All posts by 500LevelFan

The Week That Was: Week 17


Every Monday during the 2016 season, 500 Level Fan will take a look back at the week that was, giving readers a snapshot of all things Blue Jays, including three top stories and the Blue Jay player of the week.

This is what happened in week 17.

Week 17: July 25 – July 31

Record: 4 – 2

Season-to-date: 59 – 46

AL East: 2nd, 0.5 games behind Baltimore

Wild Card: 1 ahead of Boston (WC1) 2 ahead of Detroit (WC2)

  1. First Place!

The most recent edition of the “biggest series of the year” took place last week when the first place Baltimore Orioles came to town.  With Toronto sitting a mere 1.5 games back, first place was up for grabs.  And for the first time since April 5, the Jays moved atop the AL East after back-to-back wins on Friday and Saturday.  Toronto jumped out early on Friday and held on for a 6-5 win, before thumping Baltimore into submission on Saturday.  Russell Martin and Kevin Pillar delivered key hits while J.A. Happ continues to dominate in 2016.  He held the Orioles to 1 run on 3 hits over 7 innings while striking out 11, improving his record to a crazy 14-3.  Unfortunately their time on top of the division was brief because of…..

  1. ….More Bullpen Woes

First some clarification: the Blue Jays bullpen has been very good of late.  Osuna, Grilli, and Biagini are consistently excellent day in and day out.  Bo Schultz has looked good in the 12 innings he has

pitched.  Brett Cecil has not allowed a run in five straight appearances.  But a major league bullpen is typically comprised of seven relievers, and I only listed five names above.  The final two spots in Toronto’s pen have been a revolving door of ineptitude this year.  Aaron Loup, Pat Venditte, Ryan Tepera, and Chad Girodo have been either mediocre or bad.  Joaquin Benoit has looked decent in his first few innings, but Jesse Chavez and Franklin Morales have not.  The two combined to give Baltimore the win (and first place) on Sunday by allowing four runs in the 12th

inning.  Chavez allowed his 9th HR of the season, a three run shot to Adam Jones, after Morales bungled his way through the beginning of the inning.  Thus far, the Atkins and Shapiro era has shown fans a willingness to move on from players and not hang on to them due to contract or track record (see Storen, Drew).  Is it only a matter of time before we can say so long to Chavez and Morales?

  1. Health Concerns

That the Jays are only a half game out of first has to be seen as somewhat of a miracle considering the health issues that have seemingly plagued this team all year.  It started way back in the spring with Edwin Encarnacion and has continued on to this past weekend.  Bautista was lost for a month with turf toe; Martin went down with a sore knee; Estrada and Cecil went to the DL; Tulo and Donaldson have been battling soreness and injury; Travis missed the first few months of the year.  The question of Aaron Sanchez’s arm has been hanging over the team all year long.  Now, the latest injury – a chip fracture on the right thumb of Troy Tulowitzki after he was hit by a pitch on Sunday afternoon.  Just when he was hitting his stride the Jays will lose Tulo anywhere from a day or two, up to two-plus weeks.  For a team with very little infield depth, let’s hope Tulo is back sooner rather than later.

Player of the Week

Russell Martin, C

Finally starting to swing the bat like he normally does: 5 for 14, 7 BB, 3 2B, 5 R, 3 RBI, .357 / .591 / .571 / 1.162

Down on the Farm

A look at how the minor league affiliates are doing

AAA – Buffalo: 55 – 54, 5th place, 12 GB

AA – New Hampshire: 47 – 60, 5th place, 23.5 GB

A+ – Dunedin: First Half: 33 – 36, 5th place; Second Half: 24 – 14, T-1st place

A – Lansing: First Half: 36 – 34, T-5th place; Second Half: 19 – 18, 3rd place, 5 GB

A (Short Season) – Vancouver: First Half: 16 – 22, 4th place; Second Half: 3 – 3, T-2nd place, 2 GB

The Look Ahead

Tough week ahead, with four in Houston, a place where Toronto is 2-9 in the past three seasons

August 1 – 4 at Houston

August 5 – 7 at Kansas City

The Week That Was: Week 16


Every Monday during the 2016 season, 500 Level Fan will take a look back at the week that was, giving readers a snapshot of all things Blue Jays, including three top stories and the Blue Jay player of the week.

This is what happened in week 16.

Week 16: July 18 – July 24

Record: 3 – 2

Season-to-date: 55 – 44

AL East: 3rd, 3 games behind Baltimore

Wild Card: 0.5 ahead of Houston

  1. Pitching Magic

Toronto came home on Friday, winners of three straight and close to taking over top spot in the AL East.  They were then promptly throttled by the Seattle Mariners, losing 2-1 and 14-5 to fall back to three games behind Baltimore.  Entering Sunday the Jays were reeling and really needed a huge performance from J.A. Happ to stop the bleeding.  And as he has more often than not this year, he delivered.  Happ, Cecil, Grilli, and Osuna combined to toss a 1-hit shutout, limiting the Mariners to only six total baserunners.  Not a single Mariner reached third base.  The pitching performance was huge not only because it prevented a sweep, but also because it rescued Toronto’s offense from a miserable weekend.  Including Sunday’s win, the Jays managed only 7 runs on 16 hits, looking nothing like the juggernaut that obliterated the Diamondbacks.

  1. So Long Storen


off-season acquisition of Drew Storen was greeted by much excitement by Jays fans.  With the trend being to create incredibly strong bullpens, the Jays looked to have constructed a pen to rival the Royals and Yankees for effectiveness.  After all, Storen entered 2016 with a career 3.02 ERA and 95 saves, and would make the back end of Toronto’s pen unstoppable when combined with Osuna and Cecil.  To say it didn’t work out would be an understatement.  Storen struggled all season long.  After allowing three ER on Saturday to drop his ERA to 6.21, the Jays finally pulled the plug on Drew, designating him for assignment.  Osuna still looks good and Grilli has been a revelation, but Storen’s failure leaves the bullpen in a great state of flux.  With the trade deadline now just one week away, pitching help should be priority #1 for Atkins and Shapiro.

