What Morrow may bring

Brandon Morrow, Seattle Mariners, development hampered, Toronto Blue Jays, What Morrow may bringThe common wisdom within the Blue Jays organization and Toronto sports media suggests the Seattle Mariners rushed Brandon Morrow to the big leagues, then further hampered his development by using him inconsistently as both a starter and closer. For that reason, Morrow, who is only in his second uninterrupted season as a starter, will only improve on his success.

Ghostrunner on First refers to an article in the Bellingham Herald, in which Brandon Morrow (he of the glowing FIP) espouses his preference for SABR stats.

Drunk Jays Fans takes exception to a Bleacher Report post that ranks Ricky Romero in the top five for the AL Cy Young award.  According to DJF, Morrow’s superior fWAR makes him a far better candidate than RR Cool Jay (he of the knock-you-out ERA).

Concerning the Morrow-for-League-swap, even though Brandon League has had an all-star season, I would rather have Morrow. A good starter trumps a good closer, in my mind, because he would pitch about three or four times as many innings. The 162-game season is a marathon, and a good team requires three or four long-distance runners. League did flirt with dominance in 2006 and 2008, but he failed to put it together in consecutive seasons. We gave him five. We’ll see in two years how the Morrow for League trade looks.

Hopefully Casper Wells, drilled in the face by a Brandon Morrow fastball, suffers no serious damage. The Ghostrunnner post links to Morrow’s immediate apology tweeted to Wells.

Brandon Morrow better than Brandon League, What Morrow may bringA professional in the twittersphere and on the pitcher’s mound, Morrow did get in some hot water loading the bases in the sixth inning Wednesday. But he managed to get out of the inning, allowing just one run.

The Morrow line – 6 IP, 1 ER, 3 H, 12 SO

“Morrow is a fireballer,” I typed on MLB Gameday.

In response, a frustrated Blue Jays fan wrote:

“Morrow is nothing more at this point than a #3-4 starter, League is already an elite closer. Morrow is very frustrating to watch, he is like AJ Burnett.”

I replied:

Morrow is a #2 starter on a good AL East team that’s getting better. He’s also 27 and improving. As for Burnett, sure, he’s frustrating to watch (34 and past his prime), but don’t forget he’s a former *18-game winner, who made a significant contribution to the Yankees 2009 World Series championship. Having said that, Morrow’s ceiling is higher than Burnett’s because Morrow doesn’t throw emotionally, he pitches with resolve. As for League, he’s had a good season, but MLB is littered with the carcasses of closers, who had one good season. I’ll take Morrow over League any day.

*Wins, as per AJ Burnett’s 18 of them, are not the best measure of a pitcher’s contribution. To say wins mean nothing, however, ignores far too much data, on winning and losing teams alike, correlating strong ERA (in various incarnations) with positive W-L records. Likewise, poor ERA often correlates with negative W-L records. I have yet to determine which combination of traditional and SABR statistics provides the most accurate overall picture of a pitcher’s contribution. If one employs traditional stats, Romero is our ace. If one is purely sabermetric, then perhaps Morrow becomes our ace. No matter the case, they make a fine one-two punch.

The Blob

Blue Jays starting rotation as The Blob

The blob is nothing if not unpredictable. If you asked the most seasoned baseball analysts and Blue Jay fans in April who would be holding up the back-end of the starting rotation by August, it is unlikely even two of 100 would have chosen Brad Mills and Henderson Alvarez to be there.

The tendency of injury in MLB starting rotations and the depth of talent and competition in the organization have combined to see 10 young pitchers (Romero, Morrow, Reyes, Drabek, Villanueva, Cecil, Litsch, Mills, Stewart, Alvarez), all 27 and under, start for the Blue Birds.

1. Ricky Romero is the only one, who has not missed a start due to injury or seen time in the minors. The top three (Romero, Morrow, Cecil) have, more or less, found their form and consistency.

