Wednesday, 26 August 2015

Playoffs?!


A colleague of mine alerted me to the Jays’ announcement of playoff tickets going on sale.  And if you want to go to all 11 potential home games, you’d better sit down:  A pair of seats in the outfield 500s will run you $2380 plus taxes and fees.  It’s $2840 for a pair in the “good” 500s, and $6000 in the 100s:



Wow.

I’m not sure what expenses the Jays have to pay for during the postseason, but if you assume an average ticket price of $2000 (which is probably low) for all 11 games, they Jays figure to make over $96,000,000 in ticket revenue if each series goes the limit and each game sells out.

Ninety-six million dollars!  And that’s not even factoring in how much $12 beer that will be sold, or the pizza slices, nachos, hats, jerseys, programs and general memorabilia that will be snapped up if the Jays go deep into the postseason.  And it’s also not factoring in the ad dollars from extra Sportsnet telecasts that would draw 7-figure viewing audiences.  Yep, this would be a huge windfall for Rogers, considering that they won’t need to pay the players for the postseason games they’re in.

Obviously, the Jays need to make the playoffs, and they need to win their way into the World Series before revenues crack the $50,000,000 mark.  But my first thought is… a long playoff run would make it that much more likely that the team makes a real effort to sign David Price, or another free-agent pitcher.  A deep playoff run would (or at least should) make a few years of contending baseball more likely.

My second thought is… how possible is it for the average fan to shell out $2500+ to watch playoff baseball?  I’m fortunate enough to be able to afford that, but what about the younger fans who may not have that kind of disposable income?  Or the young families, seniors, and students?  I hope there are some single-game seats left after the season ticket holders and flex pack holders have finished buying, just so that every demographic gets a chance to experience playoff baseball.

Because the team is owned by Rogers, I have to raise this as a possibility:  Does anyone else think we might see more expensive concessions for the playoff games?  Has this been done anywhere else?

Lastly... will there be enough tickets for everyone?  The Jays don't seem to publicize how many season ticket holders they have, or how many flex packs they sell.  My guess is that most of the season ticket holders will exercise their option to buy 2 extra seats to go with the 2 seats they are permitted.  So - let's say 20,000 seats are sold, right there, which is most of the lower bowl.  Depending on how many flex packs are out there, there might not be many seats left other than the outfield corners.  Right now, I'm kicking myself for not buying my flex pack before Dec 5, the cutoff date for access to the first tranche of playoff tickets.

But who am I kidding?  Even if I wind up in s. 506, 10 rows back, I'll buy the full sleeve of tickets.  It's playoff baseball, something we haven't seen in a generation.  And if the team keeps winning like they did tonight, demand will be sky-high when ticket sales open to the general public in 2 weeks.

Monday, 24 August 2015

The return of T-Hole and other stories

If you are a new reader, sometimes I put up comically bad MS Paint edits.  Just humour me.


Well, a week ago, I advocated the return of Josh “T-Hole” Thole along with Ezequiel “Eazy-Zeke”* Carrera.  Thole’s return was delayed to allow for Matt Hague to be brought up in order that he might get 1 at-bat late in a 15-3 blowout of the Angels.  But anyway...  I don’t know how much of Russell Martin’s struggles can be blamed on Martin's sore thigh, and how much could be blamed on hypothetical digit injuries sustained while trying to catch knuckleballs.  In any event, the Jays are going with 3 catchers, probably for the rest of the season.  Martin gets Price, Buehrle and Hutchison (and maybe Stroman!!?), Navarro gets Estrada (and maybe some Buehrle) and Thole gets Dickey and a pinch hitter as soon as Dickey comes out of the game.  T-Hole’s value doesn’t come from his bat or his fielding; it comes exclusively from the hoped-for improvement in Russell Martin’s hitting.  So, we’ll have to live with Thole’s bat for another 8 Dickey starts… and let’s not think about 2016, after Navarro’s gone.

Josh Donaldson gets all the press, but Edwin Encarnacion (.507) has a higher wOBA in August than Donaldson does.  And yes, Ryan Goins has a .426 wOBA this month, based on a .255/.417/.426 line that’s driven by a team-leading 13 walks in August, 2 home runs in 18 games (after hitting 5 in his previous 175 games) and almost no batted ball magic (.303 BABIP). 

How things have changed:  The Jays now have the 5th-best ERA in the AL, at 3.79.  Starting pitchers are 6th at 4.11, and the bullpen is 4th at 3.13.  They’re just 9th in FIP, suggesting that they might have been a bit lucky, but that’s nonetheless a huge improvement from June, when they were at or near the bottom of the league in ERA.

The Jays continue to lead the AL in OPS versus lefthanded pitching, and face lefthanders (Derek Holland and ex-Jay Matt Boyd) in the opening games of their upcoming series with Texas and Detroit.

Drew Hutchison is projected to start Aug 29 against Detroit and September 4 against Baltimore.  5 days after that, he’d be expected to go against Boston on the road… and perhaps coincidentally, Marcus Stroman is also expected to be back on the team then... and not coincidentally, Marcus Stroman felt and looked great in a 40-pitch simulated game today.  Hmmmm!

Fangraphs projects the Jays to win 90 games and to have a 97% chance of making the playoffs.  Sounds great, except that they also think the 62-61 Zombie Expos will play .596 ball for the rest of the season, best in the majors.  So… take those projections with a grain of salt, I guess.   


A cautionary note:  Roberto Osuna has already thrown 55 innings, which is the most he’s thrown as a professional and 8th-most in the AL.  The Jays need him to stay sharp, but how many innings is too many for a guy who had Tommy John surgery just over 2 years ago?





* "Stop trying to make "Eazy-Zeke" happen, Roberto".

Thursday, 20 August 2015

Checking in on the ex-Jays

Remember this graphic?

It’s an off day today, and with all the roster moves at the end of last month, I thought it might be a good time to take a look at the ex-Jays, who we last checked on in May, and see whether we have any further cause for regrets.

Adam Lind:  437 PA, .361 wOBA, 2.1 fWAR.  A very solid year for Lind, and his defense is even a bit improved over 2013-4 per Fangraphs’ metrics.  He’s still utterly terrible against lefthanded pitching… so, all this is pretty much what we could expect from him.  Lind was traded for Marco Estrada, who has been worth 1.6 fWAR (2.5 bWAR – bWAR is a better measure of retrospective pitcher value than fWAR).

J.A. Happ:  23 starts, 124 innings, 4.42 ERA, 3.93 FIP, 1.5 fWAR, 0.4 bWAR.  Happ was traded from the Mariners to the Pirates at the deadline and is 1-1 with his new team.  Happ was traded for Michael Saunders, who has done almost nothing (0.1 fWAR) for the Jays.

