June 2010

Chess Match: Game 58

Breaking down a key moment in Sunday’s 4-3 loss to the Yankees…

The situation: Jason Frasor is on the mound for the Blue Jays, who are caught in a 2-2 tie with the Yankees with two outs and runners on second and third base. Blue Jays manager Cito Gaston heads to the mound and asked Frasor if he wants to intentionally walk Robinson Cano, bringing Jorge Posada to the plate, or if the pitchers wants to face him. 

The decision: Frasor indicates that he wants to face Cano.

The outcome: Cano sends a pitch into left field for a single that scores two runs, giving the Yankees a 4-2 lead. The second runner to cross the plate is Mark Teixeira, who was intentionally walked earlier in the inning. The Jays escape further harm, and plate one run in the home half of the eighth, but the damage had been done.

The analysis: This situation came down to Frasor vs. Cano or Frasor vs. Posada. Overall, Cano had gone 3-for-11 with a double against the Blue Jays right-hander. Posada was 3-for-11 with two home runs against Frasor. With such a similar sample size, this was more of a comfort call than a numbers call.

Over the past three years, Frasor had held Cano to one hit in five meetings, whereas Posada was 2-for-2 with a home run. After the game, Frasor said he felt like he’d had more success against Cano recently, so that’s why he opted to face the Yankees second baseman. Cano entered the game hitting .356.

Earlier in the inning, it was Gaston’s decision to intentionally walk Teixeira with runners on second and third base and the Jays clinging to a 2-1 lead with one out. The reasoning behind that move was to set up a potentil inning-ending double play. Frasor wound up striking out Alex Rodriguez, but not before a wild pitch allowed the game’s tying run to score.

The comments:

He asked me who I wanted to face. Which All-Star do I want to face? I don’t know. I just felt comfortable with Cano right there. I think I’ve had a little more success with Cano, as of late anyways. I guess I chose wrong. It was a heater in. I thought it was going to be caught — I really did. He was supposed to hit it a little further, you know? It was supposed to go right into the glove. I think it was a good pitch, man. It wasn’t one where he could drive it, but he’s a great hitter and the damage was done.” — Frasor

Most of the time, I give the guys their choice. I think it’s better that way. Sometimes I don’t, but most of the time I do. To me, it’s just like I tell catchers all the time, ‘Don’t make a guy throw a pitch he doesn’t want to throw. Don’t make him do that.’ If I make him pitch to somebody that he’d rather not pitch to, he’d rather pitch to someone else, it’s the same thing to me. As an ex player, I know it’s that way that if you have confidence that you can get this guy out, you go with it. I know the numbers are better, but he felt like he could get him out. Of course, it looked like he hit a pretty good pitch.” — Gaston

My verdict: It was easy during the game to wonder why Cito would call for Frasor to pitch to Cano, especially with an intentional walk used earlier in the inning. It also made some sense in this situation, too. But, after learning that it was Frasor’s decision, it takes on a different light. I might have called for the intentional walk to set up a force out any any base. Then again, I might have had Frasor pitch to Teixeira, who was 0-for-6 against the righty in his career and just 3-for-24 this month, rather than giving A-Rod a chance to blow things open with the bases loaded. In the end, though, Cano’s at-bat proved more critical.

NOTE: I am flying to Colorado on Monday to spend a few days off with family, so I will not be in Florida to cover the Blue Jays’ series against the Rays. I will be covering Day 1 of the Draft on Monday night and then will tweet, blog and write from Colorado and San Diego later on the road trip. Stay tuned…

~JB

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Game 58 lineups: Yankees at Jays

NEW YORK AT TORONTO
at 1:07 p.m. ET, Rogers Centre

Thumbnail image for Yankees.jpgYANKEES (34-22, 2.0 GB)
1. Derek Jeter, SS
2. Nick Swisher, RF
3. Mark Teixeira, 1B
4. Alex Rodriguez, 3B
5. Robinson Cano, 2B
6. Jorge Posada, DH
7. Curtis Granderson, CF
8. Francisco Cervelli, C
9. Brett Gardner, LF

