Dickey and Bunting and Numbers…Oh My!

It’s been a few weeks, but here I go again: stealing questions from Andrew Stoeten’s mail bag. Arrr!

OK, I guess this is now a thing: I highjack Andrew Stoeten’s mailbag from over on Vice.com. Call it a personal tick, an unhealthy habit, a time-wasting exercise, I don’t care, I get a kick out of doing it.

As usual, I have removed the names of the questioners (what with this being an act of theft and all) and I have not read any of Stoeten’s answers, although scrolling through the article they look long, and they even have bullet points and everything, so I suspect that he’s gone into more depth than I will, but what the heck. Here we go:

Question: what genius schedules a #bluejays off day on Victoria Day?

The same geniuses who continue to allow nepotism to dominate over competence in the hiring of umpires, who refuse to do anything to stop pitchers from throwing at hitters, who wink at the hyper-masculine queer-bashing woman-deriding culture of the clubhouse, who deify good players from the Yankees (Derek Jeter) while ignoring equally talented players from smaller markets (Craig Biggio), and who spend a year celebrating a Designated Hitter from the Red Sox because he’s cuddly (David Ortiz) while doing everything they can to erase the memory of the greatest player of all time because he’s not nice to reporters (Barry Bonds): Major League Baseball.

In case you’ve never noticed this, MLB cares about one thing, and one thing only: making money–which is “fine”, I guess, when you remember that it’s a business and that the whole point of a business is to make as much money as possible for the greedy pigs who own it. This is why all of those things I’ve listed above are not just tolerated but active policy of the owners insofar as they produce an entertaining product for the largest possible market. There’s no money to be made in holding Craig Biggio week or producing endless Barry Bonds retrospectives, nothing to be gained–monetarily–by taking on the umpires’ union over their hiring practices (and, in fact, it can be good for ratings having guys like Angel Hernandez out there every night–lots of umpshow for the mob!) or the Players’ Association over matters as paltry and minor as ethics when there’s really important stuff like revenue-sharing to work out.

And there’s literally no money to be made in New York, Boston, Florida, Southern California or the Mid-West with a Monday afternoon game in Canada. Frankly, I’m amazed that the Jays are able to manage getting their Canada Day game every year, although I suspect that’s largely because MLB is happy to get that game in Canada out of the way just in time to bring the Jays to an American city for the “real” holiday on 4 July.

Based on the trends in the first quarter of the season, which of the following events would you rate as most likely and least likely to happen by season’s end (assuming relatively good health):

Kevin Pillar > 50 walks
Justin Smoak > .850 OPS
Francisco Liriano BB/9 < 4.8
Luke Maile OPS+ > Josh Thole’s 2016 mark

Hmmm…good question: and a toughie, seeing as I left my crystal ball in my other pants. But we’ll give it a shot.

Kevin Pillar and fifty walks?

Sure, what the heck, I can see that happening. Last year he took twenty-four and the year before it was twenty-eight so it would appear to be quite a leap to ask him to double those numbers over just one season, but he’s already at fourteen after forty-six games which does project out to…*quick math*…forty-nine, so…yeah…getting all the way to fifty would be a stretch for him, even with his renewed approach at the plate. So, I dunno, maybe?

Justin Smoak and an .850 OPS?

He’s already sitting at .881 and showing no signs of slowing down. It may seem a crazy suggestion that a career .710 OPS guy could perform by 140 points above that average but, honestly, if you were asking me (and I know you weren’t, but I’m a pirate: ARR!) I’d say that, yes, Smoak is probably going to do it this year.

And believe you me, when it does happen I am totally going to troll Jonah Keri with retweet after retweet of this exchange I had with him way back in February:

He who LOLs last LOLs longest Keri!

Francisco Liriano averaging less than 4.8 walks through nine innings?

Currently at 7.3 but with a career average of 4.0, with only two years above 4.8 in his entire twelve years in the majors…I’m going to go with yes on this one too. Things may be looking ugly right now, but who knows how much of that was due to the injury he sustained in Anaheim and apparently felt through three starts. Assuming he can get healthy and stay healthy enough to pitch enough games to offset the beginning of the season I’m confident Liriano will perform to his career average and lower the current number significantly.

Luke Maile having a better than thirty OPS+ (Josh Tole’s number for 2016)?

His career average is thirty-five, but with Maile you have to use the word “career” loosely given he’s only played seventy-two games at the major league level. Still, when in doubt, trust the numbers and the numbers would suggest that on the whole he’s better than thirty so, what the heck, it’s going to happen.

