2016-10-22T14:04:36-04:00Some thoughts on the guy who has been the face of the Blue Jays for the past several years. Watching Wednesday’s game, I was hit with waves of sadness watching players who have been mainstays of my Blue Jays perform for the team for, maybe, the last time. So I figured I’d write about them. We picked up Jose Bautista, from the Pirates, on August 21 (the day before my wife’s birthday) 2008, for borderline catching prospect Robinzon Diaz. Diaz was listed as our number 4 prospect by Achengy That was likely a little high, but we weren’t drowning in great prospects at the time. If he hadn’t been traded, it is likely that J.P. Arencibia would have moved past him on the list. To show how excited we were by the trade, it didn’t even rate a post. A few days later we had a poll. 48% said it was a good trade, 52% bad. 2008 was also my first year on the site, so he’s been a part of my life on the site since almost the very beginning. I don’t have much experience in writing about a team that doesn’t have Jose. He didn’t set the world on fire right away. He was 0 for his first 12 at bats. A Facebook group ‘Jose Bautista Sucks’ popped up (and linked to our site, which had me checking to see if I had written anything negative about him, which I hadn’t). In his 21 games with the Jays, he hit .214/.237/.411 in 21 games. In 2009 Jose hit .235/.349/.408 with 13 home runs in 118 games. Not exactly something numbers that suggested he would be an All-Star soon. He split time between left and right field and third base, but we started to notice that he had a terrific arm. I was at a game in Seattle and got to see Jose show off his arm live. We were sitting right at the wall almost even with third base, Kenji Johjima (not the fastest runner) was on second, Chris Woodard singled to left, I saw Johijima go by, and figured we were down 1-0, then I saw the ball going by, about 8 feet in the air, on a line, and Kenji was out. I think it is the best throw I’ve ever seen live. He had most of us convinced that he should be a platoon player, playing against lefties only (he hit .293/.382/.537 against lefties in 2009). Fortunately, Cito Gaston didn’t agree. In 2010 Jose hit .260/.378/.617 with 54 home runs and 124 RBI. He was an All-Star for the first time and finished 4th in MVP voting (odds are it would have been higher in the vote if the Jays had finished better than 4th in the AL East. I saw games in Boston in September, that year, and saw him hit home runs 48 and 49 (I was hoping to get to see number 50. It is worth mentioning that Cito Gaston, hitting coaches Gene Tenace and Dwayne Murphy deserve a ton of credit for helping Jose become the slugger he is. Cito was always a fan of pull hitters. He tried to get everyone to turn on the ball. Murphy helped him find the big leg kick. Murphy told me that ‘several players’ watched Jose’s big leg kick and tried to copy it, but that it causes troubles for most batters. In 2011 Jose again led the league in home runs, with 43, but hit much better, .302/.447/.608. He was an All-Star again and finished 3rd in the MVP vote. He also set a career high with 132 walks. Since then, his numbers have been down a bit from that two year high point. He’s had OPS numbers of .886, .856, .928, 913 and .817 last year. The seasons where he could stay away from the little nagging injuries and play more than 150 games, he had OPS numbers over .900. The other years he would miss a third of the season. Over those years there has been the odd bit of controversy: ·Hockey writer Damien Cox decided that he should accuse Jose of using steroids, solely on the bases that he was good and so he must be cheating. He started on this idiot campaign that Jose should go with him to a Toronto area hospital and get himself tested, skipping over facts that MLB players do get tested and that, I’d imagine, if you wandered into a hospital and asked to be tested for steroids, they would just stare at you for a few minutes and tell you that they aren’t set up for testing for things like that an[...]
Back home and every one I talk to is talking to me in those gentle voices that people use to speak to someone that has had a loss in the family.
I’m not overly sad, I had a good time in Toronto. I had never been to baseball playoff games before. The atmosphere was great. It was very loud for all three games. I wish the outcomes were better, but that’s life. It has been such an up and down season, and I’ve been told ‘season’s over’ so many times, that I was happy that there was playoff ball.
