Category Archives: Upper Deck Insight

Starting Pitchers: From Weakness to Strength

Marcum has been lights out all year (from

This afternoon I was killing some time over at ESPN’s Fantasy Baseball section, reading the weekly column by AJ Mass about starting pitchers.  Each week he ranks the top 100 starting pitchers in fantasy, based primarily on expected performance from this point forward.  Glancing at the list I was both pleased and surprised to find four members of the Toronto Blue Jays starting rotation in the rankings:

51. Brandon Morrow

58. Ricky Romero

59. Shaun Marcum

91. Brett Cecil

There are eight teams who have more starters ranked than Toronto, including the Reds with six (Cueto, Arroyo, Volquez, Wood, Leake, Harang), so this is not to suggest that Toronto has the top rotation in the bigs.  But with 30 teams in the league, mathematically the top 100 should average to just over three starters per team, suggesting right away that the Jays have an above average rotation.

Now – close your eyes and pretend it is the end of March.  Can you possibly imagine anybody – analyst or fan – suggesting that the Toronto Blue Jays would have an above average starting rotation?  Many pre-season scouting reports picked Toronto to come in dead last, primarily pointing to their lack of pitching depth.  Lead by Hill and Lind they would surely score runs (ha!), but without the veteran presence of Roy Halladay, the younger pitchers would face tough growing pains in the AL East.

Think about it: going into Spring Training Toronto really only had two starting rotation spots accounted for.  The first was to Shaun Marcum, a man who missed the entire 2009 season due to injury.  The second was to Ricky Romero, a second year starter who faded badly in the second half of his rookie season.  The final three rotation spots would eventually be claimed by a long reliever / spot starter (Brian “Billy Talent” Tallet), a journeyman pitcher who had played for three teams in five years with a 5.54 career ERA and was a late addition to spring training (Dana Eveland), and a hard throwing, wildly inconsistent pitcher acquired for Brandon League in an off-season trade with Seattle (Brandon Morrow).  Sure the Jays had a nice collection of young arms in the minors (Cecil, Rzepczynski, Mills, Purcey) and a former rotation mainstay returning soon from injury (Litsch), but that was more for next year.  This year was going to be a disaster.

But after Eveland flamed out and Tallet was injured, it was if something calming came over the team.  Cecil arrived, Litsch returned, Romero and Marcum stayed true to form, and Morrow found consistency.  Suddenly the starters have become a strength to the Jays – not the weakness that was predicted heavily by virtually everybody in March and April.

For proof other than the top 100 by AJ Mass, let’s look at the stats and rank Toronto’s starting rotation amongst all the rotations in the AL this season:

Wins: 41 – 7th

ERA: 4.23 – 8th

K/9: 7.30 – 1st

WHIP: 1.33 – T7th

Opponents Average: .256 – 6th

But, and this is a big BUT, don’t forget that those numbers are for Toronto’s starting rotation for the entire year – which includes Tallet, Eveland, and spot starts from Rzep and Mills.  Utilizing the numbers from only the current five (Marcum, Romero, Morrow, Cecil, Litsch) look what happens:

Wins: 36

ERA: 3.97

K/9: 7.60

WHIP: 1.28

Opponents Average: .245

Every single number (except wins obviously) gets better.  And every number looks pretty damn good.

To think that I would be writing a column about how good Toronto’s starting rotation is this season is both unexpected and amazing.

And to think that the oldest member of that rotation (Marcum) is only 28, there is a great chance that I could be writing more of these columns in the future.

The Baltimore Orioles Are Absolutely, Positively Horrendous

There are many Blue Jays fans out there who complain about the AL East.  They complain that it’s unfair that we have to battle the best young team in the game AND the two highest payrolls in the game.  There is no chance the Jays can ever make the playoffs in this division, they say.  Waah, waah, waah.

To some degree they have a point.  But this column isn’t about that.  This column is about the one good thing that comes with residing in the AL East:

The Baltimore Orioles.

As the title of this posting suggests, the Baltimore Orioles are absolutely, positively horrendous.

This hasn’t always been the case in Baltimore.  They used to be a good team.  The Orioles moved to Baltimore from St. Louis (where they were the Browns) in 1954.  They won the World Series in 1966, 1970, and 1983.  They lost in the World Series in 1969, 1971, and 1979.  They made the playoffs in 1973, 1974, and even as recent as 1996 and 1997.  But it’s been all downhill from there. 

