Sometimes Things Do Go As Expected

Strasburg dominated the Pirates last night (image from daylife.com)

It has been a pretty crazy baseball season so far – and that’s just talking about the Blue Jays.  If a person had missed the first two months of the season and just recently glanced at Toronto’s team stats, many surprises would certainly stick out:

– The Jays are winning?

– Jose Bautista leads baseball in home runs?

– Toronto leads all of baseball as a team in home runs?  They’re on pace to break the MLB single season record?  What?

– Vernon Wells is alive?

– Aaron Hill is hitting .183?  Adam Lind is hitting .212?

But try extrapolating that study to the rest of Major League Baseball and you’ll find that to this point 2010 has been a season full of surprises.  The Cincinnati Reds, Washington Nationals, Seattle Mariners, and San Diego Padres are peforming nowhere near their projected levels.  Likewise for Ubaldo Jimenez, Alex Rios, Ty Wigginton, Jake Peavy, and Prince Fielder.  While true that a lot of baseball is left to be played, the performances by these players and teams can no longer be chalked up to small sample sizes.  Their struggles and their dominance is for real.

Thankfully last night a feat happened in baseball that brought a bit of normalcy back to the game – Stephen Strasburg made his MLB debut for Washington.  As top pick of the 2009 draft, Strasburg was possibly the most hyped prospect of all time.  He completely dominated the minor leagues, and was expected by most to continue his success at the major league level.  Well – he did not disappoint.  7 IP, 2 ER, 14 K, and 0 BB for his first victory.  Though you can discount it a bit (it was against the Pirates) the bottom line is that he actually met expectations.  In this backwards season, that seems to be easier said than done.

Here are six more players/teams that are meeting expectations thus far:

1. Tampa Bay Rays

The Rays were expected to not only rebound from a disappointing ’09 and contend, but to be possibly the best team in baseball.  With a record of 38-20, they are in first overall and on pace for 106 wins.

2. New York Yankees

New York finishing near the top of the league is something that is taken for granted these days.  After winning another championship in ’09, and despite having an aging core, 2010 was expected to maintain the status-quo.  Currently at 36-22, New York is well on the way to another winning season, a feat they have grown accustomed to.  They haven’t finished below .500 since 1992.

3. Cleveland Indians / Kansas City Royals / Pittsburgh Pirates

Nothing screams normal more than a losing season by KC and Pittsburgh. With 17 consecutive losing seasons, the Pirates are historically bad.  Take out the surprising 2003 season, and Kansas City has been below .500 every year since ’95.  Neither of those stats are changing this year.  Cleveland came within one game of the World Series in 2007, but since that time have lost CC Sabathia, Cliff Lee, Victor Martinez, Casey Blake, and Mark DeRosa.  Seen as a rebuilding year, 2010 was supposed to be bad.  At 21-36, it is.

4. Ichiro

Just as the Yankees and winning go hand-in-hand, so does Ichiro and .300.  Year in, year out, the Mariners leadoff hitter continues hitting and getting on base.  If his current average of .347 holds up (as it should) 2010 would mark the 10th consecutive season Ichiro has eclipsed the .300 level.

5. Miguel Cabrera

2009 couldn’t have ended worse for Miggy, with his Tigers blowing the AL Central crown at the end of year, and with him admitting that he has a drinking problem.  But an offseason spent getting sober and in peak condition brought big expectations for the first baseman.  And he has delivered.  He is currently close to leading all of baseball in the triple crown categories: .344 average, 17 HR, 52 RBI.

6. Roy Halladay

Already considered the most dominant pitcher in the game, the offseason trade to the weaker NL blew expectations for Doc through the roof.  So far he is making a mockery of the league: 8-3 record, 2.03 ERA, 1.03 WHIP, and 77 K’s vs. 13 BB.  He also leads the league with 5 complete games, 3 shutouts, and 93 innings pitched.  Oh – and he threw the 20th perfect game in MLB history.  Not bad.

Three Things From Week Nine

It was called many things.  “The week of doom.”  “The week of truth.”  “Make-it or break-it week.”  Week nine of the MLB season (May 31 – June 6) was huge for the Jays: three games against the best-in-baseball Tampa Bay Rays, and three against the defending World Series champion New York Yankees.  This week was supposed to tell us if Toronto was for real or playing way over their heads.

