I'm grateful that I have a job that I love. What are you grateful for?
|Danny Jansen hit a pair of solo HR in a losing effort in an 8-2 shellacking at the hands of the Rays, who swept the best-of-3 WC series|
The gamble to start Matt Shoemaker did not pay off yesterday. Shoemaker did fine, but the Rays scratched across three runs off a wild pitch by Robbie Ray and a bad mistake pitch by AJ Cole for 2 runs. Meanwhile, Blake Snell was showing why he won the Cy Young. Now, the Blue Jays turn to their ace to try and force a 3rd and deciding game. Same lineup as yesterday, except Vlad got the half day off as DH and Travis Shaw was at 1B (I think the decision had more to do with defense than anything else). Could the Bluer Jays stave off elimination and force a 3rd and deciding game? Here is tonight's game recap.
|Bo Bichette drove in the Blue Jays only run with a sac fly as the Rays took the first game of the best-of-3 wild card series 3-1|
The Blue Jays were relegated to the last playoff spot after losing the season finale, meaning they have to face the Tampa Bay Rays in St. Petersburg, a location that has not been kind historically to the Blue Jays. Matt Shoemaker got the start in the opener (presumably to give Hyun-jin Ryu an extra day of rest after he threw 100 pitches and went 7 innings Friday. Vlad go the start at 1B, while Alejandro Kirk became the youngest player to DH in a playoff game with Danny Jansen behind the plate. Jonathan Villar was at 2b with Cavan Biggio playing the hot corner. Everyone else was in their expected positions. Could the Blue Jays steal the 1st game of this series and prove Montoyo's gamble of not starting his ace in the 1st game right? Here is today's game recap.
With another off day in the schedule, comes my ever-popular random thoughts post. Today's post will look back on the season that was and look ahead to the upcoming best-of three playoff series for the Blue Jays. To say the least, the battle to make the playoffs anything but easy for the Blue Jays. First off, the Blue Jays had no home for the season. Canadian government bans them from playing regular season games in Toronto. Pittsburgh health officials also would not let them use PNC Park. That just left the options of the AAA home ballpark in Dunedin, where covid-19 was running rampant, or Buffalo, where cases were not quite as bad. In the end, the Blue Jays opted to play their home games in Buffalo. However, Buffalo needed to undergo some upgrades to meet MLB standards. The Blue Jays did not move into their temporary home ballpark until August 11th. Then the Miami Marlins had an outbreak of COVID-19 forcing the alteration of the schedules of seven different teams, including the Blue Jays, who got an unexpected four day weekend over the August long weekend. They had to play two double headers with Philadelphia and lost a scheduled off-day on August 27. Then came another double header on September 4th after the red Sox and blue Jays elected to join the NBA, NHL and several MLB teams and boycott a game in support of the black lives matter movement. Injuries were a factor and I will get into that more later. Looking at the last two weeks off the season, the Blue Jays had a rough final road trip of the season. they were swept and blown out of Yankees stadium by a combined score of 43 - 15. Ken Giles pitched what would be the final inning for the next year or more (he underwent Tommy John surgery; more on that later). Then the Blue Jays went into Philadelphia and lost 3 of 4, including both ends of the final double header of the season. the Blue Jays then came home and exacted some revenge, taking three of four from the Yankees, including two blow out wins, sandwiched by a blowout loss. the biggest win was the last one, where the Blue Jays clinched their first playoff appearance since 2016. the final weekend was all about resting key players, making sure relievers got some work so they were sharp for next week. Hyun-jin Ryu was excellent in his final start of the season, throwing 7 shutout innings against the Yankees on Thursday. Taijuan Walker, slated to start the second game of the series next week, threw 3 strong innings in his final tune up. Nate Pearson followed up with his return after missing a month, and he looked sharp with his fastball touching 101mph, a great sign for a pitcher who relies on velocity to be successful. Shun Yamaguchi had a rough showing on Friday, allowing 4 runs on 4 hits in 2/3 of an inning. On Saturday, TJ Zeuch served notice he should be considered for a spot on the playoff roster with 5 shutout innings, scattering 5 hits. on Sunday, Tanner Roark did not have the finish to the season he would have wanted, blowing a 4-1 lead in the 4th. It will be one of Roark or Shun Yamaguchi who will be the long man in the bullpen. At this point, neither pitcher inspires much confidence. Looking ahead, the Blue Jays open the playoffs against the Tampa Bay Rays in St. Petersburg. Here are ten random thoughts from the final two weeks of the season.
