Archive for April, 2013

Mission ’13, Game 27: Jays win 9-7


Aren’t these the Jays we’ve expected all along? A Rajai walk is plated by a Bautista double in the first. Then a nice rally that had only two hard-hit balls, one of which came with two out, resulting in three runs. There was a productive out (deep fly to center field), and NO STRIKE OUTS. How refreshing.

Is Big Papi hot, or what? Fresh off the DL, he’s tearing the cover off the ball. Home run #3 by Big Papi is only part of the point for Jays’ fans, though. It was the homer by Mike Carp and the walk to Saltalamacchia that’s so frustrating. Carp is off to a hot start, but he’s no all star, and Salty only has 7 BB on the season. Three of those came in game #1 against NY. Also, the Jays just finished scratching out three runs against a pitcher who normally dominates them, and Brandon Morrow was on the verge of giving it all away. It took a brilliant play by Brett Lawrie to get leather on a sharp grounder. Then he threw to 2B for the force, and Boni relayed it to 1B for the DP. It was an astounding play just to keep the ball on the infield; getting two outs was unreal.

Frustratingly, the Jays went very quickly and quietly in their half of the inning and the Red Sox came to bat again. Stephen Drew singled sharply up the middle and Ellsbury singled to right to start the inning. A fly ball to center preceded a run-scoring single by Dustin Pedroia, which made it 4-3 Jays. Another unusual out—Ellsbury was picked off 2B—ended the inning.

A casual observer will notice that Lester is settling in, while his Red Sox ‘mates are getting dialed in against Morrow. The disparity of the patience and professionalism of the batters for each team is glaringly obvious. The Jays manage to do it for an inning or two; for the Red Sox, it’s as natural as getting up in the morning.

A four-run lead has almost completely evaporated, and the commentators are talking as if 5 innings is all Brandon Morrow will pitch tonight. Is John Gibbons serious? Morrow has given up three runs, and Gibby’s thinking about bringing Aaron Loup in to pitch the sixth? One of these times Gibby’s going to need to let his pitchers ‘sort it out’, especially guys like Dickey and Morrow. Certainly one factor to consider is that the Jays are desperate for wins, particularly division wins, but the ‘pen will be burnt out by the All Star game. it also sends a message that you’re not confident that your starters can get themselves and the team out of a jam. Last week, both Kuroda and Sabathia did it. Neither had good stuff (for them), but both gutted it out and wound up pitching solid outings. Just because there are 8 RPs doesn’t mean they need to be used every game.

Speaking of dialed in, Edwin Encarnacion has homered into the upper deck with Rajai aboard to make the score 6-3. It was the 16th home run hit into the upper deck at The Rog, but the first by a Blue Jay since ’04 (Vernon Wells) and the first by any team since ’11. When Rajai plays like this he’s a valuable player. He’s been on base three times (BB, HBP, single), stolen a base, and scored three runs. it’s good to see both Bautista and Edwin pick him up when he’s on base so frequently.

Sure enough, Brandon Morrow threw 96 pitches in 5 IP so he’s out of the game. It was a decent start (5 IP, 3 ER, 3 BB, 7 K), but nothing special. Aaron Loup relieved him and promptly gave up a home run to pinch hitter Jonny Gomes. Jon Lester remains in the game, despite struggling with control, location, and giving up 6 runs (5 ER). The Red Sox saw 186 pitches from five pitchers in 9 innings. Jays’ hitters saw 141 pitches from three pitchers in 8 innings. Think about that for a moment. I have no idea if this is representative, but one thing it means is that Jays’ pitchers have very few secrets. BOS has seen 90 pitches from 4 relievers, and there are two games left in the series.

The Jays’ defense betrayed them again. A tailor-made DP ground ball to Kawasaki was relayed to Izturis, who flat out missed it. Kawasaki entered the game as a defensive replacement at the start of the inning, pushing Izturis to 2B. Loup is replaced by Steve Delabar, who faced Pedroia with one out and runners on the corners. Pedroia walked to load the bases. The Jays are doing everything possible to give away this ball game. The question is, will the Red Sox accept their generous offer? In a battle that pitted strength vs. strength, Delabar faced Ortiz with the bases loaded. Delabar and Arencibia struggled to get on the same page, and Delabar even crossed him up once. Ortiz doubled to clear the bases to make it 7-6 Red Sox. A strike out and a pop out ended the inning.

