Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Shades of Spring in Fall

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Do mine eyes deceive me, or are these the Toronto Blue Jays that we saw much earlier this year? For the second night in a row, the offense was firing on all cylinders and the starting pitching put forth a great effort to keep the team in the ballgame.

First off, Adam Lind is a beast. If it wasn’t for Jonathan Papelbon’s plunking in the top of the 9th, Lind had a legitimate shot at hitting four home runs in one game. Good for you Papelbon – you will now be remembered in my mind as a pitcher who refuses to let opposing players hit milestones while you are on the mound. Just remember that karma is a bitch and I hope it comes back to bite you in the ass in the ALDS or the ALCS.

Next, let’s address Kevin Millar. Is it just me, or did he look like an entirely different player last night? He was confident, secure and graceful at the corner all night long. An assist from Rod Barajas and a leaping play showed that Millar maybe has a little bit of gas left in the tank.

For the second night in a row, Jose Bautista went yard which now makes that seven home runs in the month of September alone. Would you be shocked if I told you his OPS this month was .932? I can’t believe it either. All year long, I’ve flipped back and forth on whether or not Bautista was worth the $2.4 million and I’m beginning to warm up to the idea of having him back next year as well. I think Bautista is worth his weight in gold in the outfield, as he’s tied for fourth in the American League with 11 outfield assists.

Lastly, Jason Frasor nearly gave us all a heart attack but he shut the door on the late-charging Red Sox to save the game. As I sighed in relief at that called strike three, I couldn’t help but notice how similar that pitch and situation was to the Brian Fuentes/LA Angels ordeal just a few weeks ago at Fenway Park. I guess the umpires learned their lesson on that one.

It was a roller coaster game the whole way through, yet the Blue Jays managed to win their fifth straight game and delayed the BoSox from winning the Wild Card for at least a few hours. It’s games like those that show this team really does have what it takes to compete in the American League East. It’s just unfortunate that they didn’t show it till the final week of the season.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Mother Nature prevails in Jays win

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It took them seven tries and some assistance from mother nature, but the Toronto Blue Jays finally won a game at Fenway Park.

After seven innings and a hell of a downpour, the umpires chose to call it a game with the final score being 11-5. By glancing at the box score, you might think that the Blue Jays had a comfortable lead late in the game. By the time the initial rain delay began, the Red Sox had runners on third and second with nobody out and Casey Janssen ready to fall apart at the seams. Every once in a while, the Jays get a lucky break and that was certainly one of them.

Oddly enough, Scott Richmond’s last and first starts of the season ended the same way; in a rain delay. Except this time, Richmond was credited with the win for going six innings and giving up four earned runs rather than walking away with a no decision. With that victory, Richmond posted back to back victories for the first time since April, when he won the American League Rookie of the Month award. It’s been a roller coaster season for Richmond to say the least, but he still remains as one of the contenders for the fifth starting rotation job next year.

It’s hard to believe that tonight the Blue Jays will attempt to go for their first five game win streak of the season. We all remember quite fondly the ten game win streak that the Blue Jays blessed us with last year, so it would be nice to end this season on a high and keep the win-streak going while delaying the Red Sox from winning the Wild Card by just one more day.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

The All You Can Eat Aftermath

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Seven hot dogs, three cokes, a bottle of water and a half a bag of peanuts - that was the price for my dignity today as I stuffed my face at the All You Can Eat event at the Rogers Centre. I was proud and ashamed of myself all at the same time.

If you were one of the lucky ones to have enjoyed seats in the All You Can Eat section earlier today, you not only got the opportunity to chow down nonstop until the end of the seventh inning, but you also were treated to one hell of a ball game.

The food setup was very streamlined for this special affair. The sections were quarantined off, meaning you had to have a special bracelet to get in. From there, you could walk up to any food stand in the designated area and just serve yourself. People definitely took advantage of this and would literally stuff their shirts full of chips and peanuts, then grab four hot hogs and head for their seats.

At no point was there ever really a shortage of food. I was surprised that the stands could actually keep up to the demands, but Aramark proved they were ready for the hoards of hungry Blue Jays fans.

The strangest part of the afternoon was when our sections started chanting "pizza, pizza, pizza" in hopes that the Blue Jays would get their seventh strikeout to win them a slice of pizza. What, did they not get enough fill of hot dogs, popcorn, peanuts, pop and chips that they needed a piece of pizza too? Glad to see they had their priorities straight.

One small complaint I have is that they didn't serve the typical Lester's ballpark hot dog. It didn't appear regulation size and resembled that of a regular hot dog. After a few innings, I checked a different stand and they were actually serving the ball park hot dogs. I guess it all depended on where you went.

I tried to follow my Guide to Gluttony and ate as quickly as I could. I started off with four hot dogs and two pops, but as the innings progressed I found myself unable to keep up the pace established earlier in the game. In fact, it almost took me a whole inning to finish my last hot dog - which was seven in total. By the way, Tao and Archi - you both owe me five bucks!

And just for those who are calorie counters, I added it all up and it turns out I consumed approximately 2845 total calories at the All You Can Eat game.

After all that I could probably use a coronary, so if anybody knows a good cardiologist, please ... hook a brother up!

Friday, September 25, 2009

The All You Can Eat Weekend Guide to Gluttony

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It will be a weekend of pure unabashed gluttony when Blue Jays fans stuff their faces during the All You Can Eat Weekend. I myself will be attending this Sunday, and I look forward to gorging on processed meats, cheeses, and other foods of which their origin is unknown.