Now the tough part: which of the above is the most and least likely to happen? I’d like to say that the most likely is Justin Smoak posting an .850+ OPS but that would be a lifetime number for him, just like the fifty walks would be for Pillar, whereas Liriano pitching to an average of fewer than 4.8 walks per nine innings is just a return to the norm for him, so I guess I’d have to go with that as the most likely scenario; all of which leaves Maile outdoing Thole as the least likely outcome, but honestly, they’re both terrible hitters so who cares?

Just wondering why all of a sudden the Jays think they can bunt. Well they can’t.
What’s going on?

They’ve been paying too much attention to the dummies on Twitter?

Actually, I suspect there’s a few things going on here.

The first is that certain players may be trying to put the “idea of a bunt” into the minds of the fielders, which can be a nice way of drawing them in and getting them out of the shift. A lot of the ‘bunt’ attempts this season are really just bluffs or attempted misdirections which, OK, they might not be doing much, but they are doing at least something to move the fielders around.

Second, Gibby is kind of doing the same, I think, by asking for bunts in situations where the Jays as a team have not traditionally tried for that part of the game. Again, I’m not sure it’s working in terms of generating more offense (in fact, I know it isn’t because bunts don’t work) but it seems to me at least probable that Gibby is playing the longer game here: trying to combat the perception of the Jays as a pull-happy, swing for the fences team and thus get everyone to stop playing them that way, which means getting fewer or at least not-quite-so-extreme shifts. I have no idea if it is actually accomplishing that, but I would bet you a Coke that someone in the Jays analytics department is examining that very issue…

Finally, some of them actually can bunt for a hit–Carrera, Barney, sometimes Goins–and those are just the guys who can’t reliably get on base any other way, so why not try to drop one down the line and beat out the throw? With all the injuries this season there’s been far more Carrera, Barney and Goins than is really healthy for a team, and thus more of their desperation bunts.

So, really, the bunts may actually be a bit more explainable and a bit less dumb than it would appear at first glance: with the singular, and extraordinary exception of asking Devon Travis to lay down a bunt with two men on, nobody out, and Barney, Carrera and Goins coming up behind him…oy vay, Gibby, honestly.

The Jays (horrific) stretch of games against Atlanta sorta reconnected us with Robert Allen Dickey. The Dickey for Syndegaard/d’Arnaud trade is one that you’ll often hear classified by some Jays fans in the “wish we could get that one back” category. Even given d’Arnaud’s chronic fragility and Thor’s increasingly worrisome arm issues—and certainly both are still young and talented enough that they can make the deal look more lopsided in the future—should we feel that way?

True, we didn’t get the “Cy Young” R.A. that we were hoping for. And yes, the capital of Syndergaard and d’Arnaud could have been used to pick up another player. But Dickey tallied over 800 innings for the Jays, with a decent WHIP, and all in all was a solid and durable 3-4 starter and was an above-average contributor to two pretty entertaining Jays seasons. It was a classic future vs. now kind of deal, and while we can dream of Thor hurling mighty bolts in a Jays uniform, I thought the “now” the Jays got in return makes the deal more than defensible.

Boy, are you ever wrong.

I never liked the Dickey deal: two very promising young players–one of them a pitcher who could throw that hard!–and three other prospects (that’s five young players, for those of you keeping score at home) for a one-off Cy Young Knuckleballer on the wrong side of thirty-five to pitch in the American League East?!

Now, don’t get me wrong, I liked R.A. fine and agree with your assessment of him: a perfectly serviceable middle-to-bottom of the rotation starter and a great guy: but nowhere even close to being worth what the Jays gave up to get him. A lot of Dickey defenders point out, as you do, the “win now” logic of acquiring Dickey but…huh? Am I not remembering the 2013 season correctly? The Jays finished last that year. They didn’t actually win anything until 2015 and 2016 and it wasn’t Dickey who made the difference but David Price (2015) and Aaron Sanchez (2016) who got it done for the Jays.

Yes, Dickey helped, but there are a whooooole lot of pitchers who could have contributed just as much while costing the farm system much less.

