Blue Jays Need Another Right-Handed Bat

alex-anthopoulos

Since June 27th, the second game of a four-game set with the White Sox, the Toronto Blue Jays have faced four lefties (John Danks, Chris Sale, Jose Quintana, Tommy Milone) and have lost all four games. They’re also set to face Scott Kazmir and Brad Mills (this may change with the big trade) in Oakland, and then at least C.J. Wilson in Anaheim, and David Price in Tampa before the All-Star break…Continue reading→

Ranking of MLB Team Aggregators

Today’s MLB fan most likely has apps that combine news about their favourite teams on their phones, however for this post, I wanted to undertake a little research project to find out which MLB teams are covered in an aggregator format via website. As it turns out, no other aggregator compares to the one that covers the Toronto Blue Jays – www.bluejaysaggr.com.

I did this primarily because I love www.bluejaysaggr.com and check it everyday for all my Blue Jays’ news. I love the one-stop-reading that the site provides – from major news publications like ESPN to local papers and columnists, to blogs of all types – which is all listed on one glorious, incredibly handy and eye-pleasing platform that they’ve created.

Of the eight other teams that I found to have aggregator sites, I ranked them in descending order according to how comprehensive their coverage was of their respective team. This consisted of the amount of news provided and the number of sources listed from both major news outlets and local blogs. The Yankees’ aggregator, I think, is the best one out of the list below.

New York Yankees – lists their own content plus the site aggregates from a rather large number of sources.

Chicago Cubs – lists eight sources for Cubbies news, but you have to scroll down to find their section. I also found CubsChronicles, but they do a much worse job only listing three sources.

Pittsburgh Pirates – this site actually lists many sources and does a pretty comprehensive job.

Cincinnati Reds – lists many local Reds’ blogs but has no major newspaper coverage.

Boston Red Sox – has 10 sources listed but some are dated or are not relevant to baseball.

Cleveland Indians – you have to scroll down to the Indians section where it lists three news and three blog sources.

Philadelphia Phillies – a lot of news is posted here, but it’s mostly from PhilliesNation and philly.com, nothing else.

Chicago White Sox – from the same site as the Cubs above, however they only list three sources for the south-siders.

For all other 21 MLB teams, I found a generic sports news aggregator, SportSpyder that does a pretty darn good job of listing news from national and local media coverage in addition to blogs galore! You just have to click on the team that you want to see from the top drop down menu. Enjoy the reading!

Are the Blue Jays Contenders or Pretenders?

MLB: Toronto Blue Jays at Texas Rangers

Toronto Blue Jays’ T.V. play by play man, Buck Martinez, said yesterday on the broadcast that he hates it when fans say “‘The Jays are in first place, however…’, there is no however, the team is in first place and that’s all there is.”

While I should be happy that the Jays are indeed in first place, I too, am going to use the term “however” because … Continue reading→

Road Trip to PNC Park

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Earlier in May, myself and my baseball crazed buddies travelled down from Toronto, Canada to Pittsburgh, PA to catch our home town Toronto Blue Jays play the local Pittsburgh Pirates. Astonishing to me, I didn’t know Pittsburgh was only a five hour drive away, is very easy to get to via I-90 and I-79, and the city owns a striking skyline which you can view quite nicely by sitting in the stands at PNC Park… Continue reading→

Esmil Rogers: Still Worth Keeping Around?

Esmil Rogers

Last year, Toronto Blue Jays pitcher Esmil Rogers provided value to the team as a good long reliever and spot starter that spanned 20 starts. He amassed 137.2 IP in 2013, and in his five wins, he was completely dominate (.153/.186/.204 batting line against) versus his nine loses (.410/.476/.701), so clearly when he’s on, he’s lights out.

For 2014 however, thoughts of a possible… Continue reading→

The Remarkable Case of Jesse Chavez

Jesse Chavez

As of April 24th, 2014, Oakland Athletics’ starting pitcher Jesse Chavez ranks third in the league for ERA (1.38), sixth for both WHIP (0.92) and BB/9 (1.73), and fifth for K/BB ratio (5.6) after only four starts. This is from a guy who’s been through six other organizations and was an emergency fill-in for Oakland after two starting pitchers went down with injury.

