Friday, April 29, 2011

Acid Flashback Friday: The Rogers Centre Roof Closing at Day and Night

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SkyDome from udo.d on Vimeo

Since everyone seemed to enjoy last week's post of the Skydome being built in 2.5 minutes, I figured I'd do post another time lapse video for this week's Acid Flashback Friday.

Above is a time lapse of the Rogers Centre roof being closed at night, and for a little variation, there's a video below of the roof being closed during the day.


SkyDome @ Day from udo.d on Vimeo

Almost as fascinating as watching the roof close is the traffic and pedestrians fly by. I don't know why, but I'm always a sucker for watching these "life in fast forward" videos.

Videos courtesy of user udo.D on Vimeo

Travis Snider's Demotion: Was it Personal or Just Business?

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Image courtesy of Daylife via AP
Could anyone have foreseen that happening? After just a mere 99 plate appearances, the Blue Jays decided for whatever reason that it was time to demote Travis Snider to Triple A.

Before I begin to speculate about why Snider was sent down in the first place, I think it was simply for one of two reasons; it was either a personal decision or a business decision.

When Brett Cecil was sent to the minor leagues, it was a personal decision. He struggled through his first three starts and it's apparently the Blue Jays want Cecil to work the kinks out in the minors.

On the other hand, when Jesse Litsch was sent down to the minor leagues last week, it was a business decision. It didn't reflect in any way his performance, it was merely because they needed to clear a roster spot for Frank Francisco.

So with that information in hand, do you think it was a business decision or a personal decision?

As cunning as the Silent Assassin is, I'm inclined to think this was a personal decision by Alex Anthopoulos. 2011 was a put-up or shut-up year for Travis Snider.

We've seen moments of brilliance and we've also seen Travis Snider snap his bat over his leg in frustration. He has 208 big league games under his belt, yet we still don't really know who the real Travis Snider is.

At the same time, what's the point of sending Travis Snider back to Las Vegas? He'll just crush some Pacific Coast League pitching, and then get called back up and we're back at square one.

After just one month into the season, I'd say the decision was definitely a little premature to send Snider to the minors.There are plenty of talented players who are having horrible Aprils, but that doesn't warrant a demotion.

Maybe we should entertain the that this was purely a business decision. Whether it be a service time issue, to increase Juan Rivera's trade value, or if there's another trade on the horizon, these are all possibilities.

The part that really baffles me is if this move was to give Juan Rivera more playing time, why didn't they just keep Rivera as the full time DH and send down Corey Patterson? That way, Rivera still gets his at bats and Snider stays in the outfield.

Everyone around the league certainly knows Rivera isn't a very good outfielder, so the reasoning can't be to get Rivera more playing time in the outfield. In my mind, that theory can be thrown out the window.

Honestly, I think we might just be over thinking what Alex Anthopoulos and the Blue Jays are trying to do here. Although the Silent Assassin is notorious for his crafty moves, perhaps this is just the case of demoting a struggling player to the minors.

In this case, it just so happens to be a very high profile player in the organization that who has very high expectations attached to him.

Whether it was a personal or business decision to send Travis Snider to the minor leagues, either way it's very disheartening to see him send to Las Vegas. I don't know if Snider could have turned it around, but now we won't get the chance to find out until Travis comes back.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

The Jose Bautista Cleanup Project

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Image courtesy of Daylife via Reuters Pictures
Yesterday, David Schoenfield of ESPN's SweetSpot wrote that Jose Bautista is the most feared hitter in baseball.

While more and more opponents may be intimidated of facing Jose Bautista, is it possible the Blue Jays aren't maximizing his potential by batting him in the three slot? On any other team, their best hitter would be hitting cleanup, but Bautista remains hitting third.

Conventional lineup construction would dictate that your power hitter should hit in the cleanup spot. But we all know that conventional lineups were thrown out the window once John Farrell started managing this team.

So I present to you the pros and cons of moving Jose Bautista from the three slot into the cleanup role, or as it's more astutely called, the "Jose Bautista Cleanup Project".

Pro: More men on base equals more runs driven in

It's incredible to think that all but three of Jose Bautista's 13 RBI's have been driven in via home run. And all but one of his home runs have been solo home runs as well.

Obviously the Blue Jays want Bautista to drive in as many runs as possible, and it's very disheartening to see Jose trotting around the bases and not having any teammates who were previously on base congratulate him at home plate.

Bautista may receive less at bats overall hitting fourth as opposed to third, but the situations in which he will come to the plate will be that much more meaningful. Simply put, Jose Bautista can do the most damage hitting fourth in the Blue Jays lineup.

Con: He gets less at bats

One of the drawbacks though from hitting cleanup is the number four hitter typically gets 18 or so less plate appearances than the number three hitter. Once again, the Blue Jays would be best served having Jose Bautista come to plate as many times as possible.

At Bautista's current pace of a home run every 8.2 at bats, an extra 16 at bats or so could translate into a couple more home runs for Joey Bats. Even if he doesn't hit more home runs due to the extra at bats, having your best hitter come to the plate as many times as possible just makes sense.

Pro: More risk, but more reward

By all indications, Jose Bautista is playing for the greater good and subsequently is more interested in seeing his team win rather than garnering individual success.

Padding his statistics is secondary, but if Bautista wants a chance at upping his RBI total and possibly even his home run total, maybe entertaining a move down in the lineup might not be such a bad idea after all.

Con: He may not want to hit cleanup

Last year, Adam Lind voiced his displeasure hitting cleanup saying he wasn't comfortable being slotted in as the number four hitter. So you can imagine after hitting third since July 7th of last year, Jose Bautista might be adverse moving down in the lineup as well.

There's no question Jose Bautista has been in a groove ever since and at the risk of upsetting the great Jobu, perhaps Bautista should just stay where he is and continue to do what works best for him.

Pro: There is some lineup protection

One of the drawbacks of last year's lineup construction was that Jose Bautista didn't receive much protection. Often times, pitchers would pass on Jose and go after Vernon Wells, and it seemed like Wells got the pitches Jose was looking for.

By moving Bautista down to the cleanup spot, Adam Lind can serve as some protection in the fifth spot that otherwise wasn't there last season.

Or, here's a crazy thought; if John Farrell prefers to keep Lind in the top part of the lineup, why not slot Edwin Encarnacion in the fifth spot? He's on a tear at the moment, and EE has power to bring Bautista home if he gets on base.

Con: Who fills the vacant third spot?

Going back to your prototypical lineup construction, typically your number three hitter is somebody who can hit for average, but also get on base at a decent clip.

In the Getting Blanked post-game webcast, Parkes suggested giving Aaron Hill a shot at the three-hole. I like Aaron Hill's power, but his lack of ability to get on base doesn't really fit in with the progressive part of the lineup.

If Travis Snider can sustain an average around .250, give him a crack at hitting in front of Jose Bautista in the three spot. An additional benefit of having Snider up there is his speed on the basepaths.

Batting Snider third seems like a bit of a contradiction though compared to Aaron Hill, since Hill actually has the better career on base percentage (.323 vs .315). Despite that, I don't think it would be difficult to sell Farell on that since he's already tried Snider in the two spot anyway.

Conclusion

No matter where Jose Bautista is placed in the Blue Jays lineup, he's going to do plenty of damage. John Farrell's job is to maximize the opportunities for the team's best hitter so he can bring in the most runs.

