Thursday, June 30, 2011

Come What May for Morrow


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Image courtesy of Daylife via AP
Brandon Morrow: future Cy Young Award winner. Ask some surrounding the Blue Jays (Gregg Zaun for example), and they believe Morrow is poised to become one of the most dominant pitchers in the American League.

In my eyes, Brandon Morrow has always been a very tough pitcher to gauge. Just when I think I have Morrow figured out, he flips the script and does a complete 180.

One minute it looks like he's on the cusp of striking out the entire lineup, the next he's barely getting through the 5th inning on 100 pitches. Now I know what it must feel like for a Red Sox fan to watch Daisuke Matsuzaka.

Don't get me wrong, I'm not saying Brandon Morrow and Dice-K are one in the same, but I think they both share the similarity in that they often ride the fine line between brilliance and collapsing before our very eyes.

Often times I find Brandon Morrow will go on a hot streak much like the one he's currently riding, and then the wheels will just fall off completely for a couple of starts. If these are the kinds of highs and lows we experience as fans, then I can only imagine how pitching coach Bruce Walton must feel.

It's kind of hard to believe that Brandon Morrow has only gone more than 6.2 innings on 3 occasions, and he's never pitched more than 7 innings this season. 6 or 7 solid innings from Brandon Morrow is great, but I find myself still expecting more from him.

Compared to someone like Ricky Romero, Morrow is going to throw more pitches because strikeout pitchers will eat up more pitches than your average pitch-to-contact hurler. There's no doubt that the strikeout is much sexier, but the ground out does the job just as well.

Then again, maybe I'm asking too much from the Blue Jays number two starter. Most teams would kill to have somebody like Brandon Morrow to back up their ace, and here I am nitpicking about how a strikeout pitcher is throwing too many pitches per start.

All of this aside, I really like what I've seen lately from Brandon Morrow and it certainly appears as though he's turned a corner, and maybe now we can finally put those early season worries behind us for good.

If the Blue Jays really like what they see from hereon out this season from Brandon Morrow, then I think a contract extension should absolutely be in the works. He's next in line to get paid, and it looks like AA would rather extend his franchise players than go to arbitration with them.

However, if Brandon Morrow falls off the tracks a little bit a la Brett Cecil, then maybe AA might rethink his long term strategy for the starting rotation.

Come what may for Brandon Morrow, at least he always puts on a show whenever he's on the mound. And for those folks who own him in their fantasy baseball league they're enjoying what Morrow has to bring to their team, too.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Whimsical Wednesday Wonderings


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I've been waiting since the beginning of the season for an excuse to post this video once again, and finally after 3 months I have my reason. The Edwin Encarnacion optimism ship sailed long ago, but of course just as I write him off, that's when Encarnacion comes back and proves me wrong.

As Shi Davidi noted in his game recap, Edwin Encarnacion is the quintessential streaky hitter: 10 of his 21 home runs came in two series last May and September. Just as EE might be in the discussion for a DFA, he puts up a game like last night and buys himself a couple weeks of freedom from the doghouse.

Nobody expects Edwin to sustain the current pace, but somewhere Alex Anthopoulos is mimicking Mr. Burns and saying "exxxxcellent".

Brett Cecil's back

Speaking of giving up on players, just as I had written off Brett Cecil in my head as a possible member of the Blue Jays starting  rotation, they call him up from the minors. The best word to describe my feelings on this recent development is ... indifferent.

Maybe that's because the Blue Jays haven't been all that desperate for stating rotation help. At this point in the season, they didn't really need Brett Cecil but they probably owe it to him to bring him back for a second shot.

There may have been some initial shock at the decision to send Brett Cecil to Las Vegas in the first place, merely for the fact that the Blue Jays were demoting someone who had won 15 games the previous season.

Remember, this is why pitcher's wins should not be as revered as they are. The argument "Cecil led the club in wins last year" bares no weight on how great of a pitcher he is. All this tells me is Cecil probably pitched okay and the offense scored enough runs to win during his starts.

Overbay oversteps his boundaries?

So I guess some people were irked by Lyle Overbay's comments to the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. The article itself focuses on how attendance has dropped off for the Blue Jays since the glory days, but it's not like the Pirates themselves are selling out PNC Park every night.

Overbay made it sound like Canadians are still bitter about the baseball strike, and for many Expos fans that's still the case, but if you're not over the baseball strike 17 years later, then you probably are never going to get over it.

I myself admit I was one of the droves of people whose baseball fandom fell by the wayside after the 1994 MLB strike, but I came back. That's not the reason why attendance numbers are below average in Toronto, it's because they haven't made the playoffs in 18 years.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

From the Outfield to the Hot Corner


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Image courtesy of Daylife via Getty Images
In baseball, even the best laid plans often go awry. 2011 was supposed to be Travis Snider's breakout year, and now he's retooling his swing in the minor leagues. Brett Cecil was supposed to be a solid number three starter, and that didn't happen either.

Over the course of 162 games, things can change at the drop of the hat. As the Boston Red Sox can attest to, you can have the best team on paper at the beginning of the season and yet things can get off to a horrible start.