The fact of the matter is that the Toronto Blue Jays could have…Continue reading→

Top Six MLB Teams That Have Surprised In 2014

Kirk Gibson, Trevor Cahill

*Note that records and stats shown are from end of day Thursday, April 17, 2014. If you click the link, you can read my full piece at Baseball Hot Corner, which is back, baby!

For every MLB season, despite our ever-thoughtful preseason predictions, there are bound to be surprises that occur which shock fans as to how teams perform. Granted, it’s only three weeks into the season, but here’s a look at some teams who are off to some pretty astounding starts, both good and bad.

Honourable mentions go to the New York Yankees, 10-6, 1st in AL East… Continue reading→

The 2014 Blue Jays and Handling Pressure

Meet your 2014 bearded Blue Jays - they're good enough for all of 'em to appear on Ducks Dynasty!

Meet your 2014 bearded Blue Jays – they’re good enough for all of ‘em to appear on Ducks Dynasty!

Here we are Blue Jays fans on the first day of the season, it’s a time of great anticipation and ever-longing hopefulness of a successful season. Many of our Jays had inspiring springs, and although we all know spring stats mean jack, the team headed north is mostly healthy and primed to rebound from last years dreadful season.

In fact, Jose Reyes recently told Brendan Kennedy of The Toronto Star, “Last year we had high expectations, we finished last. This year, we have no expectations, maybe we’ll finish first. Who knows?” Who knows indeed. What I like about his quote though is the acknowledgement that there is in fact no pressure on them this year because no body expects anything from this team.

There is cause for optimism though as Kennedy writes in the same article, “there is bona fide science behind the notion that the Jays may actually perform better this season simply because they have been around each other longer.” I too have alluded to this before and 500 Level Fan did a really nice write up on this notion as well.

I’ve also written before that the amount of fun a team or individual has, has to out-weight the pressure to perform. Intuitively, I knew this, yet couldn’t prove it until Kennedy wrote about this research in his article, which I encourage you all to read.

This leads me to two fascinating views on handling pressure in books I’ve read this offseason. The first of which is former NBA all-time great head coach Phil Jackson in his latest book, Eleven Rings, when he said,

“When a player isn’t forcing a shot or trying to impose his personality on the team, his gifts as an athlete most fully manifest. Paradoxically, by playing within his natural abilities, he activates a higher potential for the team that transcends his own limitations and helps his teammates transcend theirs. When this happens, the whole begins to add up to more than the sum of its parts.”

He later adds, “as a coach, I know that being fixated on winning (or more likely, not losing) is counterproductive, especially when it causes you to lose control of your emotions. What’s more, obsessing about winning is a loser’s game: The most we can hope for is to create the best possible conditions for success, then let go of the outcome. The ride is a lot more fun that way.”

Letting go of the outcome … that’s not easy considering the results-driven society we live in today. Interestingly though, Buzz Bissinger similarly writes in his book, Three Nights in August, as he covers the life and mind of soon to be inducted Hall of Famer, Tony LaRussa,

“…when you’re up there [to bat in a high pressure situation], focus on the process and not the result; don’t project into the future. Forget about the noble but irrational concept of going for broke [like hitting one out]. Put away the hero complex and simply try to get something started.

That, my friends, is what I’d like to see this season – for the Blue Jays to not get so anxious and try to pull everything out of the park; to not try and win every game with a home run. The ability to relax, to appreciate the moment, and to play within one’s own natural abilities may result in a better than expected run in 2014.

There’s already been evidence this spring with the likes of Adam Lind and Jose Bautista and many others hitting the ball up the middle or to the opposite field. That’s an approach that is both welcomed and refreshing to see.

And one final thought I have for the Jays before the first pitch is thrown this year is – go get those other AL East bastards!!

2014 MLB Predictions

price and rays

In looking back at last year’s predictions (A.L. here, N.L. here), it turned out that I was half correct when it came to predicting the teams (St. Louis) that reached the World Series. And I managed to accurately guess seven of the teams eventual placement in the standings, which of course means that I was wrong with 77% of the other teams.

So in continuing this futile, yet fun exercise, here’s a quick look at what I’m predicting this year.

