The Final Nail in the Coffin

Thursday, October 31, 2013  |  by 

Well, there it is ... that's the final nail in the coffin. The cherry on top of the Blue Jays utterly horrible season was watching the Boston Red Sox clinch a World Series title at Fenway Park.

The team that finished dead last in the AL East just one year ago completely turned their fate around and became the best team in baseball in 2013. Meanwhile, the Blue Jays were left out on the outside looking in.

It was as if the Boston Red Sox rid themselves of their bad juju, mojo or whatever you want to call it, and it was inherited by the Toronto Blue Jays this season. A team that seemed to be a mess from the inside out magically transformed in the offseason and ultimately found a way to win.

Ordinarily, most Blue Jays fans wouldn't really care who wins the World Series if it couldn't be their favourite team. But this year's World Series had a much different feel for the Blue Jays fanbase for a multitude of reasons.

First and foremost, the whole John Farrell thing. He abandons the Blue Jays and sets off for his dream job in Boston and subsequently wins a championship. That's a tough pill to swallow for anybody, but let's be honest ... Farrell didn't will the Red Sox to win the World Series, the players did.

This isn't just a bitter Jays fan speaking here, but when a front office assembles a championship-calibre roster, the manager himself has very little impact on a team's win-loss record.

As a contrast, if John Farrell doesn't leverage himself into a spot with the Red Sox this season and stays with the Blue Jays, there's very little he could've done to prevent the mess that transpired in Toronto in 2013.

Secondly, I think the other main reason why watching the Red Sox win the World Series was tough for Blue Jays fans is because it was supposed to be the Blue Jays' year and not the Red Sox's.   

Toronto was pegged as the team to beat, and in fact they were the team that the American League East beat up on. And as the Tao of Stieb so eloquently put it, the Red Sox winning the World Series was the final straw in what was a forgettable season for the Blue Jays.

As I watched the Boston Red Sox progress throughout the playoffs, I found myself experiencing a gamut of emotions. At first, it was sheer anger that the team managed by John Farrell was in the playoffs.

On numerous occasions, like a senile old man I muttered obscenities at the television whenever Boston was performing well. It was at that very moment I realized my latent disappointment towards the Blue Jays had suddenly manifested itself into sheer anger towards the Red Sox.

Some of you might be able to relate here, but I found myself resenting the Red Sox when in fact I should have been directing my anger to how poorly the Blue Jays performed this season.

Or going back even further, I should not have had disdain towards John Farrell for wanting to manage the Boston Red Sox. The onus should have been on the Toronto Blue Jays office to recognize their manager was being recruited by the Red Sox right under their very noses.

The instant Alex Anthopoulos had an inkling the entire John Farrell situation had the potential to go sideways, he should have addressed it right then and there instead of imposing a "no lateral moves" club policy.

So I suppose if there's one takeaway from the combination of the Red Sox winning the World Series and the Blue Jays not winning it, it's that moving on and letting go can be somewhat cathartic.

Harbouring feelings of anger aren't going to help the Blue Jays win in 2014. Dwelling on the disappointing results of the past season won't make things seem any better moving forward.

I guess all one can do is hope things will be better next year.

Image courtesy of Yahoo Sports

The BBA Ballot: Awarding the Year's Best in Baseball

Wednesday, October 23, 2013  |  by 

In an ideal world, voters would come to a consensus on voting for baseball's best. Sometimes, they even can't come to a majority. But regardless of whether or not they can agree, the writers have a vote.

After years of being outraged about how certain players were overlooked or overrated in the voting process, I've made my piece with it. Every writer is entitled to their opinion, no matter how outlandish or ridiculous it may be.

There's no sense in being upset that Evan Grant voted Michael Young as his first place MVP because that was his decision and his opinion. It might not be the correct one, but he's ultimately entitled to one according to the BBWAA.

In my life, I don't ever expect to have an official say in who receives baseball's most prestigious awards, but in the meantime here are my picks for the BBA Awards for the top manager, rookie, reliever, pitcher and position player.