So it was no shock when the Blue Jays asked Jose Bautista to move from right field to third base to try to help provide some semblance of a decent major league third baseman. I wasn't a big fan of the movie at  first, but now I'm starting to warm up to it.

Initially it didn't really seem like something that could benefit the Blue Jays very much. Bautista moves to the hot corner, so what? That still means Rajai Davis and Corey Patterson are in the lineup nearly every day.

Buried somewhere in between bashing my head off the wall, I had a moment of clarity. By using my Inspector Gadget mystery solving skills, here's what I suspect the reasoning is behind moving Jose Bautista to third base.

Moving Bautista to the hot corner keeps Jayson Nix/Johnny Mac out of the lineup and puts Juan Rivera and Eric Thames back in more often.

The offensive output by Rivera and Thames far outweighs any defensive benefits of keeping Nix and McDonald in the lineup. So by moving Bautista to the hot corner, you get the best of both worlds: defensive stability and much more offensive flexibility.

And I can't recall where I read this, but I believe it was in the comments of somebody's blog that suggested platooning Corey Patterson and Rajai Davis in centre field. The problem is both of Patterson and Rivera's splits are better against lefties, but I don't even think that should matter.

The big problem here is John Farrell really doesn't have all that much to work with in the first place. When it's gotten to the point where he's batting Aaron Hill second, you can tell Farrell's grasping at straws.

Shuffling around pieces here and there might help in the short term, unless the lineup as a whole can start contributing, it will be up to the 1-4 to continue to get things done offensively.

Monday, June 27, 2011

Octavio Dotel Celebrates Edwin Encarnacion's Home Run


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If you caught Saturday's Blue Jays game against the Cardinals, you likely witnessed one of the funniest things that has happened during a Blue Jays game in a very long time.

Octavio Dotel must be the captain of Edwin Encarnacion's one-man cheerleading team, because he danced in celebration when EE hit a home run into the visitor's bullpen in left field.

Don't ask me what inclined me to do this, but I mashed the replay of the home run together with the infamous home run scene from "The Natural". Surprisingly, it actually works well together!

First, Edwin Encarnacion hits a home run with Ricky Romero's bat. Now he hits one after his teammate Octavio Dotel celebrates in the bullpen. Encarnacion must have asked the bat boy to pick him out a winner.

If you like, check out the original video below and trust me when I say that even two days later, Dotel's reaction is as priceless as it is hilarious.


Hat tip to Dave for helping me fetch the video

Friday, June 24, 2011

Shaft is Back: Eric Thames is Almost Thamous


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Shaft is back. Can you dig it?


Acid Flashback Friday: Gary Lavelle's Brief 1985 ALCS Appearance


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If I told you there was just one pitcher in Blue Jays postseason history that made an appearance but actually failed to record an out, would you believe me?

Believe it or not, there is actually somebody who worked a game in the playoffs, but his career playoff pitching line is 0.0 innings pitched. For this week's Acid Flashback Friday, we take a look back at Gary Lavelle's very brief stint in the 1985 ALCS against the Kansas City Royals.

Gary Lavelle spent 11 seasons with the San Francisco Giants as their on-again off-again closer. As a veteran late relief pitcher, he had yet to enjoy a taste of the postseason prior to joining the Toronto Blue Jays in 1985.

Gary Lavelle was finally summoned by the bright lights of playoff baseball against the Kansas City Royal and was called upon in Game 2 of the 1985 ALCS to start off the 8th inning.

With the game tied at 3-3, Blue Jays manager Bobby Cox called upon his left-handed reliever to pitch to the left-hander George Brett. That season, Brett was equally lethal against lefties and righties, and Lavelle held left-handers to a .220 average.

What happened next is something Gary Lavelle would probably rather forget, as he promptly surrendered a leadoff walk to the ever-dangerous George Brett in a tied game. Well I guess Bobby Cox had seen enough because he immediately yanked Lavelle and called in their closer Tom Henke.

Gary Lavelle faced one batter (who he walked) and was then taken out of the game. Lavelle's final playoff pitching line would read 0.0 innings pitched, 1 BB. He was never called upon again during that series and that would be his first and only appearance in the playoffs.

Inheriting Lavelle's baserunner, Tom Henke thankfully cleaned up the mess and pitched a brilliant three innings of relief which helped the Blue Jays hang on long enough to win Game 2 of the 1985 ALCS. Which kind of makes me wonder, why didn't Cox just to to Henke in the top of the 8th anyway?

Gary Lavelle's legacy won't stand as one of the greatest in Blue Jays history, but if you're ever playing Trivial Pursuit and you get the question "who is the only Blue Jays pitcher to make an appearance in the playoffs but only pitch 0.0 innings?", you'll know the answer is Gary Lavelle.

Late addition: I just randomly found this video on Youtube of Gary Lavelle endorsing something called the "Hitting Disc". Interesting that a pitcher is promoting a product which is supposed to make a hitter perform better.



Thanks to @James_In_TO for this week's Acid Flashback Friday suggestion. 