OK, so let’s go see what Stoeten had to say…

Another Off-Day, Another Pirated Mail Bag

In which I highjack Andrew Stoeton, call someone dumb, and play “Hooked on a Feeling” twice

Off days just seem to bring out the pirate in me. So here we go again:

I would love to see the Jays put together a great May and June, setting themselves up for a potential playoff run… If they don’t put themselves in a place where the postseason seems likely, don’t they NEED to either re-sign Donaldson or see what they could obtain in a trade for him by the July trade deadline? I would have to think his value would be higher to the team trying to obtain him if they would have him for two postseason runs. Don’t get me wrong, I would way rather they re-sign him and try to reload this offseason and try to win with him, but they can’t afford to lose him for nothing after next season…

I’ve never really bought into the idea of “losing a player for nothing”: if the Jays and Donaldson do part ways at the end of the 2018 season (and Sweet Lord In Heaven Above I hope they do not) then it won’t be for “nothing” as the Jays will have had four glorious years of Donaldson baseball. If they trade him away sometime this season (and, yeah, they could garner a bucketload of talent) then they are trading away a season and a half of Donaldson’s offence, defence and general all round badassery for prospects that, unless they’re really really good, will never come close to matching what he brings.

Yes, Josh Donaldson is that good.

The choice isn’t between something (they trade him for assets) and nothing (he plays out his contract then goes free agent)—it’s a choice between two different somethings: on the one hand, more young prospects with less Donaldson, and on the other, all the Donaldson available. If it’s me, I take all the Donaldson I can get, every time.

And remember, it’s not up to the Jays whether or not Donaldson signs an extended contract or not: yes, it’s up to them whether or not they offer one, but it’s going to be Josh who decides what he wants to do come 2018, and come on, if you were one of the three best players in the game, wouldn’t you want to go free agent and see what you could get on the open market? Can you imagine the absolutely bonkers-ridiculous contract he could sign with the Dodgers or the Giants or the Rangers or (*gulp*) the Red Sox or the Yankees? Thanks to the way things are done in the MLB he can’t even hear what other teams might be offering until after his contract with the Jays has run out, so what possible incentive could he have to pass up seeing what those offers might be?

Don’t get me wrong, I would love for the Blue Jays to blow him away with an offer so good that he signs on for the rest of his natural life, but it would take a heck of a great deal to get that done so signing him long term is probably really unlikely to happen, which brings us back to the two different somethings…and I’ll ask you: would you call as much Josh Donaldson as you can get nothing?

I sure as heck hope not!

are you happy that hooked on a feeling is no longer played?

Absolutely not. Love that song! In fact, let’s give it a listen…

 

What do you make of the Travis struggles at the plate, pitchers adjusting, the knee still an issue?

I doubt it’s the knee or any other injury, since if it were I’m sure they would have sat him down already to let it heal; I mean, it’s not like he’s been a really integral part of the lineup lately and while he’s OK on defence I’d rather have Barney’s or Goins’ glove out there. Pitchers may be coming at him differently but I’ve not seen that myself, but then again they’re really good pitchers and so they could be doing all kinds of things I just miss. I will say this: Travis has been around for two years now and everyone uses so much video and scouting I doubt they’re only just learning about him now.

From what I’ve seen, Travis seems to just, well, miss the ball. He is swinging at some off the plate pitches that he shouldn’t be swinging at, and it’s looked at times (especially early on) that he was getting a bit pull happy, but not so much lately and he’s been doing better.

What’s really telling, for me at least (and now I’m really reading the tea leaves) is that Gibby has been sitting him down from time to time. Now, if I’m right that there isn’t an injury (and honestly, there doesn’t seem to be) then the only reason for doing this is to give Travis a bit of a mental break. Gibby’s also been keeping Travis well down in the order and if you listen to his remarks to reporters he never seems to make a big deal about Travis’ night good or bad… Based on this, and predicated on Gibby’s general awesomeness as a people-manager, I suspect that whatever’s going on with Travis is going on somewhere between the ears.

But maybe it’s zee rays from Venus or something.

Will any minor league prospects get calls up to see what they have? Lourdes Gourriel have an ETA?

Like Salty, do you think anyone else might be DFA’d / replaced? Pearce?

Two questions with one theme: will the Jays suddenly be able to pull a great player out of their butts to replace some of the less than inspiring names on the roster?

Um, no? If they could, don’t you think they would have done this already?

I already dealt with all this calling up prospects silliness when I raided Stoeten’s last mail bag so I’ll skip that and go straight to the question of firing Pearce.

Huh? What in the name of little green apples is that supposed to accomplish? Zeke in left field every day? That is a really and truly terrible idea. They let Salty go because they had a better option in Maile: no, he’s not a great option, but he’s better with the glove and behind the plate than Salty and no worse with the bat. Who and where is the better option for Pearce? I mean, sure, yeah, if someone crops up on the waiver wire who is better than Pearce then I say go for it…but that is not going to happen.

