A friend of the blog sent me this picture of his house with great Jays decor. That's how you do it!
The Jays were 4-2 versus Texas this year, outscoring the Rangers 34-21. On the one hand, the Jays never had to face Cole Hamels, and they’re 0-2 versus Yovani Gallardo, a righthanded starter who has shut the Jays out in 13 2/3 innings over 2 starts. On the other hand, the Rangers didn’t have to face Stroman, and the Jays beat up Colby Lewis and Derek Holland, the other likely Rangers starters, in late August.
So, what’s the problem the Jays have with Gallardo? Beats me, although Bluebird Banter makes an effort to break down Gallardo’s repertoire and how the Jays should approach his start. From my perspective, Gallardo’s performances against the Jays scream “aberration”. For the year, Gallardo has allowed a .303 BABIP, but his BABIP allowed versus the Jays is below .200, 3rd-best of all teams he’s faced (and best vs teams he’s played more than once). Gallardo doesn’t strike out many batters and walks too many, and that should play into the strength of a patient team like the Jays… except that Gallardo pitched 8 1/3 innings versus the Jays on June 27, despite not cracking the 7-inning mark for the rest of the season. For the season, 25% of the balls hit against Gallardo has been graded as hard hit, but despite the Jays having a “hard hit” rate over 35% vs Gallardo, they haven’t been rewarded with on-field results. In other words, I think the Jays have been a bit unlucky against him. A patient approach (as mentioned in the BBB article) should pay dividends.
Cole Hamels threw a complete game on Sunday, but hasn’t been awesome for the Rangers since coming over at the trade deadline (3.66 ERA, 3.79 FIP, 3.58 xFIP). Solid, but not spectacular (he’s been a little more prone to HR than usual), and he’s lefthanded, which plays into the Jays’ strength. Hamels was hit pretty hard by Detroit in his previous start, Sept 29 (6 innings, 6 ER, 2 HR). His K rate is down since coming over from the NL, too.
Who else could pitch for the Texans? Well, there’s Derek Holland, but he’s been kind of terrible lately (and he’s lefthanded, to boot). Holland went 6 innings against the Jays in late August, gave up 3 HR and 4 ER, and got a no decision. Colby Lewis, a righthander, won 17 games for the Rangers, serving as yet another example of why pitcher wins are overrated. Lewis has a 4.66/4.17/.4.62 ERA/FIP/xFIP, which is nothing special. Lewis is a fly ball pitcher who has gotten a bit lucky with his HR/FB rate this year. He’s made 1 start versus Toronto, going 5 innings allowing 4 ER and 2 HR. Lastly, there’s Martin Perez, who is another lefthanded starter but pitched well in his last 2 starts. An unlikely option, but you never know.
On the Jays’ side, Price has faced the Rangers once, going 6 innings, allowing 5 hits, 1 walk, 8 K, 1 HR and 2 ER. Marco Estrada also pitched once, also going 6 innings with 4 hits, 3 walks, 6 strikeouts and 1 earned run. The Rangers hit righthanded pitching well (Choo, Fielder and Moreland especially) but other than Beltre, they struggle (relatively speaking) against LHP.
I like the idea of the Jays using a Price-Dickey-Stroman-Estrada rotation for this series. Dickey hasn’t faced the Rangers this year, but he’s had some success against them in the past, and there’s the possibility that facing the knuckleball early in the series will throw off the timing of Texas’s hitters. More importantly, Dickey’s better in the controlled conditions of the Skydome than he is on the road. That leaves Stroman to make a road start in the playoffs, but I’m not too worried about that, considering how Stroman handled his first start of the year in Yankee Stadium during a playoff race. Estrada can pitch a possible game 4, and Price could start a game 5 if required.
Texas is 3rd in the AL in runs scored, but just 13th in team ERA – the depth in the rotation and bullpen isn’t especially scary. The Rangers have a pretty solid lineup (adding Mike Napoli has been a big help) without anyone other than Prince Fielder putting up spectacular numbers. The wild card (so to speak) is Gallardo. If the Jays can’t solve him and face him twice, it’ll make winning a short series tough.