Game 92: Boston at Toronto pregame

UpsetJays.jpgSo, what has happened to these Blue Jays?

From the cream of the American League crop to flirting with the cellar in baseball’s toughest division, all in a matter of two months.

Seeing as it’s a slow news day here at the Dome — David Dellucci day-to-day after X-rays came back negative on his left foot and Vernon Wells still sick and out of the lineup — it seems appropriate to take some time to compare Toronto’s hot start to its prolonged skid.

Really, it’s a tale of two seasons: Before the nine-game losing streak and after the nine-game losing streak.

Prior to that skid, the Blue Jays were 27-14 and in first place in the East by 3.5 games. They jumped out of the gates with a strong offense (.289/.358/.463 with 1.2 HR/G, 5.7 R/G, 10.3 H/G) and decent pitching (3.85 ERA with 6.9 K/G, 3.1 BB/G).

In the 50 games since then, the Blue Jays have gone 17-33 and now sit in fourth place in the East, 12 games back of the Red Sox. The pitching has had its share of issues — injuries, tired bullpen, inexperience — and it has shown (4.59 ERA, 7.5 K/G, 3.6 BB/G). The offense, with a revolving door in left field, and subpar showings from Vernon Wells, Alex Rios, has slumped to the tune of .255/.318/.403 with 1.0 HR/G, 4.1 R/G, 9.0 H/G.

Has schedule played a role? Early on, it was hard to really know what to make of the Blue Jays’ hot start due to the fact that it primarily played the AL West and Central while running to first place in the East. It looks like there may have been something to that after all.

Consider that in Toronto’s first 41 games — before that nine-game slide at the end of May — the team played only six games against division rivals. In the last 50 games, the Jays have played 23 games against the East (5-18), 18 games against the National League (7-11) and nine against other AL divisions (5-4).

The way things have been going of late, the Blue Jays should simply be aiming to finish this season with a winning record. I guess the thing for Toronto fans to keep in mind is — despite the team’s hot start — the Blue Jays were widely predicted to be a fourth-place team this season.

Today’s lineups:

Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for RedSox.gifBOSTON RED SOX (55-34)
First place AL East, — GB

1. J.D. Drew, RF
2. Dustin Pedroia, 2B
3. Kevin Youkilis, 1B
4. David Ortiz, DH
5. Jason Bay, LF
6. Mike Lowell, 3B
7. Rocco Baldelli, CF
8. Jed Lowrie, SS
9. George Kottaras, C

Starter: RHP Brad Penny (6-3, 4.71)

Thumbnail image for BlueJays.jpgTORONTO BLUE JAYS (44-47)
Fourth place AL East, 12.0 GB

1. Marco Scutaro, SS
2. Aaron Hill, 2B
3. Adam Lind, LF
4. Scott Rolen, 3B
5. Lyle Overbay, 1B
6. Alex Rios, CF
7. Kevin Millar, DH
8. Jose Bautista, RF
9. Raul Chavez, C

Starter: LHP Marc Rzepczynski (0-1, 3.00)

Don’t forget, you can follow me on Twitter: @MLBastian

~JB

20 Comments

Nice win for Rzepczynsk , he pitched well . He had a few hiccups but managed to get out of them , giving up only 4 hits . He made the Sox potent line-up look anemic

Great to see the Jays’ bats come alive also . Tomorrow should be an interesting game , Halladay vs Lester . Thank goodness no “cheesy” Redsox announcers.

I like how Rzepczynsk doesn’t panic with runners on base, whether he makes it as a starter or not, time will tell, but if he doesn’t he’ll make a huge addition to the pen.

Another golden performance by Millar, who’s hit .218 in May, .200 in June and a nifty .182 in July and that would be a real strong .167 for the year against right handed pitching.

Of course our other hero Delucci is now hitting .043/.154/.087. Thank God that pitch hit him on the foot yesterday; that kind of slg. from our left handed power bat is downright embarrassing for Blue Jays fans in front of those Red Sox fans at this series who out number us at this series.

So, in the meantime we have guys like Snider, Randy Ruiz and Brian Dopirak in Vegas. Although, I can understand not bringing up Dopirak until he has more at bats in Vegas in spite of the fact he’ll hit circles around Millar, there is no excuse as to why we’re not calling up Snider and Ruiz now.

One other game point. Great hit by Bautista with a 2 out, 2 strike double to drive in a pair. Seems like two months since we saw a clutch hit like that, let’s hope we see more.

Seems like the ‘Zepper’ is the most polished of the young pitchers. Throws any pitch in any count for strikes. He even threw the curve today for stirkes which is his 4th best pitch. He uses the curve to really keep the hitters of balance with respect to his slider.

Cecil relies more on 2 pitches his fastball and slider. He will throw the occasional change and rarely a curve but if he could ever throw those occasionally with effectiveness he could be real good.