From 1998 until yesterday, Baltimore has compiled a record of 886-1155 (.434 winning percentage).  They have allowed 1,080 more runs than they have scored.  They have gone through six different managers.  And they have finished dead last in the AL East for two consecutive seasons.

With a 31-68 record this year, it is about to be three straight years in the basement.

Which brings us back to 2010.  After a 9-5 win last night, the Blue Jays are a perfect 10-0 against the Orioles this season.  But what makes it even more impressive is the fact that Toronto isn’t just beating Baltimore.  They are thumping them.  Badly.

To quote a tweet from Jays beat writer @MLBastian, in the 10 wins this year Toronto has outscored Baltimore 57 – 21, out homered them 21 – 4, and out extra-base hit them 52 – 16.  The pitchers have an ERA of 1.90.  This isn’t merely a beating – this is complete and utter domination.

With eight games remaining on the schedule Toronto has a very realistic chance to set a franchise record for wins against one opponent in a season.  That current record is 15 against….you guessed it….the Baltimore Orioles.  Toronto went 15 – 4 against them in 2002, and outscored them by a margin of 107 – 67.

If that sounds impressive consider this: at the current rate, Toronto is on pace to outscore the Orioles this year by a count of 102 – 37.  That is 25 runs better than in 2002 – in one fewer game.

In fact, three of Toronto’s six best individual season records have come at the expense of the Orioles:

15-4: 2002 vs. Baltimore

12-1: 1987 vs. Baltimore, 1991 vs. Cleveland

11-1: 1999 vs. Baltimore, 1984 vs. Minnesota, 1989 vs. Chicago White Sox

So take heart Blue Jays fans.  Though we won’t make the playoffs this year, and we might not next year, it is always good to know that we can pick on somebody.

Or has Jose Bautista said after yesterday’s game: “It’s nice to be able to beat somebody every time we play them.”

Indeed it is.

The Jays at the Deadline: Three Up and Three Down

Henderson was one of Toronto's best deadline deals

News Flash: The trade deadline is next week – Saturday to be exact.  Despite sitting around the .500 mark (and possible contenders in other divisions), due to the AL East the Jays will once again be sellers this season. 

The 2010 trade deadline will be the 34th deadline for the Toronto Blue Jays dating back to their debut season in 1977.  With all the talk this year about Bautista, Gregg, Overbay, and Downs among others, I was interested in looking at Toronto’s historical performance at the deadline.  For me, anything within a month of the deadline counts as a deadline deal, meaning any trade occuring in July.  A quick trip to gave me the information I was looking for.

By my count the Jays have made 34 deals in the month of July in their history.  Some years (’95, ’98, ’09) they have been sellers.  Some years (’89, ’90, ’93) they have been buyers.  Eleven times (including ’07 and ’08) they have not made a single trade in the month leading up to the deadline. 

Many of the deals have been small, and many involved minor leaguers that were never heard from again.  Examples include Tom Hutton to Montreal for cash in 1978, or Isabel Giron to San Diego for Juan Melo in 1999.  Some trades however, involved big name players: David Cone, Rickey Henderson, and Scott Rolen. 

The bottom line though, is that despite all the hype, despite all the rumours, and despite all the fanfare that always accompanies the trade deadline each year, Toronto has historically been nothing more than a bit player.  You can blame it on the division or blame it on the position in the standings, but the Jays very rarely make the big splash.  All of which makes this year so interesting as the Blue Jays are armed with serious chips to deal and can be huge players for the first time in a long time.

Anyways, here is 500 Level Fan’s take on Toronto’s three best and three worst trade deadline deals in history.

The Best

1993: Steve Karsay and a PTBNL to Oakland for Rickey Henderson

I might catch some flak for this one because Henderson didn’t do much for the Jays.  He only hit .215 in 44 regular season games, .120 in the ALCS, and .227 in the World Series.  But the last two words of that sentence are key: World Series.  Without Rickey do the Jays repeat?  I’m not sure.  With him they did – good trade.