Melky Cabrera:  501 PA, .309 wOBA, 0.0 fWAR.  Melky’s come around some after a horrible start to the year, but he’s become a defensive liability (if he wasn’t already) and his bat is subpar at best for LF.

Brett Lawrie:  441 PA, .303 wOBA, 0.3 fWAR.  Lawrie’s been fairly healthy all year, but that’s about the only good thing about this season.  Lawrie’s OBP has slid to .299, he’s striking out more and walking less than he did in Toronto, and his fielding has slipped as well, per Fangraphs.  Lawrie, of course, was traded for the awesome Josh Donaldson.

Colby Rasmus:  351 PA, .330 wOBA, 2.0 fWAR.  A pretty decent year for Colbylocks, or as “unnamed sources” would call him, Mopey.  Not outstanding like 2013, not bad like 2014.  Colby still strikes out too much (32.2%) and his OBP is just .305, but he’s hit for power in Houston and his defense appears to have improved.  Good for him – his numbers would look pretty good in Toronto’s outfield.  Kevin Pillar has been worth 2.1 fWAR, but his value comes from defense, not offense.

Anthony Gose:  376 PA, .298 wOBA, 19 SB/8 CS, 0.2 fWAR.  Gose got off to a great start in 2015 but it’s been mostly downhill from there.  His hitting has regressed to where we’d expect it to be, and his low OBP and weak power numbers have doomed his value, despite the defense and the stolen bases.  Kevin Pillar has pretty thoroughly outplayed him defensively and on the bases, even if he’s even worse with the bat.   Gose was traded for Devon Travis, who’s been worth 2.3 fWAR in Toronto.

Casey Janssen: 28.2 innings, 3.14 ERA, 3.45 FIP, 0.2 fWAR, 11 holds.  Janssen’s been mostly fine, even if his strikeout rate hasn’t bounced back from the 5’s.

Kendall Graveman:  20 starts, 109 IP, 4.27 ERA, 4.69 FIP, 0.2 fWAR, 0.8 bWAR.  Likely wouldn’t crack the rotation in Toronto.  Josh Donaldson remains awesome.

Brandon Morrow:  5 pretty good starts (33 innings) and then shoulder surgery.  Unfortunately, it’s what we’ve come to expect from him.

Dustin McGowan: McGowan gave the Phillies 23 horrible innings (6.94 ERA, 7.78 FIP) before being sent to the minors in June.

Sergio Santos:  Another ex-Jay pitcher who was pitching poorly before hitting the 60-day DL with a shoulder injury.

Jose Reyes: 78 PA, .266 wOBA, -0.5 fWAR.  Reyes hasn’t gotten off to a good start with his new team.

Daniel Norris:  4 starts, 21.1 innings, 5.06 ERA, 4.75 FIP.  Not especially auspicious, but Norris is capable of great things… probably.

Matt Boyd: 3 starts, 18 innings, 5.00 ERA, 3.88 FIP.  Meh.



All in all... I'm okay with all that.  Now go make the playoffs, already.

Monday, 17 August 2015

Roster moves and road tests

Baseball players don't fly coach.

I feel somewhat vindicated, and somewhat confused.  As I expected, the Jays sent down Aaron Loup, who is surplus to the current bullpen, and Drew Hutchison, who can't be trusted with road starts because I-don't-know-why-he-just-sucks-on-the-road.  Also as expected, the Jays recalled Ezequiel Carrera, who can play LF and has hit well enough to be a passable 4th outfielder slash pinch-runner.  Dalton Pompey is banged up, so there really are no other outfield options in the minors.

What I didn't expect was to see Matt Hague called up to fill the other roster opening.  Sure, Hague can play 3B, which means he could potentially give Donaldson a day off.  The trouble with that reasoning is that Cliff Pennington can also play 3B, and Hague doesn't give the Jays anything with the bat that Pennington doesn't.  Hague has had a nice year in Buffalo, but he had nice AAA seasons in 2011, 2013 and 2014, and despite those nice AAA stats, he's accomplished nothing at the major-league level (.233 wOBA over 76 PA).  Hague is 29, and maybe the Jays hope to catch lightning in a bottle over a few at-bats... but it still feels like Josh Thole would be a better option, to get Martin some relief from catching knuckleballs.  Besides, Thole's been a better hitter in the majors.  So... we'll see if Hague can surprise us, I guess.

The Jays and Yankees next face each other on September 10, the first of 4 games in New York. And their intervening schedules look like this:

Jays
2 @ Philly
3 @ California
3 @ Texas
3 vs Detroit
3 vs Cleveland
3 vs Baltimore
3 @ Boston

NYY
3 vs Minny (game 1 is 5-5 as I type this)
4 vs Cleveland
3 vs Houston
3 @ Atlanta
3 @ Boston
3 vs Tampa Bay

3 vs Baltimore

The Jays play 20 games, 9 at home and 11 on the road, to the Yankers' 22 games (16 home, 6 road).   Advantage, New York, although the 2 extra off days may help the Jays.  On the other hand, the Yanks will face tougher teams - the Astros are in 1st place - and the Jays get 2 games with the awful Phillies.   A reasonable expectation, I think, would be for the Jays to split their first 8 road games.   A 4-4 road trip is not a disaster, even if it does leave the Jays another game or 2 back of NY.  So like it or not, the Jays don't seem likely to run away with the division before their next Bronx visit.

Sunday, 16 August 2015

A proposal

Eating Ryan Goins will be considered only as a last resort.

Rich Griffin pointed out today that all of Kevin Pillar, Russell Martin, Justin Smoak, Dioner Navarro, and new additions Troy Tulowitzki and Ben Revere have been mired in batting slumps of varying duration.  I had noted that Pillar and Martin (who play the most) were not hitting well, but props to Griffin for looking up the numbers and pointing them out.  11-game win streaks are great at masking problems, and the club has been dependent of late on the offensive output of Donaldson, Bautista, Encarnacion, and yes, Ryan Goins.   That won't do.

So, how to fix this?  Griffin states that the offensive drought the Jays are now in will end when players come out of their slumps (well, duh) but doesn't make any suggestions as to how to break the slump.  So I thought I'd add my 2 cents.

As of right now, the Jays are carrying 13 pitchers and 12 batters, and their bench looks like this:  Navarro, Pennington, and whichever of Smoak and Colabello aren't starting.  Navarro and Smoak, as noted, have been slumping, and Pennington's bat doesn't scare anyone.  So, it makes sense to move out a pitcher to get another bat into the lineup, and the first pitcher who should be moved out is Aaron Loup.