At first I was leaning more towards advocating the Jose Bautista Cleanup Project, but now I'm not so sure. Bautista is obviously very comfortable where he is, so why mess with a good thing?

On the other hand, it's such a shame to continually see Bautista hit solo home runs without any of his teammates on base to cash in additional runs.

Moving Bautista to third means either Travis Snider or Adam Lind could hit third, and if need be Edwin Encarnacion can bat fifth. I know it sounds crazy, but if John Gibbons was willing to shuffle the lineup every other night, Farrell can at least give the Jose Bautista Cleanup Project a shot.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Lind Comes to Life

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Image courtesy of Daylife via AP
Ladies and gentlemen, Adam Lind has returned. Coming off a 5 RBI and 2 home run performance, all Adam Lind needed was a night in Texas to cure what ailed him.

Lind was held homerless in the 20 previous games which was admittedly a little worrisome, as his batting average started hovering around the .230 mark.

Out of the conjoined slumping twins from last year, I was hoping that Adam Lind would bounce back this year and return to his 2009 self. Aaron Hill I'm still not so sure of, but Lind took a big step last night to reclaiming some of that lustre.

It's hard to kick a guy when he's down in the disabled list, but I'm just not convinced that Aaron Hill is a dangerous hitter anymore. Sure, he can still hit for power as was demonstrated last year, but he's just not a patient hitter.

With his contract extension last year, Adam Lind is going to be around until at least 2013, possibly up to 2018 with his club options. The Blue Jays could cut ties with Aaron Hill as soon as 2012.

Whatever Adam Lind worked on in the offseason, it looks like it's working. Power to all fields of the ballpark was a hallmark that Lind was famous for in 2009, and hopefully he'll be known for that once again.

How about the fact that Lind not only hit two home runs, but that they were to opposite fields of the ballpark? One could argue Arlington Ballpark has especially been a wind tunnel this week, and the Blue Jays power hitters have certainly taken advantage of the extra distance.

Ballots for Bautista is Back!

Speaking of former All-Stars, the balloting has officially opened up for the 2011 MLB All-Star Game, which means the "Ballots for Bautista" campaign has returned once again.

This time we're not only trying to get Jose Bautista into the All-Star Game in Phoeniz, but as the starting right fielder. His pedigree around the league has garnered plenty of attention, and should hopefully translate to an increase in votes from last year.

Visit BallotsforBautista.com and follow @BallotsBautista on Twitter for the latest campaign updates.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

The Bomb Squad Arrives in Texas

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Image courtesy of Daylife via AP
Heading into the sixth inning of last night's contest, the Blue Jays were riding a 14 inning scoreless streak. The bats were stifled by James Shields on Sunday, but they came alive against Colby Lewis.

While home runs from Jose Bautista and Juan Rivera are to be expected, just take a look at the pitch location of Corey Patterson's home run below (courtesy of Brooks Baseball Pitch FX).

Somehow, Corey Patterson managed to turn on that pitch nearly at head level and blast it over the right field fence at Arlington Ballpark for a home run.

That kind of power is usually reserved for Jose Bautista, but this was credited to Corey Patterson who usually isn't known for his power stroke. I guess if you're sitting on the right pitch, anything is possible.

Monday, April 25, 2011

Viva Las Roster Moves

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With the bevy of roster moves the Blue Jays have made over the past month, I suggested on Twitter last week that they should just construct a monorail from Toronto to Las Vegas.

It might not be such a bad idea, as members of the Blue Jays roster are already racking up frequent flyer miles between Toronto and Las Vegas. Just take a look at all the roster moves since Opening Day:

Date Player Transaction
April 7 Casey Jannsen Sent to Minors
April 8 Octavio Dotel Removed From 15-Day DL
April 9 Mike McCoy Sent to Minors
April 9 Scott Richmond Called up from Minors
April 9 Scott Richmond Sent to Minors
April 11 DeWayne Wise Signed to Minor League Contract
April 11 Corey Patterson Recalled from Minors
April 12 David Purcey Designated for Assignment
April 12 Rajai Davis Placed on 15-Day DL
April 12 Brad Mills Recalled from Minors
April 12 Casey Janssen Recalled from Minors
April 13 Brad Mills Sent to Minors
April 15 Edwin Encarnacion Placed on Bereavement List
April 15 Mike McCoy Called up from Minors
April 15 Luis Perez Called up from Minors
April 17 Mike McCoy Sent to Minors
April 18 Edwin Encarnacion Reinstated from Bereavement List
April 19 Jesse Litsch Sent to Minors
April 19 Frank Francisco Removed From 15-Day DL
April 20 Luis Perez Sent to Minors
April 21 Brandon Morrow Removed From 15-Day DL
April 21 Chris Woodward Called Up from Minors
April 21 Brett Cecil Sent to Minors
April 23 Jayson Nix Placed on the 15-Day DL
April 23 Mike McCoy Called up from Minors
April 24 Aaron Hill Placed on 15-Day DL
April 24 Jesse Litsch Called up from Minors

In total, the Blue Jays have made 27 roster moves since April 1st. As a comparison, last year the Blue Jays didn't reach the 27 roster move mark until nearly halfway through the season on June 20th.

Mike McCoy has arguably had the worst of it, making his third trip with the club already. Scott Richmond was called up and sent down the same day, and Jesse Litsch was sent down and called up within the same week.

It can't be good for a player's psyche to be yo-yo'd around like that; living in the constant fear of being sent down to the minor leagues at a moment's notice.

Unlike other organizations, the Toronto Blue Jays are not fortune to have a Triple A affiliate in their own backyard. Cork Gaines of Business Insider discovered the Blue Jays are the team with the longest distance between their Triple A team and the parent organization.

The distance between Toronto and Las Vegas is 2,261 miles or 3,369 kilometers. That's nearly twice as long as the next furthest team, the Minnesota Twins and their affiliate in Rochester, New York.

Las Vegas is a long cry from when the Syracuse Chiefs used to be the Blue Jays Triple A team from 1978 to 2008. It used to be a short one hour flight across Lake Ontario from point A to point B.

Back in the day, the Blue Jays probably could have called a player up from Syracuse at the start of the game, have them hop on a plane, and they could arrive in Toronto and be inserted into the game later on.

Now since the 51's are in Las Vegas, the turnaround time has to be at least a day. And in come cases, things change so quickly that players may even be on their flight from Las Vegas to Toronto when another roster move is made.

The only piece of advice I can offer to players being called up from Las Vegas is don't unpack and get too comfortable, because you might be on the red eye out of town that night.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Johnny Mac for Prime Minister

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Image courtesy of Daylife via AP
On May 2nd, Canadians will head to the polls and in turn will elect a Prime Minister. While we won't see Johnny Mac's name on the ballot, I would gladly cast my vote for John McDonald.

Earlier in the game, my friend and I were marveling how a player like John McDonald with a career .240 batting average has survived 13 years in the major leagues. On his stellar defense alone, Johnny Mac managed to make a career out of being a human highlight reel.

Eventually though, after playing 13 years in the bigs, once in a while you're going to come up with a big hit. And that walk-off home run was arguably the biggest hit of his career next to his home run last year on father's day.

I think fans sometimes tend to romanticize certain players as the "Greatest Blue Jay of All Time", but there's no question that John McDonald is definitely up there as one of the best. Not necessarily because of his bat, it's because he's the consummate professional and team player.

