Category: Aliens

The mind of Kyle

The mind of Kyle Drabek, Salvador Dali, Surrealism

Aces 16, Aliens 7

The Kyle Drabek Experience played a short set in Reno last night.

The dream is turning stormy.

Strange but true, Drabek’s evening lasted just 2/3 of an inning, which equalled in length his June 1 performance against the Indians when he still donned the Blue Jay uniform.

But this nightmare proved worse, his struggle more acute and the failure more complete.

He may as well have been asleep for all the cognisance he displayed on the mound.

After allowing five runs on four hits, two home runs and three walks, Drabek’s ERA stands at an astronomical 17.36 in two Triple-A starts.

Inside the mind of Kyle, fears and desires have run amok.

Mind of Kyle Drabek, Salvador Dali, Surrealism

Wanting more is not enough. Thinking positive is not enough. Throwing hard is not enough.

He must first wake up.

Wake up, Kyle.

We need you.

But he’s got to learn how to wake up on the right side of the bed.

For Drabek, it’s all about balance and control: mental, emotional and physical. When he finds that sweet spot in his mind, heart and catcher’s mitt, he will awaken from this nightmare to the real dream.

For now, he remains mired inside his very own Salvador Dali painting.

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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.

Zach Stewart’s day off

Ferris Bueller's Day off, Zach Stewart's day off

Braves 5, Jays 1

And the wheels go spin.

Zach Stewart handed over the car keys after 3.2 IP on this wild night out, but the Jays offense has been spinning its wheels the last five games, scoring only nine runs in that span.

I think Ricky Romero was right and respectful enough, given the circumstances, in his post-game interview yesterday when he called out the Jays offense for not stepping up. It’s true, Lind and Bautista cannot do it alone.

If the old adage, “if it ain’t broke don’t fix it” is true, surely a fine-tuning is appropriate, when the machine is sputtering, whether that be additional batting practice or a line-up shuffle or call-up.

But this organization’s depth of starting pitching is its greatest strength, and the vehicle to a successful future. As I alluded to in a June 17 post, Zach Stewart needs a few more lessons in Triple-A, like Brad Mills and Brett Cecil did.

He is not ready to handle this machine every five days.

I’m reminded of a popular movie, a coming-of-age tale that hit the screen the same year Zach Stewart was born.

In Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, Cameron is convinced to take out his Father’s 961 Ferrari 250 GT California Spyder SWB for a joy ride. Sure he lived a little, and team Ferris had some fun, but the car did get trashed.

Like a good joyride, there is instant gratification to be had in letting Zach Stewart take the wheel. Everybody loves him, or at least the idea of him. But if he needs a few more lessons in control, as I suspect he does, this team will be spinning its wheels, like Cameron and Ferris did with the Ferrari, right before it reversed off the edge, down into the ravine.

Putting the imperfect metaphor aside, Double-A does come before Triple-A. It hasn’t for Zach Stewart with the 2011 Jays.

And it should.

Let us mind our speed and handle the vehicle with care.

Let us give our more experienced young starters license to ride out this stretch.

2012.

The year of the Zach.

Kyle Drabek experience and the racing

Ballpark Update

Travis Snider, Las Vegas 51s

News out of Area 51 (Las Vegas) reads bittersweet. First the bitter, then the sweet, then a bit more bitter.

Travis Snider, whose bat had ignited over the past week, was plunked in the head last night and is now out indefinitely with a concussion.

Brett Cecil eked out a quality start (3 ER , 7 H , 9 SO , 2 BB , 7 IP) in the same game against the Reno Aces. While his team still trailed by one run, Cecil finessed his way out of a jam in the 6th, after loading the bases with just one out, inducing a pop up and getting a key strikeout on a 3-2 count for the final out of the inning. His fastball, an area of concern through April, reached 93 mph on the radar gun. It was clocked consistently between 89 -90 mph.

In this battle of casino-cities, the Aces eventually folded in the 9th. Las Vegas beat Reno 5-4.