  1. Tulo Lives!

To put it bluntly, Troy Tulowitzki was awful early this season.  He was hitting .107 with a .426 OPS after his first eight games, and by May 27 he found himself on the 15-day DL sporting a .204 average and ,673 OPS.  He was striking out a ton and making several uncharacteristic errors in the field.  But before anybody could even think about the word “regression”, Tulo has turned things around in a big, big way.  Since the calendar switched to July, he has been on fire, posting a .338 average, .902 OPS, and 6 RBI, with 6 extra base hits.  He also recorded a hit in every game last week to extend his hitting streak to nine games.  A healthy and productive Tulowitzki has yet to play at the same time as

a healthy and productive Bautista.  With Jose set to return this week, the two of them could be key for a charge to the top.

Player of the Week

Marcus Stroman, SP

Huge bounceback effort for Stroman in Arizona: 8 IP, 1 W, 8 H, 0 BB, 6 K, 1.13 ERA, 1.00 WHIP

Down on the Farm

A look at how the minor league affiliates are doing

AAA – Buffalo: 52 – 50, 4th place, 12 GB

AA – New Hampshire: 45 – 55, 5th place, 22.5 GB

A+ – Dunedin: First Half: 33 – 36, 5th place; Second Half: 18 – 13, 2nd place, 2 GB

A – Lansing: First Half: 36 – 34, T-5th place; Second Half: 17 – 14, 3rd place,

2.5 GB

A (Short Season) – Vancouver: 16 – 21, 4th, 3 GB

The Look Ahead

July ends with six more at home, including a showdown with the Orioles

July 25 – 27 vs. San Diego

July 29 – 31 vs. Baltimore

Sizing Up the Red Sox


As the MLB season enters the final week of July the contenders are starting to separate themselves from the pretenders.  In the AL East, it seems apparent that a three team dogfight is emerging between the Jays, Orioles, and Red Sox.  I took a look at how the Jays schedule has compared to the Orioles thus far a few weeks back, and today I will do the same with Boston.

The Boston Red Sox are a very good baseball team (sadly).  There is no denying that.  They have also been ahead of the Blue Jays virtually the entire season.  But are they really better than Toronto?

Offensively, a case can be made that they are.  They lead the majors with 529 runs scored and an .836 team OPS, compared to Toronto’s 478 runs and .773 OPS.  The Jays have out-homered Boston (137-118), but Boston has hit .289 with runners in scoring position compared to Toronto’s .258.  Advantage Red Sox.

But let’s not forget that the Blue Jays got off to an atrocious start this season.  Let’s re-evaluate those numbers from June onward:

jays boston june july

Suddenly it’s the Jays offense that seems more fearsome.

On the pitching side of the ball it has been all Jays:

jays boston pitching

Other than bullpen ERA, Toronto trumps Boston everywhere.

So why are the Jays behind the Red Sox in the standings?  Sure some of it is due to Toronto’s inconsistent and stuttering start.  But a lot of it can also be blamed on the schedules the two teams have played.

Including the series being played this weekend (Toronto against Seattle, Boston against Minnesota) both teams have played 31 series in 2016.  In series played against opponents who were in first place at the time, Toronto sports a .533 winning percentage compared to Boston’s .526.  Against opponents who were in last place in their divisions at the time Toronto’s win % is .833 and Boston’s is .643.

The major difference?

The Blue Jays have only played six games (over two series) against last place teams.  That’s it – a four game set against the Twins in May, and the recently completed two game stop in Arizona.  The Red Sox, on the other hand, have played a whopping 28 games against last place teams (over 10 series).  That difference is staggering. (For reference, the Jays have played 30 games against division leaders.  Boston?  Only 19.)

To go one step further, you can look at the quality of the opposing pitchers faced.  The top-10 pitchers in terms of WAR in the AL (excluding Aaron Sanchez who, obviously, can’t pitch against Toronto) are:

Chris Tillman, Danny Salazar, Michael Fulmer, Carlos Carrasco, Cole Hamels, Chris Sale, Jose Quintana, Corey Kluber, Colby Lewis, Rich Hill, Masahiro Tanaka

The Blue Jays have faced that group 13 times, compared to only 10 times for Boston.  In terms of interleague play, while both teams had to face Madison Bumgarner, the Jays also had to oppose Clayton Kershaw.  Kershaw will more than likely still be on the DL when the Red Sox head to LA in two weeks.

Is this simply sour grapes?  An exercise of a whiny Jays fan?


– not really, and here’s why:

This should give Jays fans a good feeling.  They have faced a much more difficult schedule and survived a bad start to sit only a game and a half back.

Want more reason for hope?

41 of Boston’s final 69 games (just under 60%) will be played

on the road.  The Red Sox are barely above .500 on the road at 21-19 (and 7 – 9 since June 1st).

47 of Toronto’s final 66 games (51.5%) will be played at home where the Jays are 27 – 20 (but 14 – 6 since June 1st).

Of course there are several other factors that will come into play.  Boston is now without its two best relievers (Kimbrel and Uehara), and their newest prize (Pomeranz) was rocked in his first start.  Toronto will get Bautista back soon, but still must answer the Sanchez question and hope that Estrada’s back holds up.  And obviously, there are still nine days until the deadline.

But boil it all down and the Jays are in a good spot.

Just keep winning.

The Week That Was: Week 15


Every Monday during the 2016 season, 500 Level Fan will take a look back at the week that was, giving readers a snapshot of all things Blue Jays, including three top stories and the Blue Jay player of the week.

This is what happened in week 15.

Week 15: July 11 – July 17

Record: 1 – 2

Season-to-date: 52 – 42

AL East: 3rd, 3 games behind Baltimore

Wild Card: 1 ahead of Houston

  1. Same Old Problems

The Jays were rolling heading into the All-Star break, winners of 8 of 9.  The issues that plagued the team from mid-May to early-June seemed to be a thing of the past.  And then the second half started, and back came the same old problems: a bad Marcus Stroman, an inconsistent R.A. Dickey, and a leaky bullpen.  On Friday night Stroman was staked to an early 7-3 lead but surrendered home runs to Josh Reddick, Khris Davis, and Stephen Vogt to tie the game, before Brett Cecil allowed the winning run to drop his record to 0-6.  On Saturday Dickey was rocked for three HR, turning a 2-0 lead into a 5-4 loss.  Then on Sunday it only took Jesse Chavez four pitches to allow two inherited runners to score as the Jays blew a 3-0 lead.  Thankfully they came away with the W on Sunday, but really could have won all three.  Let’s chalk it up to an All-Star break hangover, but any lasting effects might prove devastating.