What can we conclude at the end of the week?  Wel to be honest, not a whole lot.  It was only one week.  There are still 104 games to play this season, meaning that each successive week is just as important, or more so, than the week before it.  But through 58 games, the Jays stand eight games over the .500 mark.  I don’t think anybody thought they’d hear that.

Here are three things that came out of week nine:

1. Mission Accomplished

Last night I heard many things from many people, most of it disappointment.  It’s true – the Jays blew three of the six games against the two top teams in the league.  Ninth inning meltdowns on Tuesday and Wednesday against Tampa stung, but the eighth inning debacle against New York yesterday might have hurt even more.  Fans wanted that sweep, especially since thousands of Yankees fans invaded Toronto to see the games.  But to be upset that Toronto didn’t sweep all SIX games against the Rays and Yanks?  That is absurd.

In March, when looking at the schedule, many would have been fine with winning two games considering how bad the Jays were “supposed” to be.   Last Monday morning I woke up, considered the upcoming schedule, and said I would be happy with a split.  Well, the Jays got the split, and although they will be disappointed in themselves by not winning more, I’m sure they would have taken a split going into both series.  If anything the games against the Yankees showed Toronto’s grit, heart, and character.  Something tells me that if the 2009 Jays blew back-to-back ninth inning leads against Tampa, they would have folded up the tent.  Resiliency is a good sign in a winner.

2. Trouble with Tampa – Blue Jay bullpen woes

After Sunday’s tough loss to the Yankees, many were quick to criticize the bullpen.  But before you react too soon, consider that Toronto actually has (statistically speaking anways) a decent bullpen.  They are tied for 16th in all of baseball with a 4.20 ERA, ahead of teams such as Boston, Anaheim, Oakland, and Cincinnati, and just behind the Yankees (4.19).  Relievers have combined for a 9-10 record and 148 strikeouts, putting them ahead of contending teams like Philadelphia, the Yankees, Minnesota, St. Louis, Boston, and Colorado in that regard.

The problem with Toronto’s bullpen can be summed up in one word – Tampa.  Against the Rays, Toronto’s bullpen has been brutal: 18.00 ERA, 13 walks, 12 strikeouts, and 24 hits allowed in only 11 innings.  Horrendous.  Only Shawn Camp has had any sort of success against Tampa (0.00 ERA in 2 IP).  Kevin Gregg (12.00 ERA), Jason Frasor (31.50 ERA), Scott Downs (27.00 ERA), and Casey Janssen (81.00 ERA) have been downright atrocious.  Take out the record against Tampa and Toronto’s team bullpen ERA drops to 3.19.  And while the pen will still be villified for their collapse against the Yankees yesterday, don’t forget that they didn’t pitch badly in the series against New York – 3 ER in 9 IP, including 6 scoreless innings in Saturday’s marathon.  They might not intimidate, but they have actually been effective.

Adam Lind is off to a rocky start in 2010 (photo from daylife.com)

3. Paging Aaron Hill…Paging Adam Lind…

The Blue Jays sit tied for third in the AL East, 33-25, and only 4.5 games back of division leading Tampa.  And they’re doing virtually all of it without their two best players from 2009.  At this point last season (through the games of June 6th), Adam Lind was smoking the ball to the tune of a .311 average, .908 OPS, 9 HR, and 39 RBI.  This season?  A far different story: .210 average, .649 OPS, 8 HR, and 30 RBI.  Unfortunately, the same thing can be said about 2009 Comeback Player of the Year Aaron Hill.  Through June 6th, 2009: .309 average, .825 OPS, 12 HR, 38 RBI.  Through June 6th, 2010: .186 average, .644 OPS, 8 HR, 19RBI.

Hill appeared to be snapping out of his funk last week, going 8 for 20 in the first five games of the Tampa/NY series’.  But he grounded into a decisive double play with the tying run on first in the eighth inning yesterday to kill any potential rally, a situation he thrived in last season.  Lind looks lost at the plate, especially against left handed pitching where he is hitting a miserable .102 (6 for 59) with 25 strikeouts (he hit .275 vs. lefties last year).  He looked particularly brutal against Tampa lefty Randy Choate in several key situations last week.  While a pessimist will say that last year was a fluke, an optimist will say watch out for the Jays when these two finally get it going. same sites . expired domains . apache web server . link checker .

