Friday, September 30, 2011

One Last Plea for Bautista as MVP (and not Verlander, Ellsbury or Granderson)

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Image courtesy of Daylife via Reuters Pictures
Most Valuable Player; what exactly does it mean?

Should the emphasis be on most, should it be on valuable? It's a subject that's gotten murkier and murkier as the year progressed, and now that the regular season is in the books, it's time to try to make some sense of it all.

I think where folks are getting confused about the MVP award is that they're trying to judge which players have been most valuable to their team, when in fact they should be judging which player has been the most valuable, period.

It's nearly impossible to quantify which player has been most valuable to their own team, because every situation is completely different. Judging how valuable Jose Bautista has been to the Blue Jays and how valuable Jacoby Ellsbury has been to the Red Sox are like comparing apples and oranges.

Just to reiterate how silly the rationale is that the MVP candidate must come from a playoff team, let's eliminate all the candidates who won't be playing October baseball: Jose Bautista, Jacoby Ellsbury, Dustin Pedroia and Adrian Gonzalez.

When we test that theory, it just goes to show how outrageous this school of thought is. So it's not fair to hold Jose Bautista's team against him when he has no control over what the other 24 men on the roster do around him.

And just in case you weren't sick and tired of the MVP debate already, here's one last plea for Jose Bautista to win the AL MVP. It actually turns out to be a plea not to vote for Curtis Granderson, Jacoby Ellsbury, or Justin Verlander.

Not Curtis Granderson

One of the biggest arguments against Jose Bautista's MVP chances last year was that while he was far and away the most impressive slugger in the league, his .260 batting average was not that of your typical MVP.

Now one year later, Bautista finished with a .302 batting average and yet his chances don't seem any better. Aside from home runs, doubles and RBI's, Jose Bautista improved in all offensive categories compared to 2010.

What frustrates me is that although Jose Bautista's AVG was .260 last year and people wrote him off for that, they are miraculously able to ignore Curtis Granderson's .262 AVG and yet still put him ahead of Jose Bautista on their ballot.

The big advantage Curtis Granderson has over all the other candidates is he plays on the biggest stage on earth for the New York Yankees. His rise to the top has been well documented around all corners of the baseball world in 2011.

That's the only explanation I can find why Tracy Ringolsby picked Curtis Granderson as his #2 MVP candidate, behind Justin Verlander at #1 and Michael Young at #3. Shockingly, no mention of Jacoby Ellsbury or Jose Bautista anywhere.

On paper, Jose Bautista clearly had the better offensive season, but what about the other side of the equation, defense?

With Curtis Granderson, I feel like there's this perceived notion that he's a really good fielder, when in fact he isn't. Since Granderson has a reputation as being a "fast" player, I believe people just automatically associate that with being a great centre fielder.

The best centre fielders are the fastest ones, right? I think that's where Curtis Granderson is getting the benefit of the doubt because his reputation as a base stealer lends to him being a good fielder.

I'll be the first to admit that Jose Bautista isn't a spectacular fielder, either. Much like Granderson, I think Bautista's reputation proceeds him; it's Jose's strong throwing arm that allows him to have the eminence of being a good fielder.

Not that fielding should be determined on statistics alone, but at the end of the day, that's the only body of work people can really work from. It's not based off a visual memory bank of great catches in the outfield.

Curtis Granderson's UZR was -6.2 compared to Jose Bautista's -8.3. And when it comes to Total Zone Fielding Runs, Granderson comes in at -2 compared to Bautista's 0.

Just as a frame of reference, Brett Gardner had 35 Total Zone Fielding Runs Above Average this season.

Not Jacoby Ellsbury

Once again, the thing Jacoby Ellsbury has over Jose Bautista is he plays a premium defensive position, with a difficult outfield configuration at his home ballpark. Unlike Curtis Granderson though, Ellsbury handles centre field very well.

Whether you prefer Baseball Reference's interpretation of WAR or FanGraphs WAR, both Jacoby Ellsbury and Jose Bautista are ranked in the top two of both versions respectively.

The difference between the WAR's for Bautista are slightly different; an 8.6 WAR according to Baseball Reference, and a 8.4 WAR on FanGraphs. Apparently FanGraphs WAR is more weighted on defense, which would explain why Jacoby Ellsbury is up there with 9.6 WAR as opposed to 7.2 on BBREF.

It pains me to say this, but Jacoby Ellsbury is definitely and admirable foe for Jose Bautista as American League MVP. I can definitely see him getting the lion's share of the votes, and they would all be warranted.

I alluded to it off the top, but I think a positive side affect of the Red Sox not making the playoffs is that it should help voters look at Jose Bautista and Jacoby Ellsbury equally, and not lean more towards the Red Sox because they would have made it into the postseason.

Ellsbury would have been hailed for "saving the season" with his 3-run home run on Sunday against the Yankees, perhaps swaying some indecisive voters. But thanks to the Red Sox collapse, we don't have to worry about that scenario.

Not Justin Verlander

Not everyone holds Jose Bautista in as high a regard as the legions in Toronto, and I'm cool with that. A first place MVP vote for Jacoby Ellsbury or even Curtis Granderson is understandable. But what really frustrates me is an AL MVP vote for Justin Verlander.

You're telling me that a man who played in only 34 games is more valuable than a man who plays upwards of 162 games? Given, Verlander faced 882 batters this season and Jose Bautista only went to the plate 655 times, but position players always play both sides of the game.

Jose Bautista was there day-in and day-out, whether it was at third base, right field, or at the plate. Justin Verlander had the luxury of watching every half inning from the dugout, while Jose Bautista was accumulating 3-4 at bats per game.

And despite the story that's been spun by the media the entire season, Justin Verlander was not the head and shoulders best pitcher in the American League this season. Another solid season from CC Sabathia was overshadowed by all the Verlander hype.

For the people trying to justify voting Verlander as MVP, the crutch to their argument is "where would the Tigers be without him?" Yes, Verlander won 23 games, but only 5 of them came against teams with a winning record.

And again, Justin Verlander did not single-handedly win 23 games all by himself for the Detroit Tigers. They would not have 72 wins without him as opposed to the 95 they have with him now. It's another discussion for another day about the pitcher's win statistic, but suffice it to say those wins don't mean very much in my book.

I'm not against the idea of voting for a pitcher as MVP entirely, but not when there was such strong field of position player candidates, and not when that pitcher wasn't far and away the best in the league.

Overall

While I would love for Bautista to win the MVP, I don't expect him to garner the votes necessary to take the award. More than likely, it's going to go Jacoby Ellsbury or heaven forbid, Justin Verlander. However, Jose should hopefully have a strong showing and land in at least the top three.