If you have anything from Blue Jays yesteryear you'd like to see in a future Acid Flashback Friday, please send your suggestion to bluejayhunter@gmail.com

Thursday, June 23, 2011

The 2011 BJH All-Star Ballot


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Some may say that the MLB All-Star Game is merely a popularity contest which is always flooded with Yankees and Red Sox players. And to that I say ... absolutely it's a popularity contest, there's no denying that.

When you put the vote in the hands of the fans, they are undoubtedly going to vote for the most popular player. The most recognizable players are the ones who receive the most press, hence the bevy of Red Sox and Yankees players starting at the Midsummer Classic.

While others might fill out their All-Star ballot purely based off name recognition and player reputation, I tend to go off of the "what have you done for me lately" approach ... judging players on their first half results.

Looking back at my ballot from last year, it's interesting to note there's one player I voted for in back-to-back All-Star Games. So without further adieu, here is my All-Star Ballot for the 2011 MLB All-Star Game.

First Base: Adrian Gonzalez

Most experts predicted Fenway Park would be a breeding ground for Adrian Gonzalez, and if the first half is any indication of what's to come, they're certainly correct. Adrian Gonzalez has made the successful transition from National to American League and is thriving in his new digs with the Red Sox.

It's not so much his RBI total that's impressive, but that he's been able to keep his batting average above .300 and it's actually going higher as the season progresses. And his defensive ability at first base definitely helps swing some votes, too.

Second Base: Dustin Pedroia

This one was easily the toughest vote out of all the position players. The crop of American League second baseman in the first half of 2011 was so even keel that it was tough to narrow it down to just one.

I don't know if playing second base is just a thankless position or what, but I can't recall hearing very much at all about Dustin Pedroia, Ben Zobrist or Howie Kendrick this season. They've all had great first halves of the season and any one would be deserving of getting the nod at second base.

However, if I had to pick just one of them, it would be Dustin Pedroia, but only by the slimmest of margins.

Shortstop: Asdrubal Cabrera

Alexei Ramirez is the dark horse in this category, but unfortunately Asdrubal Cabrera outshines Ramirez in virtually all offensive categories. There's no question Alexei has been the better fielding shortstop and even the better baserunner, but all those extra home runs and stolen bases are just too much to ignore.

Third Base: Alex Rodriguez

It pains me to ever have to write down a name from the New York Yankees on my All-Star ballot, but this time it's actually deserving. A-Rod has been head and shoulders the best third baseman in the American League this first half, and warrants a vote this time around.

Catcher: Alex Avila

As a Canadian, I'm really happy that Russell Martin is enjoying a career resurgence in New York, and as I mentioned earlier, it pains me to ever write down a Yankees name on my All-Star ballot, so I'm going with Alex Avila.

Don't get me wrong, Avila has every right to start behind the plate at the Midsummer Classic, but I think this one is Russell Martin's to lose. However, Martin's recent injury woes just might help Avila gain the momentum he needs to slingshot past the Yankees backstop.

Designated Hitter: David Ortiz

What ever happened to David Ortiz being a slow starter? I remember there were early season rumours last year insinuating the Red Sox might want to cut ties with Big Papi after he spent all of April and part of May below the Mendoza line.

David Ortiz stumbled out of the gates to begin the season, but started kicking it into high gear close to the end of April. Since then, he's been on a tear and has shown no signs of letting up.

Outfield: Jose Bautista

There's a reason why Jose Bautista has over 4 million All-Star votes for him, he's simply one of the best players in the game right now. Given, his power numbers may have dropped off a bit as of late, but he continues to get on base and hit consistently above .300.

Jose Bautista fully deserves to start the All-Star Game for the American League squad, and maybe as the top vote-getter, he can have his preference of outfield spots over the two candidates below.

Outfield: Curtis Granderson

Curtis Granderson's ability to suddenly hit left-handers has gone a long way to helping him become one of the elite outfielders in the American League. That coupled with his renewed power, Granderson is an easy choice for one of the other All-Star Game outfielder positions.

Outfield: Jacoby Ellsbury

The third and final outfielder spot is a widely contested position, and perhaps if Josh Hamilton had more games under his belt in the first half, I'd be more inclined to write his name down.

Initially, I had Matt Joyce penciled in as my third outfielder, but I found myself wondering if perhaps Jacoby Ellsbury or Brett Gardner were more deserving of the spot instead. I wanted to try to find a way to keep Jacoby Ellsbury off my ballot, but I just couldn't.

I've always thought that Ellsbury was just a one-trick pony who can swipe bases and hit for average, but much like Curtis Granderson, the power of the home run has made Jacoby all that much more dangerous.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

You Can't Win If You Don't Score Runs


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It's funny how Ricky Romero's supposed "call-out" of his teammates on Monday evening drew so much attention, because the first time I read about it I totally glossed over it.

Maybe it was because I was still shocked a pitcher single-handedly beat the Blue Jays with his arm and bat, but I didn't think anything of Romero's comments at the time.

If anything, the club drew more attention to the situation with Romero calling a meeting to clarify his statement to his teammates.Had Ricky Romero and the Blue Jays just gone on their merry way, there wouldn't have been nearly the amount of buzz about it, and yours truly probably wouldn't even have mentioned it otherwise.