There must have impressionable young minds who watched the game last night and said "I want to be like that". Hopefully, the parents of those children teach their kids to grow up to play baseball like John McDonald.

That's the kind of footprint Johnny Mac has left on this team and the impression will continue to leave as long as he's in a Blue Jays uniform. That moment could not have happened to a better guy and congratulations to John McDonald.

Jose Bautista rides the Bau-cycle

In addition to John McDonald's thrilling walk-off home run, I was on pins and needles watching Jose Bautista's at bats in the late stages of the game. After he got the three hardest parts of the cycle out of the way, it seemed like he was destined to hit for the cycle.

However, rather than going for the milestone, Bautista maintained his same approach for every at bat and looked for good pitches to hit. He didn't alter his game plan whatsoever and drew two walks in his final two at bats.

Just like John McDonald, Jose Bautista displayed why he is a consummate professional. He wasn't selfish and did what he needed to do to put the team in the best position to win.

Even if he hit a double or a triple, I'm not even convinced Jose would hold up at first base for the single. That's just the kind of player Jose Bautista is.

So in honour of Jose Bautista's two walks, double, triple and home run, I say we begin a movement to create the "Bau-cycle": which includes a walk, double, triple and home run.

As LJ pointed out, if a walk is as good as a hit, then in my mind, Jose Bautista hit for the cycle. In fact, he did something even more impressive - Jose Bautista rode the Bau-cycle.

Friday, April 22, 2011

Acid Flashback Friday: The Skydome Built in 2.5 Minutes

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Not much preamble for this week's Acid Flashback Friday, but it's just a cool video of the Skydome being built in 2.5 minutes.

In actuality, it only took about a year and nine months for construction to be completed on the Skydome, but this time lapse video gives you an idea from what the project looked like from start to finish.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Dissecting Cecil's Struggles

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Image courtesy of Daylife via AP
Earlier this week, it was Jesse Litsch who was sent down to Las Vegas - but should it have been Brett Cecil instead?

Here I was racking my brain trying to pinpoint what has been causing Brett Cecil’s struggles, but I can’t seem to find a concrete answer. Others across the blogosphere and Twitterverse are also having trouble finding out what exactly is wrong with Cecil.

Initially it was thought that the troubles might be stemming from lost velocity on his fastball, but Brett Cecil touched 91 MPH on the radar gun last night, so that can’t be the issue.

Then I thought it was because he was getting behind early in the count. Taking a look at last night’s at bats, out of the 24 batters Cecil faced, he threw 12 first pitch strikes, 9 first pitch balls, and the other 3 were first pitch hits.

However, that seems to be about on par with most American League starters Cecil’s overall first pitch strike percentage is 59.6%, which is right around the median for the AL. Then I took a lpeek at his swinging strike percentage, and that was sitting at 7.9% which ranked 34th out of 56 AL starters.

The only other thing which may be attributing to Cecil’s struggles is his ground balls are down and his fly balls are up. Given he’s only thrown 21 innings so far this year, but when your ground ball percentage plummets from 44.2% to 30.8%, that’s a recipe for disaster.

Consequently, Cecil’s fly ball percentage has skyrocketed from 38.2% last year to 44.6% this year.

It hearkens back to what Gregg Zaun in his infinite wisdom has been saying about Brett Cecil all along; he needs to “pound down” and not leave his pitches up in the zone. Once he begins to elevate his pitches, that’s when Brett runs into problems.

If you guys can shed some light as to what's wrong with Brett Cecil, by all means please let me know in the comments because aside from what's posted above, I'm stumped.

Stats courtesy of Brett Cecil's Fangraphs page

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

The Travis Snider Mosh Pit Photoshop Mashup

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I'm not sure what took me so long to think if this, but here is a hastily made photoshop montage of Travis Snider's reactions during last night's walk-off win.

It finally clicked that in each of these photos, Travis Snider looks like he's in the middle of a mosh pit at a Gwar concert.

Mosh pits don't clash!

Walk-Off Wins Don't Clash

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Images courtesy of Daylife via Getty Images and Reuters Pictures
One at bat, he's channeling his inner Paul Bunyan and snapping his bat over his leg as if it were a twig. The next, he's delivering a game-winning double.

Thanks to Travis Snider, walk-off wins don't clash.

It was another roller coaster ride at the Rogers Centre as the Blue Jays picked up their second walk-off victory of the year, just two weeks after they celebrated their first walk-off victory of the year (weird, eh?).

Travis Snider was in the dog house for most of the game, but managed to dig himself out with a very opportune hit. Like most of the Blue Jays hitters, Snider had a tough road trip but I'm sure he was happy to be home.

Things truly reached a boiling point in the 6th after Snider struck out and broke his bat in frustration. Watch the animated gif courtesy of @James_In_TO. As impressive of a feat as that was, I'd much prefer seeing Snider splitting his bat destroying an offspeed pitch.

Typically, I'd say that's a very immature thing to do. Carlos Quentin and Troy Tulowitzki are prime examples that slamming your bat in disgust can lead to injuries. However in this case, Snider's walk-off hit erased any mistakes for the time being.

And how great was it to see the Blue Jays get to Mariano Rivera? I realize this is very rare and he blows saves about as often as Haley's Comet comes around, but last night Rivera was actually a mortal human being for once.

Truth be told, the Blue Jays should have finished him off in the bottom of the ninth. He was circling the drain and they should have capitalized on that with only one out. I guess Rivera-Bot 3000 can only give up a maximum of two runs in any inning.

Incredibly, that was only Mariano Rivera's 68th career blown save in 664 save situations. He's converted 89.75 percent of his total saves, and has only ever blown six against the Blue Jays.

Here's something even more impressive; of those 68 career blown saves by Rivera, the Yankees have actually turned around and won 29 of those games. (hat tip to @RiverAveBlues for that one)

If there's one thing that's more gratifying than watching the Blue Jays win a walk-off win at home, it's watching a walk-off win at home against the Yankees.

Travis Snider was the hero of the day, and now is an opportune time to celebrate with your very own Meat's Don't Clash shirt.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

The Imperial March Into Toronto

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Every time the New York Yankees roll into down, it's like a large cloud of disain envelops the city of Toronto. Even if you don't root for the Blue Jays, most people can always bond over their hatred for the Yankees.

By now, the Evil Empire must feed off the hatred for their organization. It's something that comes with the territory and for most Yankee players I bet the heckles go in one ear and out the other.

Tonight's pitching matchup is especially interesting because it's the former number two man in Toronto in A.J. Burnett going up against the man of the future in Toronto, Kyle Drabek.

I don't know what it is, but just like there's a united disain for the New York Yankees, fans in Toronto bond over their loathing for A.J. Burnett.

It also just so happens that every time Burnett comes back to Toronto, he gets his ass kicked. In his last apperance in Toronto, A.J. only lasted 2.1 innings and gave up 7 runs. The prior start, he gave up 6 runs through 6 innings.

For those counting at home, that's a 14.04 ERA at the Rogers Centre while opponents hit .361 off him. In saying that though, I likely just jinxed the Blue Jays and Burnett will throw 7 shutout innings.

It's almost irrelevant who's pitching tonight, but for some reason there's always a little more drama when it's a former Blue Jay in pinstripes takes the mound in Toronto.

Hopefully Kyle Drabek will pick up where he left off last season when his final outing of the year was also against the Bronx Bombers. Drabek posted a quality start that night and has actually earned a quality start in all 6 of his big league games thus far.