If you're the type who's inclined to look behind a player's raw numbers, I can guess what you're thinking - that Aaron Loup has been more unlucky than bad.  Loup's got a fantastic strikeout-to-walk ratio (9.9 to 1.5), and he gets lots of ground balls.  Unfortunately, he's been terribly prone to giving up big hits, especially home runs.  Maybe home run rate is a matter of luck, and maybe clutch/unclutch pitching is a myth.  I tend to believe both those things... but as much as Aaron Loup is due for better luck (or more clutch play), it hasn't happened.  As a result, Loup has barely pitched since the all-star break - he's made 6 appearances totalling 3 innings in that timeframe.  And in those appearances, he's given up runs 3 times.  Right now, I don't think the team trusts him to get lefthanded bats out in key situations, and consequently, he doesn't play.  Aaron Loup has minor-league options remaining, so send him down if he's not playing.

You might notice that I said "first pitcher" 2 paragraphs ago.   That's because after today's start, Drew Hutchison should be sent - temporarily! - down to Buffalo.  Remember when Wei-Yin Chen got send down by the OriLOLes in June due to "soreness", when he really was being skipped so he wouldn't face the Jays?  The demotion for Hutchison is something like that.  Hutch, for whatever reason, has been terrible on the road this year.  Like Loup's struggles, this is probably due to bad luck or coincidence, but as in Loup's situation, I don't think the Jays have the time to be patient with him.  There's already talk that Hutchison may be skipped in LA on Aug 23, when he is next scheduled to pitch.  Well, if he's not pitching, why not use the roster spot on someone else?  Send Hutchison down after today's game (barring some kind of amazing performance) and bring him back on Aug 28 or 29, his next scheduled home start.

With those moves made, the team will have 11 pitchers: 4 starters (the Jays have off days on Aug 17, 20, and 24, so nobody will be overworked) and 7 relievers, which should be plenty.  Two extra roster slots for position players are now opened up.

The first position player to be added should be Josh Thole.  Thole can't hit, but what he does do is relieve Russell Martin from having to catch Rah Dickey.  Martin has played 98 of the team's 118 games, and having a catcher on board who can handle the apparently arduous task of catching knuckleballs every 5 days should help give him a bit of a breather.  My hope (and I admit, there's nothing much in the way of stats to back this up) is that Martin will hit better when he can focus more on that, and less on defense.  And if nothing else, having a 3rd catcher gives you more pinch-hitting options.

The second player added should be Dalton Pompey, or perhaps Ezequiel Carrera if you prefer.  Right now, the Jays have just 3 outfielders on their roster (Colabello is not an outfielder, full stop), so if one of Pillar, Revere or Bautista went down, we'd be looking at Goins or Pennington in left field, which is not at all good.  So, bringing up an outfielder adds a bit of depth, and lets the team rest guys who are struggling (Revere and especially Pillar, who has played all but one of the Jays' games this season).  Carrera was actually hitting fairly well when he was sent down, but Pompey has a much higher ceiling and brings the ability to steal bases and play not-horrible centre field.  So - bringing either one up is defensible.

The bottom line is this:  the Jays have pitched so well since mid-July that they can afford to do without a reliever or two.  The hitting, on the other hand, hasn't done as well, other than a few standouts.  Hitting reinforcements are needed, even if all they will do is provide a breather to some lineup regulars who look like they need a day or two off.

Friday, 14 August 2015

Injury returnees and the postseason roster

I think Edwin actually did that last week.

Well, that game kind of sucked.  But the Jays weren't going to win every game, and the Yankees were bound to win one.  Beyond that, it's hard to argue that the Jays deserved to win a game in which they were outhit 13-6.  And the strike zone was awful, and... never mind.  No more about that game; go start a new streak tomorrow. This post is about happier things.

The Jays got great news this week when Marcus Stroman was cleared to throw from a mound and begin making rehab appearances following knee surgery this spring.  Marcus Stroman, of course, figured to be the Jays’ best starter this year before he was hurt in spring training. 

This is great news, but 3 weeks ago, it would have been stupendously fantastic news.  Why the change?  Because, amazingly, the Jays don’t urgently need Stroman anymore.

Hard to believe, but it works out this way:  Yes, a healthy Stroman would be a major upgrade on Drew Hutchison (or at least, the 2015 version of Drew Hutchison).  But Stroman won’t be available to start until, optimistically, the week of September 6.  That would give him 6 starts, at most, and if the Jays were pitching Hutchison instead, they’d be able to skip him twice anyway, due to off days on September 14 and 24.  It’s not a sure thing that Stroman will be in midseason form his first time out, either… and consequently, he may not be enough of an improvement over Hutch over 4-6 games to make it worth rushing him back.

But ok. The rosters will be expanded by September, and there’s no harm in getting a small incremental upgrade to the 5th starter spot in the rotation, of course.  And maybe the division will come down to 1 game, which I’d rather have Stroman pitch, and not Hutch.  How about the playoffs, though?  When the playoffs start, it’s almost a certainty that the Jays will go to a 4-man rotation.  There are so many rest days built into the playoff schedule that a 5th starter isn’t needed.  So… where do you pitch Stroman?  The top 4 of Price-Buehrle-Dickey-Estrada have been so good lately that I’d hesitate to replace any of them with a potentially rusty Stroman.  And the team is loaded with back end relievers (Osuna, Sanchez, Hawkins, Lowe, plus Cecil, Hendriks and Schultz), which means that if you put Stroman in the bullpen, he’ll be just pitching the 7th inning, or in blowouts.  Yes, he could replace Loup or Schultz and be an improvement, but that’s wouldn’t have much of an impact.

Having Stroman back and healthy does provide one really important boost:  It gives the Jays an ace in the hole, so to speak.  If there’s an injury to a starter or a reliever, he’s available as a capable replacement.  And with the injury luck the Jays have had over the last few years, that’s not nothing.

Who gets left off the postseason roster so Stroman can play?  My guess is one or both of Hutchison or Loup.  Hutch because the team won’t need a 5th starter, and Loup because he’s barely pitched since July 31.  As much as it seems that the team is keeping him around because he throws lefthanded, it doesn’t seem like they’d miss him much, either.

Devon Travis is expected to be ready to return by September, and his situation is easier to understand.  Travis is a better overall player than Cliff Pennington is, and much better than Ryan Goins, so if you can get Travis onto the postseason roster, you should do it.  Who gets left off?  My guess is that Pennington’s the odd man out – Goins is a better defender, and Pennington’s better offense doesn’t do enough to offset that.  However, I’m not sure whether Goins having options left means they send him down rather than risk losing Pennington on waivers.

Beyond those names, who gets onto the postseason roster?  My guess is that the team will go with:

Bautista
Pillar
Revere
Donaldson
Tulowitzki
Travis
Goins (or Pennington)
Smoak
Encarnacion
Colabello
Martin
Navarro
Price
Dickey
Buehrle
Estrada
Stroman
Osuna
Sanchez
Hawkins
Lowe
Cecil
Hendriks
Schultz

That’s 24 names.  25th guy could be the odd one out of Pennington/Goins, or Loup, or Hutchison, or maybe even an actual 4th outfielder (Carrera or Pompey).