Do you think Stroman will pitch well enough this year to be in the conversation for AL Cy Young? (Top 5 finish maybe?)

Yep.

Unless his “minor tightness in the armpit, nothing to worry about, it’s nothing I’m good to go” thing really is a thing, in which case…

…no, I just don’t want to think about that. So instead, cue the sitar, and:

(Bet you didn’t even know that the Blue Suede version was a cover, did you?)

When everyone comes back from the DL, do you expect the batting order to change significantly? I can’t see why Bautista has been batting third for so long without any results this season to deserve that spot unless Tulowitzki wanted to stay fifth. Even if Tulowitzki had reservations from moving around in the batting order, the hitting has been so bad this season that player objections would be down on the list of things I would consider when filling in the lineup card. This would be my everyday lineup against RHP if things project out the same from now until everyone gets healthy.

1. Pillar
2. Carrera
3. Donaldson
4. Morales
5. Tulowitzki
6. Bautista
7. Smoak
8. Martin
9. Travis

If Travis continues to be a non-factor, Goins at 2B and batting ninth could be a possibility.

I agree whole-heartedly with Pillar as leadoff and Donaldson batting third, but ARE YOU KIDDING ME? Zeke in the two spot? Bautista at the bottom half of the order?I’m trying to find a nice way of saying just how dumb this is, but…nope…can’t come up with anything.

OK, I get it, Joey Bats hasn’t been getting all the homeruns that gets the kiddies going, but his on base is .328 and rising while Zeke’s is .329 and going down. More significantly, Bautista’s OBP is thirty points higher than his batting average while Carrera’s is just twenty, and…José Bautista is good and Ezekiel Carrera is really not.

And where’s Pearce? I know, I know, “He’s terrible, the Jays should fire him,” except he’s not.

Here’s how it should look:

  1. Pillar
  2. Bautista
  3. Donaldson
  4. Morales
  5. Tulowitzki
  6. Smoak
  7. Martin
  8. Pearce
  9. Travis

As someone that has seen many crappy Blue Jays seasons, what advice would you give to new fans of the team that are now experiencing one for the first time?

One: it’s early.

Two: this isn’t hockey.

Three: calm the heck down.

Four: Josh Donaldson is really really good at baseball—even if the season does go in the tank (see point one, above) then you still get to watch him for the rest of the season.

Five: read this article.

Beyond that I can only say this: baseball, for me, is never really about whether or not you win the pennant or the championship or whatever (and maybe I can get away with that having been alive for 1992 and 1993, but oh well…). It’s about watching baseball, which is easily the greatest and most beautiful game ever invented in the history of anything anywhere. So long as my team is playing well (and they are, most nights) and the players I get to watch are doing incredible things (and with guys like Tulo, Donaldson, Sanchez, Stroman, Estrada and, yes, Travis and Bautista and Goins and Barney and Morales and Smoak and…Pillar?? Is he really this good now? You betcha…they absolutely are) then I am a happy man.

Not that I’d mind if they won the pennant of course.

Hijacking Yet Another Mail-Bag: This One Filled With Silly Panicky Questions About Prospects and Rebuilds

Can everyone just repeat after me? This. Is. Not. Hockey.

I had no intention of hijacking Andrew Stoeten’s mailbag again, but, well… I had thirty minutes to kill before dinner and the questions were all so darned silly this week that I simply couldn’t resist. This may be the last time.

Again, I have not read Stoeten’s replies and I have left out the names to protect the innocent.

Can you get anything for Martin and Tulo?

I can’t get anything for them because I don’t have them under contract. But, wow, would my little league team be good if I did!

If you mean can the Blue Jays get anything for them then, sure, yeah, of course they could, but it would depend on how much of those big contracts the team is willing to eat. The more money the Jays agree to take on the better the prospects they could get in return, but even then they’re not likely to get anyone really super-duper since, as good as Martin and Tulo are, neither one of them (particularly Martin) is a real game changer at this point: they’re not going to show up on a contender and suddenly put them over the top into greatness, and they certainly aren’t going to take a terrible team (like, say, one that’s sitting dead last in the American League) and suddenly make it a winner.

The real question here is: if you were general manager of a team not called the Blue Jays, would you want either one of them? My guess is, probably not. If you’re already good, it’s hard to see how either of them helps you very much, and if you’re bad why would you trade away the future for an older player?

