Friday, 21 August 2015

Dust Having Settled

Not entirely, of course, but with the first six of well reported 13 game showdown between the Yankees and Jays now in the books, it's an opportune time to catch our breath and take stock. As you might guess, my intent was to post this entry on Monday but as is so often the case lately, life got in my way o a regular basis. Now we've put two more games behind us but, ya know, oh well.

That does give me the chance to point out something that I don't think any of the mainstream writers have pointed out. A lot of what was said over the course of last weekend made reference to the Yankees having "3 games in hand" (that is, that they had played three fewer games than the Blue Jays). The presumption, of course, being the Yankees might win all three and so they had a bigger advantage that the 1.5 games they left Toronto with Sunday night. But now, four days later, the Yankees have burned 2 out of those 3 and are still only 1.5 games ahead. Having 1 more or less game played from here on out becomes pretty irrelevant. That's a sort of unseen win for the Jays this week.  Meanwhile, while rooting for the pitching-rich Indians to dominate the Yanks this weekend, I do worry that we still have to play that Cleveland bunch before the end of the month.

Also, am I the only one who notices how well  Marcus Stroman's re-hab schedule is aligned to Drew Hutchison's turn in the rotation? I don't think that's a co-incidence. Even with Hutch coming off two good starts, it sure looks like a lack-of-confidence issue on the part of the team. Stroman is going to get three chances through his re-had to prove himself and then he'll line up with the Sept 9 start, that would normally fall to Hutch, at Boston. This also happens to be the next Hutch start that falls on a road game. Hmmm.  It would not be too conspiratorial to suppose that Hutch's two home start (Detroit, and Baltimore) serve as a sort of audition for the Boston game. And that game, in turn, an audition for the rest of the season (potentially 4 more starts).

That assumes, of course, that they don't skip Hutch on 9/3, but if they do that he'll have a start in New York instead of one at home against the Orioles (and it's just as crucial to beat the O's at this point too). One would assume that's not the outcome they'd want.  Speaking of skipping turns, Ben Ennis was grumbling a bit on the air today about not getting maximum usage out of David Price because of the off days and not keeping him on 4 days rest. But I think he's missing the boat. In his first start, the Blue Jays pushed him back a day so that not only would he open against the Twins, whom the Blue Jays were chasing for the wild card at the time, but he would start twice versus the Yankees rather than one against NY and one against Oakland. Which is a GOOD thing. But as I noted at the time, once he started that second time vs. NY (also on 5 days) that guaranteed the Jays would only get 12 starts from him, rather than 13. From tat point onward, even if he goes every 5 days instead of every 5 games, it doesn't help. So on that front, there's no motivation to skip Hutch to get more price - rather it's just about match-ups. 

Here's a trivia for you: Josh Donaldson, with 1/4 of the seasons left, is already sporting the 8th highest season WAR in the history of the Toronto Blue Jays. He's still on pace for #1 on that list. A the moment, he's just passed Colby Rasmus (who had 3 times as many PA and if he hits the 8.8 he's on pace for, he'd pass Joe Carter - who had more than 6 times as many PA in the uniform as Donaldson is on pace to have.

Finally, regrading Alex Anthopoulos' future. Having heard a plethora of conversations on the subject, here's what I think should happen. I'd promote Alex to president of Baseball Operations, and hire a business focused executive to be president of all the non-baseball matters. Which of them is superior to the other wouldn't be all the important to me, but if the business guy is technically Alex's superior, he wouldn't have the last word on the baseball personnel decisions. The latest rumor, of course, is Shapiro from Cleveland. And I respect his baseball acumen and in my scenario, I'd be glad to add another mind to the decision making process but Alex would have the ultimate authority. He's shown himself to be an incredibly prepared and intelligent executive with an uncanny instinct for making the right decisions (not to say perfect but no one is). While I don't think he has the experience to carry out the duties of the president on the business side, I for one don't want anyone between him and ownership anymore.





Tuesday, 11 August 2015

Update to Previous Commentary

About that playoff roster, it seems wise to clarify and expand my comments in light of the shorthand Wilner is tweeting (which is not wrong, just has the potential for misunderstanding due to brevity).


The major effect of the Aug. 31 deadline is that it's the last day you can bring a player into the organization and that player be eligible to play in the post-season. There is another intended effect, but that effect has a major loophole. The intended effect is that the pool of players from which you may construct your playoff roster consists of the 25 active players, plus anyone on the DL (either sort) or the bereavement, suspended or military leave list.

As the roster currently stands for the Blue Jays, that's the following:

Price, Buehrle, Dickey, Estrada, Hutchinson (Stroman)
Osuna, Sanchez, Lowe, Cecil, Hawkins, Hendricks, Loup, Schultz
Martin, Navarro; Encarnacion, Smoak, Colobello; (Travis), Pennington; Tulowitzki, Goins; Donaldson;(Izturus)
Bautista, Pillar, Revere, (Saunders)

So that's 29 names.
Scratch Izturus who's done, and it looks like maybe Saunders who we never get updates about, and who has precisely 4 weeks left in which to get in a proper rehab assignment. Down to 27. It's safe to say a healthy Stroman would likely bump either Schultz or Loup (or Hutch?) and if you want Travis, and he's ready to play, one would assume that costs you another pitcher from that group.  And you still end up with Goins or Pennington as your reserve outfielder. But there's really no other stop where you might squeeze in a Dalton Pompey.

But then there's that huge loophole I mentioned, and this is why Wilner explains it as he does. The rules state that a player from your 25 who's injured at the time your playoff appearance begins (or anytime thereafter, may be replaced by ANY player in your organization, even if they are not on the 40 man roster, as long as they were in the organization before the August 31 deadline expired at midnight. So if, say, Revere got hurt the Jays could theoretically replace him with Anthony Alford if they were of a mind to.  (with respect to Pompey, how col would that be?)

If Hutch were "injured" then Loup or Schultz, or Tepera, or Delebar, or heck, Conner Greene could take his place.

All clear now? By the way, one of the guys I mentioned yesterday has been promoted. Conner Fisk is up to Dunedin.That's a pretty impressive reward.

Sunday, 9 August 2015

Prospect Progress Report, 4/5 and stuff

 (for reals this time!)
So I only just now noticed I put 4/5 on the July report - which was actually the third of five. I'm going to have to speak to my copy editor.

Let's never rest Tulo again, right? This is fun stuff. Is it too unrealistic to hope for sweeping the Yanks in the Bronx? (Apparently not!) Today Yesterday was in some ways a practically perfect game. Still, there was a bit of news in the last day or two that even in the face of all this joy I'm going to grumble about.  John Gibbons has said that as of now they do not plan to flip Buehrle and Hutch in Oakland. Even though I did not realize it when I first remarked upon the subject, doing so, or not, is an important choice that has implications beyond just minimizing Hutchinson's exposure. It affects the days of rest for other more effective members of the rotation.

Take a look at this:
Here's the ideal, IMO, way to arrange the rotation that I published in the last post, side by side with the rotation kept in it's current order -


-->
7at New YorkDickeyDickey
8at New YorkPricePrice
9at New YorkEstradaEstrada
10
11OaklandBuehrleHutchinson
12OaklandHutchinsonBuehrle
13OaklandDickeyDickey
14New YorkPricePrice
15New YorkEstradaEstrada
16New YorkBuehrleHutchinson
17

18at PhilidelphiaDickeyBuehrle
19at PhilidelphiaPriceDickey
20

21at LAEstradaPrice
22at LABuehrleEstrada
23at LADickeyHutchinson
24
25at TexasPriceBuehrle
26at TexasEstradaDickey
27at TexasBuehrlePrice
28DetroitDickeyEstrada
29DetroitHutchinsonHutchinson
30DetroitPriceBuehrle
31ClevelandEstradaDickey

Do you see what I see? A full week between David Price starts? When does THAT start making sense? Same for Estrada, and Buehrle and Dickey get 5 days rest. Then the next time through Buehrle and Dickey get a full week between starts and Price and Estrada five days. And there are 3 off days in September so added rest isn't really a factor. Moreover, in the schedule I'm suggesting Price gets an extra days rest twice, as does Estrada, Dickey and Buehrle get an extra day once. But more importantly, you take the single biggest weakness on your team out of play for two full weeks while maximizing the three plays for whom you collectively paid a very high price to obtain.