Connie Mack Award (Top Manager)

1.) Bob Melvin
2.) Terry Francona
3.) John Farrell

Kudos to Bob Melvin for managing his Oakland Athletics to their second straight AL West division title. I'm not sure if it's Moneyball 2.0 or Melvin's tactics, but somehow the A's defied all logic and make it through to the postseason once again.

Some managers might think they'd be handicapped my a mere $60 million dollar payroll, but Bob Melvin took a roster that comprised baseball's fourth lowest payroll and parlayed it into yet another playoff appearance by the A's.

Willie Mayes Award (Top Rookie)

1.) Wil Myers
2.) Jose Iglesias
3.) Danny Farquar

So get this ... the Tampa Bay Rays trade away two of their starting pitchers to the Royals in James Shields and Wade Davis, and just like a shark loses a couple of teeth, the Rays regenerate those starting pitchers seemingly in no time.

Not only that, they receive the Kansas City Royals' top prospect in Wil Myers, and he puts up an incredible rookie campaign. I don't know how the Rays manage to do it, but they have perfected the art of trading away big league talent and getting players like Wil Myers in return.

Goose Gossage Award (Top Reliever)

1.) Koji Uehara
2.) Greg Holland
3.) Mariano Rivera

I suppose the fourth time was the charm for the Boston Red Sox when they were in search for a closer this season. They started off with Joel Hanrahan, then went to Andrew Bailey, then Junichi Tazaawa before finally settling on Koji Uehara as their closer.

Koji was a revelation for the Red Sox this season and had a season for the ages. He posted a .565 WHIP, which set a new record for pitchers who tossed at least 20 innings in a season. Koji faced a total of 245 batters this season, struck out 101 of them and walked only 9.

Walter Johnson Award (Top Starting Pitcher)

1.) Max Scherzer
2.) Bartolo Colon
3.) Anibal Sanchez
4.) Chris Sale
5.) Felix Hernandez

With a 21-3 record, one might assume Max Scherzer was hands down the best pitcher in the AL this year. But win-loss record aside, Scherzer still posted an incredible 2013 campaign and at least temporarily usurped Justin Verlander as the ace of the Detroit Tigers pitching staff.

Max Scherzer anchored the Tigers starting rotation which sported an American League-leading 3.44 ERA, and Scherzer himself topped 240 strikeouts and held opponents to a .198 batting average in 2013.

Stan Musial Award (Top Player)

1.) Mike Trout
2.) Miguel Cabrera
3.) Chris Davis
4.) Josh Donaldson
5.) Evan Longoria
6.) Robinson Cano
7.) Manny Machado
8.) Adrian Beltre
9.) Edwin Encarnacion
10.) Dustin Pedroia

Last year, not surprisingly the BBWAA selected Miguel Cabrera as the American League's Most Valuable Player. Fast forward to 2013, and once again it was a two horse race for who was the best player in the league between Miguel Cabrera and Mike Trout.

But just when you thought Trout might have been an anomaly in his rookie campaign, he suffered no sophomore slump at all in 2013 ... in fact, he might have actually performed a little better this season.

Hopefully he will be rewarded handsomely with an MVP award, but it may very well boil down to the stat geeks vs. the baseball purists one again in the battle between Trout and Cabrera.

A late-season injury forced Cabrera to miss some games down the stretch, and that very well could be what gives the edge to Mike Trout in the MVP race. Trout was there from start to finish, and was every bit as impressive as he was in 2012 ... if not more.

Image courtesy of Yahoo

Trading Jose Bautista: The Counterproductive Move

Tuesday, October 22, 2013  |  by 

In their right minds, the Toronto Blue Jays would never trade Jose Bautista ... ever. There's no way the Blue Jays would deal away one of the cornerstone players of their franchise in return for starting pitching and/or a second baseman.

I really, truly want to believe this sentiment. But in baseball, never say never.
Plans change, priorities shift and other needs suddenly come to fruition.

