Archive for the 'Spring Training' Category

Riding With the Wind, ’14: Ready to Go

It’s been interesting since the end of the 2013 season, with fewer moves than expected, rampant speculation, rumours, intrigue, disappointment, and, finally, resigned acceptance.  Without further ado, here’s the 2014 Toronto Blue Jays’ Opening Day 25-man roster with some brief comments:


RA Dickey; Mark Buehrle; Brandon Morrow; Drew Hutchison; Dustin McGowan

  • There are 2 surprises in Hutch and McG, but they’re good surprises–they both have significant injury concerns but they both pitched very well in Spring Training;
  • Brandon Morrow will once again be a key to the success/failure of the Toronto Blue Jays this season.


Casey Janssen; Sergio Santos; Steve Delabar; Brett Cecil; Aaron Loup; Jeremy Jeffress; Todd Redmond; Esmil Rogers

  • This is the strength of the 2014 Toronto Blue Jays, just as it was in 2013;
  • Redmond and Rogers competed for the 5th spot in the rotation, but pitched poorly enough in ST to be relegated to the ‘pen as long relievers/spot starters;
  • this, while somewhat disappointing, gives the Jays admirable depth behind Morrow/Hutch/McG;
  • JA Happ was perhaps the biggest disappointment of ST as he was virtually handed the 4th spot in the rotation;
  • Happ’s back flare-up saved the Jays from having to cut a player who was out of options (Redmond; McG; Rogers; Jeffress), or service time issues (Happ);
  • with the speight of recent pitching-related injuries in MLB, the Jays didn’t need another Ervin Santana type of fiasco by losing a quality arm.


Dioner Navarro; Josh Thole

  • Dioner Navarro is a significant upgrade over JP Arencibia in every facet of the game;
  • Thole beating out Erik Kratz was a surprise, as Kratz commended himself with a good ST, however, Thole does have years of experience catching RA Dickey;


Jose Bautista; Colby Rasmus; Melky Cabrera; Moises Sierra

  • Anthony Gose played his way to AAA Buffalo–he may never hit at the big league level;
  • Sierra isn’t ideal as a 4th OF, but he has improved and he’s out of options;
  • Sierra will also see time at DH and possibly 1B against LHP;
  • There are several questions here, and most of them relate to health: if these guys can stay healthy, they can be formidable and productive;
  • the one question that isn’t directly related to health is this: who is the back up CF?  Can a tumour-free Melky spell Rasmus every now and then…?


Edwin Encarnacion; Ryan Goins; Jose Reyes; Brett Lawrie; Maicer Izturis

  • Ryan Goins may not hit his weight, and he only weighs 185 lbs.–his defense will need to be Wizard-esque to carry his bat if he doesn’t figure it out pretty soon (Mazeroski-esque is better since he was a 2B, but you get it, right?);
  • Adam Lind will slot in at 1B as well, as might Moises Sierra;
  • Edwin, Reyes and Lawrie NEED to stay healthy: Reyes has a slight hamstring issue and Edwin was plunked by the Yankees (no Granderson payback, I’m sure), but all reports indicate that they’re both okay;

Designated Hitter

Adam Lind

  • chronic back issues and an inability to hit LHP are the questions here;
  • however, both of those issues, while disconcerting, are answerable with the roster as constructed: Sierra and Encarnacion figure to see time at DH, plus possibilities like DH-ing Bautista and getting Sierra to patrol RF are also reasonable game-to-game scenarios.

The Bench will be comprised of Josh Thole, Moises Sierra, and Maicer Izturis and, as you can see, it’s a weakness.  Bounce-back years from Thole and Izturis will help considerably, as would one more player (such as uber-versatile-recent-pick-up-but-more-recently-cut Matt Tuiasosopo).  The problem is that the rotation has health concerns (Morrow; Hutch; McGowan), so the ‘pen needs to be fortified.  The ‘pen has guys who fill the role of swingman or long man, but several of them are out of options (Redmond; Rogers; Jeffress).  This stars ‘n’ scrubs roster was constructed with the related factors of health, depth and options playing vital roles.

This season won’t be like 2013.  Not only does it lack the hype and correspondingly high expectations; it lacks answers to some significant questions leftover from 2013.  The only way we’ll get those answers is by letting them play out over time.  The first several weeks of the season will be very telling for the Toronto Blue Jays.

Opening Day is exciting enough, as the season still has yet to unfold.  This one will be very special as Dustin McGowan is scheduled to start for the Blue Jays against Masahiro Tanaka of the New York Yankees.  Wouldn’t it be nice if the Jays play well this year, and we can sit back in November and say ‘that game set the tone for the whole season’?  Here’s to hoping…

Don’t let the lunatic fringe get you down if the Jays stumble out of the gate.  It could be worse: you could be watching darts.  Enjoy it for what it is.  Go Jays go!