In order to enjoy this experience to the fullest, you will need to mentally and physically prepare yourself for this war. Just like Rocky Balboa had Mickey in his corner, consider this your training regiment and encouragement for the Blue Jays All You Can Eat Weekend.

Preparations – Leading Up To

In order to prepare for such an event, there is actually a lot of training that is required to get the most for your money. Leading up to the event, the experts say to only consume one large meal per day and to wash it down with at least a gallon of water. One mistake you definitely do not want to make is to fast before the game. This will actually tighten up your stomach and limit how much you can scarf down. There’s no point in starving yourself – leave that for the runway models.

Preparations – Day Of

The day of the game, do whatever you need to do to mentally prepare yourself for the All You Can Eat game. Go for a jog, play some Xbox 360, or meditate by listening to Lionel Ritchie records – whatever makes you comfortable. Clear your mind and your stomach will be empty. And remember the wise words the great Jedi Master, Yoda. Do or do not, there is no try.

Once you get to the ballpark, have a plan of attack. Remember that your food options are fairly limited; hot dogs, nachos, popcorn, peanuts and pop. I wouldn’t even bother with the smaller items such as popcorn and peanuts because they take up too much room in your stomach, and you can get those for pennies at the grocery store anyway.

Just like Roy Halladay, you want to work fast. The quicker you eat, the more you will be able to put in your stomach, so keep eating and try not to rest for too long. Wash everything down with some sugar-laden soda or spare yourself the calories and drink plenty of water.

Keep in mind that you definitely want to get your money’s worth from this event. The tickets for the seats alone are 25 dollars, which means you need to eat at least 14 dollars worth of food to make it worth your while. That really shouldn’t be that difficult because two hot dogs and a pop are around 15 dollars anyway.

The Aftermath

Remember that after all of this, there is actually still a ballgame to watch so try not to eat so much that you turn into a grizzly and go into hibernation for nine innings. However, after stuffing yourself with hot dogs, nachos and pop all afternoon, a well-deserved siesta will be in order once you get home. The primary goal of the All You Can Eat Weekend is to have fun, so enjoy yourself and take in one of the last home games of the season at the Rogers Centre while you still can.

In the end, your stomach will thank you.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Christmas comes early for Aaron Hill

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If anyone is planning on buying on buying holiday gifts for Aaron Hill this year, you have your work cut out for you because he already has everything he could have possibly imagined for in 2009 … and more.

Hill was an All-Star, he’s a proud new father, and he’s the latest member of the Blue Jays to enter the prestigious 30 home run and 100 RBI club. It was fitting that Hill reached that milestone in dramatic fashion – a walk-off hit to win it in extras over the Baltimore Orioles, which was his second game-ending hit of the 2009 season.

The Blue Jays now have a 68-83 record and as the Tao of Stieb has so graciously pointed out, thus eliminates them from finishing last place in the American League East. Although the cries of PLAYOFFS! and PENNANT! have fallen by the wayside, there’s nothing wrong with altering those cheers to FOURTH! With all the things that have gone wrong this season, players like Aaron Hill and Adam Lind have shown that this team is capable of great things.

Congratulations to Aaron Hill for reaching the 30HR/100 RBI milestone and here’s hoping that this is the first of many milestones for Aaron Hill in the future.

FOURTH!!!!!1

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Purcey not overpowering, but precise

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It may have taken seven tries, but David Purcey finally picked up his first win of the season. After being penciled in as the Blue Jays third starter on Opening Day, Purcey has gone through the ringer this year trying to keep himself as a member on the 25 man roster.

As I watched last evening's contest against the Baltimore Orioles, I noticed something interesting about David Purcey's delivery: he can be precise, but he's certainly not overpowering.

I don't claim to be a scout ... probably the furthest thing from it, but as an armchair manager it appeared as though Purcey was just lobbing it in there a la Tim Wakefield. While he topped 93.4 MPH on the radar gun, there was something about his delivery that made him look as though he was throwing an offspeed pitch.

Of course, it wouldn't be a typical David Purcey start unless there were at least three or more walks. Obviously, Purcey still needs to work on his control a little bit, but that's what next year is for and hopefully Brad Arsnberg will address that and work with him in offseason.

Moving forward, Purcey's role with the Blue Jays is very murky. I know the Blue Jays are trying to groom him to be a successful starting pitcher, however he lacks a go-to punchout pitch that all successful starting pitchers have.

I've talked to others and bounced around the idea of having Purcey in the bullpen as the long relief guy. It seems like a feasible idea as there will likely be a surplus of starting pitchers next year anyway.

Regardless of where Purcey lands on the roster next year, he needs to work on his control issues before he becomes a valued part of this club in the future.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Take a chance on bad boy Milton Bradley?

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Milton Bradley doesn't like the Chicago Cubs, and the Cubs aren't exactly crazy about him either. It's been another widely publicized season of scrutiny for the Cubs slugger and now he'll spend the remainder of the season on the bench thanks to some comments he made to the media.

When the Cubs initially signed Milton Bradley, it was like taking a girl home at the end of the night after consuming several gallons of beer; initially it seems like a good idea, but when the light of reality finally shines on the situation, things don't look all that pretty anymore.

Now the Chicago Cubs are in a difficult situation - with two years remaining on Bradley's contract and $21 million dollars. Could the Blue Jays possibly pick up the pieces from a broken Milton Bradley and benefit from this situation?