1. Let's start with some injury news that will affect the Blue Jays, not only the rest of the season but the entire 2021 season as well. Closer Ken Giles, who missed a month with forearm tightness, which often times is a precursor to the dreaded Tommy John surgery that costs pitchers a full calendar year or more, returned to pitch two innings in low leverage situations. After the second appearance, Giles told training staff he wasn't feeling right. he consulted with renowned surgeon Dr. James Andrews, and it was decided he needs to undergo the season-ending procedure that will wipe out this season and all of next season. It's unfortunate timing for Giles, who was slated to become a free agent for the first time. As for the Blue Jays, this season they've been using a closer by committee strategy in Giles' absence. Jordan Romano (currently on the IL with a strained middle finger), Ross Stripling, Anthony Bass, Rafael Dolis, and AJ, Cole all have at least one save. For the postseason, the Blue Jays will turn to either Dolis or Bass in a save situation. As far as next season is concerned, Bass is under team control for another year, so they could bring him back in that role. Dolis has been effectively wild and may not be an ideal choice with the game on the line. The Blue Jays could also look at signing a free agent or brokering a trade in the off-season. Nonetheless, it will be an important decision with the team on the verge of being competitive again.
2. The Blue Jays made some surprising moves, letting legends Pat Hentgen and Paul Quantrill go, as well as AAA-manager Ken Huckaby. Hentgen and Quantrill had been serving as special advisors so the timing of their departure made sense (to allow them to catch on with another team). Huckaby was fired after not having managed a single game (minor league season was cancelled by the pandemic). He spent this season working with players in Rochester. Maybe there was a disagreement somewhere along the line between him and some of the splatters he worked with our Atkins decided the AAA team needed a more experience manager at the helm. Or, it could be purely a cost-cutting measure with so much uncertainty about next season, due to the pandemic and expiring CBA agreement.
3. One big advantage to the truncated season is the number of players who made their big league debuts. In a normal season, Nate Pearson would have started the year in AAA and maybe join the team a month or two into the season. Alejandro Kirk probably wouldn't have been in the majors for a year or two, but thanks to the struggles of Reese McGuire and Caleb Joseph, Kirk got his chance two weeks ago. Are these players going to start next season on the big league roster? Maybe or maybe not, but they will have a leg up on the competition next year to be sure.
4. This year, the MLB introduced several temporary rules to be able to make it through the season: the universal DH, seven-inning double headers, runner starting on second base in extra innings, lifting restrictions on position players pitching (starting next season position players can only pitch in blow outs of more than 6 runs or in extra innings). I would like to see the universal rule stay forever. This will reduce bunting to a minimum. I can see players wanting to keep seven inning games to stay fresh during a 162 game schedule. The MLB should get rid of the runner starting on second base in extra innings. All innings should start with nobody on base. Having longer games will discourage managers like Charlie Montoyo from pulling the starter after five innings night after night.
5. Another temporary measure is expanded playoffs with the top two teams in each division and the next two highest records making the playoffs. this has meant that more teams were within striking distance of a playoff spot and teams that already made the playoffs had a chance to move to a higher seed and potentially a more favorable opponent. MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred seems open to the idea of expanded playoffs, but not with sixteen teams. You might see top 2 in each division making the playoffs and no WC teams. You don't want to extend the playoffs much past the end of October with inclement weather more likely to play a factor.
6. Three Blue Jays who impressed this season
7. Three Blue Jays who disappointed this season
8. After dropping the last game of the season to the lowly Baltimore Orioles, the Blue Jays will now have to face AL-best Tampa Bay Rays in St. Petersburg. The Blue Jays were 4-6 against the Rays outscoring the Rays 48-44. Four of the losses against the Rays were by one run. The season series wrapped up a month ago. It's going to be important to get the lead early because the Rays have a good bullpen (their starters are pretty good too). It'll be good to get the young guns some valuable playoff experience a year or two earlier than expected.