Times are tough and the Toronto Blue Jays are once again in a state of flux. After another disappointing season, the front office is looking to improve the team by any means necessary.

Alex Anthopoulos claims the Blue Jays are at least willing to listen on trades involving any player on the roster, and that would of course include players like Jose Antonio Bautista.

He's under team control for 2014 and 2015 at a very reasonable $14 million dollars per year, with a $14 million dollar option tagged on for the 2016 season as well.

For a player who's been worth 14.9 Wins Above Replacement the past three years and whose free agent market value is around $69.6 million dollars total (per FanGraphs), Jose Bautista would indeed be a very attractive trade chip for prospective team in need of offense.

Here's why it doesn't make sense for the Blue Jays to trade Jose Bautista; it would fill one hole, but it creates another.

Dealing Bautista for starting pitching would satisfy one need the Blue Jays are sorely lacking, but then it creates a giant void in the heart of Toronto's lineup. 

I have a very tough time believing that trading Jose Bautista for a starting pitcher and possibly a second baseman or catcher really put the Toronto Blue Jays further ahead than they already are.

A few weeks back, 2 Guys Talking Mets Baseball asked about my thoughts on the possibility of a trade involving Bautista to the Mets. My sentiment is still the same; regardless of what players the Blue Jays might receive return, trading Bautista is almost counterintuitive.

A move like that would leave the Blue Jays extremely vulnerable in the offensive department. Unless the Blue Jays are expecting every other player in the Blue Jays lineup to make significant strides forward offensively, it's almost unfathomable that they can replace the production of Jose Bautista.

Or let me put it this way ... the Blue Jays could find someone to match Jose Bautista's production, but the odds are it would be at a much higher annual salary than $14 million, and it would have to be on a much longer term than two years plus an option. 

Carlos Beltran is not walking through that door for only $14 million dollars a season. He's asking for much, much more ... and even if the Toronto Blue Jays came in with the right number, perhaps he still isn't interested in playing on the Rogers Centre turf 81 games a year.

Here's another thing to ponder; if the Blue Jays did in fact decide to trade Jose Bautista this offseason, they'd actually be selling somewhat low on him. Those factors considers, one wonders if Alex Anthopoulos would truly get fair market value for Jose anyway.

While those two years plus option look good on paper, the fact remains he's missed 115 games the past two seasons. And at 33 years old, there are still valid concerns about Bautista's health.

Even though the Blue Jays were forced to shut down Jose Bautista in the past two consecutive seasons, Joey Bats has still contributed his fair share in spite of injury concerns. So even for prospective trade partners, the health concerns can somewhat be negated by the incredible potential of a healthy Jose Bautista.

Since 2011, the Blue Jays have seemingly built the team around Jose Bautista. He was the first player in the Alex Anthopoulos era to receive a sizable contract extension, and many others have followed: Edwin Encarnarcion, Casey Janssen and Brandon Morrow to name a few.

At this very moment, Jose Bautista is arguably the most important player on the Blue Jays roster. The success of the Toronto Blue Jays hinges largely on the performance of Jose Bautista. And you simply can't trade away players like Bautista and expect to succeed immediately.

The only instance I can think of when a player of Bautista's magnitude was readily replaced is the St. Louis Cardinals let Albert Pujols walk as a free agent. Fast forward two years later, lo and behold, they're back in the World Series without him.The Cardinals however, are the exception to the rule.

It would be one thing if the Blue Jays had an outfield prospect that could step in and either match or at least come somewhat close to Jose Bautista's production. But the Blue Jays farm system doesn't have a player that's even close to the calibre of Bautista and nobody that even projects to be in the same neighbourhood as Joey Bats.

Coming through the outfield depth chart doesn't exactly make one salivate. Anthony Gose, Kevin Pillar, Moises Sierra ... these aren't names that instill a lot of confidence in the replacement prospects in right field.

