JaysHub has undergone a couple of changes throughout the years, beginning as a blog, hosting a podcast, and now it’s time for the next phase.
Introducing the brand new JaysHub, home of a new collection of videos surrounding the Toronto Blue Jays. These videos will demonstrate a unique twist on the ballclub, and present an interactive medium for casual Jays fans to enjoy.
Baseball is less than a week away, and the Toronto Blue Jays are in the midst of tinkering with their final roster.
For this week’s Strike3Called podcast, we give you:
- Aaron Sanchez cracks the starting five
- Drew Hutchison gets nailed on back-to-back days
- Who’s going to close for the Blue Jays?
- Fourth outfielder
- Limited bullpen spots remain
And much more!
Listen right here:
Strike3Called: Three Blue Jays crack Top 10 defense, Dickey’s plan, Sanchez dazzles while Bautista cranks
The Toronto Blue Jays continue to impress this spring, dominating almost every game they play.
The Jays now sit at 10-2 atop the Grapefruit League, one game ahead of the second place Houston Astros.
Over the last week, we’ve seen some stellar performances by the Blue Jays’ offense, pitching staff, and defense.
If you have the MLB At Bat app on your phone, you may have seen this pop up today:
This week’s Strike3Called (K3C) podcast, courtesy of 101.5 The Hawk FM’s sports show The Zone, breaks down the Top 10 defenders in baseball as listed by MLB.com’s Richard Justice, including those three Blue Jays. Here’s the list:
- Kevin Kiermaier
- Andrelton Simmons
- Kevin Pillar
- Brandon Crawford
- Billy Hamilton
- Adrian Beltre
- Adeiny Hechavarria
- Josh Donaldson
- J.J. Hardy
- Russell Martin
Curious to know why those guys made the cut? The K3C podcast has it all for you, as well as notes on R.A. Dickey’s goal to avoid a rough beginning to the spring, Aaron Sanchez’s spotless first start, and Jose Bautista’s first blast.
Every sports fan loves to start their week off right… So here’s the deal.
I co-host a sports talk radio show on 101.5 FM in Hamilton, Ontario called The Zone, which airs every Monday from 12-1pm EST.
Strike3Called (or K3C as it might be abbreviated) is being created out of the baseball segment of The Zone, and hosted right here on JaysHub! The first episode was put up all the way back in June of 2015, but a weekly edition starting right now is on its way.
(technically) Episode 2 has your Toronto Blue Jays Spring Training recap thus far, as well as notes on the upcoming spring debuts of superstars Jose Bautista, Edwin Encarnacion, and how Marcus Stroman is stepping up his pitching game.
I’m going to keep this as short and simple as I can.
There’s no doubt that Toronto Blue Jays fans are completely unraveling after the first two games of the American League Division Series against the Texas Rangers, especially after Game 2.
Major League Baseball umpire Vic Carapazza has taken a lot – and I mean a lot – of flack from players and fans alike after his calling balls and strikes during the marathon that took place on Friday afternoon.
Everyone was complaining about the inconsistency of his strike zone, too many pitches outside of it being called strikes (or balls inside the zone), and almost anything else you could come up with to hound the guy.
But take a look at this:
(From Brooks Baseball: These graphs only plot calls made by the home plate umpire. In other words, they only plot balls and called strikes. No other pitches or results are included. Intuitively, this provides a representation of the strikezone for each game. Each pitch is represented by a single dot. Green dots are balls and red dots are strikes. Pitches marked as belonging to a particular team are designated with different shapes. These teams represent the pitching team.)
There are always going to be borderline calls, there’s no getting away from that. But with all the data present, is there really that much of a bias there?
I will say this – when I was watching the game, I got frustrated too, because it looked like a lot of the called strikes were out of the zone.
But it’s important to remember that a strike is where the ball crosses over the plate, not where it is caught by the catcher. And because guys who pitch like Marcus Stroman have an absurd amount of movement to their pitches, sometimes it can fool the eyes.