Pitching: Javier Vazquez (4-5, 6.06)

Tlogo.gifBLUE JAYS (33-24, 3.5 GB)
1. Fred Lewis, LF
2. Aaron Hill, 2B
3. Adam Lind, DH
4. Vernon Wells, CF
5. Jose Bautista, 3B
6. Alex Gonzalez, SS
7. Lyle Overbay, 1B
8. Jeremy Reed, RF
9. Jose Molina, C

Pitching: Brandon Morrow (4-4, 6.00)

~JB

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Game 57 lineups: Yankees at Jays

NEW YORK AT TORONTO
at 1:07 p.m. ET, Rogers Centre

Thumbnail image for Yankees.jpgYANKEES (34-20, 2.0 GB)
1. Derek Jeter, SS
2. Nick Swisher, RF
3. Mark Teixeira, 1B
4. Alex Rodriguez, 3B
5. Robinson Cano, 2B
6. Jorge Posada, DH
7. Francisco Cervelli, C
8. Brett Gardner, CF
9. Kevin Russo, LF

Pitching: Andy Pettitte (7-1, 2.48)

Tlogo.gifBLUE JAYS (32-24, 4.5 GB)
1. Fred Lewis, LF
2. Aaron Hill, 2B
3. Adam Lind, DH
4. Vernon Wells, CF
5. Jose Bautista, RF
6. Alex Gonzalez, SS
7. Lyle Overbay, 1B
8. John Buck, C
9. Edwin Encarnacion, 3B

Pitching: Ricky Romero (5-2, 3.14)

~JB

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Game 56 lineups: Yankees at Jays

NEW YORK AT TORONTO
at 7:07 p.m. ET, Rogers Centre


Thumbnail image for Yankees.jpgYANKEES (34-20, 2.0 GB)

1. Derek Jeter, SS
2. Nick Swisher, RF
3. Mark Teixeira, 1B
4. Alex Rodriguez, 3B
5. Robinson Cano, 2B
6. Jorge Posada, DH
7. Marcus Thames, LF
8. Curtis Granderson, CF
9. Chad Moeller, C

Pitching: A.J. Burnett (6-2, 3.28)

Tlogo.gifBLUE JAYS (31-24, 5.5 GB)
1. Fred Lewis, LF
2. Aaron Hill, 2B
3. Adam Lind, DH
4. Vernon Wells, CF
5. Jose Bautista, RF
6. Alex Gonzalez, SS
7. Lyle Overbay, 1B
8. John Buck, C
9. Edwin Encarnacion, 3B

Pitching: Brett Cecil (5-2, 3.81)

~JB

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Tinnish discusses the Draft

Tinnish.jpgMajor League Baseball’s First-Year Player Draft begins on Monday with the first round and first compensation round being completed on the opening day of selections. The Blue Jays make their first pick at No. 11 and boast eight picks among the first 100 overall.

Andrew Tinnish, the Blue Jays director of amateur scouting, will be overseeing the Draft for the first time, working under the direction of general manager Alex Anthopoulos. Tinnish discussed the upcoming Draft with reporters on Wednesday afternoon at the Rogers Centre.

Here is a transcript of most of the question and answer session:

Reporter: Have you been getting much sleep lately?

Tinnish: Not much. Maybe four or five hours. We’ve been starting pretty early — 7 a.m. meetings. The last probably month or so has been a grind, bouncing around game to game. You’re not really in one place for longer than a day. It’s more picking out the players that you need to see toward the end.

Reporter: How is this year different for you?

Tinnish: For me, specifically, it’s obviously a lot different just because of the role. As far as the Draft itself, I think every year has its strengths and weaknesses. This year, for me, I think it’s pitching heavy, especially at the high school level. But, certainly, it’s a different approach maybe this year than we’ve had in other years because we have so many picks. Nine picks in the top three rounds. In years past, we’d have a first round pick and maybe we lost a second and a third, you can eliminate probably 20 or 30 players that you don’t really need to scout. This year, everyone is in play.

Reporter: You also have more scouts this year than you’ve had for a long time. Does that present any challenges in your position?

