Tuesday, 30 June 2015

Midterm surprises and disappointments

The halfway point of a baseball season is games 81 and 82.  Most first-half recaps happen at the All-Star break, though, which is usually around game 90… so my getting a jump on midseason reviews here, after game 78, is at least as justifiable as doing a report during the all-star break.

So.. who's been better or worse than expected?

Positive surprises:

Kevin Pillar, OF:  Pillar is not, and maybe never will be, a great offensive performer.  He’s never walked much and still isn’t walking much, so a .300 OBP might be all we should expect from him.  Nonetheless, he’s exceeded expectations with the bat, and just as importantly, he’s outperformed expectations defensively and on the bases as well.  Pillar is perhaps overvalued for his defense, but even if opposing batters stop hitting balls almost out of his reach (which pad his gaudy defensive runs saved numbers), he should continue to show good range in the field and good judgment on the bases.  Put that together with his .304 wOBA and he’s got the makings of a solid 2-WAR player (if not a 3.5 WAR CF, which he’s on pace to be in 2014)

Chris Colabello, OF-1B-DH:  Colabello has had a nice first half, but unlike Pillar, what he’s doing doesn’t seem to be sustainable.  Colabello doesn’t add any value defensively or on the bases – his worth comes from his bat.  And unfortunately, what Colabello is doing with his bat is almost entirely driven by his .437 BABIP.  That .437 number is the highest BABIP in MLB, and the only other player above .400 is Dee Gordon, who is incredibly fast and much more likely to beat out infield grounders on a sustained basis than Colabello is.  Beyond the BABIP?  Walk rate is a bit down from last year, K rate at 25% (also down from 2014, but still not good) and Colabello has a decidedly mediocre ISO of .166 versus .150 and .151 in 2013 and 2014.  Chris Colabello was worth negative WAR in 2013 and 2014, and sadly, once his BABIP regresses to the mean, he should be a replacement level bat again.

Devon Travis:  Travis has been worth 1.3 WAR so far this year, which is more than Jays 2B were worth in all of 2014, 2013, 2012, and 2011.  You have to go back to Aaron Hill’s 4-WAR 2009 to find a better season for a Jays 2B.  Is Travis going to hit for the rest of the season like he did in April?  Probably not, but he’s 4-13 (.308) since coming off the DL, and he’s been fine defensively.  He’s a keeper.

Danny Valencia/Ezequiel Carrera/Justin Smoak: 346 PA, 2.0 fWAR.  If they were a single person, they’d be 4th on the team in WAR.  As it stands, they constitute the best bench the Jays have had for some time.  Valencia kills LHP, Smoak hits righties fairly well and is a solid defensive option at 1B, and Carrera can hit a bit, runs fairly well, and is a decent defender in the outfield.

Roberto Osuna:  2.02 ERA is supported by an equally impressive 2.03 FIP.  Walks just 2.5 per 9 innings and strikes out 10.6, and has been the closest thing to a sure thing in the bullpen this year. The only caveats to Osuna’s excellence are his 2.3% HR/FB rate and .247 BABIP allowed, which are unsustainably good, and the 27.9% groundball rate (which indicates too many fly balls, some of which may start turning into home runs).

Liam Hendriks:  Aussie starter-turned-reliever has been solid in middle relief, with numbers that might be less prone to regression than Osuna’s.  Hendriks has struck out 9.2 and walked just 1.5 batters per 9 innings, he gets grounders at a 50% clip, and the HR rate and BABIP aren’t outlandishly low.  We’re starting to see Hendriks in higher-leverage situations of late, which is the right way to use him.  Is the bullpen finally coming together, with half the season in the books?


Jose Reyes:  NOTE: THIS IS NOT an endorsement of any crazy-ass plan to put Ryan Goins at shortstop and make Reyes into the second coming of "Hanley Ramirez, Left Fielder".  The only reason Ryan Goins is not on the ‘disappointments’ list is because Ryan Goins is exactly what I thought he would be – a good defender who can’t hit at all (.258 wOBA).  That said, Reyes is not playing as well as one would like.  His K rate and walk rate are trending in opposite (bad) directions, and his wOBA is at just .292, versus .321 last year and a career .335.  Yes, some of that bad hitting is due to Reyes trying to play through an injury, but Reyes was just at .301 wOBA in June, and a .305 OBP doesn’t cut it for a leadoff hitter.

Dalton Pompey:  Pompey was all but handed the starting CF job before spring training started, but struggled offensively (a Goins-like .268 wOBA) and made some missteps in the field, before being sent down to AAA and now AA.  The emergence of Kevin Pillar has mitigated the effect of Pompey’s demotion.

Michael Saunders:  It’s not really fair to judge Saunders based on his 36 PA so far this season – the disappointment is in his not being able to successfully come back from knee surgery, the way we were led to believe he could.  As with Pompey, the emergence of his replacements (Colabello/Carrera) has removed some of the sting from his absence.   

RA Dickey:  I’m starting to worry that I’ve developed a visceral dislike for RA Dickey which makes it impossible for me to assess him fairly.  Here goes, anyway:  Home run rate is up.  Walk rate is up to 3.5, K rate is down to 5.6.  Yes, he’s not getting run support, but he’s not pitching well, either.  Dickey has been better in June, but that’s largely due to better strand rates and HR rates, not because his K/BB rates have materially changed for the better.  Could Dickey get better over the rest of the season?  I hope so, but I can’t see a reason why he would.

Drew Hutchison:  Hutchison is the perfect subject with which to illustrate the fundamental difference between Fangraph’s pitcher WAR and Baseball-reference’s pitcher WAR.  bWAR hates Hutchison; he’s been worth -0.1 WAR by their main measure, Runs Allowed per 9 innings.  Meanwhile, fWAR loves Hutch because of his peripherals; he’s been victimized by BABIP (.336) and performance with runners on base, and his 8.25 K rate and 2.65 walk rate are quite good.  The takeaway here is that Hutchison has been pretty bad (4.99 ERA, just 5.5 IP per start) but could be a lot better in the second half if (when?) his luck normalizes.

Aaron Loup:  Loup is the left-handed relief version of Hutchison – he’s been undone by HR rate and horrible performances with runners on base or in high leverage situations.  That sort of thing is probably random, and if or when Loup’s luck changes, the results will improve.  Going by K rate (9.3) and BB rate (1.2), this is Loup’s best year since his rookie 2012.