Once again, I hope I didn't just jinx the Blue Jays.

My only wish for tonight is that the Blue Jays faithful in the stands are louder than the Yankee bretheren that seem to come out of the woodwork when the Yankees come to town. It's almost embarassing when you can hear "Let's go Yankees" or a subdued version of the roll call on the broadcast.

That's also something I've never understood; if you live in Toronto, how can you cheer for the Yankees or the Red Sox when the Blue Jays are right in your own backyard? Even if they aren't a perennial contendor for the World Series, support your home team!

That means when the Blue Jays make the playoffs next, it will be all that much sweeter because you were there through the thick in the thin, rather than jump on the bandwagon of whichever team is leading the American League East.

Remember, even though we all may have our differences, united we stand in our scorn for the New York Yankees. Go Jays!

Monday, April 18, 2011

Jesse Litsch: Perfectly Adequate

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Image courtesy of Daylife via Reuters Pictures
Pink, round, efficient: from the mind of Joanna at Hum and Chuck, they're three infamous adjectives that aptly describe what Jesse Litsch is all about.

Let's add one more (along with a adverb) to that list: perfectly adequate.

As I was liveblogging the game yesterday, I noticed some folks on Twitter were very quick to turn on Jesse Litsch after he gave up that home run to Jacoby Ellsbury. Down by three runs, they were ready to put him out to pasture.

The boxscore didn't tell the entire story as Litsch's outing was much better than the statistics indicate. His only big mistake was that pitch to Jacoby Ellsbury, as aside from that I'd say yesterday's game was a perfectly adequate game from Litsch.

Obviously there will be some shuffling to do once Brandon Morrow comes off the disabled list this week, but I can't see Jesse Litsch being bumped from the starting rotation.

And compared to other fifth starters around the league, I'd say he stacks up fairly well. I'd put my money on Jesse Litsch before Daiskuke Matsuzaka or Freddy Garcia any day. The other two are just too unpredictable, but with Litsch you pretty much know what you're going to get.

Litsch will give you 5-6 innings, will rack up a couple of strikeouts and hopefully not let things get too carried away so he can hand things over to the bullpen.

When Jesse Litsch takes the mound, I'm not expecting him to bowl over the competition. I'm just hoping he can keep his teammates in the game long enough to put up some runs.

After watching Litsch pitch for almost three seasons, we pretty much know what to expect when he takes the mound. To me, that's perfectly adequate; and perfectly adequate is perfectly fine in my books.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Lazy Sunday Photoshop Fun with Kevin Youkilis

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Not much content leading up to this afternoon's rubber match between the Blue Jays and the Red Sox, but I figured I'd share my entries for Big League Stew's Photoshop Contest.

Above is Kevin Youkilis starting in "Red Swan", and I can't tell you how gratifying it was photoshopping a red tutu onto Youkilis.

Below we have Kevin Youkilis making the leap of victory in "The Great Escape".

Kevin Youkilis takes some time out of his busy baseball career to show some young ladies at the local watering hole how to properly ride the mechanical bull.

Here we have Kevin Youkilis putting the figure four leglock on wrestling legend Ric Flair.

And finally, Youkilis in the magical land of My Little Pony.

Let me know which Kevin Youkilis Photoshop is your favourite in the comments below. Hopefully Big League Stew will deem the best one worthy out of all the entries.

Don't forget, I'll also be liveblogging the game over at The Score starting at 1:30pm.

Friday, April 15, 2011

Acid Flashback Friday: Carlos Delgado Hits 4 Home Runs in One Game

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To this day, it still stands as one of the single greatest offensive displays by a Blue Jay. Only one man in franchise history has ever accomplished this feat, and the bar has been set so high that no one could might ever reproduce it again.

In light of Carlos Delgado's recent announcement of his retirement, this week we look back at Carlos Delgado's epic 4 home run game on September 23rd, 2003.

I'll be honest, I don't remember much of the game itself because that was during my "break" from the Blue Jays. However, I defer to a man who was there in the stands - The Man with the Golden Arm from 1 Blue Jays Way.

For an up close and personal account of the game, I highly suggest reading his post chronicling Delgado's 4 home run performance, but here are a few choice snippets from the momentous occasion:
"What I saw that day was a remarkable thing in retrospect. The type of thing you don't realize how special it was until later, after you had a chance to let it soak in. Carlos Delgado hit four home runs, in four consecutive at bats, his ONLY four at bats.

... I remember thinking to myself after he hit the second one to lead off the forth inning, man is he ever seeing the ball good today. But it was the shot he hit off Windows to lead off the eight that really sticks out. The drama was intense.

He already had three bombs, which in itself is rare. I wondered out loud if they were going to pitch to him. I figured that the hurler, one Lance Carter, was aware of the circumstances and probably didn't want to leave a ball over the middle of the plate. I was so sure that Carlos wasn't even going to see a fastball in that at bat.

Whatever pitch it was, the sound the bat made when it came in contact with the ball, left no doubt in anyone's mind where it was heading. I can still see him throwing the bat out of his hand, putting his head down and jogging to first.

He knew it was gone. Everyone in the park knew it was gone. I went nuts. I didn't even see where the ball landed and had to watch the highlights on Sports Desk just to find out. That day I gave high fives to complete strangers"
Perhaps more impressive than hitting four home runs in one game was that Carlos Delgado did it all while under the weather. He took some antibiotics for a cold and had a nap prior to the game.

One of his home runs traveled 435 feet and hit off the fabled glass at Windows Restaurant, and one even went 445 feet and reached up into Sightlines Restaurant, which was perched above Windows. In total, Delgado's four home runs traveled 1645 feet combined.

The game was also momentous for Carlos Delgado because he reached the 300 career home run plateau as well as crossed the 40 home run mark for the third time in his career. Delgado also surpassed his own previous club record for RBI's in a season when he reached 138 RBI's.

Just to reiterate how rare it is to hit 4 home runs in one game, Delgado was only one of five American League players ever to accomplish that feat, and only one of 15 in the majors to do it, and nobody has hit 4 home runs in a game since Delgado did it in 2003.

It's a unprecedented accomplishment that will stand as one of the greatest single game performances by one player in the history of the Toronto Blue Jays. It's just a shame only 13,408 people were privy to see it unfold live at the Rogers Centre.

Congratulations on an incredible career Carlos Delgado, and hopefully it won't be too long before you're right there with Roberto Alomar in Cooperstown.

Update: Carlos Delgado posted a link to this video montage on his Twitter account. Relive the magic that was Delgado's four home run game!

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Bautista's Bomb Saves the Day

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Image courtesy of Daylife via Reuters Pictures
Last season, the longest stretch Jose Bautista went without hitting a home run was 13 games. Needless to say, that "slump" didn't really hurt his 2010 totals.

While he may have had trouble putting the bat on the ball during those two weeks, Bautista certainly didn't have an issue keeping his eye on the ball by drawing seven walks.

Prior to yesterday's game, Jose Bautista had gone five games without hitting a home run. That's not to say those five games weren't unproductive either, as he walked a total of six times in those games.

So when Jose Bautista took a slider from Chris Ray and drove it into the left field seats at Safeco Field yesterday, it was the extra boost the Blue Jays needed to get over the hump and beat the Seattle Mariners.

