Saturday, December 15, 2012

Do Jays Fans Overvalue Prospects?

Well, we've all heard by now that the Blue Jays are apparently close to making a deal with the Mets for current NL Cy Young winner R.A. Dickey.

There haven't been many particulars of the trade that have leaked out, however the speculation (according to Andy Martino of the New York Daily News) is that the Blue Jays are willing to include Gose and d'Arnaud in the deal.

Normally I would assume that because we have heard about this that there is probably no truth to it.  We all know that the "Silent Assassin" works in the shadows.  However, there are other reports suggesting the Jays have been reviewing Dickey's medical information since yesterday.  So maybe there is some bite to this one.  Hard to say at this point.

The general reaction that I've seen on twitter is that Jays fans are either extremely for, or avidly against acquiring Dickey.  There doesn't seem to be much middle ground.  The one point that does seem to keep re-occuring though, is that Jays fans do not want to give up Travis d'Arnaud.

This to me is astounding.

I've always been surprised at how attached Jays fans can tend to get to their prospects before ever having seen them play at the Major League level.  I'm not disputing that all signs point to d'Arnaud being a franchise player.  I am also not contesting that on paper Gose and d'Arnaud appear to be guys that could help your team for 10 plus years if you're able to retain them.  But we don't know that, and we won't know that for a few years to come.

Maybe its me.  Maybe I'm jaded when it comes to prospects because I still remember Eddie Zosky, Derek Bell and Howard Battle.  How they were going to be the next "franchise guy".  Not one of the three worked out.

But if I am jaded, as a Jays fan, I do have good reason to be.

I could sit here and post draft results to you.  Show you that a lot of first round picks, actually first overall picks even, that never saw the light of day in the major leagues.  I'm not going to do that though.  The draft is a long way away from the majors.  Instead, I took a look at some top 100 prospect lists from over the years.  This hit a little closer to home.

In February of this year Baseball America's top 100 prospects list has Travis d'Arnaud ranked at #17, and Anthony Gose at #39.  Both are very highly thought of players.  Those are are respectable rankings.  However the Jays have had this before.  Derek Bell was #15 on the list in 1992.  Eddie Zosky was #22, and Mark Whiten #25 in 1991.  If you're looking for a higher ranking, Jose Silva was #10 in 1994.  Not one of these four really even had a career in the majors.  

In 2000 Vernon Wells was #4, Alex Rios was #6 in 2004.  Both of these guys are everyday players sure, and they have had good seasons.  But could anyone really argue that they lived up to their potential and projections?  I don't think you could.  As much as I like the guy and feel for him as a player, Wells is about to become the highest paid bench player in history.

Other Jays players to crack the top 100 that you've probably heard of include:  D.J. Boston, Angel Martinez, Marty Janzen, Gabe Gross, Josh Phelps, Billy Koch, and Guillermo Quiroz to name a few. 

In 2006, the top 10 Blue Jays prospects heading into that season were as follows:

1.   Dustin McGowan (Who also cracked the 100 list twice at #36, and #18)
2.   Ricky Romero
3.   David Purcey
4.   Adam Lind
5.   Josh Banks
6.   Casey Janssen
7.   Brandon League
8.   Franciso Rosario
9.   Curtis Thigpen
10. Vince Perkins

Of that list, I think we have to acknowledge Romero, Lind, Janssen, and League as successes.  The other six, well, you can make your own decision.

There are two sides to every argument.  Obviously the Blue Jays have had prospects crack the top 100 that have panned out.  That list includes but is not limited to Carlos Delgado, Shawn Green, Alex Gonzales, Shannon Stewart, Roy Halladay, and Chris Carpenter.

Jays fans need to relax.  If the rumours are true and d'Arnaud and Gose are included in the deal, I can almost assure you there are more pieces coming back.  I suspect it will be another large Anthopoulos deal that includes 8 players or more before the final icing is on the cake.  Alex has been after Jonathan Niese from the Mets for a while.  You can bet that he's at least brought his name up in the discussions.

The only point I'm trying to make is that no matter how close they are to the majors and how much potential they have, prospects are just that.  Prospects.  R.A. Dickey is a commodity.  If a team is in a position to be a contender, I am always in favour of trading prospects for a commodity.  Prospects are replaceable.  Don't forget that Johnson's contract is up this year and Melky has two.  If the Jays aren't competing, they can deal guys like these for prospects at the deadline.  If the Jays are competing you probably won't miss d'Arnaud, Gose, or the players given up in the Marlins deal anyway. 