It's a long shot, but if the Blue Jays include the right players in a trade and the Cubs agree to certain contract terms, then both teams could benefit in a deal. I don't think there's anyway way in hell that a team would be willing to pay off one year of a player's contract when they're not even on the team, but for the Cubs that means they would only have to pay one year of Bradley's salary as opposed to two.

First off, keep in mind that this proposed trade is completely hypothetical. Obviously the Cubs want to get rid of Milton Bradley by any means necessary, aside from merely letting him go and eating the remaining $21 million dollars in his contract. Any situation where the Cubs wouldn't have to pay out that money would be beneficial for them. So here goes:

Chicago Cubs trade Milton Bradley for Scott Downs.

I know it seems like a completely lopsided deal, but let me explain. The Cubbies are looking for stability in their bullpen and could benefit from getting Scott Downs as a setup guy or lefty specialist. The Cubs get a great relief pitcher and they don't even have to pay out all of Bradley's contract.

The trade would be conditional on the fact that the Cubs would have to pay Bradley's 2010 salary, so the Blue Jays would only be on the hook for Bradley's 2011 salary which is $12 million (if he even makes it that long). The great part about Bradley's contract in 2012 are these options courtesy of Cot's Baseball Contracts:
2011 may become $12M club option with $2M buyout if:

Bradley has more than 75 days on DL in 2009, or
Bradley is on DL at end of 2009 season with specific injury and not on active roster by 4/15/2010
Bradley has not played more than 126 games in a season since 2004, and the Chicago Cubs noticed this and put those clauses into his contract when they signed him in the offseason. He's notorious for getting hurt and that contract option would work in the Blue Jays benefit when Bradley turns 33 in 2011.

The problem with the Blue Jays trading for Milton Bradley is the baggage that comes with it. If the fans in Toronto enjoyed booing Vernon Wells then they would absolutely love to sink their teeth into Milton Bradley. He could wear out his welcome very quickly in a city that lets players know where they stand very loudly.

The other thing is that it seems like the Blue Jays have basically committed to making Adam Lind their full-time DH next year, which all but eliminates the need for Milton Bradley in the lineup. Although they would be better served having Lind in left field and having him hone his skills, it looks like the organization is leaning more towards having Lind take charge of the designated hitter spot.

Milton Bradley on the Blue Jays seems like a crazy idea, but sometimes you have to think outside the box and take a big risk to enjoy a big reward.

Note: I realize the similarities between this post and the Milton Bradley article posted earlier at Tao of Stieb. Make sure you read Tao's version too because it's much shorter and more concise anyway.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Where in the world was Randy Ruiz?

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So what exactly did Randy Ruiz do to get in the dog house? Aside from a pinch-running assignment and a late game substitution, Ruiz spend six straight games on the bench prior to today. This makes me think that maybe Randy picked up the Jeremy Accardo Book of Misbehavior to find himself on the bench so often.

These past few weeks, it seems like The Travis Snider Experiment has been the primary focus of the lineup changes and whether Snider would play left or right field.

Once again, Randy Ruiz was lost among the shuffle. But At least he's not losing at bats thanks to Kevin Millar, who hasn't started a game himself since September 11th.

It's almost certain that next year's outfield will include Adam Lind, Vernon Wells and Travis Snider. Those three players are obviously in the long term plans of this team. So why are the Blue Jays squandering this chance to see if Ruiz can be the full time DH next year? Unless they are planning on signing a free agent designated hitter, Ruiz should be getting as many at bats as possible in September.

His .879 OPS alone should be shouting loud and clear to make him an automatic everyday lineup choice. But as we've seen before, sometimes the coaches prove that they can be very hard of hearing.

Update: For an explanation as to why the Ruiz sightings have been so sparse, check out Jordan Bastian's post from yesterday. Basically, Cito wanted to ease Lind back into the DH role and not have him play in the field after getting hit on the foot last Friday. Once again, foot in mouth on my part. 

Saturday, September 19, 2009

No winning season for you!

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It was a great run but after three straight seasons of 80+ wins, the Toronto Blue Jays are guaranteed to finish under .500 this year. Just to show you how often the standings change year to year in baseball, the Jays were among a few elite teams that had consistently strung together winning seasons. Unfortunately, they had nothing to show for it.

The story of last night's game was one that we were all too familiar with; Scott Richmond running into trouble early in the game. He was long overdue for a great start and I honestly thought last night he was going to turn it around. Richmond looked great through the first two innings, and that's when the wheels came completely off.

At this point, Richmond will ride out the remainder of the season in the starting rotation, however with each loss he is increasingly hurting his chances of making the starting rotation next year. A strong showing over the next few weeks could put him back in the good books, though.

Once again, major props goes out to the middle relievers in the Blue Jays bullpen. On Wednesday night, it was Shawn Camp who was called upon after Brian Tallet exited the game and put up three innings of scoreless relief. Last night, it was the legendary Dirk Hayhurst who put up an impromptu clinic against the Rays for three innings.

Nobody likes to be on a losing team, but that just means the winds of change are about to sweep through this team. Hopefully things start happening sooner rather than later.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Jesse Carlson says "you should see the other guy"

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Depending on who you talk to in the blogosphere, Jorge Posada's actions last night were deserving of the highest honours of douchebaggery, or he was simply standing up for himself. As a Blue Jays fan, I'm having a tough time defending the latter.

