selling of free-agency-eligible veterans is about to begin. The most important thing to keep in mind at this juncture, I submit, is that the Jays are pretty much right where they ought to be. If they stay at this current pace, they’ll finish with 83.5 wins, which seems to be par for the expected course.
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I'll be brief this morning, and I'll start with something that has been bugging me for a couple of weeks now. While the D-Backs were in the middle of their 12-game winning streak, I heard the same comment being uttered by myriad broadcast outlets: "Just think how they would be doing if they had Schilling and Johnson!" This is akin to saying, "Just think if Roy Halladay didn't give up all those home runs during his ten-start winning streak!"
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The American League will need some of its other pitchers to step up in Chicago on Tuesday, because two of its very best will be tired. Mike Mussina, who was scintillating against Pedro Martinez in a huge win last time out (8 IP, 2 hits, 1 BB, 9 K, no decision) takes on Roy Halladay, returning a day early after a brilliant nine-inning, one-run effort against the Red Sox last Tuesday.

Doc was excellent the only other time he's pitched on three days' rest this year, allowing just two unearned runs against the Expos. However, he's 1-2, 4.66 against the Yankees in 2003 (few of us can forget the disappointment of opening day) and there's reason to be concerned -- Posada, Williams and Giambi have hit him quite well over the years. The Moose is 2-1, 3.60 this season vs. the Jays, who he's always handled well. Only Frank Catalanotto (452/485/806 in 31 AB) has had any real success against him; he's completely baffled Hinske, and while Carlos Delgado does have 3 HR, he is hitting .200 in 70 career AB against Mussina. Greg Myers (thumb) is back in the lineup, and after two games at his best position, Shannon Stewart returns to left field. Conspicuous by his absence is Orlando Hudson; Howie Clark starts at 2B.