Incidentally, the postseason roster gets determined this way:


So in other words, players on the 25-man roster on August 31, plus the disabled list, are eligible for the postseason.  That means that if Marcus Stroman is still rehabbing his arm on that date, he’s eligible, and if Devon Travis isn’t back from the DL until September, he’s eligible too.

Simple.  Now all the Jays have to do is accomplish what is expected of them, and make the playoffs.

Thursday, 13 August 2015

August 12, 2014: Impressions from the Ballpark

I like those odds too, Homer.


Wednesday night’s game was a lot of fun.  The Skydome is an entirely different beast with 40,000 fans in it, as opposed to the 25,000 that was typical in less exciting times.  Here’s how.

Lines.  The wait to get into the stadium wasn’t bad, surprisingly.  I’ve come to the realization that traveling light is the way to go, because earlier this year, the wait at ‘bag check’ lines was significantly longer than at the other lines.  Neither of us had anything with us last night, and got in through Gate 6 about 6:40PM in less than 3 minutes.  All things considered, that’s pretty good.

The lines at the concessions are bad, though.  We were in the 200 level last night and the food and drink lines were long enough to make walking around the concourse a slow and ‘excuse me’ filled process.  I wasn’t paying enough attention to determine whether the concessions were all fully staffed, but the thing is, the 200 level doesn’t have nearly the number of fans that the 500s or 100s do… and despite that, it was still busy.  The beer line at the Flight Deck (the centrefield viewing area) was long and took a full inning to get through.  I’m not sure how you streamline this, but plan ahead if you want to eat or drink at a game that might be a sellout.

Ticket availability.  Again surprisingly, we were able to get pretty decent seats from the Jays’ ticket page, on Tuesday.  8th row in the 200s isn’t bad considering the circumstances.  I’ve been buying tickets for series in September and there are lots of not-bad seats still available, even for the Sept 21-23 series with NY.  That said, the games do sell out as the game date approaches, so if you want to go to potentially key games with NY, BAL or TB in September, book early.  Or you might be stuck looking at this page:


Seats in the upper deck, right field corner for $55+ each?  UGH.

Atmosphere:  There’s good, and there’s bad.  The good – the Skydome was loud and happy, even if things did calm down after the Jays took their 8-run lead in the second inning.  Lots of people in new Jays gear, a nice mix of families, groups, and younger fans.  Winning will do that to a fanbase.  The bad – you’ll have to put up with more attempts to start the wave than usual.  Many of those originated in our section (on behalf of the section, I’m sorry).  And with the stands being full, it takes that much longer for people to find their way into their seats.  Like I said the other day – if you’re confused, ask an usher.  Don’t stand in the aisle staring at your tickets for minutes on end.  Thanks.

I was at the game with a friend from my office, and he tipped me off to a pretty good pregame dining drinking option that I had never thought of:  The Firkin on Harbour St at Yonge.  If you have ever been frustrated trying to get a spot at Jack Astors patio (or Lone Star or anywhere else along Front) before the game, the Firkin has plenty of patio space, cheap(er) beer (Corona was $6) and decent food.  Yeah, it’s a Firkin, but it’s not as if Jack Astors is fine dining, either.  Highly recommended.

The game itself was a laugher with some oddities thrown in.  Dickey was okay, not great – he gave up a few hard hit balls and was bailed out by a big double play in the 4th, following back-to-back walks to open the inning.  There’s been some talk about whether he will be pitched on short rest against the Yankees on Sunday, and Dickey being pulled after 6 innings and just 95 pitches might lend credence to that idea.  Incidentally, Dickey was on his normal 4 days rest last night – the off day on Monday allowed Buehrle to be pushed back a day without bringing anyone back on 3 days’ rest.  The Jays got the opportunity to give Schultz, Hendriks and Loup an inning of work each (and to rest Sanchez and Osuna) which was nice.  And Felix Doubront, brought in as long relief by Oakland in the second inning, finished the game and actually threw 6.1 innings to Dickey’s 6.  Too bad (for them) that the A’s didn’t start him.


In the end, the Jays won, Yankees lost, nobody (i.e. Lawrie or Valencia) was unjustly booed, the roof was open… what’s not to like?

Monday, 10 August 2015

Baseball Etiquette 101


If you are a regular reader of this blog – or any Blue Jays blog, really – you can probably skip this post.  If you follow the Jays closely, you’re a baseball fan, and as a baseball fan, you know not to stand up in the middle of a key at-bat, and not to grab at doubles down the line. 

This post is more for the casual fans, the former-and-now-returning fans, and the Torontonians who are desperate for any kind of a winning team (yes, the Argos and Rock have been good recently, but much as I would like to believe otherwise, they don’t count).  It’s for all the bandwagon fans who will be piling into Skydome over the coming weeks to see the Jays battle the evil Yankees, the parsimonious Athletics (“Hey, Brett Lawrie!  BOOOOO!”  “Why are we booing?”  “I dunno.”) and the, uh… the Tigers (if you’ve been away from the Jays for a while, they don’t really have a rivalry with the Tigers anymore).

By the way, the term “bandwagon fans” isn’t meant to be a shot at anyone.  The Leafs have some of the most committed fans in sports, and they never get any better.  And what incentive do they have to get better, when their stadium is sold out for every game regardless of their record?  Blind devotion to a losing team won’t make them into a winning team, but if attendance (and revenue) is tied to winning, team ownership will work harder to put a winning product on the field.  And for that reason, bandwagon fans aren’t such a bad thing.

Anyway, if you’ve been away for a while, you might like a refresher on how to behave at a ballgame, and so I present the points below for your consideration.  Live by these maxims, and the game will be more enjoyable, both for you and for those around you.

1. Don’t boo or heckle the home team’s players.  If warranted, an audible sigh or a disgusted silence can speak volumes.  The players know when they’ve screwed up without being reminded by fans.

a.     Further to (1) above, don’t boo or heckle former Blue Jay players just because they now play for another team.  Again, this is a common sense thing:  Brett Lawrie was traded away without any input from him, in a trade which the Jays clearly won.  Just as clearly, he was happy playing here and had a good relationship with the fans.  What has he done to warrant being booed?  Exceptions to this rule would apply in cases where the former player committed to the Jays and then backed out, leaving them in the lurch (AJ Burnett, Al Leiter), or in cases where the former player was/is an asshole (Alex Rios, Yunel Escobar).  Some judgment must be applied here.