I realize that Gibby knows so much more than I do about the situation and that he's managing real live people and not moving chess pieces on a board - but looking in from the outside, I don't see any logic at all in this.


Now, to the farm...

Buffalo
It's rather redundant to brag even more about Dalton Pompey, but let's alert the folks that tuned out on him in May.Since being  promoted to Buffalo on July 17, in 79 at bats, Pompey's slash lines is .380/.490/.4904/.984 (see why I'm dying for him to be promoted?). Matt Hague is the only other offensive guy worth noticing, he's been leading the team consistently all year. Since the trade, the pitching staff is made up mostly of veteran guys. There's really no one you'd look at as a prospect.

New Hampshire
Center fielder Roemon Fields in now technically a Buffalo Bison, but only for a few days and the noise he made this month was for NH. "Noise" meaning a .351 batting average (and .792 OPS) in 97 at-bats before the promotion. There's not really another hitter to get excited about from a prospect status on this team. Among pitchers, Blake McFarland was unfairly squeezed out of AAA as the Jays continue to accumulate veteran arms to stack in the bullpen, but he's clearly too good for AA (49 K and 4 BB in 34.2 IP, 2.08 ERA) as is Danny Barnes (56/16 in 45, 2.40).

Dunedin
Currently this is far and away the most prospect-laden squad in the organization and many of them are living up to their billing. After a scorching start upon being promoted to the D-Jays, Anthony Alford has struggled for the last couple of weeks. I haven't heard anything but I'm relatively certain that what we're seeing here is fatigue. He did go through a slump in Lansing and then recovered just before the call up, so this could be a matter of the adjustment game too. On the other hand, Rowdy Tellez just keeps getting better. Since July 17 his OPS is .872 and he's yet to go hitless in more than 2 consecutive games. Fellow 1B Matt Dean is tied for second in the FSL with 11 HR (1 off the league lead) but given the same # of AB, Tellez would have 20.
The pitching staff that has seen Jeff Hoffman and two talented relievers leave the organization is actually better than ever right now thanks to three promotions from Lansing. Shane Dawson just arrived (2 weeks late IMO) and showed well in his first start. Sean Reid-Foley, whom MLB is now ranking as a top 5 prospect in the system, bounced back from his worst start of the year to throw 5.1 no-hit innings last time out - if he ever learns to command his stuff he has monster potential.
And Connor Greene who came into the season as an interesting little sleeper and thanks to a boost in velocity is following the footsteps of Kendell Graveman. Greene is currently on a run of 19 innings without an earned run and in his last start struck out 10 in 7 innings. I could see a scenario in which he got a couple of starts at AA, and/or was assigned to the AFL and he very likely gets an invite to big league camp next spring.
The unsung heroes of the staff are Jeremy Gabryszwski and Brady Dragmire. The former has held the opposition to 1 earned run in 5 of his last 7 outings (and 2 in another) for a 2.52 ERA over that span. The latter saw his ERA hit 10.80 on June 9, but since then he's thrown 32 innings, giving up a mere 3 earned runs on 11 hits and 6 walks while striking out 30 - that works out to an ERA of 0.84 and a WHIP of 0.53 - you'll hear his name again.

 Lansing
No matter who comes and who goes the Lugnuts remain a well-oiled machine. Ryan McBroom, who'd have log since moved up if Tellez wasn't in front of him, continues to lead the league in several categories including OPS. Unheralded Chris Carlson has been his stalwart companion while higher profile players have moved up and organization players move up and down. His OPS is higher than that of Alford or Tellez when they were promoted. The downside is that this was his age 24 season so he's basically 2 full years too old for the league - and McBroom is 23. DJ Davis continues to be consistently good-but-not-great which is great progress from last year.
The surprise is that the rotation lost Greene, Reid-Foley, and Dawson and continues to purr. Unheralded Connor Fisk, 7 excellent outings in 9 appearances since his first start, has stepped up  and equally little noticed Starlyn Suriel (who racked up 12 K in 6.1 IP last night) has been doing it all year, though prospect watchers never mention either. Lately they've gotten serious reinforcements from recovering Tom Robson and just promoted (and also coming off of TJ) Clint Hollon. Both men have been very impressive in a small sample with Lansing and should be fast risers up the prospect chart next season.

Vancouver
There's less real prospect porn on this team than in any year since affiliating with the Blue Jays.Among the hitters, observers talk about a couple of 2015 draftees that look good - catcher Ryan Hissy (rd. 14) and infielder turned center fielder Andrew Guillotte (32) but it's more about being the best of a mediocre crew than being notable prospects.
The pitching staff which just lost Hollon still has the Jays' 2015 1st round pick, Jon Harris. MLB.com now ranks him as the Jays #2 prospect. But he's had some trouble stretching out and was roughed up last time out. After a long college season, fatigue may be an issue here and most think he'll be assigned higher and be a fast mover next year. Otherwise, there's not much to comment on here other that Ryan Borucki who's well regarded by plagued with injuries.

Bluefield
The hitter to watch on this team is CF Rodrigo Orozco. He's a slender (only 155 pounds) speedy (20 steals in 28 attempts in the DSL last year) 20 year old Panamanian that none of us had ever heard of before this year. He has a good eye at the plate and sports an .881 OPS. Expensive Venezuelan signee Yeltsin Gudino, who's a SS, bottomed out on July 12 with a .440 OPS, but the next game he went 3/4 and he turned his season around. He's hit .306/.383/.431/.814 in the 19 games since.  Another prominent signing, OF Freddie Rodriguez has a strikingly similar track for the season, seeing his OPS hit a season low of .488 on July 12 as well, his line is .259/.333/.370 since. 
The pitching story is all about Dominican Angel Perdomo and Venezuelan Juliandry Higuera. The former a high-profile signing who's been moved slowly, the latter more under the radar but both have looked very good so far. Perdono has a 2.01 ERA and Higurea is at 2.82 after having his first rough outing last time out.   Both have avoided the wildness that has plagued some of the Jays' other Latin pitchers. Top 20 prospect Matt Smoral is on this team too, at least two levels too low. He's struggled with injuries interfering with honing his delivery mechanics so apparently they are putting him in a low pressure environment. So far, he's been effective but far too wild.

GCL and DSL
The hitter who caught everyone's attention on this team was 2015 draft steal Reggie Pruitt who exploded out of the gate hitting .379 in his first seven games. A couple of slumps since have brought the numbers down for the 18 year old but he likely still the highest ceiling guy among position players here.  Outfielders Lance Jones and Kalik May both have good stats but they are 22 years old which is far too old to be in the GCL. Among pitchers, 2015 draftees Justin Maese (3rd rd.) and Jose Espada (5th) have dominated and (like Higuera and Perdomo above) are pushing the Jays to try them at the next level. Maese has a 0.92 ERA in 19.2 innings and Espada is at 2.35 with 26 K and only 4 walks in 23 IP. A couple of relievers are putting up nice numbers, Mike Estavez and Griffin Glaude, but again, they are 22 and 23 respectively so those numbers don't mean a lot.

