Category: Brett Cecil

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?

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   

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.

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.

On Richard Griffin’s Blue Jays

Meet Doc Halladay\’s heir apparent (July 11, 2010)

Kyle Drabek is a reasonably likely piece of the puzzle, but the article goes too far. It is a flight of logic to presume that because Kyle Drabek is a highly-touted prospect, the son of a Cy Young winner, and was involved in the Halladay trade that he is now Doc’s heir apparent. As far as I`m concerned, he cannot be spoken of in this way, until he shows signs of life at the MLB level in the way Marcum, Romero, and Cecil have. Does anyone remember the full page spread the National Post did on our dear Mar-Leaf Jeremy Williams a couple of years ago? Anyone remember him? I think the Toronto Star would do itself, Drabek, and Jays fans, a favour to knock down a few notches the expectations of untested prospects.

Jays rally late to take manager off the hook (May 5, 2010)

Griffin reveals an anti-Cito bias. What an unbalanced take on another great Jays comeback victory. Instead of focusing on perceived managerial mistakes, why not reflect on how strong the starting pitching has been, or the Jays resolve in battling back to the final out? Of course, it is okay to criticize any manager, but the focus of a Jays comeback victory in the 9th need not be on perceived errors made by Cito, passed off as fact.

High time for Cito to get over his mistrust of pitchers (May 29, 2009)

One begins to wonder whether Richard Griffin and BJ Ryan are related. He former “manages” to gloss over just how poorly the latter started this season and finished last season: an 85 m.p.h. hour fast ball and circus-like unpredictability, even when he does get out of an inning. Ryan has deserved little trust under Cito. In hindsight, and that’s all it is, Brian Wolfe was not the right choice to try and save the game Thursday. But hey, he was reliable last season and had been on the mark until his meltdown. And by the way, Wolfe doesn’t have any career saves because he has almost never had save opportunities unlike Ryan, who has blown so many in recent memory. Let’s call up Jeremy Accardo again from Las Vegas.