I was sad when I was thinking that I might be watching Jose Bautista, Edwin Encarnacion and Brett Cecil in Blue Jays colors for the last time. Each of the three have been such a part of my baseball life, for so long, that it did seem like the end to an era. They have given me so much enjoyment that I’m sad that it might be over.
The games? Well, neither of the losses were blowouts. Either one could have changed with the swing of a bat. We had too many long flies caught on the track (I wish someone from MLB would explain why the dome was closed Wednesday, it was a beautiful day and Rogers Center is a much better place when the dome is open. Personally I think the smart people in the MLB offices don’t understand that 20 degrees Celsius isn’t the same as 20 degrees Fahrenheit).
The Clevelanders out homered us 6 to 2, and yet my twitter feed was full of ‘we should be playing small ball’ cause ‘that’s how you win in playoffs’.
I really felt good about our chances after winning Tuesday’s game. I thought Francona made a huge mistake starting Kluber on short rest. But I didn’t think Ryan Merritt would be so tough to hit.
Our pitchers had a very good series. I thought Gibby left Marco in the game longer than I would have, but other than that I don’t have too many complaints with how he used his pitchers.
The bats, on the other didn’t do much at all. The only two that hit at all were Josh Donaldson (.333/.400/.556) and Michael Saunders (.429/.429/.643). Cleveland pitched us well.
I’ve been a Jays’ fan long enough to think that going to the ALCS two seasons in a good thing. We have had it pretty good. You never know when the good times might end, so it is best to enjoy them when they are here.
Thanks to everyone for your visits to the site and comments through what was a trying , but ultimately pretty successful season. This place wouldn’t be much fun if you all didn’t contribute.
And let’s have a hand for all our writers: Minor Leaguers, Matt W, Scott C, Gerse, Sean Herman, Jared Book, eelliott29, Mike Hannah, Kevin Papettir, Jake Sinclair and Cole Shelton.
But, just because the season ended, it doesn’t mean we are closing shop here. It looks like it will be an interesting off season. I’m looking forward to the seeing how things shake out. The first bit of news came out soon after the end of the game Wednesday, with the announcement that Gibby would be back next year.
2016-10-21T08:00:03-04:00With the 2016 season now over, attention naturally shifts toward 2017. But before that gets going in full force, it's an opportune time to look back on 2016. In the middle of Spring Training, on March 14, I previewed some of the questions facing the Blue Jays in 2016, organized into four categories according to uncertainty in a framework popularized by Don Rumsfeld. Now we can assess how things played out, including the few predictions. For more on what each of these categories means, refer back to the original. Known knowns "The line-up will score a lot of runs... it's very likely the Jays will be a top-five run scoring team in 2016" Well, so much for known knowns. As a team, the Jays ranked 9th in non-pitcher wRC+ at 103, though essentially tied with a few teams below. They were 5th in runs scored...in the AL only. Overall, despite ups-and-downs, the Jays were still a good run scoring team, just well short of expectations based on returning most of the 2015 core. And they picked a really bad time to go into an extended funk. "R.A. Dickey will not require Tommy John surgery, and is likely good for 30+ starts" This section was intentionally kept short since there are few knowables over a baseball season, so this was mostly for humour. DIckey did not miss any time, though only made 29 starts after being removed down the stretch due to ineffectiveness. Technically wrong, but the broad thrust was right. Quality depth will be critical for such an older veteran team. Indeed. Darwin Barney was a great