So here are the Blue Jays at a crossroads; they're either going to move forward with Jose Bautista and continue their "win now" philospophy, or they're going to trade him ... and doing so would likely set off yet another mini-rebuild.

And I think that's predominantly why I'm opposed to a Jose Bautista trade; because it would feel like a move of desperation by the Blue Jays. To borrow another overused sports cliche, it's the equivalent of a Hail Mary pass.

Sure, trading Jose Bautista might work out in the Blue Jays favour; but it also has an equal chance of blowing up in their faces, too.

But after two consecutive horrible seasons, the Blue Jays are likely desperate to do something ... anything to end their 20 year playoff drought. And that may very well include parting with one of their key franchise players, Jose Bautista.

Image courtesy of National Post

Fun is Dead in Baseball

Wednesday, October 16, 2013  |  by 

Baseball is not a place for celebration. It's not a game in which players are allowed to display pure and unadulterated joy. Baseball may be a game, but it's not supposed to be fun.

As crazy as this all sounds, there are some baseball purists out there that still believe that celebrations are ruining the sanctity of the game. There are members of the old boys club who think baseball is just pure sport, with no room whatsoever for showboating.

This has all come to light once again after Yasiel Puig's display of celebration during Monday night's game in Los Angeles. While a good portion of fans and pundits just see it as good-natured fun, some such as Carlos Beltran were admittedly irked by Puig's"antics".

Ironically enough, it turns out the St. Louis Cardinals have been among some of the worst offenders this postseason in on-field celebrations.

It seems as though I'm inherently contributing to the issue by devoting a blog post to it, but actions like Puig's should be celebrated and not ridiculed.

Opposing players may think it's other players trying to show them other up, but for the most part it's just human nature to celebrate a win. It's what little kids do on dirt diamonds everywhere, and it's what grown adults should do under the bright lights of the show, as well.

I don't understand why the Atlanta Braves were deemed as the fun police this season, but along with the St. Louis Cardinals, it appears as though these are two organizations in which these values are heavily instilled.

Let's take Jose Fernandez for example; he's a pitcher by trade, but he hits his first big league home run, and he's not allowed to take an extra two seconds admiring what might be the only home run of his Major League career?

Carlos Gomez hits a home run off Mike Minor and Brian McCann stands in front of home plate as the gatekeeper of all that's good and holy in baseball, and essentially tells Gomez "thou shalt not pass".

Now the Gomez situation is slightly different than the Puig and Fernandez one because he clearly antagonized the Braves, but all of these instances share a common thread.

I'm sure there are some folks out there who think that players like Yasiel Puig, Jose Fernandez and even Bryce Harper are disgracing the great game of baseball. But the truth is, these are the very players that are going to usher in the next generation of baseball fans.

Moments like Yasiel Puig's bat flip are the reason why people tune in to watch baseball these days. They're the reason why people make GIF's of plays like that, and the reason why they watch the replays over and over.

One of the things I still can't wrap around my head around in baseball is the unwritten rule that you can't overtly admire a clutch hit or strikeout. And if you do, expect retaliation for your actions in the way of a bean ball.

How exactly is that an eye for an eye? If anything, shouldn't watching an opposing player celebrate on the field motivate you that much more to beat them? I still fail to see the connection between "you celebrate a home run, you get a fastball in the ribs".

Again, it's one of these unwritten rules that has been in baseball about as long as anyone can remember. It's also one of those laws that's been grandfathered in, and yet no one can really understand why.

And yet for the sanctity of the game, justice must be upheld against showboaters.

So if players aren't allowed to celebrate on the field, when exactly are they allowed to? Is it only permitted during one of the inordinate amount of designated champagne celebrations during the postseason?

Or are the players taught to bottle up their emotions and simply round the bases or walk towards the dugout?

If that's the case, then fun is officially dead in baseball. And if fun has been outlawed for the players, then it may as well be outlawed for fans as well.

