Series Preview: Blue Jays at Yankees

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For the fifth time this year the Yanks and Blue Jays will lock horns. It always seems to be a tough series with them, even though they’re a .500 team. For whatever reason their bats come alive and their pitchers bear down. Despite the Yankees’ 14-game lead over the Jays, they’re just 7-5 against them on the season.

What Have the Jays Done Lately?

This week the Blue Jays took two of three from the Orioles. After losing the first game in extra innings they dropped the O’s 13-0 on Wednday before taking the finale yesterday. Before that they dropped two straight series, losing three of four to the Rays and two of three to the Royals.

Blue Jays on Offense

Despite their flat play overall, the Blue Jays do have a quality offense. Their 103 wRC+ ranks fifth in the AL, behind only the Yankees, Red Sox, Rangers, and Tigers (and the Tigers by just one point). While their team on base average ranks well enough, sixth in the AL, they excel with their power. At a .169 ISO they’re fourth in the AL, just one point behind the Rangers.

It doesn’t take a blogger to tell you that Jose Bautista has led the way all season. His .453 wOBA leads the majors by 20 points and leads the AL by 33. He’s one up on Curtis Granderson for the MLB home run lead and has walked more often than any other player in the league. Against the Yanks this year he’s hit three homers and drawn nine walks in 38 PA. Last year he was absolute menace, too, hitting six homers and walking 19 times in 81 PA.

Behind Bautista the Blue Jays have a trio of excellent hitters. Yunel Escobar has stepped up in his first full season as a Blue Jay, producing a .367 OBP from the leadoff spot. Edwin Encarnacion, too, has stepped up after a tumultuous 2010 season in Toronto. He has produced a .350 wOBA, mostly as the team’s DH. He’s been a pest against the Yankees, going 12 for 40 with four doubles this season. Brett Lawrie has stormed onto the scene since his mid-season call-up, hitting .340/.392/.713, producing 12.9 runs above average despite having just 102 PA. His ISO is actually higher than Bautista’s at the moment.

One player to watch is Kelly Johnson, recently acquired from the Diamondbacks. He’s gone on a tear in his first eight games north of the border. He actually has hit lefties better than righties in his career, despite batting from the left side. Eric Thames has provided some offense as well, a .345 wOBA in 293 PA. Otherwise the Jays are either average or below. So while they do have a core of quality producers, they’re not nearly as deep as other offenses.

Another player to watch is Adam Lind. He started off on fire, producing a 1.017 OPS through his first 198 PA. It looked like a real bounceback season for him, but since then he’s been as cold as they come. Since June 19th he’s come to the plate 274 times and has hit .198/.241/.315. That brings his wOBA down to league average, which is not exactly what the Jays expected. If he continues like this his bounceback season could turn into one as bad as last year, when he hit .237/.287/.425.

Blue Jays on the Mound

While the Jays do have a quality offense, their pitching staff falls short. They rank 11th in the AL with a 4.22 ERA and 4.23 FIP.

Friday: RHP Brandon Morrow vs. Ivan Nova. Morrow has always possessed good stuff, and he seemed to harness it this year. His 10.35 K/9, 3.41 BB/9, and 0.95 HR/9 add up to a 3.38 FIP, but his results have provided a 4.79 ERA. That’s in large part because of his low strand rate, something that should correct itself over time. He’s had a rough go in five of his last seven starts, though he did strike out 11 in seven innings against Texas about a month ago. Since then he’s had just one good outing, and that came against Seattle. Last two times out he allowed 11 runs in 10 innings against the Royals and Rays. Against the Yankees he has a 4.68 ERA in 50 career innings, though he did toss 6.2 innings of one-run ball against them earlier this year.

Saturday: LHP Ricky Romero vs. Bartolo Colon. On Saturday the Yanks run into Toronto’s best starter in Romero. He’s had something of an odd year, putting up peripherals inferior to Morrow, but besting him in ERA by nearly two full runs. His walk rate hasn’t been great, but he’s held opponents to a .245 BABIP, which explains the divide between his FIP and ERA. Still, it has made him one of the more effective starters in the league. In August he threw 44 innings and allowed just 10 runs, a 2.05 ERA. Opponents hit just .160 off him. The Yanks got to him last time out, scoring four times in five innings. Before that he tossed seven-innings of one-run ball, and six innings of two-run ball against them.

Sunday: LHP Brett Cecil vs. Freddy Garcia (probably). Cecil got off to a horrible start, allowing 16 runs in his first four starts, including five in five innings against the Yankees on April 20th. The Blue Jays demoted him after that, and in his first start back, on June 30th, he allowed six runs in 6.1 innings. It all appeared to be going downhill at that point, but Cecil has turned it around to a degree. Since the beginning of July he’s produced a 3.54 ERA in 76.1 innings, striking out 50 to 22 walks. The 11 homers, though, can be a problem. He has, however, allowed nine runs combined in his last two starts. It might seem as though Cecil has owned the Yanks, especially in 2010. But in his 46.2 career innings against them he has a 4.82 ERA.

