Category: Jose Bautista

The jingoists

maninwhite11Based on the account of four anonymous White Sox relievers, certain sports writers have suggested that Jose Bautista has been found guilty of stealing signs with the help of a “man in white” perched in Sky Dome’s centre field. These unidentified White Sox offered nothing beyond anecdotal evidence of any cheating, namely that they saw this “man in white” raising his arm from centre field to indicate non-fastballs. The notion that Bautista has been “called out” is disingenuous since nothing was determined. An actual calling out, as far as I understand, involves the bringing to light of some level of guilt. And actual guilt, and declaring it, requires some semblance of evidence.

This has not taken place.

The most telling thing that has been glossed over in most media accounts is that there is no real statistical difference between Bautista’s power numbers, at home and away in 2011. Does the assertion then become that the “man in white” communicates the pitches to Bautista from a particular vantage point in every AL ballpark, US Cellular Field and the home of all White Sox included?

Where does that leave us?

One of the central pieces of what has been considered evidence, that Bautista’s stats are inflated at home, falls flat. There is no argument. It seems that certain sports writers don’t understand how a ball player can achieve Bautista’s level of success, seemingly out of nowhere. Would a player based in a different market be subjected to the same accusations, the “guilty of something” verdict based on anecdotal evidence from unnamed sources? His real crime is mashing home runs at ball parks everywhere. That evidence is awesome.

Why not enjoy the Bautista show?

I suppose it is understandable, in the wake of the steroid era, that certain followers of baseball may succumb to an alarmist bent. But Bautista is tested often. He doesn’t take PEDs. He must be guilty of something though, right? No, friends, there is no real evidence to support the claim that a “man in white” is helping him cheat to hit home runs. It is bush league and possibly jingoistic to claim otherwise.

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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.

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.

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.