Vernon’s Homecoming Party

Monday, August 31, 2009  |  by 

When Vernon Wells returns to his hometown of Arlington Texas tonight, he will enjoy seeing some familiar faces in the stands at Rangers Ballpark.

One of those familiar faces will likely be his father, Vernon. Wells is the third generation of Vernon’s within his family, so technically he is Vernon Wells III. Wells undoubtedly discovered his love of sports through his father, who dabbled in baseball and football, spending some time in the CFL with the Calgary Stampeders.

Vernon Jr. is also quite the accomplished painter. Just check out his website for a portfolio of some of his beautiful oil paintings that truly capture the essence of the game of baseball. He has become a critically acclaimed sports artist who is very well respected within the industry.

Along with his family and friends, Wells III will also be looking to seeing his friend and fellow major leaguer Michael Young. Along with Cesar Izturis, Wells and Young got their first crack at professional baseball playing in St. Catharines for the New York Penn League. The two have remained friends to this day, even though Young was traded to the Rangers back in 2000.

Although they might not necessarily be under the circumstances that Vernon would have liked, tonight will be his homecoming party and hopefully he can show his family and the Blue Jays that he's worth $126 million.

This Weekend in Pictures

They say that a picture is worth a thousands words - I beg to differ. Looking at the collage above from this past weekend's series at Fenway against the Red Sox, my feelings can be expressed in just three words: FML.

I hate to be a Debbie Downer, but this is definitely the low point in the season for the Toronto Blue Jays. Going from 13 games above .500 to 12 games below .500 is a slippery slope that the Jays have been falling down ever since mid-May. Their combined 17-37 record against division rivals is enough evidence to show that they just cannot get it done against teams in the American League East.

Maybe this road trip deep in the heart of Texas is what they need to snap out of it.

Ruiz swinging for the fences

Sunday, August 30, 2009  |  by 

"Chicks dig the long ball" - Greg Maddux, 1999 Nike Commercial
I'm not sure if Randy Ruiz has a significant other or not, but he's certainly swinging for the fences hoping to impress the ladies. Unfortunately, just like sluggers such as Ryan Howard and Carlos Pena, Ruiz is going to strike out far more often than anything else.

That was especially evident during Friday night's game against the Red Sox when he went 0 for 3 with three strikeouts. Josh Beckett and Daniel Bard made him look silly, as Ruiz chased pitches outside of the zone and swung 9 out of 10 times. Thanks to Brooks Baseball once again for the Pitch F/X below.

I don't mean to pick on a guy who only has 37 career games in Major League Baseball, but Ruiz had no business swinging at most of those pitches. As you'll notice on the Pitch F/X from the first at bat, Ruiz took a big cut on a pitch that was very inside, which actually probably would have hit him had he not swung completely through it.

In his second strikeout of the night against Beckett, Ruiz was tempted once again with inside pitches and was finished off with a cutter which was a good foot off the plate. Finally, Daniel Bard baffled Ruiz with three blistering fastballs ranging between 97-99 MPH.

His third strikeout of the night was somewhat excusable because the Blue Jays as a whole had difficulty catching up to Bard's fastball, but Ruiz needs to start developing some patience at the plate.

Looking at his advanced statistics, Ruiz tends to be aggressive early in the count swinging 51 % of the time at the first pitch. Ruiz also strikes out 31.8 percent of the time, which rivals other "Kings of K" such as Carlos Pena, Mark Reynolds, Adam Dunn and Ryan Howard.

Randy, remember that you don't always have to swing for the fences. Those infield singles can be pretty sexy, too.

Richmond under the bright lights at Fenway

Friday, August 28, 2009  |  by 

Scott Richmond has never been one to back down from a challenge. By now, we all know about his winding journey from the minor leagues which eventually led him to the big show last July. Just over one year removed from his first big league start, Richmond will pitch under the bright lights at Fenway Park for the first time in his career.

Richmond is winless in his last four starts and is overdue for a great game, so hopefully he can put together a strong start tonight. The maximum number of lefties the Bosox can send to the plate against Richmond is five, so that should work to his advantage. He should watch out for the hot-hitting David Ortiz, who’s clipping along with a .324 batting average along with five home runs and 13 RBI’s since last week.

More encouraging news for the Blue Jays - Vernon Wells has hit five career home runs off of Josh Beckett, more than any other active player in baseball. Four of those home runs came in 2006, but still! In fact, the Blue Jays hit Beckett very well – Scutaro, Hill, Overbay, Wells and Barajas are all career .300 hitters against him (minimum ten plate appearances).

In case you missed it last night, Red Sox shortstop Nick Green pitched two innings of scoreless relief. I can’t for the life of me remember the last time that the Blue Jays used a position player as a pitcher, but I can tell you that Jason Lane did toss an inning for the Las Vegas 51’s earlier this season.

I'll be liveblogging tonight's game over at The Score, so come check out it and cheer Richmond and the Blue Jays on to victory as they attempt to go for their second two-game win streak of the past week.

The Obligatory Scott Richmond Update

Thursday, August 27, 2009  |  by 

First off, let me start by apologizing to Scott Richmond. I have not forgotten about you, nor have I ignored your accomplishments this season. I hope you can forgive me.

Compared to reading this blog earlier this season, you might think that the Scott Richmond Kool-Aid has all but dried up around these parts. I assure you that it has not dried up, but merely gone into storage for a couple of months.

I feel bad because I championed Richmond as a member of the rotation at the start of Spring Training, and now it seems like I’ve all but abandoned him over these past few months. In an attempt to right some wrongs and to hopefully get back on his good side, just in time for his start against the Boston Red Sox tomorrow night, I’m back with the obligatory Scott Richmond update post.

We all remember the glory days from April where Richmond won the Rookie of the Month award after going 3-0 with a 2.70 ERA. Since the end of May, Scott has tapered off a little bit thanks to a 3-7 record and a 4.50 ERA. I can’t exactly pinpoint what went wrong or how things went downhill, but it probably had something to do with that fact that he threw 85 innings through the first three months of the 2009 campaign.