500 Level Fan of the Game – June 6th, 2010

Shirtless High-Fiver - seen here trying to steal the belongings of a Yankee fan

 

Despite the Jays blowing a 2-0 lead in the 8th inning and ruining a Brandon Morrow gem, and despite the fact that the dome was closed even though the sun was shining and it was over 20 degrees in Toronto, it was a great day at the ballgame.  Whenever the Yankees are in town there is always a big boost in attendance and this weekend was no exception.  Over 100,000 fans came out for the series, including 33,622 for the Sunday finale.

For the Jays the spike in attendance is good news, but for me it’s great news.  The greater the number of people in the 500 Level, the greater the chance of finding some classic fans.

And there were classic fans aplenty yesterday afternoon, including:

– Four Yankees fans who found great joy in standing up and pointing to their jerseys like arrogant, cocky morons. 

– A group of about 25 drunk women directly behind us who found great joy in standing up and heckling the Yankee fans by yelling things like “Go back to Buffalo,” or “You’re fat and ugly,” or “Sit the f#$% down!” 

– A woman referred to as the “Yankee Whale”, who stayed silent until the Yankees took the lead in the 8th, then proceeded to give a thumbs up to everybody around her, with enormous amounts of back, underarm, and belly blubber rippling.  And she had no teeth.

But there was one fan who was far more entertaining than the rest.  Wearing a pair of jeans and a Jays cap, with his jersey draped over his arm, he wandered up and down the aisle high-fiving everybody in sight.  He yelled – a lot and extremely loud.  And he was drunk.  Blind drunk.  Speech impeding, vision blurring, balance impacting drunk.  Ladies and gentlemen, the 500 Level Fan of the Game goes to the Shirtless High-Fiver.

Upon arrival we sat in our actual assigned seats – section 535 row 2.  However, two innings was enough to show that we needed to move, so up we went…..way up to the 23rd row.  It was there that we met the fan of the game.

He was shirtless and he was absolutely killed by the 3rd inning.  He was trying to drum up some fan support by walking up and down the aisle and high-fiving/talking to random people.  But the response he got back was minimal, likely because nobody could understand what he was saying.  “Cccommmnme oahhon, eveyyrrryoannne!!  Boobooobbbbooo Yankseesse, go Jahajays.” (For my translation of some of his comments please refer to the Quotes from the game.)

He hated Yankee fans, losing his composure mutliple times when they would make noise.  When a poor girl wearing a Yankee’s cap was trying to read a Blue Jays schedule, he ripped it out of her hands, slurring “that’s what you get Yankee” in a drunken-version of English.

Shirtless High-Fiver - note the security guard in the bottom left

What made this guy even more interesting was the fact that starting in the fourth inning he had between one and three security personnel watching him AT ALL TIMES!!!  Every step, every shout, every shirt twirl was instantly greeted with six eyes glaring sharply at him. 

Finally in the 7th inning they pounced.  Three members of the high powered Rogers Centre security team, clad in fluorescent green shirts, marched up to the High-Fiver and demanded he leave with them immediately.  At his feet were about four empty cans of Moosehead, which proved how big of an idiot he actually was.  He somehow managed to get them into the game.  Good start.  He somehow managed to drink four tall-boys without getting caught.  Great.  But then he leaves the empty cans on the ground?  Why not put them back in the bag you brought in?  What a fool.

Anyways, this is where the game got even more exciting.  He refused to leave.  He refused to look at security.  He refused to aknowledge what they said, or the fact that they even existed.  A classic move.  I don’t know what was better – the fact that he did that, or the fact that the security people had no idea what to do about it.  Unfortunately for the High-Fiver, the police officer that came up afterwards wasn’t as stupid or clueless. 

So just like that he was gone, lead down the stairs and into the concourse by four men.  He left to the cheers of many, Yankee and Blue Jay fans alike. 

He might have left a big hole in section 535 for the rest of the game, but he will forever be immortalized here.  Congratulations Shirtless High-Fiver, FLF of the game. same sites expired domains . apache web server website offline link checker .