4. Brad Mills needs a quality start tonight, if he wants to stay out of Las Vegas.

5. Henderson Alvarez will likely get the Zach Stewart treatment: three starts, more if he doesn’t get hit hard.

6. Jesse Litsch remains in the bullpen. He may yet start some games, if others falter or injure.

7. Kyle Drabek, see you in September.

8. Dustin McGowan made the jump to New Hampshire Double-A last week. Eight scoreless innings of work there is a great sign.

9. Joel Carreno. I’m surprised this guy doesn’t get more attention. He’s been projected as a big league reliever, even though he’s arguably been the Fisher Cats ace this season.

10. Chad Jenkins, next September or 2013.

11. Nestor Molina, next September or 2013.

12. Deck McGuire made the jump to New Hampshire, before sitting down for a rest on the 7-day disabled list. Next September at earliest.

The blob’s shifting mass:
  1. Ricky Romero (26)Henderson Alvarez, in the starting rotation for now
  2. Brandon Morrow (27)
  3. Brett Cecil (25)
  4. Brad Mills (26)
  5. ↑Henderson Alvarez (21)
  6. ↓Jesse Litsch (26) – Toronto bullpen
  7. Kyle Drabek (23) – Las Vegas
  8. Dustin McGowan (29) – New Hampshire
  9. Joel Carreno (24) -New Hampshire
  10. ↑Chad Jenkins (23) – New Hampshire
  11. ↑Nestor Molina (22) – New Hampshire
  12. Deck McGuire (22) – New Hampshire (7-day DL)
  13. ↑P.J. Walters – (26) – Las Vegas
  14. ↓Chad Beck (26) – Las Vegas
  15. Robert Ray (27) – Las Vegas
  16. ↑Yohan Pino (27) – New Hampshire
  17. ↑Willie Collazo (31) – New Hampshire
  18. Drew Hutchison (20) – Dunedin
  19. Ryan Tepera (23) -Dunedin
  20. ↑Asher Wojciechowski – Dunedin

Win Mills

On this, the evening of Brad Mill’s second start of the season, I renew my claim that anything can happen in this starting rotation.

A guy named Brett Lawrie also takes his first career at bats this eve.

Seven straight balls from Brad Mills in the third inning.  I digress, or not.

If the wind does not blow in Mills’ direction tonight, does Litsch then rejoin the rotation?

Luis Perez is also in the running. Jays management would seem to want to have a look at him in the rotation, or so it has been suggested by the Jays Talk. Since Mills has already thrown a few starts over the past three seasons, he now needs a string of quality starts to stick around.

One out, two on, bottom of three. Blue Birds four, Orange ones two.

If and when he does join the rotation, Luis Perez will have a slightly longer leash than Mills, given that it would be his first opportunity.

One gets the sense that this will be the last best chance for Brad Mills to permanently join the ranks of MLB starters.

If only in shades, does watching Brad Mills pitch remind you of a young Jimmy Key?

He’s out of the third. Two runners left on.

Brett Lawrie to take his second at bat. No longer batting 1000.

Mills survives the fourth.

Alan Ashby and Jerry Howarth speak in ominous tones about Mills’ shaky control, leaving pitches well above and up in the zone. Can he settle in for another few innings?

Three up, three down in the fifth. Mills in position for the win.

Fan 590, Jerry Howarth, Alan Ashby, Mike Wilner, Brad Mills opinions

Jerry Howarth just called Brad Mills a magician. Alan Ashby corrects himself on having judged Mills too harshly.

It’s clear Alan Ashby does not get a good feeling watching Brad Mills, pitching high with a fastball of 86 mph.

Mills then walks two, loads the bases, and allows another run.

Jays 4, Orioles 3.

In comes Perez to get the Jays out of the sixth.

Jays jump ahead to a 5-3 lead in the top of the seventh.

Litsch comes in to get the Jays through the seventh.

It looks like neither Perez or Litsch will fill Villanueva’s rotation spot.