Compared to last year, Richmond has turned the dial up on his fastball by a few miles per hour and he’s also starting to rely more and more on his changeup. It’s starting to show because over his last six starts, Richmond has averaged about seven strikeouts per outing. No longer a two-pitch wonder, Scott has worked in a changeup and has fine-tuned his curveball to fool opposing hitters.

So where does Scott Richmond stand on the team? At this point it’s tough to say – the only surefire candidates to stay in the starting rotation next season are Halladay, Romero and Marcum. Those final two spots will probably be a fight between Cecil, Richmond, Rzepczynski and maybe even Brad Mills. Whether or not Richmond makes the rotation again next year, I think he will still be an asset to the Blue Jays organization as either a starting pitcher or a long relief man in the bullpen.

Kool aid, anyone?

Walk-off Wild Pitch

Wednesday, August 26, 2009  |  by 

Well, that was certainly one of the more creative ways to end a ballgame! A wild pitch with the bases loaded was enough to score Marco Scutaro and help the Blue Jays celebrate their fifth walk-off victory of the season.

Props to Marc Rzepczynski for keeping the game close through six innings. Thankfully, the bullpen kept it together long enough as Carlson, Downs and League combined for three innings of scoreless relief. I'm not sure how in the hell that's possible, but it actually happened.

I guess Alan Jackson wasn't in town tonight because Kevin Millar hit cleanup and played first base. He responded well to my criticism earlier today by going 1 for 3 with a walk. Proof once again that he feeds off the Blue Jays blogosphere's hatred/disappointment for him. LJ from The Te of Inglett suggested that we start calling him "Yousuck" to which I immediately agreed.

Honourable mention goes to Rod Barajas for tying the game with a pinch-hit home run in the ninth inning. For those scoring, that was the second pinch-hit home run of the season from Barajas, the first of which was June 16th against the Philadelphia Phillies.

Congratulations boys, take those victories any way you can get them!

Where in the World is Kevin Millar?

Despite our wishes of disdain, Kevin Millar is still somehow a member of the Toronto Blue Jays. It’s easy to assume that he’s been designated for assignment because Millar has only played in four games this month.

So like any great bench-warmer cast aside, Kevin Millar cowboyed up and joined Kenny Chesney on stage for a rendition of “Old Blue Chair”.

Actually, that's the inspiration for a new joke I just came up with - what's blue, has four legs and has seen more playing time than Kevin Millar? The stool that the ball boy sits on.

Hat tip to The Crowe’s Nest for the link.

Who is worse off - the Mets or the Blue Jays?

No matter how grim things are looking for the Toronto Blue Jays these days, they could always be worse. All you have to do is take a look at the New York Mets and see that even the second highest payroll in baseball doesn't always necessarily buy you a playoff spot.

The other day I was having a conversation with one of my coworkers who is a huge Mets fan, and he was telling me how Johan Santana is the latest in a long line of Metropolitans who have spent time on the DL this year. We looked into it and there have been 20 Mets in total on the disabled list in 2009, which includes six of their Opening Day starters and four of their starting pitchers.

The best explanation I've seen in the Mets blogosphere is that the 2009 Mets season is basically a baseball version of Final Destination which is seeking out each and every player and will eventually suck them all into the disabled list no matter what they do to try to avoid it.

So how does this relate to the Toronto Blue Jays?

Despite having a non-stop parade of injuries, the New York Mets are only ten games below five hundred. The Blue Jays have had just two of their position players suffer injuries this year (Michael Barrett and Edwin Encarnacion) yet the Mets and the Blue Jays have the exact same number of wins.

If I had to pick one poster boy for everything that has gone wrong with the Blue Jays this season, undoubtedly it would be Vernon Wells. Unless a miracle happens, Wells won't even match his totals in home runs and RBI's from last year (20 HR, 73 RBI) where he actually spent 51 games on the disabled list. Vernon Wells is on pace to hit only 17 home runs this year even though he's remained healthy and will probably start somewhere in the neighbourhood of 150 games.

Aside from injuries to the starting pitchers, the Blue Jays lineup has stayed relatively healthy through 2009. Even when the starters have been sent to the DL, the replacements have either lived up to or surpassed expectations.

All of these are great positives for the Blue Jays, but the fact remains that they only have the same amount of wins as the most injury-riddled team in the MLB. As a fan, which would you rather suffer through - having your team decimated by injuries, or slowly watch your team tumble downward into the abyss of disappointment?

The Mets might have a larger payroll and the Blue Jays might have a tougher schedule, but the unfortunate truth is that the New York Mets have a light at the end of the tunnel which is much brighter than the Blue Jays.

Summer Halladays

Tuesday, August 25, 2009  |  by 

Just a mere hours after I posted that Halladay is still one of the front-runners for the American League Cy Young Award, he tops his worst outing of the season on August 19th by giving up seven runs on 12 hits against the Rays. Following the 12-7 loss, Richard Griffin of the Toronto Star writes that Halladay is all but out of the Cy Young race. While I agree last night's debacle really hurt his chances, I don't think Doc is going to give up without a fight.

Griffin's argument is that 10 out of 13 of the last AL Cy Young winners have posted 20+ games. I honestly find it hard to believe that any of those candidates will reach 20 wins regardless. If C.C. Sabathia can somehow win his next five starts or Josh Beckett can buckle down and win his next six straight, there will not be a 20 game winner in the American League.

If that's the case, then the voters will look next at ERA and strikeouts, which Zack Greinke and Felix Hernandez have a pretty good handle on at the moment. Halladay's ERA has risen to 3.03, but it will certainly drop below 3.00 before the end of the season.

Three of Halladay's seven losses this season have come at the hands of the Tampa Bay Rays, and for some strange reason Doc has difficulty handling the Rays. Back to back rough starts from Halladay has not sunk his Cy Young chances yet, but he's on very thin ice with the Baseball Writers of America.