Like I said, if the Jays were determined to move either of them they could, but they would only be doing that, I suspect, if they were trying to make room for someone younger and better already in the organization (which they don’t have).

Who are the top prospects for the 2018 draft? Since the Jays are likely to get one. Any Bryce Harper or Machado types out there?

Don’t know, don’t care, doesn’t matter anyway. Repeat after me:

This. Is. Not. Hockey.

Players in baseball are drafted when they are still works in progress. Nobody comes to an organization ready to jump right in to the major league roster and the vast majority of first round draft picks either don’t make it to the big leagues or don’t really amount to much when they do.

Mike Trout—easily the greatest player since Mickey Mantle—was picked 26th in 2009 (FYI, the Jays took Chad Jenkins as the 20th first round pick). Justin Smoak was the 11th pick in 2008 and considered “a steal” for the Rangers who were delighted that he hadn’t been snapped up earlier in the draft.

My question on the struggling Jays is this. Let’s assume the Jays do turn this thing around, are we at the point now where even a second wild card berth seems highly unlikely. Isn’t the worst thing for any team in any sports league to be is mediocre, just miss the playoffs and get a middle of the road draft pick instead of a top 5 pick. At what point do you say fuck it in June and start Pompey and Tellez every day and start trading assets for prospects. Like what does the record have to be for that to happen. At this point I’d do it even if they make it back to a couple of games below .500.

See my answer above and keep repeating after me:

This. Is. Not. Hockey.

There is absolutely no logic at all to intentionally “tanking” a season so you can have a “top five” pick. To keep with the theme of the above: in the 2010 draft Bryce Harper did indeed go first and Machado went third. The other three guys in the “Top Five”? Jameson Taillon, Christian Colón and Drew Pomeranz…all OK-ish to ho-hum players.

Oh, and you may notice that neither the Nats nor the Orioles have appeared in the World Series in the last few years.

The only way to have a successful “tanking” strategy is to do what the Chicago Cubs did and what the Phillies and the Braves are trying to do, which is to intentionally be terrible for a span of five years and slowly build up your farm system. That’s something that the Blue Jays have no need to do (since they have a lot more money than those other teams), no excuse to do (because the fans would go nuts), and no intention of doing (I hope).

We all know Goins is a better SS than Jose Reyes. My Q is: is he also better than Tulo?

No. Not even a little. Next question.

Quick question this time out of all Jays Prospects not named Rowdy Tellez who is most likely to get called up before September to play in the show?

I’m not even sure Rowdy gets called up before September (have you actually looked at Smoak’s numbers this year?) and as for the other “prospects” I suspect that…hmmm…none of them get called up before September and a lot of them not even then.

Again, the question is why would you want to do this? The question above this one posits one very bad reason: so the team can be terrible. But something I didn’t even raise there but will do so here, is: why would you want to do that to your young players? These are young athletes trying to learn their craft; why would anyone intentionally put them into a position to fail? Back in the bad old days of Wild West Anthopoulos young players were dragged into the big leagues all the time to try and patch the gaping holes AA left in the roster (Derek Norris, Drew Hutchison and Dalton Pompey are a few of the most recent and memorable examples) and usually with very bad results: Norris wasn’t ready and was sent back down; Hutchison wasn’t ready but was kept up because there weren’t any other options and who knows how much that had to do with his descent into mediocrity; Pompey wasn’t ready and was kept up just long enough to destroy his confidence (I’m not mind-reading here either, he’s admitted to as much). You really want to do that to the new group of young players in the system?

Even if they are ready for the big time I’m still not sure why you bring them up. If the team is terrible, then it hardly matters who is up there so why mess with their progress, why give them service time that you can ‘bank’ for later and why bench one of the guys you already have on contract? If the team is doing well, then where’s the need?

The only circumstance in which you bring someone up is if he helps the team, so if the Jays have a healthy, productive, ready-for-the-show player in AAA who can improve the team by replacing someone already on the roster who is not as good…then, sure, yes, bring him up.

So..maybe Dalton Pompey in August, if he’s fully recovered from his concussion, if he’s playing really well and if Carrera has completely fallen apart…

OK, when Carrera has completely fallen apart.

During spring training Jose Bautista had some teammates over and they ordered a pizza. When the pizza arrived, an argument broke out over who would go to the door to get it. Jose suggested they roll a dice to settle the argument and despite Joe Biagini’s warning that they would be creating 6 alternative timelines, they agreed.