Don't get me wrong, Curtis Granderson, Jacoby Ellsbury and Justin Verlander all had fantastic seasons. I'm not discounting anything they did in 2011. All I'm asking is that the writers with AL MVP ballots disregard player reputations, narratives, or any other intangibles that might sway their vote.

Whether or not their team made the playoffs, select whom you believe had the best overall season, and don't consider any outside factors. Don't look at the names ... look at the numbers, and it should be clear who was the best in 2011.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Reflecting on the 2011 Blue Jays Season

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Image courtesy of Daylife via Getty Images
It seems like just yesterday we were tipping out caps to a departing Cito Gaston and beginning the search for a new manager. My, how the time flies in Blue Jays Land because another season has come and gone already.

As we watch our cohorts play October baseball, now is the time to reflect and look back upon the 2011 season. It's difficult to summarize what happened this season in one blog post, but I think the best word to describe this year would be: change.

Change came in the way of a new manager, and change also came in the way of many long-time Blue Jays packing their backs and leaving the nest. Change came in the way of many new faces within the organization.

The 162 game schedule came with its fair share of highs and low, so here are the highlights via 22 posts at BJH from earlier this season. Enjoy!

The Home Opener Hangover
The Yunibomber Strikes
Bob Davidson Hates the Blue Jays
Walk-Off Wins Don't Clash
Johnny Mac for Prime Minister
Travis Snider's Demotion
Welcome to the Show, Eric Thames
Jo-Jo is Winless No More
All All-Star Eyes on Bautista
Dotel Celebrates Encarnacion's Home Run
Welcome Home, Roy Halladay
10 Facts About Jose Bautista's First Half
Edwin Encarnacion's Baseball Bizarro World
Christmas Comes Early with Colby Rasmus
Introducing the Man in White
Kelly Johnson joins the Blue Jays
Farewell, Johnny Mac: 10 Defensive Gems
The Jose Bautista Staredown Version 2.0
What's Wrong with Adam Lind?
The Winding Trail Back for Dustin McGowan
Perfect 10 in Extra Innings
The Leaked Blue Jays Logo

Lessons Learned from the 3rd Annual Fantasy Baseball Leage

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A big congratulations goes out to Team Balco for capturing the BJH Fantasy Baseball title. It was a well-fought battle down to the file, and all contestants who made it to the post-season should be proud of themselves.

Incredibly, both of the semi-final matchups ended in a 6-6 tie. Having been familiar with all the tiebreakers from last year, it came down to which team had the better record against the other team during the regular season.

It continues to amaze me each season just how close the matchups are. If I'm ever fortunate enough to make it into the playoffs in the BJH Fantasy League, I know that drawing a tie sometimes isn't even enough.

Here's a look at how the playoffs went down:


Pitching at a Premium

After our draft, I was so proud of myself for spending a grand total of $36 dollars on my pitching staff. That strategy definitely came back to bite me in the ass, because I placed dead last in the ERA and WHIP categories.

Luckily, a pre-season trade to bring in Madison Bumgarner was the only saving grace on the pitching staff, as the rest of the squad was a revolving door of waiver wire pickups which included Barry Zito, A.J. Burnett, and Bruce Chen.

It was a lesson well learned; do not be afraid to pay top dollar for top starters. I'm convinced it takes at least two solid starting pitchers to even have a shot at cracking the playoffs in a 20 team league.

Revolving Door Closers

Speaking of revolving doors, again it's very apparent by my choice of closers why my team only managed to finish 14th out of 20 teams. A duo of Kevin Gregg and Javy Guerra as closers would fail more often than not.

The problem with closers is that it's such a difficult position to gauge prior to Opening Day that drafting any closer can be a crap shoot. Just like the real world, you'll probably have to overpay for a big name early on, and try to swoop in late to close a dark horse closer candidate.

Also, make sure to watch the waiver wire like a hawk, because at any given moment a reliever can go down and other can take their place at a drop of a hat. That's why following @CloserNews on Twitter is a must.

Know when to cut the cord

It's the same conundrum for all managers every year - when to sell high, and when to buy low. Gauging talent and hot streaks is crucial to fantasy baseball triumph, and distinguishing between the two of them can be the key to success.

The decision to either trade or drop somebody altogether is a very tough decision which is amplified even more so by an auction draft. I justified keeping Alex Rios on the roster until July because I stupidly paid $30 dollars for him on draft day.

I should have cut the cord many months prior, and maybe could have picked up somebody off the waiver wire for $0 dollars and their production would have doubled that of Alex Rios.

On the other hand, you don't want to give up on a player too early, either. If players historically have bad April's or May's, take that into consideration. Otherwise, tread lightly when dropping premium talent.

In Conclusion

I'm not sure if I really should be offering any fantasy baseball advice here because last year I finished in 12th place out of 20 teams, and this year I slipped a couple of positions down to 14th place.

Just like in real baseball, the margin of error is very slim in fantasy baseball. One bad week can come back to haunt you big time, and especially when it comes down to a tiebreaker situation.

Thanks once again to all the managers who participated in the 3rd Annual BJH Fantasy League Baseball, and congrats to this year's champion Team Balco. See you all again next year!

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Henderson Alvarez: Quietly Effective

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Image courtesy of Daylife via AP
The Toronto Blue Jays starting rotation has had its fair share of candidates throughout the season, but one of the frontrunners for the 2012 pitching staff might be right under their nose: Henderson Alvarez.

Coming off another strong start last night, Alvarez has very quietly put together a very impressive rookie campaign. I would dare even say impressive enough to earn him a spot in the starting rotation next season.

We saw how Kyle Drabek floundered the big league level earlier this year, and yet Henderson Alvarez miraculously made the transition from AA New Hampshire to the Major Leagues without so much as a hiccup.

Perhaps the most encouraging news about Henderson Alvarez was his ability to go at least five innings in all 10 of his starts this year. For John Farrell to know he can depend on his young starter to go at least five innings is huge.

Also, Alvarez' ability to keep his walks down has been paramount; in 63.2 innings of work, Henderson Alvarez has only walked eight batters total. Just as a comparison, Kyle Drabek walked six batters in one start on May 16th.

Even though his fastball has been clocked in 97 MPH, surprisingly Henderson doesn't miss very many bats inside the strike zone (90.6%) or outside the zone for that matter (76%).

For a pitcher who predominantly throws fastballs, Alvarez keeps the ball on the ground and out of the air for the most part. That 53.5% ground ball rate explains why he's been able to go five innings or more in all his starts.

