Snider update

Monday, July 27, 2009

The left field position is reserved for Travis Snider – likely for years to come. Thus, the players who have filled the role this year – David Dellucci, Russ Adams, Joe Inglett, Jose Bautista – are, well, merely placeholders until young Travis is ready to take over the big-league job on a full-time basis.

The Jays thought that was the case out of spring training. Of course, Snider struggled out of the gate, batting .242/.292/.394 in 32 games (99 at-bats) before being sent down to Triple-A Las Vegas where he missed some time with a sore back.

Snider returned in July though, and has been getting regular at-bats for the last four weeks. Though he’s hitting just .243 for the month, Snider has belted seven home runs en route to a .557 slugging percentage and 16 RBIs.

The 21-year-old has hit safely in five of his last six contests, batting .320 (8-for-25) with three homers and eight RBIs during that stretch. On Monday, before the Blue Jays took the field in Seattle for the start of a three-game set against the Mariners, Snider went 3-for-4 with a three-run homer in a 4-0 Las Vegas win over the Tacoma Rainiers in Washington. 

Perhaps it won’t be long before the youngster returns to man left field for the Jays, who have simply been keeping it warm in his absence.


The secret

Sunday, July 26, 2009

When searching for answers regarding the Jays’ demise this year, one need not look further than the team’s failure to hit with runners in scoring position.

But the thing is, it wasn’t always bad.

Through 41 games, the Jays owned a 27-14 record and a three-game lead atop the AL East division. Yes, those were the good old days. It’s not a coincidence that during that stretch Toronto was hitting well with runners in scoring position. That’s what winning teams do.

In those 41 contests, the Jays had posted a .305 (124-for-406) average in those situations. So they were certainly on a good pace. After all, that bests the .303 mark that the Angels have posted with RISP on the season to lead the American League entering action today.

But then the team opened an infamous nine-game road trip on May 19 in Boston. It could be argued that that game against Tim Wakefield and the Red Sox was the beginning of the end. They lost all nine road contests and returned home with a record of 27-23.

Of course, the thing that stood out on that trip was the Jays’ inability to cash in runners. In other words, their numbers with runners in scoring position was atrocious — .185 (15-for-81), to be exact. And that was including a 5-for-10 showing in Game 9, which they lost 12-10 to the Orioles.

And it hasn’t been much better since. Overall, the club owned a .254 mark with RISP entering action Sunday (third-worst in the AL). That meant they had hit a meagre .213 (107-for-503) since getting out to that quick 27-14 start to the season.

On Sunday? The Jays finished 4-for-8 with runners in scoring position and won, 5-1, in the series finale over the Tampa Bay Rays.

Time for a little R & R?

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Another day, another loss.

Though this one was particularly disheartening. The Blue Jays turned what was once a 9-1 lead into a 10-9 extra-inning defeat against the Tampa Bay Rays Saturday afternoon, dropping the club’s mark to 47-51 – a season-worst four games under .500.

There’s no easy way to say this. The Blue Jays are out of it.

So when will Randy Ruiz get the call?

This observer says it would be a shame if the 31-year-old was kept at Triple-A Las Vegas until September. I mean, what does a guy have to do to receive a shot? Whatever it is, Ruiz has done it.

Entering action Saturday night, Ruiz was the owner of a .325 average in 98 games for the 51’s so far this year. He leads the Pacific Coast League in hits (128), doubles (39), RBI (89) and total bases (235), and is also top 5 in runs (70), home runs (22) and OPS (.996).

He’s also improved on his plate discipline (which has been an issue in the past), drawing 41 walks and posting a .399 on-base percentage.

Give the man a shot.

All’s not Wells when it comes to Halladay

Friday, July 24, 2009

On a night in which his teammate — Jays’ ace Roy Halladay — worked his magic for perhaps his last time in Toronto, Vernon Wells failed to show up – like he has done for much of the season at Rogers Centre.

Wells, hitting out of the No. 6 spot in the lineup, went 0-for-4 with a pair of strikeouts Friday night – the first with Scott Rolen standing on second base with one out in the fourth, and the other with one out in the bottom half of the 10th when the Jays desperately needed a baserunner to mount a comeback. The result, however, was a 4-2 loss to the Rays.

Vernon’s numbers at home this year are almost beyond belief. In 45 games, the 30-year-old has batted .168 (29-for-173) – that’s the lowest mark at home posted by any regular in the American League.

Twenty-nine hits. 

Of those 45 games at home, Wells went hitless in 22 of them. In other words, if you’ve been to a Blue Jays game this year, there was basically a one in two chance that you saw Wells go hitless. That is, you went home without having seen the ‘face of the franchise’ (at least offensively) manage to collect a single hit. So, of course he’s being bombarded with boos at the Rogers Centre of late.

Meanwhile, the real face of the franchise, Roy Halladay, hasn’t had a problem performing at home (well, he hasn’t had a problem performing anywhere). But here are his numbers at the Rogers Centre: 7-2, 2.76 ERA, four complete games, six walks and 64 strikeouts.