2. Don’t enter or leave your seats during an at-bat.  This is just common courtesy to those around (and behind) you.  You rarely see people getting up to leave their seats in a movie theatre, and a baseball game lasts just a bit longer, so it shouldn’t be that hard to stay seated for a game.  Besides, there are 17 scheduled breaks between half-innings, which should provide plenty of opportunities for bathroom breaks, beer runs, and the like.  Incidentally, the good ushers know about this rule and prevent fans from returning to their seats while an at-bat is going on.

3. It is acceptable, and good form, to stand up to clap, cheer, etc at key moments.  But not for the entire game.

4. Know where your seat is.  Again, this is just common courtesy.  Nobody wants latecomers to stand in front of them peering at their tickets and blocking everyone else’s view of the field.  If you’re lost, ask an usher for help.

a.     Corollary to (4) above:  If you are sitting in seats that you don’t have tickets for, move along quietly if those who have tickets for those seats show up.

5. Stand for the anthems and remove your cap.  Yeah, I don’t know why they play national anthems before baseball games either (and not, say, in movie theatres or in offices at the start of the work day) but it doesn’t cost you anything to stand up for a couple of minutes.  You’ll be sitting for most of the next 3 hours, anyway.

6. Don’t start the wave and don’t participate in the wave.  Exceptions:  you’re under 14 or you’re at a game with someone under 14 who really really REALLY wants to do the wave.  And if you must do the wave, the right time is when the Jays are leading 9-2, and not during a key at-bat in a tight game.

7. Batted balls:  If you’re in the front row in the 100s and it looks like a play may be made over the seats, think fast.
o    If the ball is in or over the field (i.e. not over the stands), and you try to get the ball and interfere with a live play, the batter will be safe and you will be ejected from the game.  
o    However, if the ball is in or over the stands, you have the right to grab the ball without being ejected.  This is where you have to think fast.  Jeffrey Maier was a hero for taking away an out from a visiting fielder.  Steve Bartman will be forever remembered as a hapless ‘villain’ for the doing the same to the home team.  So:
§  If it’s a Jays fielder trying to get the ball, stay seated or get out of his way, and if you want to be a hero, try to catch him or cushion his landing.
§  If it’s an opposing fielder, fight for the ball.  Get your glove over his.  Odds are he makes the play anyway (he does this every day for a living, and you might do this once a week as a hobby), but you might get lucky.

8. Unless you’re under 18 years old, don’t bring your glove to the game, unless you’re sitting in the first few rows of foul territory.  I’ve been to hundreds of regular season games and have had the opportunity to catch* exactly 3 foul balls on the fly.  Most of the time, bringing a glove is pointless, and besides, a real fan would catch a popup barehanded.  (And if it’s a screaming line drive and not a popup, take my advice and get the hell out of its way).

9.  Finally, don’t be an asshole.  Without limiting the foregoing, here are a few specifics:

a.     Don’t get drunk on $12 beer.  It’s horribly uneconomical.  If you do get drunk, do it quietly and don’t make a mess.
b.    Don't throw anything onto the field.  It's not clever; the only point it is making (for TV audiences as well as other fans present) is that you do not have control over your own impulses.  Plus, it makes Toronto fans look bad and could potentially affect the game in a way we don't want.
c.     If you want to talk incessantly and loudly about something other than the baseball game you are watching, watch the game at home, instead.
d.    Don't be a jerk to opposing fans who are doing nothing worse than cheering for their own team.  Think of it this way - they are paying money which could be used to boost the Jays payroll. Hassling opposing fans who are not themselves being obnoxious just makes Jays fans look bad.
e.     Don’t swear around families with small children.  You’re supposed to be having fun, so why do this?
f.     Don't cheer when a player gets hurt.  Seriously, what kind of person does this?






* - that does not mean I actually caught them.

Sunday, 9 August 2015

Just like we drew it up.


Well, it would have been nice, going into the Minnesota series, to win 3 of 4 and walk away a game ahead in the race for the second wild card.  And it would have been nice to win 2 of 3 in NY, to pick up a game in the AL East race - and to not lose any ground, even with 8 weeks left in the season.

Instead - sweep of Minnesota, sweep of NY, and the Jays are in the 1st wild card spot, 3 1/2 games clear of the OriLOLes, and just 1 1/2 games behind the Yankers for 1st place.  With 49 games to go, 1 1/2 games is nothing.

Of course, with 49 games to go, a 3.5 game lead for the wild card is nothing, too - and the Jays need to keep playing well.  But don't think about that -  after all the last 4 months of 1-run losses, bullpen meltdowns, 6-walk starts and crushing Colabello/Reyes defensive miscues, it's sure is nice to be back on (more or less) level ground for the division lead, AND to be playing well at the same time.

What's changed?  Well, for 4 months, the Jays were bludgeoning everyone into submission with offense, and they're still doing that.  Early in the season, the offense was getting no help from the pitching - the Jays were 14th in team ERA in April and 15th in May.  Since then, we've seen incremental improvements that were barely noticeable at the time - Estrada in for Norris, for example - that each produced modest improvements in overall pitching performance.  The Jays were hot in June, and were 2nd in the AL in June ERA.  It was about here that Buehrle started Buehrlin' and Dickey began to right himself.  In July, the team was so-so, and the were 8th in ERA.  Now, in August, they're 1st in ERA in the AL.  It's not so much that the pitching additions (except for Price, of course) are world-beaters, it's more that their arrival has pushed mediocre (or worse) options like Delabar, Loup, Doubront and Hutchison either off the team or into less prominent roles.

And it's eerie how hot the holdovers have been.  June-July-August of 2015 has been the best 3 month stretch of Rah Dickey's time in Toronto - in 13 starts, he's allowed 2 ER or fewer 9 times.  Marco Estrada's done the same thing - 2 ER or fewer in 9 of 13 starts.  Nobody expected that from Estrada, and few hoped for it from Dickey.  I was ready to run Dickey out of town 2 months ago, but the way he's pitching now, he's a steal at his $10MM option (even if the team had other options for 2016, which they now don't).

Who else has been hot?  Ryan Goins has a .324 wOBA since the all-star break.  Ryan Goins!  The only hitters with cold bats since the break have been Pillar and Smoak, and even their struggles can be blamed, at least in part, on horrible batted ball luck (.203 and .206 BABIPs).  Nobody still on the team other than Encarnacion (.357) has a BABIP above .310 in the same period.  In other words, the guys hitting badly could be a bit unlucky, but almost all of the guys hitting well are just... hitting well.  Let's keep that up, shall we?