Classic Quotes from the Upper Deck – June 6th, 2010

Here are a few great comments from the fans in the 500 Level during Toronto’s tough 4-3 loss to the Yankees on Sunday:

  • “It’s all about the sweep.  I’m gettin’ f#$%ed up!” – the Shirtless High-Fiver (see today’s 500 Level Fan of the Game) trying to get people excited.  Note: this is only a paraphrase as the high-fiver was extremely intoxicated – so blind drunk that he was speaking three languages at once.  This is what I thought I heard.
  • “We need more of you here to support our economy.” – Shirtless High-Fiver to a random guy wearing a neon-green Boston Red Sox hat.  I guess he assumed the guy was from Boston.
  • “Hey you!  Hey!  Give me a high five!  Hey!  HEY!  Are you a Yankees fan?” – Shirtless High-Fiver to a dad at the game with his young son, with his hand inches from the dad’s face.  Instead of just accepting the five, or laughing, the dad pretended the high-fiver wasn’t there and ignored him, probably scarring his son for life.  They promptly left the 500 Level.
  • “How can you expect to build a fan base with your shirts on?” – Shirtless High-Fiver to the entire 500 Level at an insanely loud volume.
  • “No.  Uh-uh.” – Shirtless High-Fiver when being asked to leave the premises by two Rogers Centre security guards and a police officer. 
  • “It’s about to get real loud in he-ahhh.” – Annoying Yankees fan wearing a Babe Ruth jersey, in an annoying New York accent, walking into section 535 in the 5th inning.  Him and his three friends then said nothing for two innings.  The only words they spoke came after Vernon Wells put the Jays ahead 2-0.  Then, one of them said:
  • “We have more titles than your whole team!” – annoying Yankees fan in a Joe DiMaggio jersey.  I guess that’s supposed to hurt our feelings.
  • “Sit down DiMaggio you a$%hole!  You’re ugly and the lady beside you is fat!” – drunk girl, one row behind me.
  • “Where’s the referee?” – different drunk girl, one row behind me.
  • “Sara!  Sara!  Get up here you snatch face!” – a third drunk girl trying to get the attention of her friend a few rows ahead of her.  Amazing.

As always, if you have can provide any overheard quotes from the upper deck at a Jays game, feel free to post them in the comment box below or send them to 500 Level Fan. same sites expired domains . apache web server . link checker .

Battle of the GM’s – Draft Edition Part Two

Last week I posted an entry that compared the first round draft choices by each of Toronto’s three GM’s.  You can read it here.  As always, I rely on my readers to do two things: correct me when I’m wrong (as I was with Chad Jenkins) and give me ideas for future columns.  Well, not long after posting it an email came in to the 500 Level Fan headquarters at fivehundredlevelfan@gmail.com asking if I could possibly expand my analysis to the ENTIRE draft and not just the first round.

Well my friends, ask you and shall receive.

Instead of doing actual work at my day job, I spent a few hours gathering data about each Toronto Blue Jay draft pick from 1977, first round through last.  With a similar premise to last week’s article, my end goal was to determine which of Toronto’s past general managers has set the bar that Alex Anthopoulos has to match.  Again – like last week I looked at each pick and split them into categories, but this time only two: 1 – did the player make the majors? and 2 – was he a “successful” major league player.  As always, with any of these so called studies I have to clarify a few points:

– My definition of “successful” major leaguer is admittedly flawed.  I based it partially in statistics and partially in opinion.  Feel free to disagree or argue.

– Like last week’s post, it is still too early to form a definitive judgment on JP Ricciardi as a lot of his picks are still working (or trying to work) their way up the minor league system.

– I only counted players that were signed out of the draft as players who made the majors.  For instance, the Jays drafted Jim Abbott in 1985, Scott Erickson in 1988, and Ryan Franklin in 1991 but none signed with the club.  All went back into the draft and were selected by other teams in future years.

– Though the final comparison will be based on percentages (of major leaguers and successful picks) it is important to clarify that the draft was much different in Pat Gillick’s years.  While Gord Ash and JP Ricciardi had about 50 picks (roughly) in each draft, the number of rounds ranged wildly for Gillick, from 16 in 1977 to 76 in 1989.  Obviously it is much more difficult to draft a major league player in the 76th round than the 36th.