Tinnish: I think the benefits and the plusses far outweigh the challenges. I think if we didn’t have our regional crosschecking system in place, there would be some challenges. The way it’s set up right now, we have 25 area scouts with five regional cross checkers overseeing five area scouts [each]. In a lot of cases, they’re direct line to the office is through their regional scout. We talk to them a lot, but we’re getting more coverage than we’ve ever gotten, obviously. You have basically twice the man power that we had in the past. The most important thing for us is that our guys are getting more looks at the best players. So they walk into the Draft room hopefully with more conviction of the player. Instead of seeing the player two or three times, they see the player five or six times.

Reporter: You mentioned the strength of high school pitching. That’s something that in early rounds this organization has steered away from in recent years. Is that something where you guys might have a shift in philosophy?

Tinnish: Yeah. I think Alex’s philosophy and my philosophy, it’s basically the same. We’re open-minded to any player. We’re basically going to line our board up bases on ability and take the best players available regardless of whether it’s a college shortstop or a high school right-handed pitcher. From our perspective, we don’t want to pass on talent.

Reporter: You said it’s different for you this year. How so?

Tinnish: Number one, it’s more exciting. I mean, I felt like I had an impact before in the role that I was in [as assistant scouting director], but obviously it’s a greater impact. It’s greater accountability and responsibility, but at the same time I enjoy that. I have an opportunity to see more players than I’ve ever seen. In the past, my role was maybe 50-50 office and out evaluating players, where now it’s basically 100 percent out evaluating players. The travel is extensive, obviously, but it’s exciting because you’re out every day seeing a good player. Really, I’m trying to see the top guys because of all the picks we have at the top. I’m trying to, as best I can, see players that we’re going to consider in, let’s say, the top three rounds. So every day you’re out there seeing good ballplayers.

Reporter: Alex has said that the way to rebuild the organization is through the high-end picks. How do you do that and are their risks involved?

Tinnish: Absolutely. I think with any player in the Draft there is risk. This isn’t the NBA or the NFL, where you’re drafting a player who’s Major League ready. There’s a lot more challenges in this sport to get to the highest level. Obviously, there are exceptions. There are guys like [Mike] Leake and [Drew] Storen and on June 8 [Stephen] Strasburg will be making his debut just coming out of their Draft. But, as far as upside, there’s risk. But, as far as college players, there’s risk, too. The way we look at it is we’ll take a risk on a player that we feel has a chance to be a star. Maybe it’s a 20-percent chance to be a star versus a 75-percent chance of another player being an everyday player. The everyday player on our scale, which is the 50s and 55s in the system we use, those players are easier to get in trades or through free agency or Minor League free agency. The players who are 70s and 80s are a lot tougher to get. I’m not saying they’re out there, but that’s what we’re shooting for.

Reporter: Having more scouts, and the way you set it up, is that to help reduce the risk?

Tinnish: I hope so. I think for me it goes without saying, and I’m sure you guys feel the same way, the more you see a player, whether it’s in high school or here in the big leagues, the more comfortable you get with that player. We have a running log of how many games or innings pitched or plate appearances we’ve seen with a lot of these guys. I certainly have more comfort with a player I’ve seen 20 at-bats versus 10 at-bats. The more you watch, the more you bear down, the more answers you get on a player. Having more scouts gives us, I think we have a little bit of an advantage just as far as mass looks.

Reporter: Are there ways to find out a little bit more about the players off the field?

Tinnish: Makeup for us is huge. Talent is definitely number one for us, but the quality of the person, the character and the makeup, is very important as well. We grade players on their work ethic, their competitiveness and their off-field makeup. A lot of work goes into it. Mostly in the offseason, but certainly during the year as well. Our scouts are contacting summer coaches, coaches, teachers, teammates, things like that. At the end of the day, you have to make the decision yourself on what you see with your eyes and talking with the player, meeting with the player. But at the same time you take pieces of information from other people as well. Some guys will trick you, but we do our best to come up with the best possible decision.

Reporter: Is it tempting to alter your strategy at all because of  the high volume of early picks?

