Sunday, February 4, 2018

42 Random thoughts # 11-20

Pitchers and Catchers report to Dunedin in just 11 days on February 14. In honor of the Blue Jays 42nd season in the MLB, here are 42 random thoughts.

11. Marcus Stroman will pitch a perfect game this season. I really like his mindset going into this season. He has a great repertoire of pitches, he just has to control his emotions and not get too high or low.

12. AL Cy Young winner and rookie of the year: Shohei Otani
      AL MVP and Batting title winner: Giancarlos Stanton
      NL Cy Young winner: Kyle Hendricks
      NL MVP: Anthony Rizzo
      NL batting title winner: Ryan Braun
      NL Rookie of the year: Ronald Acuna

13. One big concern for the Blue Jays heading into spring training will be the health of Aaron Sanchez, who missed the bulk of the 2017 season with a recurring blister. Sanchez received numerous advice from hand specialists and former Jays pitcher Al Leiter, who also experienced blister problems in his career. The big test will be when Sanchez starts laying in games where he is throwing at near 100% effort. It may be he has to revamp his pitching arsenal or that he pitches out of the bullpen.

14. Canadian players to watch this season: Blue Jays catcher Russell Martin, Reds 1st baseman Joey Votto, Detroit Tigers 1B Jim Adduci (born in my hometown of Burnaby BC), Seattle Mariners SP James Paxton, Blue Jays OF Dalton Pompey (met him at the Winter Tour in Vancouver), Chicago Cubs RP Rob Zastryzny, Philadelphia Phillies P Nick Pivetta and LA Dodgers P Jesen Therrien.

15. The Atlanta Braves could be a team to watch out for in the coming years. They hired former Jays GM Alex Anthopolous as their GM. Anthopolous was a major catalyst to helping the Blue Jays make the playoffs in 2015. At the trade deadline, he acquired David Price and current starting SS Troy Tulowitzki. In 2014, he traded for Josh Donaldson. Anthopolous left the Jays when then new president/CEO Mark Shapiro refused Anthopolous the autonomy he enjoyed previously. Anthopolouas moved onto being the vice-president of baseball operations for the LA Dodgers. Given his successful history, it stands to reason that the Braves should look forward to some winning years.

16. Another team that looks strong on paper is the Milwaukee Brewers. They have had a a busy and successful off-season. They signed Lorenzo Cain to a contract, dealt for silver slugger winner Christian Yelich and inked reliever Matt Albers to a 2 year deal. Milwaukee narrowly missed out on a wild card spot last season and clearly management thinks this team is a few pieces away from World Series contention. The Brewers will be battling it out this season with the Cubs and Cardinals for the NL Central title.

17. Three series I am looking forward to this season:

March 29-April 1 vs NY Yankees. Opening day weekend vs. the offensive juggernaut NY Yankees. This series will pit the solid Blue Jays rotation against some of the best hitters in the league, including Aaron Judge and Giancarlo Stanton, who combined hit 111 HR last season. Will the Yankees overpower the Blue Jays or will the Blue Jays shut the Yankees out?

June 25-27 @ Houston Astros. This will be the Blue Jays first chance to see how they match up against the defending World Series champs. Last season, the Astros blew everyone out of the water and won the AL West by 21 games. They scored 891 runs total (or 5.5 runs/game). Their bullpen was their weak spot. The Astros will have largely the same team as last year meaning the Blue Jays pitchers will have to be on their game to prevail in this series.

August 2-5 @ Seattle Mariners. Being from Vancouver, BC, this almost feels like a home series for me. Vancouver has a really unique baseball fan base. While many fans cheer for the Blue Jays, the Mariners also draw many fans from the north side of the 49th parallel. Another reason to tune into this series is the chance to see Canadian James Paxton pitch for the Mariners. Paxton had an all-star year in 2017 and will be a key player for the Mariners. Seattle also boasts a daring and unique cuisine at their stadium: fried grasshoppers.

18. The MLB is entering the season with some labor uncertainty. It is very telling that so many big names remain unsigned. With the CBA set to expire in 2021, MLB GM's are hesitant to sign players to big contracts not knowing what kind of salary cap will be in place. Another reason for the labour uncertainty is the players are unhappy with the rule changes being forced upon them. A new controversial one is being proposed, the return of the bullpen cart. Currently, the Vancouver Canadians baseball team already has this in place. The reasoning is a minute can be shaved off of games if relief pitchers weren't forced to walk in from the bullpen. There has to be some point where the league says, "ok, we've got the games down to a short as we can make it." Baseball isn't meant to be a game that is played fast. Some games go faster depending on how quickly teams can get 3 outs in an inning. Other games will be slower due to injuries, high scoring games or games that go into extra innings. The MLB has to keep the integrity of the game with the rule changes.

19. Happy trails to Ichiro Suzuki. The 45 year old looks like his career has come to an end. The Miami Marlins declined their option on Suzuki on November 3 and Ichiro has since been unable to find another team to sign him. Suzuki enjoyed a stellar career, commencing in 2001 when he took the MLB by storm finishing his rookie year with 242 hits and 56 stolen bases. He was a 10x all-star and has 3080 hits. While it is entirely possible a team could sign him mid-season, it is likely his career has come to an end. We may never see a player of his caliber again.

20. Another long-tenured ball player who looks like he will see his career extended is SP Bartolo Colon. Reports say that Colon is close to signing a minor league deal with the Texas Rangers. The 2005 AL Cy Young award winner has played for 10 different teams: Cleveland Indians, Montreal Expos, Chicago White Sox, LA Angels, NY Yankees, NY Mets, Boston Red Sox, Oakland A's, Atlanta Braves and Minnesota Twins. Will he make the Rangers opening day roster? Given that Colon is 45 years old, it is likely he'll be in tough with younger arms in the Rangers system.