fill-in early, and Ezequiel Carrera had some excellent sretches, but broadly this was disappointing and a principle cause of the reduced offensive production. Ryan Goins didn't hit a lick. Justin Smoak couldnt make contact. Call-ups from Buffalo (Darrell Ceciliani, Matt Dominguez, Andy Burns etc) didn't even record a hit until....July? For a brief period they were running Jimmy Paredes out there. Consequently, too often the bottom part of the lineup was a Black Thole. Known unknowns Can Marcus Stroman take the next step from #2 starter and become a true ace? No, and by ERA he was actually only a mid-rotation starter. It was a bumpy season for Stroman, and the stuff and advanced metrics are tantalizing, but there really weren't any signs of a breakout. "Troy Tulowitzki's going to miss games, but how many?" Tulo played 133 games, 544 PA, and just one minor DL stint. All things considered, a positive outcome. "How much MLB time does Dalton Pompey see?" Effectively zero, including shockingly little when rosters expanded. Is this a signal as to his future in Toronto (a la Hutchison)? "Who wins the fourth outfield position?" Ezequiel Carrera ended up with 310 PA, and though up-and-down was reasonably effective, plus a strong playoff run that should cement his spot for 2017. "How does the bullpen shake out?" Sigh, too many disappointments. The Jays finished 21st in bullpen adjusted-ERA, 15th in FIP-, and 15th by WPA (which is actually very good after digging a huge hole in April). Credit to the front office for not overpaying to plug holes and instead finding some cheap reclamation/fresh start projects who paid dividends. "How will the Justin Smoak / Chris Colabello platoon work?" Fan-tastic! "How much does Marco Estrada regress?" Very little on batted balls, thanks in part to his infield defenders, and while his walk rate continues to trends upwards, his strikeout rate reversed years of decline. As a result, his adjusted-ERA/FIP gap fell in half from 31 to 15, but he was still almost as effective at preventing runs relative to (an increased) league average. "Will we get Dr. Jekyll or Mr. Happ?" Mr. J.A. Happ exceeded pretty much all expectations, basically earning his entire deal in year one. Unknown unknowns "What crazy injury is going to happen?" It looked like Russell Martin slipping in the showers would be a relatively boring winner until Joaquin Benoit's season ended running in the from the bullpen in the 9/26 altercation with the Yankees. Brilli[...]
2016-10-19T19:18:26-04:00This seems like a fitting way for things to end as today’s game continued a recurring theme that’s been around most of the year. Good pitching and no hitting. The Blue Jays couldn’t get anything going against rookie Ryan Merritt who came into the game with all of 11 innings of major league experience. After managing just two baserunners against Merritt in 4.1 innings (one of which was promptly erased on a double play), Cleveland’s bullpen again took care of the rest and ended Toronto’s season. I’ll be brief as I don’t imagine too many of us are going to revisit the details of this game. Cleveland scored 1 in the first after a Francisco Lindor single and Mike Napoli double. Ezekiel Carrera bobbled the ball which was called an error, but I think Lindor probably scores either way. In the 3rd inning, Carlos Santana launched a Marco Estrada fastball over the fence to make it 2-0 Cleveland. Coco Crisp added a solo shot in the 4th to make it 3-0 which is how the game would end. The Blue Jays never advanced anyone past second base and really only threatened once. In the bottom of the 5th, Russell Martin blooped a single with one out (our second baserunner) and Michael Saunders followed up with a pinch hit single off of Bryan Shaw who came in to replace Merritt. There were 2 on and 1 out at that point, but Shaw quickly dispatched both Carrera and Kevin Pillar via strikeout to end the inning. In the 8th inning, Dioner