5/16-5/17 Series Preview: Toronto Blue Jays

Injuries give Soriano a chance to shine
Logan could adopt new role amid injuries

Brett Lawrie is going to get suspended and the Yankees are arriving in Toronto just in time for him to a miss a few games. The tirade you see above was the result of two questionable called strikes last night, and they just so happened to result in the game-ending strikeout a strikeout that was the second out of the ninth inning. That’s pretty bad. Lawrie might appeal the suspension and be able to play in this two-game set, but … yeah, that’s really bad. Inexcusably bad.

What Have They Done Lately?

Like the Yankees, the Blue Jays just wrapped up a two-game series with a division rival. They lost both games to the Rays and are currently riding a three-game losing streak. They’ve also lost four of five and seven of their last ten games. Toronto is 19-18 with a +15 run differential, sitting in fourth place in the AL East with the fifth best record in the AL. It’s a tough division, you know.


(REUTERS/Mike Cassese)

With an average of 4.51 runs per game that just barely ranks as a top-ten mark in baseball, the Blue Jays’ offensive attack revolves around Jose Bautista. He’s off to a slow start (100 wRC+) but has still hit eight homers with as many walks (23) as strikeouts (23). Blame the .171 BABIP. Edwin Encarnacion (150 wRC+) has hit a dozen homers already and is in the middle of a breakout year that really started in the middle of last season. They’re easy to overlook when talking about the best lineup tandems in the game, but these two are incredibly dangerous.

Personal fave Kelly Johnson (123 wRC+) sets the table from the leadoff spot and is actually the only other player on the team that qualifies as a better than league average hitter. Adam Lind (62 wRC+) has been terrible for more than two years now, meaning Johnson, Colby Rasmus (68 wRC+), and Eric Thames (90 wRC+) are Toronto’s only left-handed hitters of note. Catcher J.P. Arencibia (72 wRC+) got off to a brutally slow start but has started to rebound in recent weeks. Yunel Escobar (63 wRC+) hasn’t done much damage despite hitting second between Johnson and Bautista.

The Jays have some useful pieces on the bench, though I’m sure they’d like Ben Francisco to do more against left-handers (73 wRC+ vs. LHP). Rajai Davis provides some speed (105 wRC+ and six steals in limited action) and Omar Vizquel (-20 wRC+) gives some of the best veteran presents in all of baseball. Assuming Lawrie’s little hissy fit keeps him and his 101 wRC+ off the field, Vizquel figures to man the hot corner. Backup catcher Jeff Mathis (126 wRC+ in limited action) has been hammering the Yankees for years and I’m hopeful we won’t see him at all after playing in yesterday’s game.

Pitching Matchups

Wednesday: RHP Hiroki Kuroda vs. RHP Kyle Drabek
The centerpiece of the Roy Halladay trade, Doug’s son has struggled in his various big league auditions and this season is no different. He owns a shiny 3.66 ERA but his FIP (5.12), strikeout (7.55 K/9 and 19.5 BB%), walk (5.49 BB/9 and 14.2 BB%) and homer (1.37 HR/9) rate portend bad things. Drabek’s ground ball rate (56.4%) is pretty awesome, however. The 24-year-old right-hander is very fastball heavy, throwing his mid-90s two-seamer, mid-90s four-seamer, and low-90s cutter a combined ~75% of this time. His mid-80s changeup is his primary offspeed pitch, but Drabek will throw low-80s sliders and curveballs on rare occasions. The Yankees have seen Drabek a few times over the last few years, so they should know that patience is the key.

(Abelimages/Getty Images)

Thursday: RHP Phil Hughes vs. RHP Drew Hutchinson
Toronto’s ninth best prospect coming into the season, Hutchinson has pitched to a 5.53 ERA (4.07 FIP) in his five starts, becoming the only man to allow a homer to Albert Pujols this season along the way. The 21-year-old righty has a pretty typical rookie statistical profile — 6.83 K/9 (16.9 K%), 3.25 BB/9 (8.1 BB%), 0.98 HR/9, and 42.2% grounders — after skipping right over Triple-A and making just six career starts at Double-A. His minor league track record (26.0 K% and 6.0 BB%) suggest improvement may be coming. Hutchinson is primarily a low-90s four-seamer/low-80s slider pitcher, but he will mix in the occasional two-seamer and changeup.