Make it a game where everybody has to sit on their hands for nine innings; nobody gets up to cheer, nobody heckles the opposing team, and afterwards everyone exits the concourse in a calm and collected manner.

The kind of baseball I want to watch in 2013 and beyond is one that includes players being exuberant and showing raw emotion on the field.

The kind of baseball I want to watch is an exciting brand, not a subdued one.

Postseason Pitching at a Premium

Tuesday, October 15, 2013  |  by 

If there's one thing that's been very apparent this postseason, it's that starting pitching has been at a premium.

Whether it's Clayton Kershaw, Adam Wainwright, Max Scherzer or even David Price, there have been no shortage of clutch pitching performances in the playoffs.

It should come as no surprise, because for most teams, solid starting pitching is what got those teams to the postseason in the first place. Of the top ten starting rotations in all of baseball this past season, eight of them made the playoffs.

Of the ten teams in total that clawed their way to the postseason, not one of their starting rotations sported an ERA under 4. The Blue Jays had a starting rotation ERA of 4.81, which was the second worst in all of baseball.

While a team can probably survive a 162 game schedule with a volatile bullpen or even a somewhat lacklustre lineup, it cannot survive without a solid starting rotation. Its something that was clearly evident with the 2013 Toronto Blue Jays.

If anything, you'd think that a potent starting lineup would be more sustainable over the course of a season. It turns out it's actually pitching, not hitting that often gets teams into October.

Only four of the top ten hitting teams in baseball this year made the playoffs. In fact, it's almost baffling that a team like the Pittsburgh Pirates that hit .245 all season and averaged 3.9 runs a game managed to win 94 games.

Offensively, the Toronto Blue Jays appear to be in okay shape heading into the 2014 season, but the glaring weakness of their squad is starting pitching first and foremost.

It wasn't just the quality of their starting rotation either, it was the starting pitching depth (or lack thereof in the Blue Jays case). Just look to the St. Louis Cardinals, who've had Michael Wacha and Joe Kelly make crucial starts for them in the postseason.

When the Cardinals suffered injuries to mainstays in their rotation like Chris Carpenter, they had youngsters like Michael Wacha, Joe Kelly and Shelby Miller step up and contribute to the starting rotation.

When the Blue Jays were using virtually anybody to start a game, they only had two rookies total take the hill: Sean Nolin and Todd Redmond. While Redmond was serviceable down the stretch in 13 starts, Nolin only pitched a mere 1.1 innings in the big leagues this season.

While a team should never outright rely on young rookies to carry a starting rotation, there comes a point during the season in which a team's starting rotation suffers injuries ... and that's when depth becomes extremely important.

At this point, when I think of the Blue Jays starting rotation depth, I think of the following pitchers: Kyle Drabek, Drew Hutchison, Marcus Stroman, Todd Redmond, Esmil Rogers and maybe even Ricky Romero.

These are all guys who could possibly come in make a string of starts, but by no means should the Blue Jays be committed to using any of them if there are better options out there.

I think it would be presumptuous to pencil any of those pitchers in as even the fourth or fifth guys in the Blue Jays starting rotation for the 2014 season. All of them come with question marks, and frankly one wonders if they're even high enough calibre to be part of a successful starting five.

I would say that particular group of starting pitching depth should only be called upon on an "as needed" basis. Unless one or multiple pitchers show particular promise in Spring Training or another pitcher gets hurt, ideally those guys should stay in the minors.

So the remedy for the Blue Jays seems to be that they need to fix the starting rotation at the top, and that will hopefully have a trickle-down effect. If they can bring in a starting pitcher or two and that bumps Brandon Morrow or J.A. Happ down on the depth chart ... so be it.

Above all else, the Blue Jays need to go out and get quality starting pitching this offseason; we're talking young, elite, starting pitching. One wonders where or how Alex Anthopoulos is exactly going to do that, but that should be his primary goal this winter; to fix the starting rotation.