I realize the season is only 12 games young, but Jose Bautista has had a hell of an April so far. Nobody expected him to bust out of the gate and crush home runs right away (he only hit 4 in April 2010), but it's his patience and ability to draw walks that's making him a potent hitter.

By now, the league has caught on that Bautista loves inside fastballs like Travis Snider likes porterhouses. Teams have studied the tapes ad nauseum and it looks like they're throwing him more and more breaking balls.

It doesn't seem to be an issue for Jose though, as the only difference is he has to wait just a fraction of a second longer to crush a pitch over the fence. That combined with Bautista's monk-like patience at the plate continues to make him an on-base machine.

Once again, it's still very early in the campaign, but if Jose can sustain anything close to the current pace he's on, don't you think he could be destined to garner some MVP votes? Last year, it was his batting average that was his downfall, but if he can keep it north of .275 this year I think he'll turn even more heads.

Even if his home run total drops to the 30-35 range, voters will look much more favourably if his batting average is much higher this year. It will be near impossible for Jose Bautista to sustain his .500 on base percentage, but voters will have a tough time keeping him off the ballot if he can keep it in the high 300's.

In the meantime, I'll just revel in Buck Martinez and his infamous sustained line "long drive, left field!".

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Pulling the Parachute on David Purcey

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Image courtesy of The Star


I guess the Toronto Blue Jays had enough of David Purcey's free fall and finally decided to pull the parachute.

It must be tough saying goodbye to a player drafted as a first round pick, but it’s not something the Blue Jays are completely foreign to (see Russ Adams). Unfortunately, David Purcey’s journey as a Blue Jay just didn’t pan out.

There literally were no other options for David Purcey; it was either bullpen or bust for him. Two and one-third innings in itself doesn’t warrant being designated for assignment, but the Blue Jays backs were up against the wall with Purcey.

As a former starter converted into a reliever, one could argue David Purcey’s current incarnation as a reliever wasn’t all that high anyway. Some of us pined to have him as the future closer of this team, and I’ll admit that looked to be the eventual end game for him.

However, along the way something happened that derailed those plans that saw David Purcey becoming an elite relief pitcher. I have a feeling it had something to do with all those damn walks.

Looking back through Purcey’s career as a Blue Jay, I think my fondest memory of him traced back to his complete game in Tampa Bay on August 27th, 2008. It was a phenomenal performance wherein he matched perennial Blue Jay killer Matt Garza pitch for pitch.

While Garza was busy stymieing the Blue Jays bats, Purcey was whiffing the Rays to the tune of 11 strikeouts. He only surrendered one run, but Garza and the Rays bullpen combined to surrender zero. It was a battle for the ages.

At the time it appeared to be the turning point for Purcey. In his seven previous starts to that point, he gave up a combined 25 runs and walked 21 guys. In Purcey’s final five starts of the 2008 season, he only allowed 8 walks the duration of the season.

However, those walks reared their ugly head once again to begin the 2009 campaign, which lead to a very rough month of April from David Purcey. He was called back up to Toronto in September, but it was more of the same.

Things looked promising last year when he made his way into the bullpen, but I guess his leash as a reliever must have been much shorter than we thought.

I don't doubt David Purcey will still have a fruitful career within another organization, it's just that the Blue Jays have given the 28 year old chance after chance. And there are much younger pitchers in farm system who are just as hungry to prove their worth on the roster. 

With that, I bid David Purcey adieu. I'm positive it won't be long before Purcey will be back on his feet again with his size 18 shoes.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Sleepless in Seattle

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Image courtesy of Daylife via Reuters Pictures
Last week, the Blue Jays were the recipients of a thrilling walk-off win at home. In the span of three days, they have been the ones watching their opponents celebrating walk-off victories.

Unlike Saturday’s game, the Blue Jays couldn't blame this one on Bob Davidson. This collapse against the Mariners was their own doing. Admittedly, I drifted away from the game for a bit to play some MLB 11 The Show (I'm still in the minor leagues).

Once I saw the Blue Jays had a seven run lead against the lowest scoring team in the major leagues last year, I figured a seven runs was fairly safe in the hands of the Blue Jays bullpen. To my dismay, that was not the case.

All they needed to do was collect 12 more outs without giving up more than six runs to maintain the lead. And as the night progressed, those outs became harder and harder to come by.

Even after Mr. Groundball Shawn Camp came in and saved the day by inducing an inning-ending double play, I was still confident they could shut the door in the ninth. Dozing off for what seems like a moment, I awoke to see the Seattle Mariners celebrating a walk-off win.

I don't want to blame the collapse on just one guy because it was a joint effort between David Purcey, Octavio Dotel and Marc Rzepczynski. Issuing four walks and giving up three singles in a single inning helped the Mariners claw their way back within a run.

John Farrell’s decision to intentionally walk Ichiro was also a little perplexing. Putting the winning run on base is never a wise idea, but approaching it from Farrell’s standpoint, I think I can understand his reasoning behind the decision.

With a depleted bullpen, I believe Shawn Camp was the only relief pitcher available in the bullpen anyway. Camp had appeared in the past 5 of 7 games, so Farrell may have been hesitant to bring Camp in, but leaving Rzepczynski out there was not an option.

So after a 2-0 count, rather than tempting fate and continuing the at bat with Ichiro, Farrell called for Camp to give him the free pass. At this point, every pitch matters and perhaps Farrell thought going for broke on Luis Rodriguez would be better served that battling with Ichiro?

Even if Shawn Camp escapes the inning and only gives up the tying run, he’s still the only option to pitch the 10th inning and beyond. At that point, you’re getting into dangerous territory bringing out Camp back out for a third inning of work, having appeared in the past 5 of 7 games. Albeit, Shawn only throw one pitch in the eighth.

Not to say John Farrell was employing Cito’s infamous “lose one to win two later” philosophy, but as a former pitcher and pitching coach himself, its feasible that Farrell was trying to protect his reliever by ending the game right then and there; whether it be via a win or a walk-off loss.

That’s just my own hair-brain theory as to an explanation for the loss. Or for an explanation that's 500 words less, the bullpen coughed up that game.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Weaving A Gem

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Image courtesy of Daylife via Reuters Pictures
Jered Weaver has made a career of owning the Toronto Blue Jays these past few years. And on Sunday, he picked up where he left off last season.

Going into Sunday's game in Los Angeles, Weaver boasted a career record of 6-1 with an ERA of 2.93 lifetime while holding the Blue Jays to a .222 batting average. In 2009 in particular, Weaver dominated the Blue Jays with a three-hit complete game victory and a three-hit victory with ten strikeouts.

So it was fitting when Jered Weaver whiffed 15 batters in yet another victory over the Toronto Blue Jays. His four-seamer and slider were on point all afternoon and kept the Blue Jays hitters off balance for nearly eight innings.

Lost in the brilliance which was Jered Weaver's gem was Jo-Jo Reyes and his very admirable start. He didn't rack up the strikeouts like Weaver did, but Reyes had a very respectable seven inning performance.

The loss capped off what was arguably a bit of a disappointing weekend at the plate for the Blue Jays. Over the course of three games in LA, they left a total of 38 men on base and hit .171 with runners in scoring position.

In regards to Friday and Sunday's games, it's easy to trace back to went well and what didn't. On Sunday however, the Blue Jays just so happened to run into some phenomenal starting pitching. You really have to tip your cap to Jered Weaver for a job well done.