Now that the ground rules have been stated, on to the results.

Pat Gillick (1977 – 1994)

Draft Stats: 790 player selections, 124 made the major leagues (15.7%), 22 were successful (2.8%)

Looking at the table above, you can see that most of Gillick’s success came early in the draft.  Only three of his picks in round 10 or later had solid careers – Woody Williams, Jeff Kent, and Alex Gonzalez.  Overall, that is a pretty impressive list, especially when you consider how many of those players formed a core part of division title winning teams (Barfield, Moseby, Stieb, Key) and how many were huge in the World Series years (Key, Borders, Hentgen, Sprague, Olerud).

Gord Ash (1995 – 2001)

Draft Stats: 380 player selections, 36 made the major leagues (9.5%), 10 were successful (2.6%)

Similar to Pat Gillick, most of Ash’s good selections came early in the draft.  He did strike gold however with O-Dog in the 43rd round, an astounding 1,280th overall.  What is also notable, however, is that four of the selections on the table above had the bulk of their success with franchises other than Toronto.  Casey Blake, Michael Young, Felipe Lopez, and Brandon Lyon all had successful seasons for various clubs, with Lopez and Young each making all star game appearances.  While Ash had a similar percentage of players enjoying big league success, less than 10% of his picks even made the major leagues, far below the number that Gillick posted.

JP Ricciardi (2002 – 2009)

Draft Stats: 380 player selections, 25 have made the major leagues so far (6.6%), 5 have been successful (1.3%)

To this point, Ricciardi hasn’t had a lot of success in the later rounds of the draft.  But as said earlier, many of his picks are still making their way up the ranks.  In addition, several other players on top of the above list have played for the Blue Jays over the past few years, including David Purcey (1st round, 16th overall in 2004), Casey Janssen (4th round, 117th overall in 2004), Jessie Litsch (24th round, 717th overall in 2004), Brett Cecil (1st round, 38th overall in 2007), and Marc Rzepczynski (5th round, 175th overall in 2007).  Time will tell whether or not those players, and the others not mentioned (JP Arencibia, Kevin Ahrens, David Cooper among others) will have successful careers.

But one thing does stand out, as it did after last week’s first round analysis.  Pat Gillick earned a reputation as one of the greatest GM’s in recent times, and both of these studies back that up.  With over 15% of his draft choices making it to the top level of professional baseball, he definitely has a shrewd eye for talent in the crapshoot that is the MLB first year player draft.

When AA steps up on Monday to take over his first draft, he would do well to emulate the great Gillick.

Blast From the Past – Sil Campusano

Silvestre Diaz Campusano.  It is a beautiful name that rolls off the tongue.  Judging from the photo above, he was a beautiful man in his prime, with a glorious moustache.  He was born in Santo Domingo in the Dominican Republic, a beautiful place for baseball players.

Unfortunately Sil Campusano did not play beautiful baseball.

Signed by the Jays as an amateur free agent in 1983, Sil went straight to the minor leagues in 1984.  He actually enjoyed a very productive season in ’85 split between single-A Florence and double-A Knoxville (.310 average, .510 SLG, 21 HR) that had people talking – or whispering – that he might be a potential replacement for George Bell.

But a replacement he was not.  He did nothing of any value in the minor leagues ever again, yet somehow his .210 average with a .258 slugging percentage, 0 HR and 0 RBI earned him a call-up to the big leagues.

Sil made his debut in 1988 and was terrifically bad.  He managed to last with Toronto for 73 games putting up numbers that must have made fans feel ill.  He did not hit for average (.218).  He did not hit for power (.641 OPS, 2 HR).  He did not get on base (.282 OBP, 9 walks in 158 plate appearances).  He showed no speed (o SB).  He struck out a lot (33 times, over 20% of his plate appearances).  And on top of it all he couldn’t field.  He played all three outfield positions making at least one error in each.  The only thing of interest on his baseball reference page is that he finished 5th in the AL in most errors committed as a centre fielder.  Amazing.

He was so bad that advanced baseball statistics (specifically wins above replacement (WAR)) give him a negative value, meaning any random minor league player was actually BETTER than Sil.  Poor guy.