I believe that the best shot the Jays have to win with this team, is right now.  Especially with Josh Johnson only having one year left on his deal.  Veterans like Reyes, Beurhle, Encarnacion and Bautista, though under contract for a few more years, aren't getting any younger.  R.A. Dickey helps this team win, right now.  The acquisition of Dickey would give them a rotation (in no particular order) of Morrow, Johnson, Buerhle, Romero and Dickey.  Keeping J.A. Happ and any other pieces they acquire that could potentially start, in the bull pen.  Giving them lots of insurance against injuries.  After last year I think we all agree that you can never have enough pitching.

Whether the Dickey rumours are true or not, I think 2013 is going to be a great season.  I firmly believe that Alex will bring in another starting pitcher before opening day.  If it is Dickey, great.  If not, then maybe we get to keep Gose and d'Arnaud, and all this fuss was over nothing.

What should we the fans do in the meantime?  Sit back and enjoy the ride.  This is the busiest offseason we have experienced as Jays fans in a long time and the Jays sure are getting media attention south of the border.

Is it April 2 yet?




Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Whoops

Well, I did it again.  After a posting which promised a bald head in the coming days if a Cliff Lee trade were to be consummated (which quickly became my second most widely read posting on this site by far) I went missing again.  For what I believe to be my longest absence to date.  Were it not for a post written by Andrew in late August this site would have been completely dormant for over three months.

Not a word on the disaster which was the second half for the Toronto Blue Jays, or the manager leaving town immediately following the season's end when his "dream job" came available.  Nothing about Canada's dominance of their qualifying pool for the World Baseball Classic.  No mention on the playoff race or on the World Series, of which I saw at least parts of every game. 

I leave myself wondering why I hold on to the hope that I will someday actually write on a regular basis about what I believe to be the greatest game we know.  Why don't I just give it up?  Admit that I'm not going to make time for it and let it go already.

When I started this blog, I had such high hopes for it.  After having my wife, some friends, and a radio host from a Toronto Sports Radio station all tell me I should start one.  I finally decided it was a good idea.  I had planned to cover not only the Blue Jays, but baseball in Canada as a whole.  On all levels.

Since starting the blog, I've traveled to Cincinnati to cover Joey Votto being presented with the Tip O'Neil award.  Wound up with my photo all over the internet.  However never got around to posting anything about it in a timely matter.  When I did have one written, it was weeks later and I wasn't happy with it.  I never bothered to put it up.  I've gone to the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame the last two years to cover the induction ceremonies.  Then didn't write about it either time.

This summer I was fortunate enough visit five different ball parks, not counting spring training.  One of which was Wrigley Field, at a game where I was able to go down on to the field before the game.  I didn't share any of it.

Why?  Well, I could list lots of reasons,  come up with excuses.  No time.  Not following closely enough.  Can't remember what I wanted to say.  Didn't have a computer with me... etc. etc. etc. 

The real reason, honestly, is fear.  Fear of sounding like I don't have a clue what I'm talking about.  Fear of being wrong.  Fear of being criticized.  Fear that postings will sound like they were rushed, or written for the sake of writing something.

I don't express as much opinion as I should, or give my baseball intuition for fear of being wrong, or sounding cocky.  For example, I knew that the Giants would win game 1 of the World Series.  I came home and gave my wife several reasons why Detroit would lose game one, and why if gambling on single sporting events were legal, we should have been taking out a loan and betting it all.  I didn't write it down though, just in case I was wrong.  I wasn't.  The thing I was wrong about is that I thought it would at least be a close game.

So I've decided this is it for me.  My last kick at the can.  I'm giving this one more try and if I don't stick with it, I'll call it quits.

I'm taking a new approach though.  I'm going to start speaking my mind.  Making predictions.  Calling out General Managers or coaches.  Telling you what I think.  Inviting Criticism.  Writing only about things I want to write about, and leave the reporting to other people.

If it fails, it fails.  If you don't like it, tell me.  If you do like it, well, tell me that too.

I started this blog because I love baseball, and I love writing about it.  Just took me a while to remember.

So here goes nothing.  I hope you'll check out what pops up on here in the coming months.  I hope you'll like it too. 

