Anatomy of a Hot Streak

rogers headshot copyThe Blue Jays just defeated the Colorado Rockies for the second night in a row. This victory is the seventh in a row for Canada’s Team. They did so behind the emergency starter who was subbing for the backup starter, Esmil Rogers.

The fact that Rogers, who began the season in the bullpen (where he had an ERA of 4.23, a WHIP of 1.41, and only 4.6 K/9), has made the transition to a starter wonderful. It is kind of a representation of just how inexplicably well things have gone since June 5th. As a starter the same Esmil Rogers has and ERA of 1.71, a WHIP of .95 and 6.85 K/9. Yes, when asked to do more, and face a lineup 2 or 3 times, Esmil has had better results by any measure you would like to use.

On June 5th, the Blue Jays got 8 1/3 innings out of R.A. Dickey in San Fransisco. It was the first time all season that a Jays starter had recorded an out in the 9th inning. The win brought the team up to a 25 and 34 record. Since that day, the Blue Jays have been rolling. They are, in many ways, a very different team than they were in April and May.

They took 2 out of 3 from Texas. The first game was an easy victory, 6-1, in which the Rangers only scored in the first. The second game was an 18 inning affair, but they prevailed 4-3. The third game was one in which they frittered away an early four run lead, and lost 6-4. They went to Chicago, and after an off day, they played in the fog, and lost 10-6 behind a lackluster R.A. Dickey start. That’s 5 games, and the Jays were 3-2 after those 5, so, why did I start the ‘hot streak’ there?

Well, the 6-1 game was started by Esmil Rogers on a limited pitch count, only his second start, and the bullpen held the Rangers scoreless for 5 innings, which is part of what has been so great about the Jays in this stretch. The 18 inning game was a nail biter, and you could make a good argument that they got lucky by the 18th inning, but also that the bullpen continued to dominate. So, two of the wins are about luck and the bullpen, and one of the losses can be blamed on the ‘pen.

The next game in Chicago was a 10 inning affair, highlighted by a last-strike game-tying home run by Jose Bautista. One swing saved the day, and the bullpen held the Sox for the bottom of the 10th.

Then the Jays beat the Rangers, in a game untied from 1-1 with 2 outs in the 8th on and Encarnacion double. Another ‘clutch’, or lucky, depending on your viewpoint, hit, and it saves the day. That’s four games that hinge on one hit and a shutdown bullpen.

Then 8-0, 6-1, and 7-2 victories. Not real nail biters.

Colorado comes to the Rogers Centre, and the Jays are no-hit for 6 innings. Maicer Izturis saves a run with a diving stop. A line drive rocket is hit at Adam Lind. Encarnacion takes a double away by making a leaping catch at third. The Jays score on two singles and a walk in the bottom of the 8th. Another 2 out rally saves the day, and another shutout inning by Casey Janssen ends the game.

Tonight, it was Colorado’s turn to get no hit for 6 innings. By the time they plated a run, the Jays had scored 8, for an 8-3 final.

In a 10-2 run, the Jays have had 5 games that hinged on a single hit, and depended on a nearly flawless bullpen to complete. I understand that’s how the game goes sometimes, and I can’t get enough of those kinds of breaks going in the Jays favour. I love it. But remember, every game is important, and lots of them could swing any which way.

Just another way to look at the swing in fortunes around this team: The Blue Jays starters In April, had the 27th best ERA in baseball and the 24th best FIP (a measure of pitching with fielding removed). In May, they were 27th and 28th. In June they are 6th and 17th. The April starters have not been replaced with better players. Three of them are the same guys exactly. I’d be willing to bet that none of those three months represents a true talent level for any of those pitchers.

So the Jays are on a hot streak. Everything keeps breaking right, and at the right time. It turns out better than expected. It isn’t some great epiphany on the part of the players or the coaches. It’s just the best part of a 162 game ride. Hang on, nobody knows what happens next.

 

Baseball’s Shortest Porch

Yogi Berra, it is claimed, once said “You can observe a lot just by watching.” You can learn a lot too, and some of those things you learn can take you in unusual directions.