  1. All-Star Success

Five Blue Jays were named to the AL All-Star team, and all that were eligible to play saw game action last Tuesday night.  Although the contributions by the Jays were negligible – Donaldson, Encarnacion, and Saunders combined to go 0 for 3 with a walk and a run scored, and Sanchez allowed a run on two hits and a walk in one inning – the American League left San Diego with a 4-2 win and home field advantage in the World Series.  While I personally disagree with making the All-Star game itself worth something as valuable as home field advantage, it was nice that for the first time in decades (literally), Toronto entered the break as a contender.  For once, the game itself actually mattered to a Blue Jays fan.

  1. David Ortiz the Troublemaker

Perhaps it’s because this is his final big league season.  Maybe it’s because he is playing so well.  It could be because he is likable and says things with a laugh and a smile.  Whatever the reason, it seems a little bit odd that nobody seems to care about what David Ortiz had to say during the All-Star festivities about Edwin Encarnacion.  For those who missed it, Ortiz – on multiple occasions – stated that Boston should pursue the Jays DH in the offseason when he becomes a free agent.  “There is no better replacement for me than Edwin,” he said, before adding “sorry Blue Jays fans.”  In a profession where even the smallest things can lead to tampering charges, it is surprising – shocking even – that this is seemingly being pushed under the rug.  Maybe it’s nothing worth fretting over, but for a star to be openly lobbying for another player while he is still under contract to another team (a division rival no less) seems upsetting.

Player of the Week

Roberto Osuna, RP

Not much to choose from in a three game week, but Osuna shut the door when called upon:  2 IP, 1 SV, 0 H, 1 BB, 2 K, 0.00 ERA, 0.50 WHIP

Down on the Farm

A look at how the minor league affiliates are doing

AAA – Buffalo: 51 – 45, 4th place, 9 GB

AA – New Hampshire: 42 – 52, 5th place, 23.5 GB

A+ – Dunedin: First Half: 33 – 36, 5th place; Second Half: 17 – 8, 1st place

A – Lansing: First Half: 36 – 34, T-5th place; Second Half: 15 – 10, 3rd place, 1 GB

A (Short Season) – Vancouver: 15 – 16, T-2nd, 1 GB

The Look Ahead

A short 5-game week

July 19 – 20 at Arizona

July 22 – 24 vs. Seattle

Halfway Home: Revisiting My 2016 Predictions

Crystal Ball

The 2016 MLB mid-season lull

is in full effect.  The Blue Jays are off until Friday night, meaning we have two straight nights of dead air ahead of us.  To help fill the empty space, today I will take a look at just how bad my 2016 predictions look so far.  It’s a good thing that I didn’t make a wager on any of these and I hope that nobody out there made bets at the best sportsbook.  If so, my apologies.

On with the show!

American League Predictions

East 2016 AL East

Thoughts: This is the tightest division in baseball – only 2 games separate Baltimore, Boston, and Toronto.  Call me a homer, but I think the Jays might be in the best position heading into the second half.  Tampa Bay will definitely not finish third as they look completely lost.  The most interesting story will be if the Yankees sell at the deadline or attempt one last charge at a playoff spot.

Central 2016 AL Central

Thoughts: Almost completely nailed this one at the break.  In a very top and bottom heavy division, Cleveland is comfortably ahead and Minnesota is miles behind.  The middle is very tight, with only 0.5 games separating Detroit, KC, and Chicago.  It’s not out of the realm of possibility that I actually sweep this division.  Shocking!

West 2016 AL West

Thoughts: Maybe I should have made a wager after all.  Texas, Houston, and Seattle as the top-3?  Perfect!  In reality, this division is not nearly as settled as it appears.  With the Astros charging and the Rangers hitting a bit of a rough patch, Houston is suddenly only 5.5 games back after a brutal April.  Oakland and LA look like afterthoughts at this point.


I predicted the Royals and Astros.  As it stands now the Red Sox and Blue Jays hold the two slots, but KC (4.5 GB) and Houston (2 GB) are lurking.

Stat Leaders

2016 AL Stat Leaders

Thoughts:  Of all the years I have been making these predictions, this year looks particularly ugly.  I (among many) was expecting a big year from Bautista in his contract year, but his power numbers are down across the board and now he is battling injury.  Jose Altuve as batting champ seems to be nearly automatic these days, and Kimbrel as saves leader has always been as well – except for this year.  Trailing Britton by 10 saves and now out for 4-6 weeks with a knee injury pretty much seals the deal there.  Not my finest effort.

Awards & Miscellany

MVP – Mike Trout, LAA

– Leads all

of baseball in WAR, so has as good a shot as any.

Cy Young – Chris Sale, CHW

– He started the All-Star game so that is a pretty good endorsement.  Seems to be in good shape for a Cy run.

Rookie – Byron Buxton, MIN

– No.  Oh no.  He has nearly twice the number of strikeouts as he has hits.  That is not good.

Manager – John Gibbons, TOR

– He will never get enough credit, even if the Jays do win the East.

Bounceback Player – Matt Wieters, BAL

– A .728 OPS and an All-Star birth are both good signs.

Most Disappointing Player – Justin Upton, DET

– Others may have worse numbers, but considering the expectations and the big contract, Upton’s .235 average, .670 OPS, -0.2 WAR, and 112 strikeouts takes the cake.

First Major Player Traded – Sonny Gray, OAK

– Unless you count Oswaldo Arcia, there hasn’t been a major American League player dealt yet.  Gray still seems like a good bet.

National League Predictions

East 2016 NL East

Thoughts: Again, not bad at all.  The Mets and Marlins are currently tied in the standings, and with NY’s injury woes and Miami maybe getting a second half boost from Giancarlo Stanton’s HR barrage in the Derby, there may be a chance the Mets slip to third.  I was much too high on Atlanta.

Central 2016 NL Central

Thoughts: The Cubs were an across the board favourite and haven’t disappointed.  I still think the Pirates will emerge over St. Louis for second.  The Reds are just plain awful…..

West  2016 NL West

Thoughts: I decided not to believe in the even year magic, and maybe I should have.  The Giants look strong again.  Arizona has been one of the biggest flops in baseball.


I predicted New York and Pittsburgh, and both teams are definitely in the mix.  It might be tough to keep the Dodgers out, but I still have a chance!