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Five Reasons to Still Watch the Jays in 2012

My fellow Blue Jays fans.

I’m sure most of you, like me, have been disappointed with the way this season has played out.

In April there was so much optimism surrounding the Blue Jays. It was easy to imagine that this team would challenge for a spot in the post season come September and October. Then the injury bug hit and destroyed any hopes the Jays had of making a run at the playoffs.

When you consider that Brandon Morrow, Kyle Drabek, Drew Hutchison, Dustin McGowan, Sergio Santos, Jason Frasor, Luis Perez, Jose Bautista, Brett Lawrie, Adam Lind, and JP Arencibia have all seen significant time on the disabled list, it’s no wonder that the Jays find themselves below the .500 mark. All of these players were supposed to play significant roles for this team throughout the season. Their injuries have led to a number of young players being called up to the big club and bench players being asked to become starters and see significant time on the field.

 All of this has made it very difficult for me to watch the Jays play on a regular basis. I am embarrassed to admit that I haven’t watched an entire Jays’ game over the past 2 weeks. I’d tune in to find them behind and change the channel… figuring that the game’s outcome had already been decided.

With some time on my hands this afternoon, I took a look over the highlights and box scores from the Jays games over the past few weeks and there were 5 things I saw that will have me tuning into Jays games on a more regular basis the rest of the way.

1. The Young Ones

Moises Sierra has put up outstanding numbers thus far (.333 in 42 at bats). Granted this is based on a small sample size, but he looks very comfortable at the plate. Could he be the solution to the “perceived” hole the Jays have in left field? Is he the reason both Snider and Thames were dealt at the deadline for relief help? Either way, he’ll be fun to watch while he’s a member of the big club.

Anthony Gose is flat out fast. 9 stolen bases in 23 games is ridiculous… especially when you consider that he is sporting a .273 on base percentage. There is no question that his bat still needs work, but when he gets on base, he’s a sure threat to run.

Adeiny Hechavarria is a kid we’ve been hearing about for a couple of years now… especially when it comes to his glove. He’s played third base extremely well in the absence of Lawrie and it isn’t even his natural position. While Adeiny’s bat is also in need of some work (only 5 of 26 in 10 games), he’s made some outstanding plays in the field.

Aaron Loup has been a pleasant surprise coming out of the bullpen. He’s sporting a 2.50 ERA and 0.59 WHIP over 18 innings. He’s struck out 12 batters while only walking 1 and is holding opposing hitters to a .150 batting average. He is certainly giving John Farrell another consistent lefty to help
Darren Oliver get the tough lefties out late in games and his cross fire delivery makes it very difficult for lefties to pick up the baseball.

Given that the average age of these four players is 23, they represent the future and I certainly am curious to see what the future holds.


2. Power Surge 

What an outstanding year being put together by a player I would have been happy to see traded for a ham sandwich only 16 months ago. Now, Edwin Encarnacion’s chasing Adam Dunn and Josh Hamilton for the AL (and MLB) lead in homeruns. (34 to 31)

This has been a career year for Edwin who has already reached career highs in HRs (31), RBIs (82), and total bases (238) and is only 1 walk and 9 runs scored from setting career highs in those categories as well. He is the runaway favourite for team MVP in my opinion. He has been a solid hitter for the entire year and has proven to be a threat to go deep in every at bat. I think it would be great to see a Blue Jay lead the league in home runs for a third year in a row… and I plan on cheering him on the rest of the way.


3. League’s Top Thief

Two years ago, I was very energized to hear that Alex Anthopoulos had signed Rajai Davis. I thought we had finally found a leadoff hitter and consistent stolen base threat. My vision of that signing finally seems to be coming to fruition. With 38 stolen bases to this point in the season, Rajai is tied with rookie sensation Mike Trout. No Blue Jay has ever led the league in stolen bases and Rajai will certainly have a shot if he continues to get regular playing time between now and the end of the season.


4. The Return of Brandon Morrow

Brandon’s coming out party this year was a lot of fun to watch. After 13 starts, he was sporting an ERA of 3.01, a WHIP of 1.00, 67Ks in 77+ innings while issuing only 24 walks and seemed to be on the cusp of becoming a legitimate ace. Then, an oblique injury forced him to the disabled list on June 11th and we were left to consider what could have been.