Tinnish: It’s probably a little easier to say, hey, we’re going to take a chance on this guy and that guy and that guy, because we have nine picks in the top three rounds. But, I would hope going forward that we would continue to pick that way. I guess, for me, if a guy’s ceiling is a 55 everyday player, and that’s a good player, and it’s high probability that he gets to that, to me that’s almost a risk in itself because you’re not saying that you’re getting an All-Star caliber player. These guys don’t grow on trees — it’s tough. But, with the division we play in and the philosophy of our general manager, we’re in a position where we want to try to be aggressive with guys with upside.

Reporter: How does last year, not signing some picks, impact what you’re doing this year?

Tinnish: I don’t think it really changes things. For me, personally, and I think for the group right now as we sit here today, it’s a benefit because we have more picks. Obviously, we would’ve liked to have signed guys, but it didn’t work out. It doesn’t really change too much, because that’s the way the rules have always been. It’s only been two years where you have that pick protection and if you don’t select the player you get the player back the next year. I’m more excited about it than anything just because it’s extra picks.

Reporter: If one of those unsigned picks from last year comes around as the best available player when it’s your choice…

Tinnish: We’d take the player. We don’t have any hard feelings against the players. We’ve seen the players this year. They have ability. If it comes to a point where it’s our turn to pick and that player is the player on the board, then we’ll take that player. No question.

Reporter: Signability used to be a factor for this club. Has that changed?

Tinnish: I think it’s always a factor to a certain extent. Right now is a time where we’re hearing a lot of numbers. This guy wants $2 million. This guy wants $3 million. The one thing I’ll say is we’re going to line our board up based on the players’ ability and I think that we’re going to be smart about things, we’re going to be prudent, but at the same time we don’t want to pass on ability.

Reporter: What do you think of the Canadian content in this year’s Draft?

Tinnish: I think the Canadian content in the Draft is strong. Since I’ve been scouting, it’s always really been strong. Between the [Adam] Loewen and [Jeff] Francis first rounders to guys like Brett Lawrie and Phillippe Aumont, there’s a lot of talent in Canada. Whether these guys go down to the State and get drafted as juniors or come out as high school players, I was definitely impressed with the Canadian talent. It’s good to see, too. Obviously being Canadian [from Hamilton, Ontario], I like to see that and I like to see that baseball in Canada continues to grow. I think at the elite level, baseball in Canada is as strong as it’s ever been and that it will continue to grow.

Reporter: What’s your philosophy on subjective scouting vs. performance related scouting?

Tinnish: For me personally, and Alex and I have had a lot of discussions about this, I think first and foremost you need to listen to your people — your scouts — and what they say about the players’ abilities. What you see with your eyes, I believe, is more important than anything. Certainly, statistics, makeup, healthy, they’re all factors as well. Primarily, what you see with your eyes, players’ mechanics, strengths, weaknesses, that is paramount. That is number one.

Where the Jays pick in the early rounds:

First round:

No. 11

Comp round A:

No. 34 (Marco Scutaro free agent compensation)
No. 38 (James Paxton unsigned in 2009)
No. 41 (Rod Barajas free agent compensation)

Second round:

No. 61
No. 69 (Jake Eliopoulos unsigned in 2009)
No. 80 (Scutaro free agent compensation)

Third round:

No. 93

Comp round B:

No. 113 (Jake Barrett unsigned in 2009)

Fourth round:

No. 126

~JB

Game 55 lineups: Rays at Jays

TAMPA BAY AT TORONTO
at 7:07 p.m. ET, Rogers Centre

Rays2.pngRAYS (35-18, — GB)
1. B.J. Upton, CF
2. Carl Crawford, LF
3. Evan Longoria, 3B
4. Willy Aybar, DH
5. Sean Rodriguez, 2B
6. Ben Zobrist, 1B
7. Gabe Kapler, RF
8. Dioner Navarro, C
9. Reid Brignac, SS

Pitching: David Price (7-2, 2.57)