Stat Leaders

2016 NL Stat Leaders

Thoughts: Fantastic on the pitching side, though let’s be honest – picking Kershaw across the board would have been just as easy.  On the offensive side?  Not great.  It has been a bit of a down year for Bryce Harper, especially in comparison to his 2015 season, but he is only six HR back of Bryant.  Goldschmidt still has a shot in the RBI and AVG categories as well.  But unless Gordon comes back from his PED suspension running wild, he is done.


MVP – Bryce Harper, WAS

– At this point I don’t think he is in the top-5.  Kershaw, Bryant, and Bumgarner all have better shots.

Cy Young – Clayton Kershaw, LAD

– No-brainer #1.

Rookie – Corey Seager, LAD

– No-brainer #2.

Manager – Dusty Baker, WAS

– Tempted to say no-brainer #3, but you can make a case for Maddon, Bochy, or even Mattingly in Miami.

Bounceback Player – Giancarlo Stanton, MIA

– Unless his impressive home run derby performance triggers a huge resurgence, then I don’t think he wins – not with a .233 average and 107 Ks.

Most Disappointing Player – Johnny Cueto, SF

– Not even close.  He has been outstanding as a Giant, earning the start for the NL in the All-Star game.  A huge whiff.

First Major Player Traded – Carlos Gonzalez, COL

– CarGo is still a Rockie.  James Shields wins this prize.

The Week That Was: Week 14

dickey knuckle

Every Monday during the 2016 season, 500 Level Fan will take a look back at the week that was, giving readers a snapshot of all things Blue Jays, including three top stories and the Blue Jay player of the week.

This is what happened in week 14.

Week 14: July 4 – July 10

Record: 6 – 1

Season-to-date: 51 – 40

AL East: 3rd, 2 games behind Baltimore

Wild Card: 2 ahead of Houston

  1. Rolling Along

Remember the frustrations of April and May?  Remember the days when the hitters weren’t hitting, the bullpen wasn’t performing, and guys like Donaldson, Tulo, Edwin, and Martin were flailing at pitches and striking out a ton?  Yeah, me neither.  The Jays rolled into the All-Star break with another outstanding week of baseball, going 6-1 against two of the top team in the AL Central (and also two of the teams chasing them for the Wild Card).  Kansas City came to town and managed to score only 7 runs in a three game sweep, before the Tigers came to Toronto and promptly lost three of four.  When the week came to an end and the dust settled, the Jays had outscored those teams 37 to 15, and had cut the gap behind the first place Orioles to a mere two games.  And if you want more reason for optimism, think of things this way: the Jays are 51 – 40 and have been playing for a while without Jose Bautista, survived a horrific eight game slump from Marcus Stroman, and pitched essentially the entire first half without vintage Brett Cecil.  The 51 first half wins are the most since 1992, a year that ended pretty well in Toronto.  Things are looking up.

  1. All-Star Heaven

The 87th All-Star game is set for tomorrow night in San Diego and besides from the amazing uniforms (seriously – I think they’re great!) the game will be very memorable for Blue Jays fans.  For the first time since 2006 (Troy Glaus, Roy Halladay, B.J. Ryan, Alex Rios, and Vernon Wells) the Jays will be sending five players to the Midsummer Classic.  Josh Donaldson, Edwin Encarnacion, and Marco Estrada were named reserves last Tuesday.  Michael Saunders received over 17-million votes in winning the Final Vote – the second Jay to win that competition.  And Aaron Sanchez was deservedly named as a replacement for Boston’s injured Craig Kimbrel.  Though none of Toronto’s All-Stars will get a shot to participate in tonight’s HR Derby, all but the injured Estrada should get a chance to help deliver home field advantage to the AL in the World Series.  And for the first time in a while, that could prove to be very, very important for a contending Jays club.

  1. They’re Back…

Perhaps the most surprising stat of the first half is this: at the All-Star break, three of the top-10 ERA’s in the American League belong to Blue Jay starters.  Marco Estrada (2.93) is in third, Aaron Sanchez (2.97) sits fourth, and J.A. Happ (3.36) has the 10th best ERA in the AL.  And while those stats are incredible and show that Toronto’s pitching has been criminally underrated this year, none of those guys represent the most important hurlers of the second half.  No, those would be R.A. Dickey and Marcus Stroman, two guys who had wildly inconsistent and rollercoaster first halves, but who are showing signs of turning things around.  Dickey had yet another miserable April, finishing the month with a 6.75 ERA, but has been absolutely terrific since.  In 14 starts from May onward, Dickey is 6-6 with a 3.10 ERA, 1.19 WHIP, and an average of 6.4 innings per start.  In two starts last week he completely dismantled the Royals and Tigers, allowing only 3 ER and 10 H in 14 IP.  Stroman has also come back from the dead in a big way.  After an eight-start stretch that saw his ERA rise almost two full runs, he shut down the Indians on Canada Day, before pitching 8 innings of 2-run, 3-hit ball against Kansas City on Wednesday.  If those two guys can keep it going in the second half, there may be no stopping this team.

Player of the Week

R.A. Dickey, SP

A huge week for the maligned knuckleballer:  2-0, 14 IP, 10 H, 5 BB, 13 K, 1.93 ERA, 1.07 WHIP


on the Farm

A look at how the minor league affiliates are doing

AAA – Buffalo: 50 – 41, 4th place, 6 GB

AA – New Hampshire: 40 – 48, 4th place, 22.5 GB

A+ – Dunedin: First Half: 33 – 36, 5th place; Second Half: 14 – 5, 1st place

A – Lansing: First Half: 36 – 34, T-5th place; Second Half: 14 – 5, 1st place

A (Short Season) – Vancouver: 13 – 11, T-1st

The Look Ahead

The 87th All-Star game followed by a trip to Oakland

July 12 All-Star Game

July 15 – 17 at Oakland

500 Level Fan’s 2016 All-Stars and No-Stars


The rosters for the 2016 MLB All-Star game in San Diego have been named, and the Blue Jays are well represented.  With Estrada, Donaldson, and Encarnacion already declared All-Stars, and with Michael Saunders currently leading the battle for the Final Vote, Toronto might wind up with four players on the AL team.  But how many will make my team?  Today I announce the sixth annual 500 Level Fan All-Star and No-Star teams – a list of players who are really, truly, and brutally awful.