Game 2 of the ALDS is in the books and the result wasn’t what Jays fans hoped for… but at the very least, Vic Carapazza might not be the villain that everyone’s making him out to be.
Toronto Blue Jays phenom pitcher Marcus Stroman is going out of his way this spring to try his hardest to fool batters. But leading into the final stretch of the 2014 season, he may have been fooling everyone else too.
There’s no doubt that the kid has electric stuff in his arm and a devastating arsenal of pitches to throw when he’s on the hill. Stroman relies on five different weapons: his fourseam fastball, cutter, slider, curveball and changeup.
While this is already ridiculously impressive, reports are blazing lately noting that the young gun is adding a sinker as a sixth pitch to his repertoire.
Stroman was quoted recently as saying “If you can have a sinker, all hitters say that’s one of the hardest pitches to hit when it’s located. So it was not that I needed another pitch to make an adjustment, it was more so that I saw it as a weapon I never had that I wanted to add to my arsenal.”
You’ve really got to admire Stroman’s work ethic and the constant drive for improvement and success. But the question here is… Who are you trying to fool, Marcus?
He’s already been “sinking” the pitch under the radar so to speak, and some of us had no idea.
Here’s what Stroman’s been throwing since 2007 until the present, according to Brooks Baseball:
Notice that sinker line? Here’s his pitch use percentage:
Apparently the young right-hander was tire-kicking that sixth pitch half way into last season and used it moderately for a little bit before ditching it, and then decided to sink the majority of his pitches for the duration.
While Stroman’s use of the pitch is still in infancy, it’s safe to say the sinker is what ultimately defined his late success on the mound last season, and leading into 2015 the pitch should outright fool anyone stepping up to the plate.
Looks like we were fooled too, Marcus.
WAR, or Wins Above Replacement (for those who aren’t too much into stats) has emerged within the baseball and sabermetric community as a way to measure a player’s total contributions to their team using a variety of different values. It is important to note here that not every baseball fan or sabermetrician trusts in WAR. Some don’t believe in replacement level, some don’t like Ultimate Zone Rating defensive numbers, and some don’t like any other defining factor.
For those who do, here is a list of the Top 10 Toronto Blue Jays as listed by Wins Above Replacement, along with their career stats in Toronto and some little tidbits.
From Left to Right:
Dave Stieb – 57 WAR
175-134, ERA: 3.42, IP: 2873, BB: 1020, SO: 1658, ERA+: 123, FIP: 3.82, WHIP: 1.24
There’s no surprise here. Stieb was the first real star pitcher for the Blue Jays, and has the club’s only no-hitter under his belt (not to mention a handful of one-hitters too). He’s a 7 time All-Star and spent all but one year of his entire career with Toronto.
Roy Halladay – 48 WAR
148-76, ERA: 3.43, IP: 2046.2, BB: 455, SO: 1495, ERA+: 133, FIP: 3.47, WHIP: 1.19
Look at that pitching line. Ridiculous. Halladay is arguably the best Jay to ever step on the mound. We may not see any home-grown performance quite like his until Marcus Stroman settles into the rotation nicely for a couple of years and lives up to his hype. After he called it a day, Halladay signed a one-day contract to retire as a Blue Jay.
Tony Fernandez – 37 WAR
.297/.353/.412, 2B: 291, HR: 60, RBI: 613, OPS+: 106
During his tenure with the Blue Jays, Fernandez went to four All-Star games and snagged four Gold Gloves. The fan favorite is the guy you think of any time someone shouts “Shortstop!” in Toronto. On top of leading the club in hits (1583) and triples (72), he sneaks into the top ten in runs (4th), 2B (3rd), RBI (6th), BB (5th), SB (4th), AVG (3rd) and OBP (8th).