I should mention that on Saturday the Jays acquired middle infielder Cliff Pennington and cash from Arizona in exchange for A-ball shortstop prospect Dawel Lugo.  Much like the way the team discarded Danny Valencia, I'm not sure I quite see the point.  Pennington figures to be a backup behind Tulowitzki and Goins, and Goins himself is a backup to the injured Devon Travis.  Fine, backups are needed - but couldn't Danny Valencia be an emergency 2B (Goins would sub for Tulo, presumably) if needed?  And with Valencia gone, why not use Kawasaki in the backup role (Muni was sent down when Pennington arrived)?  I guess the reason for the trade is that Pennington is a somewhat better and more versatile player than either of Valencia or Kawasaki - he's a switch hitter (better vs RHP than LHP for his career) who draws walks and can run a bit while playing decent defense at shortstop and 2B.  Pennington doesn't seem that much better than Kawasaki or Goins, but if the team is worried that Travis might be gone for a while, I suppose it makes sense to have more 2B options.  And when it comes right down to it, if you trade 11 pitching prospects to make an all-out playoff push, you might as well trade a shortstop prospect to make sure that the team doesn't miss the playoffs due to the lack of an adequate 3rd-string second baseman, should the need arise for one.

***

You might have seen me referring to playoff odds from Fangraphs, here.  What's that?  Well,  one of the things Fangraphs does is calculate the likely winning percentage for each team's remaining games (based on the projected performance of the players), extrapolate a win total, and from that, produce a percentage chance of each team making the playoffs (via division win or wild card berth).  This process was devised at the now-defunct (for baseball purposes) coolstandings.com.  Is it an exact science?  Not at all, but it gives us a target to shoot for, anyway.  As of Sunday night, the Jays are projected to win ~88 games and have an 86% chance to make the playoffs.  That's up from a playoff chance in the high 20s 2 weeks ago.  These things change fast when you add 2 all-Stars and then win 8 games in a row.

Tuesday, 4 August 2015

Thoughts



Man, I try to go away for a long weekend, and all hell breaks loose.  (I kind of expected some hell to break loose, but not all of it.)  So, anyways...

***

Here's some free advice for the Kansas City Royals, this year's heel team:
If you think other teams are stealing your signs, change your signs.
If you're mad about the other team hitting homers off you, pitch better.
If three other teams have bench-clearing incidents with you due to beanballs in the space of 4 months, it's not them with the problem.  It's you.  
When you get away with crap like throwing at opposing players 4 times without a suspension, shut up and be happy you got away with it.  Talking smack can only make the league take notice that your 'unintentional' beanballs sound pretty intentional in the context of  your smack talk.

***

I'm surprised and a bit sorry to see Danny Valencia go.  Valencia had put up a .360 wOBA this year for the Jays, mostly as an outfielder.  To be sure, the defense wasn't great... and the .353 BABIP suggests he had been a bit lucky at the plate... and there were too many strikeouts and not many walks.  All that suggests his value might not have been that sustainable.  And I gather, also, that the team might want to bring up Josh Thole to save Martin from catching Dickey, and in that case, some position player had to go.  OK, fine.  But for nothing?  A year ago, the Jays gave up Liam Hendriks and Erik Kratz to get Valencia, and Valencia wasn't playing nearly as well then as he is now.  Obviously, AA has been busy, but it's disappointing that he wouldn't have moved a soon-to-be surplus Valencia at the trade deadline.

***

I know Aaron Loup has been more unlucky than bad... but it sure feels like the only reason he isn't in Buffalo is because he's lefthanded.  He's been good against lefties, sure, but I dread seeing him in a game, at this point.  Loup pitching with his left hand is probably another reason for Valencia not being with the team anymore.

***

I like the Jays' chances of making the playoffs at this point, especially after 2 well-pitched wins over the Minnesotas.  Winning the AL East will be tough, though:

NYY:  5.5 games up, 33 home games left (NY is 31-17 at home), 24 road games left
TOR: 26 home games left (34-21 record), 28 road games left.

The Yankers are about a .500 club on the road, while the Jays are a fair bit below .500 away from Skydome.  Of the 13 games remaining between the two teams, 6 are at Skydome, and 7 are in NY.

So...it's going to be tough.  Aside from 6 games with the Jays in August, NY also gets 7 games with the last-place Clevelands, 3 games with the last-place Red Sux, and 3 games with the 48-58 Atlanta Barves.  The remaining 6 games are against Minnesota and Houston, but NY gets to play those at home.  Anything worse than a split in the August games vs. NY might put the division out of reach.

***

The Jays were averaging 5.34 runs per game at the all-star break, tops in the AL by a wide margin.  Since then, they're averaging 5 runs a game, trailing NY, Texas, Houston and Chicago.  Despite that mini-slump, the Jays are 10-6 since the ASB thanks to a 2.77 ERA, tops in the AL (FIP is 3.42, 2nd in AL).  That's a long way from the 12th place, 4.18 ERA for the first half.

***

David Price and Troy Tulowitzki are awesome.  And I'll stop now before I recite more obvious things.


Friday, 31 July 2015

All in


Well, then.  That was a pretty fun trade deadline, wasn't it?

I can’t say that I wholeheartedly agree with the acquisition of free-agent-to-be David Price at the cost of top prospect Daniel Norris plus Matt Boyd, who could help in 2016, and Jairo Labourt, who might be something later on.  Even after Thursday’s games, the Jays are still considered a longshot to win the AL East, and while they have a decent shot at a wild card berth, the wild card is just a 50% chance to advance to the real playoffs.  Yes, there are seldom any sure things in baseball (ask the 2011 Red Sux), but the Blue Jays aren’t in a terribly strong position, standings-wise, to be making a playoff run from.

All that said, they’ve done it anyway – the Jays have added a true #1 starter in David Price, upgraded significantly at shortstop with the Troy Tulowitzki acquisition, added defense, speed, and a lefthanded bat in LF (Ben Revere), and picked up a solid veteran reliever in LaTroy Hawkins (and now Mark Lowe, another reliever having a very good year).  And all that’s pretty exciting.  The playoffs aren’t a certainty, but these moves have made it much more likely that the Jays will be playing meaningful games in a playoff race through the end of September, at the least.

There’s lots to consider here, in terms of how the rotation should be set up, the new lineup, and the bullpen use.  (There's also the question of how, or if, the new players will fit on the 2016 team, but that's a question for another time.)

So, the rotation:  Minor_Leaguer at Bluebird Banter had a nice piece on how the rotation should be set up – arguing that Price should be held back for Monday’s game vs. Minnesota, as opposed to starting him on Sunday.  The idea here would be to ensure that Price faces the Twins and Yankees as much as possible, and incidentally opens up the option of skipping Hutchison’s road start.  Makes sense to me, considering Minnesota and NY are the two teams the Jays really need to beat head-to-head.  And incidentally, doesn’t the team look better with a Price-Buehrle-Dickey-Estrada-Hutchison rotation?