Brett Cecil:  Home runs and strand rate have not been kind to Cecil, and while he’s walking fewer hitters than he did in 2014, he doesn’t seem to be getting swings and misses the way he used to.  Maybe he’s tipping his pitches, maybe he’s just been unlucky, but Cecil has been demoted from the closer job twice this year, and it’s not even July.  That’s disappointing.

Numbers as of Monday night's game.

Wednesday, 24 June 2015

These blown saves don't mean what you think they do

Fun fact - the Blue Jays are 33-0 when leading going into the 9th inning (Source: Baseball-Reference

The bullpen has 12 blown saves (BSv), as follows:

April 8 (Cecil, blown in 8th inning, Jays lost)
April 18 (Castro, blown in 9th inning, Jays won)
April 25 (Castro, blown in 8th inning, Jays lost)
April 27 (Osuna, blown in 8th inning, Jays lost)
May 14 (Loup, blown in 7th inning, Jays lost)
May 16 (Hendriks, blown in 6th inning, Jays lost)
May 20 (Delabar, blown in 7th inning, Jays lost)
May 26 (Loup BSv in 6th inning, Hendriks BSv in 8th inning, Jays won)
June 7 (Schultz, blown in 7th inning, Jays won)
June 15 (Cecil, blown in 11th inning, Jays lost)
June 21 (Delabar, blown in 7th inning, Jays lost)

So in short:
The Jays have blown saves in 11 games (2 BSv were in 1 game)
Of the 11 games with BSv, the Jays wound up winning 3 of them.
Of the 8 games with BSv that were losses:
1 was blown in the 11th
3 were blown in the 8th
3 were blown in the 7th
1 was blown in the 6th

The Jays don’t need a closer.  They need 2 reliable setup relievers to pitch the 7th and 8th.  

Tuesday, 23 June 2015

Second tier pitching help

Because... we can't all be top tier

So, the general sentiment seems to be that the Jays should make some kind of trade to help them on the pitching front, but only if they can do it without having to give up a top prospect (i.e. don’t trade Sanchez/Norris/Hoffman/anyone like that).  We’ve all heard about the big names – the Papelbons, Cuetos and Chapmans – and what they will cost:  A ton of prospects and a ton of money.  So, who’s out there who could help the Jays now without Toronto having to mortgage the future?


Tyler Clippard (Oakland):
Good:  He’s a reliever with closing experience who was good to very good from 2010-2014.
Bad:  Clippard’s walk rate is up and strikeout rate down, this year.  Gives up a ton of fly balls, which may not play well at Skydome.  He also makes $8.3MM this year, which is a lot for a non-elite reliever.

Francisco Rodriguez (Milwaukee):
Good: owed just the pro-rated portion of 3.5MM this year.  Averaging 10 K and 2.5 walks per 9 innings.
Bad:  owed $5.5 MM next year, and either $8MM in 2017 or a $2MM buyout.  Helped by a .222 BABIP and a HR/flyball rate that is less than half of what it was from 2012-2014.  Both of those things are somewhat likely to regress.

Jeremy Jeffress (Milwaukee):
Good:  Great K rate (9.5/9) and BB rate (3.3/9) without any glaring luck-based (BABIP, strand rate, etc).  Has been a bit unlucky with home runs, which might change.  He’s on a MLB-minimum salary.
Bad:  Do we really want to go through the Jeremy Jeffress experience again?

Zach Duke (White Sox):
Good:  He’s a lefthanded reliever on a 3-year, $15MM deal, which isn’t appallingly expensive.  Has always gotten lots of ground balls.
Bad:  Has only one really good year (2014) on his resume.  Has been burned by HR this season, although that seems to be out of character for him.  Walk rate (4.1/9) is also up from Duke’s career norms, and he’s had some (unsustainable?) luck with strand rates, too.

John Axford (Colorado):
Good:  He’s a “proven closer”.  He’s cheap (MLB minimum salary).  Gets ground balls and has a decent K rate (8.3/9 innings).
Bad:  Has been lucky with BABIP, HR rate, and strand rate.  He’s also coming off 3 straight bad seasons, which makes one wonder if Axford’s 2015 numbers are sustainable.


Aaron Harang (Philadelphia):
Good:  Expiring $5MM deal for 2015, so he’s cheap.  A decent walk (2.4/9) and K (6.3/9) rate, with no major red flags lurking behind his 3.41 ERA.  Pitches a lot of innings, too.
Bad: Groundball rate is a bit low, and BABIP is a bit lucky, but not terrifyingly so.  Also, has had a terrible June after a decent run through April and May, mainly due to a jump in his HR rate.

Felix Doubront (Buffalo, AAA):
Good:  The Jays already have him, so he doesn’t cost anything.  He’s put up good numbers in AAA and was a serviceable starter for Boston in 2012-13.  Lefthanded.
Bad:  He was horrible in 2014, and he’s been a bit lucky with HR rate in Buffalo.  Has historically struggled with his walk rate and doesn’t pitch deep into games.

Scott Kazmir (Oakland):
Good:  He’s performing well without outrageous BABIP or HR luck.  8.5 K, 3.5 BB per 9 innings.  Lefthanded, which is a minor perk when playing lefty-heavy teams like NY.
Bad:  Makes $11MM, which would make him the only addition the team could likely afford.

Mike Leake (Cincinnati):
Good: 6 1/3 innings per start, 4.01 ERA.  Shouldn’t cost a fortune in prospects.
Bad:  5.5 K, 2.6 BB per 9 doesn’t impress.  HR rate is up, and he’s benefited from some BABIP luck.  At $10MM/yr, he’d eat up almost all of the free cash the Jays have.

There are others who may be on the market, like  Kyle Lohse and Matt Garza, but most of those seem either too awful or too expensive to be good trade candidates.  And for that matter, some of the guys above may not be on the market, due to their teams not wanting to throw in the towel yet, or preferring to hang onto players (e.g. Jeffress, Duke) who might be helpful in 2016 or later.  Still, there is definitely pitching help available below the top tier of impact arms.  I'm starting to feel that what the Jays really need is not an elite starter or closer (though that would help a lot), but 2 or 3 league-average relievers/mid-rotation starters.  Getting an elite closer won't, on its own, solve the 7th and 8th inning problems the Jays are having.

Sunday, 21 June 2015

June 21, 2015: Impressions from the ballpark

A full-ish house on Father's Day.

It's difficult to defend the Blue Jays' bullpen on days like today.  The agonizing way the 9th inning went makes us forget things like the 6.2 innings of 2-run relief the non-Cecil parts of the bullpen posted today, the fact that the offense had runners on second base with 0, 1, and 1 outs in the 5th, 6th, and 8th innings (respectively) and cashed no runs in those innings, and that the starting pitching, represented today by Scott Copeland, remains the biggest problem on this team.