Carlos Delgado – 36 WAR
.282/.392/.556, 2B: 343, HR: 336, RBI: 1058, OPS+: 142
I’ll let this speak for itself:
Jose Bautista – 31 WAR
.266/.385/538, 2B: 139, HR: 203, RBI: 518, OPS+: 149
For the amount of time Bautista has spent on the Blue Jays thus far, it’s fantastic to see someone climb the WAR ladder so quickly and jump over a whack of other prestigious players. The right fielder is arguably the best all-around player the Jays have and have had for a while now. Bautista’s been a part of five All-Star games and clubbed his way to three Silver Sluggers. He owns the club single season records for home runs with 54, and we all know how sweet 2010 was for that:
Jimmy Key – 30 WAR
116-81, ERA: 3.42, IP: 1695.2, BB: 404, SO: 944, ERA+: 121, FIP: 3.70, WHIP: 1.19
Jimmy Key was one of those guys that would grind out every day on the mound without a lot of fanfare. Over the course of nine seasons, he quietly took the hill and dominated his way through hitters. It doesn’t get much better than that.
Jesse Barfield – 29 WAR
.256/.335/.483, 2B: 162, HR: 179, RBI: 527, OPS+: 118
Barfield combined his power at the plate with his cannon of an arm to grab his 29 WAR over nine seasons with the Blue Jays. 1986 was his best outing by mashing 40 moonshots, becoming an All-Star, and snagging a Gold Glove and Silver Slugger award.
Vernon Wells – 28 WAR
.280/.329/.475, 2B: 339, HR: 223, RBI: 813, SB: 90, OPS+: 108
Wells got thrown to the dogs after he signed his massive contract in Toronto, and the bigger the paycheck, the bigger the criticism. Despite that, it’s important to remember that he sits second in club standings for hits, runs, doubles, home runs and RBIs.
Pat Hentgen – 26 WAR
Hentgen played a large part in Toronto’s World Series championship in 1993, winning 19 games in the regular season. His best year, however, came in 1996 when he went 20–10 with a 3.22 ERA and 177 strikeouts to win the American League Cy Young Award. He was an American League All-Star in 1993, 1994, and 1997.
Lloyd Moseby – 25 WAR
.257/.332/.414, 2B: 273, HR: 169, RBI: 797, SB: 280, OPS+ 102
The Shaker may have had some growing pains early in his career, but as time went on he became a staple for the Toronto Blue Jays. Moseby is known as being a polished and well-rounded batter, fielder and base runner. He holds the franchise record for stolen bases with 255.
Jim Clancy – 25 WAR
John Olerud – 22 WAR
Roberto Alomar – 22 WAR * HOF
Devon White – 22 WAR
Juan Guzman – 21 WAR
George Bell – 21 WAR
Alex Rios – 20 WAR
Roger Clemens – 20 WAR
Fred McGriff – 19 WAR
Ernie Whitt – 19 WAR
Baseball can be so exciting, romantic, suspenseful, and infuriating all at once, because that’s been the nature of the game for so long.
The offices of Major League Baseball have been adding to that infuriating element over last season and the 2014/2015 off-season with a feeble attempt at bettering the game, speeding it up, and keep fans interested.
I’ve already been struggling with the abominable replay system introduced last year, and the scary pace of play rumors that began to surface sought to destroy the original and traditional concept of what baseball is. The proposed 20 second pitch clock was the one that sent me in a frenzy. Not everyone is a Grant Balfour or David Price, who love to sit on their loins before tossing every pitch. Baseball doesn’t need any sort of play clock.
Although the pitch clocks aren’t being used yet (and I hope we never see them), the Minor Leagues are implementing them. The good news is that if it ever came down to it, the Toronto Blue Jays would probably never rack up any sort of infraction for a pitch clock violation.
As it stands now, the Blue Jays’ starters are the fastest in the Majors by averaging 20.2 seconds between pitches, besting the Major League average of 22.3 seconds. It should come as no surprise that the man who leads the way is Mark Buehrle, who averages just 17.3 seconds, and teammate R.A. Dickey is behind him at 18.3 clicks. Even the relief corps as a group tosses with a 22.8 second gap, while the MLB average for relievers is 24.3 seconds. Nearly every hurler in Toronto sits well below everyone else, and even though a pitch clock may never be instituted, the Blue Jays would be ahead of the game with this one.