First of all, Jesse Carlson didn't even hit Posada ... not even close. Just like the most of this season, Carlson missed his location by a mile but I'm sure he was in fact aiming for Jorge.

For the sake of argument, let's say that Carlson did hit Posada. The honourable thing to do is shutup and take your base. The umpires come out and warn the coaches and that should be the end of it. But Jorge Posada had to take it one step further and elbow Carlson on his way past home plate.

Carlson wasn't trying to start anything at the plate, he was merely covering the base. Posada's actions on that play alone deserved a punch in the face, let along his hissy fit in the batter's box.

Actions speak louder than words, and on two occasions Jorge Posada told everyone loud and clear that he's a giant douchebag. I'm fine with him chirping off Carlson because that's expected. However, if you put your hands on a bull, expect to feel the wrath of the horns.

Among the scrum, John McDonald allegedly swung at and made contact with Yankees skipper Joe Girardi. Whether of not it's actually true, I'll continue to believe that Johnny Mac is a true gangsta.

I personally have never experienced a fight on the field but my little league coach once lipped off the other team's coach in a fit of rage screaming "it's just a game" and "it's all about the kids". Meanwhile, all of us were petrified that we were going to see a rematch of the Wrestlemania 3 main event on the baseball diamond.

Anyway, my point from that anecdote is that although there aren't any clearcut rules for baseball brawls, I'm pretty sure that yanking at the straps of the catcher's chest protector is a no-no. If you watch Rod Barajas, he's under the impression that one of his teammates was pulling him out of the scrum, not Edwar Ramirez.

Although Jesse Carlson and Rod Barajas were the prime participants in the fight, honourable mention goes out to Cito Gaston and Scott Richmond. Cito got right in the face of Edwar Ramirez and for a brief moment I thought we might see throwdown similar to the Pedro Martinez/Don Zimmer incident. Richmond was right in the thick of things and despite being a typical polite and mild-mannered Canadian boy, he quickly transformed from Bruce Banner into the Incredible Hulk.

As a side note, Roy Halladay won, Adam Lind hit his 30th homerun of the year and Travis Snider knicked in two home runs. But I guess all those game notes were buried among the headlines from the rumble in the bronx.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Rumble in the Bronx

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In baseball, there are certain unwritten rules when it comes to beaning players. If you intentionally hit somebody from the other team, then you can fully expect them to hit you back.

So that's why I was so surprised Jorge Posada threw a complete hissy fit after Jesse Carlson buzzed him with a fastball. It was merely a move of retaliation, but Posada had to blow it way of of proportion and take it personally.

It was a dick move to say the least.

If you get pushed enough times, eventually you are going to push back and Carlson was merely standing up for his teammates. Unfortunately, it looks like he got the worst of the fight and was sent home with a souvenir goose egg.

Come to think of it, wouldn't that make a great Blue Jays giveaway? A Jesse Carlson goose egg bobblehead day!

So now we can add Jorge Posada to the long list of Yankees players on the Blue Jays hit list which includes Alex Rodriguez, Josh  Towers, A.J. Burnett and Eric Hinske among others.

I hope Posada gets suspended for at least five games because behaviour like that was totally bush league. Grow the fuck up, Posada.

Monday, September 14, 2009

David Purcey, Walk this way

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David Purcey's return to the Blue Jays is bittersweet in many ways. He began the season as one of the surefire starting pitchers, then quickly fizzled out and was sent to work on his stuff down in the minor leagues.

That's why it comes as a surprise that Purcey was "promoted" and called up to the Blue Jays when there were arguably much better potions in Triple A Las Vegas. Last season and earlier this year, Purcey showed moments of brilliance. Most notably his start on August 27th 2008 versus Matt Garza in which he basically matched him pitch for pitch.

That gem of a game was overshadowed by his knack for missing the strike zone when it counted most. The fellas at Mop Up Duty touched on this earlier this year, but Purcey hasn't really improved his control down in the minor leagues. His BB/9 was 6.31 with the Blue Jays and is still hovering around 5.04 with the Las Vegas 51's. Brad Arnsberg must have a master plan here and is hoping that he can do the same for David Purcey that he did with Ricky Romero.

I would have much rather seen Fabio Castro called up, alas there is only one way to find out if Purcey can cut it in the big leagues once again. It's just unfortunate that in his September callup, Purcey's team mates will be going up against Justin Verlander. Good luck with that one, boys.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Frasor is still the Golden Boy

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It was not that long ago that Jason Frasor was forever damned to the bowels of the bullpen. Now after settling in quite nicely as the interim closer, Frasor has become one of the shining stars of the Toronto Blue Jays. 

Frasor has been a very busy guy due to the fact that he's made four appearances and collected four saves this week alone. Two of those saves came with runners on base, but Frasor buckled down and did not allow a single run in those four games. Despite Cito Gaston's mismanagement of the bullpen, one pitcher that has provided him with consistent results has been the golden boy, Jason Frasor.

The most notable difference in Jason Frasor compared to last year is his control. His BB/9 has plummeted from 6.08 to 2.66 since 2008. He has surrendered just 15 walks alone this season, which is one of the best in the Jays bullpen. Couple that with an addition of a changeup and Frasor has been nearly unstoppable.

Frasor ranks in the top ten relievers in the American League when it comes to WHIP (0.99), FIP (2.89), opponent batting average (.197), and HR/9 (0.53).