The  DSL is another league in which you can't consider the stats without putting them in the context of age. Catchers Antonio Conception and Yoman Rodriguez have both hit well and both just turned 18. Sterling Guzman, a 17 year old SS has a .393 OPS and looks like a name we might here more about in years to come. Among pitchers, the high-profile signing and clear #1 prospect on the team is 17 year old Juan Meza, but after having been tested in the GCL he was dropped back to the Dominican but he's had control issues with both teams. Wilfri Aleton got a lot of money too and like Perdomo before him, the Jays have taken it slow with him and it's begun to pay off. Look for him to potentially make a little noise stateside. Less well know is 17 year old Colombian reliever Alvaro Galdino and recently promoted (to the GCL) starter Guadalupe Chavez, also 17, from Mexico.  Both have more K's than IP and respectable walk rates.

A lot of these guys will get a longer look when I do the off-season prospect list.

And as I finish this post, the Toronto Blue Jays finish off the Yankees and now stand a mere 1.5 games out of first place in the AL East. They still haven't lost a game in which Tulo has played, taking 11 of 12. Wow!






Saturday, 8 August 2015

Jays win! and Stuff!

I decided to go ahead and write this one Thursday evening (instead of waiting on further promotions as I had intended) because I wanted to update something I'd written last night, and get ahead of the crowd of folks discussing the subject. After writing the major portion of it and taking a couple of hours away to play some Arkham Knight, I came back to the computer to find Rich Griffin had published an article on the very subject while I wasn't looking. Sigh. No real need to finish last night anymore, right? Anyway, the subject at hand was my comment about there being an opening for the Blue Jays to demote Hutchison for a couple of weeks starting on the 17th, but there's a pitching rotation machination that I'd overlooked until Shi Davidi mentioned it. If the Jays employ it they will only need Hutchinson once more before 8/29. Here's the upcoming calendar and the way they could arrange it to make that happen, and a somewhat different suggestion than Griffin's proposal which has one more August game for Hutch than mine does  (home games in bold):


-->
7at New YorkDickey
8at New YorkPrice
9at New YorkEstrada
10
11OaklandBuehrle
12OaklandHutchinson
13OaklandDickey
14New YorkPrice
15New YorkEstrada
16New YorkBuehrle
17

18at PhilidelphiaDickey
19at PhilidelphiaPrice
20

21at LAEstrada
22at LABuehrle
23at LADickey
24
25at TexasPrice
26at TexasEstrada
27at TexasBuehrle
28DetroitDickey
29DetroitHutchinson
30DetroitPrice
31ClevelandEstrada

 Serendipitously, the day after Hutch's next start is a Dickey start and if Thole comes off the DL in Buffalo on schedule (8/10) then the EASY choice for the Blue Jays (having already discussed recalling him) is to demote Hutchison and promote Thole then, and it leaves the rest of the team untouched.  Hutch will have time to get two starts (on five days rest each, in fact) in Buffalo to try and get a handle on his problems, and the only real issue is it spoils my desire to have Pompey up sooner rather than later. It would be kinda crazy for them to pass up this chance, and if Thole isn't ready then go ahead and call Pompey. There might be a complaint that you don't want a guy like Pompey to be on the bench but even if you don't give him some reps in CF, it's only 18 days and that's insignificant in terms of development time.
ETA: some speculation about that the Jays will go to a seven-man pen with Sanchez off the suspension, and that might lead to a Pompey recall, but as I write this no word.

Of course from this flows the next consideration, in terms of roster moves, and one I totally overlooked last night - the question of playoff roster eligibility. In order to be eligible you have to be on the active 25 man roster, or the DL (or bereavement, suspension, etc) by midnight August 31 in order to be eligible for the playoff roster, unless there's an injury when the playoffs begin. Most of that group will be an easy call:

Price, Buehrle, Dickey, Estrada
Osuna, Sanchez, Lowe, Cecil, Hawkins, Hendricks, Loup
Martin, Navarro, Encarnacion, Smoak, Colabello, Travis, Tulo, Goins, Donaldson, Bautista, Pillar, Revere

That leaves two spots. If Stroman's recovery goes well and he shows good in September he's in too, leaving only one. As it stands now, if you use Hutch to pitch on the 29th, and he bumps either Thole or Schultz (which, it'd be Thole because all you'd lose is that Martin would have to catch Dickey once while Thole was down for 10 days - it's not like they are taking 3 catchers to the playoffs), he'd be the only other guy eligible to be on this team other than the guy he didn't bump. And Saunders if we believe he's ever going to actually play this season.
If we want a 4th outfielder better than Colobello (and I surely do) and Saunders still hasn't played, then you have to connive to get Pompey on the roster before Sept. 1. Basically there's only two ways you can do that. The first  is if someone is on the DL. If Travis is still not back by the end of the month then problem solved - option Kawasaki on 8/31 for Pompey, then when the rosters expand you can add either Travis or, say, Diaz to protect yourself in the middle infield until Travis is ready. If Travis comes back sooner, and no one else hits the DL . . .the only other option is to play the August 31 game short (shorter than customary) in some other area and lose the guy demoted as a playoff option barring injury (if there's an injury to the playoff eligible players you can replace him with any player in the organization). My guess is that if this was the play, the guy who loses out is Bo Schultz.  That said, it wouldn't shock me if the team played it slow with Travis and let the situation work itself out.

Oh, and by the way, pretty decent little ballgame tonight in the Bronx, no? I know you don't need me to tell you that this is far and away the best Blue Jay experience since Joe touched 'em all. What I am trying to figure out is how this team keeps from playing .800 ball the rest of the season! David Price tomorrow, clear my schedule.





Thursday, 6 August 2015

So much stuff!

So I've been trying to get to this for a couple of days now and the longer I'm delayed the more stuff that keeps accumulating. Today was the best stuff since Monday - news about Marcus Stroman!


As basically everyone is reporting via Twitter today, Marcus Stroman will throw off a mound at Duke next week [correction: Stroman tweeets today that he's headed for Florida on Saturday so apparently his mound work will be in Dunedin] and if all goes well is tentatively scheduled to start a rehab assignment Aug. 21 which gives him up to 17 days before the end of the MiLB regular season (and if he still needs time they can assign him to a team that made the playoffs and Lansing already qualified in the first half). An ideal schedule given off days would have hi throw maybe twice in the GCL, then step over to the Dunedin team for probably three outings on either the second or third day after an appearance, then to Buffalo for the last week of their season. If he's ready at that point he'd join the Blue Jays.

John Gibbons says he envisions a relief role but if you'll recall, Gibby was pretty sure Sanchez would start off in low leverage situations when he came back from injury.  But there's the potential that Drew Hutchinson is increasingly becoming an issue that's going to need to be addressed. Which brings me to a brainstorm that I apparently shared with Matt Gwin at BlueJaysPlus - tandem starts.  About 4:30 CDT today I tweeted in reply to a question from Charlie Caskey about where Stroman fit into the pen thus:




I have no idea when Gwin posted his column but I sure didn't see it before I made the suggestion.  There's a good reason why we both suggested it though, it makes great sense. Hutch, as most know by now, goes from mediocre to disastrous when he gets to the third turn through the opposing order.
He has a high ERA in the first inning too, but there's only one solution to that. So my proposal is to line Stroman up with Hutchinson's first or second start in September. Pull Hutch in theory before the lead-off hitter gets to the plate for the 3rd time unless he is having an amazing game (unless of course he get's waxed but you could figure that out). This should be somewhere around the 5th inning. Let's say he makes it through five. Then bring on Stroman. For two innings the first time. Then treat them both as the "5th starter" in terms of their routine. You'll get 5 or 6 outings to build Stroman up slowly while lowering the potential for Hutch to melt-down and, just maybe, still giving him innings to try and figure out what's gone wrong. When October rolls around Stroman will be well prepared to be the go-to long reliever to bail out any starter that gets in trouble early.

Assuming of course that he's got his mojo back.