1997: Paul Spoljaric and Mike Timlin to Seattle for Jose Cruz

Spoljaric never had an ERA below 4.75 again after leaving Toronto, and though Timlin pitched (literally) forever for many teams and won a few titles with Boston, Cruz was a huge boost for the Jays.  He hit 122 HR for the Jays in six seasons, including back-to-back huge years in 2000 and 2001.

2006: Vinnie Chulk and Shea Hillenbrand to San Francisco for Jeremy Accardo

GM’s rarely succeed with a gun to their head, but credit JP here.  Hillenbrand basically backed the Jays into a corner and Ricciardi was able to bring back Accardo.  While Hillenbrand was out of baseball after 2007 and Chulk was a middling reliever for a few years, Accardo dominated ’07 as closer with 30 saves.  Though he hasn’t done much lately, he is at least still in the Jays organization – more than you can say about who he was traded for.

The Worst

1995: David Cone to the Yankees for Jason Jarvis, Mike Gordon, Marty Janzen

Cone was re-acquired by the Jays in 1995 from the Royals, but at the deadline it was clear that he would be going elsewhere.  Unfortunately the Jays got nowhere near full value for him in return.  While Cone went on to have six great years with the Yankees (64 – 40, 3.91 ERA, a 20-win season, two All-Star appearances, four World Series) only Janzen played any games with the Jays.  Brutal.

2000: Darwin Cubillan and Michael Young to Texas for Esteban Loiaza

This might be the worst Blue Jays trade of all time.  Loaiza stunk with Toronto (25 – 28, 4.96 ERA).  Michael Young has been to six All-Star games with Texas.  Toronto’s SS position has been a black hole for years.  Young would have looked awfully nice filling that spot.  To make matters worse, the year after Toronto dumped him, Loaiza went 21-9 with the White Sox, coming second in Cy Young voting.

2002: Raul Mondesi to the Yankees for Scott Wiggins

Mondesi had to go, there was no question about that.  He no longer fit with the Jays and was becoming more of a cancer than a benefit.  But still: this was a guy who had hit 24+ HR in seven consecutive seasons.  He had stolen 11+ bases for eight straight seasons.  He hit 15 HR in only 75 games with the Jays in the early part of 2002.  And all we could get in return was Scott Wiggins?  For the record, Wiggins made the Jays at the end of ’02, pitchimg a grand total of 2.2 IP.  Not a great return.

Hopefully Alex Anthopoulos does better than that…

Poor Doc. Poor, Poor Doc.

I couldn’t decide about what to write about today.  I was thinking of doing a heavy statistical analysis on historical Blue Jays closers to see just what kind of a season Kevin Gregg is having (that may still come tomorrow).  I thought about a live game blog during this afternoon’s Jays/Royals game.  I thought about another long winded diatribe on the movie Major League.

But then I read this rumour while perusing CBS Sportsline this afternoon:

Report: Phils close on Oswalt, try to deal Werth

The report states that the Phillies, itching for a rotation upgrade, could spring for the expensive Astros starter in exchange for Werth, a power hitting outfielder. 

Upon reading that, I instantly felt a wave of pity for Roy Halladay.

Flashback to December: Roy Halladay has been traded to the Phillies for a haul of prospects.  Experts everywhere have begun handing the National League title to the Phils, and have already begun engraving Halladay’s name on the Cy Young Award.  A few even dared to predict a 30-win season.

Now, halfway into the 2010 season and only about six months removed from those predictions, here are those same Phillies frantically trying to acquire yet another ace to help them defend their title.  Wow.

The biggest reason he didn’t win a Cy Young award last year for Toronto might have been the fact that the Jays just couldn’t score any runs for him.  In 2009 Doc went 17-10 with a 2.79 ERA, 1.13 WHIP, 208 K, 9 complete games, and 4 shutouts.  He managed all of that while only receiving 164 runs of support in all 32 of his starts combined (5.1 per game). 

But this year was supposed to be different.  He was going to Philly, with a small bandbox ballpark and a lineup full of sluggers.  Imagine Halladay pitching in front of Jayson Werth, Raul Ibanez, Shane Victorino, Jimmy Rollins, Chase Utley, and Ryan Howard?  If he pitches anything like he did in ’09 his win total will be through the roof!