Could it be the second coming of Kyle Drabek? Or the first coming of Henderson Alvarez?

Frank Francisco continues his streak of effectiveness with a clean eighth inning.

Brad Mills will earn the victory on 5.1 IP and 3 ER, 4 BB and 5 SO, if John Rauch can lock it down in the ninth.

Rauch has been our most reliable closer of the season, and that’s not saying much at all.

I look forward to saying goodbye to this man, though not as excruciating as Kevin Gregg, he is less effective and certainly a place holder with a very limited shelf life in Toronto.

He did it. Rauch the save, Mills the win and most likely another whirl (start), despite not pitching nearly as well tonight as he did in his last outing.

He may be one of these guys who can buck the trend. Maybe he can get away with throwing up in the zone, said Ashby.

The fortune of Brad Mills

Brad Mills makes the rotation, Brad Mills(er) time, starting rotation sweepstakes Jo Jo Reyes is out. Brad Mills is in, at least for today. Jesse Litsch, also called up, will work out of the bullpen, in the wake of the departure of Mark Rzepcynski, Jason Frasor and Octavio Dotel.

Welcome Colby Rasmus. Hopefully, he and Travis Snider will push each other to meet their ubiquitously spoken of potential.

As of Wednesday July 27, GM Alex Anthopolous, video seen at Getting Blanked, had only stated that Brad Mills was called up for temporary bullpen depth, until the Blue Jays new pitchers (P.J. Walters and Trevor Miller) arrived. A decision had not yet been made on who would start Saturday’s game. How quickly things change in these starting rotation sweepstakes. Brad Mills is our #5.

According to Mike Wilner on the Jays Talk, Mills is likely getting the start today as a way of showing him off as potential trade bait, before the deadline strikes Sunday. The following John Farrell quote from bluejays. com, provides some context:

“The fact that Brad has thrown the ball exceptionally well in Las Vegas, I think he’s earned the spot,” manager John Farrell said. “He’s got the opportunity to take this start and run with it.”

Whatever the case may be, Mills deserves at least a 10 game stint in some major league ball club’s starting rotation.

He’s dominated in Triple-A, unlike Brett Cecil, Jesse Litsch and Kyle Drabek. He’s got a lot to prove at the big league level, and I think he’s about ready to do it.

Zach Stewart is out, no longer part of the puzzle. Our depth of starting rotation makes losing Zach a moot point, (in the modern sense of the term).

I don’t think Luis Perez has earned his shot in the rotation, though look for him to rejoin the big club’s bullpen soon.

Carlos Villanueva will have to pitch better than he did Thursday over his next three starts, especially if Mills hangs around, Litsch pitches well in long relief and Kyle Drabek continues to bring his ERA back down to Earth.

Exciting times, indeed.

Chad Beck made the jump to Las Vegas this week. Deck McGuire is now a New Hampshire Fisher Cat, and Dustin McGowan is now up to pitching three innings per start with Dunedin. Joel Carreno and Henderson Alvarez are knocking on the Blue Jays door. It will be interesting to see if either gets the chance to show his stuff when the roster expands to 40 come September.

The race is always on. The climb is great – the fall is depth.

  1. Ricky Romero (26)
  2. Brandon Morrow (27)
  3. Brett Cecil (25)
  4. Carlos Villanueva (27)
  5. ↑Brad Mills (26)
  6. ↑Jesse Litsch (26) – Toronto bullpen
  7. ↑Kyle Drabek (23) – Las Vegas
  8. ↑Dustin McGowan (29) – Dunedin
  9. ↑Joel Carreno (24) -New Hampshire
  10. ↑Luis Perez (26) – Las Vegas
  11. ↑Henderson Alvarez (21) – New Hampshire
  12. Chad Jenkins (23) – New Hampshire
  13. ↑Deck McGuire (22) – New Hampshire
  14. ↑Chad Beck (26) – Las Vegas
  15. ↓Scott Richmond (31) – Las Vegas
  16. ↓Robert Ray (27) – Las Vegas
  17. ↑Nestor Molina (22) -Dunedin
  18. ↑B.J. LaMura  (30) – New Hampshire
  19. ↑Drew Hutchison (20) – Dunedin
  20. ↑Ryan Tepera (23) -Dunedin