9. Finally, kudos to the MLB and every team for successfully completing the season. Right off the bat, the MLB had to contend with a COVID outbreak among the Miami Marlins, affecting the schedules of seven teams. Later, the Cardinals had their own outbreak and had to make up several games. The Cleveland Indians disciplined Mike Clevenger and Adam Plesac. The MLB also cancelled a couple of other series when a couple of staff members or players tested positive. Who knows what the situation will be when spring training is supposed to begin in 6 months. Maybe there will be a vaccine by then. Maybe fans will be allowed in the ball parks again. The MLB and MLBPA need to take the lessons learned from this season and start working on a plan for next season now.
10. Blue Jay of the year.Lourdes Gurriel Jr. He finished the year 1st on the team in batting average (.308), tied for 3rd in RBI (33), 3rd in HR (11), 2nd in OBP (.348). Defensively, he had 1 error, 3 assists and 100 putouts. Hard to imagine he's the same player who was demoted to Buffalo for a month last year after defensive struggles started affecting him at the plate.
Bonus thought: the home record is a big reason why the Blue Jays are in the playoffs. The Blue Jays finished 17-9 at home, outscoring opponents 154-129 and 15-19 on the road, getting outscored 176-143
|Lourdes Gurriel Jr. was 4-4 with 3 runs scored and 2RBI in a losing effort as the Blue Jays fell to the Orioles 7-5 in the regular season finale.|
Here we are, the final game of the 2020 regular season. After today, one team (Baltimore) will be going home for the fall/winter, and one team (Toronto) will be moving on to play in the best-of-three first round of the playoffs. Tanner Roark got the start in what has not been a great season for him. He came into today's start with a 2-3 record and a dreadful 7.01ERA in 10 starts. Only Chase Anderson had a worse ERA (7.67) and he missed the first couple of weeks recovering from an oblique strain. Cavan Biggio was back in the field at the hot corner after getting the day off yesterday. Vlad got the half day off as DH with Travis Shaw at 1B. Randal Grichuk was back in the field after DH'ing yesterday. Danny Jansen was behind the plate after the day off yesterday. Teoscar Hernandez got the full day off with Jonathan Davis in RF. Could the Blue Jays make it five wins in a row? Here is today's game recap.
|Randal Grichuk hit a clutch 3-run HR in the 6th as the Blue Jays knocked off the Orioles 5-2 for their 4th straight win|
The Blue Jays continued to play out the string with the potential of a 5th seed finish. This could mean the difference between facing the White Sox, who are 12-0 vs. lefties, Cleveland, and even Tampa Bay (a house of horrors for the Blue Jays). For that to happen, the Blue Jays have to sweep the Orioles and have the Yankees lose their season finale tomorrow. Initially Matt Shoemaker was supposed to start today, instead he was held back to give the Blue Jays more flexibility next week. TJ Zeuch got the start in what was effectively a bullpen day. Bo Bichette got the complete day off with Joe Panik at SS. Travis Shaw got the half day off as the DH with Vlad back in the field at 1B. Alejandro Kirk got the start behind the plate. Randal Grichuk got the day off with Jonathan Davis in CF. Cavan Biggio and Lourdes Gurriel Jr. were both back in the field, at the hot corner and LF respectively, after days off yesterday. Could the Blue Jays make it four wins in a row? Here is tonight's game recap.
|Travis Shaw as 3-4 with a run scored and 2 RBI as the Blue Jays doubled up on the Orioles 10-5|
The Blue Jays opened up the final series of the season, which will serve as a time to rest certain players, final tune-ups for others and opportunities to see whether some of the injured players will be able to compete in the playoffs. The Blue Jays are playing a team (Baltimore Orioles) who are playing out the string and looking ahead to the off-season. Taijuan Walker got the start. Cavan Biggio got the complete day off with Joe Panik at the hot corner, Jonathan Villar at 2B and Teoscar Hernandez in RF. Lourdes Gurriel Jr. got the full day off with Jonathan Davis in LF. Vlad got the half day off as DH with Travis Shaw at 1B. Could the Blue Jays make it three wins in a row? Here is tonight's game recap.