If Henderson Alvarez can continue to develop his slider as John Farrell is hoping he will, then that could become a very effective out pitch, much like it has become for Brandon Morrow.

With other starters like Brett Cecil and Kyle Drabek earlier the season, you never know what might happen. Henderson Alvarez on the other hand, has remained remarkably consistent since his debut on August 10th.

It's pretty early to start making predictions for next season already, but I think he'll definitely be a mainstay in the starting rotation come 2012. Pencil him in as the Blue Jays fourth starter, maybe even as high as the number three starter.

Next to the bullpen, undoubtedly the starting rotation is the area that needs the most attention in the offseason. I'm not sure whether Alex Anthopoulos will plug those holes via free agency, trade, or promotion from within, but with Henderson Alvarez in their back pocket, at least that's one less starter they'll have to worry about.

Data courtesy of Henderson Alvarez' FanGraphs page

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

The Quintessential Adam Lind At Bat from 2011

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Pitch F/X courtesy of Brooks Baseball
It's no secret that Adam Lind has battled demons this season both on and off the field. Whether it was in the form of injuries, the transition to first base, or in the form of becoming a new dad, Lind has been a little distracted on the field ... and it has shown.

Quickly glancing at the Pitch F/X above, it might not look so bad. However, if you click on the image and look right at Lind's ankles, you'll see the pitch placement of where Adam Lind swung and missed. It's not pretty.

I've seen golf swings by my brother that were better looking than Lind's hack on strike three, and my brother has played golf all of about three times in his entire life. At least he swings in the general vicinity of the ball.

Had Lind just stood there and not swung, the ball likely either would've hit him or skipped all the way to the backstop and probably scored the game-tying run from third base. Instead, Adam Lind swung at a pitch ankle-height and inside which ended the game.

For those masochists out there who are looking to dig a little deeper, check out it from the MLB GameDay angle. I think this one actually makes it look a little worse.

That at bat in the top of the ninth against Sergio Santos basically encapsulated Adam Lind's entire season; he's had ample opportunities hitting cleanup, but failed to capitalize on most of them.

Perhaps I'm being a little harsh on a guy who just witnessed the birth of his first child. But this was not an isolated incident, it was a pattern that presented itself for the better part of the entire season. What I'm saying is Adam Lind was basically masquerading as a cleanup hitter in 2011.

While part of the blame lies on the player, I would also say John Farrell should shoulder a brunt of the blame as well. Why did Farrell continue to run Lind out there in the number four spot when he was clearly struggling?

It hearkened back to CitoCity in 2009 when the manager paraded Alex Rios and Vernon Wells in the 3 and 4 spots night after night, and didn't make a change until a third of the way through the season. I think some of the onus lies on the manager as well.

In the grand scheme of things, this was really just one at bat and one bad pitch that Adam Lind swung at. I fully admit to making a mountain out of a molehill here, but these were the kind of games the Blue Jays need to win if they want to make the playoffs.

And as the Red Sox and Rays can surely attest to, every single game counts. You can't just give away wins because they will come back to haunt you later, and the Blue Jays need to capitalize on opportunities such as the one last night in Chicago.

Unfortunately, when the game is on the line, I just don't trust Adam Lind anymore. When I turned to Sportsnet and saw the bases loaded with Adam Lind at the plate, my mind foreshadowed what was about to happen; a strikeout.

I sincerely hope that Adam Lind can clear his head in the offseason and recharge his batteries in the offseason and do whatever he needs to do to come back in 2012 as a refreshed player.

I wouldn't expect Lind to return to his 2009 self, but something a little better than his 2010 and 2011 incarnation would a nice compromise.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Moneyball Movie Review

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Image courtesy of Movies.About.com
"The first one through the wall always gets bloody" - this idiom uttered by Boston Red Sox Owner John Henry perfectly encapsulates what this movie is all about. Being a trailblazer sometimes comes at the expense of criticism.

The film Moneyball was adapted from the critically acclaimed book by the same name, written by Michael Lewis. In the movie, Brad Pitt plays the central character - Oakland A's General Manager Billy Beane.

Initially, I thought that the enemy was the New York Yankees; the organization where money is never an issue. Or, as Billy Beane referred to the Yankees in the film, the Yankees just "used other teams as their farm system".

While the Yankees embody the shortcut to success, they are not the enemy in Moneyball. The main antagonist in this film is conventionalism: in the form of A's manager Art Howe (Philip Seymour Hoffman), head of scouting Grady Fusion (Ken Medlock), and the general baseball community.

The entire film is about Billy Beane fighting conventionalism in many forms, all the while battling demons from his past as a former highly touted five-tool prospect. Being only one of a few former players turned General Manager at the time, Beane saw baseball much differently than other executives.

Right from the start, Beane has the uphill battle of trying to rebuild a team who lost three integral pieces of their roster and has to turn to unconventional methods to fill those gaps. That's why Billy Beane recruits an economics major from Yale, Peter Brand (Jonah Hill) to right the ship once again.

A large part of the success lies in part due to Peter Brand, and the scenes that Brad Pitt and Jonah Hill's characters share are very entertaining. The clashing styles of their characters work in a very strange way, much like I'm sure they did in Oakland's front office.

Having read and reviewed the Moneyball book over three years ago, I had a tough time recalling which elements of the book were prevalent in the film. The only noticeably absent thing from the movie that was prevalent in the book was Beane's drafting strategy. However, Beane's tendency to avoid selecting high-schoolers is not something I would re-write into the film.

In fact, considering that this film was adapted from a non-fiction book, I'd say they did a fantastic job of crafting it into a modern-day baseball movie. Kudos to the screenwriters for finding a way to convert a book predominantly about statistics into a compelling movie.

In one of the early scenes of the film, Billy Beane is at a table surrounded by the Oakland A's scouts as they attempt to figure out how to replace the power of a departing Jason Giambi with talent within their farm system. 

The dialogue used by the scouts to describe the prospects is a plethora of tired, old cliched phrases that in no way actually quantify a player's worth. If that was an accurate portrayal of how baseball scouts still operate, then it's no wonder Billy Beane turned to the Moneyball philosophy.

Watching Peter Brand help turn the Oakland A's team into an on-base machine made me wonder if the Boston Red Sox and the New York Yankees do the exact same thing in their respective war rooms. Both teams are notorious of grinding games to a halt, but both the Red Sox and the New York Yankees teams take lots of pitches.

It seems to be no coincidence that these teams that control the pace of the games see the most success. They let the game come to them and capitalize on their opposition's mistakes. If that isn't a strategy that's already being employed by other teams, then maybe it should be.