But more on that later.  I was at today's game as a Dad's day out - my wife and son sent me to the game with a friend who is also a dad, and who was also getting a day off.  It was, despite my nascent sunburn, a perfect summer day for baseball - the predicted storm clouds never materialized, and it was sunny and hot in the right-field seats.  There was a big crowd, but the metal detector line went fairly quickly.  I wish I could say the same about the concessions - it always seems like the Skydome staff is taken by surprise every time a crowd of 35,000+ shows up.  Lineups for food and beer were ridiculous, and vendors in our very full section were hard to find.

The game started out innocently.  Copeland got through the first cleanly (thanks to a caught stealing after a single), before everything fell apart for him in the 2nd.  6 singles (most of them hard hit line drives) followed by a home run and it was 7-0.  Bo Schultz time!  At that point, I was just hoping the Jays could at least be competitive for the rest of the game, and the offense was better than that, putting up 6 runs in the bottom of the 2nd and chasing Chris Tillman.  Both starters gone in the second?  Fun.  The Jays tied it in the 3rd, took a 9-7 lead in the 4th, and the Orioles chipped away back to a tie, before the 9th inning happened.

I'm not going to waste your time with speculation about whether Brett Cecil has a closer's mentality, if his confidence is gone, or anything like that.  I have no idea what Brett Cecil is like as a person, or how his confidence is now.  Bottom line is, Cecil has been a very good pitcher for the Jays the last 2 seasons, and there are some good things about his 2015 season - his walk rate is below 3 per 9 innings, K rate per 9 is over 10.  Those are very good numbers.  Where Cecil has been getting hurt is home runs (he has an unsustainably high HR rate per flyball), situational play (he's been worse in high leverage situations) and batting splits (for some reason, lefties are killing him this year).  At least some of those things may be due to nothing more than bad luck.

I say "may" because I don't know what else to say about Cecil.  The worst part about the 9th inning, for me, was watching Cecil start off both Hardy and Davis with 2 strikes and lose both of them.  A top reliever has an 'out' pitch and Cecil's is the curveball.  It wasn't working today, and it didn't seem to be working well on Friday, either.

My own preference for closers isn't the guy with the 98 mph fastball and the unhittable breaking pitch.  It's the guy who is the same every time he pitches, who doesn't walk many batters, or turn a close game into a blowout.  In other words, it's Casey Janssen - the last 3 seasons have converted me.  Janssen's gone and he's not the pitcher he once was, anyway - and I don't think the Jays have anyone else in that mold.  Could Delabar close?  Hendriks?  Osuna?  Delabar walks too many batters, and I can't see the club giving the job to either Osuna (he's young, and they got burned this way with Miguel Castro in April) or Hendriks (too new to high-leverage situations).  I'd like to see them give Hendriks a try, but in any case, I hope they keep Cecil away from closing for a few days at least.

Last thoughts:  I'm working hard at taking a more levelheaded view of games like this.  This was a game the club trailed 7-0 in; they certainly didn't have a win stolen from them.  And consider this from the opposing perspective; if I was a Baltimore fan, I would have been throwing things at my TV watching Tillman cough up 6 runs right after being gifted a 7-run lead.  The Jays have problems, but not many teams can shrug off a big early deficit like they can.  It's the late deficits the closer creates that are getting worrisome.

Friday, 19 June 2015

The end of an era, before it really got started

What was initially thought to be a relatively minor injury will now apparently require season-ending surgery, and it looks like we are witnessing the end of an era at second base for the Jays.

Oh.  Sorry, did I scare you there?  I wasn’t talking about Devon Travis – the season-ending surgery goes to middle infielder Maicer Izturis, the forgotten man of the 2014-15 Blue Jays.

You’d be excused if you didn’t recognize Maicer from the picture above, because the guy has been pretty much invisible for the past 2 seasons.  You might recall that Izturis was horrible in 2013, but got off to a decent (.286/.324/.314) start in 2014 before he tore a knee up on the dugout stairs* and missed the rest of the season following surgery.  I expected Izturis to compete for a job in spring training this year, but he was felled by injury again, this time a groin sprain.  While rehabbing from that injury, Maicer injured his shoulder and following shoulder surgery, he’s done for 2015. 

So, the sum total of Maicer Izturis’s contributions to the Blue Jays looks like this:

2013:  107 games, 399 PA at shortstop, 3B and 2B.  .269 wOBA and -16.4 UZR for minus 2.2 fWAR, the worst mark in the AL
2014:  11 games, 38 PA, .289 wOBA
2015:  zilch.

There’s nothing much to redeem 2013 and 2014, but if there’s a silver lining to Maicer’s troubles, it’s that his 2015 spring training injury opened the door to Devon Travis.  My thoughts had been that Izturis and his guaranteed contract had a roster spot locked down, and that Ryan Goins or Steve Tolleson would wind up as the backup to Reyes and Izturis.  Izturis’ injury changed all that, as we have seen.   The Jays have a $3MM option to bring Izturis back in 2016, but I can’t imagine that they would ever exercise that, the way things are now.

So to recap, the best thing Maicer Izturis did as a Jay was get hurt in order to allow a better player to take his spot on the 25-man roster.   The Jays will have paid him $10MM over 3 seasons and gotten -2 cumulative fWAR for their money. 

Moral:  It’s not just the 9-figure contracts that can contend for ‘worst deal ever’.

* - yet another ridiculous injury for the Jays.  Dugout stairs, sprinkler heads, bunt drills.

Wednesday, 17 June 2015

Is "clutch" relief needed?

With the Blue Jays having climbed back into the thick of the playoff race, and the team’s offense bludgeoning opponents into submission, the trade rumours have started.  Do the Jays wants Cole Hamels?  John Cueto?  Pigface Papelbon?  Aroldis Chapman?  Tyler Clippard?  Some or all of those would be nice... but at what cost?

Naturally, you want to make whatever move does the most to make the team better.  The last offseason is a perfect illustration of this; the Jays had needs at 2B, LF, CF, and the bullpen, but I don’t think any two available players at any of those positions could have added as much value as Russell Martin and Josh Donaldson have to this point.  You want to fix weaknesses, but if you can add a superstar player, do it.  For the purposes of this post, though, I’m going to focus on pitching, which is the area of greatest need right now.  In any case, the offense will be getting reinforced when Devon Travis comes back, and maybe Mike Saunders will eventually help, too.