Drabek Experience, Rainy Day Dream Away

Rainy Day, Dream Away

The Kyle Drabek Experience, wrought with all the power, potential, and unpredictability of gods making love, was wild and hard hitting in a Las Vegas tour-stop this afternoon. Unfortunately, that makes the performance sound a lot better than it was.

In his Triple-A debut, Drabek might as well have fallen off the stage for all the control he summoned.

He lasted just four innings (4ER, 8 H, 7 BB, 3 SO), as the Aces trumped the Aliens 12-9 at Cashman field.

Still Raining, Still Dreaming

Let’s hope he stops showing off his best “Wild Thing”  impression and shifts gears into an “Ezy Ryder” soon enough. There’s a mob of fans waiting for another Toronto tour-date to be added.

Racetrack Update

English gentleman Alex Lloyd, 26, collided with rookie Sebastian Saavadra of Colombia on  lap 78 of the Milwaukee 225, which means extra work and a busy week ahead for my Dad and the Dale Coyne Racing Team, as they prepare for the Iowa Corn Indy 250, June 25.

Rookie James Jakes, 23, also from England, running in just his second oval contest, placed a respectable 15th.

I wish them both a safe and successful race next weekend.

My congratulations to Canadian rookie talent and fellow Camp Kawabi alumnus James Hinchcliffe, who placed 6th in the race, scoring another top 10 finish (4th at Long Beach, 9th at São Paulo) for Newman-Haas Racing.

Head on over to the virtual world of Hinchtown, where Mayor Hinchliffe, 24, regales his residents with colourful tales from road and track as the plot thickens in this IndyCar Series Adventure. Hinchcliffe hails from Oakville, Ontario.

Veteran Canadian driver and Indy 500 pole-winner Alex Tagliani, 38, placed in 18th position.

Tag, as he is affectionately known, sped to a season-best 4th place finish in Texas last Saturday for Sam Schmidt Motorsports.

The Promotion of Zach Stewart

Promoting Zach Stewart is like handing the car keys over to your 15-year-old son, while his 16 and 17-year old brothers look on from the bus stop.

I jest.

By all accounts Zach Stewart is a real talent. But bringing him up now may prove short-sighted. What’s the hurry, considering the Jays have more experienced options?

That he has jumped from the Double-A Eastern League and New Hampshire Fisher Cats does not seem to be a natural progression.

That he has replaced Kyle Drabek, who will now pitch for the Las Vegas 51s of the Triple-A Pacific Coast League, seems ironic, since Drabek made a similar jump from the Fisher Cats to the Blue Jays, only to last 14 games in the bigs this season.

While Stewart did pitch last season in Las Vegas, he jumped down a level this season to New Hampshire, which would appear to be a demotion.

Jays management may have viewed it as a lateral move. The EL is thought to provide a better environment for developing young pitchers, although it is not clear what quantifiers bear out this claim.

Cleaner fields? Lighter air? Inferior hitting?

Drabek skipped Triple-A, and he performed inconsistently in the majors.  These two separate facts, concerning his development, should have given management long pause before making the same move with Stewart, who has not dominated in Double-A the way Drabek did. And I know that just because Drabek jumped over the Triple-A stage and struggled in the majors does not mean the former necessarily caused the latter. But one would be hard pressed to say there is no connection.

Much depends on a comparative valuation of the PCL and EL: one has the reputation of a hitter-friendly league, the other of a superior developmental league for pitchers. And yes, there is much more to know.

Drunk Jays Fans relays a quote from Alex Anthopoulos,  revealing some of the thinking that went into the Zach Stewart promotion.

To reach a decision on the when and where of the right league for a highly-touted pitching prospect, coaching staffs and management must make a nuanced evaluation of the individual pitcher, tangible and intangible criteria alike. I have little doubt that Anthopoulos and company did due diligence, I just question how they got there.

Most pitching prospects graduate from Double-A to Triple-A,  and when the stars and their stats align, they get their shot.

But that has not been the path for Stewart or Drabek. So far that path has not been a smooth one for either.