Personally, I would love to see the Blue Jays give Frasor the full-time closer position next year. The problem with that is it doesn't financially make sense to pay Scott Downs $4 million dollars to be the setup man. Jason Frasor will hit arbitration this off-season and just ballparking a guess here, he will probably command somewhere in the neighbourhood of $2 million dollars.

As great as the golden boy has been this year, he is likely to regress a little bit in 2010. Scott Downs suffered the same fate this year and hopefully he will bounce back next year and can put those nagging injuries behind him for good.

So what have the Blue Jays learned thanks to the emergence of Jason Frasor? Always look twice because you never know when you might find a diamond in the rough.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Batting Cleanup for the Blue Jays ...

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The 2009 Toronto Blue Jays have lacked consistency in the cleanup spot for lack of a better word.

For the first 55 games of the season, they rolled with Vernon Wells in the number four slot. Then for the next 34 games, Scott Rolen settled in very nicely before he was shipped off to the Cincinnati Reds. But since then, the team has struggled to find success with one of the most crucial parts of the lineup card.

Earlier this month, Cito Gaston spoke on how he would like to move Aaron Hill down in the lineup for next year and leave Adam Lind in the cleanup spot permanently. Lind on the other hand, said he does not feel comfortable hitting in the number four spot for whatever reason. So the search for a cleanup hitter continues.

Maybe before we make a final decision on who should be stuck in the four spot, we should take a look at who hits best in that position. Here is a quick look at who has the best numbers batting fourth:

BatterAVGOBPOPS
Lind.294.294.765
Overbay.291.377.847
Wells.256.314.708
Millar.186.255.651

Although Adam Lind is the golden boy of the future, his OBP has something left to be desired. Lyle Overbay tends to draw a few more walks, but that means he also strikes out looking a lot more often. As critical as we have been of Vernon Wells this year, his numbers in the cleanup spot are actually not all that bad.

Moving forward, I wouldn't completely decide who should be the cleanup hitter on batting average or OPS alone. Marco Scutaro and Aaron Hill are great on getting on base, so another category that bares a lot of weight is how they bat with runners in scoring position. Technically, who has the best RISP on the team? The answer might surprise you:

BatterRISP
Inglett.364
Lind.291
Hill.289
McDonald.286
Barajas.278
Scutaro.269
Chavez .250
Snider.237
Ruiz.235
Millar.227
Overbay.219
Encarnacion.200
Wells.197
Bautista.139

Not that Joe Inglett or John McDonald would ever hit in the top half of the lineup, but you can't ignore their knack to drive in runs when it counts most. Throw out those two as anomalies, and Lind and Hill are left as the best options. Really it's a question of whether it's going to be Adam Lind or Aaron Hill in the lineup spot.

Statistically, Adam Lind is the best guy to pencil in as the number four hitter. Lind may have commented how he's not exactly thrilled about hitting there, so hopefully if the coaches work with him a little more in spring training then he can be mentally prepared for that job going into 2010.

Really, he's the best guy for the job unless there is a slight chance that King Carlos might be returning to his throne in the cleanup spot.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Light at the end of the tunnel

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The end is near - which is good or bad, depending on which side of the fence you sit on.

If you're an eternal optimist like myself, you are looking forward to what next year's possibilities bring for the Toronto Blue Jays. Or if you are more of a realist, you're anticipating to the end of the season just so it will provide six months of relief.

With just over three weeks left to play, it appears that upper management is letting Cito Gaston run wild with the lineup in hopes that some of these September callups will find success and they can start putting the pieces together for next year.

Even the snaffoo about mentioning how Rod Barajas probably won't be back next year could be an indication that Paul Beeston is giving Cito free run for this last little while before the winds of change sweep through Toronto.

The big problem is that this team lacks a vision. It's difficult for Paul Beeston to steer this ship to victory when he doesn't just want to hand over the Blue Jays to somebody else only to have them run it into the ground. Technically, Beeston is in charge but it's not "his team" so why would he put in a yeoman's work when another president will take over and provide a completely new vision?

One thing's for sure - this offseason will be very interesting. If all the pieces remain in place and Paul Beeston, J.P. Ricciardi and Cito Gaston are still with the Blue Jays in 2010, I'm afraid the team might suffer the exact same fate they did this year. On the other hand, if new management takes over and starts rebuilding things from the ground up, the potential for that could be very interesting. At least it would give us something new to look at.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Full House

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It wasn't exactly the 9,000 that I anticipated, but you could practically hear a pin drop at the Rogers Centre earlier this afternoon. There were times when I was talking to my friend and I was afraid I going to be "shushed" because it was so damn quiet.

Luckily there was a healthy afternoon crowd of 11,461 on hand to watch Brett Cecil's final start of the season. As I had hoped, Cecil put in a good performance and hurled six strong innings to pick up his seventh win of the season.

When I quickly glanced at the starting lineup, I knew it was going to be a weird afternoon because Joe Inglett was in the leadoff spot and Travis Snider was bumped up to the number two slot. Aside from that, the lineup looked pretty typical following a night game. For the most part it was a game of small ball with just the two solo home runs, one courtesy of Jose Bautista which The Bautista Appreciation Society very much appreciated.

So Jeremy Accardo made his highly anticipated first appearance since being sent down to Las Vegas for the second time, and naturally Cito Gaston had him on a short leash. Accardo started off by walking Nick Harris, but then the Blue Jays got the lead runner at second base. Gaston used three relievers to get three outs in the seventh inning, which seems a little taxing on the bullpen if you ask me. Jeremy is a big boy and he can certainly get himself out of an inning with one out and a runner on first base. Carlson ended up balking the runner to second base anyway.