Billy Beane's pet project in the film (and the book for that matter), was failed catching prospect Scott Hatteberg. After they pick him up as a reclamation prospect from the Boston Red Sox, Hatteberg blossoms in his new role as a first baseman.

Witnessing Hatteberg's character and player development in the film, the very first thing I thought of related to the Blue Jays was none other than Edwin Encarnacion. The two players arguably have a similar career arc; notoriously bad fielders/throwers at one position that found new life at another.

That's where I feel the Moneyball influence is very prevalent within the Toronto Blue Jays front office. It seems like there are shades of Billy Beane in Alex Anthopoulos, as AA tries to reincarnate Edwin Encarnacion as an effective player just as Beane did with Scott Hatteberg.

Overall, the Moneyball movie isn't really a rags to riches story of a team that went from worst to first. It's about a team that went to the playoffs, and then went to the playoffs again the following year. But the second time around, they did it without integral pieces of their 2001 run.

The 2002 Oakland A's aren't presented like the conventional underdogs similar to the Cleveland Indians in Major League. Yet, you still find yourself cheering for the Oakland A's as Billy Beane and Peter Brand use Sabermetrics to fight conventionalism.

We all know how the Oakland A's 2002 season ended; by a 3-2 series loss in the ALDS by the Minnesota Twins. The team assembled by Billy Beane managed to win 103 games during the regular season, but they couldn't win the last game of the season.

The 20-game win streak was by far my favourite part of the movie. It's no secret what happened during that run, but even in the movie, I got goose bumps when Scott Hatteberg hit the walk-off home run to win the 20th game.

The only criticism I have of Moneyball is that at two hours and six minutes, the movie may be a little on the long side. Although, it doesn't feel like a two hour flick because the pacing in Moneyball is pretty consistent.

I wouldn't even say one has to read the Moneyball book to develop an appreciation for the movie, as the film stands on its own as a great piece of work, let alone perhaps one of the best baseball movies out there.

It's no Bull Durham, it's no Major League, but Moneyball is a solid flick. Baseball fans will really enjoy it, and even if you don't like baseball, the performances by Pitt, Hill and the rest of the cast make it all worthwhile.

In Moneyball, Pitt's character Billy Beane says "it's hard not to be romantic about baseball". And after watching this movie, you'll find it difficult not to fall in love with the game all over again.

Friday, September 23, 2011

Animated Gif: Edwin Encarnacion's Walk-Off Home Run

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Click image for Animated Gif
Do you think there was any chance Edwin Encarnacion was watching tape of Carlton Fisk or Bill Mazeroski before tonight's game? Because EE certainly mimicked their actions to help will the ball fair and over the fence.

Thanks to his walk-off home run, the Blue Jays finish the season with a 11-0 record at home in extras and are now in the record books as the only team to accomplish that feat in a single season. Thanks Eddie for helping the Blue Jays go out on top at home!

Acid Flashback Friday: the 1992 World Series Parade and Celebration

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Each year, Toronto sports fans anxiously await with hope and optimism that their team will make the fabled parade route down Yonge Street. Luckily, the Blue Jays only had to wait 15 years after expansion to celebrate their first championship.

For this week's Acid Flashback Friday, we take a look back at the 1992 World Series Champion Parade in Toronto. Apparently 52,000 fans packed the Skydome that day to honour the World Series Champs.

The parade and Skydome celebration is broken up into eleven segments in total.The players don't actually arrive to the stage until about halfwaly through part five, but feel free to peruse the rest for some interesting interviews and montages.

The celebration at Skydome was emceed by Jerry Howarth and the late Tom Cheek. The broadcast in its entirely is nearly three hours long total, and every member of the Blue Jays roster and training staff gets a chance to take the mic and thank the fans for their support.

Part Two



Part Three



Part Four



Part Five



Part Six



Part Seven



Part Eight



Part Nine



Part Ten



Part Eleven



Among some of the highlights: seeing Jack Morris and Mike Timlin in cowboy hats, Roberto Alomar singing the Atlanta Braves fight song, hearing Dave Stieb's pronunciation of the word "grown", and Todd Stottlemyre's comment about thanking his wife.

And of course, the penultimate moment of Dave Winfield unveiling the 1992 World Championship banner. If you skip through everything else, at least make sure you watch the final video of Winfield's speech and the banner reveal in Part Eleven.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

The Leaked Blue Jays Logo: Is it Legit?

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Image courtesy of The Star
At first, I thought it might have been a hoax; but as reputable news sources and websites continue to jump on this story, I'm starting to think more and more that this will be the new Blue Jays logo.

When Getting Blanked first ran with the story yesterday, there was something about the logo that didn't sit quite right. My initial reaction was that the photo looked doctored and way too similar to the original Blue Jay to be a new design.

The first red flag is none other than the red leaf; it just doesn't look like it belongs. With the size of the leaf, things look a little disproportionate and heavily weighted on the ride side of the logo. But I guess with the beak on the left side, it kind of evens things out.

Then I thought, if the Blue Jays were going to mimic the old logo so closely, why not just revert back to it anyway? I would be perfectly content in just going back to the old uniforms from the glory days anyway.

However, if we examine the old logo and this rumoured logo side by side, they are actually quite different.

The major changes are: the removal of the baseball in the background, a more streamlined, modernized Blue Jay, a much different colour scheme between the top and bottom of the bird, and obviously a much bigger maple leaf.

And actually, it's almost as though whoever designed this logo melded the old Blue Jays logo with the cap logo from 1999. Here they are side by side with the leaked logo:

I know the Blue Jays have a tough task of trying to reinvent the wheel here, but if this logo is in fact legitimate, I think they have a winner on their hands. I actually prefer the new colour scheme over the old one anyway, and the streamlined Blue Jay is still an homage to the past without looking too dated.

The maple leaf placement still seems a little weird to me, but it's something I can definitely get used to ... and it's already growing on me. It will be interesting to see how this new proposed logo would be worked into the uniforms, and which colours they might use.

Anyway, all signs point to it being pretty authentic. The MLB logo placement on the new Blue Jays logo and the new Miami Marlins logo is in the same spot, and the font above the new logos is the same as well. Then again, anybody with Photoshop could easily put that together.

So what do you guys think: if this new leaked logo is in fact the real deal, do you approve?

Frankly, I think they could have done much worse. Just look at the new Miami Marlins logo for example. That salmon colour should have no place in a professional sports team logo ... ever.