Rajai Davis had one of his best offensive games of the season, and Manager Gibbons decided to pinch hit for him. Junichi Tazawa struck out Adam Lind. If it wasn’t for the chicken wings, I wouldn’t have been surprised if Gibbons was fired mid-inning. Edwin crushed another 2-run home run—Jose had walked ahead of him—to ensure that the Jays re-took the lead. Could this be the turning point of this incredibly disappointing season for the Jays? Previously the game would have been over when they lost the lead. Now they’ve shown moxie, refusing to allow the other team shovel any more dirt onto the coffin. Remember this home run and this game.

All Darren Oliver needed to do was get it to the 9th so Janssen can get into the game. Predictably, he walked Salty but it didn’t amount to anything. Oliver seems to be getting sharper with each game.

In the bottom of the 8th the Jays scored a much-needed insurance run (single-sac bunt-single by JPA, Izturis, and Rasmus) against Joel Hanrahan. The Rog is almost as bad as Fenway for giving up leads. In Fenway’s case, it’s the park.

Casey Janssen pitched as you would expect: bottom, outside half of the strike zone to every batter. He’s a pleasure to watch pitch. His strategy is so simple that it should be ineffective but he’s easily the most effective pitcher on the team and, right now, in the league.

I don’t want to see any more of the ridiculous self-promoting advertisements. I don’t want to hear the idiotic theme songs any more. I don’t want to hear about any more promotions, bobble heads or otherwise. John Gibbons needs to do something meaningful. In 2008 the Blue Jays, under Gibbons’ guidance, were 11-17 in April and 35-39 when he was replaced by Cito Gaston. He’s picked up where he left off, and there’s still no reason to think that he’s a major league-calibre manager.

Wes Kepstro


Looking Back: An Old Post On J.P. Ricciardi

Wow, I bet you have not heard that name in a while and certainly weren’t expecting to see it at this blog!  I just ran across this old piece I wrote on October 6, 2009 at my old blog (Jays in Seven!) titled “In ‘Defense’ Of J.P.” and I thought it would be fun to revisit some of my old articles over the next few weeks.  Perhaps it will at least give us all something to actually talk about given the depressing state of the 2013 team.

Here it is, enjoy.

* * *

If you believe Michael Lewis (author of Moneyball) JP Ricciardi wasn’t exactly the Blue Jays first choice for General Manager when the team decided to part with former GM Gord Ash.  The team, and more specifically Paul Godfrey had eyes for Billy Beane’s right hand man Paul DePodesta but unfortunately for the team DePodesta would only leave for the ideal situation – aka not a non-traditional baseball market like Toronto.  The next logical choice for a team looking to compete on a budget turned out to be JP Ricciardi, a man who was supposed to have a real nose for talent and all in all a well respected baseball mind in the Oakland front office.

Ricciardi sold Paul Godfrey and the Blue Jays with the notion that less is more, especially when it comes to competing with less money than the big guys – New York and Boston.  Ricciardi’s tenure started with a bang as he roped in Erik Hinske who won the AL ROY and looked to have a bright future going forward, at this point the city and fans were hooked and though none of us will admit it – “In JP we trust” was a common phrase.  Anybody who says otherwise is flat out lying, Ricciardi was an exciting prospect for Blue Jays fans, and a slick tawking Bostonite who actually chose to come to Toronto, things were too good to be true.  So where did things go wrong?

Continue reading ‘Looking Back: An Old Post On J.P. Ricciardi’

Blue Jays Series Recap – Four Game Sweep for Yankees

The Blue Jays haven’t been swept by the New York Yankees in a four game series since 1998 but that is exactly what just occurred in the Bronx.  The Jays were in every game and the aggregate score for the series was 19-13 and it seemed that each night the Blue Jays found a way to lose.

If you aren’t already familiar you need to check out the game recaps by Wes, they are top notch.

Here is a sampling.

Game one:

As has often been the case, though, the Jays were still in the game. They lost two of three to BAL, both by one run. Kuroda shut them down in this game after they flexed their muscles early, but they’re only down two and Kuroda’s out of the game. If Lincoln et al can hold the fort, the Jays have a chance to steal this one. Unfortunately for Jays’ fans, it was not to be. The greatest closer in baseball history recorded a K, a broken bat infield pop-up, and a K to finish it.