Navarro led off with a single off of Andrew Miller. After another Carrera strike out, Pillar hit a soft grounder to short but Lindor was able to force Dioner at 2nd base. Not sure why he wasn’t pinch run for in that situation as Pompey would have almost certainly been safe. In what could be his last at-bat with Toronto, Jose Bautista led off the bottom of the 9th with a double off of Cody Allen. However Josh Donaldson, Edwin Encarnacion and Troy Tulowitzki were retired quickly to end the game and the Jays’ season. Encarnacion struck out in what could have been his last at-bat as a Blue Jay. Marco Estrada was pretty good again but the long ball hurt him. He finished with 6.0 IP, 5 hits, 3 runs (2 earned), 0 BB and 7K. He gave us a chance to win, but as has been the case all too often lately, the offense was MIA. I’m sure we are all very frustrated and equally disappointed. There will be lots of time to reflect on the 2016 season, in which Toronto was one of the last four teams standing. Thanks to everyone here at Bluebird Banter for being such a great community and for making the baseball season more enjoyable. Let’s not take our frustrations out on each other. Congratulations to Cleveland. Quite simply, they were the better team this series. Now that the Blue Jays are finished, I will be rooting for Cleveland in the World Series, no matter who they face. Comments leaderboard for today’s threads: # Commenter # Comments 1 JoeyMadDowgBautista 117 2 delv213 104 3 Spor 93 4 shortofbrillant 91 5 Eric H 87 6 Gerse 83 7 Takiar 75 8 Matt W 69 9 TimmyMax 68 10 barraqudie 66 11 spockster 59 12 erik.t 58 13 Nadia 58 14 Cameroli 57 15 ice_hawk10 53 16 lalalaprise 53 17 Belisarius 48 18 the_tbj_fan 44 19 Alan F. 37 20 TwitchyJC 28 21 FlipDown Shades 28 22 westbromjayfan 25 23 Diamond_D86 21 24 yyzcalifornia 18 25 radivel 17 26 Cogdok 16 27 hoph 15 28 yin hsiung 13 29 Ssamze 13 30 vinnievanloewen 12 31 Drekkan 12 32 Mike Hannah 12 33 JUK 10 34 jsakim89 10 35 FrankDrakman 8 36 jmarples 8 37 llamameeljueves 8 38 fouflouf 8 39 GrandMasterDickey 8 40 Ayyo_The_Horned_Frogs_17 7 41 Minor Leaguer 7 42 andrrres48 6 43 NavSS 6 44 LeafsLover 6 45 StillStanding 6 46 GameOfInches2.0 5 47 Awayce 5 48 Matt Gross (RhodeIslandRoxfan) 4 49 yow_pz 4 50 Scuervo102 4 51 Siefert 4 52 Kurupt 4 53 K.B.A. Scott 4 54 TulosHyperbaricChamber 3 55 HeyBoyBlueisBack 3 56 d_d_drizzy 3 57 Arakasi 3 58 red hot blues 3 59 W[...]
Cleveland 3, Blue Jays 0 going to the bottom of the 6th
Pretty sure none of these extra threads have brought any runs this series, at some point that's got to change...right?
Here is tonight’s lineup as the Blue Jays try to extend the series (and their season) with a win.
Your do-or-die part 2 Blue Jays lineup pic.twitter.com/ONZiDGdajH— Arden Zwelling (@ArdenZwelling) October 19, 2016
Just who is Ryan Merritt, the young lefty that will attempt to close out the series for Cleveland tonight? August Fagerstrom at Fangraphs offers up a profile of Merritt. Here’s what he throws and they have to say about it:
Merritt’s strongest pitch is his changeup. “His changeup is his best offering, while his curveball needs work to become more of a weapon,” said Baseball America in their 2016 scouting report of Merritt. McDaniel called it an “above average” pitch. MLBPipeline, who ranked Merritt 29th out of 30 Indians prospects before the season, put a 55 on the pitch. At 87-90, the fastball, obviously, grades out as below-average based on raw stuff, but plays up to average due to what MLBPipeline grades as 60 command. “He stands out most for his command and feel for the zone,” BA said in 2015, adding the next year that “he showed in 2015 that he can retire more advanced hitters.”
Bautista is forever looking to be the hero, looking to hit a home run on every single swing, rather than try to put his team ahead by getting on base or tapping in a run, Stern told Dean Blundell & Co. this morning on Sportsnet 590 The FAN.