The Jays’ starters have an ERA of 4.62, 14th in the AL.  That’s bad.  The bullpen has an ERA of 3.51, 7th in the AL.  That’s… not all that bad, but the bullpen has blown 11 saves already, worst in the AL, and has just 8 saves and 17 holds, which are the worst and second-worst marks in the league, respectively.  So, the Jays need relievers as much as they need starters, right?  Well, let’s look at the starters first.

Sometimes, a high ERA masks decent performance that was undone by bad luck.  That’s not the case with the Jays’ rotation, though.  Blue Jay starters have the worst FIP in the AL by almost half a run.  Their xFIP (FIP with a normalized home run rate) is third worst.  They’ve got the third worst walk rate in the AL, and the second worst strikeout rate.  They’ve been a bit unlucky, perhaps, in giving up a lot of homers, but they’ve also had some BABIP luck, and they’ve actually performed better in high leverage situations (see below) than average.  That can’t be counted on to continue. 

You could make an argument that the starting pitching had a terrible April and has been better of late, but it’s not a great argument – in the past 30 days, the K and BB rates are still second-worst in the AL, and while the starters’ ERA is a middling 8th in the league, FIP and xFIP are third-worst and 5th-worst, respectively.  Losing Aaron Sanchez for an uncertain period of time doesn’t help, and the only internal help available is Dan Norris, who hasn’t exactly been tearing up the AAA circuit.  Of course you don’t want to give up too many prospects for a John Cueto-type who will only be here for 3 months, but there’s no question that the Jays could desperately use someone like him or Hamels.

Meanwhile, the Jays’ relievers are 6th in FIP, and 4th in xFIP.  They’ve actually been better than their overall ERA would suggest. Their downfall?  They’ve been bad (well, no kidding – 11 blown saves) in high leverage situations.  Their Fangraphs “clutch” score is -5.98, worst in the AL.  From Fangraphs:

Clutch measures how well a player performed in high leverage situations. It’s calculated as such:
Clutch = (WPA / pLI) – WPA/LI
In the words of David Appelman, this calculation measures, “…how much better or worse a player does in high leverage situations than he would have done in a context neutral environment.” It also compares a player against himself, so a player who hits .300 in high leverage situations when he’s an overall .300 hitter is not considered clutch.
Clutch does a good job of describing the past, but it does very little towards predicting the future. Simply because one player was clutch at one point does not mean they will continue to perform well in high-leverage situations (and vice versa). Very few players have the ability to be consistently clutch over the course of their careers, and choking in one season does not beget the same in the future.

For reference, WPA is “win probability added”.  pLI is the average leverage situation the player finds himself in.  WPA/LI is context-neutral win probability added.  As I understand it, the ‘clutch’ stat measures how a player performed in high-leverage situations relative to his performance in average-leverage situations.

As noted in the quote from Fangraphs, the thing with “clutch” – and WPA and related stats – is that it is a retrospective statistic, and not predictive.  The concept of players being either “clutch” or “not-clutch” has been largely debunked by sabermetricians over the years, and it’s easy to see that Brett Cecil and Steve Delabar were as ‘clutch’ in and 2014 as they are ‘not-clutch’ in 2015.  So, while guys like Cecil, Aaron Loup, and Roberto Osuna have had problems in close games, it’s not necessarily true that they will continue to struggle in high leverage situations.  It feels like they will… but there’s no hard evidence to suggest that this is a problem that has to be solved.  It’s more reasonable to expect that the bullpen’s performance in high-leverage situations will even out over time.  Could the team use another relief arm?  Sure, but it’s not as pressing a need as you might think from just looking at saves vs blown saves.

So the good news is – the Jays don’t need another reliever as much as one might think.  The bad news is that a Johnny Cueto or Cole Hamels will cost a ton of prospects and dollars, and even a mid-rotation starter (Scott Kazmir, say) won’t come as cheaply as a reliever would.  Hard decisions will have to be made before the trade deadline at the end of July, and you just have to know that the Yankees will make an addition if they are anywhere close to contention at this time next month.

Sunday, 14 June 2015


If you're going to win your 9th, 10th, and 11th in a row, there's no better team to do that against than the Red Sux.

(I didn't make this gif.  If you did - First, well done.  Second, let me know and I'll credit you.)

Thursday, 11 June 2015

Stuff for an off day

1.  Fun facts about the Jays’ offense:  The team as a whole has a .863 OPS against lefthanded pitching.   The next best team, Detroit, has a .774 OPS against LHP.  For reference, all-world rookie Kris Bryant has an .853 OPS. Albert Pujols is at .839.  Dustin Pedroia is at .836.  So in essence, when a lefty is on the mound, it’s like the Jays lineup has 9 Silver Sluggers in it.

And it’s not as if the Jays struggle against RHP, either… they have a .756 OPS against righties, also tops in the AL.

The Jays have scored 50 more runs than the second most prolific AL offense (the Yankers).  And yet, they’ve allowed just 35 more runs than the third-stingiest pitching staff in the AL (the Mariners).  In other words, the offense is much better than the pitching is worse, if you get my drift.

2.  Seven KC Royals are in line to make the all-star game.  I guess ballot box stuffing for your favourite team outweighs the aim of actually winning the ASG and getting home field advantage in the World Series.  I wouldn’t really care about the ASG if it weren’t for that stupid “winner gets home field advantage in the World Series” gimmick.

3.  Jonathan Papelbon – should the Jays trade for him, or not?  The Blue Jay Hunter has a pretty good summary of the pros and cons to a Papelbon trade here.  In my view, the money is workable – if the Jays traded for Papelbon now, they’d be on the hook for about 7.5MM for the rest of 2015, and we have been led to believe that the money is there if the right transaction should pop up.  Eating the rest of Papelbon’s contract would likely allow the Jays to not give up anything of value for him.  Yes, Papelbon has a vesting option for $13MM in 2016, but I look at it this way:  The option vests if Papelbon finishes 26 more games this year.  If he finishes 26 games in Toronto, that means that (a) he’s probably pitched well, and (b) the Jays have been in contention right through September.  If Papelbon pitches well and the team contends, they’d probably want him around for 2016.  And while $13MM is an ugly number, it’s just for 1 season, 20.5MM for 2 – contrast that to the $46MM+ the Jays would have needed to commit to get David Robertson, or the 36MM+ they’d have paid to get Andrew Miller.  On top of that, the Jays free up $35MM of salary when Mark Buehrle, Maicer Izturis, Ricky Romero and Dioner Navarro come off the books next year (yes, 8MM of that will go to Russell Martin, but still..).  There’s also the consideration that the commitment ends after 2016, when the Bautista/Encarnacion/Dickey contracts expire.  Worst case - if Papelbon’s slower repertoire no longer works in the AL, the Jays can avoid letting him close 26 games and get out from under the 2016 option. 