The Cy Young Chase

Monday, August 24, 2009  |  by 

With just six weeks remaining in the regular season, the chase for the American League Cy Young award is starting to take shape. As usual, Roy Halladay is one of the few who is up for consideration year after year. This season, there are a few dark horse candidates who could pull and upset and win their first Cy Young award, but in my opinion Doc is still the favourite to win his second Cy.

Halladay13 (3rd)2.78 (3rd)151 (6th)1.11 (2nd)1.16 (1st)6.57 (1st)3.09 (4th)
Greinke11 (8th)2.44 (1st)182 (2nd)1.14 (5th)1.97 (6th)4.79 (2nd)2.45 (1st)
Hernandez12 (7th)2.73 (2nd)173 (4th)1.19 (9th)2.73 (15th)3.20 (9th)3.10 (5th)
Beckett14 (2nd)3.65 (11th)154 (5th)1.13 (3rd)2.27 (10th)3.58 (6th)3.63 (8th)

Despite a lackluster win/loss record, Zack Greinke is actually Halladay's closest competition. Both pitchers rank in the top ten in the American League in the statistics above, but unfortunately for Zack Greinke, Cy Young voters place a lot of weight on how many wins and losses a pitcher has. This was one area which worked against Roy Halladay last year in his chances to win the Cy Young award.

Felix Hernandez is not too far behind Halladay and Greinke and if he makes a good run of starts between now and the end of September, King Felix could be the one to put Cy in his trophy case. Just for the sake to silence critics, I included Josh Beckett in the mix because he has the second most wins in the American League. In my mind, a Cy Young winner's ERA shouldn't be more than 3.00 and that's why a pitcher with a 3.65 ERA should automatically be taken out of consideration.

Honourable mention to Justin Verlander, but despite his 10.47 K per nine, his walk totals are a little high and those blowups earlier in the season really affected his ERA.

So even though Doc is coming off his worst start of 2009, he still has a pretty good chance to prove that he's the best pitcher in the American League. So long as the Blue Jays can continue to give Halladay some run support and he can pick up another three or four runs down the stretch, the odds of another Halladay Cy Young award are just a likely as Vernon Wells hitting 30 home runs this year.

Lazy Sunday Links

Sunday, August 23, 2009  |  by 

Well, after all that doom and gloom earlier this week the Blue Jays managed to put together a series win against the American League West division-leading Los Angeles Angels. With the win today, it wrapped up a week that saw many of us questioning our allegiance to the great Toronto Blue Jays.

To those who still feel like there is nothing left to look forward to this season, just think about how great it will be have Travis Snider (who went 3 for 3 today BTW) on the roster for the entire year, the possibility to see Randy Ruiz full time, and how the Blue Jays rookie starting pitchers will fare in 2010.

Elsewhere in the Blue Jays blogosphere and Blue Jays news:

It's been just over a year since Ice Cold Wayne was sent packing from the Rogers Centre, but thanks to some investigative journalism The Te of Inglett has him down.

I tweeted earlier today about by general disgust with Vernon Wells ability to finally turn his season around with 38 games left to play. Just in the month of August alone, Wells has 12 RBI's with 5 HR and a .752 OPS. There's nothing like finally living up to expectations with less than a third of the season remaining.

Remember that Vladimir Guerrero at bat late in the game earlier today? Well, if you wanted proof that Vladdy is the ultimate low ball hitter then check out the pitch f/x of the at bat. Even of a pitcher rolls the ball on the ground towards home plate, there is a good chance that Guerrero will make contact.

League and Carlson Follow-Up

Thursday, August 20, 2009  |  by 

In a post earlier this week I took a look into the recent struggles of Brandon League and Jesse Carlson. While there was some statistical evidence, it felt like I had just scratched the surface on explaining the downward spiral of these two pitchers who at one point were two of the most prized relievers in the Blue Jays bullpen.

Drew from Ghostrunner on First suggested that I venture a little further down into the rabbit hole and immerse myself in the statistics that would scare away an otherwise casual baseball fan. A few days later, after crunching the numbers and combing through pages and pages of statistics, I think I've come up with some more detailed explanations for Brandon League and Jesse Carlson's problems in 2009.

Brandon League 2008.271.7354.08
Brandon League 2009.322.6783.64
Jesse Carlson 2008.235.7703.55
Jesse Carlson 2009.313.7014.25

Just like Ghostrunner on First indicated earlier this season, Jesse Carlson was very lucky in 2008 with an suspiciously low .235 BABIP (Batting Average On Balls In Play). All signs pointed towards a BABIP increase in 2009 (which it did), along with Carlson’s ERA, and FIP numbers among others.

Brandon League’s BABIP in 2008 hovered right around the league average at .271. This year, it’s shot up 51 points to .313, which could also be another indication of League’s problems this season.

It’s hard to believe it, but the Blue Jays were actually better defensively for Carlson and League in 2008 than this season. Both Carlson and League’s DER (Defensive Efficiency Ratio) have taken a hit in 2009, and thus less outs means more runs against these pitchers.

Finally, we look at FIP (Fielding Independent Pitching). This stat takes all the fielders out of the equation and only reflects on what the pitcher does. It’s interesting to note that Jesse Carlson’s FIP has risen this year whereas Brandon League’s FIP has actually decreased.

Jesse Carlson Pitcher vs. Batter Stats (2009)
None on.30610833905500621.353.528
Runners on.233862060121211117.311.337
None on/out.3655219504400110.377.692

Looking at these splits, we can see where the problem areas are for Brandon League and Jesse Carlson. But which situation do they perform the best? The answer might surprise you; Carlson actually holds opposing hitters to a lower average when he enters the game with runners on base and/or in scoring position. It’s almost like night and day – with runners in scoring position, Carlson’s opposing AVG is .229. With the bases clear, Carlson’s average skyrockets 77 points to .306.

