The Blue Jays once again showed their true colours and responded to a serious beat down at the hands of the Texas Rangers to sweep the Baltimore Orioles in a three-game home series. It seems to be a common theme this season when the team seems to be losing ground they find a way to bounce back.
Ricky Romero, Colby Rasmus and Brett Lawrie each had a big series, which is a great sign for the team.
The sweep takes the Jays record to 27-24 and they are in fourth place in the AL East – two games back of the Rays/Orioles for first.
Here are the quick recaps and full boxscores (clink link):
Game 1 – Blue Jays 6, Orioles 2 – Edwin Encarnacion and Kelly Johnson go deep in big win to stop losing streak at five.
Game 2- Blue Jays 8, Orioles 6 – score is flattering for the O’s, Lawrie with a big three hit night and huge defensive play.
There has been a lot of talk about the Blue Jays receiving less than stellar treatment from major league baseball’s umpires. In particular fan believe Brett Lawrie has been getting squeezed since his now infamous tirade and subsequent suspension for removing his helmet rather quickly (and towards an umpire).
I wanted to take a look at strike zone calls (via pitch F/X) versus Brett Lawrie since returning from suspension to see if this has some merit. I have included each at-bat that had a questionable strike call since his first game after tossing the helmet (May 16, 2012 vs. the Yankees).
Too much emphasis is placed on how hard a pitcher is throwing or radar gun “readings” but for a guy like Drew Hutchison being able to sustain consistent velocity deep into his starts is definitely important. Drew is coming off a career best start in his short major league career, limiting the Baltimore Orioles to 3 hits over 7 strong innings and striking out an impressive 9 batters.
Hutch pounded the strike zone with a four seam fastball he used 80 times (out of 114 total pitches) and his sustained velocity was on full display. Pitch F/X data from Brooks Baseball said his four-seam fastball averaged 92.82 MPH and topped out at 95.3.
Check out this chart:
He was throwing slightly harder as the innings wore on and kept the Orioles on their toes trying to keep up with his impressive heater.
Check out the difference from an earlier start:
As you can see his velocity definitely wavered as he started to possibly tire or had mechanical issues around the 70-pitch mark. Velocity isn’t the be all and end all in terms of predicting future success for a young starting pitcher but when Hutchison is going well he is normally throwing heat later into his starts.
Hutchison pitched successfully off of his fastball in his last start versus the Orioles, mixing in only a handful of off-speed pitches. His slider was thrown 21 times and had an impressive whiff rate of 19% as he tried to get hitters to chase it outside of the strike zone.
If this is a sign of things to come it can only mean good things for the Toronto Blue Jays pitching staff.
What a beautiful game thrown by Drew Hutchison to stop the losing streak at five games. Bonus was beating the Orioles, current AL East leaders.
Some solid performances to highlight.
AAA (CF) Anthony Gose, 2-5, 1 RBI, .293, SB (21), CS (5)
AAA (SS) Adeiny Hechavarria, 2-5, .316
AAA (RF) Moises Sierra, 3-4, 3 RBI, .278, 2b (8)
LoA (RF) Chris Hawkins, 1-5, 1 RBI, .330, BB (10)
LoA (C) Carlos Perez, 3-5, .280, SB (3)
MLB (1B) David Cooper, 2-4, .286; aggressive on first pitch fastballs
AA (SP) Deck McGuire, 5.1 ip, 2 h, 4 er, 1 bb – 2 k, 6.80; jump to AA proving difficult
LoA (SP) Noah Syndergaard, 4 ip, 4 h, 1 er, 0 bb – 5 k, 3.22
MLB (SP) Drew Hutchison, 7 ip, 3 ip, 0 er, 3 bb – 9 k, 4.84; held velocity better into later innings. Best start of young career.
Colby Rasmus has put together a nice little hot streak over the past week or so even as the Blue Jays have played some of their worst baseball of the season. Rasmus was expected to bounce back from a very auspicious start to his Jays career (133 ABs, 173/201/316) and give the team a solid middle to bottom of the order threat from the left side.
Well, sometimes the most well intentioned plans can go awry and Rasmus has been fairly awful to start the new campaign. Not to be a downer but even with his recent hot surge his May stats are not only below average (240/318/400 in 24 games) but his slugging percentage is actually down a few ticks compared to April.
Over his past seven games Colby has gone 10 for 30 with seven extra-base hits including a homerun in each of his past two games. His season slash line is now 227/298/411 to go along with 9 doubles and 5 homeruns. Considering his position and fairly solid defense he isn’t the worst player in the game but if the Jays are serious about taking a run at a playoff spot I have a couple recommendations.
First his trade value is probably at its absolute lowest and a panic sell is not something Alex Anthopoulos would be inclined to do (based on track record) but the Jays have a guy in Triple-A named Anthony Gose who is starting to really hold his own offensively. Is anyone confident that Gose couldn’t perform at the same level offensively (if not slightly better) than Rasmus right now?
If the offensive production is even close to similar at this stage than Gose should be in the major leagues right now. His centre field defense has the potential to be the game’s best and his dynamic speed game could make him a weapon. Gose is not a perfect hitter by any means but his improving Triple-A numbers lead me to believe he could hit at least as well as Rasmus.
Yes he is in a hyper offensive environment but he has still performed well as one of the youngest players in the league. Currently slashing 285/366/415 with a solid 10.1 BB% and a reduced K% of 22.4 (26.2 in 2011) good for a .358 wOBA. Gose has nine doubles, three triples and three homeruns to go along with 18 stolen bases.
Scouting reports are glowing when it comes to his centre field defense, of course. Considering both Rasmus and Gose would be hitting out of the eight or nine hole it would appear the move could be a wash or slightly positive (depending on Gose’s contact ability at the MLB level).
But if the Blue Jays could find a trade partner for Colby Rasmus and add a much needed veteran starting pitcher than the overall move would definitely be net positive. Again it is hard to gauge exactly what the Blue Jays think of Rasmus but if they weren’t slightly disappointed, I’d be disappointed in them.
Rasmus wouldn’t land the team a top arm at this stage (on his own) but if a team has a longer term need in centre field and still has some belief in him then I could see a potential fit. Maybe the Jays could land a Joe Blanton or Gavin Floyd type which would be a welcome sight for a rotation in need of an arm that could push the currently overmatched Drew Hutchison back to the minor leagues (for now).
If this is too knee jerk than at the very least let Colby Rasmus grind it out against right handed pitching but please enough with the “will he or won’t he be able to hit lefties” business, it is clear, he can’t. In 1177 ABs (versus righties) Rasmus has slashed 260/329/452 while in 395 ABs (versus lefties) he has slashed 213/292/359. The data supports sitting him against lefties if winning is the ultimate goal this season.
A quality I have long admired about current Toronto Raptors GM is his ability to admit a mistake a cut bait when given the opportunity (Jermaine O’Neal, Hedo Turkuglu for example) and I hope Mr. Anthopoulos isn’t overly attached to the 26-year old outfielder if things continue on their current path production wise.