All that assumes, of course, that Papelbon is willing to waive the no-trade clause in his contract to come to Toronto, and the Yankees (or someone else with deep pockets) isn’t more willing to eat salary than the Jays.  The latter is a pretty big assumption.

4.  Speaking of the bullpen, the Jays sent Andrew Albers down and will be promoting Phil Coke to the majors.  Hey, did you know Andrew Albers was in the bullpen?  How about Ryan Tepera?  I remember Bo Schultz pitched a few days ago; he’s also still on the team.  It’s nice when the starters are going 6+ innings and keeping the garbage time relievers on the bench… but it would also be nice if the team was able to trust relievers other than Cecil/Osuna/Loup/(and maybe) Hendriks.  Anyway, Phil Coke is a lefthanded reliever who was released by the Cubs following a bad (but maybe just unlucky) start to 2015.  He’ll hopefully be better than Albers/Tepera/etc., and could provide a lefthanded alternative to Loup.  Coke is decent against LH batters but should never, ever, face righties.

5.  Finally: A few days ago, I started doing a mini-analysis of Jose Reyes vs Ryan Goins, to see just how they compared in the wake of suggestions by well-meaning fools that Reyes change positions to accommodate Goins and his defense.  Then Reyes started June with a .351/.415/.541 line for 8 runs created over 41 PA, while Goins posted an .048/.048/.095 line for -2 runs over 21 PA… and the whole exercise started to look ridiculous.  I mean, Reyes has stolen 5 bases in June and hit 2 HR; Goins has never stolen a base and has just 4 home runs for his career.  But, for the record…

Defensively, it looks like this:

Total Zone Fielding runs above average:

2015:  Reyes 0 (254 innings), Goins 6 (235 innings)
2013-5:   Reyes -5 (2238 innings), Goins 8 (331 innings)
Average TZR per year (1200 innings):  Reyes -3, Goins 29.0
The Goins number you see at the end of the line above here should be taken with a large grain of salt.  It’s an extrapolated number from a very small sample size, and while Goins is a good fielder, 29 runs would be the second best number for the last 8 seasons, trailing just Andrelton Simmons’ 30 runs in 2013.  Andrelton Simmons is an otherworldly defender.  Even 20 runs/yr would put Goins at the top of the defensive charts most years, but for the sake of argument, let’s say that Goins is 23 runs better than Reyes per year, defensively.  UZR tells a similar story:

Ultimate Zone Rating (runs above/below average):
2015: Reyes -1.9, Goins 1.4
2013-15:  Reyes -13.7, Goins 3.4     UZR/150 games:  -7.1, Goins 15.3

Yup... Goins is about 22 runs better per season, defensively, according to UZR.  Same sample size caveat applies.

Meanwhile… for his career (parts of 3 seasons, 468 PA), Goins has been worth 26.7 runs below average as a batter, and 2.2 runs below average as a baserunner. Figure about 600 PA a season, and his seasonal offensive value is 37 runs below average per season.  Reyes, for the last 3 seasons (1210 PA) has produced 25 offensive runs above average.  Per 600 PA season, that’s 12 runs above average, or 49 runs better than Goins.

So – giving Goins the benefit of the doubt that his defense will be among the best in the majors at shortstop – Reyes still looks to provide about 27 more runs per season.  Goins is so bad with the bat that even if Reyes could play a decent LF, it makes no sense to move him to make room for Goins, who provides negative value overall.  Putting Reyes in LF and Goins at SS would force more valuable players (Colabello, Carrera, Valencia) to the bench.  That’s not how you make a team better.

Saturday, 6 June 2015

Impressions from the Ballpark: June 5, 2014

I can finally wear this jersey ironically.

Hey everybody - Colby's back!  Yes, Colby Rasmus, of the bad hair, billions of strikeouts, questionable fashion style, and even more questionable attitude, made his return to Toronto last night.  And I was there, so... pow, suck on that!

The evening started off with a torrential rainstorm about 5:00, which led cynical me to conclude that the roof would be closed for the game.  Surprise, surprise, the rain had stopped by 5:30 and when I entered the stadium at 6:15, the roof was being opened.  Thankfully, Rogers is finally getting this right; the Skydome is much less stuffy and humid with the roof open on a summer evening.  Plus, when it's closed, you don't get views like this:

You know what else was a beautiful sight?  Seeing Bautista out in right field.  With J-Bau in the field, the Jays were able to put Justin Smoak at 1B and DH Encarnacion, simultaneously making their defense better and adding a LH bat to the lineup against Houston's righthanded starter, Fausto Carmona.  It's still not the team we were hoping to see when the season started (no Saunders, no Travis), but it's a lot better than the defensive Keystone Kops show we were seeing in May.

Did I say Fausto Carmona?  Yes, I know that his real name is Roberto Hernandez... but you know my rule about name changes.

Anyway - it was a nice night, temperature in the high teens, a little breeze, comfortable outdoor baseball weather.  The crowd was 22,000, an improvement of about 9,000 from the last game I was at.  Summer baseball with the roof open... people seem to like that.  Who knew?

It was a great game by Aaron Sanchez, who did what he does best: inducing ground balls.  The Astros are a team that strikes out a lot, but last night, they were pounding the ball into the ground and getting thrown out a lot by Donaldson, Reyes, and Goins.  The Astros are also a team that hits lots of home runs, but they only got a handful of balls in the air against Sanchez in the early going.  Really, the Astros are a great matchup for Sanchez, and he made the most of it, putting together a 3-hit shutout through 8 before getting pulled following 3 straight hits in the 9th.

Here's Aaron Sanchez's last 4 starts:  28 IP, 8 ER, 2.57 ERA, 1.21 WHIP, 8 BB, 17 K, 1.51 GB/FB ratio.  With Marco Estrada also pitching well, there's no need to rush Dan Norris back to the rotation.  Sanchez has pitched as well as anyone on the staff so far this year.