Other items that came to my attention this week....

Item - After David Price's royal entrance on Monday, Gibbons told the scrum that they would try to keep Price on a 5th day rotation, rather than 5th game - but he also indicated that Price would likely start in NY on the 14th (5th game), rather than Oakland on the 13th (5th day). The reason that a lot of paid observers were originally buzzing about the 5th day idea was the notion of getting an extra start out of him - but once they choose the 14th (which they should, IMO) that option is lost. With the several off days coming up, schedule manipulation is possible. For example, you can't skip Hutch's turn the next two times through, but after his outing on 8/16, you can use 4 starters until 8/29 (if they were bold they would send him to Buffalo for a couple of weeks and use the roster spot for another need). After that the 5th day choice makes little difference except that you get him into the Baltimore series on Labor Day weekend. Until the next-to-last weekend of the season. If you skip Hutchison that weekend you can again get Price into a Baltimore series instead of a TB series - so you can adjust there based on the standings and who you need to beat the most.

Either way, f you go 5th day throughout (where possible) Price lines up as available for any potential WC game - if you go 5th game he doesn't.

Speaking of Price, as irrational as it is to hope, there definitely seems to be a subtle feeling building up that the Blue Jays would have the opportunity to sign Price to an extension if they are willing to be competitive. He commented specifically that his priority is to go to a place with the best chance of winning, more so than the highest contract. If he's sincere, putting a ring on that finger would be a convncing argument.  The whole intrigue about Dave Dombrowski's availability just compounds the feeling.
Far be it for me to waste too much space speculating about the future during this magic but it's kind of how I think. Consider a $3 mil signing bonus, $26 per for 7, and a $5 mil buy-out of a $15 mil option at the end would give you a deal worth $190 or $205 depending on the option. That may sound like a burden but $26 million will be considerably less money in the baseball economy 5-7 years down the road than it is now. There are a massive ton of "ifs" o overcome though.

Item - The rumor first bandied by Jeff Blair on Monday that the team was discussing bring Josh Thole up to give Russ martin a break from the rigors of catching RA Dickey is on hold for a bit. Thole hit the 7 day DL in buffalo today with a minor infection of some sort. If he was better in 7 days he could n theory be activated for Dickey's start vs Oakland on the 13th. Speculation is that this would be when you drop the 'pen to 7 men. But there's still the problem of Chris Colabello being your 4th outfielder (or Kawasaki!). Here's my suggestion, assuming we don't learn more in the mean time about Devon Travis., who can't be activated before the 13th anyway

Thole for Schultz on the 13th - he's the obvious choice unless they want to run with 1 lefty, either way the stay will be short enough no option will be burned;
Pompey for Hutch on the 17th - don't need him until the 29th
Hutch back on the 29th for Loup (only be without him for 3 games, could do Pompey here too)
On September 1 you bring back Loup and Schultz,  along with Delebar, Tepera, Carrera and Travis if he's not already back. When Buffalo's season ends you might select Matt Hague and (so Wilneer believes) Roemon Fields. Along with Stroman of course.

Item - The Blue Jays came into Wednesday's game with the best team ERA, best Starter's ERA, and best bullpen ERA in the league since the break. At least one of those is certainly still intact. Readers here (both of you) are not entirely surprised as you're aware that the teams' pitching, in the stat lines, has been fine since mid-May. The Blue Jays runs allowed per game since May 18 is (again, not counting tonight's game) is 3.84 in 53 games - which compares favorably to the top teams in the league in that category (#1 KC at 3.72 as of 8/4, #5 Oakland at 3.80). It's been even better since the break (3.12) but the last 11 before the break, bloated by Boyd's unfortunate adventure and the Doubront game in KC, balance it out a bit. Which is to say their are peaks and valleys with any team but the pitching staff has been fine in the aggregate for a while as previously discussed here.

Item - the Blue Jays hold the second wild card, are a game back of the Angels for the first position, and now only 4.5 back of the Yankees for the division, with 6 of the next 10 games against them.  It's going to be insane.


Coming up - it's time for the last in-season minor league review in a day or two but I may hesitate a bit to let the potential promotions happen. I'd been expecting Shane Dawson to move up to Dunedin since the PAG finished, and he finally has as well as pegging Clinton Hollon to move into his Lansing turn from Vancouver. Both pitchers had their first start with their respective new teams tonight and both pitched quite well. Additionally I'd had my eye on Juliandry Higura as a potential promotion from Bluefield into Hollon's spot but he's had a couple of setbacks and Angel Perdomo has clearly edged in front of him - though I still think both deserve a promotion, plus the Bluefield squad needs room for Justin Maese and Jose Espada who need out of the rain-soaked GCL which is playing merry hob with their pitching rotation. Another promotion I'd been precdicting is Jon Harris from Vancouver but the expected move towards domination hasn't come and he may be feeling the effects of fatigue. Right now he's just not forcing their hand. I'll look at all the promotions, the players that have made serious progress in the last month, and my tentative revised prospect list with 10 pitchers removed from the discussion.





Friday, 31 July 2015

Well


Helluva week, eh?

On today's deals, I can be pretty brief. The Lowe deal is a nice surprise. I always thought Rob Rasmussen was being neglected and Seattle will, I expect, get a nice little return right there. The other two are so very far away that they would have to have been special indeed to worry about losing them. Doubront to Oakland was actually something I anticipated the day before the Kazmir deal, he's just their kind of guy.
Ben Revere? Eh. Okay, fine. For my money, I'd wager that you could plug Dalton Pompey into left field and get more production than they are going to get from Revere, but I'll concede Revere having been capable for a few years does offer more certainty, and does hit lefty. And if they follow through with a strict platoon, they will maximize his value since he doesn't hit left-handers well. But beyond this season, I wonder what it means for Pompey. Maybe you go back to playing him in left and put Pillar in the fourth outfielder role where he's better suited. Then there's Saunders which...I dunno.

As I discussed in my previous post, adding five veterans to the major league roster is a direct result of Anthopoulos' organizational philosophy to horde desirable pitching prospects in anticipation of their trade vale, and this is a fact that needs considerable notice in the media and in the front office - particularly if the Blue Jays do indeed make the run deep into October. It's also a reflection, as Alex told the press today, of the conscience choice over the late winter period to reserve a portion of their salary allotment from the corporate bosses to give themselves flexibility to take on salary in late July, which they have. The difference between the opening day payroll in 2014 and 2015 was a little over $11 million and Beeston insisted over the winter that the payroll would go up. About 7.5 of that will go to David Price. Just under $1 mil more goes to Hawkins. Mark Lowe makes little and the Phillies picked up the rest of Revere's deal. But that's almost $9 million that wouldn't have been there if the Jays had given it to some mediocre SP like Justin Masterson last winter.

Let's give as much credit as is obviously due.

And as I'm finishing this the Blue Jays just beat the new Ace of the team with the best record in the AL for their first three-game winning streak since June 19. Perhaps it is a new day indeed.

Thursday, 30 July 2015

You tell 'em I'm coming!

For some reason that was the thing that came to mind today in the wake of the Blue Jays' latest blockbuster - looking at the Yankees and thinking of the Tombstone quote, paraphrased for the team pronouns "You tell 'em we're coming! And Hell's coming with us!"

The conclusion here is in line with the consensus in the media and around the league - this team is an odds on favorite to blow by the illusory Twins and focus their sites on the Yankees, seven games off in the distance atop the AL East. I think they can catch them in what may be the most exciting September anyone can remember. The Jays are positioned as well as anyone could ask to be while being a .500 team. Besides the offense and the newly enriched pitching, they are close to a catchable team that they host for 4 next week, have 23 of their next 34 games at home, have 13 remaining games against the team leading their division, who just put their best starter on the DL with a sore forearm (at least).