Given what happened in that game and the subsequent results last night, I'd say it was perfectly reasonable for Ricky to say what he did, and he didn't need to apologize for it either.

When your team scores a combined two runs in the past three games, there should definitely be some finger-pointing going on. Romero didn't have to name names, but somebody had to say something. If it wasn't going to be the ever diplomatic John Farrell, then somebody needed to speak out on the lack of run production.

The Blue Jays starting pitchers have received so little run support lately that the margin of error for the pitching staff is so paper-thin, it makes it nearly impossible for them to have a chance to win the ball game. In two of three of the past games, it's been just one mistake (a home run) that's been the difference maker.

As impressive as the starting rotation has been, it's extremely unfair to ask them and the bullpen to put a goose egg up on the scoreboard every game. Prior to last night, the starting rotation had posted seven straight quality starts with an ERA of 2.25.

Zach Stewart wasn't exactly on the ball in his second big league start, but frankly it didn't matter if the Braves scored one run or five runs because he would've been charged with the loss anyway if things played out as they did.

Simply put, you can't win ball games if you don't put runs on the board.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Free Shipping Today in the BJH T-Shirt Shop!


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In honour of the 4th Annual International T-Shirt Day, there's free shipping today only inside the Blue Jay Hunter T-Shirt Shop!

All you have to do is enter the coupon code T-DAY2011 if ordering within the United States or T-DAY2011CAD if ordering within Canada.

There is no minimum to order, and the maximum amount off for shipping is $9.50. Most Spreadshirt shippings costs are only around $7 dollars anyway, so that coupon should cover all your shipping costs.

Unfortunately, if you're ordering within Canada, the Canada Post strike may put a short delay on the shipping, but I called Spreadshirt and they assured me they are still processing orders to Canada. The only delay would be with Canada Post.

So if you haven't already, be sure to check out the bevy of shirts available: there's "Meat's Dont Clash", "Bautista Bomb", "AA7 Silent Assassin" and the recent addition "Bautista Bombers" shirts.

As always, if there's a particular style you're looking for or maybe even a design you'd like to see on a new shirt, just let me know and I'll do my best to accomodate.

Once again, Happy International T-Shirt Day and happy shopping,
Blue Jays fans!

Down & Away: The Mantra of Rajai Davis


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Image courtesy of Daylife via Getty Images
Whenever you imagine a Rajai Davis at-bat unfold, what do you see? Do you see him falling behind in the count? Do you envision him striking out on a pitch down and away?

If you're like me, that's exactly what you see every time Rajai Davis comes to the plate. Like any major league baseball player, Davis is prone to the occasional funk and currently he's in the midst of an 4 for 50 slump.

While some slumps can just be written off as a cold streak, I think Davis' slide can easily be pinpointed to a few things. For one, Rajai Davis achillies heel is he cannot lay off pitches down and away.

Davis has always been a hitter that likes to swing at pitches outside of the zone, but this season he's amped it up in terms of fishing at outside pitches. Last year, Rajai Davis was swinging at pitches outside of the zone 34.9% of the time, this year he's swinging at pitches outside the zone 39%.

Year O-Swing Z-Swing Swing O-Contact Z-Contact Contact Zone SwStrk
2006 13.5 51.6 30.9 60 100 90.5 45.6 2.9
2007 19.4 62 42 53.4 89.7 81 53 7.5
2008 36.2 66.3 52.1 65.7 91.5 83 52.8 8.6
2009 30.9 69.7 50.7 60 88.9 80 51 9.9
2010 34.3 67.1 49.9 72.6 90.8 84.3 47.6 7.7
2011 39 68 52.4 61.6 88.5 77.7 46 11.3
(Data courtesy of FanGraphs)

That small increase in itself may not be a huge cause for concern, but it's just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to Rajai Davis' tendencies. Overall, he's also making less contact with the ball and swinging and missing more than ever before.

Onto concern number two for Rajai Davis: any time he's behind in the count, he's basically a sitting duck. In 22 at bats where he's been in the hole 0-2, Davis has been retired each and every time, striking out nine times.

Unless you're Jose Bautista, digging out of an 0-2 hole can be pretty difficult so I'll give Rajai a free pass on that one. But it seems to be that whenever Rajai Davis has two strikes on him, he's as good as out.

Split G GS PA AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI SB CS BB SO BA ▴ OBP SLG OPS
0-2 Count 21 28 28 0 0 0 0 0 0 1 0 9 .000 .000 .000 .000
After 2-2 25 32 32 1 0 0 0 0 0 17 .031 .031 .031 .063
2-2 Count 23 30 30 1 0 0 0 0 1 1 0 16 .033 .033 .033 .067
After 0-2 33 48 48 2 0 1 0 0 0 23 .042 .042 .083 .125
Two Strikes 49 102 100 9 1 2 0 0 3 2 2 43 .090 .108 .140 .248
After 1-2 35 50 50 6 0 2 0 0 0 27 .120 .120 .200 .320
2-0 Count 7 7 7 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 .143 .143 .143 .286
After 0-1 49 106 103 15 3 2 0 1 2 36 .146 .170 .214 .383
1-2 Count 25 32 32 5 0 2 0 0 2 0 0 15 .156 .156 .281 .438
Pitcher Ahead 44 84 83 15 2 3 0 1 2 4 0 24 .181 .190 .277 .468
For me, the most troubling statistic in this graph is that Rajai Davis is hitting .090 with two strikes. Given it's only a 100 at bat sample size, but that's one fifth of a season's at bats in which Davis is only getting on base 10.8 percent of the time when he has two strikes against him.