It's no coincidence that the four teams left in the playoffs boast some of the most impressive pitching staffs in all of baseball ... because pitching not only gets teams into the postseason, it wins championships as well.

Image courtesy of SI

J.P. Arencibia and Perils of Job Security

Thursday, October 10, 2013  |  by 

By now, I think most people have heard ad nauseam about J.P. Arencibia's season. It was for all intents and purposes, a season to forget for the Blue Jays backstop.

Some would prefer to sweep it under the rug and move on, which is certainly one way of coping with what transpired. However, those willing to go the investigative journalism route might rather dig a little further and seek out the route of Arencibia's struggles.

You really don't have to dig very deep to see how bad J.P. was in 2013. Not just at the plate, but behind the plate as well. The only thing impressive about his game this season was Arencibia's home/road splits (.242/.270/.462 at home, .147/.185/269 on the road).

The statistics are pretty telling themselves, but I was thinking the other day ... perhaps one of the reasons why J.P. Arencibia struggled so mightily in 2013 was because he knew he was safe all along?

Apparently prior to the R.A. Dickey trade, there were rumours that Arencibia was assured by upper management that his position within the organization was safe. And true to form ... it was.

It wasn't J.P. Arencibia who was dealt to the New York Mets, it was instead the Blue Jays coveted catching prospect, Travis d'Arnaud. In addition to sending John Buck to the Mets, that left Arencibia as the de facto starting catcher.

Despite having an abysmal season at the plate, at no point during the 2013 season was J.P. Arencibia's job ever in jeopardy. That may be due to the equally subpar performance of Henry Blanco and Josh Thole, but Arencibia was never really in danger of not being the starting catcher.

Only late into September was J.P. Arencibia ever removed late in games for a pinch hitter. For most of the season, he was paraded out there day after day, game after game, despite Arencibia clearly struggling at the plate.

Often, players will speak about the importance of being comfortable at the plate, about being "loose". That despite the game being on the line, having the ability to block it all out and play as though nobody is watching.

Maybe this year, J.P. Arencibia was guilty of playing too loose.

By no means am I suggesting Arencibia doesn't care, and that was the root of his struggles. It's invariably in a baseball players' DNA to care. However, what I am suggesting is perhaps J.P. Arencibia subconsciously let his cushy job security affect his play on the field.

Again, it's only a theory, a theory from someone who's never played a lick of professional baseball ... aside from Bases Loaded on the Nintendo Entertainment System. But I think it's only human nature for someone to settle in and get extremely comfortable when they know they're completely safe.

On the flip side, if a player knows they have to fight for playing time or they know every start is essentially an audition for their next gig, that is when the fight or flight response often kicks in.

If we're looking for the simple root of J.P. Arencibia's problems, it's plausible that battling a nagging knee injury for most of the season had something to do with it. But if the pain was truly that bad, shouldn't the training staff have recommended a stint on the DL to rehab his right knee?

The Blue Jays are obviously in need of a catching upgrade this offseason, but maybe they don't need to seek out the services of an elite free agent backstop Brian McCann. Maybe they just need someone to essentially platoon with Arencibia to motivate him.

One wonders what a "motivated" J.P. Arencibia could accomplish at the dish, but certainly it has to be better than a .194/.227/.365 slash line.

When someone's job is on the line, people either excel, falter, or stay the same. Because J.P. Arencibia spent the better part of the season as the starting catcher, we never really had the opportunity to see how he would react with the threat of his playing time being cut.

There is no question J.P. Arencibia has talent. But judging by the results from this season, the Blue Jays may have been presumptuous in assuming he has what it takes to be a serviceable everyday catcher in the big leagues.

And if J.P. Arencibia doesn't fit that mold, then it's the job of the Blue Jays to find someone who does. Maybe that means bringing in a veteran catcher to mentor Arencibia, maybe that means getting a young catcher to present a "catcher by committee" situation.

At the very least, the Blue Jays need identify and acknowledge Arencibia's weaknesses and not set him up to fail. Because if 2014 is carbon copy of 2013, that's precisely what they'll be doing.