It's not at all safe to assume Alex is done dealing, at the very least it would be profitable to come up with a "#6" starter to stash in Buffalo in case of an injury (a better one than Felix Dourbront) , but as it stands now, if the bullpen can shake off the inexplicable curse they seem to be afflicted by, it's hard to imagine the team being better equipped to do what needs to be done without imagining something insane (I know I know, the Tulo deal was insane but you can't assume something like that). The Blue Jays have:

The best catcher in the AL
Three first baseman in the AL Top 10 by wOBA
A second baseman second only to Jason Kipnis by wOBA
The best shortstop in baseball
The best third baseman in baseball
Arguably the best RF in the AL (JD Martinez is just ahead by wOBA so maybe 2nd)
A wizard defender in CF with a competent bat who's on pace for a 3 WAR season
A Top 5 DH (in what is for him a down year so far)
And a hole in LF...where the just happen to have their #1 prospect pounding on the door.
One of the ten or so best Ace's in the game
Arguably a Top 5 (AL) #2 starter
A Top 4 closer (by WAR)
and assuming health, no excuses.

If the team decides to start Dickey on 3 days' rest Sunday and push Price's first game back to Monday (which would be very smart) then Price will project to start, assuming the rotation is not further altered, 4 of the 13 games they have left against the Yankees, along with debuting against the Twins and late September games against Baltimore and the Rays.

One thing that no one else seems willing to suggest about Price is on my mind. The general assumption is that the Jays will definitely lose him to free agency this winter...but...is that such a sure thing? Paul Beeston will ride into the sunset after the World Series and, with any luck, take his five year limit policy with him. That's one obstacle aside. Another big issue is the whole "Free agents won't take our money" thing, which is really why I'm writing this paragraph. What have we learned from Buehrle, Reyes, and Donaldson?  That players who initially are reluctant to play for Toronto end up loving it once they are on the team. The hidden benefit of trading for David Price is that he gets a chance to love it before hitting the market, taking that factor off the table.

The cost is another matter, of course, and I don't think the Jays are prepared to match the completely insane deal Max Scherzer signed last year, but is anyone? The last three years of that deal lists him making, between salary and differed signing bonus FIFTY million dollars per year. Is THAT going to become the common deal for the top-of-the-market pitcher?  The next highest paid SP is Justin Verlander (there's a cautionary tale, eh?) who's 7 year deal which began in 2013 totals $180 million and that is, perhaps, a better model. Seven years at $25m plus another 6-10 split between a signing bonus and an option buyout would beat that so that's the neighborhood Rogers would have to consider. But I think they can afford it. There's $59 mil committed to 2016 (assuming Dickey isn't picked up), and something around $21 mil is a reasonable estimate for arbitration. Assuming a $140 million budget (using the 137 in 2014 as a guide for that) then 25 for Price still leaves over $30 million to fill out a team with not many holes.

It gets even better after that. Yes eventually arbitration - or a contract to avoid it - will add big dollars for Donaldson, and re-signing Bautista will cost something, but you'll be out to around 2019 before anyone else starts getting expensive and if you've guessed wrong about your budgets by then (given inflation) you have the option to deal Price if he hasn't pulled a Verlander (and if you are afraid of that you're never going to sign a major deal). Plus, there's the benefit of keeping him off the Yankees and Red Sox. I wouldn't be foolish enough to be optimistic given Rogers' history, but I certainly wouldn't rule it out.

All that aside, the future is NOW and hopefully this will be the stretch run we tell our grandkids about.




(Note: in the next few days I'll do a brief update to my mid-season list of prospects now that the crop has been thinned a bit)



Addendum: This is a bit off topic from the above but it fits directly into the context of this weeks events. One of the refrains that was beaten to death in the early part of the year by the sports media was that this was the "make or break" season for Alex Anthpoulos after a mere six seasons (compare that to JP's 8 futile seasons).  Nevermind that the Royals were in fine shape with a GM that didn't get his team over .500 until his 7th season for just one easy example. The real problem with this notion is that AA had packed out the farm system with talent despite having spent considerable prospect capital two winters ago in an attempt to leverage a talented team into the playoffs (an attempt that was derailed by a string of key injuries) while still laying the foundations for success in the majors through uncanny trades and usually strong development.  Impatience was in danger of costing the team dearly if the rumors were true.

The irony of all that is that what we've seen this week is exactly what Alex told us he intended to do in his first year on the job. While I've been unable to find a link to the exact quote, paraphrased what he said was that great pitching was very expensive and hard to come by, but you could always trade for and sign good hitters. In another moment he said his goal would always be to have an all-star caliber talent at every position, even if that might not be realistic.

So we have before us a man who - along with his scouts and development staff - who has drafted (or signed as an IFA) and then dealt for major league help:

Noah Syndergaard
Asher Wojciechowski
Justin Nicolino
Sean Nolin
Joe Musgrove
Kevin Comer
Daniel Norris
Anthony DeSclafini
Matt Boyd
Kendall Graveman
Jeff Hoffman
Jario Labourt
Jesus Tinoco
Miguel Castro

And there's still a dozen or more pitchers of similar quality still in the system from Marcus Stroman down to Justin Maese.

Because of those young pitchers the current teams has 3/5 of it's starting rotation and the left side of the infield manned by two men who are the best in the game at their respective positions.  Pitchers from that list put Troy Tulowitzki and David Price in a Jays uniform this week. This scenario is EXACTLY what Alex said he intended to do six years ago.  It simply takes time to execute a master plan. Executives, and some fans, need to appreciate that reality - and their GM.

Oh, and that other comment? If you count Encarnacion as 1B, he's 5/9 of the way to nailing that one too.




Wednesday, 29 July 2015

Vertigo

Damn this team will drive you insane, right? Write up an extensive review of the pitching in which you conclude they are better than advertised, but have an insane propensity to "choke" in 1-run situations (as they did a couple of times since I wrote that) and on the most exciting day of the year they go out and watch their bullpen throw 5 innings of no-hit ball in a 1 run situation and....still lose.

Le sigh.

Okay, anyway, about that excitement, eh? No need for me to tell you what happened, or who was involved so let me just rattle off some random items that together make up my reaction:

Devon Travis - as I tweeted last night, Travis single-handedly  made it easy for the team to trade their lead-off hitter. So good has Travis been that if you gave him the same number of PA as Jason Kipnis he'd pro-rate to 4.3 WAR...and now he's hurt again. He left tonight's game with pain in the same area of his shoulder as the previous injury that sidelined him for 5 weeks. He first said he intended to play through it but we saw how that went last time and the team might not let him do that. If he hits the DL that presents an interesting problem for the line-up. Either Gibby carries on with the same logic that he applied to Donaldson, he might be bold enough to try Tulo in the first spot and tell him to ignore the "table setter" business and play his regular game. The other alternative is to find someone who can do it which brings me to...

Dalton Pompey - Hasn't gone hitless in three weeks; I've been convinced for a week or so now that if they don't trade him, he'll be recalled no later than August 1. But the option is there to go ahead and bring him back right away and plug him into left and lead-off and count on him to keep a level head this time.  He definitely has the talent.

LaTroy Hawkins - I was probably the least enthusiastic among the positive thinkers about adding a 42 year old as a key component of our bullpen but I read a point this morning that brought be around a bit. The one thing this bullpen doesn't have that has been a fixture in the past is a "wise old man" veteran. Think Darren Oliver. In a bullpen with so many puzzling outcomes, possibly that's exactly what this crew needs. Anthopoloulos bragged on his reputation as a clubhouse guy (something that's also widely said about Tulo) and it seems likely that his contribution outside the lines was part of why Alex wanted him.

