Monday, September 24, 2018

ten weekly random thoughts: week 25 September 17-23

We have arrived at the final week in the MLB schedule. There have been good moments (Kendrys Morales seven game HR streak, the play of Ryan Borucki, Yangervis Solarte becoming just the second player in the live ball era with 5 hits) and they've had bad moments (the pitching, countless errors that shouldn't be made and players not hustling). In 2017, after 156 games, the Blue Jays had a record of 73-83, two wins better than this year. This week, I will finish my analysis of all 9 positions with the two corner outfield positions and the pitchers (split into starters and relievers). Next week, I will analyze a replacement for John Gibbons and look at the free agents available. Here are ten random thoughts from week 25 of the MLB.

1. With no injury updates this week, let's get right into analyzing some positions starting in left field. Teoscar Hernandez, Randal Grichuk, Russell Martin, Curtis Granderson, Billy McKinney, Steve Pearce, Dwight Smith Jr., Anthony Alford, Dalton Pompey, Jonathan Davis and Darnell Sweeney have all played at least one inning in left field this year. Hernandez has played the most games (86). This has been one of the most difficult positions for the Blue Jays to find any kind of consistency defensively. Hernandez has had a nightmare of a season in the outfield. He has committed 8 errors this season, 4 each in left and right field. I thought it was interesting that he pinch hit in the 7th inning Saturday, but was replaced in the field by Jonathan Davis. McKinney has looked like an all-star in LF, above and away the best of everyone who has played in that position this year. Martin's game came in Boston and he misjudged a ball off the green monster that turned into a triple. Pearce and Granderson were both traded ahead of the deadline to the Red Sox and Brewers respectively. Pompey has fallen out of favor with management. The way things stand now and assuming the Blue Jays don't pursue a free agent, McKinney should get the bulk of the games in LF. Hernandez needs to work very hard in the off-season on his defense. There are still a lot of players playing for spots in the outfield next year. A trade or two could happen. Certainly one or two of the above mentioned players will start the season in the minors until injuries happen. Hopefully next year brings some stability in this position.

2. In right field, Randal Grichuk, Teoscar Hernandez, Curtis Granderson, Billy McKinney, Steve Pearce, Dwight Smith Jr., and Anthony Alford all played at least one inning in RF. Grichuk got the bulk of the starts (97) in right. This position should belong to Grichuk next year. It is likely that the Blue Jays will try to trade Hernandez or sign a free agent. Smith Jr. and Alford will get long looks in RF next year in spring training.

3. Pitching was a big problem for the Blue Jays this year. Their starters struggled to go deep into games, which forced the bullpen to be used-- a lot. Fourteen different players started at least one game for the Blue Jays (JA Happ, Marco Estrada, Ryan Borucki, Aaron Sanchez, Sam Gaviglio, Marcus Stroman, Mike Hauschild, Tyler Clippard, Luis Santos, Jaime Garcia, Joe Biagini, John Axford, Thomas Pannone and Sean Reid-Foley). Happ and Garcia are no longer with the team, having been traded and DFA'd respectively. Borucki has been the best of the bunch, sporting a 4-4 record with a 3.86ERA (he could have a few more wins if the offense had scored a few more runs for him). The remarkable thing is Borucki started his career facing the game's best lineups and he did not look out of place. Estrada is a pending free agent and will likely not be re-signed as several pitchers have outplayed him. Reid-Foley had a rocky first couple of starts in August and was sent back down for a couple of weeks. In September, he has looked much better. He is showing signs of tiring as he threw almost a hundred pitches in each of his last 2 starts and he didn't look as effective. Stroman has had a rocky season to say the least. He had to endure 2 injuries that required DL stints (inflamed shoulder and finger blister). When he did pitch, he was among the worst of the Blue Jay starters, finishing the year with a 4-9 record and 5.54 ERA. If I'm Blue Jays management, I'm looking to move Stroman because he has major attitude problems and he's not as good as he thinks he is. Sanchez had a frustrating season as well. He missed 2 months after catching his finger while zipping up his suitcase in Anaheim. He has pitched better in September and is looking to finish the year on a positive note. Pannone has made 4 starts and pitched solidly in three of them. He throws lightly, so there is question if his performance is sustainable. Biagini started in Stroman's spot when he first went on the DL. He really didn't fare well as a starter. Biagini struggled mightily after 50 pitches or so. Gaviglio has been Jekyl and Hyde this season. He's been fine at home with a 2-2 record and 3.26ERA. Away from the Roger's Center, Sammy G is 1-6 with a 7.91ERA. The rotation next year should be Borucki-SRF-Pannone-Sanchez-Stroman-free agent. Also, I would only let Sammy G start at home.