The thought behind this post, began to bounce around in my head when I was looking at Hit Tracker Online. It is a website that estimates the ‘true distance’ and plots the path of every home run hit in the majors. The site takes video and wind speed with other weather info and puts it together to estimate how high, how hard, and how far every home run ball is struck.

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Reality Check: This Guy Cannot Hit

Dustin Ackley cannot hit.

Jesus Montero cannot hit.

Ike Davis cannot hit.

Mike Moustakas cannot hit.

Brett Lawrie cannot hit.

B.J. Upton cannot hit.

Aaron Hicks cannot hit.

Jeff Keppinger cannot hit.

Some guys who used to hit a little bit…. for example, 

Jeff Francouer, Victor Martinez, Miguel Montero, Juan Pierre and Ichirio Suzuki….

They can’t hit either.

The next time the guy you like, isn’t hitting, remember the company he keeps.

And remember that hitting a baseball in the big leagues is much, much harder than Miguel Cabrera, Joey Votto, and Justin Upton make it look.

All names pulled from the fangraphs leaderboards

 

Signs of Life

The Blue Jays are now, after a road trip through Tampa and Boston, sitting at 15-24. They are in dead last in their division. And yet, I am encouraged. Through April, and even through the first few games in May, there were a lot of places to point the finger of blame. At some point, every aspect of the game had failed miserably. Injuries, defense, lack of clutch hitting, bullpen meltdowns, starters getting shelled. Every night, you could see something going wrong, and it proved to be the Jays undoing twice as often as they were able to salvage something. 11-21 was the record as they set out on the road last week. they were, to my eyes, almost unwatchable.

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Comebacks, Making The Improbable Into Reality

Baseball without a clock, is viewed, I believe, a little differently than other sports. When one team goes ahead early, it obviously reduces the chance of that team winning the game. Unlike football, say, when you can take a knee late in the game because things are out of reach in the small amount of time left, in baseball, hope exists (however faint) until the 27 out is recorded. When I was a child, I always cheered like my team had great hopes to win, even down by four or five runs, heading into the bottom of the 9th. Three outs left? I always assumed, if you just kept hitting, you could win any game, no matter how late.

Thousands of games later, and I’ve come to realize that comebacks, especially those from a deep deficit are very, very rare. Possible, yes, but rarer than I even imagined. Which makes them all the more significant to me. Baseball is a monotonous 162 game grind, punctuated by small bouts of insane activity. When one of those moments comes, I’m not going to miss an opportunity to romaniticize it. And the best way I know to turn baseball into poetry, is with a line graph.

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Jays Try To Regroup After Streak Snapped

The Toronto Blue Jays defeated the Seattle Mariners 10-2 on Sunday afternoon. They were unable to build on the consistent results against Seattle and Boston early in the week, and scored early and often.

Mark+DeRosa+Lx0YTw9nXW8m

Manager John Gibbons was victimized by unexpected efforts from bench players Rajai Davis and Mark DeRosa, both of whom contributed on the offensive side well beyond expectation. Melky Carbera also threw off the team’s plans, homering for the first time this season. Gibbons was asked about the end of the four game losing streak in the post game scrum. He was subdued, as usual. Continue reading

Frustration Nation

This is just about the worst. I say ‘just about’, only because the Florida Marlins and Houston Astros exist, and are, for their own reasons, locked in a battle for worstness.

The Toronto Blue Jays, team that I love, is about to finish April, and in the season in which they were to realize the dream of rising to the top, they have begun by sinking to the bottom. Hard. They may finish the month at 9-18 or 10-17. It will be their worst April since 2004, a year in which they finished 67-94, and finished dead last in the AL East.

The best OBP in the lineup belongs to a platoon player, Adam Lind. The best OPS to a shortstop who was the offensive table-setter for this team until he sprained his ankle and began a 2-3 month stint on the DL. The best everyday hitter has an OPS of .824. he has walked twice and struck out 37 times.