Troy Tulowitzki - There's been several references out there today to Denver Post articles which provide reason for hop on the injury front, but that is clearly the major - really the only -  red flag in the deal. I'll add my voice to the choir singing his praises as the best shortstop in the game, when he's playing.  In the short term that's still in our favor because for this year and the next two, we'd have the same problem with Reyes who's a lesser player on both sides of the ball when both are healthy. The risk, of course comes after 2017. Still, he's two years younger than Reyes so you didn't take on a deal that runs into his late 30's. I think he makes the team better, potentially much better.  I wonder if Gibby will hit him between Edwin and Jose?
As for the contract, Evan Ross and Blue Jays Plus did a nice job of shooting down the "bad contract" meme here, and he nailed it. Also, due to the salary inflation in baseball, $20 million in 2019 isn't the same as $20 million now. Even better, it's not even that bad through the life of the contract. The Jays actually save $2 million each of the next two years, then they pay out a net $16 mil in 2018 (because Reyes had a 4 million buyout) and the only time they take on the full $20 mil in in 2019. Tulo's contract calls for only $14 mil in 2020 and $15 mil on his 2021 option year (which, if he's any good at all you probably pick up since it has a $4 mil buyout and you probably won't be able to buy much of a veteran SS for a net $11 mil in 2021.  That's not bad at all.
It's also not a contract that hamstrings the Jays payroll, as they only have $59 million committed (to four players) in 2016, and arbitration salaries that should run  (based in the current roster, 7 players) around $21 million. There's a lot of good young pre-arb talent to fill out the team, but it will need a front of the rotation guy with some experience, a closer and a reserve catcher - and have as much as $40 million to work with without assuming a noticeable payroll bump.

Jeff Hoffman - I loved dreaming on the guy, and I'll be worried that he might turn into peak-Verlander at some point but, it's a tribute to how much emotion we invest n our prospects that it's even a question to be asked whether you trade one of your top three prospects for five years of the best player at a crucial position. That's why we have Tulo instead of Cueto, by the way - the Royals paid out for two months of a very good starter, while the Jays paid out for over FIVE YEARS (plus an affordable option!) of the guy who's currently the best in the world at what he does. We bought the same amount of control we gave up. It does put some pressure on the Jays to increase rotation depth for 2016 which points right back to AA shopping for pitchers like Tyson Ross or Andrew Casner who have some control left, but that's a swap you make ever day and then sort of the consequential implications later.

Miguel Castro and Jesus Tinoco - I had, on my totally unauthoritative mid-season list, Hoffman at #1, Castro at #6 and Tinoco at #21 (with a bullet). Castro is exciting but very raw, actual talent evaluators on-line can give you details but he's not a guy you're going to be outraged over dealing. Tinoco is intriguing but he's not going to make a significant impact before the end of the decade. Can't lose sleep over that, particularly when you're dealing from a position of tremendous depth.

 The Unknown Starter - The team still has solid assets to add another pitcher. AA has said, wisely, that he doesn't expect to deal from the 25 man roster, and as I've said, Norris, Alford and Pompey would be very tough to move (I actually had bad dreams last night about waking up to find Alford was the third prospect to the Rockies) but even if you take them off the table for the sake of discussion there's Matt Boyd, Sean Reid-Foley, Richard Urena (now blocked) Max Pentecost (value diminished by injury), Matt Smoral (ditto), Jario Labourt (profile raised by Future's Game selection),  Rowdy Tellez (which would hurt me) and even DJ Davis (raw tools are there). That will get you something, the question is who? After the Tulo deal, you can't even assume it will be someone you even thought was available. But I still like Tyson Ross (whom I fear can't be had without giving up Norris). A little over 60 hours to go







Sunday, 26 July 2015

Worth noting

Feeling some pressure to get this finished before there's an announcement that makes some part of it obsolete!
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You may have heard by now that Drew Hutchison is struggling on the road this year (after being much better on the road last year - baseball, eh?). But the extremes are flabbergasting. Consider:

Home:  9G - 57 IP - 47 H - 14 ER - 13 BB - 53 K - 2.21 ERA - 1.05 WHIP - 7.42 H/9
Road: 11G - 51 IP - 81 H - 51 ER - 21 BB - 45 K - 9.00 ERA - 2.00 WHIP - 14.29 H/9

THAT, my loyal readers, is batshit crazy. No lesser description will suffice. Who can say if the trend will hold, but there's one glittery silver lining: 6 of Hutch's next 7 starts, assuming the Jays don't tamper with the rotation for any reason, come at home. That takes us all the way to Labor Day (by then Maybe we can give some starts to Stroman, amirite?).

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Dalton Pompey went 5/6 Saturday with a double and a triple. In eight games, coming into that game, since returning to AAA, he was hitting .355/.474/.429/.903 - not it's .432./.523/.622/1.155 which is, ya know, pretty solid. Plus, he's only struck out twice. I'm relatively certain the Jays are waiting until August 1 (if he's not traded) to bring him back which will give him another 5 games or so to polish but it doesn't look like he needs them. I'm gonna say he's ready to be our everyday Left Fielder.

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Shi Davidi reports the Reds wanted Stroman plus in any potential Cueto deal - yeah . . . . no.

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The weekend has been buzzing on the trade front. The Royals seem to have Cueto (and his regular turn would have him facing the Jays in Toronto on Thursday), the Royals are zooming on Cole Hamels (which is an outcome I like because it keeps him off the Yankess and Red Sox, as well as off the roster of 2015 playoff contenders) and the Jays keep being linked to controllable guys. First it was Carlos Carrasco which was dreaming big and didn't work out, now it's Mike Fliers from Milwaukee, presumably that would make them look longingly at Tyson Ross too, who's maybe at the top of my list of targets.

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With Buehrle going today, and two at home versus the hapless Phillies the Jays have a chance to build some momentum. After that it's 4 against the Royals (who's starting pitching is vulnerable, other than potentially dealing with Cueto) and four against the can't-possibly-be-that-good-Twins. The Royals are a good team on the road, the Twins aren't. If they play well they could run off a 9-3 run (from last night) going into a crucial 3 game set in New York on August 7-9 which will be follow by home series against Oakland and the Yankees again. This August needs to be the reverse of last August.

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Update:

So much for that "have a good run" idea, eh? Since the winning streak ended the Jays have almost the exact same winning percentage as they had when the streak started.  Even though statistically the pitching has been much better, as previously noted. This does not speak well for the future despite a tremendous open door to the playoffs. As Ben Nichelson-Smith tweeted moments ago, their are only 5 AL teams over .500 at the moment, and all of them hold a playoff position as of now. The very vulnerable Twins are just 3 games ahead of the Blue Jays, and lest we lose hope, the Royals were 50-50 on July 23 last year. Still, the clock is ticking. Loudly.

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Jon Morosi tweeted thus:
Given that Kimbrel would only be due something just short of $3.5 million as of today, this can only be a reference to the future commitment - $11 million in 2016, and $13 million in 2017 (with a $13 million option on 2018 with a $1 million buyout). Let me say in passing that $13 million doesn't buy you nearly as much talent as it used to, that's less than the qualifying offer for free agents in each of the last two years. The  Jays paid BJ Ryan $12 million 8 years ago (I know how that turned out).Kimbrel has the lowest xFIP in the National League and is, in today's market, NOT overpaid.

However, the Blue Jays have made it clear they need a starter much more than a reliever. What gives? Consider (and I may be pipe-dreaming here as I hardly ever come p with a speculation like this that plays out - but what the hell) ...consider that there are a couple of rumors concerning the Padres: the first is that they may be under some pressure to move salary (and it's not like Melvin Upton is going anywhere) and the second is that among the starters they are least motivated to move Tyson Ross (for obvious reasons) so what if...just what IF the Blue Jays are expressing willingness to take on Kimbrel's contract in order to get Ross, and are willing to pony up prospect capital for 5 years of control between the two (2 on Ross, 3 on Kimbrel).