Overall, it was a close game but a great game because it's nice to see a low-scoring matchup every once in a while. Not only was it a great game on the field, but the hipster that sat a few rows in front of us provided some between-innings distractions with his badass moustache. Rollie Fingers would have been proud if he saw that cookie duster in person.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

The Twins come out to play

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Of all the pitchers in the American League to go pitch for pitch with Roy Halladay, Carl Pavano was the guy I least expected to match Doc tonight. Aside from opposing each other at the Rogers Centre tonight, the only thing that Pavano and Halladay have in common this year is that they are the top two pitchers in the American League when it comes to BB/9 (walk per nine).

Halladay did an amazing job of holding off the Twins for most of the game, but they finally got to him in the top of the 9th expanding their lead to 4-1 over the Blue Jays. Whether or not Cito Gaston made a mistake by leaving Halladay in there for too long is subjective.

Regardless, the offense showed up just about as much as the fans did tonight. Infield Fly tweeted this nugget of news that apparenty tonight's attendance of 11,159 was the lowest attendance in Rogers Centre history. While that's nowhere near close to Florida Marlins territory, I don't really think that an attendance that just barely clears 10K is a cause for concern.

The baseball season is winding down, the kids are back in school, and baseball fanatics are less likely to play hooky from work because most of the office is back and working. I honestly wouldn't be surprised if tomorrow's game is even worse, possibly less than 9,000 for the series finale matinee.

I will be one of the 9,000 there tomorrow and am looking forward to seeing Brett Cecil's final start of season before he is shut down for the year. Cecil has not thrown more than five innings in his last five starts and hopefully he will finish the season on a good note.

If all else fails, just buy a ticket to the 500 level and sneak your way down to the 100's. It shouldn't be that difficult because the ushers will practically be begging people to fill the seats on the field level.

John McDonald hits his power stride

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It was something that one would think could only possibly happen in MLB2k7 or MVP Baseball 2005. It was no video game simulation, John McDonald hit a 3-run game winning home run. Let that sink in for a minute.

With his epic 3 for 4 night, Tao of Stieb pointed out earlier today that Johnny Mac has actually surpassed Kevin Millar in terms of OPS numbers. At least Millar is aware of the fact that he hasn't been all that great at the plate this year. In yesterday's live chat on Bluejays.com, he seemed remorseful:

"I didn't do a great job with my role, to be as consistent as I wish I could have been ... sorry I didn't hit higher this year for you guys off of the bench"
It's hard to hate on a guy who knows that he hasn't been pulling his weight this year. I know I've been tough on Millar lately, but it seems like Cito Gaston is setting him up for disappointment when he puts him in the cleanup spot.

Millar is not suited to be a number four hitter, but if his manager puts him in there then Millar has to go out there and do his best. Statistically, Millar hits best in the seven spot (.267 AVG) as opposed to the cleanup spot (.186 AVG).

Last time I checked, isn't it the manager's job to realize where their players are best suited to hit in the lineup?

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Ricky of The Year

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First off, thanks to Matt English for giving us permission to post this movie poster. Of course, Matt is the mastermind behind the Blue Jays comics which you will often find over at Drunk Jays Fans.

Unfortunately for Romero, although his 11-7 record as a rookie is worth salivating over, his last six starts combined have been less than memorable. A 1-3 record combined with a 6.32 ERA since August 2nd all point towards a second-half slump that Romero has had trouble shaking as of late. Some have suggested that he tends to get himself very worked up and nervous in high pressure situations, which makes a lot of sense because those last six starts have come against the Yankees, Red Sox, Angels and Orioles.

In other Blue Jays news, Jeremy Accardo was finally emancipated from Las Vegas once again as the Jays announced that Accardo, David Purcey and Kyle Phillips would join the 40 man roster. What - no Brian Dopriak? Stoeten offers his reasoning for the Blue Jays leaving him behind, but it's just another notch in the belt of roster omissions and mistakes this team has been subject to in 2009.

Maybe we'll get to see a few of the new Blue Jays in action when they take on the Minnesota Twins again later tonight. Stop by The Score liveblog as I'll be your host and we can all vent together.

The Curious Case of Scott Richmond

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It's something that we've become all too accustomed with this year with Scott Richmond. For whatever reason, Scotty often runs into trouble early in the game. Today's start was another prime example of that - he was roughed up early in the game for five runs but managed to settle down for the remainder of his start.

For weeks, I've struggled to find out why Richmond has so much trouble within the first few innings of his starts. While I don't have an explanation for why it happens, the truth remains that Scott Richmond's ERA is much higher through the first three innings of his starts than from the fourth inning onward.


Game Progess
ERATotal Earned Runs
First 3 Innings
6.2739
4th Inning Onward
3.88
25

During the first three innings of Richmond's starts, his ERA is 6.27. But once he settles down, his ERA from the fourth inning and onward drops down to 3.88. I don't know whether it's early-inning jitters or maybe it could be because Scott doesn't really get warmed up for a few innings.

The only other explanation I can provide is that maybe Richmond's fastball picks up velocity in later innings or his slider breaks more as the game progresses.

Until I can find more concrete evidence, the Curious Case of Scott Richmond will remain unsolved.