Bullpen: The Jays do have a decent bullpen, ranking seventh in the AL in ERA and sixth in FIP. Casey Janssen in particular has stepped up, keeping the ball in the park while striking out many and walking few. That’s a perfect combination for any pitcher. Two of their more effective relievers, Marc Rzepczynski and Jason Frasor, are no longer with the team.

Recommended Jays Reading: The always entertaining Drunk Jays Fans and the slightly more analytical Ghost Runner On First.

Tickets

It appears that you can get into this series relatively cheaply.

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Mailbag: Hughes, Wang, Prospects, Farm Teams
RAB Live Chat
  • Yazman

    “Despite the Yankees’ 14-game lead over the Jays, they’re just 7-5 against them on the season.”

    The standings difference is about commensurate with head-to-head record, based on 135 games, if my math is right.

  • http://twitter.com/tjamato T.J.

    So does Montero sit tonight?

    I’d kind of like to see him catch Nova.

    • Cy Pettitte

      that would be awesome. I would have Montero catch Nova, Cervelli catch CC and Martin the rest of the rotation. Might as well give Russell some extra off days in September, his offense seems to suffer a lot when he’s not as fresh.

      • http://www.riveraveblues.com Mike Axisa

        Nova made 23 starts in AAA lasts year, I’m sure Montero caught plenty of them. If Girardi is that worried about familiarity, Nova would be the guy to have him catch.

        • CountryClub

          True, but do you see it actually happening? I don’t see him catching until the Yanks clinch a playoff spot and maybe not until the division is decided.

        • http://twitter.com/tjamato T.J.

          That was my thinking as well.

          I’m not sure they’ll want him to play against RHP though.

          • pat

            If they are serious about him being a candidate for the postseason roster he should be playing every day. I would hope he doesn’t sit vs righties.

  • vin

    What Have the Yankees Done Lately?

    Montero.

  • Roland Deschain

    Jesus should play Saturday and Sunday against the lefties. Put Jones out in left. Or put Jones in right and Swisher at 1st if Texiera misses a couple games.

    • CountryClub

      You might see this tonight if Teix can’t play. Or they put Posada at 1st and let Montero DH vs the righty.

    • https://twitter.com/TheRealJeromeS Jerome S.

      Romero has a reverse split, stock the lineup with lefties if you’re smart.

      • vin

        Wrong manager. Girardi will never defy the platoon convention against a changeup pitcher.

    • Roberto

      This cannot be, for the Lord rested on the 7th day.

  • a.hinds

    joe or anyone.

    you mentioned romeros .245 babip, is the general consensus that babip is something pitchers cannot control? i intuitively dont believe this and i think babip is something the best pitchers can control, i remember watching maddux on tbs all those years getting hitters to roll something soft to the 3rd baseman.

    but im willing to have facts prove me wrong, but i cant find them. so where can i get info on babip, and i cant figure out how to pull up babip on baseball reference

    • Foghorn Leghorn

      you should only “pull up your babip” in the privacy of your own home.

      i need to run…time to go Twitter my Yahoo and Google my Groupon.

      • a.hinds

        hahaha, i have no idea what your saying at the end. but it made me laugh, but alas. I am still bapip ignorant. help!

        • Foghorn Leghorn

          i am too..you are not alone. BABIP is such a funny term. I just read the posts from the smarter people on this site.

          I’m as dumb as a post.

    • http://www.riveraveblues.com Joe Pawlikowski

      FanGraphs.com has BABIP on its leader boards.

      Re: Maddux. He was actually a big part of the BABIP breakthrough. He had a huge spike in 1999.

    • https://twitter.com/TheRealJeromeS Jerome S.

      A pitcher can control their BAbip to a limited extent. You can track this somewhat by looking at their FB%, GB%, HR/FB and other factors. Romero has 54% GB rate, which is pretty good, but there’s definitely some luck in there.

      • Foghorn Leghorn

        I assess a pitcher’s effectiveness on one thing and one thing only. WINS!

        /old schoole’d/

  • Foghorn Leghorn

    are the Jays brining the “white shirt wearing sign stealer” to the game?

  • jon

    Jim Rome just said phil hughes is going to be pen

    • Jorge

      Where’s Jim Everett when you need him?

    • Foghorn Leghorn

      Jim Rome is king of the douchebags and I’m still trying to figure out how he got his own radio show.

      • Jorge

        Because he was a douchebag who got extra noteriety by being punched out, on his own show, by th forementioned Jim Everett.

        • Foghorn Leghorn

          he’s a no talent assclown.

  • JFH

    Is the mysterious “Man in the white” still active for the Jays or has he been DFA’d?

  • dkidd

    no post-fenway let down tonight, please

    /this is baseball, we play every day’d

  • Tom

    You wrote that “It always seems to be a tough series with them, even though they’re a .500 team.”

    You don’t understand: it’s a Toronto/Canada thing. New York = America / Authority / Status, etc. Even with a team-load of Americans, it takes no time for Jays players to pick up the local vibes and overachieve against the Yankees. I expect it even more tonight because the Yanks have been in a kind of post-season atmosphere and may let down some.