So sit back and enjoy 500 Level Fan’s All-Star and No-Stars for 2016:


All-Stars: – Salvador Perez (Kansas City, AL) and Buster Posey (San Francisco, NL)

– Believe it or not, Perez is the top hitting catcher in the AL with a .771 OPS, leads in WAR at 2.3, and has thrown out 54.5% of all stolen base attempts.  Posey sports an OPS 100 points lower than Washington’s Wilson Ramos, but trumps him on the defensive side of the ball (MLB leading 58.6% caught stealing compared to 34.6% for Ramos).  Also has a 2.6 WAR.

No-Stars -Yan Gomes (Cleveland, AL) and A.J. Pierzynski (Atlanta, NL)

– It’s been a nightmare season for Gomes as the former Jay is hitting only .175 with a .207 OBP, and 63 strikeouts to 8 walks.  It might finally be time for A.J. to call it quits – he sports the worst WAR in baseball for catchers at -2.0.

First Base

All-Stars: – Miguel Cabrera (Detroit, AL) and Anthony Rizzo (Chicago, NL)

– Cabrera is showing no signs of slowing down, dominating the AL at age 33.  He has 18 HR, 53 RBI, and a .902 OPS, and has the Tigers in contention for a playoff spot.  In a loaded 1B class in the NL (Goldschmidt, Belt, Myers, Votto), it’s Rizzo who takes the cake thus far.  His .962 OPS, 3.3 WAR, and 20 HR lead all NL 1B, and the Cubs are running away with the Central because of it.

No-Stars – Chris Colabello (Toronto, AL) and Ryan Howard (Philadelphia, NL)

– Might seem a bit harsh putting Colabello here, but he might possibly have had the worst first half of all time.  He went 2 for 29 (.069 average, .225 OPS) in the short time he played before being suspended for 80 games for PEDs.  Awful.  Howard makes the No-Star team for the third straight year, as his performance is getting worse and worse.  A .151 average, .557 OPS, and -2.1 WAR are not what you expect for $25-million.

Second Base

All-Stars – Jose Altuve (Houston, AL) and Daniel Murphy (Washington, NL)

– What a year for second baseman, as a case can be made for 11 of them to make the All-Star team.  My vote goes to Altuve (tops in WAR, AVG, and SB) to edge Cano, Kinsler, and Pedroia in the AL, and Murphy (.957 OPS, 14 HR, 56 RBI) over Zobrist and Segura in the NL.

No-Stars – Ryan Goins (Toronto, AL) and Dee Gordon (Miami, NL)

– The second Jay on the No-Star team and Goins fully deserves it.  After a great finish to 2015 much was expected of him this year, but a .176 average is not getting it done.  Gordon won the NL batting title in 2015 and inked a huge contract extension, but started the year hitting .266 with 6 times as many strikeouts as walks, and then got busted for PEDs.

Third Base

All-Stars – Josh Donaldson (Toronto, AL) and Kris Bryant (Chicago, NL)

– The defending AL MVP is at it again with a slash line of .301 / .413 / .596 / 1.009, 22 HR, 60 RBI, 6 SB, and 19 2B.  Bryant is proving to everybody that the hype was worth it by putting up a banner year in Chicago.  His 25 HR and 4.2 WAR lead the entire National League.

No-Stars – Pablo Sandoval (Boston, AL) and Jordan Pacheco (Cincinnati, NL)

– What a season for the Panda.  He showed up overweight, fought with management, went 0 for 6 with 4 strikeouts, then went out for the season with injury, all for the bargain price of $17.6 million!  Pacheco received 51 AB for the Reds, managed 8 hits, 14 strikeouts, and a .392 OPS before being released.  Tough start.


All-Stars: – Xander Bogaerts (Boston, AL) and Corey Seager (Los Angeles, NL)

– It’s a new wave of shortstops in the AL, and Bogaerts, Correa, and Lindor are virtually even.  Xander has a slight lead in OPS, which earns him the nod.  In the NL, Seager is a 22-year old rookie with 17 HR, a .303 average, and a .900 OPS.  Incredible.

No-Stars – Alcides Escobar (Kansas City, AL) and Alexei Ramirez (San Diego, NL)

– A year after making the All-Star team, winning a Gold Glove, and being a huge sparkplug for the World Series champs, Escobar is struggling mightily both at the plate (.609 OPS) and in the field (10 errors).  Ramirez switched leagues but still finds himself on the No-Star team for the second year in a row with a -2.1 WAR and a glove that is an astonishing 16 runs below average.


All-Stars: – Mike Trout (LA Angels, AL), Mookie Betts (Boston, AL), Ian Desmond (Texas, AL), and Starling Marte (Pittsburgh, NL), Carlos Gonzalez (Colorado, NL), Ryan Braun (Milwaukee, NL)

– Trout just keeps getting better (18 HR, 1.000 OPS), and Betts is delivering on his pre-season hype (18 HR, .866 OPS), but the real surprise is Desmond.  Signed on a one-year deal and playing out of position he has put up 15 HR, 15 SB, and a 3.5 WAR.  With McCutchen and Polanco sharing an outfield, Marte is often overlooked but he shouldn’t be (25 SB, .318 average).  CarGo and Braun are dialing back the clock a few years with a combined 31 HR, 95 RBI, and .918 OPS.

No-Stars – Justin Upton (Detroit, AL) and Ben Revere (Washington, NL)

– After signing a 6-year, $132-million deal with the Tigers, Upton has been a massive disappointment thus far: .230 average, .653 OPS, 8 HR, 106 strikeouts.  Revere looks nothing like the guy that hit leadoff in Toronto last year.  He isn’t hitting (.225 avg), getting on base (.273 OBP), or running (10/14 in SB).

Starting Pitcher

All-Stars: – Chris Sale (Chicago, AL) and Clayton Kershaw (Los Angeles, NL)

– Danny Salazar has a better ERA, a higher K/9 ratio, better WAR, and has allowed 25 fewer hits than Sale.  So why Sale?  He pitches deeper into games (7.05 IP/start vs. 6.18 for Salazar), has a much better WHIP (0.98 to 1.14), and walks far fewer batters (24 to 44).  Either are worthy, however.  The NL is much more top heavy (Arrieta, Cueto, Bumgarner, Teheran, Syndergaard) but there is no debate: Kershaw is the man.  He leads the league in ERA (1.79), Shutouts (3), ERA+ (220), FIP (1.69), WHIP (0.73), Hits/9 (5.9), and K/W (an astounding 16.11).  He has 8 unintentional walks in 121 innings!