Well, statistically speaking he has actually pitched better this season, but somehow his record is worse.  Through 20 starts Doc has a 2.40 ERA, 1.06 WHIP, 131 K, leads the league in IP (154), complete games (7) and shutouts (3), and has thrown a perfect game.  Yet he is only 10-8.  Believe it or not, the offensively loaded Phillies have only scored 78 runs for him this year, a meagre 3.9 per game. 

Because of this, the team that was supposed to dominate the NL is sitting in third in the NL East, seven games behind Atlanta, and four back of the Reds for the Wild Card.  Philadelphia has 48 wins.  Toronto, the team that was supposed be left for dead after Doc left, also has 48 wins.

Imagine what Halladay must feel when looks at the standings every morning and sees his ex-mates hitting bushels of home runs and staying above the .500 mark, while his team of high priced talent and former All-Stars falls further and further from the top.

I’m not going to sit here and write a variety of “what-if” scenarios to try and show that Halladay should have stayed.  Would Toronto be closer to the playoffs right now with a rotation of Halladay, Marcum, Romero, Cecil, and Morrow?  Maybe.  I could probably skew the data to say anything that I wanted.  But that’s not the point. 

The point is that this was supposed to be a grand coming out year for our former ace.  This was supposed to be the year that he got to pitch for a true contender, to taste a pennant race, playoff baseball, maybe even the World Series.  Instead it is turning into an absolute disaster,  a type of season that Halladay has grown frustratingly accustomed to: a dominating pitcher being let down by those around him. 

Poor Doc.  Poor, poor Doc.

Crystal Ball Time – 500 Level Fan’s Fearless Second Half Predictions

With baseball’s second half set to kick off tonight I figured it was time to lose my prediction virginity.  I have never written a prediction article.  Not when I wrote for TO Sports.  Not when I briefly wrote for Fadoo.  Never. 

But – seeing how I love to read prediction columns, why not try to write one?  If even one of these come true it will be nothing short of miraculous.  The below predictions are split into Blue Jay specific and the rest of baseball.  Enjoy.

(Note: I have absolutely no inside knowledge from any viable source.  If I did, I would be in Vegas, not at work.)

MLB Second Half Predictions

Playoff Spots

– AL East: Tampa wins the division, Yankees fade a bit down the stretch but snag the wild card

– AL Central: Division looks set to finish as a three-way tie, but Minnesota surges ahead at the end to win it, mainly because Alex Rios hits .097 in September

– AL West: Texas in a landslide, teaching the Angels that Brandon Wood has no place on a major league field

– NL East: Philly has a solid September and passes Atlanta for the division title on the strength of Halladay

– NL Central: In a wild finish, Cincinnati holds off St. Louis for their first title since ’95.  The Cardinals get the wild card.

– NL West: San Diego falls apart when their young arms tire, Ubaldo fades, and the Dodgers self destruct.  Giants grab a much needed bat at the deadline and steal the division on the last day.


MVP – AL: Miguel Cabrera, NL: Joey Votto

Cy Young – AL: Cliff Lee, NL: Roy Halladay

Rookie – AL: Brennan Boesch, NL: Jason Heyward

Manager – AL: Ron Washington, NL: Dusty Baker


– Roy Halladay goes 7-0 in September with two starts on three days rest to push the Phillies to the playoffs

– Prince Fielder is traded to San Francisco

– Ubaldo Jimenez completely falls apart in September, handing the NL West to the Giants and the Cy Young to Doc

– Albert Pujols hits 25 home runs in the second half, leading the Cards to the playoffs and me to my fantasy league title

– Pittsburgh continues to suck

Blue Jay Second Half Predictions

– Yunel Escobar hits 10 second half home runs.  In Atlanta, Alex Gonzalez hits 3.

– Lyle Overbay, John Buck, Kevin Gregg, Scott Downs, and Jason Frasor are all traded.  Jose Bautista is not.

– Bautista is caught by Miggy Cabrera of Detroit in the HR race, but sill finishes with 37, by far his career high.

– We are treated to the MLB debuts of JP Arencibia, Brett Wallace, and Brad Emaus in September.  Kyle Drabek is not called up.

– Johnny Mac outhomers Edwin Encarnacion in the second half 2-1.  I take back the apology I offered EE in early July when he had a 3-hit game.

– David Purcey gets an opportunity to finish games after Gregg is traded and finishes with 10 + saves.