However, these splits aren't really all that surprising as Rajai Davis hasn't really been a great hitter when behind in the count anyway. It's just disheartening when you see the trend continue when he was supposed to be this team's leadoff hitter.

And lastly, what's worrisome to me is the fashion that Rajai Davis is allowing himself to get fooled swinging at pitches that are far outside the strike zone.

Below are a couple of Pitch F/X charts from Texas Leaguers which clearly show us how Davis just loves to fish for balls down and away.

Rajai Davis Pitch F/X Chart: 0-2 Count

Rajai Davis Pitch F/X Chart: 1-2 Count

Rajai Davis Pitch F/X Chart: 2-2 Count

These Pitch F/X charts make the scouting report on Rajai Davis very easy. Opposing pitchers must have got the memo that if Rajai Davis is behind in the count, you either feed him a steady diet of sliders away or changeups.

The remedy for the situation is pretty simple but it's the execution that's going to be difficult. Rajai Davis needs to take a page out of Jose Bautista's book and work on some plate discipline and lay off those sliders away if at all possible.

This is a trend I've noticed with Rajai Davis more and more as the season has progressed, and I think John Farrell has too considering Davis has tumbled from the top all the way down to the bottom of the batting order.

It's just disappointing because Rajai Davis was acquired to be the sparkplug this team needed at the top of the lineup and provide the speed the Blue Jays sorely lacked. Nobody expected him to put up a Jose Bautista calibre on base percentage, but at the very least get on base 30% of the time.

But now that Rajai Davis is down there hacking away in the seven and eight slot in the lineup, it feels more and more like in the short term, this trade may not have panned out exactly as Alex Anthopoulos had hoped it would.

Plate discipline excel data courtesy of Fangraphs
Situational splits courtesy of Baseball Reference
Pitch F/X Charts courtesy of Texas Leaguers

Monday, June 20, 2011

Jose Bautista's Key to Success: His Beard


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There's something that I've pondered ever since Jose Bautista has adorned his ever famous facial hair choice: can Bautista's beard be attributed to his success?

Jose has openly credited his success to increased playing time, starting his swing earlier, and watching episodes of Hoarders to build his confidence, but perhaps he should be thanking his razor for his success, or lack thereof actually.

Prior to the beard Jose Bautista dabbled in the facial hair department; a soul patch here, a moustache there, but nothing quite as grandiose and sophisticated as a beard.

Now if you watch Jose Bautista very closely throughout the season, you'll notice that he doesn't keep his beard at exactly the same thickness the entire season. Sometimes he's close-shaven, and other times his beard approaches hobo-like status.

So just out of curiosity, I wanted to see whether Jose Bautista's beard thickness could be correlated with things like this batting average, on base percentage and on base plus slugging. You'll be be surprised at the results.

Click image to enlarge
The lines are pretty self explanatory as AVG, OBP and OPS, but there's a fourth statistic in there which has yet to be enstilled by Major League Baseball and that's beard percentage or BRD. How in the heck did I track Jose Bautista's beard growth, you ask?

Unfortunately, yours truly isn't fortunate to be around Jose Bautista each day to measure exactly how much longer his beard is each day to day, so I went by photos to determine the thickness of his facial hair.

If we go by the patterns, Jose Bautista either likes to start fresh and go clean-shaven every two weeks or so, or at least trim down his beard. The bigger question at hand though is does a thicker beard mean better results for Bautista at the plate?

In my opinion as someone who has just created a very official-looking graph with one column of data that's purely based on unsubstantiated evidence ... yes.

You'll notice that Jose Bautista's AVG, OBP and OPS is at its highest when his beard is also at its fullest. And if of you look closely, the parallels between Bautista's OPS and BRD from April 20th to 24th are eerily similar.

I don't know, is this just me fishing for justification for this entire hairbrain theory, or is that Jose Bautista's beard growth rising at the exact same rate as is OPS?

Sure, we can just chalk it up to a pure coincidence, but I thought graphing something helped land extra credibility to something. Are you telling me I went to all this trouble for ... nevermind.

Bautista's batting average and on base percentage have essentially flattened out as the season has progresed, so the only variation here is his on base plus slugging and his BRD (beard percentage).

Until Jose Bautista starts keeping a daily log of how long his beard is and shares it with the public, this is the next best forum for seeing if his beard thickness has anything to do with his success.

If we can take anything at all away from this extremely insightful post is that a clean-shaven Jose Bautista does not perform quite as well as a bearded one.