Game two:

JP Arencibia needs to go. His offense is one-dimensional and his defense is atrocious. Delabar gave up a double to Robinson Cano and, with two out, walked ichiro intentionally. The 2-2 pitch was low, and Arencibia let it go to the backstop. 5-3 Yankees. The next pitch was strike three. In the ’80s, the Boston Red Sox were enamoured with Marc Sullivan because he was the chairman’s son. The Minnesota Twins held on to Tim Laudner for far too long. Arencibia fits the mold. A player with some perceived value that keeps him hanging around. Seriously, is his one-dimensional offense really special enough to offset horrific defense?

Read all the recaps here.

I also wrote a quick commentary on when is the appropriate time to start officially “panicking” about the 2013 Blue Jays.

CURRENT RECORD: 9-17, 5th place, 9.5 games out of first place. (-34 run differential)

Here are the quick recaps and boxscores:

Game 1 – Yankees 5, Blue Jays 3 – Robinson Cano 3-run HR the difference.

Game 2 – Yankees 6, Blue Jays 4 – Yankees lose catcher Cervelli but overcome to pull out victory.

Game 3 – Yankees 5, Blue Jays 4 – Poor managing by Gibbons allows Hafner to beat them.

Game 4 – Yankees 3, Blue Jays 2 – RA Dickey solid but gives up late game homerun to Lyle Overbay.

UP NEXT: A much needed off day Monday followed by a mid-week series versus the first place Boston Red Sox (18-7, +35 run differential).  We also get to see both Jon Lester (4-0) and Clay Buchholz (5-0).  Oh joy.

Mission ’13, Game 26: Yankees win 3-2

Life is full of interesting choices. Some of those choices are made at our own instigation and discretion, like what shirt to wear or whether I take a PBJ to work or a tuna sandwich. No one forces my hand: I’m free to choose. Other choices in life, however, are brought about by external influences. Unbeknownst to me my boss can’t stand the smell of my tuna fish sandwiches but says my production’s down. All of a sudden I’m looking for another job.

We find these types of choices every day in every aspect of life.

Baseball has these kinds of situations, too. Do I swing at the first pitch or make the pitcher throw a few more? Should I throw him a fastball high and tight, or a slider down and away? When a player hits free agency the choices become greater, and there are different variables to consider. This team’s offering more money, but they aren’t very good. The other team’s offering less, but they have a history of success. Should I play close to home? What about my family? I guess that a realistic option would be poor team/less money, but we rarely—if ever—see players make that choice. Anyways, I expect you get what I mean. Choices, lots of ’em and belonging to different categories.

I suppose in the course of a 24-hour period we make dozens, if not hundreds, of decisions. Not only do they belong in different categories, but they are also each of a different magnitude and have various long- and short-term implications that we consider in the blink of an eye. My choice of Chocolate Frosted Sugar Bombs (shout out to Calvin & Hobbes) over Cheerios will affect my short-term health (sugar rush) and my long-term health (diabetes). This isn’t as important as my choice to pass the 18-wheeler on a blind curve, however.

Such is the mind set that Brennan Boesch inspired in me today. Here’s a guy who’s a decent #3 outfielder at the ML level who was released by the Detroit Tigers. They’d picked up Old Man River (Torii Hunter), which made Boesch expendable. So the Tigers expended him. The Yankees have suffered innumerable injuries and defections, so they signed Boesch to a one-year deal.

Two days after a low-point in his Major League career, he finds himself under contract to one of the most decorated franchises in North American professional sports. If asked, he probably wouldn’t have left the Tigers in the first place but the decision was made by others. When he was in professional limbo for those two days, he was as free as he’d ever been as a professional baseball player. All he needed to do was answer the call when it came (which, of course, constitutes a serious limitation on that freedom…).

Now we see him in game 4 of a series between the Yankees and the Blue Jays. The Yankees are going for the sweep; the Jays are trying to salvage a modicum of self-respect by avoiding the sweep. Brennan Boesch, the proximal reason for our metaphysical and philosophical gymnastics today, homered in the second inning against RA Dickey. Fate? Chance? Luck? A Supreme Being? The Force? Perhaps a malevolent force or being? Or are we masters and mistresses of our own destiny, with no outside forces having a ‘say’?