Colby Rasmus did Colby Rasmus things:  He hit right into the defensive shift the Jays had set up.  He made a good play on a hard liner by Donaldson and also got caught trying to short-hop another liner which got through him and went to the wall.  Remember Colby's complaints about the turf on his way out of town?  Yeah, the turf was to blame, I'm sure.  Meanwhile, Kevin Pillar made 2 nice over-the-shoulder catches on the warning track, catches that I'm sure we've seen Rasmus flub in the past.  All that said:  Rasmus, .790 OPS; Pillar, .641 OPS.  CF defense is nice, but Rasmus is still clearly a far better player than Pillar, and Pompey, and/or Saunders, if the Jays stick Saunders in CF when he's healthy.
Russell Martin had a bad game - after a walk in the second, he hit into a fielders choice in the 4th and was subsequently caught stealing, popped out on a bunt attempt (why?), grounded out in the 8th, and made a throwing error (why?) on a stolen base attempt in the 9th.  Both physical and mental bad play was on display here - why throw through on a steal attempt in the 9th with a runner on 3rd?  Why bunt with Smoak, Pillar and Goins behind you in the lineup, with a 5-run lead?

Jose Reyes hit a home run, bounced a throw to 1B that Smoak scooped, and made a nice grab on a hard liner up the middle.  Goins made a nice defensive play, had two hard grounders go through him, and was 0-3 at the plate.  This Reyes/Goins tally sheet may become a regular feature over the rest of the season.

The Jays were hitting a lot of balls hard against Carmona, highlighted by a home run by Bautista that "only" measured 401 feet, but was hit high enough to hit the facing of the third deck after falling 50 feet or so.  Meanwhile, the Astros had some loud outs in the air, hitting long drives that Pillar caught, and the rocket up the middle that Reyes gloved.

The Astros play a lot of defensive shifts - they were shifting on Donaldson, Bautista and Encarnacion that I recall, and probably a few others too.  And yet, they're just 21st in the league in fielding (per Fangraphs) despite allowing just a .238 batting average against.  Hmm.

In a really encouraging sign, Roberto Osuna shook off a couple of shaky outings and struck out the side on 11 pitches in the 9th, with inherited runners on.

In the end, the Jays snapped a 7-game losing streak vs the Astros, we all got to laugh at Colby's defense (and his pants), the starting pitching continued to be solid and we had some encouraging signs of life from Encarnacion's bat.  Jays are now 3-1 in June.

Wednesday, 3 June 2015

RA Dickey is what he is

And not, unfortunately, what we thought he was.

OR: Stuff I was thinking of as Rah Dickey pitched 6 mostly good innings yesterday.

Only the most cockeyed of optimists would have expected another Cy Young Award season from RA Dickey after the Jays traded for him before the 2013 season.  Dickey’s Cy Young year was an outlier in lots of ways – it featured a career low walk rate (2.1 per 9) to go with a strikeout rate of 8.9 per 9 innings, after never having cracked the 6 per 9 mark before.   His strand rate was 80%, a career best.  The Mets offense came back and won 6 games he was in line to lose.  He pitched to a .281 wOBA with the bases empty, .278 with men on base, and .229 with runners in scoring position.  In essence, 2012 was a perfect storm for Dickey, and good for him.

It was reasonable, though, to expect something like Dickey’s 2010 and 2011 seasons.  Dickey was worth 3.6 rWAR in each of those years.  He got ground balls, he pitched about as well with men on base as with the bases empty, and while he wasn’t striking out a lot of batters, he wasn’t walking many, either.   That kind of performance would have been fine, even accounting for the shift from the NL East to the AL East, but it didn’t work out that way.  2013 and 2014 Dickey were worth 2.0 and 2.5 rWAR.  Ground ball rate was down both years, walk rate was up, and Dickey struggled badly with runners on and in scoring position.  To this point, 2015 is more of the same.

The point being, you can’t look at Anthopoulos and say “AA is an idiot for expecting Dickey to pitch like he did in 2012, and trading Syndergaard and D’Arnaud to get him.”  I’m not privy to Anthopoulos’s thought processes, but AA is smart enough to know that 2010 and 2011 were more like the real Dickey.  Trouble is, it was reasonable to expect Dickey to perform like he did in 2010 and 2011, and he didn’t.  You can’t blame Anthopoulos for that, and you can’t really blame him for trading Syndergaard and D’Arnaud for what he was expecting - a cost-controlled, 3-4 WAR pitcher.  There have been only 19 seasons of 3+ WAR by Blue Jay pitchers since 2000, and Roy Halladay has 8 of them.  3+ WAR is pretty good.

So, Dickey wasn’t worth what we thought he was, but at the same time, it’s unfair to label him as a bust – he’s been the second most valuable pitcher on the team (by rWAR) in both 2013 and 2014.  2.0 WAR pitchers aren’t great, but they don’t grow on trees either, as the 2013 Jays demonstrated.  Is he a star?  No.  Is he what the team could reasonably hope for?  No.  But he’s not Joey Hamilton or Corey Koskie… he has been of some value.  Just not as much as we would like.

The perception that the Dickey trade was a bad one only worsens with the emergence of Noah Syndergaard.  But the thing is, in the winter of 2012-3, the Jays traded 7 “prospects”, and a few veterans, for Dickey, Buehrle, Reyes, and a bunch of guys who didn’t work out.  Dickey/Buehrle/Reyes averaged 2.7 WAR each from 2013-14.  They’ve been alright to good, even if other parts of the team was terrible.  And with the exception of Syndergaard, none of the prospects they traded has really lit the world on fire:

Syndergaard – pretty impressive, after 5 starts.
D’Arnaud – promising, but the injuries are worrisome
Wuilmer Becerra – too early to tell
Nicolino – regressing K rate at age 23 in AAA
DeSclafani – looking like an 3rd or 4th starter, now with Cincy
Hechevarria – in his 3rd full season, totalling 0 WAR
Marisnick – part time OF who can run but doesn’t walk or hit for power, and Ks too much.

The only guy who looks like a star is Syndergaard… and that’s far, far from a sure thing.  If you trade 7 prospects, most of which were top-100 prospects, it makes sense that 1 or 2 will be good or great, 3 or 4 will be middling, and the other 2 will amount to little or nothing.  3 years later, that’s more or less what we are seeing.  The Jays appear to have ranked their top 3 pitching prospects in 2012 in the order Sanchez-Syndergaard-Nicolino, and as it turns out, Syndergaard may be better than Sanchez.  Or he may not.  If it had been Nicolino that had panned out, we’d likely be hearing the same regrets about the Buehrle/Reyes trade as we are now hearing about the Dickey trade. 