Bautista continues to be a lightning rod for the media, though admittedly he seems to provide some talking points pretty often. Please go ahead and quiet the critics with a big game tonight.
Another Blue Jays win tonight and I think things really start to get uncomfortable for Cleveland. Let’s get on this kid early, get a lead and let Marco Estrada do his thing. In the spirit of what seems to be our rallying cry:
Game time 4:08 EST. Go Jays Go!
2016-10-18T19:39:59-04:00Blue Jays 5 Cleveland 1 The message to Cleveland was simple: don't let Toronto win this game, because Marco Estrada pitches tomorrow. The Jays turned to Aaron Sanchez in a must-win matchup, and the young right-hander responded with six innings of one-run ball. One down, three to go. Although Corey Kluber started on short rest, he did not look phased in the early going. Sanchez matched his pair of scoreless innings, and neither lineup got a runner into scoring position through the first two frames. The first serious scoring threat belonged to Cleveland, as Tyler Naquin lined a double into the left-centre gap to leadoff the third. Once Roberto Perez laid down a successful sacrifice bunt, John Gibbons made an aggressive move to bring the infield in against Carlos Santana. After falling behind 3-0, Sanchez battled back to induce a groundball right at second baseman Ryan Goins, who checked the runner and relayed to first for the second out. It was all up to Jason Kipnis to take advantage of the scoring chance, but Sanchez induced yet another groundout to keep the game scoreless. Escaping the top of the third unscathed seemed crucial, as the Blue Jays constantly played from behind all series. With two outs in the bottom half; Josh Donaldson finally put an end to this, belting a 2-2 curveball over the wall in left-centre. This 402-foot solo shot put the Blue Jays out in front 1-0. src="http://m.mlb.com/shared/video/embed/embed.html?content_id=1207435783&topic_id=6479266&width=400&height=224&property=mlb" width="400" height="224" frameborder="0">Your browser does not support iframes. Given Toronto's first lead of the series, Aaron Sanchez responded perfectly with a 1-2-3 forth inning. Toronto's bats were back up to the plate in the blink of an eye, and Kluber's began the bottom half with back-to-back walks to Troy Tulowitzki and Russell Martin. Looking to extend the lead, Michael Saunders struck out swinging, but Ezequiel Carrera followed with a bloop single just in front of Naquin in centre. A good read allowed Tulowitzki to score from second, and Toronto's lead doubled to 2-0. A pair of strikeouts to Pillar and Goins kept the Blue Jays from adding even further, and Aaron Sanchez was back out in the 5th with the 6-7-8 hitters due up. He surrendered a one out walk to Coco Crisp, who soon advanced to second on a ball in the dirt. After Naquin struck out for the second out, nine-hitter Roberto Perez crushed a 2-1 fastball off the wall in left-centre for an RBI double. Toronto 2, Cleveland 1. Aaron Sanchez was still in danger, as Carlos Santana stepped up with a runner in scoring position, looking to tie the game with a base hit. A sharp groundball nearly did the trick, but an outstanding diving stop from Josh Donaldson kept the ball in the infield, and an accurate throw across the diamond preserved Toronto's lead through five. Kluber responded to the run support with a clean fifth, but Sanchez quickly rebounded with a 1-2-3 inning of his own. Cleveland then went to Dan Otero to begin the bottom of the 6th, and Troy Tulowitzki promptly greeted him with a single off the right-field wall. He missed a home run by a matter of inches, but a one-out single from Saunders quickly gave the Blue Jays a runner in scoring position. Up stepped Ezequiel Carrera, who got a hold of a 91 mph sinker, but a terrific route from right-fielder Lonnie Chisenhall allowed him to run the ball down at the warning track. A groundout from Kevin Pillar stranded the runners, and the Blue Jays failed to add to their 2-1 lead. John Gibbons turned to Brett Cecil to begin the seventh, leaving Sanchez with a final line of 7 IP, 2 H, 1 ER, 5 K, 2 BB. The moved looked questionable, as Sanchez was coming off a clean 6th, but Cecil made his manager proud with an easy 1-2-3 inning of his own. Brian Shaw took over for Cleveland following the 7th inning stretch. Once again, [...]