I have to say it was a little jarring to see the lineup for Thursday’s game.  Without Encarnacion and Travis, the batting order was:

Tulowitzki
Donaldson
Bautista
Colabello
Martin
Valencia
Pillar
Navarro
Goins

Ummm… Tulo is great and all (and so are Donaldson and Bautista and Martin), but Colabello has just a .306 wOBA in July (and .329 in June – May was his big month) and shouldn’t be batting 4th.  Navarro’s wOBA is .276, and Goins’ is .259.  Pillar had a great June, but has just a .307 wOBA in July.  Valencia’s been solid, but it would be nice to get Devo and EE back in there, or at least one of them.  Of course, now that the Jays have Ben Revere to play LF instead of “Eazy-Zeke”* Carrera, that’s one problem solved. 

I like the idea of batting Tulo leadoff – the man has a .372 career OBP!  Even if a team’s best hitter provides the most value in the 2 or 3 hole, the Jays have so many guys who would be the ‘best hitter’ on most teams, that you could bat Tulo, J-Bau, and Donaldson in any order in the 1-2-3 spots and it’d be defensible.  If Travis stays off the DL and keeps hitting, him and his .361 OBP leading off would be fine, too.  I don’t think any of the real baserunning threats (Pillar and Revere) should be used to bat leadoff – neither of them have the OBP for it.

Oh, and if neither Travis nor EE can play, Martin should hit cleanup.  Or Smoak.  But not Colabello, please.

Based on Thursday’s game, I’m guessing that the Jays are taking a page out of the Royals’ gameplan:  Get your starter through 6, and then with a lead of 3 or less, use your 3 best relievers, 1 each in the 7th, 8th, and 9th.  Hawkins-Sanchez-Osuna isn’t quite Herrera-Davis-Holland (or Timlin-Ward-Henke), but they’re a poor man’s version of the KC trio.  And now we can throw Lowe into that mix, and based on how he’s been lately, Brett Cecil may yet find his way back into the 7th inning, too.

Finally - I did a quick writeup on LaTroy Hawkins a couple of days ago, and didn't write an analysis of Troy Tulowitzki and David Price, because most fans are pretty familiar with them.  If you want a quick breakdown, Tulo is a great defender with a career .381 wOBA (Bautista's is .371), and Price is a lefthanded ace who's inarguably the top pitcher on the Jays' staff.  Mark Lowe and Ben Revere, on the other hand, you may not know.  So...

Mark Lowe:  Lowe is a 32 year old righthanded reliever, a journeyman who never really amounted to much over parts of 8 seasons.  Until this season.  In 2015, Lowe regained some of the fastball velocity that had been declining in recent years, and that appears to have made his second pitch, a slider, more effective.  And he's been great - he's sporting a 1.00 ERA and 1.83 FIP, supported by a 11.75 K/9 rate against just 2.75 BB/9.  My guess is that Lowe pushes Aaron Loup to AAA, eventually.  Tepera will be the first to go, but I don't think the Jays will be able to carry 8 relievers over the long term.  Sending Loup down leaves the Jays with just one lefty reliever (Cecil), but Loup's results have been poor enough that the team might not trust him in a key LOOGY situation, anyway.

Ben Revere:  Andrew Stoeten has a pretty reasonable take on Revere:

Since I've already said it 15 times in replies, I'll say it here: yes, Revere is a better version of Carrera. But that's about all he is.

Revere is a lefty bat.  He's played a lot of CF, so his defense should be pretty good in LF, and he's already stolen 24 bases in 2015, so he's a decent threat on the run, somewhat offsetting the loss of Reyes and his SB potential.  Revere hits for a high average but has next to no power, but doesn't walk enough to be a leadoff option.  So, apart from the stolen bases and slightly better defense, he's Ezequiel Carrera.

However, unlike Lowe (who's a free agent after 2015), Ben Revere is under team control through 2017.  Consequently, he will likely make the unfortunate Mike Saunders expendable, and he might well turn one of Pompey or Pillar into trade bait this offseason, too.  With Anthony Alford in the deep minors, the one thing the Jays have a lot of is young, fast CF types.

Did the Jays give up too much for these acquisitions?  A question for another time.  Will the sacrifice be worth it?  Check back in 8 weeks.

  


*That nickname should have been a thing.

Tuesday, 28 July 2015

The LaTroy Hawkins era begins


The Jays finally made a move to upgrade their pitching, bringing in reliever LaTroy Hawkins from the Rockies, in exchange for Jose Reyes, Miguel Castro, Jeff Hoffman, and Jesus Tinoco.

Hawkins is a 42 year old righthander who throws a fastball (~93mph), slider and changeup.  He profiles as a guy who keeps the ball on the ground and doesn’t walk many hitters, and he’s actually improved his strikeout rate (to about 8 per 9 innings) this year as well.  Hawkins is equally effective against both righthanded and lefthanded hitters.  All that makes him a decent option to pitch in the 7th or 8th inning, sharing those innings with Aaron Sanchez and Brett Cecil, and helpfully pushing Aaron Loup into lower-leverage appearances.  Plus, he has closing experience (if needed) from as recently as 2014, and is said to be a great, positive guy to have in the clubhouse (if that matters to you).

I like the move, frankly.  Hawkins doesn’t cost much, and he makes the bullpen deeper, meaning the team will have less need to rely on Tepera and Loup in crucial situations.  Having a veteran presence in the bullpen probably can’t hurt, either. 


Giving up Castro and Hoffman does hurt a bit.  Hoffman has front-of-the-rotation potential, and Castro, while he may not ever become a starter, has the stuff to be an elite reliever – we saw flashes of that in April.  Getting out of Reyes’s contract is, on balance, a good thing – Jose Reyes has been unfairly maligned despite his being the best shortstop the team has had since Tony Fernandez, but he’s probably not worth $48MM over the next 2 seasons, or $66MM over the next 3.   And the thing with pitching prospects is that they’re prospects, and they fail all the time.  Maybe Jeff Hoffman turns into another Noah Syndergaard, but more likely, he doesn’t.  What is pretty certain is that LaTroy Hawkins is a good bullpen piece, and the Jays have some much-needed pitching help for the stretch run.

Monday, 27 July 2015

More speculation: Tyson Ross and Craig Kimbrel?

Spot the key words in (2) above.


It doesn’t make sense for the Blue Jays to look at rental pitchers, anymore.  I suppose that could change if the team picks up 2 or 3 games on the Yankees this week, but as it stands right now, the Jays are projected to have a 10% chance to win the division, and about a 25% chance to make the wild card game (which equates to another 12.5% chance to get through the wild-card game and actually participate in a playoff series).  Not trading the farm for Jeff Samardzija isn’t about overvaluing prospects, and it’s not about not “wasting” a great offense (just because your team does one thing well doesn’t mean it’s one player away from being championship calibre).  What it is about, is making realistic assessments about whether Samardzija, or another soon-to-be free agent, can move the needle on the 2015 season.  The Jays have played 100 games and are a .500 team.  An elite starter might win them 3-4 games more than they otherwise would, over the last 62 games of the season.  That would put the Jays at 85 wins, and on the outside looking in.  Again.  And with nothing to show for the talent given up for the rental.