He is close to returning to the Jays rotation and I am very excited to see him pick up where he has left off. His rehab starts have gone very well (4 starts, 1.72 ERA in 15+ innings and 14Ks) and he will receive a warm welcome back to the starting rotation. I’m sure his first start will come with a pitch count, but it will still be great to see him back with the big club.


5. The Future of our Current Rotation

Even with the struggles of both Ricky Romero and Henderson Alvarez, you would have to think that both of those guys will be in the starting rotation along with Brandon Morrow in 2013. But that cannot be said for the other three pitchers in the current starting rotation. Carlos Villanueva, Aaron Laffey and J.A. Happ have all displayed an ability to be a starting pitcher on a major league roster. However, Alex Anthopoulos has stated that he’s looking to upgrade the starting rotation this off season, meaning that each of these guys could be auditioning for a starting spot in 2013… it just may not be a spot in the Blue Jays rotation.

Since joining the rotation, Carlos has only given up 18 earned runs in 9 starts while striking out 54 and walking just 15. He’s stated that he wants to return to Toronto, but would prefer to be a starter rather
than a long reliever. If he continues pitching like this, I can’t see how Anthopoulos doesn’t give this guy a contract and an opportunity to be a starter in 2013 with Drabek and Hutchison both on the shelf. Does Villanueva continue to pitch well and give the GM something to think about?
When I first heard that Aaron Laffey was a Blue Jay, my first thought was, “Why? He’s no good!” And granted, he is not the best pitcher in the league, but he has been a serviceable starter. In his 10 starts, he’s pitched 58 innings with a record of 3-4 and an ERA of 4.97. He is arbitration eligible but I would think he is a long shot to return to the Blue Jays rotation. Does he present enough value that another team might become interested in his services?

J.A. Happ has been a pitcher I have rooted for since his great 2009 season in Philadelphia when he went 12-4 with a 2.93ERA. He has had three starts with Toronto since his trade from Houston and has gotten better with each start. His last start against Texas saw him pitch 6 innings, giving up only 1 run on 2 hits with 8 strikeouts. Happ is also arbitration eligible this off season and has stated his desire to be a starter. Do the Jays use him as a fifth starter? Does he become the long man in the bullpen?

There is no question that the Blue Jays will not be post season bound this year, but I’ve discovered there certainly are enough story lines to keep this Blue Jays fan interested until September? How about you?

Monday, July 30, 2012

Cliff Lee Isn't Going Anywhere!

It's that time of year again.  The MLB non-waiver trade deadline is fast approaching, and there have already been a number of trades consummated ahead of the deadline.  Among others, Detroit has added Anibal Sanchez and Omar Infante.  Ontario Native, catcher George Kottaras is headed to the Oakland Athletics, who somehow have become one of the hottest teams in baseball.  The Anaheim Angels bringing in Zack Greinke to an already potent rotation.  The Pittsburgh Pirates showing they're ready to make a push by adding Wandy Rodriguez.  Ichiro is a Yankee.  The White Sox, not yet ready to roll over to the Tigers, added Francisco Liriano yesterday.  Last week the Dodgers brought over Hanley Ramirez to bring the total amount of hitters in their lineup to two....  Last but not least, the Blue Jays kicked things off in a sense with Houston in a ten player deal that brought in J.A. Happ and Brandon Lyon. 

The deadline is tomorrow, Tuesday July 31 at 4pm, and you can bet that there is still a lot of movement to come before then.

After missing out on Greinke, I suspect that the Texas Rangers will still make a hard push to add an arm.  Perhaps James Shields, Josh Beckett, or maybe even Josh Johnson if they can make Miami an offer they can't turn down.  Atlanta is also looking to add an arm after missing out on a deal that was in place last week to acquire Canadian Ryan Dempster from the Cubs.  The Dodgers are still looking to add one more arm, and improve their offense in any way they can. (Let's face it....  It wouldn't take much to improve that offense)  The Athletics still want to add a middle infielder and have been linked to the Jays in talks regarding Yunel Escobar.  Toronto in turn is apparently interested in Brett Anderson, but as we know, if we've heard about it, it's probably not true.  The Silent Assassin works only in the shadows....

The latest rumors surfacing today center around Canadian  Justin Morneau.  The Giants, Dodgers, and Blue Jays are apparently interested in adding the first baseman.  He would be a fit on any of these three teams.  The best fit would of course be the Dodgers, but Blue Jays fans can hope right?

