Thursday, July 11, 2019

2nd Half Predictions for the Blue Jays

Articles are starting to pop up with regularity in regard to second-half predictions, and Kaitlyn McGrath of The Athletic has posted her Blue Jays predictions (listed below).

FiveThirtyEight predicts the Jays will finish at 64-98.

Blue Jays Confidential asked a panel of Sportsnet insiders and personalities for their thoughts on how the Jays would do in the second half - on the panel were:  Jeff Blair, Arden Zwelling, Shi Davidi and Mike Wilner.  Link here:  Predictions for the second half and picks for good news

International Business Times predict that Stroman will go to the Yankees, Madison Bumgarner will go to the Astros and Zach Wheeler will go to the Red Sox.

Your thoughts?  Discussion?  What predictions do you have of your own?

From McGrath:  Eight Bold Predictions for the rest of the Blue Jays season ($)

1. Marcus Stroman will not be a Blue Jay after July 31

OK, this maybe isn’t that bold of a prediction. With the Blue Jays steeped in a losing season as the rebuild is carried out, it’s looking like a foregone conclusion that starter Marcus Stroman will be dealt at the trade deadline for the team to net future assets. At least, the man himself believes he will be on the move come July 31 or sooner. Last month, the 28-year-old right-hander told reporters, “It doesn’t seem like I’m going to be signed here to a long-term deal” when he was asked about the possibility of being traded. He doubled down on those comments this week at All-Star festivities when he told TSN’s Scott Mitchell “I don’t think I’m going to sign long term cause they haven’t had me in their plans for the future and I’ve come to terms with it.”
Starting pitchers are always in demand at the deadline, and with a 3.18 ERA through 18 starts, Stroman is not only one of the best available, but because he is not set to become a free agent until 2021, he comes with a year-plus of control, which is meaningful for a club seeking more than a pure rental. The Blue Jays will be looking to fetch a substantial haul for their starter.

2. Vladimir Guerrero Jr. will hit 30 home runs total by the end of the season

When Vladimir Guerrero Jr. arrived in the major leagues in late April, he was more mythical figure than precocious prospect because of the tales of his minor-league batting exploits — like hitting a home run off a hotel. But the 20-year-old rookie did not get off to the start many fans envisioned he would. He struggled initially and by the unofficial halfway mark, his batting line of .249/.328/.413 is decent but a tad pedestrian for a prospect of his calibre.
More to the point, his home-run total sits at eight and, at one junction, he went 19 games between hitting a long ball. That caused critics to question his inclusion in this week’s Home Run Derby, and, while he ultimately didn’t earn the crown — congrats, Pete Alonso — his record-breaking 91-home run performance displayed the sheer power he possesses (not to mention how much fun he is to watch). When the season resumes, he would need to hit 22 homers to reach 30 by the end on the season. Easy! He did that in one round Monday!
In all seriousness, while he won’t have John Schneider on the mound lobbing him inside pitches, it feels like Guerrero is on the precipice of a hot streak. He’s certainly taken his lumps in the opening half of his season. He’s due to go on a tear. If he carries his momentum from his derby performance into the second half of the season, he might just give Blue Jays fans a show not unlike the one he put on at Progressive Field.

3. Bo Bichette will be a Blue Jay by Aug. 15

Since he returned from a broken left hand on June 13, Bo Bichette has been making a strong case that he’s earned the chance to make his major-league debut. In 23 games with the Triple-A Buffalo Bisons, he’s slashed .361/.415/.588 with 14 extra-base hits. On the season, he’s hitting .320 with a .900 OPS. Fans are calling for his release from the minors. In fact, following his torrid spring training, Bichette created such a buzz, some fans were calling for his promotion before Guerrero’s. Now, with both Guerrero and Cavan Biggio with the big-league club, Bichette is the next logical prospect to get called up, especially if he figures to be a part of the team’s long-term rebuilding plans.
Before the break, Toronto general manager Ross Atkins was asked about when we can expect to see Bichette in a Blue Jays uniform, and he told reporters:“We’re having that discussion as often as you’re thinking about it.” It seems a near certainty that Bichette will make his debut this season, but that’s a pretty safe bet. These are bold for a reason. We’ll up the ante and say he arrives by mid-August.