– The Jays win their last home game on Sept 29 6-5 over the Yankees.  The fans give Cito a ten minute ovation in his final home game as Toronto manager.

– The Moustache Masturbator, and Bobby and Pingu make another appearance in the 500 Level Fan of the Game section.

– Toronto goes 30-43 in the second half to finish the season with 74 wins, about 14 more wins than the “experts” predicted.

– I likely never write a prediction article again

Bye Bye A-Gonz, Hello Yunel

The newest Blue Jay Yunel Escobar

Thank you Alex Anthopoulos.  On the worst day of the sporting calendar – there is literally nothing on tonight (looking forward to SportsCentre tomorrow) – the Jays GM made some news with a pretty major trade.  Gone is Alex Gonzalez and two prospects (Tim Collins and Tyler Pastronicky).  To the Jays comes SS Yunel Escobar and P Jo-Jo Reyes. 

After letting it sink in for a few hours I came to the conclusion that I like this trade.  A lot actually.  While Reyes might not be worth a lot at this point, Yunel Escobar is thought to be one of the best young shortstops in baseball.  Though he is having an off year and there are some questions about his work ethic, there’s no denying the fact that he has a lot of potential.  He could be a star. 

Gonzalez was having a nice year for Toronto, but he was simply a stopgap SS who was not going to be around for the long haul.

My support of the trade can be summarized by two numbers: .368 and 27.

The first is Escobar’s career OBP.  Let’s face it: the Jays might hit a lot of home runs, but they are terrible at getting on base.  Their team OBP is .306 – 28th in baseball, ahead of only the Pirates and Astros.  Toronto’s top OBP this season belongs to Jose Bautista at .361.  Even though Escobar’s stats are down, his .334 OBP this year puts him in third place on the Jays, behind only Bautista and Molina.  Not bad.

The second number is his age.  At 27 Escobar is just coming into his prime.  He is six years younger than Gonzalez and should give Toronto several years of good production.  He has averaged 12 HR and 68 RBI the past two seasons, very good numbers for a shortstop.  Maybe a change of scenery is all he’ll need to snap out of his 2010 funk.

As far as the prospects the Jays gave up, Tim Collins appears to be the bigger loss with his dominating performance at AA this season.  I contacted Ottawa correspondent WCF (Willie Canate Fan), a Blue Jays minor league expert, to get his take:

I loved Tim Collins, really hurts to see him go.  But I can’t believe they got Yunel Escobar, it would have taken the whole farm system to get him last year.


Pastornicky was a decent SS prospect, there was an interview with the farm director or something today at battersbox (from before the trade) where they said he probably profiled better as a 2B long-term, and most likely a utility player.  He had good defensive and contact skills, but was still pretty raw, has very little power, its a longshot for him to be an impact player.  For whatever its worth, JP Ricciardi said earlier this year that the Jays didn’t really need to sign Adeiny Hechevarria because they already had their future SS in the system, Tyler Pastornicky.  JP drafted him, so it kind of makes sense.  Plus its JP.


Collins is tiny but he has video game numbers and a great story.  I think he’s going to be good, I’ve seen video of him pitching and he looks great, like a baby LH Lincecum.  He has a smooth delivery, he leans way back and comes right over the top so he develops all kinds of torque.  The other thing is that he hides the ball until the last possible minute, so he throws 93mph, but it probably looks like 103.  His pitching coach at AA said that its fun to watch him pitch, guys go up there sitting on the fastball and still can’t catch up to it.  And he has an insane curve as well.


Tough loss, but then even if he turns out to be a great reliever, he’s still a reliever and they basically traded him for one of the best young SS in baseball (albeit one having an off year).  And his size probably makes it unlikely that he has a long career.  Although it will be entertaining while it lasts.

Two Reasons Why the HR Derby Sucks

There was no Bautista.  Vernon Wells sucked.  Nick Swisher was in it.  David Ortiz won it. 

All of those are valid reasons why the derby stunk last night.  Our friend the Blue Jay Hunter wrote a nice piece about the derby and touched on some of those.

But I have two main problems with the home run derby that were either only briefly touched on, or else not at all discussed.  What you’re about to read might seem like a hard rant against one of baseball’s most popular annual events, but I think a lot of people share my opinion on this.  I’ll even go so far as to offer some potential solutions.  Some might seem far fetched or unreasonable, but hey – it’s my blog so suck it up.  Please let me know your thoughts, and maybe we can expand this discussion further.