The starter with the lowest ERA is J.A. Happ, the man who didn’t have a major league job until Ricky Romero lost the strikezone so badly that he landed in Florida A Ball games rebuilding his delivery. The other four starters have the four worst ERAs on the team.

Not starter has thrown a pitch in the 8th inning of any game.

Josh Johnson has triceps tightness, R.A. Dickey can’t quiet his barking neck and back, Sergio Santos is on the 15 day DL. Casey Janssen can’t be used on back to back days except in extreme emergencies.

Emilio Bonifacio appears to be playing with spring-loaded glove and a noodle tied to his shoulder. Maicer Izturis spent 3 weeks playing third looking like there should be a cutoff man to help with long throws. Mark DeRosa and Henry Blanco both turn around when you shout ‘Hey, old man!’ and both do it as slowly as they turn on a fastball.

So yeah, feels like the playoffs are just around the corner….. mocking the team and their fans.

I’m sure I’ve missed some other gory details, feel free to remind me of what I’ve blocked out in the comments.

 

 

 

This is not a Mirage: Brett Cecil In Late innings.

This is the velocity chart for Brett Cecil’s last appearance of 2012.

vs twins 2012Brett transitioned to the bullpen in 2012, after trying, and failing to find a way to be effective with an 89mph fastball as a starter.  When he switched to relief, he picked up some speed on his fastball. His hardest pitch on that night was a 2-seam fastball at 92.81 miles per hour, as per Brooks Baseball. Continue reading

Jose Reyes injury. The worst.

I did not watch tonight’s game. Of course, the Jays won.

Of course, this also happened:

(GIF via Paul Sporer)

As of this writing, nobody knows exactly how long Reyes will be out, but here’s what we do know, via the numerous beat reporters (let’s give credit today to non-Rogers man Scott MacArthur) and just some plain basic facts:

  • Reyes heard something “pop”
  • Best case scenario, Reyes is out for a month. Worst case, three months.
  • General manager Alex Anthopoulos has already been talking with other GMs about trading for some infield help
  • Reyes is the best. Him getting hurt is the worst.
  • Mike McCoy is likely to get called up and see too much playing time.
  • Brett Lawrie can’t come back fast enough.
  • Reyes, usually an outstanding baserunner, slid late because he thought the pitch had been fouled off

I know I haven’t been active on the blog or on Twitter much lately, but I’m all too aware of the panic a lot of fans have been feeling because of the team’s slow start. I’ve been doing my best to talk sense into as many people as possible. “The Giants started 2-8 last year and won the World Series,” I say.

But right now, I feel the panic. It’s ridiculous, especially since there’s no real word on what’s wrong with Reyes, but this could hurt. Losing Reyes for three months could be a lot worse than a slow start. And seeing him cry? That’s worst of all.

Here’s hoping it’s not that bad.

And a quick update because the man himself tweets

OK, Blue Jays. Let’s play ball

Twenty years ago, Brett Lawrie was three years old. Twenty years ago was also the last time the Blue Jays were legitimate contenders as the MLB season began. Unless Lawrie has some kind of superhuman memory, the 2013 season is the first he’ll experience in which the Jays are expected to do great things.

Yes, it’s really been that long.

I’m not here to say that anything fantastic is going to happen this year. It might, it might not. Everything might fall into place and a parade might have to be planned this fall. Everything might also go pear-shaped and, well, I don’t really want to think about what that might mean for this team.

What I do know is that, whatever happens, it should be fun.

Jose Reyes is a circus.

Jose Bautista’s at-bats are, until further notice, still much-watch.

Lawrie, for all his dude-bro-ness, is still entertaining.

Mark Buehrle does not screw around.

Brandon Morrow is amazing.

And R.A. Dickey, what can you say? Just watch this:

Tonight, the Blue Jays are back. I’m excited for this every year, but this year, for the first time since 1993, there’s something more to the excitement than just the return of ball — this year could mean something. Five, six, maybe even seven months from now, we could still be watching this team play for something.

Will they win the World Series? I sure hope so. Is it likely? No. But the odds are against every team. Wherever this season ends up, it should be a fun ride. Enjoy it.