Monday, September 7, 2009

The Cito Side Effects

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It's what eyebleaf calls "The Cito Effect" and the term that Drew at Ghostrunner on First has labeled "Citocity". Countless times this year, manager Cito Gaston has made decisions that left us scratching our heads.

Whether it was questionable starting lineups, leaving a starter or reliever in the game too long, or not using the bench players effectively, armchair managers are still pondering what drives Cito to make these choices.

Part of me thinks that Cito was so used to parading WAMCO (White/Alomar/Molitor/Carter/Olerud) out there day after day back in 1993-1994, that he thinks the same strategy would work with the 2009 Blue Jays. If you want proof, just look at how long Alex Rios and Vernon Wells hit in the three and four spots before Cito finally broke things up (which was 62 game for those who are counting).

Unfortunately, Cito doesn't have the same luxury of a dependable top half of the lineup like he did back in the early 90's. Just like a toddler, this lineup needs to be watched and monitored very closely; otherwise they can very easily run themselves out into the middle of traffic. Starting lineups are not etched in stone for all eternity, they put an eraser at the end of a pencil for a reason.

Another glaring Citocism that is especially evident this year is how he continues to put Kevin Millar in the cleanup spot game after game. Typically that spot is reserved for the best hitter on the team, not somebody like Millar who has the worst batting average on the team (aside from trade deadline acquisition Edwin Encarnacion). Putting your worst hitter in the cleanup spot is like giving your punter the starting quarterback job; it's essentially baseball suicide.

As frustrating as it was to watch the Blue Jays these past few years, I don't remember criticizing or questioning John Gibbons nearly as much as I have with Cito Gaston. John Gibbons was notorious for changing his lineup card almost every game, and with Cito we have the polar opposite - someone who almost refuses to change things because that might disrupt the dichotomy of the team.

Ultimately, it's on the players to win baseball games, but if the manager cannot determine the best lineup day after day then some of the blame should rest on the shoulders of the manager.

Cito Gaston seems like a great guy and he has a deep knowledge of the game, but maybe his in-game managerial decisions and starting lineup skills could use an overhaul. As Tao suggested earlier this week, maybe Cito would make a great advisor or consultant for the Blue Jays.

This 2009 Blue Jays team is a very rookie-heavy roster and is definitely a far cry from the team Cito managed in his hay day. It's a totally different mentality approaching a starting rotation that is three-fifths rookies as opposed to five seasoned veterans.

Technically, Cito Gaston's contract ends after the 2010 season but I wouldn't be heartbroken to see him leave earlier than that. Like most of us, I'm still waiting for the cavalcade of wins to start rolling in from the "lose one, win two later" philosophy.

It's just that every time he makes one of these questionable in-game decisions or fills out a lineup card, it seems like Cito's old-school mentalities might not translate well in the modern era of baseball.

Saturday, September 5, 2009

Tip your cap to Roy Halladay

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I apologize for the lateness of this post, but almost 24 hours after it happened, Roy Halladay's one-hitter over the New York Yankees is still relevant and fresh in the minds of Blue Jays fans.

He silenced his critics by shutting down the best team in baseball, and the only hit of the night came from rookie Ramiro Pena. Maybe if Deter was in the game, it would have been a no hitter.
Even with the bases loaded in the sixth inning and Alex Rodriguez at the dish, Halladay buckled down and got the cruical out in what was the turning point of that game.

It was great to see vintage Roy Halladay back on the mound doing what he does best and I think last night's effort alone is deserving of a Cy Young award.

Let's all make sure that we tip our caps to the best pitcher in baseball today.

Friday, September 4, 2009

Starters sliding down a slippery slope

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Holy alliteration, Batman! As the picture above indicates, sometimes sliding down a slippery slope is an enjoyable experience. Lately, it's been quite the opposite because the Blue Jays starting pitchers haven’t exactly been pulling their weight.

After Ricky Romero lost his seventh game of the year last night, he gave up a season-high six walks and now has a string of six straight starts where he has not made it into the seventh inning.

But it’s not just RR Cool Jay who has run into troubles as of late, Roy Halladay has also hit a little bit of a rough patch. Here is how the Blue Jays top two starters have fared in their last three starts:

Pitcher Win/LossERA
Halladay 0-37.94
Romero 1-25.78

Maybe we should be concerned by these numbers, and maybe we shouldn’t. Halladay’s last three starts have come against the Red Sox (2) and Tampa Bay (1). Romero’s have been against Los Angeles, Boston and New York, so they have definitely faced some tough lineups. The Angels are the best hitting team in the league followed by the Yankees, whereas the Red Sox and Rays rank sixth and seventh when it comes to team batting average. I would be weary to say that there is more concern about Halladay at this point instead of how Rookie Romero is faring.

I’m not exactly sure why Doc is malfunctioning, but he will try to get back on track and attempt to pick up win number 14 tonight against the Yankees and Joba Chamberlain. This will be Joba’s lone start of the season at the Rogers Centre and just the second in his career within the confines of the cable box.

Let’s ensure that his stay in Toronto is as uncomfortable as possible, and to help in that matter maybe the Rogers Centre should parade their best female police officers for tonight’s game. If anything at least A-Rod would enjoy it!

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Dumbfounded

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Do those long and sad faces look like they belong to a team that has given up on the 2009 season? Technically the Blue Jays are still fielding a team every game, but it certainly seems like they have thrown in the towel.

Tonight's loss was another uninspired performance which adds to the Blue Jays 6-16 record since August 10th and a 15-27 record in the second half. And if you thought things couldn't get any worse this week, the first place New York Yankees are rolling into town for four games.

