Tuesday, July 2, 2019

Ten weekly random thoughts: Week 13 June 24-31

And so ends month 3 (plus a weekend) of the 2019 season. The Blue Jays officially hit the halfway point of their season with a loss to the Yankees, who have absolutely been getting the most out of a lineup that has been lacking the stars you associate with this team. Giancarlo Stanton has played all of 9 games. Luis Severino and Dellin Betances have yet to throw a pitch this season. Yet, the Yankees continue to occupy 1st place in the AL East. Enough tire pumping of that team, let's look at the Blue Jays. After the sweep at the hands of the Yankees, the Blue Jay took two of the first three in a Canada Day long weekend 4 game series vs. the KC Royals. Justin Smoak returned to the lineup after missing 10 days with a quad strain. Marcus Stroman was forced to leave his start early with a cramp in his left pectoral muscle (more on that later). Aaron Sanchez had his 4th rough outing in a row (more on that later). The month of June ended with a  10-17 record with the Blue Jays allowing 162 runs and scoring 137 runs for a differential of -25. Here are ten random thoughts from week 13 of the MLB.

1. The 1st half has been a disaster to say the least. Injuries have been a factor for the  Blue Jays, especially affecting the rotation and bullpen. Ryan Borucki has yet to throw a pitch after injuring his pitching elbow towards the end of spring training. He was sent on a rehap assignment this week and should be back sometime after the all-star break David Phelps missed the first two and a half months rehabbing 2018 TJ surgery. He's looked good with a solid 2.70ERA in 7 appearances in June. Matt Shoemaker made 3 starts before tearing his ACL in a rundown in Oakland. Shoemaker was excellent and looked like a great off-season signing. Clay Buchholz missed the first two weeks of the season, made five starts before suffering a grade 2 strain of the teres major muscle in his shoulder. He was 0-2 with a 6.57ERA in those 2 starts. Clayton Richard missed the first 2 months of the season with an elbow issue. He's 0-4 with a 6.89ERA in 7 starts. Ryan Tepera required elbow surgery to relieve a problem with the ulnar nerve. He was 0-2 with a 6.55ERA in 12 appearances. Elvis Luciano sprained his pitching elbow. He was 1-0 with a 6.51ERA in 20 appearances. Jacob Waguespack threw 4 innings before injuring his throwing shoulder. Edwin Jackson was abysmal in 7 appearances (5 starts) going 1-5 with an awful 12.43ERA before developing a lower back strain. Marcus Stroman became the latest pitcher to join the walking wounded, leaving his start Saturday with a left pectoral cramp. He was named to the all-star team Sunday, and provided he makes his next start, he should be in Cleveland next week. Stroman has been the Blue Jays most consistent starter. He has a 5-9 record with a 3.18ERA over 18 starts. He deserves a better record, but the Blue Jays have had trouble scoring runs in his starts.

2. Another reason for the poor first half is they have been swept 7 times in the 1st half. They have just 1 win in 6 tries vs. the Rays. The have 1 win in 4 games vs. the Giants and 1 in 7 against the Angels. It's been bad pitching, poor hitting and poor defense that has been the team's nemesis this season. You have to limit the number of times you are swept if you want to be competitive in this league

3. About Aaron Sanchez... He's one of two pitchers (Stroman being the other) who came into the 2019 season looking to redeem himself. He was 4-6 with a 4.89 ERA in 20 starts in 2018. To say the least, this season has been an utter disaster. He now has 11 losses on the season, which is a league worst. The walks have been troubling all season. Sanchez has walked at least 2 batters in every game. He walked 4 batters 5 times, including Sunday's start. Clearly Sanchez isn't right physically and the team needs to seriously think of shutting him down. They also need to strongly look at moving Sanchez to the bullpen because he isn't cutting it as a starting pitcher. You know that Sanchez, who is every bit as competitive as Stroman, will fight any move to the IL or the bullpen. It will be very tough to get anything substantial in a trade.