|Hyun-jin Ryu threw seven shutout innings as the Blue Jays clinched a playoff berth with a 4-0 shutout victory over the Yankees|
For the first time since 2016, the Blue Jays were looking to punch their ticket into the post-season with a win over the Yankees. Pete Walker and Luis Rivera are the only coaches left from the 2016 team. All players have moved on or retired. Hyun-jin Ryu, who was in the midst of a lost season in 2016 due to recovering from 2015 shoulder surgery, coming back for 1 start before going right back on the disabled list and eventually having season-ending elbow surgery, gets the start. Last night, the Blue Jays clobbered the Yankees in anticipation of making the postseason last night. However, the Mariners beat the Astros to stay alive (just) in the playoff race. Nate Pearson was activated for tonight with Wilmer Font being removed from the roster. Jordan Romano is expected to throw another bullpen tomorrow with a higher intensity. The Blue Jays elected to inject more offence in the lineup tonight with Alejandro Kirk serving as DH. Cavan Biggio was at the hot corner, Vlad was at first base, and Jonathan Villar was at 2B. Did the Blue Jays wear themselves out last night, or did they have enough to beat the Yankees one more time? Here is tonight's game recap.
|Danny Jansen was 4-4 with 3 runs scored and 3RBI and a hit by pitch in a 14-1 rout over the Yankees|
The Blue Jays had a chance to make the playoffs for the first time since 2016 with a win tonight and having the Mariners lose to the Astros. There's potential 2 or 3 fresh arms could be in the bullpen with Nate Pearson, Jordan Romano and Julian Merryweather all potentially going to be healthy. Pearson threw 2 stimulated innings in a liv BP Monday (and he felt fine the next day). Romano tossed a bullpen yesterday. Merryweather is the iffiest having just hit the IL with elbow tendinitis Monday. Robbie Ray got the start on the mound. Bo Bichette got the half day off as the DH with Joe Panik at SS today. Cavan biggio was back at his natural position at 2B. Travis Shaw was back in the lineup and at the hot corner after being a late scratch last night with back spasms. Danny Jansen was back behind the plate after sitting out the last 2 games. Could the Blue Jays punch their ticket into the post-season? Here is tonight's game recap.
|Cavan Biggio smashed a solo HR in a 12-1 loss to the Yankees|
After a solid win against the Yankees last night, the Blue Jays were looking to keep it going tonight against Yankees ace Garrett Cole. Tanner Roark got the start for the Blue Jays. Rafael Dolis remained unavailable and day-to-day with a sore knee. Alejandro Kirk started back to back games behind the plate after a stellar performance at the plate last night. Randal Grichuk got the half day off as DH tonight with Jonathan Davis in CF. Initially Vlad was supposed to DH, but Travis Shaw was scratched with back spasms. Lourdes Gurriel Jr. was back in the field after DH'ing last night. Could the Blue Jays make it three in a row? Here is tonight's game recap.
|Alejandro Kirk was 4-4 with 3 runs scored and an RBI and finished a triple short of the cycle as the Blue Jays routed the Yankees 11-6|
After a dreadful road trip that saw the Blue Jays lose 6 of seven, including a three game sweep to the team they face four times this week starting tonight, the NY Yankees. The Blue Jays limped (literally and figuratively) home after the road trip. Closer Ken Giles will undergo Tommy John surgery tomorrow and miss the rest of this season and the entire season next year, meaning the Blue Jays will have to decide if Jordan Romano or Anthony Bass will fill that role or if they will go after a free agent or make a trade. Meanwhile, Matt Shoemaker comes off the IL tonight and should throw about 60 pitches. Nate Pearson threw 2 stimulated innings as he tries to come back from his own elbow injury. Rowdy Tellez is taking BP and jogging slowly. Jordan Romano will throw a bullpen tomorrow. Alejandro Kirk got the start behind the plate. Jonathan Davis got the start in LF with Lourdes Gurriel Jr. getting the half day off as DH. Could the Blue Jays make it two wins in a row? Here is tonight's game recap.
|Taijuan Walker threw 6 strong innings to lead the Blue Jays to a 6-3 victory over the Phillies|
After losing their 6th straight, the Blue Jays were looking to salvage a game in their final road game of the season and gain some momentum heading into the final week of games with the Mariners, Tigers, and Orioles all within striking distance of the final WC spot. Taijuan Walker got the start. Vlad was back in the lineup and the field after getting the day off yesterday after a scary hit by pitch that deflected off his batting helmet. Randal Grichuk got the half day off as DH with Jonathan Davis in CF. Teoscar Hernandez was back in the field after DH'ing yesterday. Could the Blue Jays snap the 6 game losing streak? Here is tonight's game recap.