From a financial point of view, the Jays can easily rationalize this because Ross, whatever he wins in Arbitration, will make under-market salaries for those two years, while Kimbrel, though more than Alex likes to pay for relief innings, is not exorbitant and they can simply calculate that the savings on Ross off-sets the excess (as they see it) on the closer position. And make no mistake, Ross is worth it - indeed he's in my view the most desirable target among all potentially available starters. There are only 5 AL starters with more fWAR than he has, only 5 with a better xFIP (and 3 of those are on the Indians). He's a starter who can line up with Pineda or Archer without taking a back seat.

As a bonus, and this might not happen even if the acquisition was made but I'd have to seriously consider it: assuming neither Sanchez or Osuna was in the deal (which would kind of deteat the purpose) then Osuna and Kimbrel give you the 1-2 to end the game, and Sanchez can be stretched out quickly to go back into the rotation. Include Hutchison in the deal, or demote him, and you upgrade the rotation in two slots. Also, with Kimbrel on the team it further opens up the possibility Osuna comes in as a candidate to start next spring. That's a lot of potential good out of this deal.

Castro + Boyd + Reid-Foley + something like Urena maybe? You might have to such it up and inclde Sanchez instead of Castro. It would be worth it.

The key might be whether or not they can get someone to take Shields - which would relieve the salary crunch without making Kimbrel an issue. Here's hoping!






Wednesday, 22 July 2015

Fun With Arbitrary End Points

This idea's been knocking around in my head for a couple of weeks or more and I've put it off, reluctant to do the drudge work necessary to parse the stats. But the trade-fever is rising to acquire pitching, almost certainly a starter, and with Mike Wilner's column Monday providing renewed inspiration, I took some time this evening to dig into the idea. What you are about to read is going to be rife with caveats, but that's okay because I'm not trying to be exact here but rather just give an overview of a general idea that you might have sensed but been sure about.

With time perhaps tthe impression has faded for many, but I noted before in this space (about halfway into the season) that there's a distinct difference between the performance of the team over the first 40 games, and thereafter. Coming into Tuesday night's game the team has played 94games which creates some convenient points of reference. Forty games - not mathematically 1/4 of the season but as close as you can get in whole games - followed by 54 games, 1/3 of a season. There's a big difference between the two. Why did I pick that date? If you're a regular reader (hey you two!) you can possibly guess. The 40th game was the one that the Jays surprised team watchers by inserting Todd Redmond into the rotation for one start to give the rest of the rotation a day of rest. It's hard to claim, of course, that this act had any direct impact at all for more than 10 days or so, but nevertheless, the numbers are striking.

Let's also distinguish that I'm not talking about the hitters here. Through 40 games, the Jays averaged 5.25 runs per game, since then it's climbed to 5.33 runs per game. Up, but not enough to point to any sort of trend. And with that, Caveat #1: This is going to be all about what are commonly called Arbitrary End Points (AEP) - primarily that one AEP on May 18. However, it's not quite as useless as that might make it seem because it's a straight "before and after" look at samples of significant size, it's not like saying "if you took out this bit and that bit then..." (although there are two minor points where I notice something by doing that further down). I believe ther is value in noting a "turning point" either for the good or the bad - you just can't get carried away with it. There's also value, in my opinion, in noticing if a player was very good most of the time but had one wee or 10 days or whatever when he went sideways. For example, that whole business about how Marco Estrada sucked last year? Yeah - for about 3 weeks. He got absolutely rocked for a short period, including a huge chunk of the homers he allowed, and outside of that stretch was just the same as he'd been all along. I think noting that was predictive of what we could expect this year.

This entry is about pitching. I'm not going to argue that I know why the breakdown looks like this, or that it's anything other than random in terms of which AEP you might have chosen. But it exists. In the first 40 games, they were 18-22 and since then, coming into the Oakland series, they've gone 29-25, and when you see these numbers you'll be scratching your head that the latter isn't way better.  What you are about to see has great risk of being presented in a confusing way, but hopefully I can organize it reasonably well. There will be two major sets of stats, obviously, separating the Starters from the Bullpen - with only Estrada making this difficult. I'll sort him out though. Another caveat: ERA is a bit of a blunt instrument, there are other stats of the sort that inform xFIP for example, which get more precisely to the quality of pitching, but for an overview like this, ERA will do.





The Jay's starting set has been remarkably stable this year. Three have made every turn of the rotation, Norris gave way to Estrada who's been a rock, and Sanchez is the one injury which triggered a revolving door which has not produced good results. What I've done, then, is charted  the five who held their job on quality as a separate set from those who did not hold on (and Doubront who seems destined to lose out to whomever is acquired). This also allows me to distinguish those who pitched on both sides of the AEP from those who haven't. Before you read further, do be aware I've caught myself in several minor errors already (like failing to remember Doubront had a bullpen appearance) so if you spot an error, don't be stunned (as if...).

First set. The first column of numbers is their ERA through May 18, and the second column is their ERA since.  Then a column with IP and ER before, and one with those after the AEP, and finally a column with IP per start before and one after. Note that Estrada did some quality relief work before moving into the rotation, the stat you see represents only his starts.The bullpen work will come later.


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NameERA BeforeERA AfterIP ' ER BeforeIP ' ER AfterIP/G BeforeIP/G After
Buehrle5.362.0647 ' 2874.1 ' 175.887.41
Hutchison6.174.5242.1 ' 2961.2 ' 315.295.61
Dickey5.763.9550 ' 3270.2 ' 316.256.42
Estrada5.523.114.2 ' 1069.2 ' 244.896.33
Sanchez4.262.5738 ' 1828 ' 85.437
Total5.443.28192 ' 116304.33 ' 1115.496.48




Now here's a chart for the short-term guys


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NameERA BeforeERA AfterIP ' ER BeforeIP ' ER AfterIP/G BeforeIP/G After
Copeland
6.46
15.1 ' 11
5.11
Boyd
14.85
6.2 ' 11
3.33
Doubront
4.63
11.2 ' 6
5.83
Norris3.86
23.1 ' 10
4.67
Total3.868.8123.1 ' 1033.66 ' 304.674.81



And finally, the total for all starters:




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All Starters5.273.79215.1 ' 126337.33 ' 1425.386.25

Now, even in the totals it's striking. Over a run and a half down in Starters ERA, almost a full inning better in IP per start. But if you filter out the failure to thrive threesome in Sanchez's spot (7 starts) along with Norris (just to be fair), then the ERA swing is a fat 2.16 down, and the IP per start gets even better. To put these in some context, here's a list of AL teams ranked by starter's ERA on the season. Obviously the comparison is imperfect, since they are not split the same way the Jays' numbers are, but I'm not trying to prove where they rank since May 18, just giving you an idea where these numbers would rank if they'd been doing this all year.

Oakland - 3.00
TB - 3.42
LA - 3.56
Seattle - 3.80
Minnesota - 3.83
Houston - 3.97
Chicago - 4.00
Cleveland - 4.12
Baltimore - 4.22
NY - 4.22
Texas - 4.26
KC - 4.33
Toronto - 4.35
Detroit - 4.52
Boston - 4.84

So they are ranked 13th out of 15 right now, but if they'd done all year what they've done in the past 54 games, they would rank 4th - and if you take just the front five guys over that span they have the second best ERA on the list. Pretty remarkable, yes? One more tidbit on the starters. If you take the moment when their ERA peaked and they started trending downward, you of course come up with different dates for each of the main 5 guys, but it's noticeable how close they are (relative to the 5 day turn through the rotation) to that May 18 AEP.
On May 12 Buehrle peaked at 5.54, he's totaled 2.30 since (less if you factor in his shutting down Oakland tonight but I didn't).
Hutchison peaked on May 3 at 7.47, since then it's been 4.21
Dickey peaked at 5.77 on May 26, since it's been 3.49
Estrada doesn't fit well since his ERA was never again close to what it was after his first start on May 5, it's trended downward with a steady pacesince.
And Sanchez splits exactly with the AEP.


