Category Archives: Upper Deck Insight

Second Guessing Cito: An Overthinkers Guide to Yesterday’s Loss

It's a tough job, but I think this man does it very well (from daylife.com)

Very tough loss for the Jays yesterday.  After being completely befuddled for most of the game, the bats woke up in the ninth to plate three runs and tie the game at four – only to instantly fall 5-4 in the bottom half.

There are two schools of thought on a loss like that.  One sees it as harder to swallow because the Jays came from the dead to get everybody excited only to rip out our hearts.  The other sees it as easier to swallow because, although they did lose, they at least showed some heart and some fight.  My opinion?  I don’t f-ing care.  They lost.  Bottom line.

But something did happen to me after yesterday’s loss – I started thinking.  Then, as I am known to do, I started overthinking and the next thing I knew I was blaming Cito for the loss.  After taking a step back to see the game from a bigger picture I stopped blaming him, but it goes to show just how easy it is to second guess a manager, or a coach, in any sport. 

Before I take you on my guide to overthinking from yesterday, know this: I like Cito.  I think he has done a great job this year.  True he has made some poor decisions, but he is managing within the team.  Many don’t like the fact that Snider sits a few times a week and Encarnacion plays.  Neither do I.  But I understand the bigger picture – the Jays have too many major league players for starting spots.  Somebody has to go.  That somebody may likely be Encarnacion, but only if he plays and produces enough to make himself attractive to another team.  He doesn’t do that from the bench.

But I digress.

Back to yesterday.

Ninth inning.  Jays down by three, but back-to-back walks to Overbay and Encarnacion have loaded the bases with one out for Arencibia.  Cito pulls EE from the game and brings in Wise to pinch-run.  After J.P. singles, he is lifted for Snider as a pinch-runner.  At the time these moves make sense.  Get the added speed on the basepaths to tie the game.

But now look at the bottom of the ninth.  Bautista, the AL leader in outfield assists moves in to play third.  Wise, with a much weaker arm, takes over RF.  Molina moves behind the plate.  How does the game end?  A Molina passed ball then a single to RF.  I can’t say for sure, but if Bautista was throwing that ball instead of Wise, Tolleson may, may, be out at the plate.

So what would the classic overthinker, the armchair manager have done differently?  He would have either brought in Johnny Mac to pinch-run for Arencibia instead of Snider, or allowed J.P. to run for himself. 

Here’s why:

1) Johnny is just as quick, or maybe even quicker, than Snider and could easily score from first on an extra base hit.  He is also a natural replacement at third for EE, meaning Bautista and his cannon of an arm stays put in RF, and Wise can go to LF for Lewis.  Outfield defense is much stronger.

2) Since J.P. represented the go-ahead run, he wasn’t as important as Wise.  I know when on the road you are supposed to play for the lead not the tie, but when you take into consideration the fact that Molina is a back-up catcher who played back-to-back night games (and didn’t look sharp behind the plate for Morrow on Tuesday), perhaps leaving Arencibia in the game would have been better for defensive purposes.  Then Johnny could have been brought in as a straight defensive replacement.  Again – J-Bau remains in the field.

But that’s why hindsight is 20/20, and why the overthinker is writing a blog while the manager is in the dugout. 

And that’s also why I will never second guess Cito again.  Promise.

Marcum Joins the Blue Jays One-Hit Club

One-Hitter? Join the club. (from daylife.com)

 

So very, very close.  For the second time in under two weeks a Toronto Blue Jay starting pitcher threw a complete game one-hitter, just narrowly missing out on joining Dave Stieb in the no-hit club.  While Shaun Marcum didn’t dominate the way Brandon Morrow did last Sunday, he pitched a fantastic ballgame that was only marred by a Conor Jackson leadoff home run in the seventh inning.

I was sadly unable to watch the Morrow gem last week as I was driving back from Pittsburgh, meaning I didn’t see the way fans reacted on Twitter.  But last night I caught the game start to finish (Sportnset One be damned!) and saw the way people reacted to each out.  Most fans on Twitter stayed superstitious (as did I) refusing to talk about the no-hitter.  Buck Martinez however decided to throw superstition in the toilet by referring constantly to the no-hit bid.  Ultimately it didn’t matter.

The bottom line is that it was yet another complete game one-hitter by a Blue Jay.  Maybe because so many Blue Jays are taking no-hitters deep into games this year, or maybe because Morrow’s game is so fresh in my mind, it seems like these one-hitters happen quite often in Toronto’s history. 