One team in particular I expect to be active ahead of the deadline is the Philadelphia Phillies.  The Phillies have performed well below expectations this year and after this weekend now find themselves 12.5 games out of a playoff spot.  They have pieces to move.  Shane Victorino is very likely going to be putting on a different shirt by the end of the week, as is Joe Blanton.  Both players are looking at becoming free agents following the 2012 campaign, and there is definitely a market for both of them.  Juan Pierre will likely be moved and Hunter Pence has become an interesting name as well.  He still has some time left on his deal, but despite this there are still some analysts around the industry who think there is a good chance that Philly will move him too.  There are a lot of teams who could use offensive outfielders right now.  (Again, I'm going to pick on the Dodgers.  Bobby Abreu is your starting LF?  Really?)

However There is one player in Philadelphia that I can tell you will definitely not move before tomorrow.  Despite numerous reports that the Phillies may be shopping him, I will tell you with great certainty, Cliff Lee is not going anywhere.  Frankly, I am sick and tired of hearing the Lee speculation.  There is no meat to this rumor.  At all.

Now, I get criticized for sometimes for not being opinionated enough on this blog, or sure of my self when I write.  Well, how is this for being opinionated and certain:  If Cliff Lee gets traded before tomorrow's non-waiver trade deadline, I will shave my head bald.  (and yes, I do still have a full head of hair, and will post pictures to prove it.)

Cliff Lee is absolutely not moving.

The Phillies have made it known that they still want to come into next season with Halladay, Lee and Hamels as their big three.  Now I realize that teams make this type of claim all of the time and then retract on it.  But this is different.  For some reason people have failed to remember why Lee signed in Philly in the first place, leaving a small fortune (to you and I anyway) on the table with the Yankees.  At the time of his free agency, Lee's son was in remission from Leukemia and Philadelphia apparently has the #1 children's hospital in the United States.  This was a huge factor in why Lee signed on for a second tour with the Phillies, and the reason I know that will keep him from approving a trade anywhere.  (Lee has a no-trade clause that allows him to submit a list of 21 teams the Phillies can not trade him to without his consent.)

Technically The Phillies can trade Lee to 8 teams whether they have his consent or not, but they won't.  When asked if he planned on keeping his expensive starting rotation in tact, Phillies GM Ruben Amaro Jr. responded by saying:  "Plans can change, but that's what the plan is right now." 


Plans won't change.  I'm betting the hair on my head that Lee will make his next scheduled start tomorrow night against Washington.  Three hours after the deadline has passed.


Who will move before tomorrow night?  Your guess is as good as mine.  I've given a few of my loose predictions on who will move before tomorrow.  Who do you think will be walking out of a new home clubhouse by the end of the week?  Please feel free to share your predictions in the comments section below.


Happy Trade Deadline!

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Happy All~Star Day!

 The annual All-Star game has arrived!  Even though there seems to be a lot of negativity towards all-star games in different professional sports, I still look forward to the Major League Baseball All~Star game every year.  Being a non-contact sport (or at least, most of the time non contact) I believe the Baseball mid-summer classic to be the most competitive of the all-star games, because players can go out and play hard yet still return to work for their respective clubs a few days later.  Anyone who says that these players don't care about winning doesn't actually watch these games.  Pitcher's are throwing their best stuff, players are running out ground balls, and fielders are chasing after balls and charging in on grounders.  I remember watching Grady Sizemore diving for a ball in extra innings a few years ago and I think we all remember Jose's feet first slide into the wall at last year's game.

Despite the fact that the game does count for something, (home field advantage in the World Series) I do understand why at times fans have trouble taking the game seriously.  I certainly do.  If it is really to be sold as a "competitive" game that counts for something, then shouldn't the best players play?  If you have a starting pitcher who is pitching well, don't you want to leave him in there for more than an inning or two?  Would the American League not have a better shot at winning if they were to let Verlander take the ball for as long as he is dominant tonight?  Shouldn't the best players be on the field for the majority of the game, rather than sitting them down half way through the contest in order to carry out the school yard mentality that everyone should get a chance to play?  Especially when baseball still has the unwritten rule that there should be a representative from every team, regardless of whether any players on that club are worthy or not.  If everyone does indeed get a chance to play, then at times there are guys who shouldn't even be at the game that will find their way onto the field.