4. Pleasant surprises of 2019: Eric Sogard (batting .313 with 9HR and 25RBI) through 55 games, 208AB). Sogard has been a solid free agent signing, playing three of the 4 infield positions. He has been a decent leadoff hitter for the Blue Jays, getting on base .374% of the time. Lourdes Gurriel Jr. (6 outfield assists; batting .308, with 14HR and 33RBI in 172AB over 47 games) Gurriel Jr. had a poor start to the season defensively with a pair of costly errors at second base. The Blue Jays moved him to LF and everything took off. Gurriel Jr. has displayed a devastating arm in the outfield, nailing 6 baserunners. He's currently riding an 8 game hitting streak and should be a replacement in the all-star game in the event that one of the outfielders selected for the mid-summer classic can't play. Ken Giles (1-1, 12 saves in 13 opportunities; 1.29ERA in 28 appearances). The Blue Jays have arguably the best closer in the game, and his talents are being wasted this season. More often than not, Giles is pitching in games where the result has been decided, but he needs some work to avoid being rusty. Matt Shoemaker (3-0 and a sparkling 1.57ERA in 5 starts). Shoemaker was excellent in his brief season, tossing 7 innings twice and pitching into the 6th inning twice before being hurt at the end of the 3rd inning of his 5th start. The Blue Jays should do everything they can to re-sign the big righty.

5. Disappointments of 2019: Socrates Brito (3 hits in 49AB; 2 costly errors in the outfield). Both catchers. Luke Maile and Danny Jansen have been consistently bad at the plate (Jansen is batting .288 with 4HR and 20 RBI but has a 5 game hitting streak going; Maile is batting 173 with 2HR and 7RBI). As the pitching has generally been bad, the two catchers need to share the blame as they are the ones who call the pitches) All pitchers listed in point 1 (Buchholz, Tepera, Richard, Jackson and Luciano.) Thomas Pannone (2-3 with a 5.91ERA in 23 appearances (2 starts). Billy McKinney (batted .215 with 4HR and 11RBI in 46 games). He's been a bust this season. Teoscar Hernandez (batting .198 with 7HR and 24 RBI in 193AB over 58 games) Sixty-six strikeouts is too many. He also still makes me nervous in the field. Brandon Drury (batting .209 with 6HR and 19 RBI). He'll be expendable once Bo Bichette makes his big league debut.

6. Baseball fans got a unique experience at the Roger's Centre with teen Kiya Bruno singing O Canada in Cree. A major part of Canadian history are the various first nations groups. It's good for the Blue Jays to recognize this and give the fans the opportunity to hear our national anthem in Cree.  Kiya did an amazing job belting out our national anthem.

7. There is much controversy surrounding the Tampa Bay Rays and where they will play their home games next season. Thus far, the Rays have failed to secure a new downtown arena that is sorely needed. The MLB and the Rays are exploring playing early season games in Tampa bay and the summer in Olympic Stadium where the Expos played from 1969-2004. Ironically, this would be the second time where Montreal has hosted games, but not an entire season (in 2003 and 2004, the Expos played 22 games each season in Puerto Rico). The city council of St. Petersburg is also fighting the idea of playing some home games in Montreal with the mayor refusing to table a motion. The player's union has expressed concern about the players having to maintain 2 homes (one in Montreal and one in St. Petersburg).

8. Now let's look at some numbers involving Canadian baseball players. There have been 250 players from Canada who have played at least one MLB game. There are currently 15 active Canadians in the MLB:

  • 1B/OF Jim Adduci Chicago Cubs (born in Burnaby BC, my hometown!)
  • RHP John Axford Toronto Blue Jays (rehabbing a stress reaction in his elbow)
  • 3B Vladimir Guerrero Jr. Toronto Blue Jays (getting ready for the HR derby)
  • C Russell Martin LA Dodgers  (played 4 seasons with the Blue Jays; longest tenured Canadian)
  • OF Josh Naylor San Diego Padres (made his big league debut in Toronto back on May 24), 
  • OF/PH Tyler O'Neill St. Louis Cardinals (born in Burnaby BC, my hometown!)
  • LHP James Paxton NY Yankees (threw a no-hitter in Toronto last year)
  • RHP Nick Pivetta Philadelphia Phillies (threw 5 innings vs. the Blue Jays last season)
  • OF Dalton Pompey Toronto Blue Jays (rehabbing a concussion),
  • RHP Cal Quantrill San Diego Padres (threw 6 innings of 2 hit ball vs. the Blue Jays in Toronto May 25)
  • RHP Jordan Romano Toronto Blue Jays (0-1 with a 5.06ERA in 4 appearances for the Blue Jays this season), 
  • LHP Mike Soroka Atlanta Braves (threw 4.2 innings vs. the Blue Jays last season)
  • 1B Joey Votto Cincinnati Reds (batted .250 with 3HR and 8RBI vs. Blue Jays in 15 games)
  • RHP Rowan Wick Chicago Cubs (3 career games so far with the Cubs), 
  • LHP Rob Zastryzny Chicago Cubs (in his 3rd season in the majors)