When opposing pitchers see a baby-faced Bautista, they might be more included to attack him with their better pitches, whereas when Bautista has a full-on beard, perhaps they're more intimidated and leave pitches out in the zone for Jose to hit?

Your guess is as good as mine, folks ... I'm just saying I'd be afraid of pitching to someone who looked like the Most Interesting Man in the World, too. So let's make sure Bautista keeps rocking the beard as long as possible.

Brian Wilson may have hitters fearing the beard, but when Jose Bautista steps into the batter's box, pitchers in trouble when they see the stubble.

Update: By request, I've added Jose Bautista's slugging line to the graph. Starting around the May 21st mark, it basically mirrors the slight downward trend of his OPS. This can probably be attributed to a bevy of singles being hit since then (23 in total) and not many extra base hits (only 8).

Saturday, June 18, 2011

When Farrell Ball Actually Works


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Image courtesy of Daylife via Getty Images
John Farrell has certainly been criticized for playing an aggressive game which has been branded as "Farrell Ball". Think Moneyball minus Billy Beane and more bunts and steal attempts.

At times it's been extremely frustrating to watch Farrell give the green light to Corey Patterson with Jose Bautista at the plate, but this time it worked against the Reds. When John Farrell sent Patterson, it resulted in a run scored thanks to a Bautista double.

For once this strategy actually paid off, but here's why I think it was a very wise move to actually give Corey Patterson the sign to steal; prior to yesterday, Jose Bautista had 22 hits in the past 21 games.

All but 4 of those hits were singles, which means Jose Bautista been on a bit of a singles kick lately with 18 one-bagger's in the past 21 games. By putting Corey Patterson in scoring position, that allows him to score on a double.

This allowed John Farrell to play to the strength of his hitters. Jose Bautista hasn't been killing the ball lately, but he's still reaching base to a tune of .486, better than anybody else in the majors (including Joey Votto).

So if Bautista has been hitting a lot of seeing eye singles lately, I think it's perfectly acceptable to give Corey Patterson the green light and try to get into scoring position by stealing second base.

Farrell Ball is a sharp contrast to the Cito Gaston managing style we were accustomed to (AKA "CitoCity"), and it's going to be an ongoing process transitioning from the one managerial style to the next.

As aggressive as John Farrell tends to be when employing Farrell Ball, I'd much rather the Blue Jays run into outs being aggressive than just sitting back and waiting for something to happen.

I truly believe that is what has helped the Blue Jays rack up a 7-2 record in extra innings, because John Farrell is willing to push the envelope and put the pressure on the opposition.

Farrell Ball is not completely foolproof as we have seen both the highs and the lows an aggressive style of managing can provide. However, we have also been privy to the opposite end of the managerial spectrum.

The thing about the American League East is you have to squeeze every single drop out of your lineup to get wins. Sometimes, even 90 wins might not get you a spot in the playoffs, and that's when those early season one-run losses really come back to bite you.

Sometimes, John Farrell is guilty of over-strategizing or over-thinking things. But let's just say hypothetically the Blue Jays are still in the race come September, we'll be singing his praises for helping the Blue Jays pick up those ever-important wins like they did against the Reds last night.

When Farrell Ball doesn't work, it can be painful to watch. But when Farrell Ball does work ... it's a thing of beauty.

Friday, June 17, 2011

Photoshop Fun: Blue Jays Movies (#BlueJaysMovies)


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Something very interesting happened across the Twitterverse yesterday. @HighSockMojo sent out a tweet with the hashtag #BlueJaysMovies.

It spread like wildfire and even yours truly got caught up in it sitting there pondering how to work current and former Blue Jays players names into movie titles.

I took a couple of the best ones and decided to turn them into movie posters. Just click on the posters to get a closer look.

Thanks to @Rallcap_Andy for "Drabek to the Future".

Next is @JasonTO with "Zaunadu".

After that, we have @5thStarter's suggestion of "Meat's Dont Clash of the Titans". Believe it or not, as unauthentic as it looks, that's an actual photo of Travis Snider's head. Here's the proof!

Then there's one of my own suggestions for a Blue Jays movie, "The BauFather".

Lastly, from the mind of @itsgettinglate, look closely and you might see former Blue Jays third baseman Kelly Gruber starring in "MacGruber".


Acid Flashback Friday: Tom Henke's Blue Jays Debut


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Tom Henke has many accolades to his name: he holds the Blue Jays team record for most saves with 217, he's a member of the Blue Jays Level of Excellence, and this weekend he'll be inducted into the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame.

It all started somewhere, and for Tom Henke it was July 29th, 1985. For this week's Acid Flashback Friday, we take a look back at Tom Henke's debut with the Toronto Blue Jays.

Henke made his way into the Blue Jays organization through the Texas Rangers; the Blue Jays acquired him as compensation for free agent Cliff Johnson signing with the Rangers. Henke seemed like the odd man out in the Rangers bullpen, so they were willing to let him go in the offseason.

Although he had a fairly successful stint with the Blue Jays in Spring Training, Tom Henke did not crack the Opening Day roster and instead spent the first half of the season in Triple A with the Syracuse Chiefs.

