Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Introducing Brett Lawrie's New Moustache


Over the course of their career, many great baseball players briefly experiment with facial hair. Baseball and moustaches are a time-honoured tradition, and although they're not as prominent today as they once were, that doesn't make moustaches any less spectacular.

Ordinarily, Blue Jays player's facial hair developments might not be deemed as newsworthy. However, I admittedly have a strange affinity for baseball moustaches (example: Jose Bautista's short-lived moustache) and of course, it's Brett Lawrie.

Brett arrived to the park yesterday with a new piece of equipment in his arsenal; a brand new moustache. And since players are naturally creatures of habit, it looks like Lawrie's good luck charm isn't going anywhere any time soon.

After his go-ahead three run home run, it looked like Brett Lawrie was indicating to his teammates that he was onto something by sporting his new cookie duster.

Check out a GIF after the jump of Lawrie looking very mischievous with his new moustache.

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Brandon Morrow: Bringing the Heat, Not the Innings


Strikeouts and velocity are two things that have never really been a problem for Brandon Morrow. Over the course of his career, he's averaged 9.4 strikeouts per 9 innings and posted an average fastball velocity of 94 miles per hour. Impressive to say the least.

But one thing that has been a problem for Brandon Morrow? Racking up innings.

It really should come as no surprise that these problems are plaguing Brandon Morrow once again, and yet for some reason ... it is. The Blue Jays need Brandon Morrow is eat up innings, and he has yet to pitch into the seventh inning this season.

As it currently stands, Brandon Morrow currently owns the fourth fastest average fastball velocity in the American League at 93.6 MPH. In his first four starts of the season, Morrow has averaged 95, 96, 93 and 94 miles per hour on his fastball.

So velocity is not an issue with Brandon Morrow. Control however, is an issue. On that same token, here are Brandon Morrow's pitch counts from his first four starts: 87, 86, 98 and 95. And his innings pitched? 5 innings, 6 innings, 3.2 innings and 5 innings.

Drew and Stoeten touched on this during yesterday's DJF podcast, but if it were as simple as throwing fastballs all the time, Brandon Morrow would just blow four-seamers past everyone. For whatever reason, he just hasn't been able to locate that pitch.

It's easy to became enamoured with a guy who still hits 98-99 MPH on the radar gun (see Jeremy Jeffress), but Morrow can't control his fastball or get batters to chase it outside the strike zone, what's the point?

Gregg Zaun spoke about this on Sportsnet, but he believes the reason why Brandon Morrow isn't going deep into games is because he's throwing the kitchen sink at every batter. Meaning, opposing hitters are seeing three and four different kinds of pitches per at bat.

Not only is this increasing Morrow's pitch count, but it's also allowing hitters to make adjustments on the fly and adapt in their subsequent at bats. There may be some validity in Zaun's theory, as it would explain why Morrow has no trouble the first time through the order, only to find out the opposing team has caught on by the time the lineup turns over.

For the most part, this is the way Brandon Morrow has always been.

There was a brief period there in 2012 when he sort of took a step back and evolved into a "pitch to contact guy", but since then Brandon Morrow has reverted back into his previous strikeout-focused self.

When you're a strikeout pitcher like Morrow, it's going to lead to increased pitch counts. Even if a pitcher struck out 27 batters on nothing but strikes, hit pitch count would still be 81.

The way things are trending, I don't know if we'll see Brandon Morrow pitch deep into games anymore. In 2011, Morrow peaked at 6.0 IP per start, and it's been trending downwards ever since (mind you he was hurt in 2012 and 2013).

Morrow has thrown 100 or more pitches in only 14 games the past three years combined. That's not even half of the 35 starts he's made since the beginning of the 2012 season.

For the sake of comparison, Mark Buehrle had 20 starts where he tossed 100 pitches 20 times last year alone.

At no point has Brandon Morrow really garnered a reputation as a pitcher who has the ability to pitch deep into games. Aside from that great pre All-Star break run before his abdominal injury in 2012, five and six innings a start were pretty much the norm.

I believe the whole issue with Brandon Morrow is expectations. Firstly, because the Blue Jays didn't go out and bolster the starting rotation, they were inherently forced to rely on Morrow's contributions that much more.

And secondly, Brandon Morrow's first half of 2012 has been used as the measuring stick for his potential for years. People thought that was just the tip of the iceberg when it came to Morrow, but perhaps it was just his peak instead.

Morrow had three complete game shutouts within the span of seven starts in May/June of 2012, arguably the best stretch of his career. But here's the thing; that was almost two years ago and he has not recaptured that magic since.

