Monday, June 15, 2015

Shopping for a Closer

It's more difficult than it looks

The Jays fandom has been asking for the Jays to seek help in getting a closer at the trade deadline for a team that may be competing for the post season. Let's look past the fact that the Jays have had only 8 end-of-game save opportunities all season which projects the Jays to have perhaps 20 of these opportunities in the season. The Jays either win by a bunch of runs (20 of their wins) or come back from a blown save. The 8 saves recorded thus far have been of the multi-run variety save for the bullpen's gem on Saturday at Boston.

Let's also look past the fact that during the season, only 2 or 3 closers are moved. This is because the closer is a coveted position not to be given up if the team is close to competing, and with the double wildcard, there are many more teams that find themselves closer to a wild card at the trade deadline. And, if a team is not competing, there is a good chance that the closer on that team might be a big part of that.

Still, let's say that the Jays are able to shop for a closer. Who is available? There are 26 closers in baseball who are projecting to have a 20+ save season.

Let's look at these:

Glen Perkins - MIN - 21 saves
Trevor Rosenthal - STL - 21 saves
Mark Melancon - PIT - 20 saves
Drew Storen - WSN - 19 saves
Huston Street - LAA - 19 saves
Santiago Casilla - SFG - 18 saves
Juerys Familia - NYM - 18 saves
Zach Britton - BAL - 17 saves
Andrew Miller - NYY - 17 saves
Jason Grilli - ATL - 16 saves
Craig Kimbrel - SDP - 16 saves
Joakim Soria - DET - 16 saves
Brad Boxberger - TBR - 15 saves
Luke Gregerson - HOU - 15 saves
Cody Allen - CLE - 14 saves
Fernando Rodney - SEA - 14 saves
Aroldis Chapman - CIN - 13 saves
David Robertson - CHW - 13 saves
Francisco Rodriguez - MIL - 13 saves
Koki Uehara - BOS - 13 saves
Jonathan Papelbon - PHI - 12 saves
John Axford - COL - 11 saves
Greg Holland - KCR - 11 saves
Hector Rondon - CHC - 11 saves
Tyler Clippard - OAK - 9 saves
Kenley Janson - LAD - 8 saves

Now let's start eliminating first by taking away teams that will likely be  competing for a wild card spot at the trade deadline. With about 40 games to go before the deadline, there is alot of moving going on but this is June 15th and we can only speculate.

In the AL, assume that Boston, the White Sox, Cleveland, Seattle and Oakland are out. In the NL, assume that the Phillies, Marlins, Brewers, Reds, and Rockies are out. That leaves 9 closers available:

Cody Allen - CLE - 14 saves - 2nd year
Fernando Rodney - SEA - 14 saves - 7th year
Aroldis Chapman - CIN - 13 saves - 4th year
David Robertson - CHW - 13 saves - 2nd year
Francisco Rodriguez - MIL - 13 saves - 11th year
Koki Uehara - BOS - 13 saves - 3rd year
Jonathan Papelbon - PHI - 12 saves - 10th year
John Axford - COL - 11 saves - 1st year
Tyler Clippard - OAK - 9 saves - 1st year

We should also eliminate closers who are "1st year closers" as their arms are not the most reliable. About 1/2 of the closers (those who have more than 20 saves a season) only last as closers for 1 or 2 years before they fizzle out. Indeed, of the 253 closers identified over the last 37 years (since 1977), 89 were 1 year closers, 38 were 2 year closers, with the rest being over that time.

The Jays have been burned by hiring short term closers. One remembers Sergo Santos. Trading for a closer with pedigree makes alot of sense. That is why I would avoid Clippard and Axford - they may be drops in the pan, though there are reports of the Jays looking at Clippard.

Finally, let's look at the contracts of the final 7 and look at them 1 by 1.

Cody Allen - CLE - under the Indians control until 2018 and the league minimum salary, the concern is his inflated ERA (4.07) and WHIP of 1.463 despite having a FIP of 2.47 and 14 saves. I think it would take alot for the Indians to give up this young man and force the team to find another closer from its bullpen or roster of farm talent.