|Hyun-Jin Ryu threw six strong innings in a losing effort as the Phillies knocked off the Blue Jays 3-1|
After a rough day yesterday, where the Blue Jays dropped both games of the double header by a combined score of 15-7, the Blue Jays were back at it today trying to snap a season-high 5 game losing streak. Santiago Espinal was optioned back to the taxi squad in favor of Patrick Murphy as the Blue Jays opted for an extra arm in the bullpen tonight. Ace Hyun-jin Ryu was on the mound and looking to give his team a fighting chance. Vlad got the full day off (not surprising after a scary hit by pitch off his batting helmet in the second game. Travis Shaw was at 1B and Teoscar Hernandez got the half day off as the DH. Could the Blue Jays snap the five game losing streak? Here is tonight's game recap.
|Teoscar Hernadez was 3-4 with 2 runs scored and an RBI in the second game of the double header in a losing effort as the Phillies took both games of the double header by scores of 7-0 and 8-7|
After a thorough beatdown for three straight days at Yankee Stadium, the Blue Jays moved onto Philadelphia where they will wrap up the road portion of the schedule. Today, barring any inclement weather, was to be the final double header of the season. Toronto was the 'home" team for the 1st game. Lefty Robbie Ray got the start in the 1st game and Ross Stripling was the 1st pitcher up for the 2nd game. Alejandro Kirk was behind the plate for the 1st game and Danny Jansen got the 2nd game. Vlad was in the field for both games (shock). Cavan Biggio was DH'ing the 1st game (Bo Bichette DH'd the 2nd game after being in the field game 1. Santiago Espinal got the start at SS in game 2) and at the hot corner (Travis Shaw was there in game 1) in game 2. Jonathan Villar was at 2B game 1 and Joe Panik got the start there in game 2. Randal Grichuk, Lourdes Gurriel Jr. and Teoscar Hernandez were the outfielders both games at their usual positions. Could the Blue Jays sweep (or at least split the double header)? Here is/are today's game recap(s)
Game Highlights (1st game):
My Take (1st game):
Game Highlights (2nd game):
My Take (2nd game):
|Lourdes Gurriel Jr. was 4-4 with 3 runs scored and 2 RBI in a losing effort as the Blue Jays fell to the Yankees 10-7|
Afer two blowout losses to the Yankees, the Blue Jays were looking to salvage a game of this series. It was a bullpen day for the Blue Jays who sent righty Julian Merryweather out first. Jacob Waguespack was placed on the 10-day IL with a left back sprain and Hector Perez was optioned back to the taxi squad. Wilmer Font was activated from the IL and TJ Zeuch was recalled from the taxi squad. Teoscar Hernandez made his return to the lineup and was in RF. Vlad got the half day off, serving as the DH with Travis Shaw at 1B. The rest of the lineup was the same as yesterday. Could the Blue Jays salvage a game? Here is tonight's game recap.
|Joe Panik hit a late-inning solo HR in the second consecutive blowout loss to the Yankees. Toronto fell 13-2 to the Bronx Bombers tonight|
After a 20-6 blowout loss last night, the Blue Jays were looking to right the ship, taking on one of the best pitchers in the MLB, Gerritt Cole. Lots of moves ahead of this one (some necessitated by injury, some based on performance). First the bad news, Ken Giles is heading back to the IL with an elbow injury and is likely done for the season. Derek Fisher is also heading to the IL with a knee contusion after getting hit by a pitch during batting practice. Teoscar Hernandez was activated from the IL and available off the bench. Nate Pearson and Matt Shoemaker both threw to live hitters today and one or both could return soon. Hector Perez and Jacob Waguespack were also activated. Anthony Kay was optioned to the taxi squad after a rough outing last night. Tanner Roark, who made some not so nice comments after getting pulled in the 4th inning after throwing 68 pitches last start, was on the mound again. Vlad was back in the field after DH'ing last night (Joe Panik was DH tonight). Danny Jansen was back behind the plate after sitting out last night. Cavan Biggio was in RF tonight with Jonathan Villar at 2B. Could the Blue Jays rebound from last night's blow-out loss? Here is tonight's game recap.
The Blue Jays opened up the final road trip of the season at Yankee stadium. Taijuan Walker got the start. Alejandro Kirk got his second career start behind the plate. Vlad got the half day off, serving as the DH, with Travis Shaw at 1B. Cavan Biggio was at the hot corner for the second straight game with Joe Panik playing 2B. Derek Fisher got the start in RF. Could the Blue Jays start the week with a win? Here is tonight's game recap.