Anyways, here goes:

Reason #1 the HR Derby Sucks…..Announcers

Twitter erupted last night about how badly the home run derby announce team performed, and I whole-heartedly agree.  Chris Berman’s “back back back back back back” bit has clearly had its day.  Joe Morgan’s fascination on David Ortiz’s shoes was just plain weird.  Bobby Valentine made an absolute fool of himself…twice.  First, he predicted the derby would be won by “Jose Ortiz” a made up player starring in his fantasy land.  Second, after Berman mentioned that today marks the 50-year anniversary of the untimely death of Mark Scott (the host of the original HR Derby TV series), Valentine poked fun of him.  “How did he die of a heart attack, he never got excited!”  Even Berman was stunned about the stupidity of the comment.

If that wasn’t enough, the guests that were brought into speak were dreadful.  Nobody cares about how A-Rod feels when he hits a post-season HR.  Will Ferrell was not funny.  It was a train wreck, all night long.

Bottom line – something needs to change as people all across North America have clearly grown tired of the ESPN team.  Let’s shake it up.

Solution: Why not have each players local broadcast team call their turn at bat?  For instance, Buck and Pat could have called Vernon’s time at bat.  The weirdos from NESN could have called Big Papi, and so on.  The ESPN idiots could take over in round two and in the final, ensuring that they still get air time to annoy people.  But the first round would be different.  It would allow a national audience to hear local announcers and maybe hear a few stories about players that they don’t know.  What did we hear last night? “Nick Swisher’s dad played in the majors.”  Thanks Joe Morgan.

Hart sat idle for 90 minutes. Boring. (from

Reason #2 the HR Derby Sucks…..It’s Boring

Be honest.  Did anybody sit through the entire thing last night?  It is way too long, and way too repetitive.  If it’s even too long for the players (see Corey Hart sitting for over 90 minutes after his first turn at bat) it is wwwwwaaaaayyyyy too long for the viewers.  I couldn’t handle it and switched off for a while.  Thought it always promises to excite, the home run derby rarely does.  Only once did it enthrall me, and that is when Josh Hamilton was at Yankee Stadium two years ago.  And even that fizzled out in the final.

To make matters worse, Angels Stadium is boring.  Every home run ended up in the stands, or against a rock.  Wow.  Amazing.  Give me Fenway or Wrigley, where balls can actually leave the stadium and hit cars.  Give me Yankee Stadium where balls can go deep into the upper deck.  Even give me the SkyDome, where balls can pepper Window’s restaurant or the 500 Level.  Every hit looked the same last night.

So how can this be fixed?  I have two solutions, one simple and one radical.

Simple Solution: Change the format.  Corey Hart clearly deserved a better fate last night.  Justin Morneau actually won the derby that Josh Hamilton absolutely dominated.  How does that happen?  Completely unfair.  How about this: instead of having three rounds, where the drama is far too drawn out and the players get tired, cut it to two.  Eight players hit.  Top two make the final.  Done.

Radical Solution: Add some flair to the competition.  Set up a point system, where not all home runs are created equal.  Yesterday, Matt Holliday’s 497 foot blast was worth one.  Vernon Wells’ first home run that didn’t even technically clear the fence (a fan reached over and caught it) was worth one.  Make longer bombs worth two points.  Put targets all over the outfield stands.  If a guy hits a target 450 away on the fly he gets 5 points.  If he nails a sign in the upper deck 500 feet from home plate?  25 bonus points.  Foul balls are negative, and foul tips (this is for you Swisher) count as two outs.  That would make the derby much, much, much more exciting for fans and TV viewers.  Probably for players too.

Will any of my solutions happen?  Not a chance.  Why?  Money.  Flying in eight local announce teams is expensive.  Shortening the format loses advertising time.  Having players aim for far away targets might open them up to injury by swinging too hard, causing insurance problems.

It will never happen.  But wouldn’t it be nice if for once baseball listened to its fans?