Aroldis Chapman - CIN - in his 4th year of stellar closing for the Reds, he earns a salary of 8 million this year and is under team control next year. While his numbers are somewhat inflated this year with 18 walks (he had 24 total last year) and about .8 hits per outing (much higher than last year) he has managed to get out of jams and keep his ERA down. He would be under team control next year. There has been speculation on this trade.

Francisco Rodriguez - MIL is intriguing. A seasoned closer, he earns a salary of 3.5 million this year, 5.5 the next and a team option in 2017. He seems to have regained his form this year and last for the Brewers. His HR/9 last year was alarming at 1.9/9 which might not translate well in Rogers Center, but with a team that is struggling, team control, and a backloaded salary, this might be a perfect place for Rodriguez to come if the Brewers are still struggling at the deadline. His numbers this year so far are stellar, so it might cost a premium.

Fernando Rodney - SEA is in this last year of his contract and would be a good rental option for the Jays, if he is pitching well, which he IS NOT. In his last 12 outings, he has an ERA of 9 and an opposing OPS of over 1. Unless he turns things around quickly, he would have no viability coming to Toronto. I think the Jays might look at him if he can straighten things out.

David Robertson - CHW is in his first year of a 4 year / 46 million contract and the Jays (nor any other club) will not bite at that contract.

Koji Uehara - BOS - he's a Red Sox, and it's unlikely that the Jays would entertain a trade within the division and at 9 million a year with not much closing experience, very expensive.

Jonathan Papelbon - PHI - at 13 million plus a 13 million vesting option for 2016 which he is on track to earn, this player is also very expensive even with his WHIP at 1 and an ERA of 1.05.

So for me, the shopping list is down to 3:
  • Francisco Rodriguez - home run / 9 is too high, but good team control and affordable with a backloaded salary which allows Rogers to rent another arm or starter if needed.
  • Aroldis Chapman - on the expensive side but would be a very good acquisition.
  • Cody Allen - would be a very expensive acquisition from a player standpoint given his salary. The Jays likely would need to send alot of AAA / AA talent to compensate and I doubt that the Indians are even willing to entertain a trade for him.

Now, other teams who are competing and need a closer are going to be thinking the exact same thing. And with such a short shopping list, these players will be in very high demand. And Toronto's need for a closer when they are scoring so many runs may not be there.

It's easy to say "find someone", especially in the AL East when we remember Papelbon and Rivera and more recently Fernano Rodney and Jim Johnson. But excellent and experienced closers are expensive and hard to find. Only a few are traded each year and they are usually sold at a premium.

Sunday, June 7, 2015

Blowing it in the bullpen

Jays Bullpen really not good under pressure

I know it sounds like I am stating the obvious. The Jays have now had 10 blown saves, but if we take a look at the numbers closely, we can see exactly how the Jays are losing leads late in the game.

A save opportunity is when a pitcher enters the game in a save situation. To be clear, a save situation is when a pitcher enters the game in the 7th inning or later with a lead of three runs or less or the potential tying run is on deck, at bat, or on base.

For this purpose, I am going to include games where the Jays were tied going into the inning to show how games are lost. I am not including starting pitchers -- only relievers.

  • In 8 innings late where the game was tied at the start of the inning, the Jays have let in runs in 4 of those 8 innings. 
  • When the Jays start an inning up by one run: - 3 successful holds (the last successful hold was April 12 - Loup held a one run lead on April 27, only to be blown by Osuna in the 8th) - 7 blown saves - none of these in the 9th inning. 
In all situations where the Jays are tied or up by one run in the 9th, the Jays relief allows runs. All of the closer saves have been recorded with leads of 2 (3) or 3 (3) runs. Read this again, the Jays have yet to record a one-run save.

  • When the Jays start an inning up by two runs: - 6 successful holds - 2 blown saves (both belonging to Loup) 
  •  When the Jays start an inning up by three runs: - 10 successful holds - nothing blown 
So, the conclusion here is pretty troubling. The Jays when holding a one run lead are 30% likely to hold that lead (3 for 10). That is pretty awful.

The detailed stats on baseball reference are just as awful. The Jays save percentage at 6 for 16 is 37.5%; the league average is 72%. In save situations (not including today's game) opponents have an OPS of .875 (.300 / .366 / .509), an ERA of 6.59 and a WHIP of 1.537. The league average is 1.104.