Old Blue Jays logos courtesy of Chris Creamer's Sports Logos

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

How Close Are the Blue Jays to Contention?

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Image courtesy of The Star
Remember the fabled “five-year” plan? It’s something we can joke about now, but during the previous regime, it felt like an empty promise. It sounded similar to something a politician would say to win over indecisive voters.

For J.P. Ricciardi, the plan worked … at least for a while. Admittedly, I even bought in to it and was thrilled to see the Blue Jays ramp up their spending on player salaries past the $100 million dollar mark.

Even when all those things came together, it never really felt like the Blue Jays were close to contention. Rather than being proactive and bolstering their farm system and scouting, it seemed like they were waiting for either the Red Sox or Yankees to fall out of contention for their window of opportunity.

Fast forward to 2011 and things are even more competitive than ever. What used to be a two horse race in the AL East has now become a three horse race. As the Red Sox can surely attest to, the margin of error is slimmer than ever to reach the post-season.

After watching the contrasting styles at the helm of J.P. Ricciardi and Alex Anthopoulos, one thing I’ve learned is that you can’t structure your entire strategy around what other teams are doing around you. The Blue Jays certainly should be cognisant of what the Yankees, Red Sox and Rays are doing, but their plan shouldn’t be based on external factors.

With the way things are proceeding for the Blue Jays, I think most can agree that the Blue Jays are on the path to success, but the real question is – how long will it take them to get there? Personally, I believe it’s sooner rather than later.

If you asked me at the beginning of the 2011 season when I though the Blue Jays might be ready to make a run for the playoffs, I likely would have answered 2013 or 2014 at the very earliest. With all the acquisitions and trades this year alone, I’d say that timetable might have been moved up to 2012.

The thing that really indicated the Blue Jays might be pushing for the playoffs now was the acquisition of Colby Rasmus. Toronto already had a centre fielder in place with Rajai Davis (albeit a very streaky one), so the upgrade in the outfield to me signaled a slight shift in AA’s plan.

One thing is for sure, the bar for excellence has been raised in the American League East. And it takes a culmination of every aspect of the team (pitching, hitting, defense) clicking on all cylinders at the same time to even have a shot at the playoffs.

The Yankees and the Red Sox pitching staffs have left something to be desired, and yet despite those shortcomings, they are poised to capture a couple of playoff spots. So for the Blue Jays to surpass them, Toronto has to be that much better.

As for areas where the Blue Jays can improve, obviously the bullpen and the starting rotation are the two major concerns. I’m not certain whether that means they need to bolster the bullpen and rotation with free agents or offseason acquisitions, but as it currently stands, there are just too many question marks on the pitching staff for the Blue Jays to be contenders.

Maybe like the Atlanta Braves, everything will just click with a young bullpen and not much will have to be done at all. Craig Kimbrel and Jonny Venters seemingly came out of nowhere and become the equivalent of Ward/Henke from the Blue Jays glory days.

As far as the starting rotation is concerned, I think the Blue Jays need solid efforts from at least three of their five starting pitchers. Ricky Romero can be counted on, Brandon Morrow is working his way back into the good books, but after that it’s a lot of “what if’s”.

Sometimes, even the best laid plans go awry. Alex Anthopoulos could go out and sign C.J. Wilson and Jonathan Papelbon and both could have horrible seasons. History dictates they would probably be okay, but you never know what could happen with free agents.

Nobody can say for certain whether it will take two years, five years, or ten years for the Blue Jays to put together a squad that can compete with the elite of the AL East. But I think we can all agree that AA is going about things the right way.

Bolstering the scouting staff, developing players in the minor leagues and acquiring high-ceiling talent is a much more sustainable strategy than just plucking the best free agents off the market and hoping for the best.

Even with the most highly-touted prospects, there are never any guarantees whether or not they will develop into the superstars they may be billed as. But the more high-ceiling players the Blue Jays have like that in their system, the better the chances at least one or some of them will actually pan out.

Nobody wants to shoot themselves in the foot and guarantee that the Blue Jays will make the playoffs within the next five years. As comforting as that might be to hear, I’d rather see the Blue Jays go through their growing pains in the short term to so long as it leads to long term improvement and success.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Perfect Ten in Extra Innings

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Image courtesy of Daylife via Getty Images
The Toronto Blue Jays have battled all season long to keep their heads above .500. It's been a back and forth struggle as they have never dipped five games below .500, and they have never reached more than four games above .500.

If it were up to them, I'm sure they would much prefer every game at home in extra innings, because that's where they are undefeated this season at 10-0. Toronto has not lost a single game all season at the Rogers Centre beyond the 9th inning.

With four additional walk-off wins in the bottom of the ninth, that means the Blue Jays have walked off 14 times this season, or 18 percent of their win total. Now folks no longer dread a game going into extras at the Rogers Centre.

Perhaps the best piece of news comes via animated giffer and infamous Tweeter @James_In_TO, that the Blue Jays 10-0 record at home currently stands as the Major League record for the most wins in extra innings at home without a single loss.

If the Blue Jays can hold on for their final three games at home and not lose past the 9th inning, they would indeed become the all-time winners at home during a single season in extra innings.

Congrats to the Blue Jays on hopefully retaining this dubious record, and let's pray for no more "free baseball" this week at home. Or at the very least, if it does happen, Brett Lawrie is somewhere in the immediate vicinity on the lineup card.

Monday, September 19, 2011

The Weekend That Was

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Image courtesy of Daylife via AP
I have a confession to make; I was a horrible Blue Jays fan this past weekend. Of the three games against the New York Yankees, I only watched one. It's not something I'm proud of, but just wanted to get that out of the way.

So you'll have to forgive this mishmash of topics, as there really isn't one cohesive theme to this post. Just a grouping of a bunch of random thoughts in one place.

First off, congratulations to Brandon Morrow on what was likely his best start of the season. And of course I decided to let him go off my fantasy team this week, and he throws eight innings out shutout baseball.

Just another Saturday morning garage sale

I was at the game on Saturday, and the Blue Jays had their annual Jays Care Garage Sale. Having never been to one of these, I wasn't quite sure what to expect. But they did have some pretty interesting things for sale.

Most of it was just merchandise autographed by former players; baseballs, bats, hats, etc. I thought it was funny they were selling a Brett Wallace game used bat. Did he even ever have a major league at bat before he was traded?

Nothing really peaked my interest at the table, so I ventured down to the Jays Shop where everything was 50% off. And also being a sucker for bobbleheads, I couldn't stop myself from purchasing a $3 dollar B.J. Ryan Bobblehead.