With a little help (well, a lot of help actually) from retrosheet.org and baseball-reference.com I was able to put together a list of everytime a Jays pitcher has thrown a complete game one-hitter.  The feat has happened on 16 occassions:

Here are some random thoughts on the above list:

– While a one-hitter has happened 16 times in Blue Jays history, only 12 can be seen as legitimate no-hit bids.  Neither Lemanczyk in ’79, Key in ’86, Stieb in his first in ’88, nor Menhart in ’95, took no-hitters into the sixth inning – too early to get excited.

– A Blue Jays starter has had a no-no broken up in the ninth inning seven times.  Those hurt.

– While you don’t have to be a big name pitcher to throw one (hello Dallas Braden) it helps.  In my estimation 13 of the 16 one-hitters have been hurled by recognizable names (sorry Dave Lemanczyk, Phil Huffman, and Paul Menhart).

– I have never heard of Paul Menhart.

– Poor Dave Stieb.  He is on this list five times, including a remarkable three times in four starts (his final two starts of 1988 and his second start of 1989).  In fact, in a five-start stretch spread across two seasons (September 18, 24, and 30 of ’88 and April 5 and 10 of ’89) Stieb was unbelievable: 1 CG 4 H shutout, 3 CG 1 H shutouts, and one game with 8 IP, 4 H, 1 ER for a total of 44 IP, 11 H, 1 ER (0.20 ERA).

– In a weird coincidence Dave Lemanczyk, the first man to throw a CG one-hitter in Jays history, later became Dave Stieb’s agent.

– 15 of the 16 one-hitters have been thrown by right-handed pitchers.  Only Jimmy Key in 1986 was a lefty.

– Just saying it ’cause it’s there: 11 of the 16 have come in the final two months of the season (six in August, five in September).  Four occurred on a weekend (Friday/Saturday/Sunday) in September. 

– Five teams have been victimized by the Jays twice, including AL East rivals New York and Baltimore.

– The one-hitters have been pretty equally spread between home and road: seven on the road, nine at home.

So basically, here is the best bet on the next time a Blue Jay will achieve a complete game one-hitter: a right-handed starter on a weekend series in September against the Yankees or Orioles.  Circle September 3-5 (in NY) and 24-26 (at home vs. Baltimore) on your calendars.

1989 to 2010 – How Times Have Changed

This was our DH in a playoff year? Are you kidding me?

I am pumped about the Jays.  After that incredible weekend of baseball, and especially after starting this tough stretch 5-1 against the Yankees and Rays, Toronto now sits only 8.5 games out of the Wild Card.  Despite what many websites and analysts are saying, with 51 games remaining the Jays are very much involved in the pennant race. 

The chances that they continue this charge and make the playoffs?  Slim.  But the fact that a chance does indeed exist is getting people excited about baseball in this town for the first time in a while.  And who knows really: the Jays could very well be the next Colorado Rockies.  In 2007 after the same amount of games, the Rockies were 57-54 and had to climb over five teams to make the playoffs.  They finished the season 33-19 and took the Wild Card in a one game playoff.

But the real point of this article has to do with the 1989 Blue Jays.  I was looking for evidence that a Jays club came from out of nowhere to make the playoffs at this stage of the season.  I knew the ’89 team fit that criteria because I remember going nuts as a 10-year old during the end of that season.  After 111 games, the ’89 Blue Jays were 55-56 (compared to 59-52 this year), then went on an absolute tear to win the division for the second time in history.  The 34-17 finish took them to 89 wins.

And that is where my study fell apart and this article was born. 

In 1989 the Toronto Blue Jays won the AL East with 89 wins.

Crazy.

There is a very real chance that this year’s version of the Jays will win 89 games and finish in fourth!!!

There is a chance that the Jays can finish the same way as the ’89 team (34-17 for a final record of 93-69) and still end up in fourth!!!

How times have changed. 

Would that 1989 club have any hope in hell in the AL East of today?  See for yourself:

– Fred McGriff lead the team with 36 HR – nobody else hit more than 18.  There is a real chance that this year’s Jays could end up with seven players with 18+ HR.

– George Bell topped the squad with 104 RBI.  Bautista is on pace for 124.

– Only one starter (Dave Stieb) was over .500 (at 17-8).  This year Toronto has four (Marcum, Romero, Cecil, Morrow)

– Rance Mulliniks played the majority of games at  DH, and finished .238 / 3 HR / 29 RBI.  Yikes.