Mills reminds me of the ‘Zepper’ just needs to keep his fastball and change down to be less hittable. With experience he will mature and improve.

Dopirak reminds of of Richmond (just a hitter)… younger than their true age… in Richmond’s case due to his circimstance… in Dopirak’s due to the foot injury. I think Dopirak is brought up in September as a test for next year and the year after.

Not sure if they should bring up Snider right now just because of confidence issues for the future but I think Buck Coats could be a good 4th/5th outfielder… good defence and can play any outfield postion with some speed. Also, could play infield in emergencies.

The thought I had though was about Purcey. Might be time to try him as a reliever (specifically a closer). Could throw as hard as he wants without respect to stamina… might lead to more strikes (might not)… has got the stuff and would focus him more on 2 pitches and less on 4. Not sure if he has a future as a starter especially with his perfornamnce in AAA so far. Any thoughts?

Snider, Dopirak, and Ruiz: the Jays won’t promote these guys until there is a chance for them to get consistent at bats with the big club. In Snider’s case, he is only hitting .220 against right handed pitching (.316 against lefties, strangely enough). They will want him to hit well against both left and right handers before he comes up so they don’t have to platoon him.

Purcey’s problem right now is control, which is just as important for a reliever as a starter. I still believe there is a no-hitter in that arm somewhere–he just needs to work on a few things, and learn how to pitch instead of throw. If you can get 200+ innings out of an arm like that rather than 60-70 as a reliever, you can see the advantage. I certainly think it is worth the extra work, and the wait for him to come around.

I think the Jay’s great start this year may be attributed to several things aside from the weak opponents they faced: First, anybody can hit in April before the pitcher’s arms get toughened up and they round into mid-season form. Second, we started the year with some rookie pitchers that nobody had faced before, and the advantage goes to the pitcher in the first meeting. Once they had started 3-4 games and there was enough scouting and video, they were in tough. Third, once they learned to pitch to Snider and he failed to adjust, and with the lack of production from Wells and Rios, there was a huge hole from the RBI guys in the centre of the lineup. It’s a credit to Cito and his staff that they haven’t just mailed it in.

Very strange: this season with the Jays, Travis Snider hit .313 against lefties, and only .229 against righties, and he is doing the same in Las Vegas. So how come they platooned him with Millar?

How good is Scott Rolen? Both he and Hill made a couple of amazing, how did they do that type stops yesterday to save Rzepczynski’s bacon. We forget that without the great gloves on D, even Doc wouldn’t be as good as he is. (So stick around, Doc, we got your back.)

yerouttaheah

I think Snider’s results in AAA are skewed because he played a number of games hurt when he first went down. But two things are true-he is hitting left handers, and he is walking more. He’s also hitting home runs, which is difficult to do in Vegas because center field is 433 feet and the average game time temperature is like 108.

After last nights game in Vegas I would bring up Dopirak instead of Ruiz. Dopirak came up last night, bottom of the 10th, game tied, bases loaded with one out, and hit a walk off sacrifice fly to win the game. Dopirak has been a strong clutch hitter the last couple of years and appears AAA is no different for him than AA.

My point on these two kids is two fold, one neither Millar nor Delucci will be here next year and are playing awful, so why keep them. Two, clearly we’re not going to contend this year and probably next year, so we should bring the potential kids up, let them play and see what we got sooner than later. Besides I have full faith in our coaching here with Cito, Butterfield and Tennace to round these kids faster than they could in AAA.

Thanks for the stats, Jordan. Lest we forget, the outlook for the Jays was dismal pre-season with our starting pitching situation. The incredible first couple of months gave everybody unrealistic expectations. All my AL East buddies kept saying wait til you play us – and unfortunately we dropped back to Earth and the AL East in June. OTH, how can we not appreciate the rookies we have seen pitching and the Cito leadership? Watching him on my free trial MLB TV, I don’t know how he stays so calm. Truely a great leader. I loved seeing him in Dunedin at ST a couple of years ago and now I like seeing him on MLB. Go Jays ! Keep Doc, fire J.P. !

The Halladay Fiasco

Frankly, I’d be surprised if Roy Halladay wasn’t superbly pissed with Riccardi for blasting his potential trade all over the press. To start an All-Star game is a really privilege, and it’s damn unfortunate Roy had to spend most of his time talking to he press about being traded instead of just enjoying the moment.
The point is all Riccardi had to do was make phone calls to other GM’s suggesting Roy would be available for the right offer, talking to the press and creating a public fiasco simply underscores just how incompetent Riccardi really is.

The only good news on this mess, is Beeston has figured Riccardi out, and is now talking to Halladay directly, thank goodness for that. I’d also expect Beeston is in on any and every trade discussion regarding Halladay, so if anything does happen, he’s the decision maker not Riccardi.

That being said, if there is a trade for Halladay, I’d still like to see us explore a trade with the Brewers for Matt Gamel and Alcides Escobar. Escobar could become an all-star short stop and a good lead off hitter, while Gamel could be that power hitting 3rd baseman we need. A combination of those two, with Hill and Dopirak, and our infield is set for quite some time with all-star potential at each position.