So who's the next starting pitcher the Blue Jays will face? Only last year's American League Cy Young Award winner, Felix Hernandez. Oh crap.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

A Second Look at the Bob Davidson Incident

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12 hours after my initial scathing blog post directed towards Bob Davidson, I think I've calmed down enough to gain a sense of perspective on the entire situation.

For a reasonable, rational angle on the incident, take a look at Cole's post on Infield Fly. His point is that "good teams don't make excuses, they find a way to win". I agree with that 100% and the Blue Jays had ample chances and had the Angels on the ropes several times.

Also, the multitude of errors from the Blue Jays gave the Angels extra outs and ultimately cost them the game. The first was Edwin Encarnacion's errant throw in the 11th, and Travis Snider's misplay in the 14th inning.

Had it not been for an incredible escape act by Octavio Dotel in the bottom of the 11th, the game would have been over. However, the Blue Jays were not as lucky in the bottom of the 14th when J.P. Arencibia just barely missed the tag at home plate.

Basically, what I'm trying to say here is it's very easy to lay all of the blame on Bob Davidson. His reputation precedes him as a major league umpire, and he hasn't exactly been kind to the Toronto Blue Jays over the years.

Painting him as the enemy of the game is the easy thing to do because he can't fight back. In the end, it was the Blue Jays that handed that game to the Los Angeles Angels, not Bob Davidson.

In a way, I think this situation hearkens back to what happened with Steve Bartman and Game Six of the 2003 NLCS. Steve Bartman was immediately pegged as the scapegoat of the Chicago Cubs collapse because he was a defenseless fan.

It was easier to lay the blame on him rather than the Cubs themselves. And not only did the Cubs blow that game, but Game 7 of the 2003 NLCS as well. And it had nothing to do with Steve Bartman.

So in a roundabout way, I admit I was guilty of making Bob Davidson the scapegoat for that game rather than take into question the Blue Jays inability to put a run on the board past the 5th inning.

Travis Snider went 0 for 5 and committed an error. Edwin Encarnacion went 1 for 7 and committed an error. Rajai Davis went 1 for 6 and was swinging at anything and everything. Nobody wants to call out their own players, but each of these guys had ample chances to contribute and didn't.

Don't get me wrong; I'm not saying what Bob Davidson is okay. It's inexcusable and still baffles me that a call so blatantly obvious can be blown at the highest level of professional baseball. The fact that Davidson did not show one iota of remorse makes it even tougher to swallow.

At the end of the day, there's no sense in arguing or trying to change things because we'd just be wasting our breath. The call stands as is and the Los Angeles Angels won the ball game.

I can imagine the Blue Jays were livid in the clubhouse after that loss, but the season is 162 games and there's no sense on dwelling on just one game. Live and learn, and move on to the next one.

Bob Davidson Hates the Blue Jays

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Image courtesy of Daylife via Reuters Images
I don't know what Bob Davidson has against the Toronto Blue Jays, but obviously his apparent disdain is clouding his judgement to do his job as an MLB umpire.

In any other profession, someone who botches so many blatantly obvious calls would be fired in an instant. Bob Davidson however, has somehow managed to stay an umpire on and off since 1982.

Listen, I realize at that point the game had gone 13 innings and folks were getting a little restless, but that's no excuse to make a call so ridiculous that even the broadcasters are dumbfounded after the play.

The Blue Jays did strand 18 runners on base through 14 innings and did everything they could to hand the game to the Los Angeles Angels on a silver platter. All of that not withstanding, once an umpire gets involved and starts determining the outcome of the game, that's tampering in my mind.

Bob Davidson was also behind the plate on Friday's Blue Jays/Angels game and made quite a few questionable calls on balls and strikes as seen below (image courtesy of Brooks Baseball):

Following the outrage from some of the calls on Friday, I heard Mike Wilner say that Bob Davidson isn't a stranger to controversy at all. Apparently Davidson was the numbskull who botched the infamous phantom triple play call from Game Three of the 1992 World Series.

There's no saying that the run the Blue Jays should have scored in the top of the 13th would have even been the winning run anyway. But  when an umpire single-handedly takes a run off the scoreboard for a team (and possibly even more), that's complete and utter bullshit.

And the call involving Yunel Escobar wasn't a simple ball/strilke or safe/out call either. Bob Davidson looked at the path Escobar was taking and somehow deducted that Yunel interfered with Alberto Callaspo's ability to field the ball.

Overall, it was a sloppy game all around; bad baserunning, bad fielding, and of course the God-awful call by Bob Davidson. In one of the most bizarre baseball games I have ever seen, this game had everything.

Once it crept further and further into extra innings though, I guess the Baseball Gods decided they didn't want the Blue Jays to win that game. Thus they summoned the hand of Bob Davidson to do their bidding and declare Yunel Escobar was in contempt of interference.

Oddly enough, the longest game played by the Blue Jays in franchise history went 18 innings on June 28th 2005 against none other than the Los Angeles Angels. For a while there, it looked like this contest was destined to beat that record.

Just knowing that someone as inept at his position as Bob Davidson is so disheartening that it makes me question why umpires are involved in the game at all. It might be better to just abandon umpires altogether and just have the players fight it out on close calls like Base Wars on NES.

It's sad because most MLB umpires are great at what they do, which is one of the most thankless jobs in professional sports. Then there are complete idiots like Bob Davidson that give them a bad name.

All I have to say is get your fucking eyes checked Bob, or hand in your resignation papers.

Friday, April 8, 2011

Vernon Wells Sends Me Mixed Signals

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So I was perusing through Wal-Mart on my lunch this afternoon and did a double take as I passed the sporting goods section. There was Vernon Wells in all his glory wearing a Toronto Blue Jays cap, but wearing a blank red jersey.

I'm not sure how long these displays have been in stores, but could they have possibly foreshadowed Vernon's trade to Los Angeles?

Overall, it's a very strange look and plays with the mind because at first glance he looks like he's playing for the Angels, but then you see that he's adorning the Blue Jays batting practice cap.

I'll be honest, it's still a little weird to see Vernon Wells in a uniform other than the Toronto Blue Jays. He spent the first 12 seasons of his major league career in Toronto, and now he's off in sunny California.

Jeff Blair talked about Vernon Wells at length on his show earlier this morning, and even talked to Vernon himself about the impending awkwardness of facing his old team tonight.

Blair talked to Adam Lind at the onset of Spring Training about not having Vernon at camp for the first time, and aside from the initial shock it sounds like it's been business as usual without Vernon Wells.

I can echo Lind's sentiments because from my own perspective, it's as though the Blue Jays haven't missed a single beat without Vernon in the lineup, outfield and even the clubhouse.

Perhaps the most telling gesture of all was the immediacy in which Edwin Encarnacion took over Vernon's old number 10. I guess the Blue Jays must not have thought that highly of Vernon if they were that quick to give his number to somebody else.

I know this sounds like I've been drinking the Vernon Wells Hatorade again, but I assure you it's just that I, like many fans have come to realize that Vernon was not the player we thought he was.

More precisely, he just wasn't the player he was paid to be.

I'll be liveblogging tonight's Blue Jays/Angels game over at The Score. 
We'll get underway at 10:00pm EST.

Acid Flashback Friday: John Olerud Hits Back To Back Jacks Off John Farrell

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I don't know about you guys, but I've become so accustomed to watching John Farrell in the Blue Jays dugout that I often forget he had a playing career.