4. The bullpen has been an overworked, inconsistent mess. Too many times, the Blue Jays have been forced to use three relievers to get three outs in an inning. I'm amazed that Kendrys Morales was the only position player that pitched and only once. Toronto looks like they made a brilliant trade of closers at the deadline. Ken Giles has been brilliant in save opportunities, saving all twelve games he's been needed in. However, Giles is a completely different pitcher in a non-save situation and that is a problem. Roberto Osuna started off as the closer and saved 9 games before getting in legal trouble for alleged domestic violence. He was suspended 75 games and was eventually traded. Inhis absence, the Blue Jays used Tyler Clippard, Ryan Tepera and Seunghwan Oh as closer. All three had varying levels of success and none really had the confidence of manager John Gibbons. One thing I would like to see changed next year, and this might ease the problem of overworking pitchers, is to stretch out a reliever or two so they can pitch multiple innings in case the starter gets in trouble early or is injured. The Blue Jays used an 8-man bullpen most of the year, but even there the Blue Jays were near the top of the league in bullpen appearances. The Blue Jays may look at some free agent options to add to their bullpen.

5. The playoff picture is slowly becoming clearer as we get closer to the end of the season. The American League almost has the five teams that will compete. Boston clinched the AL East title with a victory in the series finale at Yankee Stadium Thursday. The Indians have clinched the AL Central. Houston is currently up 3.5 games on the Oakland A's for the AL West Division title and the WC game will be between the Yankees and whoever doesn't win the AL West. Where that WC game will be played likely won't be known until next weekend, but it the playoffs started tomorrow, the game would be at Yankees Stadium between NY and Oakland. There is still much to be decided in the National league. The only thing that has been decided so far is the NL East title, which was captured by Atlanta Saturday. In the NL Central, the Chicago Cubs have a 2.5 game lead over the Milwaukee Brewers and 4.5 game lead over the Cardinals. The NL West is even tighter with the Dodgers holding a 1.5 game edge over the Rockies. The Diamondbacks are all but eliminated, 7.5 games back of LA.  The Wild Card participants likely won't be decided until the final weekend. The Cardinals have a slim 1.5 game lead over the Rockies for the second wild card spot. The final week of the season is going to be fun!

6. Coming from the Mets-Nationals game Saturday was a very cute young fan emulating an umpire  He has the full gear of a home plate umpire, including the mask. If you give him some stilts to make him taller, I bet he'd be better than an adult umpire. This clip also reminds me of this young fan imitating Mikka Kiprusoff.

7. Ex-Blue Jays to watch in the playoffs: Josh Donaldson, Melky Cabrera, Edwin Encarnacion (Indians); Steve Pearce (Red Sox); Curtis Granderson (Brewers); JA Happ (Yankees); John Axford (Dodgers); Roberto Osuna (Astros); George Poulis (trainer for the Braves)

8. This is one of the best first pitches ever. Can the Blue Jays sign her to be a reliever?

9. Two pitches left their Sunday starts very early. One could have playoff ramifications and one could affect the team next year. Charlie Morton left his start early after just 1 inning and 24 pitches. He had just come off the DL from a shoulder strain. His velocity was down today. His early exit has to be concerning for the Astros with the playoffs a week away. Alex Cobb also left his start in the first inning after throwing just 4 pitches. He has been dealing with a blister on his finger. Given what Marcus Stroman and Aaron Sanchez have been through, the blister could easily cause problems for Cobb in 2019 and beyond

10. Blue Jay of the week: Lourdes Gurriel Jr. who made history this week with brother Yulieski becoming the second brother duo to each hit two HR in the same day. Oh and Lourdes also homered in three straight AB's.

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