Tlogo.gifBLUE JAYS (31-23, 4.5 GB)
1. Fred Lewis, LF
2. Aaron Hill, 2B
3. Adam Lind, DH
4. Vernon Wells, CF
5. Jose Bautista, RF
6. Alex Gonzalez, SS
7. Lyle Overbay, 1B
8. John Buck, C
9. Edwin Encarnacion, 3B

Pitching: Shaun Marcum (5-1, 2.59)

~JB

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Chess Match: Game 54

Breaking down a key moment in Tuesday’s 7-6 loss to the Rays…

The situation: The Blue Jays are holding a 5-4 lead in the bottom of the ninth with two outs and the bases loaded. Closer Kevin Gregg has already walked four batters, forcing in one run. Sean Rodriguez is at the plate for the Rays.

The decision: Manager Cito Gaston sticks with Gregg.

The outcome: Gregg gives up a bases-clearing double to Rodriguez to hand the Rays a 7-5 lead. The right-hander then issues a fifth walk in the inning, convincing Gaston to pull Gregg from the game. On his way to the clubhouse, Gregg argues with home-plate ump Angel Hernandez and is ejected from the game. Toronto loses, 7-6. Gregg’s final line: two-thirds of an inning, one hit, four runs, five walks, one error, one wild pitch, two strikeouts, 40 pitches, 14 strikes.

The analysis: This was hardly Gregg’s first rough showing of the season. Entering the game, the veteran righty had actually allowed seven runs on 13 hits with eight walks over his past 9 1/3 innings, stretching over his last 10 appearances. Gregg had six saves and two blown saves over that stretch.

One problem was that Jays starter Brian Tallet was on a pitch count of around 85 for this game — his first off the disabled list. After 82 pitches, Tallet was pulled. Before Gaston even got to Gregg, he had burned through Casey Janssen, Jason Frasor, Shawn Camp and Scott Downs. That left David Purcey and Rommie Lewis as the only alternatives.

Gaston had Lewis warming up in the bullpen, but the manager will always stick with his veteran guys over bringing in a rookie in a tight situation. Gregg is Toronto’s closer and that means Gaston will lean toward a show of faith rather than managing in a reactionary fashion. Gregg had one out to get and a force at every base.

The comments:

You know what, he’s the guy. You have to go with him. You’ve got two kids in the bullpen out there left — Lewis and Purcey. You’re going to stick with your veteran there. The situation didn’t really come up. He got the left-hander out. Sometimes you have to go with your guy until you either win it or lose it. That was the case tonight.” — Gaston

My verdict: It is easy to second guess a manager after a player has an awful showing like Gregg had tonight. Gaston could have stuck with Downs, but that shows a lack of faith in the guy dubbed “the closer.” Gaston could’ve pulled Gregg earlier, but what message does it send by turning to one of the young pitchers? There are still four months left and it is as much about managing players as it is managing games.

Gregg had performed better in his past three appearances, too. Were they perfect? No. But he had shown improvement. Gaston said Gregg will likely get a few days off — Wednesday for sure, followed by a team off-day on Thursday and maybe he’ll have Friday off as well — so maybe that can give him time to work through some of his issues of late.

~JB

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Game 54: Rays at Jays

TAMPA BAY AT TORONTO
at 7:07 p.m. ET, Rogers Centre

Rays2.pngRAYS (34-18, — GB)
1. B.J. Upton, CF
2. Carl Crawford, LF
3. Evan Longoria, 3B
4. Carlos Pena, 1B
5. Willy Aybar, DH
6. Ben Zobrist, 2B
7. Gabe Kapler, RF
8. Dioner Navarro, C
9. Reid Brignac, SS

Pitching: Jeff Niemann (5-0, 2.37)

Tlogo.gifBLUE JAYS (31-22, 3.5 GB)
1. Fred Lewis, LF
2. Aaron Hill, 2B
3. Adam Lind, DH
4. Vernon Wells, CF
5. Jose Bautista, RF
6. Alex Gonzalez, SS
7. Lyle Overbay, 1B
8. John Buck, C
9. Edwin Encarnacion, 3B

Pitching: Brian Tallet (1-1, 6.1)

~JB

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