A Quick Comment on the HR Derby

J-Bau will not be in the HR Derby (photo from

There is a lot of anger and outrage around Toronto today, due to the fact that Major League Baseball’s home run leader has NOT been invited to participate in the Home Run Derby.  That’s right – Toronto’s own Jose Bautista, with 24 HR this season, was passed over for David Ortiz, Nick Swisher, Miguel Cabrera, and teammate Vernon Wells.  Personally I don’t really care.  The second half curse of the derby has been well documented over the years, with several players losing the rhythm of their swing trying to hit home runs.  Do I believe that?  Not really, but I’d rather have a Yankee or Red Sox player prove it wrong than J-Bau.

But this is what isn’t right about the players in the derby field: they’re not the best HR hitters this year.  If the Home Run Derby is supposed to celebrate the best power hitters in the game, it should probaly have the top HR hitters participating.  Look at the participants and where they stand on the HR leaderboard:

American League

– Miguel Cabrera, Tigers – 22 HR, T2nd

– Vernon Wells, Blue Jays – 19 HR, 12th

– David Ortiz, Red Sox – 17 HR, T17th

– Nick Swisher, Yankees – 15 HR, T30th

National League

– Corey Hart, Brewers – 20 HR, T7th

– Matt Holliday, Cardinals – 15 HR, T30th

– Chris Young, Diamondbacks – 15 HR, T30th

– Hanley Ramirez, Marlins – 13 HR, T49th

In the meantime, the following players are at the All-Star Game but are not competing:

– Jose Bautista, Blue Jays – 24 HR, 1st

– Josh Hamilton, Rangers – 22 HR, T2nd

– Joey Votto, Reds – 22 HR, T2nd

– Albert Pujols, Cardinals – 21 HR, 6th

– Vladimir Guerrero, Rangers – 20 HR, T7th

– Paul Konerko, White Sox – 20 HR, T7th

That makes six players in tthe top-10 in all of baseball in HR who are not participating.  I understand that many turned down the opportunity, and that is their choice.  But when so many sluggers, so many more prolific and powerful sluggers, will be on the field watching, it kind of takes the shine off of the event.

Just sayin…

Not Your Average, Everyday All-Star Snub Column

Could this man have been an All-Star? (photo from

The MLB All-Star game is set for next Tuesday, July 13th in Anaheim.  Baseball’s All-Star game has many detractors but I for one enjoy it.  I like seeing the best players in each league playing a game for fun with nothing really on the line.  Sure it has problems.  Do I think the winner should get home field advantage in the World Series?  No.  Do I think rosters should have been expanded to an astronomical 34 players?  No.  But even with those corny initiatives, the baseball’s game is far superior to the other major sports.

But I’ll tell you one thing I do hate about the All-Star game: the inevitable snub columns.  As in every other sport, many players having excellent years miss the cut.  That’s the way it goes.  But on every sports website you will find multiple columns outlining who should have made it and why.  I have read that Joey Votto was screwed by eight different sportswriters.  Enough is enough.

So instead of jumping into the fray to tell you that Votto, or Kevin Youkilis, or Miguel Olivo, or Jered Weaver should have made it, I thought I’d switch it up.  Instead of focusing on the obvious, I am focusing on the more obscure.  Below are 13 players that many fans might not have heard of, or who were all but washed up last year.  Each are having excellent years, but none were recognized with an All-Star spot.

*Note: OPS rank is per position – min. 240 plate appearances

C – Geovany Soto, Cubs (.277 avg, 8 HR, 23 RBI, .872 OPS – 2nd)

1B – Aubrey Huff, Giants (.294 avg, 15 HR, 49 RBI, .916 OPS – 9th)

2B – Kelly Johnson, Diamondbacks (.265 avg, 13 HR, 38 RBI, .851 OPS – 4th)

3B – Casey McGehee, Brewers (.274 avg, 13 HR, 52 RBI, .806 OPS – 9th)

SS – Alex Gonzalez, Blue Jays (.258 avg, 15 HR, 42 RBI, .782 OPS – 4th)

OF – Josh Willingham, Nationals (.281 avg, 15 HR, 46 RBI, .926 OPS – 4th)

OF – Colby Rasmus, Cardinals (.278 avg, 16 HR, 40 RBI, .916 OPS – 6th)

OF – Brennan Boesch, Tigers (.344 avg, 12 HR, 46 RBI, 1.001 OPS – 1st)

You won’t find any superstars on that list.  Huff is a journeyman who has bounced around a lot of bad teams over the years.  Johnson was deemed expendable by the Braves.  Rasmus is a second year player and Boesch is a rookie.  Gonzalez was supposed to be an all-glove no-bat player, and Soto was coming off an abysmal year where he was criticized for being overweight and getting caught with marijuana at the world baseball classic.  If anybody stands up and says they saw excellent seasons coming from this bunch they are both a liar and a coward.