4. Danny Jansen will be the second-half MVP

One look at his batting line and it’s obvious Danny Jansen did not have the offensive first half that either he or the team (or fans) would have hoped for. Things appeared at their worst May 29 when Jansen was batting.163/.243/.240 with six extra-base hits through 42 games. The caveat with Jansen’s offensive shortcomings, however, was that he was excelling defensively behind the plate. FanGraphs pegs him as a top-five defensive catcher in the league, and, because of dedicated work with coach John Schneider, Jansen has improved in his framing technique and his caught-stealing rate since last year. Meanwhile, throughout his hitting woes, Jansen maintained his defence and game-calling remained a priority, while he expressed confidence he would find his way out of his slump. His bat, after all, was what got him to the majors.
Toward the end of June and into July, that bat finally started to come around. In his final 12 games, the 24-year-old rookie slashed .386/.400/.932 with 11 extra-base hits, including six home runs. While yes, this is a small sample size and an extreme example of cherry-picking stats, it’s still the best sign there’s been that Jansen would emerge from his nearly three-month skid at the plate. Plus, all along, underlying numbers suggested Jansen would come around. He’s been hitting the ball hard all season — his hard-hit rate of 45 percent is in the 82nd percentile, per Statcast — but his batting average on balls in play (BABIP) of .231 suggests he was suffering from some bad luck. The -.48-point difference between his batting average (.211) and his expected BA (.259) backs that up. As does the -0.46-point difference between his wOBA (.286) and his xwOBA (.332), which is the fourth-largest gap among all batters with at least 200 PA. If he continues his strong defensive play behind home plate and his hard-hit balls continue to find holes — or leave the yard — Jansen can be the star the team hoped he would be in the second half.

5. Cavan Biggio will lead the team in on-base percentage

Cavan Biggio has made a strong first impression through his first 38 games in the majors (especially on a few Athletic commenters who strongly disagreed with awarding Guerrero the midseason rookie award). Yes, the 24-year-old has impressed with his patience at the plate, his power, his maturity on and off the field and his advanced baseball IQ. “His approach is so far beyond his years,” Blue Jays starter Clayton Richard said recently. That approach has seen Biggio swing at only 13.6 percent of pitches outside the strike zone, which leads all batters (with at least 100 PA); meanwhile, his walk-rate of 17 percent is among the top 10 in the league.
Throughout his three-plus seasons in the minors, Biggio averaged a .375 OBP. So far in the majors, he’s nearly matched that clip — .362 — a rarity for a rookie, as Atkins recently pointed out. Biggio’s OBP currently sits second on the team, behind only Eric Sogard, who had a career-best first half. While Sogard could be on the move at the deadline — which would obviously clear a path to the OBP crown — either way, Biggio should only grow more comfortable at the plate as he gains experience. Plus, his bat was slow to heat up with the Blue Jays — but he’s shown flashes that he’ll hit in the majors, too. If he can lower his strikeouts — currently he’s getting K’d 27.5 percent of the time — Biggio has the potential to be an on-base leader.