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

Gelatinous movement


To animate the notion of a malleable starting rotation, composed of this organization’s top 20 starters, think gelatinous blob. Individual forces push toward and pull back from various spots, while overall movement trends in the same direction.

The blob is getting bigger.

It was last spotted heading south.

Engrossing New York and Boston is only a matter of time.

Brett Cecil is looking more like a #3 man. Tao of Stieb waxes poetic on the thighs of Cecil, which recovered from a rough last outing and a trying stretch to start the game against the Red Sox last night, going the distance in a losing cause at Fenway Park.

8 IP, 3 ER, 6 H, 2 BB, 6 SO

Jesse Litsch got hit hard wearing the Las Vegas 51s uniform July 4. He’ll have to put together a few quality starts in the Triple-A Pacific Coast League before Jays brass will consider moving him back into the rotation. Andrew Stoeten at Drunk Jays Fans speculates on how the starting rotation numbers game may play out. Through two starts for Vegas, the Litsch line does not help his cause in the starting rotation sweepstakes:

6 IP, 8 ER , 16 H, 0 BB, 5 SO

Despite putting together a promising start to the season in Double-A, Reidier Gonzalez is again getting pounded by PCL hitters.

70.1 IP, 2.56 ERA, 1.21 WHIP – New Hampshire

22.1 IP, 11.69 ERA, 2.60 WHIP – Las Vegas 

It is highly unlikely he will be called up to Toronto when the roster expand from 25 to 40.

Joel Carreno has been an Eastern League leader and strikeout master for the New Hampshire Fisher Cats in 15 games this season.

90.2 IP (7th), 3.18 ERA (8th), 1.18 WHIP (8th), 111 SO (2nd)

Compare with Zach Stewart through 13 starts:

75.2 IP (26th), 4.04 ERA (25th), 1.41 WHIP (27th), 53 SO (41st)

1 Blue Jays Way provides an audio interview with Carreno  from his Lansing Lugnut days, as well as a written interview with Stewart following his recent return to New Hampshire.

Robert Ray, thought to have been released outright by the Blue Jays May 19, 2011, is, in fact, still in the organization. Signed as a free agent on May 21, 2011, Ray has been in the New Hampshire Fisher Cats starting rotation since June 12. He yesterday logged his second quality start in five tries.

27.0 IP, 7.33 ERA, 1.63 WHIP , 23 SO

Since his promotion from Dunedin to New Hampshire, Henderson Alvarez has started nine games for the Fisher Cats.

53.1 IP, 3.38 ERA, 1.13 WHIP, 37 SO

Also making the jump to the Blue Jays Double-A starting rotation, Chad Jenkins has started five games. The 2009 first round draft pick would also seem to belong.

35.0 IP, 3.34 ERA, 1.23 WHIP, 21 SO

Considering the Jays organization has promoted two of its better young pitchers (Drabek and Stewart) directly from Double-A to the Big Leagues, it is within the realm of possibility that Carreno, Alvarez, or Jenkins could get a look sooner than later.

Dustin McGowan, who was reported to have been shut down due to shoulder soreness, did miss a simulated start but threw two bullpen sessions instead last week. Tonight, July 6, he started his second game for the Dunedin Blue Jays, throwing two scoreless innings before youngster Drew Hutchison replaced him.

The 20-year-old Hutchison, a 15th round selection in 2009, has been promoted to Dunedin from the Lansing Lugnuts. In his first two starts, June 26 and July 1, Hutchison did not allow a run. He was pitching in his third game at the time of this posting.