But for some reason another team wanted him.  The Phillies claimed him in the Rule 5 draft in 1989, officially ending his career with the Blue Jays.  He played parts of two seasons with Philadelphia, and it was there that he enjoyed the crowning achievement of his career – breaking up a Doug Drabek no-hit bid with two outs in the ninth.

His final big league season was 1991, after which he rode off into the sunset.  While he succeeded in his native Dominican Republic and in China after his MLB days, he didn’t accomplish much during his brief stay at the top.  He never made the playoffs, he never contributed much to his teams, and sadly even in his post-playing days he can’t catch a break.  Campusano has quite possibly the worst Wikipedia write-up in history, ending with the words “he was a very happy player.”

With stats like he had, staying happy just might be his biggest accomplishment of all.

Sil Campusano: Career Major League Statistics

3 seasons (1988 – 1991)

2 teams (TOR, PHI)

.202 average, 5 HR, 23 RBI, 26 R, 1 SB, .584 OPS

*Blast From the Past is a feature dedicated to bringing back the memory of classic Jays from days past – the lesser known the better.  If you have any suggestions please contact 500 Level Fan.

What’s With the Hatred? The Jays are GOOD!

Fred Lewis is right - the Jays have been closer to #1 than to last this year (from daylife.com)

Fact: The Toronto Blue Jays blew two consecutive games in the ninth inning against Tampa.

Fact: The Tampa Bay Rays are the best team in baseball.

Relax people.  It’s not the end of the world.  Yes, the Jays probably should have won yesterday.  They definitely should have won on Tuesday.  But so what?  I couldn’t believe the negativity I heard this morning from all kinds of different people.  Things like “here comes the collapse”, or “the Jays suck, what a crappy team”, or even “it’s over – there goes the season.” 

Are you kidding me?

It’s time to step back and settle down.

I read a tweet last night from fellow Blue Jays blogger Ian at the Blue Jay Hunter that said “’tis better to have led and lost than to have never led at all.”  This afternoon I read the latest post by another Jays blogger, 1 Blue Jays Way, that said even though they sting, Toronto shouldn’t feel shame from those losses because the Rays are a very, very good team.

Well, I completely and wholeheartedly agree with both.  For all of those fans out there who are jumping off the bandwagon left, right, and centre, I hope you hurt yourself on the fall.  We should be proud and supportive of this club.  What they have accomplished so far this season is astounding.  Will they keep it up?  Who knows.  I hope so, but realistically a downfall might be coming. 

But for all of you who are hating on the Jays right now, let me point you here where Scott Miller of CBS Sportsline predicts Toronto to finish dead last, while poking fun at their no-name roster.  Or how about here where fellow Sportsline columnist Danny Knobler predicts the 2010 Jays to be in the same class as the Pirates, Royals, and Astros.  Need more?  Check out SI’s predictions (you guessed it – Toronto is last) or ESPN’s  (Jayson Stark switched it up a bit – he didn’t pick the Jays in last but placed them amongst the worst nine teams in the game).

Get the picture?  All of these so called “experts” predicted Toronto to finish the season behind Baltimore.  While they might not finish in the top-5 in the sport, they are currently 15 games ahead of the hapless Orioles.  I’m going to go ahead and say they’re safe from that result.

Bottom line is this: enjoy the start to the season.  Stop hating, stop being negative, and start smiling.  The 2010 Toronto Blue Jays are good, blown leads or not. 

Besides, wouldn’t you rather lose competitive games against the best team in baseball while staying within striking distance of the Wild Card than spend the season licking the dirt off Baltimore’s feet?

I know I would…

Don’t Worry Kevin Gregg – Being an Elite Closer is VERY Tough

In the wake of yesterday’s horrendous performance by Kevin Gregg I started thinking about closers.  Watching him nibble around the strike zone, walk batter after batter, and finally completely break down gave me mixed emotions.  In fact, the closer position has always given me mixed feelings.

On one hand, it should be simple.  You are a major league pitcher and all you have to do is record three outs.  In most cases, you are coming into the game 100% fresh.  You haven’t been on the mound for several innings and logged over 100 pitches.  How hard can it be?

