Category: Aaron Hill

Over the Hill

The Aaron Hill era is over

The Aaron Hill era is over.

Aaron Hill has lost what once put him in a position to earn Vernon Wellsian dollars.

Like the extinct Russ Adams, his former infield partner, the errant Hill has come nowhere close to meeting expectations. Like Adams, he just isn’t good enough for this team. Unlike Adams, he will find a home with another major league club, but not for eight million dollars.

He remains a lingering piece of the failed Ricciardi plan, a relic of the Vernon Wells era. Wells and Hill were good friends and teammates for six years. Perhaps Wells planted the seed of ineptitude that seems to grow in the psyche of Hill. Could he be ruminating on the following:

I am going to hit into a double play.

I know I’m going to fly out again.

I can’t do it any more.

I don’t deserve this money.

I am not the all-star I used to be, and I never will be again.

It is shaky ground upon which analysts pass judgement on a player’s lack of performance by declaring:  he lacks desire or confidence. But he does have a dazed look in his eyes, and a demeanour of resignation. Just what caused the change in Hill cannot be determined objectively.

Are we seeing the long-term effects of his concussion?

Did opposing pitchers figure out a permanent way to get him out?

And has Hill failed to make the requisite adjustments?

The fact is that Hill does not contribute enough. The numbers do not lie.

He strikes out too much. He does not walk enough, and he does not hit for average or homeruns. Without the benefit of all the RBI he used to hit, his OBP stands out all the more horrifically.

The Blue Jays Luddite predicts that Hill will be placed on waivers some time in August, and Bluebird Banter muses on the woes of Hill at the plate and considers possible replacements. One of whom might be our old friend Marco Scutaro, who has proven ability to get on base and play good defense. Dustin Parkes at Getting Blanked explains possible outcomes for Hill and the Blue Jays, depending on whether he finishes 2011 as a Type A or Type B free agent.

It has been an abominable dissension in the ranks for Hill, and a mystery for the Blue Jays.

Just what happened to the man since his all-star season of 2009, no one, Hill included, seems to know.

This Aaron Hill is a shadow of his former self, and it now appears likely that he will not be back, or should not be back in 2012.

On to the next, we’re over the Hill. Who will play second base?

Blue Jay puzzle pieces

1977 redux, Ricky Romero

Ricky Romero – leadership shown, all-star calibre, struggles with Red Sox

Kyle Drabek – demotion to Las Vegas, return to rotation a challenge

Brett Cecil – fastball up to 93 mph again, rotation mainstay rest of way

Jo Jo Reyes – unfocused, #5 spot in starting rotation, on the bubble

Jesse Litsch – rehab stint in Las Vegas, rotation spot in doubt

Brandon Morrow – shades of 2010, momentum, on verge of breakthrough

Carlos Villaneuva – exceeding expectations, #4 starter, trade bait

Sean Camp – Zen master of eliciting ground balls, hittable, 1 blown save

Jason Frasor – sure hand, candidate for closer role, 2 blown saves

John Rauch – hothead, very hittable, 7 saves in 9 tries

Mark Rzepczynski – reliable middle-relief, 3 blown saves, 3 extra base hits allowed

Casey Jannssen – placed on 15-day DL, retroactive to June 15

Octavio Dotel – improved effectiveness, innings eater

Frank Francisco – below average closer, 4 blown saves, unprofessional tendency

Luis Perez – helpful middle relief, unestablished rookie, 2 blown saves

Blue Jays offensive production

Aaron Hill – too cautious, shell of 2009 self, Blue Jay end near

Adam Lind – dialed in, future batting champion, all-star production

Travis Snider – 3 doubles in MLB return, deserving outfield starter

Jason Nix – below Mendoza line, designated for assignment July 2

Jose Molina – above-average backup catcher, effective place holder

Corey Patterson – horrendous decision-making on base paths + outfield, liability

Jose Bautista – constant development, all-star, MVP candidate

J.P. Arencibia – good rookie production, sunken BA

Rajai Davis – lightning speed, awful slump, too many SO, second half producer

Edwin Encarnacion – natural DH, streaky, on the bubble

Yunel Escobar – all-star calibre statistics, improved power + work ethic

Juan Rivera – place holder role over, DFA July 3

John McDonald – above Mendoza line again, unsung Toronto hero

Mike McCoy – down + up again, good OBP, useful professional

Eric Thames – spark plug, confident, room for improvement in SO/BB ratio

God speed the offense

Eric Thames, God speed the offense

Blue Birds 5, Red Birds 4

A home run by Jose Bautista in the top of the 9th and a great day at the plate for newly recalled outfielder Eric Thames filled the gaping void in a Toronto offense that had scored but five runs in its previous six games.

The 24-year-old rookie smacked two doubles on the eve of his return. But, most importantly, he legged out an infield grounder that broke up a double play, allowing him to score the first run of the game on a ground out by Adam Lind after Jose Bautista had advanced Thames to third with a double. With the inning still alive, in part, due to the speed of Thames, Aaron Hill proceeded to drive home Bautista with a single.