So, despite the fact that when you look at Reliever stats overall, it comes as a complete surprise then that the Jays pen is 5th in OPS overall at .670, 5th in BA at .225, 4th in WHIP and 11th in ERA.

So, the news is that if the Jays are tied or up by one run late in games, the bullpen has given up the lead. This is why fans get nervous when they see the bullpen show up in a close or tie game and why the twitterverse erupts in rage -- the bullpen pitches terribly. In fact, the last time the Jays bullpen DID NOT give up runs in a tie situation or one run lead was Osuna back on April 12. Here is the detail of all 11 games since where the Jays bullpen entered the game tied or with a one run lead since. There are NO games where the Jays were able to hold a tie game or one run lead.

April 14 - Castro enters game in 8th inning in a 2-2 tie, gives up a crappy bunt single. Sousa steals 2nd and advances to 3rd on a throwing error. SF brings him home. Jays lose 3-2 to Tampa.

April 17 - Cecil enters the game in the 8th inning in a 5-5 tie with the Braves, gives up a home run in the 2nd pitch, allows two more runs. Jays lose 8-7.

April 18 - Castro enters the game to save in the 9th inning. Gives up a home run to the 1st batter he faces. In a bright spot, Cecil hold the Braves in the top of the 10th and Donaldson hits a walk-off home run.

April 25 - With the Jays up 2-1 on the Rays in the bottom of the 8th, with two out, Osuna gives up a single. Cecil then gives up another single. Castro comes in, gives up 2 doubles. Jays lose 4-2.

April 27 - at Boston, with the Jays up 5-4, Osuna enters the game in the bottom of the 8th, gives up two singles, a wild pitch, and a sacrifice fly to blow the save. Miguel Castro enters the 9th in a tie game and gives up two singles, a wild pitch, and another single to blow the game. RedSox win 6-5.

May 20 - in the top of the 7th, with Hutch struggling against the Angels, Steve Delabar comes in inheriting runners on 1st and 2nd with 2 out, Jays up 3-2.  He throws a wild pitch on an 0-1 count and then gives up a two run double. Jays lose 4-3.

May 26 - vs the White Sox, with the Jays up 7-6 in the top of the 8th and a hold by Osuna in the 7th, Hendriks gives up three runs to go down by 2 runs. A dramatic walk off home run by Donaldson in the bottom of the 9th vs David Roberston gives the Jays the win.

May 27 - vs the Sox again, with a 3-3 tie after a Jays comeback, Osuna gives up two. Jays lose 5-3 in 10.

May 30 - at Minnesota, tied 2-2 in the bottom of the 7th, Loup gives up a triple (likely over the head of Cotabello or Valencia). Jays lose 3-2.

May 31 - at the Twins, up 5-4 in the bottom of the 7th, Osuna out for his 2nd inning of relief. A Jose Reyes error followed by a single leads to a Tommy Hunter double scoring two. Twins win 6-5.

June 7 - home to Houston, up 3-2, Bo Schultz gives up 4. The Jays do manage to win this one again in walk off style winning 7-6 in a very lucky bottom of the 9th.

June 9 - Home to Miami, tied 2-2. Osuna comes on and gives up a homer to Stanton. Jays WIN 4-3 on another walk off HR by Edwin. Holy crap.

Sunday, March 30, 2014

And now, the 2013 pitchers (no wait, it's 2014, right?)

Not one new face -- how can we hope for anything different

One of the biggest off-season failures for Alex Anthopolous was his complete inability to replace Josh Johnson with someone who would put some serenity back into the rotation, instead electing to go with the (lack of) talent already existing on the team.

While the 'pen is seemingly loaded with talent, the starting rotation seems completely iffy, at best, with big question marks around Brandon Morrow, Drew Hutchinson, and Dustin McGowan. Meanwhile, RA Dickey's knuckler will continue to be inconsistently baffling while Mark Buehrle will be his usual #3 innings eater self.

It is this lack of a starting rotation featuring no true "ace", a decent #3, the potential of greatness never realized, and two number five starters, both of which are injury prone, will do in the Jays. Its insurance policy, once again, is the relief core, who I predict will be overtaxed and overburdened by short starts combined with Gibbons propensity to pull pitchers from games way too early.