A few weeks later we are stuck in the darkest timeline. How are we going to get out of it?

Reverse the polarity.

And take off your tinfoil hat.

Raiding Stoeten’s Mailbag…Again

A boring off day leads me to ripping off another man’s schtick…

It’s an off-day for the Jays and I got nothing else to do so let’s go back to the well.

Last week I highjacked Andrew Stoeten’s mailbag over on Vice.com and had such a good time that I just can’t resist doing it again. I really hope this isn’t going to become a thing, though, because I don’t want anyone to think that I have a thing for Stoeten. I mean, yeah, sure, I like the guy, but I don’t like like him.

At any event, let’s dive right in, but remember—I’m stealing these questions from someone else’s mailbag so I’ve removed the names to avoid getting into any trouble:

OK, small sample size and it’s early and all that but also what about these two theories: 1) The book is out on Jays hitters: pitch ’em away away, mostly soft stuff. And Jays don’t adjust. 2) They got old fast. What other team has so many thirty-somethings in starting lineup?

The age is, I think, a real issue but maybe not so big as some people may have you believe. These guys are in great shape, but there’s no cure for aging and in the case of Bautista and Martin I think we may be seeing that. They’ve both been behind a lot of fastballs this year (so far) which could be a result of just being a bit slower. If this is the case though they can adjust to that, so I don’t expect it to be too big an issue.

As for theory number one: yep, the league has figured out that the Jays are built around a fastball-first offence and are pitching accordingly, but I’m not sure about the “don’t adjust” part. Some have clearly been trying to get the slow garbage off the plate and missing (Bautista, Martin and Travis) and so maybe we can say “haven’t adjusted yet” with the hope that this doesn’t lead to “can’t adjust.” Smoak, of course, will never adjust and doesn’t need to if the three key guys above come around; the same is probably true of Pearce. The rest are split into three camps: those who have already shown they can play the new game (Morales, Tulo, Pillar), those who are just crappy hitters and won’t ever really do well no matter what’s happening more broadly (Goins, Barwin Darney, Zeke), and Josh Donaldson who is just very very good at baseball. 

I know it’s early, and that the Jays are much better than what we’ve seen, but at what point does this hole get too big to climb out of? Right now (assuming 89 wins is a wildcard spot) they need to play at a .578 clip the rest of the season. Over a full season that’s 93 wins, and I think that’s already pushing it for this team (not impossible, but a bit of a stretch).

Well, that sort of depends on what kind of team “this team” is. If we are referring to the team we’ve seen so far then a .400 pace is probably too much to hope for; but if “this team” means the team they should be based on the talent they have, then a .578 pace (I’ll trust your math) is entirely possible, assuming the health of the starting rotation. So, I hate to sound like I’m hedging but, well, I’m going to have to hedge. I will say this, there is no “hole” until at least 30 games have been played.

Grasping at straws to explain this horrid start, I had a thought:

With the new regime of fitness and nutrition experts on staff, could they have purposely held off on going hard in spring training, knowing the inevitable slumps that every team endures over the season? In other words, analyzing the health of each player and their history; the schedule, etc., and strategizing for the entire season?

Are the Jays doing the long con?

Not sure I even understand this: your theory is that they have purposely gone into the season unprepared so they can fool everyone into thinking they’re crappy when they’re not? Or that they figured they didn’t have much of a shot against the Orioles, Brewers and Rays so why try too hard, better to save their strength for later?

Um…no. On both.

Why hasn’t Tulo been moved been moved leadoff yet with him getting on base a lot? Also how much of the slow start do you blame on Gibbons? i say 80% on the players and 20% on Gibby?

You’ve been listening to Wilner, haven’t you?

It’s not the worst idea getting a better bat than Zeke in the lead-off spot, but Pillar has a better OBP than Tulo, as does Kendrys Morales and…holy moly!…Russell Martin, so I’m not sure that the logic in favour of Tulo is necessarily sound. I think he’s probably happy to be a middle of the order bat and he’s been doing nicely there of late, so why mess with it? Honestly, as I argued in an earlier column, unless and until Devon Travis starts hitting again, there aren’t really any good options for lead off.

And I don’t “blame” anyone who’s doing his best and having a rough time of it. I certainly don’t think the guy sitting on the bench has a very direct role in what happens on the field. So how about we say 100% of the Blue Jays are two and ten to start the season and leave it at that?