On the other hand, it is the most difficult time of the game.  Sure only three outs are required, but the game is close, and all eyes are upon you.  Failure is not an option as you will not have the opportunity to come out in the next inning and fix your mistakes.  Starting pitchers can do that, closers can not.

So to me closers are a mixed bag. They really should have great numbers, but all it takes is one bad outing and the stats go haywire.  It takes a lot of three-up three-down innings to repair the damage done to an ERA by a blown three-run save.

After Gregg’s failure I decided to hunt for how many truly elite closers are out there, by using the incredible data at baseball-reference.com.  According to their wealth of statistical information, a 30-save season has been accomplished 368 times in major league history.  But after sweating though many of Gregg’s saves this season, everybody can clearly tell that there is a difference between a good save and a bad save, and by extension between a good 30-save season and a not-so-good 30-save season.

So what defines a good save?  Obviously, a three-up three-down inning is best.  Putting runners on base, via hit or walk, brings a closer face-to-face with disaster – the blown save.  But clearly a three-up three-down inning can not be accomplished each and every time out.  So what defines a good season for a closer?

To me, ALL of the following criteria have to be met:

– 40+ saves in the season (showing reliability)

– a sub 2.00 ERA (showing the ability to prevent runs)

– a sub 1.00 WHIP (showing dominance – preventing runners from getting on base)

My original hypothesis was that after inputting all of those parameters I would see approximately 75 or more individual seasons on the list, or about three seasons each year from the mid-80’s when closers started to become fashionable.

I was WAY off.

A season that sees a closer save 40 or more games with a sub 2.00 ERA and 1.00 WHIP has been accomplished only 21 times in MLB history, by 15 different men:

– Armando Benitez (2004), Billy Wagner (2003), Bryan Harvey (1991, 1993), Chad Cordero (2005), Dan Quisenberry (1983), Dennis Eckersley (1990, 1992), Eric Gagne (2002, 2003), J.J. Putz (2007), Joakim Soria (2008), Joe Nathan (2004), John Smoltz (2003), Mariano Rivera (1999, 2005, 2009), Michael Jackson (1998), Robb Nen (1998, 2000), Trevor Hoffman (1998)

Two things strike me about that list.  One – there are no Blue Jays on it.  We thought that Tom Henke and Duane Ward were lights out dominant.  I guess they were  a bit below that.  Two – there are only 15 players on it!!!! That tells me that for every save that we have had to bite our nails for with Kevin Gregg, or Billy Koch, or BJ Ryan, or Jason Frasor, virtually EVERY OTHER TEAM IN BASEBALL is doing the same thing!!!

So don’t feel so bad Mr. Gregg.  Though you screwed up royally yesterday, you are definitely not alone. 

But I would dump you in a second for a 1990 version of Dennis Eckersley… website offline . link checker .

Scouted 500 Level Fan of the Game – June 1st, 2010

How old is this child? Old enough to drink in the 500 level!

Sadly I was unable to attend last night’s game at the Rogers Centre between the Jays and Rays.  I guess it actually turned out to be a blessing, because I was sitting on my couch when Kevin Gregg imploded in the ninth, watching it on TV instead of in the 500 Level.  That meant I had instant and arm’s length access to beer, wine, scotch, rye, vodka, and tequila, all of which helped me to forget the disaster I had just seen.

But luckily for me, a few 500 Level Fan scouts were out in the upper deck last night.  Showing what a true company man I am, the scouts paid their own way in, and will continue to receive no compensation.  But great job gentlemen!

And now, in their own words, I present their scouting report.  Tbe first ever scouted 500 Level Fan of the Game – The (very) Underage Drinker!

“As promised, here is the 15 year old beer saving drunkard.

In the third inning we flagged down the beer man for a few tall boys.  As he stood there preparing our frosty delights, suddenly the clearly underage kid in front of us confidently requested not one but TWO Keith’s.

It was a classic moment as he looked no more than 15 and the kid next to him looked 11 at most.  Equally classic was the utter look of confusion or general befuddlement on the face of the beer man.  He clearly could not figure out if he was hearing things or whether he was being made the butt of some punk kid’s joke.

So, the beer man carried on and provided two beers to the cougars a few rows up.  At that time, the kid called out again for his beers at which point the beer man had no choice but to comply.