No-Stars – Ubaldo Jimenez (Baltimore, AL) and Shelby Miller (Arizona, NL)

– That Jimenez somehow has 5 wins despite a 6.95 ERA, 1.92 WHIP, and 48 walks shows just how strong Baltimore’s offense is.  Miller has been a huge bust in Arizona with his 7.14 ERA almost single handedly crushing the D-Backs playoff hopes.

Non-Closing Reliever

All-Stars: – Brad Brach (Baltimore, AL) and Seung Hwan Oh (St. Louis, NL)

– Betances and Miller are striking out everybody for the Yankees but it’s hard to ignore Brach’s 0.95 ERA, 0.80 WHIP, and 56 K in 47.1 IP.  Oh is now technically the closer for the Cardinals, but he still counts here.  He has been lights out: 58 K, 0.88 WHIP, 1.67 ERA in 43 IP.

No-Stars – Mark Lowe (Detroit, AL) and Jose Urena (Miami, NL)

– I don’t know what is crazier: the fact that Lowe has a 10.33 ERA and 1.89 WHIP, or the fact that he has appeared in 31 games, meaning the Tigers keep putting him out there!  Urena was awful in 16 appearances for the Marlins, putting up a 7.52 ERA.


All-Stars: – Zach Britton (Baltimore, AL) and Kenley Jansen (Los Angeles, NL)

– Britton is 25 for 25 in save chances, and sports a crazy looking 0.76 ERA and 0.84 WHIP.  Jansen’s WHIP is even lower, however, at 0.64 thanks to only 5 walks allowed 35.2 innings, compared with 47 strikeouts.

No-Stars – Shawn Tolleson (Texas, AL) and J.J. Hoover (Cincinnati, NL)

– Tolleson came out of nowhere in 2015 and seemingly was in a hurry to get back there in 2016, blowing four saves with an ERA of 9.20 before finally losing the closer job in late May.  Hoover blew his very first chance as Reds closer, and had an ERA of 19.50 on April 22.  That….is not good.

The Week That Was: Week 13

EE Happy

Every Monday during the 2016 season, 500 Level Fan will take a look back at the week that was, giving readers a snapshot of all things Blue Jays, including three top stories and the Blue Jay player of the week.

This is what happened in week 13.

Week 13: June 27 – July 3

Record: 4 – 3

Season-to-date: 45 – 39

AL East: 3rd, 3.5 games behind Baltimore

Wild Card: Tied with Detroit

  1. Battle of the Heavyweights

End of June / early July is a bit early to start thinking about potential playoff matchups, but the Indians and Jays sure gave us a tantalizing glimpse of what October might be like last week.  Entering the series the Indians were riding a 12-game winning streak and were sitting comfortably on top of the AL Central, six games ahead of the Royals.  The Jays were scuffling a little bit but were still in the thick of the hunt in the AL East.  On the surface it had the makings of a classic tilt, and for the most part the series didn’t disappoint.  On Thursday, Carlos Carrasco struck out 14 as the Jays offense sputtered.  Friday produced one of the wildest games ever seen in Toronto (more on that below).  The Jays bats finally woke up on the weekend, smacking 30 hits and plating 26 runs to earn the series split.  The four games had a bit of everything: great starting pitching (Carrasco and – finally – a nice start from Stroman), dominant relief pitching (Friday’s marathon),

errors, runs, and lot and lots of extra base hits.  If these teams can continue to play well down the stretch and qualify for October, I wouldn’t be against seeing a rematch.

  1. Marathon Men

The Indians and Blue Jays showed up for Friday’s Canada Day matinee ready to play.  Then they kept playing.  And playing.  And playing.  When it was finally all said and done, the Tribe had outlasted the Jays 2-1 in 19 innings, leaving a sour taste in the mouths of fans who stuck around for all 6 hours and 13 minutes of action.  It was a game that pretty much had it all.  You want great starting pitching?  You got it.  Josh Tomlin lasted six innings for Cleveland, surrendering 7 hits and striking out 8.  Marcus Stroman finally looked like the ace of old, allowing 5 hits and a walk while striking out 6 in 6.2 IP.  You like bullpens?  We saw eight Cleveland relievers (including Saturday’s projected starter Trevor Bauer) shut the door, pitching 13 scoreless innings while allowing only four hits.  The Jays nearly followed suit, as nine men took the mound and allowed one run in 12.1 IP.  We also saw Ryan Goins and Darwin Barney both toe the rubber, and both looked surprisingly competent, despite Barney surrendering the eventual game winning home run.  And finally, the game wasn’t without controversy, as home plate umpire Vic Carapazza had possibly one of the worst games in modern history, calling an absolutely abysmal strike zone that resulted in the ejections of Edwin Encarnacion, John Gibbons, and Russell Martin.  With EE in the lineup, does anybody think the game goes 19?  Didn’t think so…

  1. Return of the Bats

Blue Jay hitters were thoroughly befuddled on Thursday and Friday by Cleveland Indians pitching.  But other than those two games, you would never know that Toronto was suffering from an offensive slump virtually all year long.  It was 2015 all over again as the Jays scored 24 runs in three games in Colorado, then put up 26 in the last two games against Cleveland.  It wasn’t just the usual suspects contributing either, as everybody got into the act.  Devon Travis hit .300 with a home run and two steals.  Barney went 6/19, Smoak blasted two HR, and Ezequiel Carrera scored six runs.  But the real fireworks were provided by the core.  Encarnacion continued his torrid pace three HR, 10 RBI, and a .375 average.  Donaldson scored 11 runs, bashed 3 HR, and drove in 9.  Tulowitzki went deep three times, and Russell Martin had eight hits.  It took a while – nearly half the season – but the lineup, top to bottom, has finally arrived.

Player of the Week

Josh Donaldson, 3B

Just keeps crushing the ball: 12 for 31, 11 R, 1 2B, 1 3B, 3 HR, 9 RBI, .387 / .513 / .774 / 1.287

Down on the Farm

A look at how the minor league affiliates are doing

AAA – Buffalo: 46 – 38, 4th place, 6 GB

AA – New Hampshire: 36 – 47, 5th place, 24 GB

A+ – Dunedin: First Half: 33 – 36, 5th place; Second Half: 8 – 3, T1st place

A – Lansing: First Half: 36 – 34, T-5th place; Second Half: 7 – 4, 2nd place, 2 GB

A (Short Season) – Vancouver: 9 – 8, 3rd, 2 GB

The Look Ahead

A rematch of last year’s ALCS.  Get ready!