I will note that the clock I do happen to be okay with is the one limiting time spent between innings and pitching changes, actually being introduced by Major League Baseball this year in an effort to increase the pace of play.
Jayson Stark of ESPN explains that “when a reliever leaves the bullpen and reaches the field, the timer will be activated — starting at 2 minutes, 25 seconds on local TV games, 2:45 on national games. The reliever will have that amount of time to reach the mound and throw his warm-up pitches. As with between-inning breaks, relievers are supposed to throw their final warm-up pitch with 30 seconds left on the clock.”
The other pace of play rules in effect can be found here.
A full list of pitchers and the time they spent in-between pitches can be found here.
“Touch ’em all Joe! You’ll never hit a bigger home run in your life!”
Tom Cheek’s call of Joe Carter’s hard-hit ball that left the yard to secure the Toronto Blue Jays’ second consecutive World Series win (and to date, their last), has been ingrained into the heads of Canada’s baseball fans since the end of 1993, and they’re longing to hear something just like it again – soon. There’s a reason why people love baseball. It’s the summer days, the ice cold beer, and the smell of fresh cut grass, pine tar, and the hot dogs cooking in the concession stands. It’s the intensity of every pitch, at-bat, stolen base, and home run. It’s winning it all and then starting fresh every spring training. It’s Major League Baseball. There’s so much more to the game than the game itself.
Unfortunately, the reasons why people love baseball are bittersweet in Toronto.
“There are 162 games in a season,” says Sportsnet analyst and broadcaster Jamie Campbell. “And there are 29 other teams that want exactly what the Blue Jays want over that span. So it’s easy for people to get frustrated with not seeing a playoff appearance in 21 years. It was a near-ecstasy feeling when the Jays won their first World Series in 1992, and we want to feel that again.”
So let’s take a trip back to 1992, where life at 1 Blue Jays Way was good.
Toronto was in its sixteenth season, enjoying success as the quickest expansion team in Major League Baseball history to make the playoffs, and was an absolute beast of a force to be reckoned with. The team played the season without being swept in a single series, finished with a 96-66 record, won the World Series for the first time and had a paid attendance of over 4 million fans at the SkyDome – the most to enter a stadium’s turnstiles in all of baseball that year.
Toronto was basking in its All-Star lineup, consisting of the explosive bats of Dave Winfield and Joe Carter, the agility of Roberto Alomar, and the rubber arms of Jack Morris, Juan Guzman and Dave Stieb. Core players like these, whether they stayed on the roster or were traded for upgrades, would ultimately pave the way to another victory in 1993 and the absolute peak of baseball’s popularity in Toronto’s market. These were the unabashed glory days. The Toronto Blue Jays were in flight…
Then Major League Baseball tossed a hard, heart-breaking curveball at fans in 1994.
On August 12, the Major League Baseball Players Association ordered a work stoppage and a players’ strike began. MLB and MLBPA struggled to get a deal to even hobble down the first base line, and ultimately the stadium lights began a slow dim around the entire league as the plug was pulled on the remainder of the season, leading to an entire wash of the postseason and for the first time since 1904, the World Series as well. Baseball would never fully recover from the stoppage, which lasted until April 2, 1995 for a grand total of 232 days. The strike was seen as the worst in professional sports history, leaving the game, the fans, and the sports world shaken and angry.
That’s when the Toronto Blue Jays got their wings got clipped.
“Let’s be honest, everything has to go right for you, and even though the Jays haven’t won in the last 21 years, it certainly hasn’t been without trying,” says Campbell. “You need not only a good ball club and good players, but often just some good fortune as well.” The Blue Jays’ good fortune was seemingly hit out of the ballpark with Carter’s home run in 1993.
Toronto has to carry an entire country on the barrel of its bat, and after the strike Canada’s baseball culture was seemingly put on the disabled list indefinitely.
“There were a number of problems after they won the World Series,” says Associated Press Blue Jays freelancer Ian Harrison. “The absentee ownership, the economics of baseball changing drastically in that time period with the Jays going from the biggest spenders down to the middle of the pack, and there wasn’t the same focus and attention put on winning anymore.”