Brandon League Pitcher vs. Batter Stats (2009)
None on.2611153010
Runners on.25893
None on/out.23447

Although not as drastic, Brandon League’s batter vs. pitcher stats also tell a story of where his troubles and strengths lie. Often as the second or third reliever to appear in the game, League is accustomed to entering with runners on base. Strangely though, his best numbers are when he begins an inning fresh with nobody on and nobody out.

So what results can we take from this? If I were Cito Gaston, I would play the percentages and use Jesse Carlson in high leverage situations with runners on base ... as crazy as that sounds. Brandon League is best served as a late-inning relief guy who can start and finish off his own inning, rather than take over for another reliever.

Sources: Thanks to the experts at Baseball Reference, Fan Graphs and The Hardball Times.

Halladay is human after all

The desire for winning may be the only relevant thought in the mind of Roy Halladay when he's on the mound, but despite his impenetrable exterior, he didn't look like a machine for once.

Halladay (also known as the T-32) departed from his usual cyborg-like self and was roughed up for five runs in just five innings of work. Aside from his injury-shortened game back on June 12th against the Florida Marlins, last night was Halladay’s least productive start of the season (5 ER, 5 IP).

Every once in a while, Doc is going to have a bad night at the office, and it just happened to be against the Boston Red Sox. Despite that bad start, Jeff Blair says that not trading for Halladay at the deadline will likely come back to haunt the BoSox at the end of the season.

I’m not saying that the Red Sox won’t make the playoffs, but with 43 games left to play in the pennant race, they could have benefited greatly from the eight remaining Roy Halladay starts down the stretch.

We were all hoping for a Blue Jays pitcher to plunk Kevin Youkilis, and our wish was granted. An 86 MPH fastball nailed Youkilis right between the shoulder blades, almost the exact same spot that Rick Porcello hit him last week. I for one would love to see a Brandon League/Kevin Youkilis throwdown, which would most likely end in League putting Youk in a Ken Shamrock ankle lock.

Mashed Baseballs

Wednesday, August 19, 2009  |  by 

Nobody in Hollywood could have written Travis Snider's return any better. After a home run in his first at bat back with the Blue Jays along with a single on the evening, Snider was 2 for 4 in his major league return and sent a big message to any doubters and naysayers.

Randy Ruiz hit his third home run in less than a week, making that eight hits in the span of just 25 at bats already. I have a feeling that Ruiz isn't going to let up any time soon.

What else can you say about that game? The Blue Jays major league leading 22nd one-run loss of the season stung a little bit, but all was not lost. On any other night of the week, nine runs would be plenty to take down the competition but Ricky Romero and Casey Janssen got kicked around a bit so the offense had to pick up the slack.

Overall, it was a great effort and the Blue Jays narrowly missed winning that game by a just a few feet on multiple occasions. Maybe if the dome were closed, those fly balls from Adam Lind and Randy Ruiz could have cleared the fence.

Instead of dwelling on something in the past, we move on to tonight's matchup which features former tradebait candidates Roy Halladay and Clay Buchholz. Run totals will most likely be down tonight, but when it's the Boston Red Sox you can never be quite sure what might happen. Hell, if Roy Halladay misplaces a cutter, he could just have a bald-headed warthog barrelling down on him.

I'll be liveblogging tonight's game over at The Score so come check it out and hopefully watch Doc win his 14th game tonight.

Travis Snider's Second Wind

Tuesday, August 18, 2009  |  by 

Much like the testosterone supercharged males who counted down the days to the Olsen Twins 18th birthday, we've been eagerly anticipating the return of Travis Snider. Now the time has finally come for the Big White Pasty Hope (h/t Tao of Stieb) to make his way make to Toronto. Snider was called up today and will suit up for tonight's game and will play in right field against the Red Sox.

In a very perplexing move, the Blue Jays decided to demote Joe Inglett. I say perplexing because he's hit .289 since returning from his first stint in Las Vegas. On the other hand, Kevin Millar has somehow survived being sent down to Triple A even though he is hitting .182 over that same period and just .231 on the year.

The justification behind leaving Millar on the roster doesn't even make sense defensively because if the Blue Jays continue to platoon at first base, then Randy Ruiz would fit in nicely thus eliminating the need for Millar.

Regardless, we're glad to see Travis Snider back in a Blue Jays uniform and I hope tonight is a very successful homecoming party for him.

The Mass Invasion: Red Sox/Blue Jays Preview

It’s a position that the Boston Red Sox are not very familiar with; being out of a playoff spot. As the Blue Jays and Red Sox get ready to tangle for a crucial three game series at the Rogers Centre, the Bosox will hope to gain some ground in the Wild Card race while the Jays will once again look to play spoilers.

Just like the Blue Jays, the Red Sox have tumbled from the top of the standings and at one point earlier this year sat 21 games over .500. Now while a 66-51 record is nothing to scoff at, 15 games above .500 isn’t even enough to hold down the American League Wild Card. Two straight series losses to the Tampa Bay Rays and New York Yankees really put the Red Sox on the bubble and they’ve been struggling to gain ground ever since.

Tuesday: Josh Beckett (14-4, 3.10 ERA) vs. Ricky Romero (10-5, 3.70 ERA)

Ricky Romero has lost some steam in his campaign for AL Rookie of the Year. Romero is 3-2 with a 5.45 ERA since the All-Star Break, whereas Beckett is 3-2 with a 2.25 ERA in the second half so far.

Wednesday: Clay Buchholz (1-3, 4.75 ERA) vs. Roy Halladay (13-5, 2.65 ERA)

Prior to his last start against the Rays, Roy Halladay had not posted back to back wins since early June. Doc will hope for the continued run support as he’ll go for his third straight win on Wednesday against Clay Buchholz.

Thursday: Jon Lester (9-7, 3.71 ERA) vs. Brett Cecil (5-1, 4.35 ERA)

In his last start against the Boston Red Sox, Cecil gave up a season high eight runs in what was his only loss of the season. That start sticks out of course because Cecil was the unofficial slump buster for David Ortiz to come out of his home run drought of 35 games.