And it will cost the Jays the season, and the only person you can fault for that is Alex. If last year wasn't going to be the year for the Jays to make the playoffs, this year is. Next year is the last year of the core of the team to be together, and they are not getting younger.

As Paul Beeston promised to its season ticket holders in 2012, "In the next five years, I would expect that we would be in it two to three times," Beeston said. 

The problem is that it will take a miracle for this rotation to hold up this year.

The Starters

RA Dickey (14-13, 224.2 IP, 4.21 ERA, 1.217 WHIP in 2013) needs to have a much better year as the ace of this club. And with a knuckler, it is really difficult to know if this year will be any better than last. The Home Run was his enemy, 23 of 35 of them at Rogers Centre, and this is what truly killed him. With the WHIP being the same as they were during his 2012 year, it is the home run at home (that should be routine fly balls) that is hurting him. We will see if he makes an adjustment, but how do you adjust a knuckleball?

Mark Buehrle (12-10, 203.2 IP, 4.15 ERA, 1.315 WHIP in 2013) was consistent. There was fear that the AL East opponents would hurt him coming over from the NL, and that fear was realized. In 16 starts against the AL east, he went 2-8 with a 5.42 ERA and a 1.45 WHIP. This number must improve if the Jays wish to compete. Against the rest, he went 10-2 with a 3.56 ERA and a WHIP of 1.25 -- very different numbers indeed.

Brandon Morrow (2-3, 54.1 IP, 5.63 ERA, injured in 2013) is one question mark for this team. After being sidelined last year by a entrapped radial nerve, his spring didn't look all that well either until his appearance against the Mets in Montreal. We all remember his potential with his incredible one hitter on August 8, 2010 when he threw 137 pitches. And we know this guy has incredible stuff. From last year and the year before, I also see that he is a very smart pitcher, using different pitches to get outs especially when he knows that one of his pitches isn't working. And that's what I love about Brandon Morrow. I actually think that if he remains healthy, that he will have an incredible year. Just remember 2012, when, before his left oblique strain in early June, he had pitched three shutouts in 10 starts. He is more than capable. 

Drew Hutchison (no action in 2013) is another question mark for the Jays. In 2012, before his Tommy John surgery, he featured #5 starter skills, going 5-3 with a 4.60 ERA. He has had a standout spring but he cannot possibly throw a full season as a SP. Still, I see some beginner's luck for Drew and a decent first half before his arm wears and the league figures him out. I expect that JA Happ or another AAA person will replace him around the all-star break.

Dustin McGowan (no meaningful action in 2013) is the final question mark for the Jays. The question mark is "why is he starting? With 4 innings of work in spring training and a maximum of 32 pitches pitched in an outing last year? For the Jays, it's a sentimental outing, a welcome back. Given the failures of Happ, Drabek, Romero, Stroman, and Rogers, I think this might be McGowan's ONLY start. Despite the obvious sentimental heartstrings being pulled, is it the best baseball move for the Jays? No. I predict Dusty to be relegated back to the 'pen (or to Buffalo) after two-three starts with a promotion from one of the Bison crews.

The relievers

Casey Janssen -- the closer. Janssen is not a hard thrower, but he's crafty and will continue to be the team's very capable closer. Going 34 for 36 in saves, he established himself as the closer in 2012 and will continue to shine. 

Brett Cecil, with last year's all-star appearance completed his transformation from starter to reliever is complete. This lefty dumfounds lefties while right-handers tend to get big hits against him but he is still effective. Brett will be used later in games against left-handed batters and will be particularly effective in games when right-handers are starting and the starting lineups of the opposition are filled with left handed bats.

Steve Delabar, now in his third year with the Jays, is a capable right handed reliever with very nasty stuff.

Jeremy Jeffress has a 100mph fastball and only remains on the roster because he it out of options. Expect to see him in Jays where the Jays are not competing in a game (win or lose) or as a situational hitter against a right hand threat.

Aaron Loup -- the wiley left-hander and his eclectic side-arm delivery continues to throw off hitters and with his 2.45 ERA last year, he will be an important part of a bridge between the starters and the closers and the relievers or when the team is down. 