One might say that the Detroit Tigers took a chance, bid Brennan good luck and directed him toward MLB’s Supreme Being, whom Torontonians definitely consider to be malevolent. He was briefly the master of his own destiny but now finds himself and his freedom subjugated to the Evil Empire.

Let’s get back to reality: the Jays were swept by the Evil Empire. The surprisingly-hot Boston Red Sox are next on the agenda. Mercifully, the Jays have a day off on Monday.

Wes Kepstro

At What Point Can We Worry About the 2013 Blue Jays?

The Blue Jays just dropped another series to an AL East rival and there record now stands at 10-19.  They sit 10.5 full games out of first place and while nobody is suggesting a division title is won in April I think it’s time to acknowledge that they can at the very least be lost with such a disastrous month.

Perhaps 2013 is just not destined to be our season even we all still #lovethisteam.

If things continue this way and we are well out of the playoff hunt before Jose Reyes returns I wouldn’t be surprised (or disappointed) if the Blue Jays were sellers.  If they were to move some pieces to either shed payroll or pick up an interesting prospect or two they would likely have some suitors.

-Josh Johnson needs to show he is healthy if any team were to give up any blue chip prospects.  He also needs to show the looming free agent market that he can throw a full season worth of innings.  If he comes back to his career levels he makes a solid #3 starter and I am sure the team could land one pretty intriguing prospect.

2013 ZIPS (rest of season projection) 126.0 IPs, 123 hits, 40 BB – 105 K, 3.79 ERA, 3.59 FIP.

-Melky Cabrera hasn’t shown he is the same hitter without PEDs.  This is just a fact.  The numbers pre and post the steroid allegations show a completely different player.  I thought he would be more athletic than he is but his play in the left field and on the base paths leave much to be desired.  I think Anthony Gose could play to his level, at least, as well as play high caliber major league defense.  In short, no big loss.

2013 ZIPS (ROS) 551 PAs, 289/335/437, 6.5 BB%, 13.4 K%, 27 2B, 12 HR.

These projections are slanted, plain and simple.  They heavily weight his PED infused 2011/2012 seasons.  I think he would be hard pressed to come anywhere near the projected SLG%.

-Mark Buehrle is exactly who I thought he was coming into this season.  A pitch to contact lefty who’s stuff doesn’t play as well in the AL East.  He can give the Jays 200 innings and a low to mid 5.00 ERA – I don’t see much in the way of improvement at this stage of his career.  He simply gives up too many hits and in a league that can wait out a pitchers best stuff Buehrle is at times a sitting duck.  If Ricky Romero returns to form I don’t see how he couldn’t outperform him.  This should almost be a priority win or lose as Buehrle is overrated and vastly overpaid for a fifth starter.

2013 ZIPS (ROS) 145.0 IPs, 163 hits, 30 BB – 80 K, 4.53 ERA, 4.44 FIP.

-Darren Oliver could be a solid addition for a team looking for a veteran LOOGY.  He would need to improve upon his lacklustre numbers to start this season but if he does, we could likely fetch a ‘C+’ level prospect.

There is no need to completely wipe out the roster and I don’t see any reason to move Jose Reyes, Jose Bautista, Edwin Encarnacion, R.A. Dickey, Brett Lawrie and a few of our top bullpen arms unless the deal was just insanely in our favour – think Jurickson Profar insane.

The players listed above could be replaced if Rogers continues to show a willingness to spend money and trades are always an option for the Blue Jays brass.  However at this time I wouldn’t doubt Alex Anthopoulos is a tad gun shy as none of his recent highly touted moves have paid any dividends yet.  Luckily Travis d’Arnaud took a ball off his foot and won’t be getting called up anytime soon (thanks Wes).


Blue Jays Stats Pack – April 2013 – Hitters (how much do the Jays miss Jose Reyes?)

Mission ’13, Game 25: Yankees win 5-4

Did anyone think JA Happ would be the Jays’ most consistent starter in April? I’m glad he was chosen to be the #5 over Ricky Romero. Can you imagine? *shudders* The Jays staked him to a 3-0 lead in the first four innings on a Rajai ground out, a Jose homer, and a Lawrie fly ball that scored Edwin (shout out to Chris Stewart for dropping the ball).

Realistically, the Jays are playing the top of the AL East heap and their run differential after game 3 is -6, and their record is 1-5. They’re not getting blown out or anything; they’re not winning, either.

