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Pat Hentgen will probably get a warm greeting from SkyDome fans who remember his Cy Young season in 1996, one of seven consecutive years with at least 10 wins for Toronto. The current Blue Jays may not be as welcoming. Since his Tommy John surgery in 2001, Hentgen is more of a finesse guy than a hard thrower, and he'll need pinpoint control to keep these hitters off balance.

It's almost the same lineup as last night -- Cat and Hinske at the top, Kielty in RF moving up a notch (he's between Delgado and Wilson) and Phelps at DH, batting seventh. Reed "Sparkplug" Johnson is on the bench, along with Chris "E-6" Woodward.

Mark Hendrickson had a nightmare start the last time the Orioles visited, but bounced back to beat them in Baltimore, and is coming off seven shutout innings against the Yankees, his best game of the year. Anything resembling that effort should be enough to keep his team in the game.
Runs were at an absolute premium last night, except in Pulaski, where the P-Jays scored more times than all the other Blue Jay minor-league squads combined. Happily, there were some excellent pitching performances to counterbalance the offensive droughts.
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This is a list of the top 40 MLB pitchers calculated by DIPS runs below replacement. I use the "Quick DIPS" ERA (the only one I can calculate using Doug Steele's stats which don't include IBB) but it's good enough. These are NOT park-adjusted, and are based on July 23 numbers. I'm going to try to post park-adjusted numbers later, in this thread. Replacement level is a 5.50 DIPS ERA, about equivalent to 5.8 runs allowed per game.

For entertainment purposes only. Not to be taken internally.
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The Greatest Player In History(TM) did it again last night. Throws out the go-ahead run at the plate to end the top of the ninth, hits a sayonara home run on the next pitch.

Anyone got any favourite Barry memories? Let's try not to bring up his personality this time, it's more fun talking about the player than the man.
I think Jays fans might be stuck with Cory Lidle. It's hard to imagine J.P. Ricciardi can get anything worthwhile in return, the way he's been pitching lately. A snazzy 10.80 ERA in July (and an opponents' average of .390 for the month) will hardly inspire some rival GM to pin his pennant hopes on a trade. Even worse are Lidle's numbers this year against the Orioles. In two starts, he's lasted a total of eight innings, allowing 18 hits -- that's a .419 clip -- and 13 earned runs (14.63 ERA). He should intentionally walk Jeff Conine every time up to minimize the damage; in 16 career AB, Conine has 11 hits, including 3 HR, and an OPS of 2.000! Melvin Mora and Tony Batista have also owned Lidle, so this may not be pretty. Or, with scouts in the stands, he may suddenly find his missing command and confidence. Not very likely, but we can hope.

The Jays have done all right over the years against Jason Johnson, who beat them for the first time ever on July 3, to improve to 1-7, 7.09 for his career against Toronto. The righty's been pretty good in his last two starts, however. Maybe Carlos Delgado can recapture his home run stroke, absent for 16 games. He's gone deep twice before off Johnson, and has a .447 OBP against him. Josh Phelps returns to action against a pitcher he's hit well (2 HR in 11 AB). Jayson Werth was sent back down to make room for the DH, and Dan Reichert was also farmed out, with Cliff Politte rejoining the club. Frank Catalanotto leads off in Carlos Tosca's latest innovative lineup, with Eric Hinske batting second. Reed Johnson and Chris Woodward get the night off. Bobby Kielty's in RF, batting sixth between Myers and Phelps.

A Baltimore win would put the O's just a game and a half behind the Jays in the standings, and these teams don't seem to like each other, so it should be an interesting series.
Although the Jays' minor-league affiliates went 3-3 yesterday, there weren't a great deal of strong performances by good prospects. Cam Reimers and John Wesley are doing their best to deserve our attention; is their best good enough?
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The Orioles can't really be considered a laughingstock this weekend, as they've been getting very good starting pitching (Rodrigo Lopez excepted) and have been swinging hot bats. Like Chicago, the O's come to Toronto playing their best ball of the season; unlike Chicago, the O's share a division with excellent clubs that will relegate them to selling mode this week.