The Jays just have a touch of PTSD. They lost Eddie, almost lost Bautista. They’re pros they are used to shifting around, BUT when you almost go the WS two yrs in a row, there is a vet core kinship mentality that’s felt right down to Ryan Goins. It’s not that they don’t get it. They probably don’t even realize it. But there is a weird void, and their rhythm is off. It’s a team. A slight shift sometimes changes things for a minute. It’s all psychological. They aren’t losing by much. Gibbons will do something to shake them up, and once they succeed the bonding can happen again, the rhythm will come back. That’s my real opinion, not the jokey one from before. But then fuck, they may lose every fucking game, who knows.

The other thing that happens after just almost making it…to teams, is they try way too hard. Like darts, you got to relax. Take your time. They’re already trying to win the pennant. Over thinking.

Or maybe not, maybe they just stink, I don’t know.

You said it: you don’t know. You haven’t the faintest idea what’s going on in their heads…unless you’re a trained sports psychologist hired to work with the team, in which case you totally shouldn’t be blabbing your thoughts on the internet.

Stick to darts, and leave the psychoanalysis to the professionals.

Vladdy Jr is off to a hot start this year in the minors. When can we get really excited about this guy?

After he’s been doing just as well in the majors for four months, and not one minute sooner. #thisainthockey

The Jays NEED to make a move to salvage this season. Vlad Jr. for Joey Votto. How could either team say no to that? SOMETHING has to be done, so why not get crazy?

Not sure how one player makes all the difference here, but OK, let’s pretend the he can…

“How could either team say no”??? Well, you did say you want to get crazy… There is absolutely no way the Reds let Votto go for one A-ball player. Ever. And there is no way the Jays take on that ridiculous Votto contract. Why would either team say yes to such a hare-brained scheme? You want Votto? OK, so do I. But to get him you either take on the whole contract and throw in a couple low-A prospects, or you insist the Reds assume the bulk of the contract and you send them Sanchez or Stroman along with half of the Buffalo Bisons.

Honestly, you can’t base your view of reality on what you do while playing MLB The Show.

How and when did it go so wrong for the Blue Jays? I’m of course talking about those atrocious red abominations they’ll be wearing for all of their Sunday home games and throughout July.

I like the jerseys. Of course, I’m red-green colour blind so maybe I’m missing something.

But don’t we have more important things to worry about?

Highjacking a Highjacker: I’m a Pirate, AARRR!

Stealing someone else’s mail bag is such a good idea that I’m doing it…to the guy who invented it

Almost against my will, I’m a fan of Andrew Stoeten. He’s rude, foul-mouthed and—from the sounds of it—at least half in the bag most of the time he’s posting to Twitter, writing one of his many excellent columns, or recording his podcast with Drew Fairservice. But he knows his baseball and he really knows the Blue Jays, both of which can cover for a multitude of sins.

He’s got this thing on his own site where he highjacks other writers’ mailbags by lifting the questions and then answering them himself. So, when I saw that Mr Stoeten now has a mailbag of his own over on Vice.com, I simply couldn’t resist.

And without further ado, but for the important caveat that I have not read any of Stoeten’s replies yet (but I will be sure to do so just as soon as I publish this blog), I give you the Little League Blog take on the following questions, highjacked from the highjacker.

(Oh, but one more note: since the questioners submitted these to Vice.com and not to me, I’ve removed their names since I never obtained permission to publish them.)

The Leafs are going to be competitive for several years to come, as will the Raptors and TFC. The question needs to be asked: How difficult will it be for a rebuilding Jays team to get any attention from Toronto fans and from the Toronto sports media over the next few years? Can the franchise survive if they fall to 4th among the big Toronto sports teams?

Several assumptions here that I’m not sure I agree with: first, that the Leafs, Raptors and TFC are all going to be competitive (I mean, it looks likely but I’m not sure we can just state it as an absolute given) and that the Blue Jays are going to be in a “rebuilding” mode and that this is somehow necessarily synonymous with “bad”.

But, OK, let’s imagine a future in which every pro sports team in Toronto (and you forgot the Argos) is doing well in their respective leagues (and it’s already beginning to sound like a pipe dream) while the Blue Jays do not. OK, I’m imagining it and I don’t see the Jays ever not “surviving” for several reasons:

  1. There are lots of baseball fans (and I’m one of them) who don’t give a fig about hockey, basketball or football; I do like soccer but don’t watch TFC games cause, let’s face it, the quality of play is much better in European leagues.
  2. Baseball is played in the summer when basketball and hockey are not; MLS games are once or twice a week while baseball is played almost every day.
  3. Baseball is now the most successful sport in North America; it’s a multi-billion dollar a year industry and the Blue Jays enjoy sole possession of one of it’s largest local markets.