Todd Redmond -- (long relief / spot starter) will likely be the #5 starter after the home opener. He started 14 games last year with 77 IP and a 4.32 ERA and did not have a terrible spring to demote him to long relief. The only reason I think Todd is not the #5 starter is because of the sentimentality of McGowan.

Esmil Rogers -- (long relief / spot starter) did not earn a starting role this spring with terrible performance. He will start in the bullpen and may return back to a starter role replacing either Dustin McGowan or Drew Hutchinson as a mid-season starter.

Sergio Santos is to be Casey's setup man with an impressive repertoire and the ability to strike out players.

The outliers

Look for JA Happ's return in mid-season. Kyle Drabek and Rickey Romero will need to have a string of excellent games in AAA to be promoted, and only in case of injuries to one or more of the starters. I expect Romero's return to be slow and will need to prove himself over a string of starts in Buffalo. 

Chad Jenkins, Neil Wagner, Deck McGuire, and Sean Nolin are all relievers who right now are on the outside looking in. With the relief core being as strong as they are, I don't see them advancing to the majors unless there's many injuries.

New season, same team?

Disappointment will be less as our expectations are much lower

The Toronto Blue Jays open their season tomorrow at Tampa before the Yankees come to town this weekend. I've been away for five months and it's great that baseball is back. I managed to listen to and watch some of the spring training games looking for something different. I watched the off-season moves, hoping that Alex Anthopolous and Rogers would come up with some scratch to sign a big name pitcher for 2014. 

So, what I see is the same players (save Navarro, thank God) on the same team using the same techniques to win and lose games. 

The exception this year is that our expectations were so high this year, while this year I think the fan base will be happy with anything over .500. Certainly, Rogers Media has toned down the rhetoric for this year, and that's a good thing. I think the fan base at Rogers Centre will remain steady, making no gains on 2013, while the fan base around the country will remain tied to the Blue Jays' win-loss record, with some extra interest as it looks like only one Canadian team will make the NHL playoffs.

Let's take a look at this year's roster and point out some of the questionable roster moves for opening day. This article will focus on the hitters, while the next focuses on the pitching.

Overall, this team should be hitting better than they did last year, which was absolutely abysmal. Last year featured some terrible offensive outages due to really poor seasons by Maicer, JP, and Bonifacio, bad streaks by Jose, Colby, Lind, and Lawrie compounded by injuries by most everyone on the offence, leaving them with inferior replacements like Kawasaki, Thole/Blanco, Gose, and Pillar. 

Once again, the key to this year's performance offensively will be consistency and injury avoidance. While the addition of Navarro might help the offensive performance as will a return of Melky to his former self, the team is now lacking formidable speed with the departures of Emilio (who could never get on base anyway) and Rajai Davis (a true weapon), and Anthony Gose sitting in AAA. This means that the team must attempt to move runners forward by ways of the bat. And with a three man bench and no one on the bench particularly good, late game situational hitting will be lacking.

This leads me to believe that while the numbers overall will be better, run production will suffer.

Here's my player by player analysis.

C - Dioner Navarro with a .300 / .465 / .492 slash last year and an all star 2008 (with Tampa) under his belt, this guy brings veteran experience behind the plate, which is what the pitching staff and John Gibbons needs defensively. Offensively, he comes with a caveat, in that there were years where he suffered at the plate. For example, after his all-star year with the Rays where he hit .295, he hit just .218 in the following year. So, it is unclear which Dioner we are going to get this year. Still, it's a huge improvement over the train wreck which was JP Arencibia last year. He seemed to have some power last year too, hitting 13 homers in 266 plate appearance. In Rogers Centre, playing full-time, he might have the potential to hit 20 dingers. I also like the fact that he came from Tampa, a Blue Jays rival, with some knowledge of the pitching system there.

C - Josh Thole is here to catch RA Dickey, and will figure into games only if he manages to crack .200. He was quite the batting disappointment last year, but I think part of that was the fact that he was only in games where the opposing pitcher was the team's ace (in that RA is the Blue Jays ace, and aces tend to play each other).

I am surprised that the Jays chose Thole over Kratz as the backup catcher. In the end, I think the Jays traded offense for the ability to catch and hopes that Thole can have a little bit of offense one game of five. I think it's a very tall order to push Thole into action one day out of five, and I would like to see the Jays play him in two of five games, especially if his offense shows a bit of spark.