Henke made the most of his time in the minors; in 51.1 innings of work, Henke fanned 60 batters and has a sparkling ERA of 0.80. Finally on July 29th, 1985 Tom Henke got the call against the Baltimore Orioles and made his Blue Jays debut.

He was thrown right into the fire immediately, as Henke entered in the bottom of the ninth with a 3-3 tie and starter Jimmy Key exiting the game. Tom disposed of the Orioles in the bottom of the frame, and the following inning Damaso Garcia homered to give the Blue Jays the lead.

Tom Henke emerged again to pitch the tenth inning, but this time around wouldn't be so easy. He struck out  Wayne Gross but then walked pinch hitter Larry Sheets to put the tying run on base. Henke then got John Shelby to pop up for the second out.

All that stood between Tom Henke and the win that day was one man: All-Star Cal Ripken. He slammed an offering from Henke deep to centre field, but Jesse Barfield made the catch with just a few feet to spare and the game was over.

Tom Henke was awarded the win for his two innings of scoreless relief, and he would be asked to do the very same thing two days later when he pitched another two innings of scoreless relief and picked up another win against the Orioles.

Manager Bobby Cox must've been happy with what he saw from Tom Henke, because two days later Henke would pick up his first save as a Blue Jay on August 2nd, 1985 and would never look back. Henke would remain the Blue Jays closer until 1992, and he would collect 217 saves as a Blue Jay.

If you get a chance, make sure you head to St. Marys this Saturday and honour Tom Henke as he'll be inducted into the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame.

Kudos to Tom for a great career and may he forever stand as one of the best Blue Jay relievers of all time.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Oh Ricky, You're So Fine


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Image courtesy of Daylife via Getty Images
I can't say with 100 percent certainty that I've always been a cheerleader for Ricky Romero. When Roy Halladay left, Romero was arguably the ace waiting in the wings looking to make this squad "his team".

Ricky has flashed moments of greatness during his tenure with the Toronto Blue Jays, but I've felt that he's lacked that certain je ne sais quoi that belongs to the league's best starting pitchers. Now, it seems like Ricky Romero is finally getting there.

At the beginning of the year, if you matched up Ricky Romero versus Brandon Morrow as your number one starter going forward, I probably would've thrown my hat into the ring for Morrow. The sheer power of Brandon Morrow's arm was enough to convince me.

However, Ricky Romero is beginning to sway my vote to the other side of the scale. Not that I'm down in Brandon Morrow, but the way Romero has pitching as of late and his ability to go deep into games has been a huge plus (is that something Gregg Zaun would say word for word?).

One thing that's been sorely lacking on this pitching staff has been the lack of innings pitched by the  starters. The Blue Jays rank third last in innings pitched by starters (391.2 total) and second last in starters ERA (4.64).

Ricky Romero seems to be turning that tide though as he's pitched seven-plus innings in his past seven starts. That's the sign of a workhorse in the making, and something the Blue Jays sorely need every five days.

What was very promising about Romero's performance last night was that all of 8 his swinging strikeouts were via either curveball or changeup. In that aspect, it's like Romero is the antithesis of Brandon Morrow; no "blow it by them" fastball, but a great repertoire of offspeed pitches.

Having a pitcher with a mid-90's fastball is much sexier than a guy who just lobs it in there in the mid-80's with off-speed stuff, but I'm starting to warm up to the idea that making an opponent look silly on a changeup is just as gratifying as blowing a heater right by them.

I guess what I'm trying to say in a roundabout way is that Ricky Romero is solidifying himself as the number one starter on the Blue Jays pitching staff. Pound for pound, Brandon Morrow may have the better stuff, but if you can't locate your pitches, you're dead in the water.

What Ricky Romero has been able to display lately is he can control the game rather than let the game control him. He didn't get the complete game victory last night, but he held reins for about 90% of that game.

Ricky Romero still has a ways to go to be regarded as a true bona fide "ace", but after last night's performance, he's well on his way to becoming one.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Adam Lind's Sweet Swing is Pretty Cool


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Image courtesy of Daylife via Reuters Pictures
I wouldn't say Adam Lind is a philosophical person, but for a man of few words, he's certainly very eloquent with his bat.

If I had to equate him to a character from Dazed and Confused, it would undoubtedly be David Wooderson played by Matthew McConaughey. Last week when he said it was "cool hitting homers, it's nice", I just imagined Lind inviting me to the moon tower for a post-graduation keg party.

Hitting behind Jose Bautista must be rubbing off on Adam Lind a little bit too, because he certainly showed a little swagger out of the batter's box after his walk-off home run.

There was a brief moment of panic though when the ball initially came off his bat, thinking it might be foul. However, somehow that managed to stay fair and actually bounced off the facing of the third deck at the Rogers Centre.

Image courtesy of HitTracker
Judging by the trajectory of that ball, I immediately assumed it was the furthest hit home run of the year at the Rogers Centre, but there are actually quite a few dingers that went much further.