It's been a month since I last posted a weekly random thoughts post. Normally, I would provide updates on each post with with each individual game. This time I will take a broader view of the last month and go series by series. The middle of the month started with a two split of series with the Miami Marlins, including a 14-11 loss. Then the Blue Jays routed the Tampa Bay Rays before the Rays edged the Blue Jays in the next 2 games. The Blue Jays then went on a bit of a run winning the next six games, including sweeps over the Orioles and the Phillies (a one day double header). The Blue Jays then dropped two of the next three games. On August 23rd the blue Jays acquired Daniel Vogelbach from the Seattle Mariners. Vogelbach only lasted four games, in which he came in as a pinch-hitter before being DFA'd and picked up by the Milwaukee Brewers. Toronto was supposed to have embarked on 30 game in 29 game stretch starting August 14th however, the Blue Jays and Red Sox postponed their game on August 27th in protest of the shooting in Wisconsin. This was in collaboration with NBA, and NHL who also postponed their games for a couple of days. August 27th was also the day that the Blue Jays acquired Taijuan Walker from the Seattle Mariners. Walker made his Blue Jays debut on the 29th, firing six shutout innings. Two days later, the Blue Jays acquired three more players: Jonathan Villar, Robbie Ray, and Ross Stripling. Since the trade deadline the Blue Jays split the two games in Miami, won 3 of 5 against Boston in a rare series, thanks to a doubleheader, which the two teams split. They then came home to Buffalo and took two or three from the Yankees, then got blown out in the opener against the Mets 18 to 1, and beat them the next night. In the rubber match on Sunday, the Blue Jays responded with a pair of runs in the 2nd inning after the Mets took the lead in the 1st inning, before breaking the game open with a s-spot in the 6th. Hyun-Jin Ryu was solid in 6 innings. Looking ahead, the blue Jays embark on their final road trip of the season after a final off-day Monday with series in New York and Philadelphia, where they will play a doubleheader to start the series on Friday. Blue Jays then end the regular season with a key series against the Yankees that will go a long way to deciding who wins second place in the AL East. The Blue Jays end the regular season with a weekend series against the Baltimore Orioles who are 4.5 games back of a wild card spot. Here are 10 random thoughts from the last month of the MLB.
1. First off, the MLB has to be commended for largely making it the pandemic to date. Unlike the NHL and NBA, the MLB chose to forgo using a bubble to isolate teams in a few cities. Instead, the MLB combined regional divisions (AL east teams played NL east teams (as well as the teams in their own division) and AL Central teams played NL Central teams (plus the teams in their own division) and AL West teams played NL West teams (on top of the teams in their own division). This meant that teams were flying from city to city. Also, teams were living out of their regular homes and not staying in a hotel. Right off the bat, the MLB saw a major setback when virtually the entire Miami Marlins team (20 players and staff when the dust settled) were infected with the COVID-19 virus. Because the Marlins and Phillies voted to play on the first Sunday of the season when they knew that four players on the Marlins had already positive for COVID-19, the MLB was forced to cancel the schedules of the Phillies and Marlins for an entire week, affecting the schedules of 7 teams. Since then, St Louis Cardinals also an outbreak of COVID-19 and had a week's worth of games postponed. Cleveland Indians pitchers Mike Clevenger (he would later be traded to San Diego at the trade deadline after relationships with the Cleveland Indians soured following the incident) and Adam Plesac were sent home after violating team protocol on a road trip to Chicago. The vast majority of teams have done extremely well with their conduct both on and off the field and that is why baseball is still being played. The MLB is wrapping up negotiations with the MLBPA on the terms with which the playoffs will be played. At this point, it looks like for the first round, teams will play all three games at the home field of the higher-seeded team. Then for the next rounds until the World Series, teams will play either in the home ball parks of the San Diego Padres or LA Dodgers if they are an AL team or the home ball parks of the Houston Astros or Texas Rangers if they are an NL team. The home ball park of the LA Angels is also being considered as one of the stadiums. Contending teams will start to quarantine in hotels during the final week of the regular season. I like that the MLB is taking away home field advantage the Astros Dodgers, padres and Rangers.