Now for some pitchers.  I named three starters and two relievers, but did not include any closers.  Closers get all the attention – middle relievers get none.

SP – Mat Latos, Padres (9-4, 2.62 ERA, 0.96 WHIP, 8.22 K/9)

SP – Jaime Garcia, Cardinals (8-4, 2.10 ERA, 1.22 WHIP, 7.35 K/9)

SP – Colby Lewis, Rangers (7-5, 3.35 ERA, 1.11 WHIP, 8.34 K/9)

RP – Luke Gregerson, Padres (2-3, 2.23 ERA, 0.60 WHIP, 11.38 K/9)

RP – Tyler Clippard, Nationals (8-5, 2.65 ERA, 1.20 WHIP, 10.06 K/9)

Again, take a look at the names.  Coming into this year Latos had 10 career starts and Garcia had one.  Gregerson is in his second major league season.  Clippard plays for the Nationals.   Colby Lewis spent the last two seasons in Japan.  Enough said.

Agree?  Disagree?  Let me know some other players I might have missed, or if you think any of these shouldn’t be included.

Fun With Numbers – Half Way Home Edition

With the season just passing the official half-way point, let’s look at some numbers for the Blue Jays heading into the second half.  The 15 numbers listed below cover all kinds of statistical categories, and are current as of Sunday’s 7-6 extra inning loss to the Yankees.

41 – Wins by the Jays through July 4th (41-42 record).  Toronto was 42-40 through July 4th last season.

120 – Toronto home runs, still 1st in all of baseball, but now only ahead of the Boston Red Sox by 10.

0 – Wins by the Blue Jays in games that David Purcey makes an appearance.  After Sunday’s loss they are 0-11 when he pitches.

11 – Runs allowed by the Jays in the third inning yesterday, tying a franchise record set August 6, 1979 vs. KC.  (Thanks @MLBastian for the info)

17 – Games in which the Jays scored three runs or fewer in June.  The offense has not returned in July, with Toronto scoring three runs or less in two of the first four games this month.

7 – Blue Jay players who hit under .200 in June (Hill, Lind, Bautista, Encarnacion, Hoffpauir, Wise, McDonald)

82 – Rank of DH Adam Lind in the AL in OPS (out of 85).  His .617 OPS puts him ahead of only Jose Lopez of Seattle, and two White Sox: Juan Pierre and Gordon Beckham.  Lind ranks behind such notable sluggers as Yuniesky Betancourt, Jason Kendall, and Chone Figgins.

85 – Rank of 2B Aaron Hill in the AL in batting average.  His .189 average puts him in dead last among hitters with enough AB to qualify for the batting title.

3 – Toronto Blue Jays named to the AL All-Star team: Vernon Wells, John Buck, Jose Bautista

4 – Years since the Jays have had three or more All-Stars.  2006 saw B.J. Ryan, Roy Halladay, Vernon Wells, Alex Rios, and Troy Glaus named to the AL squad.

2 – Blue Jay catchers to be named to an All-Star team: Ernie Whitt (1985) and John Buck (2010)

.310 – Batting average for Lyle Overbay since dropping below the Mendoza line on May 28th.  From May 29 to July 4 his average has risen from .197 to .241.  Apologies accepted.

4 & 5 – Rank among AL pitchers in ERA for the month of June for Brandon Morrow and Ricky Romero.  Despite the stellar ERAs (Morrow 1.91, Romero 2.12) each pitcher had only one win.

9.27 – K/9 ratio for Brandon Morrow in June, 4th among AL Pitchers.  Only Jered Weaver, Francisco Liriano, and Max Scherzer were higher.

20 – Number of draft picks signed by Alex Anthopoulos since the draft held between June 7-9.  The GM has until August 15 to sign his remaining 36 picks.  Last year JP Ricciardi could only sign 30 of his 52 picks.