Don't get me wrong; Brandon Morrow has a great deal of promise and could very well still be an effective pitcher. At times, he is joy to watch work on the mound and has a knack for carving up opposing hitters.

But the Blue Jays have been burned one too many times when it comes to potential "aces". Until Brandon Morrow can prove he's worthy of that title, he'll remain a mid-level starting pitcher.

Image courtesy of David Richard-USA TODAY Sports

Friday, April 18, 2014

Flashback Friday: Kelly Gruber Hits for the Cycle


A single, a double, a triple, and a home run. Most players would be happy to collect each of these within a single week of play. But there are select few that have done it all in one game.

Hitting for the cycle is an extremely rare feat in Major League Baseball. It's happened just over 300 times since 1882, and only two players have ever done it in a Toronto Blue Jays uniform.

In honour of the 25th anniversary of this momentous occasion, this week's Flashback Friday takes a look back at Kelly Gruber's cycle from April 16th, 1989; the first cycle in Blue Jays history.

Dave Stieb took to the hill for the Blue Jays and was coming off a complete game one-hitter in his previous start. His cohorts eventually put some runs on the board, but not before allowing the Royals to jump out to a 6-0 lead in the first inning.

Stieb was yanked from the game after retiring only one batter and allowing the first six batters in the Royals lineup reach base. So after being down 6-0 in the first frame, the Blue Jays had an uphill battle, but Gruber single-handedly got them back in the game.

Gruber drove in a total of six runs, and went 4 for 4 on the day. Here's the sequence of how his at bats played out.

Inn ▴ Batter Pitcher Play Description
b1 K. Gruber F. Bannister Home Run (Fly Ball to Deep LF Line)
b2 K. Gruber F. Bannister Double to LF (Line Drive to LF Line)
b7 K. Gruber T. Gordon Triple to RF (Fly Ball to Deep CF-RF)
b8 K. Gruber J. Gleaton Single to CF (Fly Ball to Short LF-CF)

Also an interesting fact, current Blue Jays hitting coach Kevin Seitzer was playing third base for the Kansas City Royals that very game.

Of course, in some strange coincidence, Kelly Gruber just so happened to be in attendance at the Skydome some 12 years later when Jeff Frye became the second Toronto Blue Jay to hit for the cycle. As rare as it is to hit for the cycle, what are the odds of that happening?

Kelly Gruber has kind of become a good luck charm when it comes to hitting a cycle. So if Gruber ever shows up at a Blue Jays game again, chances are a player has a decent shot at making history ... just like he did.

Images courtesy of Getty Images

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Sergio Santos Makes History (Not in a Good Way)


It was a implosion of epic proportions; there is no other way to put it. It made for one horrible night for the Toronto Blue Jays. Deadspin deemed it one of the ugliest innings ever, but it was an especially ugly inning for one man in particular.

In a 9-5 loss to the Minnesota Twins, Sergio Santos had the dubious honour of making MLB history. He did what no other pitcher has ever done before.

Sergio Santos became the first pitcher in MLB history to throw three wild pitches in one game and not record a single out.

Sure, pitchers have thrown three or more pitchers in an inning, but at least they've retired a batter. Sergio Santos did not. Tack on the three walks surrendered by Santos and you have what was an overall horrendous outing by the on-again off-again Blue Jays closer.

Here's the sequence of events:

Score Batter Pitcher Play Description
Sergio Santos replaces Steve Delabar pitching
Trevor Plouffe pinch hits for Aaron Hicks (CF) batting 8th
3-5 T. Plouffe S. Santos Walk
Kurt Suzuki pinch hits for Eduardo Escobar (SS) batting 9th
3-5 K. Suzuki S. Santos Wild Pitch; Pinto Scores; Herrmann to 3B; Plouffe to 2B
Pedro Florimon pinch runs for Trevor Plouffe (PH) batting 8th
4-5 K. Suzuki S. Santos Walk, Wild Pitch; Herrmann Scores; Florimon to 3B
Darin Mastroianni pinch runs for Kurt Suzuki (PH) batting 9th
5-5 B. Dozier S. Santos Mastroianni Steals 2B
5-5 B. Dozier S. Santos Walk, Wild Pitch; Florimon Scores; Mastroianni to 3B

Sergio Santos threw a total of 16 pitches in that outing, four of them being strikes and 12 of them being balls. Whether it was the weather or otherwise, Santos simply could not find the strike zone, as his pitches hit the dirt time and time again.

It was an ugly, ugly inning overall, and in this particular instance, the ability to forget a game like this and look forward to the next series is the only way to move on.

Hat tip to @Noah_Sherman for the info. Image courtesy of Getty Images
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