2. No doubt the MLB will be watching NFL fairs with their COVID-19 protocol. The NFL is using a similar strategy for playing their season as the MLB has done. The difference is, the NFL is going to allow fans at some of their games. Some of the NFL teams are waiting at least a week or two before allowing fans in. One thing to keep in mind is football is a much more physical sport than baseball and there is less physical distancing in football, especially at the start of plays. Like the MLB, the NFL plays most of their games in outdoor stadiums with a few domed arenas. That may affect the ability of the virus to spread.
3. Ok, let's get back to baseball. As one might expect, the Blue Jays had to adjust to several injuries. Closer Ken Giles missed almost 6 weeks with a strained forearm before returning this weekend. Bo Bichette also missed considerable time after injuring his knee stretching out before and at bat, and he made his return on Saturday. More recently, Rowdy Tellez (strained knee tendon) and Teoscar Hernandez (oblique injury) were placed on the injured list. Trent Thornton missed 10 days with a forearm strain, came back for one game, before undergoing season-ending elbow surgery to remove loose bodies from his elbow. Highly-touted pitching Prospect Nate Pearson has also missed time with in his pitching elbow. He's getting close to a return, but his role will change, as he'll be pitching out of the bullpen for the remainder of the season. Reliever Jordan Romano strained a tendon in his pitching finger. Matt Shoemaker, who was arguably the most consistent starter rotation this season, went down with a strained shoulder the same weekend as Thornton did with his elbow. It must have been frustrating for Shoemaker, who missed almost the entire 2019 season after tearing his ACL in his 5th start in a Blue Jays uniform. Finally, Wilmer Font is also on the injured list with an undisclosed injury. The Blue Jays have been smart juggling players around the lineup and in different positions to be ready to jump in if a player got hurt. Take Cavan Biggio, for example. His natural position is second base. However, he can also be used in right field or center fielder should Randal Grichuk need a day off. He even played at the hot corner for the first time Sunday. Travis Shaw Jonathan Villar, and Joe Panik can all play (and have played) multiple positions in the infield. this is a great luxury to have so much flexibility when it comes to making defensive substitutions late in games when the Blue Jays are leading, or in the event of injuries.
4. Starter Tanner Roark was livid after he was taken out of the game after throwing 68 pitches through four Innings on Wednesday. All season, Charlie Montoyo has been leaning towards giving pitchers the early hook as they near the 90 pitch threshold. This has put a lot of pressure on the bullpen, which on most nights has had to get at least 16 outs, if not more. the Blue Jays have been deploying an eight-man bullpen, and making roster changes as needed when pitchers aren't going to be available for at least a game due to having thrown a lot of pitches the past game or two. So far this season, 26 pitchers have thrown at least one inning for the Blue Jays. Rafael Dolis, who got his 6th save of the season Saturday, and Anthony Bass both made their 21st appearances of the season on Saturday and Dolis pitched Sunday to make it 22 appearances this season. Tim Mayza who blew out his elbow after being overused in 2019, is a tale of caution for overusing the bullpen. Many of the Blue Jays relievers are known to throw hard, and thus could be at a greater risk of getting injured. Ryan Borucki has already undergone Tommy John surgery, and had a similar elbow surgery that Thornton just had to remove loose bodies last year. The season could potentially go another six weeks if the Blue Jays make the world series. They need the starters to start going deeper in games.
5. Another major issue for the Blue Jays has been base-running follies. As of September 3rd the Blue Jays had made 18 outs due to base running mistakes. Whether it be trying to stretch a single into a double, running through a stop sign in an attempt to score, or getting thrown out trying to steal a base, you have to pick your spots and be smart. When it comes to the playoffs, every scoring opportunity counts, and if the Blue Jays run themselves out of rallies, they will find themselves being eliminated rather quickly. Jonathan Villar has been guilty of a few of these running mistakes, and was nearly picked off first base in the 8th inning Saturday. Speaking of pick offs, the Blue Jays had been picked off five times as of September 3rd, with only the Marlins and Padres faring worse in that stat. the Blue Jays best spend the final off day of the season doing a lot of base running drills.