Having said that, Happ coughed up the lead. The Jays scratched out three runs against NY’s best starter, CC Sabathia, only to have Happ walk a pair, then give up a home run in the bottom of the fourth. As they say in soccer, we’re back to square one. No more damage was done in spite of a few more base runners. The Jays zeroed in on CC Sabathia when he struggled with his location; the Yankees did the same to Happ. Given the disparity in talent and experience, it doesn’t bode well for the Jays.

JA Happ bounced back effectively in the next inning, making the ‘bad’ inning almost comical in how out of place it was in the game. CC continued to struggle with his location into the sixth inning, though, as Brett Lawrie tagged him for an opposite-field homer (his second in two games), as the Jays re-took the lead, 4-3. This is about as much as we’re going to see CC struggle with his command. It’s good to see the Jays take advantage.

First Overbay triples, then Hafner triples? Seriously? Wells is now a certified Jays killer, but Travis Hafner’s resurrection has meant additional headaches for the Jays. Hafner’s triple against Brett Cecil has put the Yankees back in the lead. No disrespect to Rajai Davis intended, but I think Colby Rasmus catches that ball.

Mo’s participation in the first two games and his advanced age means that Joba Chamberlain is getting the call to close this game. Joba doesn’t even look confident on the mound, despite his stature and 95 mph fastball. No problem, though: it’s the Jays.  It’s sad but the Jays hope to avoid the sweep in game 4.

Wes Kepstro

Mission ’13, Game 24: Yankees win 6-4

Aaron Laffey subbed for Josh Johnson, as he of the many injuries is injured. It’s a triceps thing. Laffey then played “Where’s Waldo” with home plate for 2.2 mostly-ineffective IP. In Laffey’s defense only one of the five walks came around to score. He was relieved by Brad Lincoln, who gave up two runs in his 1.0 IP. In Lincoln’s defense, Overbay tripled at least once every year between 2004 and 2011. Ugh.

Mercifully for the Jays, Ivan Nova wasn’t any better, giving up two runs in two innings before he left with an injury. One of those runs came on Edwin Encarnacion’s 6th homer. Unfortunately for the Jays, David Phelps replaced Nova and was terrific. He struck out nine Jays in four innings.

Chicken wings are the order of the day today. Edwin has homered in his fourth straight game, it’s his third homer of the series, and his second homer of the game. I keep waiting for Jose Bautista to wake up and notice that the hitter behind him is white hot, and to do anything he can to get on base. I guess I’ll just keep waiting patiently. Until then I’ll keep cringing as Jose strikes out to end an inning and then watching Edwin hit solo homers and getting on base somehow. Edwin’s latest tater made the score 4-3 Yankees.

In the bottom of the 6th, Loup tired and put a couple of runners on base. Steve Delabar was summoned to face Jayson Nix and keep it a one-run game. He struck out Nix on five pitches. I love watching Steve Delabar pitch.

JP Arencibia needs to go. His offense is one-dimensional and his defense is atrocious. Delabar gave up a double to Robinson Cano and, with two out, walked ichiro intentionally. The 2-2 pitch was low, and Arencibia let it go to the backstop. 5-3 Yankees. The next pitch was strike three. In the ’80s, the Boston Red Sox were enamoured with Marc Sullivan because he was the chairman’s son. The Minnesota Twins held on to Tim Laudner for far too long. Arencibia fits the mold. A player with some perceived value that keeps him hanging around. Seriously, is his one-dimensional offense really special enough to offset horrific defense? The Blue Jays scratch and claw to score runs, and their defense—notably Arencibia, Bonifacio, Lawrie, and DeRosa—gives them away. (Not to mention poor base running. Well done, Rajai.) Jose Bautista’s homer in the top of the eighth would have tied the game, albeit briefly…

Darren Oliver has done nothing this season to make me glad that Alex Anthopoulos went to Texas to talk him out of retiring. He’s been ordinary this season when he’s pitched, and he seems disinterested. The home run by left-handed hitting Brett Gardiner has put this game out of reach. 6-4 Yankees. Mariano Rivera is on to pitch the ninth.

For the umpteenth time this season already, we’re saying ‘the Blue jays hope to split the series’, or ‘the Blue Jays look to salvage one game in this series’. CC Sabathia is slated to pitch game three. Good luck, Blue Jays. The New York Yankees have been decimated by injuries, and they’ve toyed with Toronto thus far in the series.

Wes Kepstro

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