6. The Blue Jays will not lose 100 games this season

On June 26, after game 81, the Blue Jays’ record was 29-52 after a third consecutive loss to the New York Yankees. That meant that at the exact halfway point of the 162-game MLB season, the Blue Jays were on pace to lose 104 games. But before the season broke for All-Star festivities, the Blue Jays closed out the half with a 5-5 homestand to finish with a 34-57 record. That still puts them on pace to hit the 100 losses — 101, to be exact — but has them at least trending back in the right direction.
If the Blue Jays opening half is broken up into three 30-game segments (the last portion is 31 games), their record looks like this:
March 28-May 1: 14-16 (.467)
May 2-June 4: 8-22 (.267)
June 5-July 7: 12-19 (.387)
Strong starting pitching helped the Blue Jays to a good start. But between May 2 and June 4, the Blue Jays were the worst offensive team in baseball, while their pitching wasn’t much better. However, a good maxim in the long baseball season is that a team is probably never as bad as they might seem at a given time (or as good). The Blue Jays were playing very bad baseball, yes, but it was reasonable to think that was about as bad as it could get. (We think.) From June 5 till the end of the first half, in fact, the Blue Jays saw their offence come alive. Their 168 runs scored in that span were the seventh most in baseball, while the 57 home runs they hit was second overall.
There is going to be much more losing in the second half, especially if the Blue Jays deal away their two best pitchers — Stroman and Ken Giles — and other valuable assets. But if the team goes 29-42 in the second half — a .408 winning percentage — they could avoid the 100-loss distinction. It won’t be easy. The team has 39 games left against the Yankees, Red Sox, Rays, Astros and Dodgers. But they also have 22 games against the Tigers, Royals, Orioles and Mariners. If recent offensive trends keep up, and with a little luck, the Jays might avoid triple-digit losses.

7. Aaron Sanchez reaches 20 losses — but remains a starter all season

April 27 was the last time Aaron Sanchez won a game. As it stands now, his record is 3-12. While pitcher wins aren’t as important of a metric as they once were, his win-loss totals this year are emblematic of his struggles on the mound. The 27-year-old right-hander possesses a 6.16 ERA, while his 5.48 walks per nine innings are the highest in all of baseball. The one positive is that he has pitched 92 innings thus far, and has yet to miss a start all season due to an injury, which has to be refreshing for a pitcher who missed the majority of the last two seasons while dealing with myriad finger problems.
With the state of their starting pitching, now or after the trade deadline, the Blue Jays don’t have the luxury to send Sanchez to the bullpen or down to the minors to sort out his command issues — nor would the pitcher or his agent, Scott Boras, endorse either of those ideas. It stands to reason then that Sanchez will continue to take the ball every five days for the Blue Jays. He’s at times looked like the vintage hurler from 2016, but his velocity has dropped this season, while his sinker has been less effective. Sanchez will continue to tinker with his mechanics and as he works his way through his struggles this season, more losses could be the collateral along the way.

8. Charlie Montoyo doubles his number of ejections in the second half

On May 6, in a game against the Minnesota Twins, Brandon Drury was called out on strikes in the fifth inning with the Blue Jays trailing 6-0. Drury vocally disagreed with the call and shortly thereafter, his manager Charlie Montoyo was out there making a case on his behalf. Montoyo was quickly thrown out of the game, and it went down as his first career ejection as a big-league manager. It was the one and only time he was tossed from a game through the first 91 contests, but we’re going to raise the stakes and suggest Montoyo doubles that in the second half. Watch for Montoyo to get ejected from not one, but two games in the second half. (Then he’ll only need 49 more to match John Gibbons’ mark of 52.)
So... what do you folks say?
Some Lunchbox predictions: 

  • Teoscar will go on a tear and finish with something like .245 with 24 HR.  
  • The pitching will fare a little better in the second half, led by a turnaround by Aaron Sanchez (who won't lose 20 - let's say 9-18 or 10-18 if he lasts the rest of the season without injury, a very big 'if'), Trent Thornton and Ryan Borucki leading the way.  
  • A trade (for Stroman or Giles) will bring in a good prospect who makes a huge impression on the major-league roster in August and September (not unlike Teoscar in 2017 after he came over for Liriano, but someone more highly rated).  
  • Look for Gurriel to revert back to about the 107 OPS+ he had last year instead of the 158 he's currently sporting.  
  • The rest of July will see a return to the hitless wonders of May, but then the hitters will bounce back to have a big August/September.
  • The Jays will finish at 63-99.