The weirdest thing was the guy right behind me in line had a B.J. Ryan Bobblehead as well. As the line snaked around the store, I overheard him say "I can't believe I'm standing in a line this long for something that's $3 dollars".

So I turned around, and low and behold the two of us had the exact same thing in our hands. We both acknowledged how odd the purchase was, but that at the price, it was too hard to resist.

C.B. Bucknor was kung fu fighting

As far as the game was concerned on Saturday, the thing I noticed the most was how home plate umpire C.B. Bucknor was having way too much fun calling third strikes on the Blue Jays.

Not to mention his strike zone was a little questionable, but he always called third strike with an emphatic punch. From my vantage point, it looked like he was doing kung fu or something.

And just to back up my suspicion that Bucknor was favouring the Yankees that game, any time the Yankees struck out, it was a very subdued version of his emphatic motion. I think C.B. wanted to look good on the highlight reel.

Let's go easy on Adam Lind

Lastly, I was reading John Lott's article on Adam Lind from Saturday's National Post and couldn't help but feel sorry for Lind. He's had a tough year, but some folks are writing him off completely and pulling the trigger on a trade to send him elsewhere.

We all have our own demons, and Adam Lind has obviously struggled with them this past year. The transition from DH to first base has taken a toll on him, and it has undoubtedly affected other aspects of his game. It's no secret to him, his manager, or the fans for that matter.

Baseball is an escape from the everyday for most of us, but the players have to live with it 24/7. If you or I have a bad day at work, we just go home and shake it off. But all the fans get to see Adam Lind's bad days at work, and after having that many bad days in a row, it must really add up.

All of Lind's hard work at first base has paid off, but it has some at the cost of his effectiveness at the plate. With the season winding down, I hope Adam Lind can clear his head and come back in 2012 as a renewed player.

Friday, September 16, 2011

Acid Flashback Friday: Roy Halladay's Beehive Commercial

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Over the past few years, the Blue Jays have put together some pretty memorable television commercials. For me, none were as memorable as the crop of spots put out in 2008.

For this week's Acid Flashback Friday, we take a look at Roy Halladay's "beehive" commercial from the Blue Jays advertising campaign.

After watching a bunch of hapless hooligans attempt to knock down a beehive with rocks, Roy Halladay walks up out of nowhere and throws a stone as precisely as his cut fastball to bring the beehive down.

Halladay's robotic preciseness plays well into this commercial, and I think my favourite part is Doc celebrating with a subdued fist pump and walking away from the situation as the kids fight off swarms of bees.

For someone whose moniker is "Doc", you'd think he might have been a little more concerned for those children's health. Oh, who am I kidding ... those punks probably had it coming, anyway.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Animated Gif: Brett Lawrie Crashes Into Jason Varitek

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Click image for Animated GIF
There's no question Brett Lawrie is a show-shopper; but for a brief moment, Jason Varitek put the brakes on the Blue Jays most promising young player.

Unfortunately, I didn't see this happen live, but as you can tell by the multiple angles of the impact, Brett Lawrie ran full tilt into Jason Variek in attempt to lodge the ball free and score a run.

This is the second Brett Lawrie animated gif this week alone, and it's gotten to the point where creating a Tumblr solely devoted to Brett Lawrie animated gifs has crossed my mind.

It was a somewhat questionable play to send Lawrie home as he was out by a mile, but in a close one-run game, I can see why the Blue Jays would want to be aggressive and force the action at home plate.

I don't think Lawrie was anticipating the throw to come to the plate that quickly, but he was barreling down the third base line faster than a locomotive, and hit with the force of one, too.

Is there any chance Brett played hockey as a kid in Langley, BC? Because he treated Jason Varitek's body as if it were the boards at his hometown hockey rink. With Varitek's helmet flying off, it looked a lot worse than it actually was.

Some wondered had Lawrie slid into home rather than running full boar to the plate, would he have had a shot at getting the tag down? In my humble opinion, no. Lawrie doesn't strike me as the kind of player who would be graceful enough to pull off the swipe tag.

From the time the ball hit the bat, Brett committed to putting the pedal to the floor and he was going to come at Varitek like a Mack truck. But instead of lying there writing in pain on the ground, Varitek held onto the ball.

Varitek appeared to just brush off the incident as though a wayward mosquito had just flown into him by mistake. You wouldn't know it by the animated gif, but Brett Lawrie was the one who received the brunt of the collision as he suffered a bruised knee and had to exit the game early.

Thankfully, it did not affect his ability to don a tutu after the game. Maybe this means the next time it looks like there will be a collision at home, Lawrie will just grand jete over the catcher and land on home plate safely

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

The Morning After a 18-6 Loss

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Image courtesy of Daylife via Reuters Pictures
Judging by the box score, you might think it was the New England Patriots that defeated the Toronto Argos. Even though it was similar to a football game score, rest assured that was a Major League baseball game.

Even being the eternal optimist, I'm having a tough time trying to find a silver lining in last night's 18-6 loss at the hands of the Boston Red Sox.

Pitching was not the specialty of the evening, as nearly everyone on the Blue Jays pitching staff (save for Chad Beck, who only threw one pitch) had trouble shutting down the Red Sox. Those three outs in the bottom of the eighth were especially difficult to watch as five runs were scored with two out.

Ordinarily, six runs would probably be enough to outscore the competition. However, this is a team with the Rays nipping at their heels. Kevin Youkilis is playing through bursitis and a hernia, which means the Red Sox aren't screwing around.

Although, I do recall Jose Bautista played with a hernia from May to September last season and still managed to hit 54 home runs. Kevin Youkilis doesn't disguise his feelings on borderline pitches, so I can image the same applies for injuries.

Aside from Jose Bautista's 42nd home run, J.P. Arencibia's 23rd home run, David Cooper's 3 for 5 night and Adam Loewen's great catch in centre field, there really wasn't all that much to look back on with fond memories.

Wait ... there actually is a silver lining! After much debate, Brandon Morrow stayed firmly planted on the bench on my fantasy baseball team. The temptations of high strikeouts was tempting, but ultimately I couldn't do it.

Though it didn't really help much as Cole Hamels and Justin Masterson gave up a combined 10 earned runs anyway. And the Fantasy Baseball Gods had their way once again.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Brandon Morrow's Eerily Opposite Home/Road Splits

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Image courtesy of Daylife via AP
Something odd happened while I was doing a little pre-liveblog research for tonight's Blue Jays/Red Sox game. After combing through Brandon Morrow's home and road splits, it was very apparent that he is two completely different animals.