Long story short: these two players – Wells and Halladay – couldn’t be further apart from the perspective of a Blue Jays fan. Toronto loves Roy Halladay. Toronto does not love Vernon Wells. What has become more apparent recently is that Toronto shares an equal dislike of general manager J.P. Ricciardi (one only needed to see the signs scattered around the Rogers Centre Friday night asking for JP’s removal from office).

But here’s the thing: It’s not all Ricciardi’s fault. If it’s true that Roy Halladay has made it known he wants to test the free agent waters at the end of 2010, it’s Ricciardi’s job to see what he can get for the ace pitcher now.

So today, we’re pointing the blame at Vernon Wells – the owner of an outrageous contract in which he’s not living up to. It’s not Wells’ fault that the Jays made him such a laughable offer. But it is his fault that he hasn’t approached Jays’ management to discuss a possible re-work of that contract. And we’re not talking about a re-work because he’s underperforming. We’re talking about a re-work so that the team can have the funds to keep Roy Halladay.

But alas, Wells has been very quiet during this whole Halladay fiasco. And not just at the plate.

No way, Jose

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Thursday’s contest against the Indians proved to be a forgettable one for Jose Bautista.

Hitting in the No. 7 spot, Bautista went 0-for-4 while leaving four men on base – including the tying run in scoring position in the ninth after Alex Rios was hit by pitch to lead off the inning and then swiped second with Bautista at the plate (the Jays ended up losing the game, 5-4, and the series, 2-1, to the Indians).

But that’s not all. Bautista, playing third base in place of Scott Rolen (who frustratingly doesn’t play day games after night ones), committed a one-out error in the fifth that put runners on second and third (both would score on a Shin-Soo Choo triple).

Indeed, it was one of those games in which Bautista would no doubt prefer to black out from the old memory. Problem is, Thursday’s struggles weren’t an isolated incident – at least not when it comes to his hitting. In his last seven games (dating back to July 12), Bautista has just one hit in 18 at-bats.

Dating back further, the 28-year-old is hitting just .191 (17-for-89) since May 16. That’s a good chunk of games (37), and those are Kevin Millar-type numbers (to be fair, Millar surprised Blue Jays fans Thursday with a 2-for-4 day at the plate – including a double and a home run – while batting out of the cleanup spot of all places).

And just for the record, we’ve been noticing Bautista’s shortcomings as an outfielder recently (bad routes, poor jumps, balls falling in when they probably shouldn’t).

There, we said it.

Quote of the day

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Yesterday, Joe Carter took some time out of his busy golf-filled retirement to chat with Jays fans on as sort of a buildup to the 1992-93 back-to-back championship reunion set for early August.

Here’s my favourite Q&A from the session …

wellar14: Is it true that you and “Wild Thing” (Mitch Williams) played a game of pool after the World Series game?

Carter: Not right after the World Series game we didn’t. But in 1998 we went bowling at Mitch’s alley, and I won. We also played pool after, and I won that too!

Poor Mitch.

But Williams is doing just fine. Even shortly after the infamous homer he had this to say: “Don’t expect me to curl up and hide from people because I gave up a home run in the World Series. Life’s a bitch. I could be digging ditches. I’m not.”

He’s gone on to enjoy a number of different broadcasting gigs following his retirement from the big leagues, and he’s currently a studio amalyst for MLB Network. It’s certainly been an easier road for Williams than it was for Buckner, that’s for sure.

Gillick driving ship?

Monday, July 20, 2009

ESPN’s Peter Gammons mentioned in a piece today “there were three Dodgers scouts in Toronto on Sunday, along with Pat Gillick from the Phillies, Gord Ash from the Brewers and a Red Sox delegation.”

The Phillies appear to be the frontrunner to land Roy Halladay (if he’s actually dealt before the July 31 trade deadline). If so, the Blue Jays would likely land some combination of the following Philly prospects: Michael Taylor, Kyle Drabek, Dominic Brown and Jason Knapp.

Gammons adds that, assuming Halladay was dealt, “one could argue that the Phillies have a chance to win three straight World Series.” This, since they would have Halladay under contract for 2010 also. However, an unnamed GM apparently told Gammons the following: “The general feeling is that he won’t be traded. The Phillies are the only reasonable expectation, but the way [the NL East] has folded, they know they’re going to win the division.”

Now hold on just a second. This reminded us of an excerpt from Diamond Dreams: 20 Years of Blue Jays Baseball (authored by Stephen Brunt).

Concerning the Jays’ late-season acquisition of David Cone in 1992, Brunt wrote: “By acquiring Cone, Gillick [who was, of course, the Jays’ GM at the time] sent a message to his players. Already they had one of the highest payrolls in the majors, but they were willing to spend more if it was necessary to get to a championship. Already they had what appeared to be a pitching staff capable of winning the American League East, but the Jays’ management and ownership clearly aspired to something greater.”

The result was the first ever World Series title for the Toronto Blue Jays.

Brunt called Gillick’s acquisition of Cone “the deal of his life.”