If it is true that the ECL serves as a better developmental league, why aren’t Brett Cecil and Brad Mills developing there, instead of the PCL?

Does a Blue Jays pitching prospect now go to New Hampshire via Las Vegas, prior to landing in Toronto?

Down is up. Up is down. Is Las Vegas just a holding station for potential mid-rotation to back-end starters?

There’ a lot of trial and error in baseball, and even with all the homework and analysis in the world, a magic eight ball would still get to the right answers before some management teams. It is all a bit confusing. But we do have our statistics.

Given its hitter-friendly climate, the PCL tends to inflate pitching statistics somewhat. That does not appear evident in the case of Brad Mills or Brett Cecil, who are 6-5 and 8-2, 3.04 and 5.21, and 1.15 and 1.43 WHIP, respectively.

All of which compares favourably with Stewart’s (4-3, 4.39, 1.42) in the ECL.

If you can’t shake the sight of Cecil’s ERA, consider that without his first Vegas start, a 10-run meltdown, 5.21 shrinks to 4.11.

In an arguably tougher league to pitch, with numbers as good or better than Stewart’s, two starters, who each have major league experience, have been skipped over.

From its tweet bag, Tao of Stieb produces a hunch as to why Stewart got the nod over Mills, whose mechanics could still pose a problem.

Stewart did produce a quality start (7 IP, 2 ER, 4 SO, 1 BB) yesterday, of which Mop-up Duty analyses the positives and negatives, and Mike Wilner summarizes poignantly, reminding us that Drabek’s first start of the season was an even better performance (7 IP, 0 ER, 7 SO, 3 BB).

Without a doubt, Stewart deserves a shot, as Drabek did (and still does), but what is the hurry?

Mills already leads the PCL in ERA, IP, WHIP, and SO. Cecil is the winningest pitcher in that league. The two must wonder just what they have to do to get their next shot.

Check out Bleacher Report’s polling data on which of the three pitchers ought to fill Drabek’s spot.

Maybe Stewart is just in Toronto for a quick look.

But if his confidence gets rocked during that time, or if it does not, where does he go next? New Hampshire or Las Vegas?

By promoting Stewart, what message is sent to Mills and Cecil?

For now, they, along with Drabek, pitch in the weighty air of Las Vegas, waiting for the next plane to Toronto. Whoever may be on it, will there be a layover in New Hampshire?

Area 51 abductees

Las Vegas 51s, Toronto Blue Jays

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

“Area 51 is a paranoid fantasy we concocted to hide the true nature of this facility.”

In the flighty air of Cashman Field and Las Vegas, Nevada, several would-be Blue Jays have hit the lights out, so to speak.

To say Brett Lawrie (ranked #21 by MLB Prospect Watch) is a highly touted prospect would be an understatement. To say that he has had a good season in Vegas would be an understatement (.354 AVG, .415 OBP, 1.092 OPS). Mere days from a much-anticipated call-up, the 21-year-old suffered a minor hand injury. But if his recovery is quick and complete, watch for a pre-September look, especially if his walks to strikeout ratio continues to even out and his power numbers maintain.

The 24-year-old first baseman, David Cooper, is batting .406 through 42 games (69 H, 170 AB). Need more be said? He has also walked more times than struck out and sports a .461 OBP. Such stellar work earned him a 2-week pass to the big club in May.

Another 24-year-old in Eric Thames adds significant organizational depth to the outfield position. His .319 AVG through 41 games in Las Vegas and impressive sampling (.286 AVG, .362 OBP) through 13 games in Toronto make him a shoe-in for a 2011 return.

The ups and downs of Travis Snider are well known. As he slowly but surely raises his batting average, while working on plate discipline and working out the kinks in his swing, we get closer and closer to seeing him back where he belongs on a permanent basis.

At 30 years young, jack of all trades, Mike McCoy has been on the cusp of cracking the Jays line-up since 2010. Having hit highly efficiently (.311 AVG, .457 OBP) through 20 games in AAA , he may now be in Toronto to stay. Mr McCoy even pitched a perfect inning, analysed in amusing fashion, including tweets from Brett Cecil’s upset girlfriend, at Infield fly. Could McCoy also call a game in a pinch? Is he the second coming of Johnny Mac?