He took the kids ID and astonishingly rewarded him with two beers, one for him and one for the girl next to him (to this point we hadn’t noticed the girl as we were too in shock that the ID was good).

Clearly satisfied the kid began to enjoy his beer…but I noticed in the top of the 8th that he still hadn’t finished it.  He was stretching out the last few sips.

Overall, the 15 year old beer saving drunkard was confusing, impressive, and lame all at the same time.  An enigma such as this could only be found in the skyward confines of the 500 level.”

Congratulations Underage Drinker for being named fan of the game, and thanks very much to the 500 Level Fan scouts. same sites expired domains . expiration of domains . apache web server website offline . link checker

500 Level Fan(s) of the Game – May 31st, 2010

An incredible sight at the Roger’s Centre last night.  It had nothing to do with Toronto’s 3-2 win over the first place Rays.  It had nothing to do with the disappointing drop in attendance, down to 11.335 despite two 30-win teams going at it. 

It had everything to do with the return of two 500 level legends:

On the left is WWE legend and Hall-of-Famer Bobby Backlund.  On the right is none other than children’s animated TV star Pingu the Penguin.  To fully understand what this means, please join me on a flashback, a trip down memory road.

2002 – My best friend and I begin regularly attending Jays games in the 500 level.  As fresh graduates of York University and still unemployed, the summer of ’02 becomes a summer of freedom.  Sitting in the upper deck and enjoying Hinske, Wells, and Halladay, we notice two striking men a few rows ahead of us in section 524A.  The man on the aisle bears a striking resemblance to Bobby Backlund.  The man in seat 2 looks an awful lot like a penguin.  We continued to see them throughout the summer, each time noticing how the penguin-man, now referred to as Pingu, was silent, and Bobby was chirpy.  He also had tape holding his glasses together.

2004 – After a summer spent out of Toronto, we both return to the city.  Upon re-acclimatizing ourselves to the 500 Level, we are both shocked and excited to see that Pingu and Bobby are still there, still sitting in section 524A.

2005 – Bobby and Pingu remain fixtures in the upper deck, though their behaviour is becoming increasingly erratic.  Bobby continually tries to take photos of children with their parents, and tries game-in and game-out to bet other fans bottles of diet cokes that an opposing player will hit a home run.  Pingu is still quiet.

2006 – Bobby and Pingu vanish.

Fast forward to last night.  We are both back to see the battle of the Jays and Rays, keeping one eye on the game and one eye on the fans.  Section 525 proved fruitless.  Just a bunch of young girls with their boyfriends, and a few rows of older fans.  Nothing crazy.  Section 522 also proves uneventful.  Though the Jays, and Morrow especially, are dominating on the field, the upper deck is strangely quiet.

At this point I turn to my friend: “I wish Bobby and Pingu were still around.  I wonder what happened to them?”

His reply?  “They’re probably dead.”

However, upon moving into section 519, the unthinkable:

Bobby (left) and Pingu (right) - Upper Deck Legends

 

Yes!  The legends have returned! 

While the rest of the ball game was exciting on the field, it did little to match the excitement felt in the 500 Level.  The behaviour of the pair was even more erratic than in years past.  Bobby still had the taped glasses, and still had the faded white t-shirt, but he had found new ways to annoy those around him.  In the 4th inning he started rubbing the head of the fan in front of him.  For every at-bat by Overbay he would yell “You are a moron!”, and then yelled “Overpaid!”  Unfortunately for us around him, he continued to yell “Overpaid” for 25 minutes after Lyle’s at-bat.

In the 5th inning Pingu fell asleep.  Despite Bobby’s best efforts to wake him (a constant barrage of nonsensical chatter, and the occasional slap to the head), he remained out for several batters.  He was quieter than ever until the 8th, when he unleashed a profanity filled tirade at Lyle Overbay.

It was incredible.  We were a few years older, but despite Pingu’s increased girth and rounder belly, they looked the same.  It was like we entered a time warp and it was 2002 all over again.

The Jays won to inch closer to the division lead, but this game will always be remembered for a return to my younger days.  Congratulations Bobby and Pingu, 500 Level Fans of the Game! same sites expired domains expiration of domains apache web server . website offline link checker .

A View From the Cheap Seats