Given that Buehrle is likely gone after this year, and Dickey is likely gone after next year (if not sooner), would the Jays be better off right now if they still had Syndergaard, D’Arnaud, Hechevarria and the others?  Maybe not right now, but in 2016, yeah, probably.  So what?  Hindsight is 20:20.  If 3 of Reyes, Morrow, Encarnacion, Josh Johnson, Cabrera, and Lawrie don’t get hurt in 2013-4, the Jays might have made the playoffs and done who knows what in the postseason.  The 2012 offseason was a calculated risk that didn’t pan out.  Baseball teams take calculated risks all the time, and they don’t all pan out.  It's time we all accepted that, already, and stopped moaning about Syndergaard.  Thanks.

Sunday, 31 May 2015

Silver lining?

Did he catch it?  I had my hands over my eyes. (also - note the footwork)

Well, the Jays went 1-2 in Minnesota.  They beat the Minnesota bullpen in game 1, and in games 2 and 3, the Twins beat the Jays bullpen (with an assist from the Jays outfield defense, each time).

The Jays could have won all 3 games, and they could easily have been swept, too.  Watching the outfield give away game after game defensively is doubly frustrating, because even when Bautista is back in the field, is the team really going to want to bench Colabello?  He won Friday's game.  And it's not as if Pillar is tearing it up in CF, either, so we're going to keep seeing Colabello and Carrera... basically, indefinitely, I would think.  At least with Bautista back, late-game defensive changes should be easier to implement.

But the funny thing is... the Jays went to Minnesota, lost 2 of 3, and nothing changed in the division.  The 1st-place Yankees lost 2 of 3 to last-place Oakland.  Boston got swept by the mediocre Rangers.  Baltimore played Tampa, so someone was bound to pick up at least a game on the Jays (the Devil Rays did).  Net - the Jays gained a game on Boston and lost a game on Tampa and remain 3.5 games out of first place.

Obviously, the division isn't going to keep on losing 2/3 of its games, but the point is, it's a forgiving division this year.  The Jays would be 8.5 out in the AL Central and AL West.  They'd be at least 6 games out in any of the National League divisions.  Yes, the Jays are a flawed team: the bullpen is leaky, the defense downright scary in the outfield, the starting pitching has been uneven, even if it seems to be coming around.  So?  The Red Sox can't score runs and their pitching is as bad as the Jays' has been.  Tampa Bay can't score runs and is almost as bad in 1-run games as the Jays are.  The Yankees are relying on aging or broken stars and their rotation has been middling at best.  And Baltimore isn't really tearing it up offensively, either.

What do the Jays have going for them?  Well, aside from the improving pitching... they're offensively overpowering.  Despite being without key players for much of the season, the Jays are by far, the most prolific offense in the league.  Nobody else in the AL East is overpowering at anything.

At some point, despite all appearances, somebody is going to put it together in the AL East and go on a run.  The Jays are due to get Bautista (defensively) and Navarro back this week, which will add offense at C and defense in the outfield, as well as opening up the DH position.  They're as good a bet as anyone to go on a tear in June.

Saturday, 30 May 2015

Food for thought

After a rough stretch through the first half of May, there seems to be some light at the end of the tunnel for the Jays.  The starting pitching, while flawed, has been better – we’ve seen good performances out of all 5 guys in the rotation, even if there is still some cause for worry (looking at you, Rah Dickey).  The outfield defense has been a mess with the team forced to play infielders (AAA and otherwise) at the corners, but the expectation is that Bautista will be back in RF on Monday, when the Jays play in Washington under the archaic, kitschy, DH-free National League rules.  That should make fly balls (to RF, anyway) less of an adventure.

(Although YES, I will be holding my breath the first time a runner tries to go 1st to 3rd on a single to RF, hoping J-Bau’s shoulder doesn’t explode.  You can bet that baserunners will be testing that.)

Add in the positive reports on Devon Travis, and the Jays could soon be able to pencil him back into the lineup, and put Tolleson and Goins back in the minors or on the bench.  The offense has been ticking along fairly well in any case, but being able to play Smoak against RHP and not having to play Goins and Tolleson should provide an even bigger boost.

That said, the Jays need to survive the next 9 games, which might be the toughest stretch of the season for them.  Here’s the next week and a half for the AL East:

Jays:                            3@Minnesota (.609 winning percentage), 3@Washington (.596 winning percentage), 3vs.Houston (.625 winning percentage)
Yankees:                       3@Oakland (.360), 3@Seattle (.489), 3vs.Anaheim (.500)
Devil Rays:                   3@Baltimore (.478), 3@Anaheim (.500), 4@Seattle (.489)
Orioles:                         3vs.Tampa Bay (.500) , 4@Houston (.625), 3@Cleveland (.468)
Red Sux:                      3@Texas (.479), 4vs. Minnesota (.609), 3vs.Oakland (.360)

The Jays have 3 series with teams above .500 – in fact, their opponents are all close to or above .600.  Their division rivals have 12 combined series, 10 of which are with teams at or below .500.  Obviously there aren’t any really crucial games played in May and June, but a bad stretch (Minny and the Zombie Expos are both very good at home) could drop them 6 or 7 games out of the division lead.  6 or 7 games isn’t insurmountable, but the Jays don’t want to dig too big of a hole for themselves.

In other words – I’d be happy with a 4-5 run through these next 9 games.  Or, make that 3-5 through the next 8 games - tonight's win was an auspicious start.

Wednesday, 27 May 2015

Unlucky: Part III

Cliche: Injuries are a part of baseball, and of all sports.

The Jays, like many teams, have been hard-hit by injuries in recent years.  However, just how hard-hit they’ve been is tough to assess.  Ask a Jays fan about bad injury luck and he or she will point to 2013.  Ask a Rangers fan, and they'll moan about 2014.  And so on.  There's obviously fan myopia at play here - when one person's team fails due to untimely injuries, that team is hard done by, but when other teams have a ton of injuries, the same fan will discount the impact of those injuries.  So, it’s easy to point to the Stroman injury this year, or the Encarnacion injury in 2014 or Reyes in 2013, and wonder if the Jays are unusually unlucky in this regard.   After, all, the Red Sox were ravaged by injuries in 2012, the Yankees were hit hard in 2013, and the Devil Rays seem to be going through the same thing in 2015.  So – are the Jays really injury-prone, or does it just seem that way to fans of the team?

Short answer:  Yes, they are more injury-prone than average.

Longer answer:  The Jays were 7th in days lost to the disabled list from 2010-2014 (5 seasons), behind the Padres, Dodgers, Rangers, Yankees, Athletics, and Red Sox (the Nationals, Mets, and Rockies rounded out the top 10).  That’s tough to overcome, particularly if you’re the Blue Jays or Padres and not the deep-pocketed Yanks, Sux, or Dodgers.  For example, when Curtis Granderson got hurt in 2013, the Yankees went out and traded for Alfonso Soriano and his $18,000,000/yr contract.  Most teams don’t have the salary flexibility to do that.