What does make sense – and what I’ve tried to focus on for a little while – is picking up pitchers that would help not just this year, but in 2016 and beyond.  The Padres are rumoured to be in full sell mode – basically tearing down the team that won the last offseason (does that sound familiar at all?) – and I have written already about Padres pitchers Ian Kennedy and Andrew Cashner.  Cashner would be useful, but 2 guys who would be really useful are pitchers Tyson Ross and Craig Kimbrel.  Let’s consider what they could do for the Jays.

Kimbrel, you probably know about already.  He’s been far and away the most valuable reliever in baseball for the last few years, having put up 12 fWAR since the start of the 2011 season.  He’s 27, throws a fastball that averages 97 mph, and something called a knuckle curve.  He strikes out lots of batters and has generally kept walks and home runs down.  However, Kimbrel struggled a little early this season – he’s gotten better every month since April, but his K rate is at a career-worst 12.6 per 9 innings.  Which is still extremely good, of course.  Kimbrel is signed through 2017 – at $11MM for 2016, $13MM in 2017, and a $13MM option in 2018.

It’s great to have an overpowering closer (see:  B.J. Ryan, 2006), but spending $10MM+ per season on a reliever is something that has burned the Jays in the past (see: B.J. Ryan, 2007-2010).  Could they afford him? Yes, probably, considering that Buehrle, Romero, Izturis, and Navarro are off the books after this season.  Perhaps I’m na├»ve, but my expectation for this offseason is that the Jays will reload via free agency, replacing Buehrle, finding a reliever, and so on.  Spending money on Kimbrel would probably curtail some of that expected offseason activity, but getting Kimbrel would also allow the club to put Aaron Sanchez or Roberto Osuna back into the rotation mix, or would at least add depth to the bullpen (pushing everyone else down into lower-leverage innings).  It would address an area of need.

And so would Tyson Ross, who’d be a relatively cheap, controllable rotation piece for the next few years.  Ross is 28; he’s been a full-time starter for San Diego for 2 years now.  He struggles a little with walks (4.2 per 9 innings this year, 3.7/9 for his career), but strikes out a lot of batters and tends to induce ground balls.  He’s arbitration eligible next year and can enter free agency in 2018.

Trading for Ross or Kimbrel (or ideally, both) would mean adding a lot of salary in 2016, but if the Jays ate all the money for Kimbrel, the prospect ask might be a little less painful than it would be for, say, Carlos Carrasco.  It’d still be a lot of prospects going to San Diego, but giving up potential rotation pieces like Norris and Hoffman wouldn’t be as much of an issue, given that Kimbrel would probably free up at least one reliever (Sanchez?) to rejoin the rotation, and Ross would probably slot in as a #2 starter behind Stroman (and ahead of Dickey).  That would mean a rotation of Stroman-Ross-Dickey-Hutchison for 2016, with Sanchez and others vying for the last spot, and a bullpen core of Kimbrel-Osuna-Cecil, which could be overpowering.


C’mon Jays.  Do that, and stay away from marginal guys like Mike Leake and Ian Kennedy.

Friday, 24 July 2015

More rumours: Carrasco, Padres, Marlins pitchers?


In case you hadn't heard these rumours... or if you had, and don't know much about the pitchers involved:

There was a story on MLBTR that the Jays and Clevelands might be discussing a trade that would send Carlos Carrasco to the Blue Jays.  It's an interesting deal for Toronto in the same way that a Mike Fiers deal would be, due to the the years of control that would come with Carrasco, who's under contract for 3 more seasons plus options, at an average of about $6MM a season (excluding the option years).

So, what can Carrasco do?  Well, this is his first year as a full-time starter, but over the last season and a half, he's been worth almost 6 WAR, which sounds great.  Carrasco gets ground balls, and has struck out close to 10 batters per 9 innings while walking less than 2 per 9, over that timespan.  He throws a fastball in the 95 mph range, with a good slider, changeup and curve.

So why would the Clevelands trade him?  Carrasco's good peripheral numbers aren't reflected in his ERA (3.94), and I'm not really sure why.  He's had a little bit of bad luck with BABIP, but nothing too outlandish, and he's not noticeably worse with runners on base.  Strand rate might be the problem, and Cleveland's crummy defense probably doesn't help either.  At this point, it doesn't seem like this will happen, but if it does, Carrasco would be a nice addition for 2015 and beyond.  Better than Fiers, almost certainly (but more expensive, too).  Anyway, Cleveland is in search of offense, so a trade for Carrasco would probably involve one of Pillar or Pompey, and lots more.

The San Diego Padres are in sell mode, and they're supposed to be interested in moving starters Ian Kennedy and Andrew Cashner (they'd probably want to trade James Shields, too - no, thank you).  Kennedy makes $9MM this year, so he'd probably be the only major acquisition if the Jays got him.  He's on a 1 year deal and is a free agent after 2015, and has been the victim of a grotesquely inflated 20% HR/FB rate, which accounts for a lot of his 4.78 ERA.  Kennedy was pretty good from 2011-14, but he's a pure rental at this point, and not really a high-impact one.

I'd be more enthusiastic if the Jays got Cashner, who is under control through 2016 (arbitration eligible for the last time next season), cheaper than Kennedy, and has some upside at age 28.  He's a fastball-slider-changeup guy with a fastball in the mid-90s, he gets lots of groundballs, and he doesn't walk too many batters.  He'd cost more in prospects than Kennedy would, but he's probably the better deal at this point.

Steve Cishek is a reliever the Jays were supposed to be interested in, but it now seems like he's been traded to the Cardinals.  *shrugs*  I figure that with Sanchez headed to the bullpen, the Jays don't really have a need for non-elite relief pitchers.  Sticking with Marlins pitchers, I wouldn't be really happy if the Jays traded for Mat Latos, who is another rental (FA after this season).  Latos makes $9MM this year and hasn't been elite for a couple of seasons.  He doesn't pitch deep into games (15 starts, just 82 innings) and doesn't do anything (K's, limiting walks, ground balls) especially well anymore.  I don't like Dan Haren much, either - he'd get clobbered in the hitters parks the Jays play in.

So...  I still like Fiers, and Carrasco, and maybe Cashner.  If the team does get a rental, there's no point in adding anyone mediocre like Latos or Kennedy.  The A's took prospects from low-A ball for Kazmir, which is somewhat encouraging, even if they were high-upside prospects.   I'd just hate to see the Jays deal more than 1 from the group of Norris/Castro/Pompey/Hoffman/Sanchez/Alford for a rental.

Yeah, I know... stop me if you've heard all that before.