That same focus and attention was also lost on Toronto’s fans after the strike and the team’s sudden decline. Attendance was more than cut in half and kept declining, so the SkyDome (as it was known back then) became nothing more than a desolate shell of concrete and rug.
And then something happened.
“Since ’93 we’ve seen everybody in the division make the playoffs except for the Blue Jays. But now probably the most optimistic period has been over the last few years,” Harrison says with a smile. And the proof is in the numbers.
The Blue Jays’ front office undoubtedly felt the pressure to fill stadium seats, push merchandise, and ultimately make money to increase their payroll and attract free agents north of the border again. The ball club still hadn’t recovered from the early 90’s and although the thunderous bats of veterans Jose Bautista and Edwin Encarnacion were exciting, it was simply not enough. Before the 2013 season, Toronto tried an all-or-nothing approach and signed former New York Mets pitcher R.A. Dickey along with Mark Buehrle, Josh Johnson and shortstop Jose Reyes all coming from the Miami Marlins. The next day, the Blue Jays were baseball analysts’ projected favourites to win the World Series for the first time in 19 years. All of a sudden, Toronto and the rest of Canada were buying tickets, snatching up jerseys, grabbing their gloves and cramming into the Rogers Centre to the point where games were beginning to sell out again. It was Jays mania… and perhaps another chance for the front office.
But something was different this time. The Blue Jays obviously sign and switch players every year, so what made this so special?
“The huge deal with the Marlins was a game changer,” Campbell explains. “People thought that was a big step up.”
Harrison goes on to say that “this was finally a clear sign that the team which was scuffling through mediocrity was now just trying to go for it.” To acquire the reigning Cy Young award winner in Dickey and to bring a handful of good, reliable players to Toronto without giving up much of the team’s own talent showed that the Jays still had some pull in baseball. The Jays went all-in when everyone expected them to fold their hand and walk away with the little they already had.
Ultimately, this is what sparked a sort of renewal of public interest in the team. With attendance figures now gaining some ground and the Jays’ staff upping the payroll, more acquisitions have been made between November 2012 and the present – and they’re big names like Canadian catcher Russell Martin and third baseman Josh Donaldson. The front office has seemingly found the key to keep fans interested, guessing, and on their feet… and to continue developing a winning formula.
However, there are other ways to tell that the resurgence is alive and well outside of what happens inside the Rogers Centre. It’s come to the point where fans of the sport are putting in their own efforts to enhance the baseball experience and ensure that it doesn’t leave again.
Kevin Kennedy, co-owner of Tallboys bar in downtown Toronto and an avid baseball fan, created PitchTalks, a concept which revolves around interactive discussions between baseball fans and media professionals affiliated with the Toronto Blue Jays. It’s mission is to “connect with the growing crowd of baseball enthusiasts in Toronto by facilitating informed and entertaining discussions about the game. The format is flexible and can include storytelling, presentations, debates, speaker panels, and lectures.”
“I like to bring people around good ideas,” says Kennedy. “And I think there was a big gap in the interactive content that is available with having a baseball team here.”
PitchTalks has picked up steam quickly, garnering recognition in the United States as well and its early success is a great example of how having a different idea and model can make an impact in an area where baseball had lost meaning for many years.
“I want to give Toronto fans a different sort of venue to talk about baseball, not only about the Toronto Blue Jays,” Kennedy continues. “Fans normally stop caring once the Jays’ season is over before playoffs begin, but there’s a few of us that care about the game itself more than a specific team.”
It is efforts like this that will ultimately keep baseball alive in Toronto, and the city has seemingly painted itself blue again… at least for now.
“There are people across the entire country that have nothing but excitement for the Blue Jays right now,” an upbeat Campbell says. “But there’s nothing these fans want more than another World Series. It needs to happen soon.”
Can the Blue Jays finally do it in 2015? The beautiful thing about baseball is that there are so many variables, so many outcomes, so many things that can happen during every pitch.
It’s Major League Baseball. There’s so much more to the game than the game itself.