Who were the healthiest teams from 2010-14?  In order:  White Sox, Devil Rays, Royals, Tigers, Twins, Indians, Mariners, Giants, Cardinals, Cubs.  That group made the playoffs 17 times in those 5 seasons.  The 10 most-injured teams – including some of the biggest spending teams in the game – made the playoffs 13 times in the same period.

Want details?  Here’s the Jays’ DL numbers from 2010-2014:

2010:  15 stints, 950 days
League average: 15 and 767

2011: 20 stints,  908 days
League average: 17 and 827

2012: 18 stints, 1431 days (6th)
League average: 16 and 984

2013:  26 stints (2nd), 1478 days (4th)
League average: 17 and 969

2014: 18 stints (6th), 764 days (16th)
League average: 16 and 877

2012 and 2013 were especially bad for the Jays, but even 2010 and 2011 were worse than league average.  2014 was somewhat better than average, in terms of days lost to DL time, anyway, but those Jays were certainly nowhere near the healthiest team in the league.
Here’s 2015, so far:

Stroman  April 5-   (52 days)
Izturis   April 5-     (52)
Saunders  April 5-25  (26)
Navarro April 22-  (35)
Reyes April 28-May 25 (27)
Saunders May 10-  (17)
Travis May 22- (5)

7 stints, 214 days and the season is about 30% over.  And that’s not considering the fact that J-Bau has been playing injured, or factoring in the time spent on the bench by Reyes and Travis, hoping their injuries would heal without a DL trip.

Bottom line:  The Jays have had more injuries than the average team and more time spent on the disabled list than the average team.  Only in 2014 did the Jays suffer less DL time than average, and in no season from 2010-14 did the team have fewer DL stints than average.

Of course, there are injuries and injuries.  Not having Maicer Izturis isn’t as big a deal as not having Marcus Stroman or Jose Reyes.  When I was writing this post, I had intended (taking a cue from a commenter in the Fangraphs story), to take ZIPs or Steamer WAR projections for each season for the injured players, weight those projected WAR numbers by time lost, and see how much (projected) player value each team lost due to injury.  Unfortunately, those past WAR projections don't seem to be available online.  What I do have is the 2013 player values lost to injury (from the same Fangraphs post):

Yankees 10.4 wins
Blue Jays 9.4
Rangers 6.0
Dodgers 5.3
Braves 5.2
D’Backs 5.0
Angels 4.7
Red Sox 4.3
Brewers 4.3
Pirates 4.3
A’s 4.2
Padres 4.2
Cubs 4.1
Marlins 4.0
Phillies 3.9
Reds 3.5
White Sox 3.4
Mets 3.3
Rays 3.1
Rockies 3.1
Giants 3.0
Nationals 2.2
Cardinals 2.0
Royals 1.9
Tigers 1.8
Twins 1.7
Orioles 1.7
Astros 1.6
Indians 1.6
Mariners 1.0

(Playoff teams in bold)

What does that tell us?  Obviously, the Jays lost a lot of important players in 2013.  They finished last, 74-38, and the injuries (Reyes, Johnson, Morrow, etc) probably had something to do with that.  However, the Dodgers and Braves lost some key players as well and managed to make the playoffs, so these things can be overcome.  Nonetheless, it's interesting to see a value attached to players on the DL, and if I manage to dig up some WAR projections for the other years, I'll perform the same exercise with those numbers and post them.

So, now that we know the Jays lose more players, for more time, to injury than the average team does, what does this mean?  Frankly, I'm not sure what to conclude.  It's hard to believe that a team could be "just" unlucky with injuries for 5 (going on 6) seasons.  Can we blame the training and conditioning staff for not doing enough diagnostic/preventative work, or the scouting and GM for not recognizing physical flaws in the athletes they sign?  Is it turf related?  Is it all the time spent passing through customs?  I don't know, but I'd rather believe that the Jays are victims of bad luck - which, by definition, will gradually even out over time - as opposed to there being some unknown, systemic deficiencies in how the team is run which could potentially hinder them for years.

So, guys... let's be careful out there.

I got a lot of information for this post from the following places:

Monday, 25 May 2015

Statistical trivia

The Good:

The Jays have stolen 26 bases, tied for 7th in the AL, and have only been caught 4 times, for an 86.7% success rate, tops in the AL.  Jay catchers* have caught opposing baserunners 45% of the time (18 for 33), also best in the AL.  Interesting that runners keep trying to steal on Martin.

The Jays have walked 154 times, 3rd in the AL, but are the only team to not have a batter be intentionally walked.  

Despite all the games lost to injury in May (Bautista, Reyes, Travis, Saunders), the club is still second in the AL in runs scored for May, and 3rd in OPS. For April, they were first in runs and 4th in OPS.

The Jays have 3 complete games, which is the most in MLB.  Of course, Roy Halladay would typically have 3 all by himself in mid-May...

Edwin Encarnacion isn’t going to hit 16 home runs in May, but if you take out the homers, the .282/.394/.654, .441 wOBA and 1.047 OPS line that Edwin has so far in May is even better than the .281/.369/.763, .478 wOBA, 1.132 OPS line he put up in 2014.

The Bad:

Despite the pitching being somewhat better in May (4.43 ERA vs 4.78 in April) the Jays are 10-14 in May versus 11-12 in April.  Ah, those 1-run games.

Jays pitchers have walked 157 opposing batters, the most in the AL.

Kevin Pillar has slumped so badly in May that by any measure, he’s been a worse hitter than Ryan Goins:
Goins:  .248/.300/.347, .287 wOBA, .647 OPS
Pillar:    .225/.262/.312, .255 wOBA, .574 OPS
NOTE: Ryan Goins is still a bad hitter.

The Jays have the second-most blown saves in the AL (7) and the second-fewest save opportunities (13).   Castro has 2 blown saves, Osuna, Delabar, Hendriks, Cecil and Loup have one each.  Interestingly (for purposes of assessing the perception of ‘blown saves’) only one save was blown in the 9th inning… and the Jays wound up winning that game in the 10th.

The Jays have an average attendance of 25,939, which is better than 3 of the 5 teams leading the divisional and wild card races, and 9th in the AL.

*  - okay, it’s just Russell Martin, really.  Opposing base-stealers are 0-0 against Navarro, 2-0 against Thole, and 16-15 against Martin.