This will be Cecil’s first start since suffering a knee injury on August 8th against the Baltimore Orioles. Cecil will have a tall order when he faces off against the Red Sox strikeout machine, Jon Lester. He is 2-1 against the Blue Jays this year with a 2.33 ERA.

League and Carlson: Mr. Inconsistency and Captain Facepalm

Monday, August 17, 2009  |  by 

They're the faces we've seen all too often this season; the patented Jesse Carlson facepalm and the Brandon League look of disbelief. The struggles of both of these young hurlers have been well documented this season and were evident once again today in the Blue Jays 5-2 loss to the Tampa Bay Rays.

Once integral parts of the best bullpen in baseball in 2008, Carlson and League have fallen from grace and have become the two worst relievers on the club. First off, let's start with Brandon League; or as I'd like to call him for this example, Mr. Inconsistency. His Jekyll/Hyde act has been evident since Opening Day and it seems like every time Brandon League appears to have turned things around, he reverts back to his sub 5.00 ERA.

Then of course we have Jesse Carlson, who is showing all the signs and symptoms of a sophomore slump. As a rookie reliever in 2008, Carlson turned many heads by posting a 2.25 ERA through 69 appearances with the Blue Jays. This year has not been so kind to Captain Facepalm and just like Brandon League, Carlson has struggled to keep his ERA below the 5.00 for the most part of this season.

Out of both of these pitchers, the most frustrating to watch is Brandon League. As you can see above, Jesse Carlson's troubles have plagued him most of the season, whereas League flips between moments of sheer brilliance and then complete and utter frustration.

With a surplus of talented young relief pitchers on the Blue Jays staff and in the minor league system, I find it difficult to see a spot on the roster in 2010 for Jesse Carlson. But Cito Gaston's mancrush on Carlson has kept him on the team while pitchers like Jeremy Accardo and Dirk Hayhurst are banished to Las Vegas for no good reason.

I realize that it's very easy for relievers ERA's to fluctuate from game to game, but you can see that the struggles of Brandon League and Jesse Carlson have not been isolated incidents. Unfortunately, their lackluster performances have not brought them down on the totem pole in the bullpen and Cito Gaston continues to turn to League and Carlson in high leverage situations.

For the time being, I will continue to refer to them as Mr. Inconsistency and Captain Facepalm because that is what Brandon League and Jesse Carlson have done the best this season; be inconsistent and sit in the dugout and hang their heads in shame.

Lazy Sunday Links

Sunday, August 16, 2009  |  by 

Well, I'm finally back from cottage country but I'm sad to report that I didn't hunt down any raccoons or bears but there certainly were plenty of cougars. I was at a wedding on Friday night and half way through the dance in my drunken stupor, I realized that the Blue Jays did in fact play a ballgame and won!

Since I'm still in vacation mode and it's a Lazy Sunday, here are some links from around the Blue Jays blogosphere:

It appears that more and more people are warming up to the idea of J.J. Hardy at shortstop for the Blue Jays. Even Mike Wilner is jumping on board with the prospect of trading for Hardy while the Brewers are probably in buy low mode.

The blog that is almost as inconsistent as Brandon League's arm (love that title BTW) helps anyone with an Alex Rios jersey transform it into a Randy Ruiz jersey. It's great project idea for a Baseball DIY on a Sunday afternoon.

Like many Jays fans, Infield Fly ponders whether or not the team should go after signing Jason Bay in the off-season.

For those curious about how Adam Loewen is fairing in the minor leagues, Mop Up Duty takes a look at Loewen's numbers and what to expect in the future.

In one of the most hilarious anecdotes I've heard in a while, Ghostrunner on First recalls his tales of drunken debauchery which includes attempting to open a hotel room with a Blue Jays gift card. You can't make this stuff up, folks.

On Vacation

Wednesday, August 12, 2009  |  by 

I'm not heading to Ridgewood Cottages, but this picture just reminded me those god awful Canadian animal sweatshirts that my parents used to buy me when I was younger. And they wondered why I got picked on!

Anyway, I'm on holidays for a couple of days up in cottage country so I will be unable to post anything about any heartbreaking walk-off losses or any incredible comeback victories by the Blue Jays. That means I'll probably be checking box scores on my phone during the wedding that I'm emceeing and giving scores during the speeches. Hey, now there's an idea!

Jumping Joe Inglett

Sorry, I know this afternoon's matinee is already in progress (check out The Score liveblog by the way) but I just wanted to touch on a few things from last night's game.

If Joe Inglett were just a few inches taller, maybe he could have brought Jorge Posoda's lazy fly ball down for an out. Instead it just barely cleared the right field wall for a home run. I love how Cito actually challenged the home run even though there clearly was no fan interference. Cito had no way of knowing that, but sometimes it's just fun to test out the video review system to see if it works.

Randy Ruiz already has two home runs with the Blue Jays - one last night and one this afternoon already. I know it might be a little early to get too excited about this, but I have a feeling that the Pacific Coast League isn't the only place that Ruiz will have success.

Was it any surprise that Jesse Carlson got lit up again last night? Three earned runs (albeit one cheap home run) bumped Carlson's ERA to 5.40. Despite that, his place on the totem pole in the Jays bullpen really hasn't changed much throughout the season. In my opinion, Cito should exhile Carlson much like John Gibbons did with Jason Frasor last year. Carlson needs to prove himself in low-leverage situations before he is allowed to pitch again in high-leverage situations.

Anyway, enjoy this afternoon's game and don't forget to check out The Score liveblog!

For Sale: Alex Rios Paraphernalia

Tuesday, August 11, 2009  |  by 

  • One Alex Rios Figurine
  • One Alex Rios Bobblehead
  • One Alex Rios Powder Blue Toronto Blue Jays T-Shirt (not pictured)
          Asking price: Alex Rios to come back to the Blue Jays.