Image courtesy of Yahoo/TVA Sports

Brett Lawrie's Top 10 Defensive Gems of 2013

Friday, October 4, 2013  |  by 

Everyone loves the sheer power of a towering home run. Fans marvel at the blistering speed of runners on the basepaths. But defense? A slick glove doesn't seem to get quite the respect of the other five tools. 

Defense was not something that was particularly on display very often this year with the Toronto Blue Jays, with the exception of perhaps one player: Brett Lawrie. Although he dabbled at second base, Lawrie's skills were that of a natural third baseman.

Although injuries limited his play to 107 games played with the Blue Jays this year, his stellar work at the hot corner provided a year's worth of highlights. Here are the ten best defensive plays from 2013 by Brett Lawrie. 

10.) Lawrie's first game back (April 16th vs. Chicago White Sox)

Brett Lawrie spent the first few weeks of the season in the disabled list, but in his very first game of the 2013 campaign, he was already in mid-season form. This is just the first of many impressive bare-handed throws by Brett Lawrie on the list. 

9.) Incredible range at short (September 17th vs. New York Yankees)

From a defensive aspect, Brett Lawrie is everything anyone can ask for; he's agile, he covers lots of ground, and he has a heck of an arm. All three of those skills are on display in a single play by Lawrie.

8.) Dive near the mound (May 8th vs. Tampa Bay Rays)

Admittedly, the degree of difficulty on this play is ramped up unnecessarily due to some miscommunication between the pitcher and the infielders. But had it not been for the quick actions by Brett Lawrie, the Blue Jays may have been on the blooper reel for letting that ball drop by the mound.

7.) Lawrie's snag turns two (April 30th vs. Boston Red Sox)

In the early going of the season, the phrase "double play" is not one that was heard very often on the Blue Jays broadcast. However, in this instance Brett Lawrie's quick reflexes at third helped turn a phenomenal 5-4-3 double play. 

6.) Throw from grass in left field (April 24th vs. Baltimore Orioles)

How many third baseman do you know that can make a throw deep in the hole at third base, on the grass in left field, and make a strong, accurate throw from across the diamond? I present to thee, Brett Lawrie.

5.) Huge leaping catch at third (July 30th vs. Oakland Athletic)

Brett Lawrie's incredible range is one of the things that makes him such an amazing athlete. Here, Lawrie ranges to his left and just plain lays out to snag a liner and rob extra bases.

4.) Bare-handed deflection off Happ (April 22nd vs. Baltimore Orioles)

Stop me if you've heard this one before; Brett Lawrie makes an incredible barehanded throw. Brett really has perfected the art form. But this time, he's forced to change his direction mid-play as the ball bounces off J.A. Happ's glove beforehand.

3.) Amazing bare-handed throw (August 20th vs. New York Yankees)

One of the things that makes Brett Lawrie such an asset is he's often able to get to the ball where most third baseman would not be able to otherwise. Here, Brett comes in all the way from third base, and makes a strong bare-handed throw that was right on the money.

2.) Foul territory jump and throw (August 22nd vs. New York Yankees)

Two young players that will inevitably be linked together due to their position and defensive prowess are Brett Lawrie and Manny Machado. Both guys made highlight reel catches and throws all season long.

Manny Machado pulled off what was quite possibly the best defensive gem of the year with a leaping throw from foul territory. This play was basically Brett Lawrie's answer as to whether or not he was one of the league's elite fielding third baseman.

While both plays were extremely impressive, I'm almost apt to say Lawrie's was a little more difficult because he made the throw mid-air with his momentum taking him in the opposite direction of the throw.

1.) The Matrix Throw (August 30th vs. Kansas City Royals)

Truth be told, the degree of difficulty on this play doesn't seem all that high. But the fact that Lawrie was able to time his leap, make the throw mid-air and still manage to nab the runner at first makes this one Brett Lawrie's best defensive play of the season.

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