A sigh of relief let out by Jays faithful, as the tide turned from a one for 20 stretch of hitting with runners in scoring position.

Yunel Escobar extended his hitting streak to six games.

Thames up to Toronto meant McCoy down to Vegas for the umpteenth time in the past two seasons. His .217 AVG belies real productivity at the plate, where he managed almost as many walks as strikeouts (12 BB, 16 SO, 69 AB) and carried an OBP of .333, good for sixth on the team. But his ability to fill in at most positions, even pitcher, make him a man of utility.

No doubt we haven’t seen the last of the real McCoy.

Brandon Morrow managed to log his second consecutive quality start (3 ER, 9 SO, 1 BB, 7 IP), despite giving up two home runs, only the third and fourth he has given up all season long. Jason Frasor ended up with the win. He pitched a perfect 8th inning before Bautista hit his league-leading 23rd home run for the game-winning run. Frank Francisco had a 3-up, 3- down 9th for the save.

Blue Jay puzzle pieces

Toronto Blue Jays, workhorse, #1 starter
Ricky Romero – workhorse, solid, if not timely, settling into role as staff ace

Kyle Drabek – heart on sleeve, raging bull of emotion on the mound, wild

Brett Cecil – fastball down to 90 mph, 8 HRs allowed in 4 starts before demotion

Jo Jo Reyes – 26-game winless streak snapped, emotions in check, weak pick-off move

Jesse Litsch – fastball + compete-level return, rotation spot deserved when healthy

Brandon Morrow – slow start, potent arsenal, control a work in progress

Carlos Villaneuva – good stuff, reliable from bullpen, exceeding expectations as starter

Sean Camp – ground ball out master, outstanding April/ May, rocky June

Jason Frasor – painstakingly deliberate approach, sure hand, best season pace

John Rauch – shades of K-Gregg, less careful, Jays best closer not saying much

Mark Rzepczynski – odd man out, smooth transition to pen, control issues lately

Casey Jannssen – bullpen stud, return to 2007 form, confident presence

Octavio Dotel – ineffective, innings eater during big losses, oldest man in pen

Frank Francisco – power + unreliability, below average closer

Luis Perez – helpful middle relief, verdict still out, given small sample-size

Adam Lind, Jose Bautista,

Aaron Hill – stats split difference between 2009 and 2010 season, too cautious

Adam Lind – back in the saddle again, Indiana boy in perfect spot behind Bautista

Travis Snider – lack of confidence, swing kinks, walk to strikeout ratio improved

Jason Nix – clutch hitting in April, non-existent May, battling Mendoza line

Jose Molina –calm in eye of storm, excellent back-up catcher, hitting well

Corey Patterson – less than smart base running, seeing good pitches

Jose Bautista – BA + OBP + OPS off the charts, home run mastery

J.P. Arencibia – great rookie production, ability + rapport with pitchers improving

Rajai Davis – speed, nice addition, injury riddled, wait and see

Edwin Encarnacion – defensive liability, disappeared home run production

Yunel Escobar – great start overall, occasional odd no-throw decisions

Juan Rivera – horrendous start, rebounded offensively, first base fill-in admirable

John McDonald – decreased production, no fearful demeanour, usual infield brilliance

Mike McCoy – future John McDonald, reliable + energetic uber-utility man   

Fall Classic


Fernando  Valenzuela, Campeche, mayan, Fall ClassicCAMPECHE, Mexico – Across the street from El Estadio Nelson Barrera, where Fernando Valenzuela was thought to be discovered, from my bedroom in the Mexican family home I stay, through my laptop and the MLB online stream, it was a thing of beauty to watch the final home game of Cito Gaston and all the bells and whistles that came with it.

A speech from his old roommate Hank Aaron, glowing words from champion Blue Jays Paul Molitor, Joe Carter and Roberto Alomar, along with a standing ovation from a packed “SkyDome” and a single tear from a grateful Gaston, conjured the collective joy last felt in 1993.

It was a thing of nostalgia to realize how his leadership of our dear ball club and his presence in our beloved city interconnected with so many great memories from childhood: like game 6 of the 1992 World Series when we leapt out of our seats and ran onto the field to celebrate via Jumbotron with our Jays in Atlanta. A friend had gotten overexcited as the gates opened earlier that night and disappeared in the crowd, charging up to the 500 level, never to be seen again.

It was a last call with Cito, the closing time on the last three seasons of ball games I attended or logged by TV in varying states of elation, frustration, and drunkeness . It was time for him to go, but as a hard man of steely nerve, he is a hard man not to respect, unless you get into the Bob McCowan v. Cito Gaston controversy of yesteryear.

In spite of the near incomprehensible fall from grace of both Adam Lind and Aaron Hill — see .305 and .286 BA. (2009) to .237 and .205 for Lind and Hill respectively, 2010 was the most exciting season of Blue Jays baseball since 1993. Motherload of slumps and all, Lind-Hill still managed to combine for49 dingers.