While Farrell must enjoy seeing the Blue Jays every day, back in his playing days he might have been a little more fearful of the bluebirds.

For this week's Acid Flashback Friday, we take a look back to a game where John Olerud hit back to back home runs off John Farrell during his days with the California Angels.

The game was May 31st 1993 in California. John Farrell was on the mound for the California Angels, and the Blue Jays were not too kind to him that day. The Blue Jays pounded Farrell for 8 runs, and 4 home runs; 2 of which came from John Olerud.

Pat Borders and Roberto Alomar also homered off John Farrell that faithful afternoon in California, and Farrell hit the showers after pitching six and a third innings for the Angels. That was the first and only start John Farrell made against the Toronto Blue Jays in 1993.

Thanks to Did for sending in this video, if you have a suggestion for Acid Flashback Friday, send it to bluejayhunter@gmail.com

The Frasor Effect

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Is that the blues you hear a-calling?
Anyone order a tossed salad and scrambled eggs?

Jason Frasor may have been on the hook for the loss yesterday against the Oakland A's, but it was hardly entirely his fault. I realize fans need a scapegoat to blame for the apparent "implosion", and that's all well and good. Frasor doesn't deserve the criticism though.

Not to say that Jason Frasor didn't have some part in the loss, but you can't hook the loss on him entirely. The runner at third base was inherited from Romero, and the wild pitch/passed ball took a bad bounce and gave Coco Crisp a second life on the basepaths.

Frasor's outing was the second consecutive appearance in which he's gone from having absolute control of the ballgame to nearly letting it nearly slip away entirely. It's something I'd like to call "the Frasor Effect".

More often than not, Jason Frasor will enter a game and relitavely shut things down. There are other times however, where he walks the tightrope between dominance and being dominated himself.

The two games are perfect examples; on Tuesday he struck out the side, but he also surrendered a solo home run, a single and hit a batter.

It was more of the same yesterday when he struck out two, but was tagged for two stolen bases, a single and a wild pitch.

This pattern isn't limited to this season alone either. I remember a similar game where the Frasor Effect also took place last year against the New York Yankees.

In that particular occasion Frasor struck out Swisher, intentionally walked Teixeira, let a wild pitch go to A-Rod but then promptly struck him out, gave up a single to Cano, then intentionally walked Posada.

I think these situations happen be magnified because Frasor enters a lot of high leverage situations. If he were to uncork a wild pitch or hit a batter with the bases empty, not a big deal. When the manager inserts him with a runner on base, it's an entirely different story.

Even taking the Frasor Effect into consideration, there's something about Jason that makes him easy to root for. I noted over at Rants Above Replacement that he's like a shorter less intimidating version of Jonathan Papelpon.

So whenever you see Jason Frasor take the mound again, make sure you buckle in because the Frasor Effect could flare up again and we might see another white-knuckle outing.

Screen caps of JayFray's outings courtesy of the always amazing Baseball Reference.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Snider's Smashing Stache

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Image courtesy of  Daylife via Reuters Pictures
First and foremost, let's all wish Yunel Escobar a speedy recovery. Initially that slide he took into third base looked innocent, but the replays and photos showed otherwise.

It gave me a flashback to Justin Morneau's slide into John McDonald's leg last summer. That one looked pretty harmless at first glance as well, but Morneau ended up missing the remainder of the season with a concussion.

After Yunel came back out to the field he showed the ill effects of the hit, basically stopping short of seeing birds fly around his head.

When it comes to head hits, you can never be too cautious, so the Blue Jays need to play this one safe and not worry about rushing Escobar back. They'll certainly miss his bat in the lineup and his glove up the middle, but Johnny Mac can definitely hold down the fold in the meantime.

Now, regarding Travis Snider; all I can say is ... wow. Nothing is more pleasing to the ears than the ball coming of Snider's bat. It's like listening to Beethoven's 9th Symphony ... if Beethoven were a moustachioed meat connoisseur.

Jesse Litsch came through with a quality start (for my fantasy team nonetheless) and thus currently leads the "Don't Send Me to Vegas" Sweepstakes between himself and Jo-Jo Reyes.

Litsch picked up his first victory since June 19th of last year and overall it was a solid effort from the Blue Jays fifth starter. Look around the league and Jesse actually compares pretty well to other rotation's back-end starters.

As far as Jesse’s Game Score is concerned, he ranked a 54 which wasn’t one of the best of his career, but it wasn’t one of the worst either. I think his performance last night foreshadowed what we can expect from him in 2011.

Ultimately, I expect him to become the poster boy for middle of the road starting pitching. Just picture Joe Blanton with freckles and a Yukon Cornelius beard.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

The Yunibomber Strikes

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Image courtesy of Daylife via Reuters Pictures
No Jose Bautista, no problem!
Or as Yunel Escobar would say, "N hay José Bautista no hay problema".

While Jose was off tending to family matters, Yunel Escobar picked up where Bautista usually leaves off and was the one who pulled off the late-inning heroics.

Just to show you how crazy of a game baseball is, Adam Lind swung at the first pitch during Sunday's game and came up just short of sending the game to extras. Yunel Escobar swings at the first pitch last night and wins the game.

I have to say, you have to admire the resilience of a team that came all the way back from a five run deficit and managed to storm a comeback in walk-off fashion. The mantra "hustle & heart" certainly applied last night.

Jo-Jo Reyes wasn't exactly spectacular in his Blue Jays debut, but I wouldn't say it's cause to drop him off the roster already. It was one bad outing, and the A's somehow managed to keep pulling the ball down the third base line.

Not to sound like a Jo-Jo Reyes apologist, but his BABIP was a mind-blowing .563. The Oakland A's hit a total of 6 line drives off Reyes. Admittedly an extremely small sample size after just one start, but I think Reyes was a little unlucky.

Had it not been for some stellar defense up the middle, the score could have been much worse. Aaron Hill and Yunel Escobar were trying their damndest to keep that ball on the infield, as was Jayson Nix. With each hit, it seemed like Nix was just narrowly missing those shots down the third base line.

Much like Brett Cecil's outing on Sunday, it was great defense that kept the Blue Jays in the game and prevented their opponents from really doing some damage.

Lady luck finally came through for the Blue Jays in the latter innings when Kevin Kouzmanoff and Brandon McCarthy combined to gift-wrap a bunch of unearned runs for the Blue Jays. Some heads up baserunning by Rajai Davis and Yunel Escobar also contributed towards the comeback.

While there were a lot of great things to take away from that game, one negative thing that stood out was the play of Juan Rivera. I realize he's an older player and a little banged up, but you'd think he'd at least attempt to run out a grounder or make it from first to third.

Aside from that and Jo-Jo Reyes being nickel and dimed to death, it was an overall solid effort by the Blue Jays. Nothing like getting that walk-off win out of the way early in the season.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Gone Away is the New Bird, Here to Stay is the Old Bird

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I've long suspected the Blue Jays might be changing their logos and uniforms, and now what's old might be new once again in Blue Jay land.

If you haven't already, make sure you check out Chris from Infield Fly's series of posts on the state of the uniforms ("Cheering for Laundry" and "Where's the Blue?")