Lind's home run was measured at "only" 404 feet, yet there were a pair of home runs hit on the Home Opener which take the tops at the longest at the Rogers Centre this year: Jose Bautista's 456 foot blast and J.P. Arencibia's 434 foot home run to dead centre field.

Since returning from the DL back on June 4th, Adam Lind is hitting .400 and slugging .882, he has hit 5 home runs and driven in 12 runs. And if we go back to right when Lind began to start on his torrent pace on April 25th, he's hitting .432 and slugging .864 with 11 home runs and 27 RBI's.

In those 22 games, Lind has been held hitless in just 4 games, and he's strung together 11 multi-hit games during that run as well.

Fans are currently in a frenzy for Jose Bautista and rightfully so, but Adam Lind is giving us another great reason to be very stoked about what this lineup can do. Alright, alright, alright.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Joe Carter Now Endorsing Webber Naturals


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So I was flipping through the flyers over the weekend (one of my favourite guilty pleasures), and I happened to be perusing the latest Zellers flyer only to see my childhood hero staring at me encouraging me to purchase supplements.

During his ample time in retirement from baseball, I guess Joe Carter has now become a spokesman for Webber Naturals.

For someone who admittedly plays as much golf as he does, I imagine this was a very natural partnership for Joe Carter because all that time on the golf course must cause some stiff joints.

I randomly found this video from their Youtube channel as well featuring some outtakes from Joe Carter's recent commercial shoot.



I haven't seen the spots on television yet, but here's a link to the rough cut of the commercial.

More importantly though, You can also enter their "Joe's Big Hit Contest" for a chance to watch a Blue Jays game with Joe Carter in a luxury box, hang out on the field with Joe during batting practice, and win an autographed jersey.

Sounds like a pretty sweet prize pack, so make sure you enter the contest if you want a chance to meet up with Touch 'em All Joe.

I would enter myself, but I'm afraid the encounter might be a little awkward after the last post I wrote about him. No hard feelings, right Joe?

Monday, June 13, 2011

Silver Linings from the BoSox Sweeping


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Image courtesy of Daylife via AP
Having been outscored 35-6 and outhit 46-12, one might not think there were many positives to come out of getting swept handily by the Boston Red Sox.

Yet, as I grasp at straws to find some positives from being outplayed in every facet by the Red Sox, there are some silver linings to take away from this series:

1.) Jose Bautista hits his 21st home run

It's funny how some people considered Jose Bautista to be in a funk when he hadn't hit a home run in 13 games, yet managed to hit .289 and get on base at a .448 clip.

When Bautista hit his 21st home run of the reason to the deepest part of the ballpark, it helped calm any fears that Jose might be going through a power outage.

However, when you're a One Man Gang (hat tip to Tao of Stieb) like Jose Bautista has been, it's very evident when he hasn't hit a home run because all eyes are on Joey Bats. Good news is he's still on pace to hit around 54 home runs anyway.

2.) Your new mop-up man, Mike McCoy

Now, coming in from the Blue Jays bullpen ... Mike McCoy? Yes, the Blue Jays favourite frequent flyer  was summoned from the bullpen to pitch an inning of relief in Saturday's 16-4 blowout.

McCoy displayed his ability to play nearly every position, and surprisingly retired the Red Sox in order in the top of the ninth. In fact, McCoy had about 5.2 innings of prior pitching experience in the minors, his last outing in 2009.

Thanks to his versatility, I guess Mike McCoy really is the new Slap Chop after all.

3.) Jo-Jo destined to start?

I was thinking about this other the weekend; had Brandon Morrow not started the year on the disabled list, do you think Jo-Jo Reyes would have even made the starting rotation out of Spring Training?

When Morrow went down, that opened the door for Reyes to snag a spot in the starting rotation and surprisingly, he's been one of the most consistent starting pitchers for the Blue Jays.

For argument's sake, let's just say Jo-Jo is put in the bullpen and the starting rotation went Romero/Morrow/Cecil/Drabek/Litsch. The second one of those guys goes down to injury, Reyes is likely moved from the bullpen to the starting rotation anyway, and we're back at square one.

Until Jo-Jo Reyes shows an inability to eat up some innings, I think he'll play through the year in the starting rotation. There isn't really anyone in the minors banging down the door anyway, so I say let the man continue to set new career highs in wins.

4.) Gregg Zaun is great

This doesn't have anything to do with the Blue Jays par sae, but it certainly relates to the Blue Jays broadcasts. I've been kicking around the idea of writing an entire post devoted to how impressed I've been with Gregg Zaun.

I realize Zaunie's worked for Sportsnet these past few years during the playoffs, but lately I've really come to enjoy what he brings to the Blue Jays broadcasts. As a former catcher, Zaun's insight into the psyche of the pitcher is especially valuable.

As a 16-year veteran who has experienced it all, it's very helpful to hear and listen to Gregg Zaun not only diagnose problems with certain players, but how to remedy the situation as well.

Not only that, but his tweets are not only incredibly insightful, but hilarious as well. Watching him give a play-by-play of stage five clinger at a watering hole in Kansas City was very entertaining. Through Twitter, we live vicariously through Zaunie.

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