Dewayne Wise, an adequate fourth outfielder for the Jays last season, appears the unlucky man out in 2011. But his numbers in Vegas (.338 AVG, 17 extra-base hits), suggest the 33-year-old could, if healthy, step into that role again, if the Jays were to require his services.

Not insignificant are the 11 home runs, .321 batting average and current 10-game hitting streak of Canadian left fielder, and Robert Plant impersonator, Adam Loewen, whose 1000th  minor league at bat is documented in unusual and hilarious (almost) non fiction at Ghostrunner on First.

Sky-high batting averages and the overall production by these Area 51ers make them prime candidates for abduction to Toronto.

Sabermetrically-challenged

May 14, 2011 (pregame)

I am surprised by the continuing presence of Jo Jo Reyes in the starting rotation. The Jays were patient with Brandon Morrow, and that has paid off, but when a pitcher goes 25 straight starts without a victory, shouldn’t some sort of cut off date be established? If he fails to secure a win by the end of the month, wouldn’t it then be time to give someone else a go? My vote would go to for Brad Mills, although Brett Cecil has turned things around in Las Vegas since a disastrous first start there.

Jays 9, Twins 3 

May 14, 2011 (post-game)

While it’s true, he didn’t pitch badly tonight, and he’s pitched well enough to win on at least two occasions this year, the fact is that Jo Jo Reyes has not held his leads. What does it say about your mettle as a pitcher when your team stakes you a 1-0 lead, and you go out and immediately give up two runs in the 1st inning? He allowed five earned runs his last start.

How long do the Jays allow the winless streak to go on, 26 now and counting?

“Winning isn’t everything, it’s the only thing.”

Granted, it’s not so cut and dry when considering pitcher’s W-L record as a measure of his contribution. The example of Felix Hernandez: 9-11, 3.45 ERA (2008) and 13-12, 2.27 (2010) springs to mind, as an example of the this statistic’s limitation. But to dismiss it completely is impractical. For example,  W-L can suggest and confirm, in some cases, a pitcher’s ability to hold on to a lead. The Hernandez example is more of an exception than a rule. One sees on every pitching staff how solid ERA and W-L record so often correlate.

As for Felix Hernandez, he is a great pitcher, as is Ricky Romero, and peripheral stats quantify that. A pitcher needs his team to show up to notch a win, and a team needs its pitcher to show up to notch a win. Pitchers, and as a result their teams, often lose when they don’t pitch well. That simple fact of the game, imperfect statistically though it is, has a lot to do with how many losses a pitcher accumulates.

While Reyes contributes more than winless in 26 games would suggest, the streak does reflect, to some extent, an inability to contribute enough. Baseball includes both tangibles and intangibles, perfect and imperfect measurements. To say that Wins have no bearing on the nature of a pitcher’s contribution dismisses the importance of those games, especially when the season is on the line, where he is called upon to pitch with a lead, sometimes a slight one, and hold on to it. Peripheral stats be damned.

This by no means pretends to be an argument against sabermetrics, nor to trumpet the W-L stat above all others, far from it.

I would not argue that the Wins stat is more important than ERA. Those seasons when Nolan Ryan (1987) and Felix Hernandez posted excellent ERAs and weak .500 W-L records show us a limitation in measuring pitcher’s contribution by Wins alone, but they don’t disprove all relevance of the Wins stat. How could they?

Deeming the Wins stat relevant does not mean ignore everything else (ERA, IP, WHIP, SO and others). A number of stats should be taken as a whole to measure a pitcher’s contribution, wins included.

But back to Reyes: what is an acceptable point at which to remove a winless pitcher from a MLB starting rotation? Every general manager must have one. Even when he may not be completely responsible for every loss, the Reyes extreme does show an inability to contribute enough. 

And his peripheral stats reflect this losing record, like they do with so many other pitchers with losing records. More to come.