The tale of Morrow's differences at the Rogers Centre compared to away games were very well documented last season. But this year, it's as if the Baseball Gods have flipped a switch and reversed his splits for 2011.

W-LERABASO/9BABIP
Home 20114-86.91.28410.5.357
Road 20115-22.97.18810.3.249
Home 20108-12.74.22110.6.312
Road 20102-66.72.28111.3.384

Marc from Over the Monster jokingly said on Twitter that the Man in White has it out for Brandon Morrow this year. I suggested that the Man in White only works on one-year contracts, and Morrow had not renewed his services for the 2011 season.

It's very eerie how completely opposite Brandon Morrow's home and away splits are from 2010 and 2011, and perhaps the culprit is right there in the table as well: BABIP. Could that be the reason for the polar opposite splits?

FanGraphs had a great post last week painting a brighter picture for Brandon Morrow in the future. They suggest his strand rate of 64.4% has lead to more runners crossing home plate, and his pitch selection may also be causing problems as well.

Comparing his pitch types year over year, Morrow is relying more heavily on the fastball and slider this season, and veering away from the curveball and changeup. Given, the fastball and slider are Brandon's bread and butter pitches, but maybe it's time to change the plan of attack when things aren't working.

It's especially frustrating for Brandon Morrow owners in fantasy baseball because the potential for racking up K's is huge, but lately it comes at the price of ERA and WHIP as well.

At this very moment, I still don't know whether to leave Brandon Morrow on the bench, or to have him start tonight. With it being the finals in my one league, I don't think I'm going to leave it to chance. However, Murphy's Law of fantasy baseball dictates he'll throw a complete game shutout with 15 strikeouts.

By no means do I think it's time to panic or suggest he needs to be converted back into a reliever. Brandon Morrow has been the victim of an unusally high BABIP once again, and hopefully things will even themselves out next year.

Brandon Morrow is a bit of a victim of his own circumstance though; his "all or nothing" power pitching style doesn't bode well for that batting average on balls in play. And it still baffles my mind that opponents have not yet grounded into a double play with Brandon Morrow on the mound.

But if Morrow's home and road splits reverse again next year, I think we can attribute that to none other than the great power of Jobu.

The "Where Were You in '93" Contest

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It stands as one of the most polarizing moments in Canadian sports history; one of those universal "where were you" anecdotes that everyone has a story for.

When Joe Carter helped the Blue Jays win Game 6 of the 1993 World Series with that infamous walk-off home run, it solidified the Toronto Blue Jays as World Series Champions.

Now you can relive that glorious moment over and over. Play the "Where Were You in '93" Contest, and you could win a free copy of "Baseball's Greatest Games: 1993 World Series Game 6" DVD courtesy of A+E Home Entertainment/MLB Productions.

All you have to do is fill out your name, email address, and where you were when Joe Carter hit that fateful home run on October 23rd, 1993.

Your answer could be as simple as jumping up and down your parent's couch in excitement (my answer), maybe you were lucky enough to have been there for the calamity around the Skydome, or perhaps you were only in your mother's womb at the time.

Regardless of where you were, I'd love to hear about it. Some of the best answers may also be used in a future post chronicling where Blue Jays fans were when Joe Carter "touched 'em all", as Tom Cheek so famously said.

Five winners will be selected to win a copy of "Baseball's Greatest Games: 1993 World Series Game 6", and I'll contact you via email if you are one of the lucky ones chosen.

Best of luck and thanks for entering!
Contest closes 11:59PM EST Thursday September 15, 2011. 
Winners will be contacted via email on Friday September 16th.

Monday, September 12, 2011

Animated Gif: Brett Lawrie Tackles J.P. Arencibia

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Click image for Animated GIF
If it seems like Brett Lawrie has been involved in the lion's share of animated gif's around these parts latey, it's because he has.

This one is a few days late, but it's of Brett Lawrie bolting from the dugout and running towards J.P. Arencibia after Saturday afternoon's walk-off win versus the Baltimore Orioles.

Judging by how quickly Lawrie was running towards Arencibia, I was a little frightened for his life. It must be been a little scary for J.P. watching a 215 pound jacked-up teammate barreling down on him. After all, there doesn't seem to be a "mellow setting" on the Brett Lawrie dial.

Luckily, J.P. was not speared to the ground by the Canadian equivalent of Goldberg, and he even avoided being jerseyed by Brett Cecil.

Fun Frank Francisco Facts

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Image courtesy of Daylife via AP
At times this season, Frank Francisco has been a really fun pitcher to watch. During the past few days for example, he has looked like the closer we had all hoped he would turn out to be.

And then there were other instances where Francisco has looked downright awful. With appearances on both ends of the spectrum, it's been the Jekyll and Hyde season for Frank Francisco.

Even though it hasn't been an open and shut year for Frankie, my gut tells me Alex Anthopoulos is going to try to bring him back in some capacity next year. The prospect of gaining a Type B draft pick is promising, but the Blue Jays could use the stability of a veteran reliever in that bullpen next year much more than the pick.

So in honour of Frank Francisco's roller coaster season, I've comprised a list of Fun Frank Francisco Facts (FFFF's for short) that may sway you to keep Frankie around, or let him walk as a free agent.
  • Take away Francisco's three worst outings (3 ER in 0.1 IP on May 20th, 3 ER in 0 IP on July 7th, and 2 ER in 0.1 IP on July 1st) and his ERA would only be 2.74.
  • Just to show you how slim the margin of error is for closers in the AL East, take away Kevin Gregg's three worst outings, and his ERA would only be 3.04.
  • Francisco's durability in back-to-back outings has some into question, as 6 of the 20 earned runs surrendered by Frank Francisco were when he came into the ballgame on zero days rest.
  • Up until this season, Frankie had allowed 7 home runs off lefties in 183 games with the Rangers. This season alone, Francisco has given up 5 home runs to lefties in 22 games with the Blue Jays.
  • Much like the Blue Jays themselves, the day/night splits for Francisco are astonishing. His ERA is 1.75 in 15 games during the day compared to 5.10 in 34 games at night.
  • Of his 49 appearances, Frank Francisco has only posted a clean inning (no hits, runs or walks) 14 times. He has allowed at least one hit in 30 of his 49 appearances.
  • Talk about all or nothing; the same team that has the most home runs this season off Francisco (3) has also struck out the most against him (14 SO's): the Boston Red Sox.
  • The batting order position that gives Frank Francisco the most trouble is the number three hitters who are hitting .409 off him. The next most troublesome batting order position? The number seven hitters who are hitting .381.