Baltimore is a club with some important decisions to make. They have a nucleus of young players that might make them an interesting team in the next few years, and they're not in any pressing need to cut payroll. But the O's minor-league system is talent-thin, and this remains a flawed club at the big-league level.

Does Baltimore sell extensively and re-stock their AA cupboard? Do they hold pat with their non-Jurassic players and plan on adding a few parts in the offseason with an eye on competing? Or do they make an old-fashioned baseball trade, shipping out a surplus infielder and acquiring a needed left fielder, shortstop or catcher? Certainly, the O's should dump the Surhoffs, Grooms and Seguis of the world on desperate contenders. But how high is, say, Melvin Mora's trade value right now? Options abound.

And while Sir Sidney Ponson is unlikely to command the eight figures he's seeking as a 26-year-old free agent, he's absolutely certain to decline the Orioles' offer of $5M a season. Do the Orioles quicken the heretofore glacial pace of contract negotiations, if for no other reason than to figure out whether to trade him now?

This series should be interesting, both on the field and off.

On to the Advance Scout!
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Maybe someone should pull the thorn out of his paw. Brandon Lyon, damaged goods.
Another update from John Neary, with some good news about some highly touted prospects at Triple-A Syracuse. The pitching lines aren't quite as good lower in the minors, though. Thanks, John!
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An interesting article showed up in my Inbox anonymously (the sender forgot to add an identifying message). The story, published yesterday by UPI out of Los Angeles, takes a closer look at the whole "White Jays" controversy and the evolving nature of organizational decision-making viewed from a race-based standpoint. The story has more than a few holes, but it does make a lot of good points, including the fact (as we've already discussed here) that Jackie Robinson was the perfect sabrmetric player. It's worth a read, and I'd be interested in people's comments.

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The basis of Craig's hypothesis is the fact that the Yankees are comfortably ahead of the pack in terms of DIPS ERA (DIPS is an acronym coined by Voros McCracken for Defence Independent Pitching Stats). DIPS ERA assumes that pitchers control only HBP, W, K and HR and then fills in the rest of the stats based on league average performance, so that the effects of "fielding" are filtered out.

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It's Jon Garland vs. Kelvim Escobar tonight in the finale of this two-game "series." Howie Clark is leading off and playing left field, Bobby Kielty hits sixth and mans right field, while shortstop Mike Bordick finishes the lineup off, sending Chris Woodward to the bench, where, hopefully, he'll watch some videos of Ozzie Smith. Heck, Ozzie and Harriet might help.
Rob Neyer chats with JP Ricciardi in his latest column. It's good stuff, with some funny parts -- the photo of Ricciardi and Tosca looks like they're doing a Gilbert & Sullivan operetta -- and one funny-yet-alarming part.

Funny: Derek Jeter might not have the greatest first step, but he can roll out of bed in January and hit line drives wherever he likes. This column isn't about Derek Jeter (though the Good Lord knows the world could use another column about Derek Jeter).

Funny: When you talk to a general manager in July, you have to ask if he's got any trades in the works. Ricciardi didn't miss a beat: "Keith Law for Paul DePodesta." (That's an inside joke, for the benefit of both me and Law, who was within earshot.)

Alarming: Finally, I asked Ricciardi a question, variations of which I've been asking a lot of people in recent weeks ... "With more and more teams following -- or trying to follow -- the Oakland A's model, where will you find your edge in five or six years?"

Ricciardi smiled. "In five or six years I'll be gone, coaching high school basketball somewhere, so I won't give a s---."

He's just kidding ... right?
If you're not familiar with the ongoing discussion about the "first annual" award to be presented by Da Box, the Joaquin Andujar YouNeverKnow Award competition was announced here on Groundhog Day.

The purpose of the award is to recognize, within certain defined parameters, the best offseason free agent acquisition, where "best" also means "most surprising."

The leader heading into the final 18 holes of play this season? No surprise -- it's former Jay Esteban Loaiza. But the field is still wide open as we head down the homestretch. (That's both a golf and a horseracing metaphor so far ... can anyone work in some sort of bowling or billiards terminology?)

Let's review.
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Coach was kind enough to let me archive my Rich Harden post for, so here it is. Denizens of Da Box can ignore this. readers may plow forward at their discretion.
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