Wes Kepstro








Intriguingly Shallow Thoughts about a Crucial Non-Issue

I was reading something the other day, and a question recurred. The question isn’t original to me (few things are original to me, actually), and this isn’t the first time I’ve pondered it. It’s also one aspect of an issue that’s been a lively debate for decades. Does it make much difference whether a pitcher faces a DH or another pitcher? Of course, the DH has made baseball purists apoplectic since its introduction in 1973, but I’m not going to examine that particular issue. I’m just going to assume that MLB will keep it in place. What interests me is the difference between facing a pitcher over a designated hitter.

The following table puts the difference on bold display. Rows 2 through 4 represent pitchers rows 5 through 7 are the designated hitters. Further explanations are offered below the table: read them at your leisure.

2915 5913 654 98 7 24 274 3 3.2 37.1 .036 .220 .162 .165 .149 -15
28 57 6 1 0 0 3 0 2 21
162 329 36 5 0 1 15 0 11 122
3084 11803 2774 508 25 449 1339 64 9.4 19.8 .182 .298 .339 .447 .339 114
28 107 25 5 0 4 12 1 10 21
162 620 146 27 1 24 70 3 58 123

As you may have already noticed, there are several assumptions made in this table. If you haven’t, here they are:

  • 32-35 starts per pitcher;
  • 28 G is an approximation of the number of games that a pitcher would face another pitcher in the NL, and takes into account inter-league play and a missed start or two; it also represents the obverse for an AL pitcher, with the same stipulations (inter-league play; missed starts);
  • none of the figures are dead-on accurate, but represent generalizations (all numbers are rounded, then the rounded numbers are used in other calculations);
  • the 162-game row is for perspective and illustration: those numbers are calculated independent of the 28-game row;
  • pinch hitters (the ones who come in after the two PA by the starting pitcher) have been disregarded;
  • there is no differentiation between the quality of pitchers in their relative league, i.e. there’s an assumption that NL pitchers and AL pitchers are equally talented;

Who Creates the Most Stress for the Guy on the Mound?

We’ve accumulated and crunched a lot of numbers to confirm something we already know. You’re welcome. It’s pretty shocking, I know, but here’s the longer, non-table version. Based on the 2012 season (which isn’t very different from 2011 except in the obvious manner: it was one year later), pitchers are four times less likely to get a hit and three times less likely to get a walk than a DH. If a pitcher gets a hit, it’ll be an extra-base hit fewer than four times in 1000 plate appearances. When it gets right down to it, a pitcher is about twice as likely to strike out and half as likely to get on base as a DH.

If by some stretch of the imagination the pitcher does get on base, not much happens. First, pitchers (-34.3) tend to be better base runners than DHs (-53.8), but neither group is much good on the basepaths. Because they’re paid handsomely to throw baseballs, pitchers wear jackets on the basepaths and THEY DON’T STEAL BASES. I can’t say it any louder than that. DHs are usually older ballplayers (e.g. David Ortiz) who are paid to hit. Being, um, heavier and older, they don’t steal many bases either. However, even though pitchers will score two times in seven when they get on base and DHs about one time in three, a DH is five times more likely to score a run than a pitcher.

There’s a practical application to all of this number crunching. New Blue Jay pitcher Josh Johnson is a career National Leaguer and will need to change his strategy somewhat. Fans witnessed the transition made by Ryan Dempster last season and he wasn’t very successful, even after the Rangers acquired his ‘personal’ catcher. As Jays’ fans, we can only hope that Dempster’s struggles continue as he plies his trade with the Red Sox (Dang that John Farrell! Dang him straight to heck!). We shouldn’t read too much into Dempster’s struggles, though: others have made the transition from NL to AL with very little difficulty. As good and loyal Jays’ fans we want Josh Johnson to be like them, not like Ryan Dempster.


Highly-paid professionals should be good at their job. Sometimes a bad day, the flu, an injury, too little coffee, or some other obstacle can get in the way of optimal performance, but all-in-all, performance norms should be expected. However, when highly-paid professionals are asked to do something for which they’re ill-suited, performance expectations need to be adjusted accordingly. In other words, if I hire a plumber to shingle my roof, I need to ratchet my expectations downward: that plumber ain’t gonna do as good a job up there as a roofer will. Pitchers are paid to pitch, not hit, so expectations are lower when they come to the plate. Designated hitters, on the other hand, still have something to offer offensively. Expectations are correspondingly higher. Personally, I expect as much from Brandon Morrow at the plate as I expect from Mike McCoy on the mound.