Waive Goodbye to Alex Rios

In hindsight, I guess all those reports about Alex Rios being claimed on waivers really did mean something. Last week the White Sox were the "mystery team" that put their name in the hat first to grab Rios and today the deal was made official. After ten years with the Toronto Blue Jays organization, Alex Rios is now a member of the Chicago White Sox.

J.P. Ricciardi said that the trade was made so the Toronto Blue Jays could have financial flexibility going forward. The White Sox assume the rest of the Rios contract, which has $59 dollars remaining on it. While I agree that this season perhaps Rios was a little overpaid, I don't think it was a complete waste of money.

Vernon Wells contract is the real burden on the Blue Jays payroll, and in a way his contract was partially responsible for Rios' trade. Rios was the only valuable player on the team who could feasibly be moved after the non-waiver trade deadline, and so he was.

At no point did I ever think that the Alex Rios contract extension was a huge mistake. The Blue Jays wanted to make a big splash by re-signing two of their most talented young players in Aaron Hill and Alex Rios, and they both received the kind of money they deserved. At $5.9 million dollars this season, I would say that Rios is still a bargain and even at his peak of $12.5 million dollars, Rios is nowhere near close to being the most overpaid outfielder in baseball.

While most of us can agree that Alex Rios probably won't be the 25+ HR 100+ RBI player that the Blue Jays expected him to be, over these past few years he's been a great outfielder and has the potential to be a phenomenal full time center fielder.

I think I might feel better about this whole trade if we were reassured by J.P. Ricciardi and the Blue Jays management that this money saved in the Rios trade would go back into re-signing key players like Roy Halladay or attracting free agents to play in Toronto. But somehow, I have a feeling that the money will go elsewhere or will just disappear back into the pockets of Rogers.

What inclination would Roy Halladay have to stay with the Blue Jays now that they have traded away two of their key players? Halladay isn't impressed that the team has shed payroll; his number one priority is to win a championship, and losing two All-Star players certainly isn't helping the Blue Jays cause for the 2010 season.

After dishing out all this money in failed contracts to players like Frank Thomas, B.J. Ryan and Vernon Wells, I hope that Rogers and the Toronto Blue Jays have learned their lesson when it comes to overpaying for mediocre talent.

I feel great for Alex that he gets to play for a team that actually has a shot at making the playoffs, yet I don't think he will look back on his time with the Blue Jays with fond memories. He spent his entire career up to this point in the Blue Jays organization, and up until earlier this season Alex Rios was the new face of this franchise. Now he'll be the new face of another franchise.

Yankee Stadium not built for A-Rod's benefit after all

Monday, August 10, 2009  |  by 

I'll be honest, when I sat down to write this post I was ready to theorize about how the new Yankee Stadium was built for the purpose so Alex Rodriguez could break Barry Bond's all time home run record. I was certain that there was a conspiracy theory that Yankee Stadium was specifically engineered to create wind tunnel and turn ordinary fly balls into home runs.

But then something happened; it turns out that Yankee Stadium is not built for A-Rod's benefit after all. A quick peek at his hit charts over the past few seasons shows that the stadium is actually working against Alex Rodriguez.

2009 - 3 of 15 home runs hit to right field.
2008 - 4 of 21 home runs hit to right field.
2007 - 3 of 26 home runs hit to right field.
2006 - 4 of 20 home runs hit to right field.

If Alex Rodriguez were a typical right field home run hitter, then that would justify the suspicions about the stadium being built to benefit Alex Rodriguez' pursuit of 762 career home runs. But since the majority of his home runs at Yankee Stadium (the old one and version 2.0) clear the center field or left field wall, the stadium design does not benefit A-Rod at all.

In actuality, the player who has benefited most from this has been Mark Teixeira. 12 out of 19 of his home runs this season have cleared the right field wall at Yankee Stadium.

So unless the New York Yankees organization is planning on having Teixeira stay with the team to break the all time home run record, it appears Alex Rodriguez' home run total at new Yankee Stadium won't be much more inflated than any other stadium in major league baseball.

Case of the Mondays

If you take a look at the top of the website, you might notice the new banner and somewhat new layout. It was the brainchild of Carson, the man behind the Blue Jays video "Where Amazing Happens". Big props to him for all his hard work on the new banner. You can also check out his new Blue Jays video below with highlights from the 2008 and 2009 season. Each time I hear that song, I think of Roberto Alomar's induction into the Level of Excellence at the 2008 Home Opener.

Fresh off their four game sweep of the Boston Red Sox, the New York Yankees welcome the Blue Jays to the wind tunnel for a three game series. Tonight, Mark Rzepczynski faces off against Sergio Mitre for the second time in the last five days. The Blue Jays will attempt to improve on their 2-7 record against the Yankees this season. Coming off back to back wins against the Orioles has boosted the morale of the club, so look for a high-scoring game tonight. I'll be liveblogging the game over at The Score starting just before 7pm, so come check it out.

We saw some great results from the much-scrutinized six and seven hitters last week. Vernon Wells and Ales Rios combined for 4 HR and 14 RBI's in the last five games. It's a small sample size, but those are encouraging statistics that Wells and Rios could finally be turning things around (even though the season is already two-thirds over).

Nevertheless, there are still 52 games left to play and it's not quite time to raise the white flag on the 2009 season. This time last year, the Blue Jays were 59-59 and sat 12.5 games out of first place. If they can just make it over that .500 hurdle once again, it will be a huge step forward.

A Long Overdue Walk-off Win

Sunday, August 9, 2009  |  by 

It was great to finally see the Blue Jays come through with a walk-off win for the first time since May 2nd. In honour of this milestone, here are some quick stats that have really stood out over the past few months.

83 - the number of games since the last walk-off win for the Blue Jays.

42 - the number of games since the last extra-inning victory for the Blue Jays.

15 - the number of games this season that Adam Lind's OPS has been below .900.

90 - the number of games this season that Adam Lind's OPS has been over .900.