Sane treatment on the bullpen. This time it divides neatly into two groups again, those with 15+ IP (as relievers) who just so happen to all have pitched on both sides of the AEP, and those with less who only pitched on one side of the line. Noticeably, the first group represents the current seven pitchers in the bullpen, plus Todd Redmond who's at the fulcrum of this analysis. The one exception to my methods here is that I failed to distinguish Redmond's start from his relief work, but by the time I realized what I'd done all the charts were finished and I was well into this commentary, and damned if I'm going to go back and adjust all those figures. Just know that the pre-AEP starters figures, collectively, will go up just a bit more, and the pre-AEP bullpen figure for Redmond will too (I know it's weird but Redmond's first two bullpen appearances were so bad that a bad start still pulled it down some, meanwhile the collective bullpen figure in the "before" column will get just a bit better.


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NameERA BeforeERA AfterIP ' ER BeforeIP ' ER After
Osuna0.863.4321 ' 221 ' 8
Schultz
1.85
24.1 ' 5
Hendricks3.632.4917.1 ' 721.2 ' 6
Cecil3.465.2913 ' 517 ' 10
Loup6.284.1214.1 ' 1019.2 ' 9
Delebar1.84.265 ' 119 ' 9
Tepera4.262.196.1 ' 312.1 ' 3
Redmond11.882.358.1 ' 118 ' 2
15+ IP4.113.2785.1 ' 39143 ' 52

Notice that Osuna actually went up, as did Cecil and Delebar the collective total is still striking. Almost two full runs difference. Speaking of Cecil and Delebar, the latter's second section ERA was a sterling 1.81 until July got here, three recent rough outings ballooned it and puts him on the bubble as a candidate to farm out when Sanchez is activated. Cecil has an even more interesting, to me, story. For one week, June 15-21, he fell apart, giving up 8 ER in 2.1 IP over 3 appearances. Without those his ERA in the second column would be 1.23 and lest we leave him out, if Aaron Loup had called in sick on June 20, his second column figure would be 2.84 so...not going to guess what's up with Delebar because the blow-up is recent, but these guys are not as bad as their results, and that's before you add in Sanchez.

Unlike with the starters, the short-term guys really don't bust up that trend.


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NameERA BeforeERA AfterIP ' ER BeforeIP ' ER After
Francis6.75
12 ' 9
Castro4.38
12.1 ' 6
Estrada0.84
10.2 ' 1
Hynes6.00
3 ' 2
Albers3.38
2.2 ' 1
Jenkins4.50
2 ' 1
Coke
3.382.2 ' 1
Doubront
3.86
2.1 ' 1
Rasmussen
0.001 ' 0
others >4.223.0042.2 ' 206 ' 2

The thing that jumps out at you here is the IP totals. Over 1 IP per team by a shuttle pitcher in the first set of games, less than 7 IP in 54 games since. That's called stabilizing, folks, and it shows up in the results. Almost a ran and a quarter lower in collective ERA in this group. Here's the bullpen totals:


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Bullpen >4.153.26128 ' 59149 ' 54

Almost two full runs better, and not surprising given what the starters did, 3.2 bullpen innings per game in the first split, 2.76 in the second.  Those ERAs look good compared to the league too. The collective bullpen ERA in the last 54 games, if it were for the season, would land the Blue Jays 5th, just ahead of the Yankees.

Finally then, the totals for the whole team, before and after:


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Total > 4.853.63343.1 ' 185486.1 ' 196

How does that play against the league?  That 3.63 nestles between Baltimore (3.73) and Tampa Bay (3.59) for 6th in the AL and for love of 1/10th of a run, tonight's effort by Buehrle might have put them in second place (#1 is Oakland at 3.35 followed by the Angels at 3.52).  The major point of all this is when you hear broadcasters or journalists say "the Jays have some bad pitching" - they really don't. The HAD some bad pitching, over the first six weeks of the season. Since then they've had perfectly reasonable pitching on the whole.

How then to reconcile this with Wilner's description of how the bullpen has somehow managed to lose games at a higher rate than they should have? If you haven't read it, go do so for context, but the basic idea is that they pitched really well in low leverage outing but sucked in high leverage situations. Wilner reports accurately that the Jays lead the majors with 15 blown saves, so let's start there. But that will have to wait until next time, because sorting that out pre- and post-AEP is too big a chore to begin at 3 AM.

Addindum

After another long session with Baseball Reference while listening to the Jays and A's I'm prepared to say a little something about Wilner's reporting on how much trouble the Blue Jays bullpen has had in high leverage situations. I didn't bother to try and re-create his reporting or be more clever than BR in terms of what qualifies as high-leverage. Rather I just wanted to see it for myself and I needed some sort of measure to quantify what I'd seen. So what I decided was to look at every situation in which a Toronto reliever pitched when the score was within 1 run either way (or tied of course) and how these turned out. I'm not entirely comfortable with the method because if, for example, three pitchers throw 3 innings of relief while tied and the third one give up a homer, the first two actually did their job. But this is more about collective results and the finer the detail, the longer it would take me to parse out.
ETA: Tonight's extra inning loss is a good example. It was both a success and a failure. Osuna gave up the game winner in a tie game, however,4 relievers combined to throw 3 shutout innings while the team was down a run, or tied. The reports will say the bullpen blew the game, but that won't do justice to the good work they did to stay close. That's where those stats Wilner cited work better.

So what I found was that in 34 games so far, such a situation occurred. and the Blue Jays only won 11 of those. In 10 of those games, the bullpen did it's job and four times the Jays lost anyway (situations where they were 1 run down), while 24 times they failed, but in five of those the hitters bailed them out. That's just awful and honestly, it defies reason given the overall quality of the players involved. In reference to my AEP, 12 of these cases occurred during that first 40 games and the bullpen failed in nine of those. Six of those nine were at least partially the fault of Castro or Francis but that's all that can be taken as a "positive" from this period.

Since the AEP, the success/failure record is 7-15 which is some better but still not good, but to introduce another AEP, since June 1 (the win streak started the next day) it's been 6-8 which is more reasonable. Honestly, I'm not really sure what would be considered an acceptable rate in a profile like this so I'm just defaulting mentally to .500 as a point of reference - which means over the last seven weeks they were only one game below where you might reasonably ask them to be.Still, on the season, if you expected a .500 record that would mean that, setting aside the 4 games they were already behind, and the 5 the won anyway, they might have won 6 or 7 more games than they have. If you do the same but disregard the games before the AEP, they might have won 3-4 more since then than they have (again, disregarding the Oakland ongoing series). Four more wins and they would be a game and a half behind the Yankees right now.

Another remarkable aspect of all this: Who among the relievers is considered by everyone to be the single most reliable reliever we have? Osuna right? Yet Osuna has been involved in more of those 24 failures - eight - than any other member of the 'pen (and also involved in six of the successes). Cecil is next with six (4 of the successes), Loup five (4), and Castro four (1)...and on the other side, Delebar was involved in only one of the failures, but in four of the successes. Which brings me to the one big take-away from all this drudgery: You can't just assume that adding any given pitcher will fix the problem because it's a problem that really shouldn't even exist. If your best reliever is involved in more failures than anyone else, and you trust him - as you should! - then how can you say of any pitcher you might add that such events won't happen to him?

This all strikes me as akin to the annual examination of records in 1 run games. You can certainly wise it were better, if it's bad - but if it's bad that doesn't necessarily prove you're doing anything wrong. All you can really do is hope the scales eventually balance.