Friday, September 9, 2011

Flashback Friday: Dave Winfield Hits a Seagull

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The patron saint of the Toronto Blue Jays may be the Cyanocitta cristata, but go down to the Toronto waterfront they're few and far between. More often than not, you'll see unofficial mascot of Toronto's waterfront; the seagull.

In between scouring for food and just being an general nuisance overall, you'll occasionally see these birds down by the ballpark. Unfortunately for one seagull, his insatiable love for baseball cost him his life.

For this week's edition of Acid Flashback Friday, we take a look back on that fateful day on August 4th 1983 when Dave Winfield socked a seagull with a baseball at Exhibition Stadium.

The video below featuring former Blue Jays president Paul Godfrey and the Blue Jays batboy Jeff Pinchuck. In it, Pinchuck explains his side of the story in this whole mess:



Dave Winfield insisted it was merely an accident, as he was simply tossing back and forth with the batboy when a seagull suddenly flew into the path of the ball. And as the photo above indicated, Jeff Pinchuck had to drape a towel over the seagull.

The police had a different story though, as the batboy had to turn over the seagull as forensic evidence afterwards and they actually sought out Winfield after the game to charge him with cruelty to animals.

Following the game, a bevy of Toronto Police officers issued a warrant for Dave Winfield's arrest. As ridiculous as the charge was, Winfield cooperated with the authorities and went downtown; he was booked and bail was set at $500 dollars.

Winfield was issued to appear back in court on August 12th, and the maximum sentence could have been six months in jail. Luckily, the very next day all the charges were dropped and Dave Winfield was a free man.

Due to the incident, Winfield missed the Yankees bus to Hamilton that night to catch their flight home. The good sport that Pat Gillick was, he drove Winfield personally to Hamilton so he could join his teammates.

Perhaps the best quote of all came from Winfield's manager at the time, Billy Martin:
"They say he hit the gull on purpose? They wouldn't say that if they'd seen the throws he'd been making all year. It's the first time he's hit the cutoff man." 
It's ludicrous to think a baseball player would ever be charged with cruelty to animals for accidentally hitting a bird with a baseball, but it actually happened in Toronto in 1983. I don't remember Randy Johnson getting arrested for this, do you?

Nine years after the tragedy, Dave Winfield joined the Blue Jays roster;
as one bird replacing another in the circle of Blue Jays life.

Sources: NY Daily News, ESPN

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Taking a Page from the Red Sox

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Image courtesy of Daylife via Getty Images
Walking in runs ... coming back late only to lose the game late ... and running into the final out. Are you sure this the Boston Red Sox we're talking about?

We've been accustomed to the Blue Jays being guilty of a few of these traits this season, but not the Boston Red Sox, right? It may have only been one game, but in the end Farrell Ball beat out Tito Ball.

It was as if the Blue Jays took a page right out of the Red Sox playbook by working counts late in the game, and letting the opposition work themselves into trouble. This is a trait we haven't seen on display very often, but it came at the most opportune time.

The turning point in this game was obviously Edwin Encarnacion's 3-run double, however I thought it was going to be Yunel Escobar's strikeout with two men on. He took a couple of questionable pitches, and the last one was an outright filthy slider from Daniel Bard.

For Eric Thames to show as much restraint as he did in the following at bat was something very out of character for him, and yet very pleasant surprise. By taking those high fastballs, he allowed Bard to work himself into trouble.

Credit also goes to J.P. Arencibia for drawing a walk as well, down in the count 0-2 and then taking then next four pitches. Arencibia has bit of a reputation as a hacker this season (121 strikeouts in 110 games) and yet again he coaxed the free pass off Bard as well.

When John Farrell commented earlier this week about how he wanted the Blue Jays to play a slow style of baseball similar to the Yankees and Red Sox, I thought he still might be suffering from pneumonia-like symptoms. However, this is evidence why that strategy works.

With an opposing pitcher who was struggling to find the strike zone, the Blue Jays hitters let Daniel Bard go wild, and then punished Matt Albers when he was forced to throw a strike. Their patience paid dividends.

Is it a mere coincidence that two of the most notorious stragglers in baseball are among some of the best? I'm not sure if there's a direct correlation, but controlling the pace of the game (and at times grinding it to a complete halt) definitely plays in favour of the offenders.

By taking lots of pitches in the 8th inning, the Blue Jays allowed themselves to open a window of opportunity to come back and beat the Red Sox. Now I'm starting to think this tortoise-like pace of baseball isn't such a bad thing after all.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

The Winding Dusty Trail Back for McGowan

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Image courtesy of Daylife via Reuters Pictures
Some may have said Dustin McGowan didn't have the chops to make it back to the major leagues. After injuries sidelined him for over three years, the easy thing to do would've been to throw in the towel and walk away. McGowan didn't.

There was something very special about watching Dustin McGowan's long-awaited return to the mound last night. At the time, it felt so surreal to watch someone who I admittedly though would never pitch in the bigs ever again.

It was if we were transported back to 2008; a year in which the Toronto Blue Jays starting rotation comprised of Roy Halladay, A.J. Burnett, Shaun Marcum, Jesse Litsch, and Dustin McGowan.

And just to show you how much the roster has changed since mid-2008, the only surviving members of the Blue Jays roster are Casey Janssen, Jesse Litsch, Adam Lind, Shawn Camp and Dustin McGowan (h/t @BFullmer_Fan).

At first glance, a 14-0 drubbing by the Boston Red Sox would be a cause for concern. But much like John McDonald's home run on Father's Day last year, the game itself was secondary to the moment.

It was as if Dustin McGowan just picked up where he left off in 2008. He didn't blow away the competition by any means, but he held his own against one of the most deadly lineups in the American League. Not too shabby for your first outing back in three years.

I don't know if it was fate or what, but had Luis Perez not been knocked out of the game, we might have seen Dustin McGowan get the chance to throw four innings. Odds were he would make an appearance, but who knew he would do the grunt of the work?

Ever since there was talk of Dustin McGowan returning to the Blue Jays, I've always been in favour of moving him to the bullpen. With the bevy of starters the Blue Jays have at their disposal, it didn't seem necessary to have Dusty back in the rotation.

I think that performance last night changed a lot of people's minds ... including my own. If that is a small snippet of what McGowan can offer in a starter's role, then maybe having him as a starter isn't such a bad idea after all.

No matter what capacity the Blue Jays decide to use Dustin McGowan, it was just great to have him pitching again. For McGowan to overcome as many setbacks as he did over three years was nothing short of spectacular.

Plus, he brought back his patented McGowan mutton chops. I think that's a sign he'll do just fine from hereon out.
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