2016-10-18T00:37:04-04:00If only Trevor Bauer’s stitches would have held. Usually getting to the opponent’s bullpen after 0.2 of an inning is a good thing. However, as has been the case against Cleveland, the opponent’s bullpen proved to be too formidable for the Blue Jays as they fell 4-2 to Cleveland in Game 3 of the ALCS. Marcus Stroman got the call for the Blue Jays in Game 3. After being described by Ron Darling as a guy that is “almost like an athlete but in a pitcher’s body”, Marcus led the game off by walking Cleveland’s leadoff hitter, Carlos Santana. After a Jason Kipnis line out and Francisco Lindor strikeout, Mike Napoli hit an opposite field double to score Santana from first. The ball was hit hard and Jose Bautista got a glove on it just before running into the wall. Could/should he have caught it? I don’t know, it would have been a very good play if he was able to come up with it, but alas...1-0 Cleveland. In the bottom of the first, Trevor Bauer struggled his way through 4 hitters. Jose Bautista struck out to lead off the game but after a walk to Josh Donaldson, a hard hit Edwin Encarnacion line out and another walk to Troy Tulowitzki, Bauer’s stitches opened up and he began to bleed quite profusely all over the baseball, the mound and himself. Out came John Gibbons and Terry Francona, and Bauer would be forced to leave the game. I was really hoping that he could continue on as he didn’t look sharp, whether it was due to the cut or not. Dan Otero relieved Bauer and got out of the first. In the bottom of the 2nd inning, Michael Saunders led off with an opposite field home run against Otero that just cleared the wall...game tied 1-1. Marcus Stroman appeared to settle in with a 1,2,3 3rd inning, but Mike Napoli led off the top of the 4th with a home run that was crushed...2-1 Cleveland. Stroman would then retire the next three hitters in order. The Blue Jays would go quietly in the bottom of the 4th (3 up, 3 down), as would Cleveland in the top of the 5th. Ezekiel Carrera got some life back in the Rogers Centre by leading off the bottom of the 5th with a triple to the right field gap. Ryan Goins followed with a ground out up the middle that scored Carrera...game tied 2-2. At the time, I thought that was a huge run for us in avoiding being behind going into the 6th inning. This relief was squashed pretty quickly however when Jason Kipnis led off the top of the 6th against Stroman with a long home run to right field. I thought I could hear the pitter patter of Andrew Miller in the Cleveland bullpen as the ball sailed over the fence....3-2 Cleveland. After striking out Lindor for a second time, John Gibbons decided to leave Marcus Stroman in the game to face Mike Napoli (then 2-2 with a 2B and HR), who walked after working a full count. Gibby then pulled Stroman for Joe Biagini who entered with Napoli on 1st and 1 out. There was then a bit of a weird play where Napoli attempted a a delayed steal on a ball bounced in the dirt and slid in safely to second. The play was later ruled a wild pitch on Biagini. A few pitches later, Jose Ramirez singled softly to right, scoring Napoli easily...4-2 Cleveland. The Blue Jays went quietly in their half of the 6th, as did Cleveland in the top of the 7th. The bottom of the 7th is where the game was ultimately lost by the Blue Jays. Bryan Shaw started the inning and gave up a lead-off single to Kevin Pillar. Much to the chagrin of TBS, Terry Francona called upon his closer Cody Allen in a non-save situation. Allen got Carrera to fly out before striking out Justin Smoak who pinch hit for Goins. Pillar would steal second during the Smoak at bat and nearly came off the bag. Cleveland reviewed and Pillar was ruled safe, but down 2 runs I thought attempting the steal was just a terrible play with your power hitters coming up. Jose Bautista walked to put men on first and second fo[...]