There’s probably other reasons, but I think that should suffice. There’s a lot of money to be made from baseball in Toronto and that is not going to change any time soon. It took a decade of poor attendance and almost total media neglect for the Expos to finally die out of Montreal, and their market was tiny compared to what the Blue Jays now enjoy.

All of the signs from this Jays offseason and early start to the season seem to point towards a slow descent into mediocrity. Is there any reason this may not happen? And can the front office be blamed, or is this just part of the natural cycle of an MLB team.

There are no such signs of any such thing. Blame the front office for anything you want, though, if it makes you feel better about how the team has played for less than 4% of their season. For context, that’s equivalent to about three games in the NHL and NBA, and one game in the MLS.

This week aside, the Jays offense was pretty bad the last month of 2016 and in the ALCS…Do you think they’ll remain an upper tier offensive team this season or will they fall down to average or below average?

I wish we could leave this week aside, but unless I was watching a different team than you I’ve seen some pretty dismal offense all season. There’s been one game…one!…in which they were actually able to score some runs, and they lost that one because Liriano and Howell both had really bad days.

I have no idea if the Jays will remain, as you say “upper tier” with their offense but I can’t see any reason why not. They still have a lot of players who have been very, very good hitters in their careers (Bautista, Morales, Donaldson, and Tulo) and I would be stunned if any of them simply fell off a cliff this season. They are all getting older so, with the singular exception of Donaldson, it would be natural for them to be slowing down a bit at the plate (I think it’s pretty clear that Tulo and Bautista will never be the hitters they were in their prime, but that doesn’t mean that they aren’t still really good). Martin, I admit, has looked…not great for quite a while but I think the presence of a healthy Devon Travis and what appears to be a new-look Kevin Pillar should compensate for Martin’s slumping numbers quite well.

With all that, I can see no real possibility of them being below average or even average: so if you classify anything that is above average as “upper tier”, then, sure, they’re going to be upper tier. Are they going to have the best offense in the American League? I guess it could happen, if everyone stays healthy, everything goes right with the gambles (Smoak, Pearce, Pillar) and if Tulo and Bautista regain something of their former glory, but I suspect they will post respectable numbers in a lot of categories (home runs, on base percentage, hits, runs scored) without really blowing anyone away, placing them in the top five or six teams in the American League for offense.

Three questions for you:

(1) Would you say it’s time for Blue Jays fans to crack each others’ heads open and feast on the good inside?

(2) How many times have you been asked that first question this week?

(3) How likely is it that “The Trop” was built on a hot pile of garbage, explaining (a) the Jays’ generally poor performance year after year in Tampa Bay and (b) the fact that the Rays themselves are hot garbage personified?

  1. Not unless you can find someone with brains made of chocolate, no.
  2. This would be a first, for me.
  3. According to Wikipedia, Florida is a limestone plateau sitting atop the Florida Plateau bedrock.

Gregor Chisholm wrote recently that Gibbons’ plan for LF/1B isn’t going to depend on the hitting splits, but who’s on the mound for the Jays – Pearce 1B/Zeke LF with Estrada on the mound and Smoak 1B/Pearce LF with Sanchez and Stroman starting.

Is this real news? If so, I think it kind of makes sense given Ezekiel’s reverse splits, and the starters’ respective ground ball percentages, but more importantly what do you think? I’ll hang up and listen now.

Well Gregor Chisolm is a real journalist (unlike myself and, I suspect, the poser of this question) so I’m going to go with, “Yes. Gibby said that.”

And it does make a lot of sense, really. Estrada is a flyball hitter and so you’d want the better outfielder in left for his starts (although there wasn’t much Zeke could do but watch the balls leave the park yesterday, but I digress…) while Sanchez and Stroman get a lot of ground balls so you’d want the superior defense of Smoak at first, with a slight reduction in the defense in left more than offset by having Pearce’s bat in the lineup instead of Carrera’s.

And, by the way, Gibby’s the best. Really.

I bet he’d make a great pirate.

 

Edit

OK, so I’ve read Stoeten’s replies and have to say: other than taking the brain-eating questions seriously (although I like his ruminations on the Blue Jays’ play at the Trop), it looks like he and I are on the same page, kinda more-or-less for the most part. Except I don’t use bad words. And I’m drinking coffee.