American League East

Rays – I love their starting pitching and their bullpen will still be solid. David Price and the whole entire team are on a mission to have one last good run before Price is likely traded. This is too much of a feel good story to not pick them as division champs.

Red Sox – Still very solid, I really like the youth they’re inserting in place of Jacoby Ellsbury and Stephen Drew and they’ve got more coming in the way of pitching and positional prospects. I really hate how good an organization Boston is.

Yankees – They’ve reasserted themselves as a force to reckon with, which I completely detest. Still, there are many questions that surround this team, too many, in fact, that it’s hard to pick them as division favourites especially when there are more solid teams they’re competing against like the Rays and Red Sox.

Orioles – Baltimore has really strengthened themselves with the Nelson Cruz and Ubaldo Jimenez signings. I think they’ll have a chance this year to compete for the playoffs.

Blue Jays – What can I say, their offseason has been non-existent, and while nearly the same team returns that we all picked to win a year ago, it’s hard to be more optimistic than fifth place given all the question marks that surround this team. I’d love to see them prove me wrong of course!

AL Central

Royals – I’m taking a flyer on the Royals here because they’re a solid team that should get better in the offensive department. Of course, I could be totally wrong, but they could be another feel good story.

Tigers – I know Detroit had to re-make their team by infusing more speed and better defense into their roster, but to me, they just got worse over the offseason and don’t seem as impressive. Furthermore, many large decisions loom, the first of which is what to do with Max Scherzer long term.

Indians – Are they going to match last year’s results without the success of Ubaldo Jimenez and Scott Kazmir? My answer is no.

Twins – More pitching depth is good for the team thanks to the signings of Ricky Nolasco, Phil Hughes and Mike Pelfrey, it’s just that I feel it’s mostly meh. An infusion of youth with the likes of Josmil Pinto and Oswaldo Arcia will help, but it’s still not a very good team, YET.

White Sox – I like the moves they made in the offseason by acquiring Adam Eaton and Matt Davidson to go along with Jose Abreu. They have a good 1-2 punch in the starting rotation with Chris Sale and Jose Quintana. They’ve definitely reshaped themselves, however it doesn’t mean the team will gel right away either. I’m still guessing fifth place.

AL West

Athletics – The A’s deserve some credit for finishing first the past two seasons and 2014 is no different.  Their GM Billy Beane has accrued 25 guys that compliment each other, and besides, they easily have the best pitching staff in the division.

Rangers – They’re much improved with the additions of Prince Fielder and Shin-Soo Choo, and yet they’re faced with some holes in the rotation right now due to injuries. They’ve signed guys like Tommy Hanson and Joe Saunders to help fill the void, and while their pitching seems thin right now, if they get Colby Lewis and Matt Harrison healthy, they’ll be able to compete for the division title.

Angels – Many people are still high on the Angels here, and while they shouldn’t be as bad as they’ve been the last two years with an resurgent Albert Pujols and Josh Hamilton, their pitching depth still remains ultra thin.

Mariners – Ah yes, I loved their big signing of Robinson Cano, however their lineup is very lacking from the right side and Cano has no protection. Their pitching depth is razor thin right now with Hisashi Iwakuma and Taijuan Walker out at the moment, so yeah, this may end up being a long season for them.

Astros – The Astros are young and building up their team with an infusion of youth and promise, which I like. By the end of the season with players like George Springer, Jonathan Singleton, Mark Appel et al., they should be much improved and maybe even challenge for fourth place.

National League East

Nationals – Washington has strengthened themselves in the Doug Fister trade and by the signing of Nate McLouth. All they have to do is perform, which is what the Jays were saying a year ago.

Braves – I don’t like how they lost Brian McCann or Tim Hudson. Those are two big veteran guys that are now gone, which I feel leaves a leadership gap. To reach the post-season again, they’ll need, like always, to rely on their young pitching and improved production from the likes of B.J. Upton and Dan Uggla. It’s really disappointing how Kris Medlen and Brandon Beachy are injured again for the year. The Ervin Santana signing sure helped them, but now will it be enough?

Mets – The Metropolitans will be better in 2014 thanks to the additions of Chris Young and Curtis Granderson and hopefully further growth from the likes of Zach Wheeler, Juan Legares and Travis D’Arnaud. Their pitching staff is decent and I like what they’re building for 2015 and beyond.