A Night of Champions

Saturday, August 8, 2009  |  by 

There was something special in the air at the Rogers Centre last night, because it really was a night of champions. The moment I stepped into the Rogers Centre, I started to get goosebumps as they were playing Game 6 of the 1993 World Series on Jays Vision. Watching the bottom of the 9th unfold in its entirety really brought me back to my childhood.

Prior to the game, the players from the 1992 and 1993 Blue Jays were honoured on-field to a huge ovation. The fans were very appreciative of all the players and coaches, but most notably for Devon White, Roberto Alomar, Joe Carter and Dave Winfield. As a true leader, Winfield took the microphone and thanked all the fans for their support and he showed his true leadership skills that made him a fan favourite in Toronto even though he only played for the Blue Jays for one season.

There was an air of nostalgia throughout the whole game, and the Blue Jays even broke out their old '92-'93 home jerseys for the Back2Back festivities. After seeing those uniforms back in action, I have so say that I prefer them much better over the powder blues. There's something about seeing the name and number on the back of the retro jerseys.

Although the product on-field during the game was less than memorable, the Back2Back Flashback Friday was a momentous occasion I won't soon forget. Seeing my childhood heroes like Joe Carter, Roberto Alomar helped me remember why I fell in love with the Toronto Blue Jays in the first place.

Happy Back2Back Reunion Day!

Friday, August 7, 2009  |  by 

It was a time that brings great memories flooding back for Blue Jays fans. It was a time that evokes a cavalcade of emotions associated with victory, triumph, and perseverance. Today, we will get the opportunity to experience those feelings all over again.

The 1992 and 1993 Toronto Blue Jays rosters reunite in Toronto today for the highly touted Back2Back weekend. In actually, it marks nearly 16 since since the Blue Jays last made the playoffs, but that's neither here nor there. This weekend is a chance to catch up with all our favourite players from the glory days of the early 90's.

After perusing some of the stats from the '92-'93 teams, there were a few things that really stood out. Although the 1993 World Series could have easily gone to seven games if not for Joe Carter, it's the 1992 World Series that was much closer than people remember. Each of the four wins by the Blue Jays were one run victories. Also, after having a second look at the statistics, I finally realized why Pat Borders was the World Series MVP; his .450 AVG and 1.250 OPS against the Atlanta Braves. Borders wasn't the glamorous choice, but he got the job done in the '92 World Series.

It's widely known that the Blue Jays rounded out the top three in batting average in 1993 with John Olerud, Paul Molitor and Roberto Alomar. Even more incredible than having three players in the top three is that Olerud was actually hitting over .400 into August. For 58 games in 1993, Olerud had a batting average over .400, which is unheard of today.

While most folks will be decked out in their Powder Blues since it's a Flashback Friday, I will be donning my retro navy blue Jays jersey circa 1994. Sad but true story about my old school jersey; my mom bought it for me in 1994 at the age of 10. I'll admit that the baseball strike of '94 caused a falling out between myself and baseball, so the jersey sat in my closet untouched for years. It wasn't until 2006 that I brought the jersey out once again, and luckily to this day it still fits.

Although it might be a distraction from this year's team, the Toronto Blue Jays would not be where they are today if not for the accomplishments of the '92-'93 World Series Champions. They proved that baseball could be successful north of the border not only financially, but that they could field a winning team as well. They also helped create awareness and a love of the game here in Canada for many young baseball fans such as myself, which has only grown stronger.

There might be a large nostalgia factor working here, be we have a lot to be thankful for due in part to the 1992 and 1993 Toronto Blue Jays. And when you see images like the one below, you can't help but
remember how great those times really were.

Off Day Thoughts

Thursday, August 6, 2009  |  by 

After watching Mark Teixeira throughout the two game mini-series against the Yankees, I finally figured it out. His “game face” in the batter’s box emulates that of a rabbit eating a carrot. Don’t believe me? Take a look below.

Consider Teixeira a close second to Jonathan Papelbon for having the best "Douchestare in the Majors”.

Another thing I’ve noticed this season has to do with Kevin Millar’s batting stance. I figured I better point this out before he’s sent his walking papers, but much like Scott Rolen, Millar has a stance similar to that of one of the characters from Bases Loaded.

With tomorrow’s Back2Back reunion game, Operation “JC Autograph Retreival” is in full effect. Last year I tried but failed to make it in time to see Joe Carter in person, so hopefully I will have a chance to redeem myself tomorrow and get JC to sign my baseball. If all else fails, at least Candy Maldonado will be seated next to Joe Carter and could be a second option.

Will the Blue Jays have two 30+ HR hitters?

Wednesday, August 5, 2009  |  by 

I came across a really cool website called HR, which basically takes all the guess work out of calculating how many home runs and RBI’s that a hitter is on pace for. Taking a look at the numbers below, the Blue Jays have two potential 30+ HR hitters in Aaron Hill and Adam Lind.

Hitter HR Pace
Aaron Hill 40.11
Adam Lind 34.29
Alex Rios 18.58
Lyle Overbay 18.38
Rod Barajas 16.71
Vernon Wells 15.53
Marco Scutaro 12.38
Kevin Millar 9.91
Jose Bautista 5.51

Incredibly, Aaron Hill averages a home run per 17.42 at bats. That leads all second baseman in the league and ranks in the Top 10 players in the MLB in HR Pace. Coming in a close second on the Blue Jays, Adam Lind averages a home run about once every 18.14 at bats.

Even if Hill and Lind trail off a little bit in the final eight weeks of the season, they should put themselves in a good position to clear at least 30 home runs. The last time the Blue Jays had two 30+ HR hitters on the team was back in 2006 when Troy Glaus hit 38 home runs and Vernon wells hit 32.

Jays make it close, but no cigar

It was almost as rare as the sight of a unicorn galloping across a rainbow; Roy Halladay giving up back to back home runs. It’s such a seldom occurrence that Halladay himself was probably just as stunned as everyone else when he watched that second straight home run sail over the right field fence.