My Dad used to talk about baseball back in the good ol’ days, when lots of pitchers were good hitters. Sadly, my Dad’s memory on the matter was pretty selective. Pitchers have always been terrible hitters; very, very few have been decent with the stick. This is why it’s rare that a pitcher’s stress level will rise when the other pitcher comes to the plate.

However, if you’re looking to pick up a good-hitting pitcher for your fantasy team then grab Mike Leake. He socked two of the 24 HR that NL pitchers hit last season and scored eight runs. His .410 babip wasn’t too shabby either. Overall, Leake was a 1.0 WAR hitter for the Reds. Hmm, maybe the Royals should grab him and stick him in right field.

Smile. Opening Day is a few short weeks away…

Wes Kepstro

Dustin McGowan Roughed Up in Minor League Start

No need to panic quite yet but Dustin McGowan had a bit of a setback in his comeback bid today.  The good news, he felt fine after throwing 68 pitches to the New York Yankees A-ball squad.  The bad news, McGowan was very inconsistent and got hit around by young, nowhere near MLB ready minor leaguers.

His line was ugly, throwing 2.1 IPs, allowing 6 hits and 5 earned – McGowan walked 2 and struck out 5 hitters.

Analysis: There were bound to be a few ugly days like this and it was only one start but it has to be disconcerting to the Jays brass that a pitcher they are counting upon to give them 25+ starts in 2012 got touched up by inferior competition.

Let’s see how McGowan bounces back in his next appearance this coming Sunday versus the Boston Red Sox where is scheduled to throw 5 innings.


Blue Jays Upcoming Spring Training Pitching Schedule

As per here is the upcoming Blue Jays spring training pitching schedule:

March 20 @ Boston:

Aaron Laffey (Five innings)
Drew Carepenter
Chad Coello

Dustin McGowan throws in a Minor League game.

March 21 @ Baltimore:

Kyle Drabek (Four innings)
Chad Cordero
Casey Janssen
Rick VandenHurk
Luis Perez
Jim Hoey

Ricky Romero and Sergio Santos throw in a Minor League game.

March 22 vs Phillies:

Brandon Morrow (Five innings)
Carlos Villanueva (Two innings)
Darren Oliver
Jason Frasor

March 23 @ Tampa:

Brett Cecil (Five innings)
Drew Hutchison (Three innings)

March 24 vs Atlanta:

Henderson Alvarez (Five innings)
Sergio Santos
Francisco Cordero
Casey Janssen
Luis Perez

Blue Jays Spring Training Pitching Schedule

As per here is the scheduled pitchers for the next few Toronto Blue Jays spring training games:

March 15 @ Astros:

Dustin McGowan (Three innings)
Kyle Drabek (Three innings)
Jesse Chavez
Jerry Gil
One more pitcher still to be determined

March 16 vs Tampa:

Ricky Romero (Four innings)
Chad Jenkins (Three innings)
Jason Frasor
Drew Carpenter

March 17 @ Phillies:

Brandon Morrow (Four innings)
Luis Perez (Two innings)
Rick VandenHurk (Two innings)
To be determined

March 17 @ Atlanta:

Drew Hutchison (Three innings)
Deck McGuire (Three innings)
Jesse Chavez
Robert Coello
Chad Beck

Blue Jays Spring Training Pitching Schedule

Gregor Chisholm has outlined how the Jays plan to utilize their spring training pitching schedule per game, here are the next few games:

March 10 vs Astros:

Dustin McGowan (Two innings)
Aaron Laffey (Three innings)
Carlos Villanueva
Francisco Cordero
Casey Janssen
Sergio Santos

March 11 vs Atlanta:

Ricky Romero (Three innings)
Chad Beck
Jason Frasor
Darren Oliver
Chad Jenkins (Three innings)
Jim Hoey

March 11 at Atlanta:

Kyle Drabek (Three innings)
Joel Carreno (Two innings)
Drew Carpenter (One-to-two innings)
Nelson Figueroa (One-to-two innings)
Jerry Gil (One-to-two innings)

March 12 vs Baltimore:

Brandon Morrow (Three innings)
Deck McGuire (Two innings)
Drew Hutchison (Two innings)
Casey Janssen
Sergio Santos
Francisco Cordero

Blue Jays Spring Training Cuts – March 10, 2012

The Blue Jays have made their first round of cuts today reports’s Gregor Chisholm, the first casualties to be assigned to the minor league camp are:

S. Richmond, R. Nanita, B. Jeroloman, B. Bocock and C. Perez.

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