But that team made the playoffs.

So sure if Tampa finishes their final 50 games at .500 (25-25) the Jays will have to go 34-17 to tie them.  Sure they also need to pass Boston and Minnesota.  But the fact that we are talking about playoffs right now is best surprise of the season.

And hey – if a team lead by Rance Mulliniks can make the playoffs, why can’t the 2010 Jays?

Royal Rumble – The Battle of the J.P.’s

 

It was sad to see John Buck go down yesterday, and a bit grotesque to see the amount of blood flowing from his thumb.  Mrs. 500 Level Fan was particularly disappointed as she has grown quite fond of Buck this season.  But while many will miss Buck’s bat in the lineup, a large majority of Jays fans are excited about the injury.  Why?  Because John Buck’s replacement is the hugely anticipated J.P. Arencibia.

Coming into the season it was fair to say that Toronto’s most exciting prospect was Brett Wallace, closely followed by Kyle Drabek.  A poor 2009 had dropped JPA down the pecking order.  But it is safe to say, even before Wallace was dealt to Houston last week, that Arencibia had supplanted both of those names at the top of the list.  That is what a .303 average, 31 HR, 79 RBI, and a .998 OPS will do for you.

With J.P. set to join the Jays tomorrow night, I couldn’t help but think to another former Blue Jay executive with the same name.  I had long since put him out of my head, but with a recent trip to the US last week, I had the “honour” of seeing his face all over ESPN.  One look brought back all kinds of memories of his time here in Toronto – most bad.

Like it or not, the two will be forever linked seeing how Ricciardi drafted Arencibia back in 2007.  And even though JPA has yet to record an official major league at bat, it’s not to soon to pit them against each other to see who is the better J.P.  So strap yourselves in folks, this could get messy.

Category 1 – Numbers

Arencibia: No major league experience, but a career .275 hitter in the minors with 82 HR, 284 RBI, and .826 OPS.  Plus he is having a dynamite year this year.

Ricciardi: In his eight seasons guided the Jays to a 642 – 651 record.  Never finished higher than second.  Zero playoff appearances and one last place finish.

Edge: Arencibia

Category 2 – Hype

Arencibia: Lots of hype.  Has been called the “catcher of the future”.  Part of the core that will hopefully lead the Jays back to prominence.

Ricciardi: I hate to say it, but he was hired with a lot of fanfare.  Groomed in the Billy Beane “Moneyball” style, he was supposed to use market exploitation to sign young exciting players.  I bought it.  I was excited.

Edge: Ricciardi

Category 3 – Looks

Arencibia: Looks like a fine young man.  A solid ballplayer.

Ricciardi: Never enjoyed the greasy hair.

Edge: Arencibia

Category 4 – Job Performance

Arencibia: From all accounts, plays a solid catcher.

Ricciardi: Though he made a number of nice trades and signings, his biggest ones were horrendous:

– Signed A.J. Burnett to a terrible contract with a stupid opt-out clause that allowed him to leave the team high and dry

– Signed B.J. Ryan to a terrible contract – eventually had to pay him to leave

– Signed Alex Rios to a terrible contract then let him leave for free

– Signed Vernon Wells to a terrible contract that is still hugely overvalued despite Wells’ improved play

– Signed Frank Thomas to a ridiculous two-year deal

– Hired John Gibbons then watched him physically fight a number of his players

Edge: Arencibia

Category 5 – Reputation

Arencibia: I have never heard anything negative about him.  That works for me.

Ricciardi: Awful – especially in these parts.  Treated Roy Halladay brutally and left him dangling in a half-season long trade soap-opera.  Lied to the media about a B.J. Ryan injury in 2007, calling it a bad back – it eventually required Tommy John surgery.  Made a dick-face of himself on the radio by saying Adam Dunn doesn’t like baseball, thus ruining any chances the Jays might have had to acquire the power hitter they badly needed.

Edge: Arencibia

Final Results: J.P. Arencibia 4 – J.P. Ricciardi 1

In a landslide, Arencibia crushes Ricciardi, proving again that the Jays are much better off without their former GM.

Note – Strong bias of the author may have played a factor in the scoring.

Starting Pitchers: From Weakness to Strength

Marcum has been lights out all year (from daylife.com)

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 baseballreference.com 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.

Awards

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

Random

– 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.