Just to show you how bad things are, I was actually offered tickets to Friday's game and if it wasn't for the fact that it's a three hour drive to Toronto, I don't even know if I would want to go the game. I'd much rather sulk in the comfort of my own home and scream obscenities at the TV without fear of being told to "keep it down in the family section" and "stop setting a bad example for the kids".

Right now the Blue Jays are on pace to win just 72 games and it's almost certain they will miss their fourth straight year of 80+ wins. It's great that the Blue Jays have won 80 games or more for the past four season, but what did they have to show for it?

It's something to say that they were one of a handful of teams who have posted a winning record over the past few seasons, but I'm sure the fans would much rather see them make the playoffs. Maybe a losing season will help open a lot of eyes in upper management and show them that this team needs to spend money to compete in the American League East.

I'm not saying that the Blue Jays should tank on purpose, because that would be conceding the season and that would go against everything that professional sports is about. While it's excruciating to watch this team lose over and over again, maybe things need to get worse before they get better ... if that makes any sense at all.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Time for the Jays to jump on J.J. Hardy

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As we near the end of the 2009 campaign, one of the big holes that the Blue Jays need to address in the off-season is who's going to play shortstop. Cito Gaston has said that he'd love to have Marco Scutaro back patrolling the middle infield, but unfortunately that's up to J.P. Ricciardi and Paul Beeston.

Short of re-signing Scutaro, the Blue Jays will need to explore other options for shortstop in 2010. So who else could fill Scutaro's shoes at SS? I'm of course talking about perpetual BJH man-crush and possible shortstop replacement candidate, J.J. Hardy.

Technically, Hardy doesn't become a free agent until after 2011, but the way that the Brewers organization have jerked him around just like the Blue Jays have with Jeremy Accardo, I wouldn't be surprised to see Hardy traded this off-season.

Most recently, Hardy's demotion to Triple A has prevented him from qualifying for his original free agency period which would have been after the 2010 season. During his stint in the minors, the Brewers have become smitten with Alcides Escobar. He would be a cheaper and more sustainable option for the Brewers because they have him under control for the next five seasons.

MLB Trade Rumors estimates that Hardy would make at least $3.7 million under contract next year, which is still a far cry from the $4.65 million that he's banking this season. Scutaro will almost certainly be a Type A free agent and will command at least that kind of money on the open market if not much more.

Fangraphs pegs Scutaro's free agent value at $21.7 million dollars, which might be a little over the top, but for being in the top 20% at his position Scutaro can demand a hefty raise in 2010. Luckily for the Blue Jays, if they let Marco Scutaro walk, then they receive two compensation picks in the 2010 draft anyway.

So what would it take for the Blue Jays to convince the Brewers to trade their once highly-touted shortstop? A package deal including a disgruntled Jeremy Accardo and fine-tuned Jason Frasor would probably look very attractive to a Milwaukee Brewers organization who will likely be seeking a new closer for 2010. Or if the Blue Jays are still looking to trade Roy Halladay, then J.J. Hardy could be one of the players that the Jays get in return.

Scutaro has been a great leadoff hitter for the Blue Jays and has been more than adequate in the field. The problem with him having a career year is that he is almost guaranteed to drop off in production next season. With Scutaro approaching 34 years old he isn't exactly a spring chicken, whereas Hardy at age 27 is just coming into his prime. Do the Blue Jays really want to be stuck with a 36 year old Marco Scutaro as their shortstop in 2011?

The rise of Scutaro combined with the downfall of Hardy could work very well in the Blue Jays favour if they decide to pursue Hardy in the off-season. If the rebuilding of this team is going to happen, it may as well start with the infield and I think J.J. Hardy would be the perfect fit for this team moving forward.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Everything’s bigger in Texas

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Under ordinary circumstances, you would think that an 11 run lead would be enough to secure a victory. I learned the hard way that no lead is ever a safe lead, and luckily the Blue Jays held off the Rangers long enough to avoid setting a new record for the largest lead surrendered in club history.

Any semblance of a pitcher’s duel was thrown completely out the window in the first inning when the Blue Jays jumped out to an early 5-0 lead. Then it was Brett Cecil’s turn to get roughed up when he gave up seven runs in the bottom of the fifth.

When the dust finally settled after three hours and thirty four minutes, 28 total runs and 28 total hits lit up the scoreboard at Rangers ballpark. The Blue Jays scored more runs in their 18-10 win than they did in their previous five games combined.

Of course, let’s give credit where it is due and congratulate Adam Lind and Rod Barajas for their amazing offensive contributions. Rod Barajas has been on fire these past few weeks, with 6 HR, 14 RBI and a 1.136 OPS since August 18th.

If you thought Adam Lind couldn’t top his 6 RBI performance on Opening Night, you would be wrong. His 8 RBI’s set a new career high, and he was just one away from matching the club record set by Roy Howell in 1977.

Honourable mention goes to Vernon Wells who hit a double, triple, drove in two runs, and made a spectacular catch in centre field to preserve the lead and keep the Blue Jays on top by one run. Could it have been that being at home made Wells feel at ease? Whatever it is, it seems to be working so far.

Just when you thought the Jays and Rangers might take a break after that offensive display last night, they will kick off a double-header this evening starting at 5:05pm. I’ll be liveblogging the first game over at The Score, so grab some pizza pockets and join me after work for game one of the double header.
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