If it were a real game and each league was genuinely concerned about home field advantage in the World Series, then I also think the team selection should be different.  I have come to realize that the fan vote is a part of the game that will never go away.  However when it comes to the reserve players, I believe that each league should have a say on who is on their team and not just leave the decisions up to the team's manager.  There should be some decision makers there from around the league to help in the final selection of each League's All Stars.  I'm not suggesting a representative from each of the 30 teams, but maybe someone from each of the top two teams in each division.  That gives you a selection committee of six people, who see every division between the six of them, to select the best players to represent that league and compete for home field advantage.

Staying on the subject of player selection, I would like to share a letter with you that was sent to me late last week.  It deals with the omission of Edwin Encarnacion on the American League roster.  This letter is written by a fan to Ron Washington, the manager of this year's American League squad.  I certainly agree with the opinion that there is no way Edwin should have been left out with the year he's having, but the rest of the opinions within the letter do not necessarily reflect those of myself.  I think the letter is both interesting and makes some valid points.  So I would like to share it with you.
 
A Letter to Ron Washington from a fan:

Dear Ron Washington,

First of all, let me congratulate you for taking your Texas Rangers to the World Series last season and as a result, earning the right to manage the American League All-Star team this season. Now that the Commissioner has placed home field advantage for the World Series as the prize for winning the All-Star game, this honour that you have earned, carries a significant weight for the entire American League. 

With this kind of reward available to you, I would think that you would choose to take the players who give you the best opportunity to win. After looking at the roster that you put together, I can’t help but think that you had a slightly different agenda. I found it very intriguing that 7 of your Rangers were chosen. This is almost twice as many representatives as the Yankees and Angels, who each have 4 representatives. And, if Yu Darvish wins the 34th roster spot via the fans’ final voting, you would have 8 of your players on the roster. I can’t help but think there’s a tad bit of favouritism involved in your selections. I certainly realize that Josh Hamilton, Adrian Beltre and Mike Napoli were voted to the game by the fans, but in addition to these players, you felt that Ian Kinsler, Elvis Andrus, Matt Harrison, and Joe Nathan were also deserving of All Star selections.

I cannot disagree with you on your selections of Andrus, Harrison or Nathan, as each of these players was near the top of their respective positions in terms of production. However, I think your professional relationship with Ian has clouded your judgement. Kinsler was hitting .276 with 9HR, 40RBI and 15SB while Jason Kipnis of the Indians was also hitting .276 but with 11HR, 49RBI and 20SB. Cleveland has only two representatives, why not give them a third? 

I’m also curious why you would not choose a player who was hitting .295, had scored 55 runs, hit 23 homeruns, had 58 RBIS and stolen 9 bases? Of course, I’m speaking of Edwin Encarnacion. Instead, you felt that Billy Butler and Adam Dunn were more deserving of selection for the DH spots. Butler was hitting .293 with 31 R, 16HR, 48RBI and 1 SB while Dunn was hitting .210 with 57 R, 24HR, 58RBI and 0 SB. Granted, you’re obligated to follow the unwritten rule of having one member from every team in the league, so I understand the selection of Billy Butler. Plus, with Butler being a member of the hosting Royals, it’s a very smart PR move. The selection of Dunn gives you a less consistent hitter with a slightly bigger bat. It also handcuffs you slightly on the defensive side as Dunn would only be an option at 1B and DH while Edwin could play those positions as well as 3B and LF for you, should the need arise.

But, who am I to question the opinion of a major league manager who has taken his team to the World Series two years in a row? Your logic makes no sense to me other than to make sure your players are the ones who are recognized instead of players who are more deserving. For your sake, I hope you win the All Star game and make my opinion a mute one. If you don’t, maybe next time you could look outside your own clubhouse.

Sincerely, 

A Common Baseball Fan


Feel free to give your opinion on this letter, or on the all-star game in general below in the comments section. 

I hope you all enjoy the game this evening!

Thursday, May 31, 2012

Is Pitching Really the Problem?


Like many of you, after watching the performance of 3 of our starting pitchers this weekend against what I consider the most complete lineup in all of baseball, I am very disappointed with the results turned in by our starting rotation.  Morrow gives up 6 runs and doesn’t make it out of the first inning, Alvarez gives up back-to-back-to-back homeruns and Drabek allows 9 runs on 8 hits over three innings… it stings a little bit right now to just think about the games this weekend. 