6. A huge part of baseball is executing the fundamentals and making the plays you should be making. Again, as of September 3rd, the Blue Jays had committed 20 errors (which was middle of the pack), but were minus-22 in defensive runs saves, which was among the worst in the league. Twelve different players have committed at least one error this season. Jonathan Villar (4 errors) has the most on the team, and he's only been on the Blue Jays for two weeks. You have to wonder if having players playing multiple positions is really such a good strategy, as opposed to having players play their natural positions every day, with the occasional day off, or until injuries arise. Further, Vladimir Guerrero Jr. is supposed to be learning a new position (1B) and yet, he's playing every other game as the DH. Is it punishment for not following his strength and conditioning program?Are the Blue Jays trying to keep Guerrero Jr. from getting injured by limiting his time in the field? Whatever the reason, the Blue Jays should be playing Vlad in the field daily so he can learn his new position faster. Now that Tellez is out with an injury, maybe that will happen.
7. The Blue Jays have been playing musical chairs recently when it comes to the backup catcher. Danny Jansen has established himself as the clear number one catcher that will play the majority of games. He's been solid defensively and worked well with the pitchers. Reese McGuire was initially supposed to be the backup, playing 2 or 3 times a week. However, he's had a terrible time offensively, with just 3 hits in 41AB. McGuire was optioned to the taxi squad after making a terrible throw to third base when the bases were already loaded. The Blue Jays then recalled Caleb Joseph, who got into 3 games (2 starts) before being DFA'd. Joseph was 1-8 at the plate with 2 runs scored and 2 RBI, including a HR. Defensively, Joseph was 0-4 when trying to throw out base runners, had a passed ball and wild pitch when he was behind the plate. Top catching prospect Alejandro Kirk was recalled Friday and made his big league debut Saturday, catching lefty Robbie Ray. Offensively, Kirk was 1-3 with a run scored and a walk. The 9th inning was a bit of an adventure for him with a runner reaching on what should have been the last out of the game after the ball bounced to the back stop. On the next pitch, the ball deflected off Kirk again, but he managed to keep the ball close enough to keep the runner from advancing. It will be interesting to see who the Blue Jays decide to use in the final two weeks of the season. Will they stick with Kirk? Will Reese McGuire be given another chance?
8. I do want to touch a bit on the protests by teams August 26-28 in the NBA, NHL (only the 27-28), NFL (no games scheduled but teams opted to skip practices), and MLB (8 teams boycotted on the 26th and 14 teams boycotted on the 27th). I thought it was interesting that some teams in the MLB chose not to join the boycott. The MLB and it's players should have more of a vested interest in protesting given the history of black baseball players. Before Jackie Robinson, blacks weren't even allowed to play in the majors. There was a lot of backlash online about the players choosing to boycott the games with many saying that sports and politics should be separate. However, these athletes live and work in the communities where the shootings are taking place the majority of the year. The victims of these shooting are their friends and neighbors. The shooting victims have probably watched these athletes perform and even attended games live. Some of the victims may have even been lucky enough to meet some of the athletes and even get their autographs. I'm not going to get into the events that triggered the boycott. However, there's only so much the athletes can do to show their support for the BLM movement. They have knelt during anthems, NBA players have worn approved slogans on their backs instead of their last names, baseball has a stenciled logo supporting BLM on the mounds this season, athletes can wear patches on their jerseys. This time, they felt they needed to send a stronger message by sitting out a game. Will there be no more shootings because of this boycott? No, but the boycott got/kept the conversation going and forced people to step away from their TVs and address what's going on in the world. There will absolutely be fans that stop watching these sports because of this boycott, but the sports will play on and thrive without the ignorant fans that choose not to tune in because the athletes chose to have a voice.
9. Finally, with the sprint of a season about to wrap up, it's time to consider the awards for this season. I don't see how the MLB can really award an MVP, Cy Young winner or rookie of the year winner, because there just weren't enough games played to really weed out the top players. Take the Cy Young for example, can you really judge a starting pitcher after just 10-15 starts? I would honestly be inclined to award the Cy Young to a reliever this season, because they've been having to pick up the slack on a lot of nights with pitchers having to build up pitch counts after a really quick summer training camp and one or two exhibition games. For the batting title, you're judging on ~250AB. Generally, pitchers are ahead of hitters at the start of the season, and it might have taken a quarter of the season for some hitters to heat up. No, this year's awards should come with an asterisk.
10. Blue Jay of the week: Lourdes Gurriel Jr. He robbed two Mets of extra base hits on Saturday and Sunday and had a couple of clutch base hits. Gurriel Jr. has also been one of the more consistent Blue Jays hitters this season.