I think Chris was really onto something, because Bob McCown made a comment last night on Primetime Sports about the possibility of the retro logo and uniforms making a full time return in 2012. (hat tip to @MrWenn for catching it.
"I am led to believe that if you like this current jersey, you better go get one. Because this time next year, they won't be available. I think they're going to go back to the original ones."
Now this might all be here say that McCown overheard in the luxury box at the Home Opener, but I don't think he's very far off base with his suspicion that a logo and uniform change may be in the works.

So it came as no surprise when Uni Watch reported last week that the Blue Jays are dropping the powder blue uniforms. Frankly, people either loved them or hated them; there didn't seem to be any middle ground on the powder blues.

So does this pave the way for the Blue Jays to return to their original logo and uniforms? In this humble blogger's incredibly speculative baseless opinion, yes.

Many share the sentiment that a team called the "Blue Jays" should really have some semblance of the colour blue in the uniform. Reverting back to the original home whites, road greys and alternate blues would certainly fill that requirement.

Now when I say "original" I mean the 1989-1992 home whites, the 1989-1996 road greys and the 1994-1996 alternate blues. To me, these are the classic Blue Jays uniforms and going back to these uniforms makes the most sense.

Visions of the championship winning teams wearing these uniforms are instilled in our memories, and thus could conjure up a lot of great memories for fans when they watch their favourite players in the retro jerseys.

The flaw in this all is it doesn't quite jive with the movement of the team trying to move away from events like Flashback Fridays, the Back2Back Reunion and everything looking backwards rather than towards the future.

I agree there's no sense in living in the past. However, to truly understand where you're going, you have to know where you've been. There definitely does need to be an appreciation for the Blue Jays teams who wore those uniforms.

In the land of logos, this is the eighth year in which the Blue Jays have used their current logo or "angry bird" as Stephen Brunt referred to it as. Eight years is a long time to stick with a logo and uniform that fans aren't all that crazy about.

I'm not an expert when it comes to creating logos for professional sports teams, but one has to think that the classic look is much more sustainable than a modern look. Ironically, the modern look becomes dated very quickly.

Sticking with a clean, classic logo is the way to go. In my opinion, it looks much sharper. In the Blue Jays case, that old bird is so iconic that it only makes sense to switch back to that logo.

Let me reiterate that this is all just speculation on Bob McCown's and my part, but one has to suspect that something is happening behind the curtain if the powder blues are being dropped by the Blue Jays.

Maybe the perfect solution in all of this is to combine the old with the new. Here's a little something I came up with below. What do you guys think?


Thanks to Chris from Infield Fly for the links and Chris Creamer's Sports Logos for the logos and links to the uniforms.

Monday, April 4, 2011

Fans' Heads Are Bobbling Over Jose Bautista

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Bautista staredown pic courtesy of TheRealJeffS
First, let me begin by addressing the Jose Bautista Bobblehead debacle. I'm sure you saw on Twitter that these items were in very high demand this year and some folks were lined up for them as early as 10am.

In previous years, getting to the ballpark about 60 minutes in advance of the game is usually plenty of time to receive your giveaway at the gate. This year ... not so much. I waltzed up at about 11:50am to Gate 2 only to find all the Jose Bautista Bobbleheads were gone by around 11:45am.

I tried a couple of other gates just for kicks to see if they had any, but it was to no avail. All the "Baubbleheads", as Navin so cleverly coined them, were all gone. I learned from this experience that if you want your giveaway, make sure you're there when the gates open or prepare to go home empty-handed.

I'll admit, it was a little disappointing, but at the same time there was a silver lining to it all. It was very encouraging to know there were 10,000 fans who were already into the Rogers Centre at 12:00pm.

That just goes to show you that folks in Toronto either really love their bobbleheads or really love Jose Bautista. It might actually be a combination of both, but more so the latter than the former.

As far as the game was concerned, it was a very exciting contest. Other than the first few innings, Brett Cecil didn't really seem to be on his game. As the pitch count progressed, his fastball velocity trickled downward, which lead to him being yanked in the fifth.

The errors by Edwin Encarnacion were a little disheartening, but it was to be expected. Earlier in the game, fans were cheering him as he came up to bat. By the time his third at bat rolled around, they had already turned on him and were beginning to boo.

As questionable as some of Toronto's infielders have been during this series, they weren't nearly as bad as Minnesota's. Just ask the Twins how they feel about Tsuyoshi Nishioka after his big league debut this past weekend.

When the game rolled on into the late innings, the fans were on the edge of their seats. The air was let out of their sails when Jon Rauch gave up that solo shot to Denard Span in the top of the ninth. However, that didn't keep them from standing on their feet for nearly the entire bottom of the ninth.

With runners on second and third with two out, Jose Bautista came up to the plate poised to be the hero on his very own bobblehead day. He didn't tie the game, but he did extend the inning with yet another walk.

Adam Lind promptly swung at the very first pitch he saw from Joe Nathan which was ultimately the game-ending out. I'm not going to nitpick and say Lind should have known better than to swing at the first pitch, but obviously he was sitting fastball and Nathan countered with a breaking ball.

It was a comeback attempt that fell short, but it was an exciting game nonetheless. If the Blue Jays were going to lose that game, I can't think of a more exciting fashion for them to do it in.

Saturday, April 2, 2011

The Home Opener Hangover

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Image courtesy of Daylife via Getty Images
So, how were you guys feeling this morning? While some may have coping with the side affects of one too many brewskies, I'm sure everyone was drunk on Blue Jays excitement last night.

Not that I have much of a frame of reference when it comes to Home Openers, but I'd say this year's edition reminded me most of the 2008 Opening Night when the Blue Jays pounded the Detroit Tigers 12-5.

Even on my trek down Yonge Street towards the Rogers Centre, the atmosphere in the city was palpable. Just watching the droves of people in Blue Jays gear walking down the street was incredible to see.

Of course, no Home Opener never goes off completely without a hitch; there are always a few hiccups along the way, but none that really tarnished the game so that all people remember were the drunken idiots.

I'm sure you heard about the people throwing their rally towels into the field, and that was to be expected. In the future, the situation could be easily remedied by only giving towels to fans in the 100 level.

I realize it looks great on television when you have thousands of fans swinging their towels around, but it looks even worse when they're falling onto the field and play is delayed while the grounds crew has to pick up the remnants.

There was also a very strange giveaway on the street as we walked up Front Street. There were Corona reps who were giving out bags of limes. It's one of the least practical things I've ever seen, and of course many a citrus made their way into the Rogers Centre.

Numerous times I spotted first base umpire Angel Hernandez picking up limes off the field in between innings. Seriously, who other than Mrs. Doubtfire throws limes at people? Luckily, nobody got hurt by a 50 MPH limeball from the 200 or 500 level.

All those incidents aside, I'd say it was another fantastic Home Opener for the Blue Jays. The fans were relatively well behaved, and things outside the gates seemed to run very smoothly.

My favourite part of the game was Jose Bautista's home run in the 5th inning. The first time he came to bat in the first inning, I could not believe the buzz within the stadium as he came up to the plate. It was like a giant wave of excitement built up as Usher's "OMG" came over the loudspeaker.

As crazy as the atmosphere was, it was great to meet lots of fellow Blue Jays fans and I even managed to get a picture with Chris and the Bautista Bomb gang. Nice shirts, gents! (Which you can purchase here, by the way).

In the grand scheme of things, the Home Opener is only game game and the season cannot be predicated on April 1st. However, if the next 160 games are going to be anything like what the Home Opener was, then we'll be in for quite the ride.
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