However, after taking some time to digest everything, I’m feeling more optimistic about things than I did this afternoon.  In reviewing the first 45 games of this season, I have to say that the Blue Jays have played a lot of very entertaining baseball.  As frustrating as they’ve been at times, I have been impressed with the Blue Jays starting rotation so far this season.  With so many young arms in the rotation, some experts and Blue Jays fans were very nervous about the likely success of this year’s staff.  But, they are putting up numbers that should leave many of us feeling very excited about what this group of pitchers is capable of.  Let’s take a look at their statistics as of May 27th 


Ricky Romero         5-1, 3.86ERA, 1.30WHIP, 65.1 INN, 48H, 28ER, 6HR, 37BB, 49K, .208avg against
 
Brandon Morrow     5-2, 2.63ERA, 0.96WHIP, 61.2 INN, 42H, 18ER, 7HR, 17BB, 54K, .192avg against

Henderson Alvarez  3-4, 3.30ERA, 1.23WHIP, 60.0 INN, 59H, 22ER, 8HR, 15BB, 18K, .258avg against

Kyle Drabek           4-4, 3.27ERA, 1.43WHIP, 52.1 INN, 41H, 19ER, 7HR, 34BB, 41K, .217avg against

Drew Hutchison      3-2, 5.73ERA, 1.54WHIP, 37.2INN, 44H, 24ER, 5HR, 14BB, 27K, .286avg against


How can you not be excited about those numbers?  Remember, Romero and Morrow, the veterans of this staff, are just 27, Drabek is 24, Alvarez is 22 and Hutchison is only 21.  When you take that into consideration and see that the Jays are 4th in the AL East and only 5 games behind Baltimore and Tampa Bay, you have to give them some credit.  At the start of the year, Brett Cecil and Dustin McGowan were supposed to be in the rotation; instead we have Kyle and Drew pitching in their place, both of whom have little Major League experience and are pitching in Toronto sooner than they should be.

When you view the staff as a whole, there is no question that the number of walks and home runs allowed is ridiculously high… their command has been downright awful at times.  But when I look at the ERA, WHIP and batting average against categories, I love what I’m seeing.  Romero hasn’t had a “complete” game all season where all of his pitches are working at the same time, and in his last couple of starts his command has all but disappeared.  However, with all of that, his numbers are still good.  Morrow has been close to lights out in his last five of his last 6 starts, having decreased his walk rate and throwing two complete game shutouts.  I hope that this is the pitcher we get to more consistently for the rest of this season.  (Forgetting of course his last appearance in Texas)  Alvarez is also pitching very well and I love the fact that he doesn’t show much emotion whether he is ahead or behind on the scoreboard.  His strikeout rate has decreased from last year, but the focus of the coaching staff this year has been to pitch to contact, so this decrease is to be somewhat expected.  Drabek’s numbers are encouraging, although he still hasn’t figured out how to find the strike zone consistently.  The walk really has been his Achilles heel in his major league career so far, but I see a pitcher who is more willing to listen to those around him and who is developing a fighting nature rather than thinking he can just overpower hitters to get them out.  There’s no question that Drew's got some work to do, but only 37 innings into his big league career, I'm not terribly upset about his numbers.  There’s still a lot of time for him to improve on his craft. 

Now… just to give everyone some food for thought, I’ve decided to take a look at the other starting rotations in the AL East and compare them to the Jays.   (all stats as of May 27th , 2012)

New York Yankees

C.C Sabathia   5-2, 3.78ERA, 1.21WHIP, 64.1 INN, 59H, 27ER, 8HR, 19BB, 65K, .239avg against
Ivan Nova       4-2, 5.69ERA, 1.65WHIP, 49.0 INN, 65H, 31ER, 10HR, 16BB, 52K, .322avg against
Hiroki Kuroda  3-6, 4.56ERA, 1.48WHIP, 53.1 INN, 59H, 27ER, 10HR, 20BB, 34K, .281avg against
Phillip Hughes  4-5, 4.94ERA, 1.37WHIP, 47.1 INN, 52H, 26ER, 11HR, 13BB, 46K, .267avg against
Andy Pettitte   1-1, 2.51ERA, 1.05WHIP, 14.1 INN, 11H, 4ER, 2HR, 4BB, 11K, .220avg against