I agree Purceys problem is control. What I am thinking is that facing 3 batters instead of 20+ might have a positive effect. Also, I could be wrong but I believe this is Purcey’s 3rd year on the 40-man so if he doesn’t make the team out of camp next year he will be exposed to waivers and we could lose him for nothing. Personally, I don’t think he will make the team next year as a starter as a number of pitchers seem to have surpassed him on the depth chart.

I think Halladay ONLY gets traded if a perfect monster deal comes along. A lot of teams (i.e. ChiA with Beckham, Mil with Gamel and Escobar, StL with Wallace) seem to be saying their top prospects are ‘untouchable’ which just won’t get a deal done.

Home run power is over rated gsjays. Consider that the 1992-93 Jays never hit more than 163 home runs in a season, and last year, the Yankees hit 180 and missed the playoffs. The past few years, teams with a bunch of big boppers on staff have lost in the playoffs to teams with good pitching and defense. I would rather see a team drive the ball to the gaps, hit for average, and score runs with speed and timely hitting. You can also consider the Japanese National Team that doesn’t hit a lot of homers, but has been able to win the WBC quite handily the last 2 times.
And we have a 3rd baseman that is hitting over .300 with extra base power that should have started the all star game, saves a bunch of runs with his glove and you want to ditch him because he has only hit 6 home runs? I am glad you are not the GM.

A hard throwing lefty in the bullpen would be welcome, but throwing strikes is even more important, because many times he would come into the game with runners in scoring position, and could not afford to walk anybody. If Purcey can regain his command, then you would get more innings out of him as a starter, and if he can’t, then there wouldn’t be a spot for him anywhere, and somebody else can try to fix him.
I think a lot of Purcey’s problems are mental. From what I have seen, he gets amped up and tries to overthrow, whereas he should watch some Mike Mussina film. Mike was always tougher with runners on base, because when he got in trouble, he would take a bit off his pitches. His pitches would have more movement and better location.

With a power arm like Purcey, you need to have a bit more patience, because it seems to take longer to harness the power. I think back to Esteban Louiza and Kelvim Escobar, both of whom the Jays gave up on, and who eventually developed into pretty good pitchers. When you look at a couple of the gems he threw last fall, you cannot help but feel there is a no-hitter in there somewhere.
As far as options go, I don’t intend to make my head hurt trying to understand all the ins and outs of major and minor league roster changes but I imagine that’s one of the reasons they haven’t called him up in the middle of the season again.

yerouttaheah

You’re forgetting a couple of things about Rolen. First, he’s 34 years old and by the time we seriously compete he will be 3-4 years older and too old and too brittle. The other thing you forget is his contract runs out in 2010 and I don’t think it makes a lot of sense to resign a 36 year old injury prone 3rd baseman.

The most important thing though, is look at the 3 teams ahead of us in the AL East. All 3 of them have strong power hitting 3rd baseman who are key to their success. Albeit it Longoria, A-Rod or Lowell, they all hit for power and more importantly all drive in a lot of runs-something Rolen is not doing. So although home runs don’t win it all, its clear that position is a power position, has been for a long time and will likely continue to be, along with 1st base.

That being said, of all the guys that need to be dumped on this team in order to re-tool to compete again, Rolen, in my view would be the last one to trade, since he does add a veteran example-and a good one.

The only reason Purcey hasn’t been called back up is because he’s erratic. His starts are either brilliant, mediocre or disastrous. As an example, in his last 6 starts hes given up either 0,1,2,3,4 or 9 earned runs in anywhere from 2.1 innings to 7.
In those same 6 starts he’s walked 3,3,3,3,4 and 6. He’s walked 52 in87.2 innings pitched ,s o it looks like its improving and then he walks 6.

It’s hard to see what the issue is. Last night he gave up a run in the first inning, then settled in and put zeros up for the 2nd or 3rd, and then gave up 3 in the 4th, and then put zeros up for the 5th and 6th. He ended up walking 3 but gave up 8 hits of which 3 or 4 were back to back in the 3rd inning.

My feeling on him is two fold, first no way Purcey would ever be a reliever, his control is not good enough and probably never will be. Second, the real issue for Purcey is the same as it was before, get the walks down. In that league the hits are higher than anywhere else, so I think we can expect his era there to be higher than normal, BUT no way he survives up here with walking as many guys as he does.

He really needs to get these walks under control this year, since he’s already 27 and running out of time, or he might be permanently delegated as a AA and AAA pitcher.

I agree with you on your points on Purcey. Just think change might be good for him before he becomes wasted potential. With his control problems a move to the ‘pen might be beneficial because he could focus less on a 4 pitch aresenal and more on a 2 pitch aresnal. Sometimes narrowing the field relieves pressure.

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