Sure, since June 8th Roy Halladay only has one win to his name but that’s not really his fault. In those 8 starts he has a 3.12 ERA, so the problem is not really with Halladay it’s that his team can’t put runs on the board when he needs them to.

Given, at least the Blue Jays made it interesting down the stretch. A two out RBI double from Vernon Wells (no, that’s not a misprint) led the late charge, but came up just short of staging a miraculous comeback against the best closer in baseball today. For a brief moment Mariano Rivera showed he was actually human, but then he was back to his usually dominant self and got Aaron Hill to pop up and end the game.

Once again, there were several questionable managerial moves (or lack thereof) during the game. First off, having Kevin Millar as the cleanup hitter is a death sentence right from the start. When your best hitters at the top of the lineup are on base and Millar with a .167 batting average in the number four spot comes up to the plate, it’s almost bound to end badly.

As Wilner pointed out on Jays Talk, Phil Hughes owns right handed hitters this year (.206 AVG) as opposed to lefties (.255 AVG). That’s why the decision to keep Kevin Millar in the game with Lyle Overbay on the bench is even more puzzling. Sometimes Cito’s moves would make a hell of a lot more sense if he was at least consistent with his reasoning. But once again, we there are no answers but plenty of unanswered questions.

Those Damn Yankees

Tuesday, August 4, 2009  |  by 

A full twelve games might separate them in the standings, but tonight's Yankees/Blue Jays showdown has the feeling of playoff baseball to it.

Roy Halladay goes to work in what will not be his last start as a Blue Jay (damn it feels so good to finally say that). Despite a solid 11-4 record for Halladay, the Jays have struggled to give him much run support over his last four starts, with 2.25 runs on average.

Andy Pettitte on the other hand (8-6 on the year) is 1-1 against the Jays this season. As usual, Pettitte is right about on par with his career numbers with an ERA of 4.51. This should work in favour of the Jays, as he only usually makes it about six innings deep within the ball game.

With great career numbers against Pettitte, don't be surprised to see Jose Bautista and John McDonald holding down the fort on the left side of the infield. Bautista and McDonald are both 7 for 21 career versus Andy Pettitte and also add a couple of right-handed bats to the lineup which should give Pettitte some trouble.

I'll also be liveblogging tonight's game over at The Score, so come check it out!

This Calls for a Celebration

Monday, August 3, 2009  |  by 

I'd say that the Blue Jays stringing together two consecutive wins calls for a celebration. Sociable!

Starting off the month of August with two straight wins is a great way to help forget how abysmal July was for the Blue Jays. An 8-16 record with nine one-run losses wrapped up what was far and above the worst month of the season for the team. Now with just two months left to go, the Jays are in the home stretch of the 2009 campaign and the immediate goal for them is to break even with a .500 record.

Another great sign of things to come is the anticipation of Shaun Marcum to return to the starting rotation. Although the rookies have done a great job at holding down the fort this season, the Blue Jays need some experienced pitchers like Marcum and Roy Halladay to establish some sort of normality and dependability to what has seemed like a revolving door of starting pitchers.

The prospect of having Travis Snider back in a Blue Jays uniform is another boost to the team that the Blue Jays are really looking forward to. His Pacific Coast League player of the week award should send off alarms that it's time to send him up from Las Vegas. In his last ten games with the Las Vegas 51's, Snider has collected 16 RBI's to go along with 4 home runs.

So even though they might have a 51-54 record right now, there is still a lot to look forward to with the Blue Jays in the final two months of the season. And if all else fails, there's always alcohol. Sociable!

Scott Rolen's Top 10 Defensive Gems

Saturday, August 1, 2009  |  by 

Even though he only spent a season and a half with the Toronto Blue Jays, Scott Rolen made a lasting impression with this team thanks to his constant dazzling plays on the third base side.

It's a shame that Rolen wasn't able to finish his tenure with the Blue Jays, but he will always be appreciated and remembered for his knack for timely hitting and incredible Gold Glove defense. As a tribute to the GBOAT, let's take a look at Scott Rolen's Top 10 Defensive Gems during his time with the Blue Jays.

10.) June 29th, 2008 vs. Atlanta Braves

With the Blue Jays protecting a slim 1-0 lead and a runner on, Rolen makes easy work of a short hop infield ball and gets the out.

9.) May 21st, 2008 vs. Los Angeles Angels

Occasionally, Scott Rolen didn't even need to rely on a glove to make the play. Rolen hustles and barehands an infield grounder to get his pitcher out of a jam.

8.) July 26th, 2009 vs. Tampa Bay Rays 

An ordinary man might be disoriented after spinning around, but Scott Rolen twists and makes the throw from his knees for another highlight reel play.

7.) June 25th, 2009 vs. Cincinnati Reds

It's rumoured that the Tomahawk cruise missiles were designed after the accuracy of Scott Rolen's throwing arm. In this defensive gem, Rolen tosses to Overbay from one knee and still makes the play.

6.) July 10th, 2008 vs. Baltimore Orioles

In this dazzler from 2008, Rolen dives over the third base line stealing extra bases away from Nick Markakis while throwing him out from his knees across the diamond.

5.) May 18th, 2009 vs. Chicago White Sox

Scott Rolen showed that he was deadly from his feet and his knees, reaching across the line and tossing this one-hopper to get the out.

4.) May 14th, 2009 vs. New York Yankees

Perfectly positioned on this play, Rolen tracks down this ball just inches above the ground to steal a double away from Alex Rodriguez.

3.) May 3rd, 2009 vs. Baltimore Orioles

At 6'4" and 240 pounds, Rolen displays he is one of the most agile "big men" of the infield as he leaps across the grass to snag this liner.

2.) June 24th, 2009 vs. Cincinnati Reds 

This is the infamous "climbing the ladder" play where Scott leapt to unreachable heights to pull down a line drive.

1.) July 18th, 2009 vs. Boston Red Sox

Although Rolen's position is third base, there is no territory that is unfamiliar to him on the field. With the defensive shift on, Rolen basically positioned at shortstop and makes the diving stab.

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