Boston Red Sox
Jon Lester       3-3, 3.95ERA, 1.30WHIP, 57.0 INN, 55H, 25ER, 4HR, 19BB, 37K, .256avg against
Josh Beckett    4-4, 4.38ERA, 1.28WHIP, 49.1 INN, 48H, 24ER, 9HR, 15BB, 40K, .251avg against
Clay Buchholz  4-2, 7.84ERA, 1.91WHIP, 49.1 INN, 67H, 43ER, 11HR, 27BB, 27K, .330avg against
Felix Doubront  4-2, 3.96ERA, 1.42WHIP, 50.0 INN, 48H, 22ER, 4HR, 23BB, 53K, .247avg against
Daniel Bard      4-5, 4.69ERA, 1.56WHIP, 48.0 INN, 46H, 25ER, 3HR, 29BB, 28K, .261avg against



Tampa Bay Rays

David Price          6-3, 2.88ERA, 1.21WHIP, 59.1 INN, 54H, 19ER, 5HR, 18BB, 52K, .242avg against
James Shields      6-2, 3.63ERA, 1.27WHIP, 67.0 INN, 64H, 27ER, 9HR, 21BB, 66K, .249avg against
Jeremy Hellickson 4-1, 2.73ERA, 1.23WHIP, 56.0 INN, 50H, 17ER, 9HR, 19BB, 38K, .236avg against
Matt Moore          1-4, 5.07ERA, 1.57WHIP, 49.2 INN, 51H, 28ER, 8HR, 27BB, 48K, .264avg against
Jeff Niemann       2-3, 3.38ERA, 1.18WHIP, 34.2 INN, 29H, 13ER, 2HR, 12BB, 30K, .221avg against



Baltimore Orioles

Jason Hammel     5-1, 3.12ERA, 1.14WHIP, 49.0 INN, 40H, 17ER, 3HR, 16BB, 46K, .222avg against
Jake Arrieta         2-5, 4.87ERA, 1.28WHIP, 61.0 INN, 62H, 33ER, 9HR, 16BB, 53K, .264avg against
Tommy Hunter    2-2, 5.07ERA, 1.35WHIP, 55.0 INN, 60H, 31ER, 11HR, 14BB, 31K, .284avg against 
Wei-Yin Chen      4-1, 3.35ERA, 1.32WHIP, 48.1 INN, 47H, 18ER, 5HR, 17BB, 37K, .249avg against
Brian Matusz       4-4, 4.86ERA, 1.54WHIP, 50.0 INN, 58H, 27ER, 6HR, 19BB, 38K, .287avg against


I would say they have easily performed better than both the Yankee and Red Sox rotations to this point.  The top 4 Blue Jays starters have lower ERAs than all but two of the Yankee or Red Sox starters and the top 4 have lower WHIPs than all but 4 of those starters.  (I’m not including Pettitte in that last statement as he has only had 3 starts to this point).

When it comes to the Rays and Orioles starters, the statistics are closer.  The Rays’ staff has been more consistent top to bottom than the Jays staff.  That said, the Jays are allowing less hits than the Rays staff (248 to 234) and as a result have a lower batting average against.  On the flip side, the Jays starters have allowed more walks than the Rays (117 to 97).  If the Jays’ starters could find the strike zone more consistently, the discrepancy in walks would decrease.
 The Orioles staff is led by Hammel who, with a new found sinker, is off to a great start.  Only he and Chen have better numbers than any of the top 4 Jays pitchers. 

At this point in the season, I would give the edge to the Rays’ rotation based on their consistency from 1 through 5, followed (in order) by the Jays and Orioles, Yankees and Red Sox.  Any way you try to break down these numbers, I can’t agree with anyone’s opinion that puts the Jays’ starters worse than 2nd in the division.

After looking at these numbers, there is no way I can be disappointed with the rotation.  If anything, I would say that they have been leading the way for the Blue Jays so far this season.  They had a bad weekend.  What pitching staff doesn’t?

New Contributor to North Side!

In an effort to broaden our horizon a little, and hopefully to help me keep this blog up to date on a more regular basis as well, we are happy to introduce a new contributor to the North Side.  Andrew has joined us and hopefully will bring another perspective to our readers.  Andrew is a huge baseball fan and Blue Jays supporter.

Hope you enjoy what he has to say!