The team statistics speak for themselves in aesthetically pleasing fashion:

595 extra base hits (team record)

.454 slugging % (mlb leader)

257 team dingers (mlb leader)

54 Bautista dingers (mlb leader)

7 players with 20+ dingers

4 pitchers w/ 10+ wins

Had we maintained an above .500 W-L record through interleague play, as opposed to a dismal 9-17 mark, we would have fought for the wild in September. It was that close.

The bullpen often seemed shaky with a seeming inability to nail down saves i.e. preserving wins for our starters.

Consider:

0/2= 0%  Brian Tallet

0/2= 0% Scott Downs

2/4= 50% Sean Camp

4/8= 50% Jason Frasor

37/43= 86% Kevin Gregg

That’s 16 games the Jays led late in the game, almost all of which were lost. In an ideal baseball world, without an interleague meltdown, where our bullpen had been perfect, we would have amassed a dominant and best ever 100- 62 record, 1 win better than the 1985 squad with Tom Henke as closer. Not the most likely scenario since few teams have converted 100% of save opportunities.

What shocked me is that the Jays finished the season a respectable 5th place in MLB with 45 saves converted. But I would sooner tempt a 53-year-old Tom Henke out of retirement than endure the torture of another season of K-Gregg’s semi-calculated melodramatics: all those BB’s to go for the easiest possible outs.

Whoever next year’s closer, with three of our top four 2010 starters (Ricky Romero, Brandon Morrow, Brett Cecil) returning a year wiser, and Kyle Drabek, Mark Rzepczynski, Jesse Litsch and Brad Mills battling for spots, with Dustin McGowan just maybe on the mend, a full season of opportunity for T-Snyde, Arencibia, and Escobar, a return to form by Lind and Hill, and anything near a repeat season from Bautista; the future looks bright. Then again, the future always shines bright for the Toronto Blue Jays. Every year, we are one year closer to the next time we win another World Series.

Wells lost at sea, Janssen eaten by fish

 

TORONTO — The wayward Vernon Wells could not rescue a shaky Blue Jays pitching staff during a 6-5 loss to the visiting Florida Marlins Saturday before 20,634 baseball fans at Rogers Centre.

Coming off a year-long rehabilitation from a torn labrum in his right shoulder, Jay’s starter Casey Janssen struggled through 3 2-3 innings giving up five runs on eight hits.

Jeremy Hermida homered in the third, and Jays-killer Cody Ross followed up his grand slam Friday by nailing a Janssen breaking ball in the fourth to make it 5-0.

“I just think, first of all, it looked like he got his cutter up a lot today,” said Cito Gaston of Janssen. “He had a little trouble getting his breaking ball over and, the fastball counts, if he threw his breaking ball, it was down and it was a ball and he had to come back and throw his fastball.”

In his fifth start of the season, the 27-year-old former reliever fell to 2-3, ballooning his ERA to an unsightly 6.23. David Purcey, also 27, carried a 7.01 ERA through five starts in April before losing his job.

Marlins rookie-starter Sean West survived 5 2-3 innings, improving to 2-2 on the season.

An RBI double by Hanley Ramirez scored Chris Coghlan in the first, and a double-play ball hit by Coghlan in the sixth plated Cody Ross from third base and accounted for the Marlin’s last run.

With the Jays down 6-2 in the sixth, Lyle Overbay, named American League player of the week June 7, jolted a two-run shot to put Jays within two.

Marco Scutaro led off the seventh with a walk, advancing to second base on a walk to Aaron Hill. Vernon Wells gifted third baseman Wes Helms a light grounder which he launched into centre field, while trying to throw out Hill at second before Scutaro wheeled home to make the score 6-5.

Wells blew a golden opportunity when he struck out in the bottom of the ninth with Rod Barajas standing on second base, ending the game and a miserable 0-for-5 day at the plate.

Cursed by at least one baseball god, Wells finished the game on a 0-for-14 skid. Through June 13, he is batting .241 overall and .149 with runners in scoring position. Gaston moved him up to the number three spot Friday after 62 consecutive games batting clean-up.

One gets the feeling that the streaky Wells, a two-time all-star, is capable of captaining a sinking HMCS Blue Jay, or sailing it safely into October.


The loss gives the Jays an unseemly 0-5 record in interleague play and 4-16 lifetime record against Florida.

Alex Rios, 4-for-4 with a two-run dinger in the fourth, seems to have reversed his fortunes since Gaston moved him down from number three to six in the batting order. Rios stole second base in the eighth, but catcher John Baker threw him out when he tried to steal third.

“You’d like to see him safe, but we’re not swinging the bats that well,” said Gaston. “So, we’ve got to try to make something happen. He stole second base and gave us a chance to drive him in.”

In middle-relief, Sean Camp lasted three innings allowing one run. BJ Ryan lowered his mountainous ERA, from 6.91 to a slightly less ridiculous 6.46 in one scoreless inning of work. Jason Frasor (4-0), one of the few bright lights out of the bullpen, and closer Scott Downs held down the fort in the final two frames to give the Jays a chance.