Phillies – Already it seems the injuries are piling up with Cole Hamels and Jonathan Pettibone and Ethan Martin already out for a while. For me, I believe it’s too much to ask of an aging core to step up and compete like they’re three years younger. If they fail to compete this year, it really might mean the end of Ruban Amaro’s tenure as GM and the start of a rebuilding process which could take quite awhile.

Marlins – This team is just so young and inexperienced to do much of anything. I like their core of starting pitching, but still this team is too young to prevent the expected growing pains of youth.

NL Central

Cardinals – St. Louis has strengthened their already strong roster with Peter Bourjos and Jhonny Peralta. A model organization, it’s hard to expect anyone else in the division challenging them for the division lead.

Brewers – Initially I wasn’t high on the Brew Crew, but now with the Matt Garza signing, their rotation appears to be pretty decent. The main questions for me here pertain to their youthful yet promising offense in addition to their bullpen which lacks any proven commodity now that K-Rod is injured for the time being.

Reds – Still very solid in the rotation and bullpen, the question here remains on offense and whether Billy Hamilton can be that on-base spark plug. It’s too bad they’re a smaller market team that has to rely on infusions of cheap, youthful prospects to augment their core as opposed to resigning stars like Shin-Soo Choo. Still, I like the look of Tony Cingrani in the rotation and top pitching prospect Robert Stephenson who should help the team real soon.

Pirates – I expect a fall from grace of sorts from a team that over-achieved last year. Don’t get me wrong, I loved seeing them in the post-season, but I think their chances have worsened with the loss of A.J. Burnett. Everything has to go right again for them to have a chance.

Cubs – It’s so hard for me to be nice to a team that appears content letting Luis Valbuena be it’s starting third baseman along with the general acceptance of utter mediocrity. They also don’t appear to have a plan given how they freely admitted signing Edwin Jackson maybe was a year too early. This organization needs to shape up and get their act together.

NL West

Dodgers – The class of the division, the Dodgers will remain champs as they feature the best pitching and, if healthy, a good lineup that will put up oodles of runs.

Diamondbacks – Another mystery organization here where they traded Justin Upton last offseason only to acquire another power hitter in Mark Trumbo this offseason. Still, they’re going to be a good team since they have significant talent, but I don’t think it’ll be enough to win the division.

Padres – Many people are high on the Padres this year, and while they could surprise due to improved depth and upside in the rotation, a lot of players need good healthy seasons for San Diego to compete. In that ballpark, they are going to be decent in preventing runs, the big question is whether they can score them.

Giants – GM Brian Sebean has brought back mainly the same group (plus a few minor additions), which under performed last year. Now they could rebound and win it all in 2014 since it’s an even numbered year, or they could flutter again around the .500 level. I’ll pick the latter.

Rockies – I have to tip my cap to the Rockies who are certainly trying to be more competitive as they’ve brought in Brett Anderson and Franklin Morales to help fill out their rotation. Will it work necessarily, that still remains to be seen.

POST-SEASON

Wildcards:  A.L.) Red Sox over Rangers; N.L.) Braves over Diamondbacks

Division Series: A.L.) Rays over Royals; A’s over Red Sox. N.L.) Nationals over Braves; Dodgers over Cardinals

League Championship Series: A.L.) Rays over A’s; N.L.) Nationals over Dodgers

World Series: Rays over Nationals

Varying Opinions and Fifth Starters

Here’s a quick post about a favourable couple of articles I’ve posted recently at Players View. First, if you and your friends had to rank the players by position in the AL East, how would it turn out? Would it vary a bit, or be kind of similar? Click here to find out just how varied a ranking can be amongst fans of other AL East teams.

Secondy, I looked at the fifth starter competition in Cleveland, which was of interest to see who had the inside track at the job. Speaking of fifth starters, do you agree with this:

I don’t know where Sportsnet’s Zwelling is coming from, but to me, Santana’s always been a #3 starter except for last year when he was a #2 behind James Shields in Kansas City. I’d envision a rotation of Dickey, Morrow, Buehrle, Santana and then likely Hutchison so the Jays can separate two righties with Buehrle.

Let’s hope Santana chooses the Jays, baby!