July 4 – 6 vs. Kansas City

July 7 – 10 vs. Detroit

500 Level Fan Book Review: The Big 50 by Shi Davidi

big 50

To purchase a copy of the book please refer to the links at the end of

the review.

Rankings and “best-of” lists always make for great debate.  Whether it be lists of best movies, best bands, or best restaurants, rankings are subjective, personal, and vary significantly based on the age, background, and inclinations of the individual making the list.

This used to be the case in baseball.  For years, decades even, the question of “who is the greatest baseball player of all time” sparked water cooler (or bar-room, depending on your choice of beverage) debates amongst fans of all ages.  Was it Babe Ruth?  Ty Cobb?  Willie Mays?  Was it Mantle, Bonds, Pujols, Griffey, or Koufax?  What about current stars like Kershaw, Trout, and Harper?  While debate can still rage, new advanced stats like WAR enable us to compare players of different eras and at different positions with relative ease.  Subjectivity is slowly dying.

Which is part of what makes The Big 50: The Men and Moments That Made the Toronto Blue Jays such an entertaining read.  The latest effort by Shi Davidi (also the author of Great Expectations: The Lost Toronto Blue Jays Season with John Lott) attempts to do what so many Blue Jays fans (myself included) have tried: to rank the Top 50 moments in the history of the franchise.

It’s an exercise in futility to be sure, because 96% of the book will be considered “wrong” by both casual and hardcore fans.  (Let’s be honest – every single person should have the 1992 and 1993 World Series wins as 1 and 2).  But that is also what makes the book so fascinating and appealing: 96% of the list is up for debate.

I had the privilege and the pleasure to speak with Shi Davidi about the book earlier this week from Denver, where he was in town for the Jays interleague visit against the Rockies (as an aside, Colorado’s Coors Field is the 29th big league stadium that Davidi has visited, leaving only Dodger Stadium on his list – I’m jealous).  Not only was Shi gracious enough to take my call while visiting the Red Rocks Amphitheatre (again – jealous), he was kind enough to stay on the line while I rambled through a series of questions about the book and the team itself.

At its core, defining the top moments of any baseball franchise is a difficult task, but picking the top 50 for the Toronto Blue Jays seemed like it might be more difficult than most.  With only 39 seasons in the books, the Blue Jays have a relatively short history when compared to the Yankees and Red Sox, Cubs and Cardinals.  With many of those seasons lacking in star power, results, and excitement, was it difficult to find 50 salient moments?  Not at all, according to Davidi.  “I put together a list of 75 to 80 potentials,” he said in response to the question.  In order to trim that list without cutting some great moments out, he tried to bring several great moments together: “As I moved along in the process, what I started trying to do where possible was to try and combine things wherever I could.  Rather than just focusing on the Alomar home run I turned it into what I called the Holy Trinity of home runs [with Joe Carter and Ed Sprague, and the bat flip as an added bonus].”

Still many moments missed the cut.  “There were a couple of things that I was upset about not getting into the book,” Davidi said.  “I really wish I’d done more on Jimmy Key, I really wish I’d done a bit more on the Brandon Morrow one-hitter, and maybe even fit a bit more Aaron Hill into the book too.”

Davidi did spend a lot of time talking about individual players in the “Franchise Icon” series, a set of chapters devoted to ten of the most important people in Blue Jay history (Gillick, Alomar, Gaston, Bell, Halladay, Stieb, Delgado, Carter, Fernandez, and Cheek).  These chapters were terrific as they dealt less with individual in-game moments, and more on the actual people themselves, often giving the reader personal touches and interesting tidbits.  For instance in the “Franchise

Icon: Cito Gaston” chapter (#15), we get this beauty from Cito: “I lost about 10 pounds those first two weeks managing.  I also blame it on the fact it became 24/7 because Paul’s [Beeston] a workaholic and Gillick is too.  They’d make you one whether you were already or not.”

Or this, from my personal favourite “Franchise Icon: Tony Fernandez” (#45): “I saw him taking ground balls off the bat, with no shoes, no shirt, and like a cotton glove, and he just picked it clean.” remembered Alfredo Griffin.”  Classic.

The list of Franchise Icons that Davidi chose for the book is virtually an exact match to the Level of Excellence in the Rogers Centre.  When asked who might be the next great Jay honoured with a spot on the Level of Excellence Davidi mentioned “Halladay is an automatic.  After that, Jose Bautista and you can make a pretty good argument for Edwin Encarnacion.”  When asked about the candidacy of John Gibbons to the Level, there was a pause before Shi said “for a manager to up there, you’ve got to win a World Series….the induction of Gibbons would be too polarizing for the fan base….unless he wins a World Series or two.”

Obviously it was impossible to fit everything in the book, and I noticed that of the 50 moments chosen, only six took place within the “Dark Days” of the franchise, the post-World Series / pre-Bautista era.  Although those teams are not remembered as fondly as others, there were some solid squads in that 15 year stretch.  I asked Shi that if today’s two Wild Card playoff structure existed back then if that would have changed the way that era is perceived by fans and writers alike: “I thought that I under-represented that era, but then I thought: what am I really going to

take from that era?….If there had been a second wild card….they could have won a one-off game and had a chance to make some noise, but the Yankees and the Red Sox just had too much.”

At the end of the day though, what makes this book so great is the endless debate it can trigger.  Why is Carlos Delgado’s 4-HR game ranked so high (#7)?  Why is Vernon Wells’ record setting 215-hit season ranked so low (#41)?  Where is Frank Catalanotto’s 6-hit game?  The verbal sparring is endless, and according to Shi a lot of discussion went in to crafting the list. “I distributed my list to a bunch of people.  Jerry Howarth, Buck Martinez, Howard Starkman, Jay Stenhouse, Bob Elliot, Mike Wilner, Scott MacArthur – a bunch of people who are around the team and whose opinion I trust and who know more about the team than I do.   I said ‘hey what do you guys think of this to give me an idea?  Yes or no?  Up?  Down?  I used that a little bit, and then I also used my own subjective opinions.”