1B/DH - Adam Lind has had an excellent spring, with Buck quoting that he was looking like the Lind of 2009. Well with the goatee, he definitely looks like the Dr. Hyde version of Lind in 2013. The issue with Lind always is his back health and his ability to stay consistent. If he can remain warm for 2014 and Gibbons uses him in every day situations (against LHP and RHP) and gives him breaks so that he can rest (using him as DH, sitting him from time to time), Lind can relive his glory from 2009.

1B/DH - Edwin Encarnacion, for a Jay, is Mr. Consistency. From oblivion three years ago when the Jays let him go to Oakland (only to be reclaimed), the former "E5" has turned into a decent first baseman sporting a .275 / .364 / .517 line over the past three years with not much in the way of injuries.

At issue here are the away National league games (against Milwaukee, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, and Cincinnati) where both Edwin and Adam can't play.

2B - Ryan Goins -- The Blue Jays draftee of 2009 is the starting 2B, sporting a paltry .177 batting average over spring training. Last year, in his MLB debut, he hit .252 / .264 / .345 over 121 plate appearances, with 2 walks and 28 strikeouts. He is supposed to be excellent defensively.

I seriously question the decision of putting in Goins over Kawasaki. Now, one could point out Muni's slash last year (.229 / .326 / .308) as being worse than Goins, but that OBP is meaningful. Muni drew a heck of alot more of Pitches per Plate Appearance than pretty much anyone else in the majors. He is extremely popular with the fan base, and he is defensively capable all around the infield. One could argue that this year represents that natural progression for Goins, and that it's his time to prove himself at the MLB level. But the fan base loves Muni. He is JAPANESE!!!

The good news is that if Ryan doesn't prove himself, Muni will be on that bus from Buffalo.

SS - Jose Reyes, while defensively average, Jose is a necessary and vital piece of the Jays offense this year. Our hope is that his hamstring doesn't have any issue. His injury last year was not related to his hamstring. I hope that he improves on his already excellent .296/.353/.427 line from last year.

3B - Brett Lawrie -- We were hoping collectively that LAST year would have been the year for Brett, and looking that the downward trend year over year, we find that we have been making excuses for this man's offensive performance (at .254/.315/.397) last year. He had a terrible spring, got injured, tried 2B (stupid idea), and finally broke out after the all star break, where he had a string of 42 games hitting .324 / .384 / .507 before having a meh September. Defensively, he's a gem. If he stays healthy, it will be HIS year to show MLB his star quality. He becomes arbitration eligible next year, and the Jays are going to have to show him the money if he has a great year, which we all hopes he has. He seems to have matured and slowed down his waggle at home plate and seems to have more control.

UF - Maicer Izturis is the team's utility infielder and after a crappy year (his worst year offensively in MLB), we are all hoping that he does better. When he had regular play with Brett's injury, he managed to hit .309 / .351 / .397 over 150 plate appearance, which was pretty good. But he started off terribly and ended the season terribly as well, batting just .167 for the rest of the season over 103 plate appearances. Defensively, he is okay. 

LF - Melky Cabrera, with an undiagnosed tumour in his back and an absolute defensive liability in LF last year, the man still managed to hit .279 last year with no power. This year, he looks absolutely white hot, hitting .400 in spring training. We can only hope that Melky is the Melky of 2011 this year. We shall see if the turf in LF doesn't hurt him.

CF - Colby Rasmus was hot and cold last year, pretty much like the rest of the club, and with a strikeout rate near 30% and a propensity to look foolish against LHP, he can be a frustrating player to watch. Still, overall, he had an excellent year in 2013, batting .276 / .338 / .501. He demonstrates power. Defensively, he has moments where he is excellent, and moments of complete lapses. I'm looking forward to seeing him perform this year, and hopes that he has a consistently good year with a measure of better plate discipline.

RF - Jose Bautista has had an excellent spring, and that wrist and his violent swing hopefully will not lead to injury as it has over the last couple of years. Still, a HR every 15 or so plate appearances is not a bad thing, and his arm and defence is most helpful.