“Of all Gillick’s late-season acquisitions, Cone was the one who most suggested his mastery of the business. Other teams could have traded for him, should have traded for him. But it was Gillick who landed him.”

Now, we know that Gillick no longer holds the GM title in Philadelphia (instead, he’s an ‘advisor’). But we can’t help but think Gillick is at the helm for the Halladay sweepstakes – especially since the dealings are with his former team.

So, perhaps that unnamed GM is right. Perhaps the Phillies already know they’re going to win the division (now that they’ve run off eight wins in a row).

Or perhaps Phillies’ management and ownership aspires to something greater. Perhaps, as Gammons mentioned, the Phils are shooting for three straight World Series titles.

It’s hard to think of a better pitcher to lead the way towards that goal than Roy Halladay.

Halladay! Celebrate!

Sunday, July 19, 2009

In what may have been his last start as a Blue Jay (though we don’t think so), ace Roy Halladay showed off his stuff to the numerous scouts in attendance at Rogers Centre Sunday afternoon, improving his record to 11-3 with a complete game victory over the Boston Red Sox.

With the 3-1 win, Toronto improved its record to 45-47 and have officially got out to a good start in the second half of the season, taking two of three over the AL-best Red Sox. Here’s a glance at some notable numbers …

3 – Straight games missed now by Vernon Wells, who is suffering from a stomach virus.

.545 – Three-game batting average (6-for-11) for Lyle Overbay since the all-star break. On Sunday, the first baseman went 1-for-3 with a walk, a double and a pair of runs scored.

11 (games) – Current hit streak for Adam Lind after the DH/OF went 1-for-4 and hit his team-leading 29th double during Sunday’s win. Interestingly enough, Lind’s average has lowered during the streak (from .310 to .304). He’s batting .265 (13-for-49) and has managed just one hit in nine of those 11 games.

21 – Consecutive hitless at-bats for Rod Barajas heading into Sunday’s action. The Jays’ catcher snapped out of that funk though, going 2-for-2 with a double and three RBIs.

4 – Number of consecutive games in which all-star Aaron Hill has failed to reach base. He’s 0-for-16 during that span, dropping his season average to .284 – the lowest it’s been since April 10.

.216 – Hill’s batting average since May 24. In those 45 games, the Jays’ second baseman is 43-for-199 and has posted a dismal .259 on-base percentage. This, in contrast to his first 47 games this year: .350 (71-for-203) with a .385 on-base mark.

Marc R. gets Jays a W

Saturday, July 18, 2009

The man with the hardest name to spell in the majors may just be sticking around for awhile. Marc Rzepczynski earned his first big-league win Saturday afternoon, holding the AL-leading Boston Red Sox to just one run over six innings in an eventual 6-2 Blue Jays win.

It was the third outing for Rzepczynski since being called up to Toronto from Las Vegas, where he had made just two Triple-A starts. The 23-year-old allowed just four hits on Saturday, but he also walked four Sox in the outing. In fact, Rzepczynski struggled with his command for much of the outing. Of his 109 pitches, 50 were balls. Meanwhile, he only threw a first-pitch strike to seven out of the 25 batters he faced on the afternoon.

But he managed to dodge a few bullets and stay out of deep trouble en route to the win, the Jays’ first of the second half. At 45-47, Toronto now sits 11 games back of Boston in the AL East, and nine games behind the New York Yankees in the wild card race.

Notes: DH Kevin Millar had a disastrous game on Saturday. He saw a team-high 23 pitches, and ended up with nothing to show for it: 0-for-4 with three strikeouts and a GIDP … Adam Lind launched his 20th home run of the season, tying Aaron Hill for the team lead … Lyle Overbay went 2-for-4 with a pair of singles and is now 5-for-9 post all-star break.

Extra, extra!

Friday, July 17, 2009

Adam Lind has put up all-star calibre numbers this year for the Toronto Blue Jays. He may have come up short in the ‘Final Vote’, but he was certainly deserving of a midsummer classic appearance.

Perhaps his most impressive offensive stat this year is his extra-base hit total. Entering the season’s second half Friday, Lind led the American League with 46 extra-base hits (27 doubles and 19 home runs). And he maintained that lead tonight (on his 26th birthday) with a fourth-inning double off Red Sox starter Clay Buchholz. The way he did it was equally as impressive as the league lead itself.

Like he has done all year, Lind worked the count during his fourth inning at-bat. Following a ball and a called strike, the birthday boy swung through a pitch for strike two. Then, as he has done all season, he drove the opposing pitcher crazy (in this case Buchholz), by fouling off four straight pitches. A ball followed to put the count at two-and-two. And then Lind won the battle on the ninth pitch of the at-bat – on Buchholz’s signature out pitch, no less: the changeup. The result was a double to centre — his team-leading 28th double of the season.

Now to the bad news … Lind finished 1-for-4 on the night, the Blue Jays managed just five hits overall and were outscored 4-1 for the loss – their sixth out of the last seven (and ninth out of the last 11). Overall record? 44-47.