9. Looking specifically at the Blue Jays, 28 players have played for the Blue Jays at some point:

  • LHP Andrew Albers (2015), 
  • RHP John Axford (2018-present; rehabbing stress reaction in elbow); 
  • LHP Denis Boucher (1991; 0-3 with a 4.58ERA in 7 starts that season in a Blue Jays uniform), 
  • OF Rich Butler (1991; played 7 games batting .286 with a pair of RBI), 
  • OF Rob Butler (1993-94, 1997; only Canadian to win WS with the Blue Jays), 
  • LHP Scott Diamond (2016; 1 appearance and has 27.00ERA), 
  • OF Rob Ducey (1987-92; batted .231 with 2 HR and 31 RBI in 333AB in 188 games over 7 seasons for the Blue Jays), 
  • LHP Jeff Francis (2015; 1-2 with a 6.14ERA in 14 appearances for the Blue Jays)
  • 3B/DH rhpVladimir Guerrero Jr. (present; only Blue Jays rookie to participate in the HR derby and the AS festivities)
  • RHP Shawn Hill (2010, 2012; 2-2 with a 2.54ERA in 5 appearances; 4 starts as a Blue Jay)
  • LF Paul Hodgson; (1980; batted .220 with 1HR and 5RBI in 41AB over 20 games played)
  • LHP Vince Horsman (1991; 4 appearances)
  • 3B Corey Koskie (2005; batted .249 with 11HR and 36RBI in 354AB over 97 games as a Blue Jay)
  • C George Kottaras (2014; played 4 games for the Blue Jays) 
  • 3B Brett Lawrie (2011-2014; batted .265 with 34HR and 157RBI in 1304AB in 345 games over 4 seasons)
  • RHP Adam Loewen (2011; played 14 games for the Blue Jays as an outfielder)
  • C Russell Martin (2015-2018; batted .225 with 66HR and 211RBI in 1492AB in 447 games as a Blue Jay)
  • UI Dave McKay (1977-79; 1st Canadian to play for the Blue Jays)
  • C Mike Nickeas (2013; played 1 inning for the Blue Jays; no AB)
  • OF Dalton Pompey (2014-2016; 2018-present; currently rehabbing concussion)
  • OF/DH Simon Pond (2004; batted .163 with 1 HR and 6 RBI in 49AB over 16 games played)
  • RHP Paul Quantrill (1996-2001; 30-34 with a 3.67ERA in 386 appearances (20 starts))
  • RHP Scott Richmond (2008-09; 2011-12; 9-14 with a 5.27ERA in 36 appearances (29 starts))
  • RHP Jordan Romano (0-1 with a 5.06ERA in 4 appearances)
  • OF/DH Michael Saunders (2015-17; batted .247 with 24HR and 61 RBI in 539 AB over 161GP)
  • LHP Steve Sinclair (1998-99; 0-2 with a 6.10ERA in 27 appearances)
  • LHP Paul Spoljarik (1994-97; 1999; 4-8 with a 4.31ERA  and 4 saves in 104 appearances (3 starts)
  • DH/1B/OF Matt Stairs (2007-08; batted .270 with 32HR and 108RBI in 677AB over 230GP)
10. Blue Jay of the week: Lourdes Gurriel Jr. who is riding an 8 game hitting streak. He had 5 HR this week, 8RBI and he scored 7 times. He should be considered if someone can't play in the AS game.