OF - Moises Sierra had an excellent 2013 in limited action as Jose's replacement last September and represents a capable 4th OF for the Jays and represents the good choice versus Gose and Pillar.

The Outsiders: Anthony Gose, Kevin Pillar, Muni Kawasaki and Kratz are the four outsiders looking in. I see all four of them in Jays uniforms at some point this year.

Next: the Pitchers.

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Okay. They lost one. So what.

The best teams in baseball win games, the worst teams do too.

When you think about the best teams in baseball, you find that a 1st place team is only going win about 100 games in a season at best -- 108 is really really good. Conversely, the worst teams in baseball might get away with 60 wins -- 54 is really really bad.

So, how do bad teams win and great teams lose games?

Dumb luck

Sometimes, teams win games due to dumb luck: a caught line drive by a fielder in a exactly the right place can save two runs while a blooper to left field can score two runs, which is precisely what happened to the Jays against Colorado on June 17th. In the top of the 8th inning, Colorado had runners at 2nd and 3rd with one out and Lind made a wonderful play to catch a smoked line drive. In the bottom half of that inning, Maicer hit a bloop single to short left which plated Davis and Colby. And that's the difference between a W and a L.

Pitching miscues

You can't expect every Jays starter to go out there and have a quality start every time out. They are going to make mistakes because it is EXTREMELY difficult to pitch well every time you are on the mound. Pitching is extremely mental, but it is physical too. Sometimes your fastball cannot work because you can't connect the mind to the body. That's what happened to Esmil last night, leaving him only with a working breaking ball. It happens.

Hitting outages

What is supposed to happen when your pitching doesn't work is your batting is supposed to pick it up for you. But the bats will run into a pitcher sometimes who stymie you, or you run into a part of the lineup who is just not hitting well (Cabrera and Bautista). If Edwin and Lind have an off night as well then it becomes extremely difficult to manufacture and score runs.

Putting it all together

The fact is that the combination of the three leads to a perfectly playing team to lose 1 game of 3. What happens between winning between 1 and 2 games of 3 is a function of the team's true skill. In the case of the Blue Jays, you are looking at a team with below average infield and LF defense, an unexpectedly overperforming bullpen, an unexpectently underperforming starting rotation, and inconsistency (save Lind and Edwin) in the starting lineup. This leads to a .500 team that is susceptible to streaks.

Bringing back Lawrie and Reyes (and yes, sending down Kawasaki) will improve the IF defence dramatically and should improve the offense too. Putting Edwin at 3rd and letting Cabrera DH for a few days in a row will improve his legs so that he can play better defensively in LF and let Rajai get some playing time. The time to do this (give Cabrera's legs some rest) is now before Lawrie gets back.

The starting rotation is what it is. Lately they've been very good. RA Dickey is not going to have a good season and there's no improvement. Josh Johnson I predict will be on fire as he tries to get a monster contract. Mark Buehrle is fine. Esmil Rogers pitched only  75 innings last year and he's only good for about 8 more starts berore he will be pulled. Chien-Ming Wang has been great so far, but we'll see how he does in Boston against his AL East rivals who know him well. By that time (after the All-Star break), reinforcements in Brandon Morrow and JA Happ should be ready.

And offensively, the players need to get on a roll collectively. Bautista has been very streaky, as has Cabrera, Arencibia and Rasmus. Adding Reyes back to the front of the lineup will increase scoring opportunities and speed at the start of the lineup.


The Jays have now shown that they are a good team. Defense has improved as Bonfacio, Reyes, and Izturis get used to the turf. Offense is very very good on most nights and will improve with the return of Reyes and then Lawrie. Starting pitching will be an issue for RA Dickey only. The bullpen I think will continue to shine. In short, if the team can score 5 runs a game and the starting pitching can leave the team with a lead after 6 innings this team will win alot of games, many more than they will lose.

My prediction now is that the playoff race for 2nd place in the AL East goes down to the wire, with the Jays fighting it out for the 2nd wild card spot between any one of the four AL east teams, with about 92 wins. The last 15 games that the Jays play are against AL East contenders and I think it's these games that will determine the playoff picture in the AL East. Look for Texas or Oakland to take a wild card spot with whoever finishes in 2nd in the AL East to take the 2nd wild card.