For those of you who regularly read Shi’s pieces on (and that should be pretty much all of you) you will know that his subjective opinions are ones that you can trust.  He is an excellent journalist, incredibly skilled in the art of concise writing.  A Davidi article provides context, content, a message, and his aforementioned subjective opinion in a short amount of time, letting a reader get exactly what they need quickly.  He has replicated that style with this book, not once but 50 times.

The Big 50 is set up in such a way that you don’t have to read his opinion 50 times, but can simply pick and choose any of the top moments in franchise history.  But trust me – once you start, it’s impossible to not read straight through to the end.

And once you’re there, it’s even harder to not spend hours trying to come up with your own list.

Let the debate begin.


You can order The Big 50: The Men and Moments That Made the Toronto Blue Jays online at and

Also visit the publishers of The Big 50 at the Triumph Books website.

Follow Shi David on Twitter for all the latest Blue Jays news.



Baltimore and Toronto: Lucky or Good?

blanche showalter

It is June 29th, and the Baltimore Orioles are separating themselves from the rest of the American League East.  After winning again in San Diego last night, Baltimore now sits 4.5 games up on Boston and 5.5 ahead of Toronto.  They have won 6 games in a row and show no signs of slowing down.

On the surface this Orioles team looks fearsome, a daunting challenge for the Jays to try and track down.  They have 123 home runs – the most in the majors.  They have the 3rd best team OPS in all of baseball at .807.  They have the 3rd best bullpen ERA in baseball.  They are also full of star players like Manny Machado, Chris Davis, and Adam Jones.

But is Baltimore really that good?  Or have they just been extraordinarily lucky with the timing of their schedule?  Granted, you still have to win the games put in front of you, but doesn’t it always seem that while the Blue Jays are playing teams in the middle of winning streaks the Orioles are battling teams that are hitting rock bottom?

I decided to expand on the post I wrote last week about Toronto’s rotten and unlucky timing, and apply it to the Orioles as well.  I wanted to see if the assumption made above was actually true.  Are the Baltimore Orioles benefiting as much from who they are playing as they are from how they are playing?

The answer is a resounding yes.

To prove it, I took a look at each and every series that both Baltimore and Toronto have played, and created a simple formula to compare the difficulty of their opponents.  The day that a series against a new opponent begins, I calculated the strength of that opponent based on the following:

– plus or minus 1 point for every game above or below .500 on the season

– plus or minus 1 point for every game above or below .500 in the past 5 games

– plus or minus 1 point for every game above or below .500 in the past 10 games

– plus or minus the opponent’s current streak

For example, if upon entering a series a team was 15-14 on the season, 3-2 in its past 5, 5-5 in its past 10, and riding a 3 game winning streak, they would earn a score of 5 (1 for the season record, 1 for the past 5 game record, 0 for the past 10 game record, and 3 for the winning streak).  The higher the score, the more difficult the opponent.  Simple.

Including the current matchups (Toronto visiting Colorado and Baltimore visiting San Diego) both the Jays and O’s have played 25 series in 2016.  The total sum of opponent difficulties?  Not even close:

Toronto +80

Baltimore -53

To summarize things, I classified each series into a Neutral, Hard, or Easy rating.  Any opponent with a negative double digit score was considered an easy opponent.  Anything in positive double digits was considered hard.  Anything in between was considered neutral.  The overall breakdown is heavily skewed in Baltimore’s favour:


That’s right – the Blue Jays have played in almost twice as many “hard” series and three-and-a-half times fewer “easy” series.  A quick comparison of the details behind the hard and easy series will bring home the point more clearly:

Toronto – Hard Opponents

Jays Strength of opponent

Baltimore – Hard Opponents

Orioles opponent strength

As you can see, the June 17th series was played against each other so in reality the Jays have played six difficult series to Baltimore’s three.  As is also evident from the chart, timing is everything.  Whereas a series against Oakland right now might be seen as relatively easy given the A’s are 9 games under .500, back on April 22nd it definitely was not.  At that time Oakland was 9-7 on the season, 5-0 in the past 5, 6-4 in the past 10, and riding a 5-game winning streak.  Similarly, as demonstrated by the Yankees series on May 24th, a team doesn’t even need to be above .500 to be considered difficult.  Though New York was only 21-22, they were also riding a 5-game win streak and were 5-0 and 7-3 in their recent stretch.   Not easy at all.

The overall records in those games?

Toronto: 11 – 11

Baltimore: 8 – 6

Toronto – Easy Opponents

Jays easy opponents

Baltimore – Easy Opponents

Baltimore easy opponents

This where the comparison really gets interesting.  The Blue Jays have only played two series that could be considered easy.  Minnesota and Philadelphia are weak teams to begin with, and both were struggling mightily when they played the Jays.  But that’s been it for weak opponents.  Baltimore, on the other hand, has played a weak opponent seven times!  And not all of them have been bad teams.  They played the Yankees a few weeks before the Blue Jays did, only instead of New York being red hot they were ice cold: 8-15 and losers of 5-straight.  When Toronto played Oakland on April 22, the A’s were on fire.  Two weeks later the Orioles played an A’s team that had lost 4-straight and was 3-7 in its past 10.  They also were given a chance to play a Rays team and an Astros team that were in deep, deep slumps.

The overall records in these “easy” games?

Toronto: 6 – 2

Baltimore: 14 – 7

Overall, both teams are holding their own in games against difficult opponents and both teams are beating up on the weak teams.  The biggest difference is that the Jays have played 13 fewer games against chumps, and 8 more games against champs.

To further illustrate the differences in schedules, consider this:

– The combined record of Baltimore’s opponents at the time of each series is 461 – 480, 19 games under .500.  The combined record of Toronto’s opponents in 480 – 452, 28 games over .500.

– The Blue Jays have played against a first place team 8 times.  Baltimore?  Just 4.

– Baltimore, on the other hand, has played against a last place team 6 times.  Toronto?  Only once.

So the next time you take a look at the standings and see the Jays behind the Orioles, remember one thing: Baltimore isn’t exactly a powerhouse.  This exercise has determined that while they may be a good team, they are definitely not perfect – just a team that has fattened up its record against a bunch of also-rans.

For the Blue Jays, this means one thing:

The Orioles can be caught.

This season is nowhere near over.