Bullpen Status

Like the Yankees, the Blue Jays are currently on their backup backup closer. Sergio Santos has been on the DL for most of the season with a shoulder injury and replacement Francisco Cordero (7.16 FIP) has already lost the job to Casey Janssen (4.01 FIP). The setup tandem of right-hander Jason Frasor (2.67 FIP) and left-hander Darren Oliver (2.61 FIP) have been really, really good in the early going. Multi-inning lefty Luis Perez (3.07 FIP) has been solid but multi-inning righty Carlos Villanueva (5.39 FIP) has not. Rookie right-hander Evan Crawford has allowed two runs in five innings since being called up.

Frasor, Oliver, and Janssen each appeared in last night’s game but threw no more than 11 pitches. The entire bullpen is rested, really. The Yankees are in good shape as well after Freddy Garcia soaked up two innings last night. Check out our Bullpen Workload page for each reliever’s exact recent workload. There are a bunch of great Blue Jays’ blogs out there, including The Tao of Stieb and Drunk Jays Fans.

Injuries give Soriano a chance to shine
Logan could adopt new role amid injuries
  • Bartolo’s Colon

    i hate the blue jays and their stupid turf stadium. i feel like we have had a tough time with them over the last few years

    • Lord Snow

      I think they’ve lost 12 of their last 19 in Toronto . . . Something like that.

  • jsbrendog

    for the hockey fans out there


  • Johnny O

    If Lawrie’s helmet didn’t riccochet into the umpire he’d probably only get 1 game suspension if anything. IMO, the umpire’s calls were the thing that was inexcuseably bad. I think he didn’t like Lawrie showing him up by running to first on the 3-1 pitch, so he was going to punch him out if the payoff pitch was anywhere near the plate. Lawrie clearly needed to be taught a lesson in respecting the game by those paragons of perfection, umpires.

    • I am not the droids you’re looking for…

      The funny (ie sad) thing is that the payoff pitch was not anywhere near the plate. On pitch fx it looks a full plate high and wide. Crazy how there is no ramification for the umps. Times like that I hate tenure…

  • Midland TX

    You can tell Brett it was a dumb move directly – he’s @DuhInnings on Twitter.

    • Pat D

      Not going to say anything…

    • Havok9120

      I know I shouldn’t, but I laughed.

    • Erica


    • I am not the droids you’re looking for…

      Ah Teh lulz. Teh lulz!!

    • Robinson Tilapia

      Is this the dude who was all over the overnight thread insulting the crap out of everyone?

      If you’re going to troll, don’t leave a paper trail. Another reason why 99% of our trolls here suck at trolling.

  • high heat

    PPV idea: Brett Lawrie vs. Jose Offerman in a steel cage death match.

  • jsbrendog

    why don’t they play encarnacion at 3b? that is his natural position and my god anything to keep vizquel out of their lineup would be smart.

    i know they prob don’t want joey bats playing there but putting encarnacion there and then someone else at dh of joey bats and dh and someone else in the of is prob a much better idea that playing grampa vizquel…

    • Havok9120

      This. I mean….I didn’t even know wRC+ could GO that low.

    • Spiff

      Encarnacion’s nickname is E5 for a reason too though.

  • Kramerica Industries

    Toronto is WORTHLESS.

    19-40 against TB since 2009, including 12-20 at home. 1-4 this season.

    Good going, schmucks.

    • jsbrendog

      ::backs away slowly::

  • joek

    It was not game ending strikeout it was the second out of the inning

  • Kevin

    Funny thing is the Blue Jays would have won this if not for the defense botching it in the 8th. They turned two easy outs into the tying and go ahead run.

  • Midland TX

    Most of the Jays errors were of the throwing variety, and that kid hit the ump with a beer from at least a couple rows back, so….

  • JohnC

    “Adam Lind (62 wRC+) has been terrible for more than two years now”

    Always seems to hit well against the Yanks though

  • Rich in NJ

    He’d make a great Yankee, and I mean that in the best way possible.

  • Ethan

    AS bad as the calls were there is no excuse for that. There have been much worse calls this season where the player didn’t react nearly as angrily. Dude seriously needs to keep is anger in check.

  • Kosmo

    If you can read the umps lips I think he said “get your fucking ass out of here“ reminicent of last nights RAB posts.

    • jsbrendog

      so youre saying he went home and logged onto RAB to let off some steam?

      • Robinson Tilapia

        That thread was epic, I must say. Nice job, brendog.

        • jsbrendog

          i was late to the party by many hours. i had to make up for lost time. but it is true, O:S should’ve been instituted. but i couldn’t help it, i was laughing as iw as typing.

    • Havok9120

      I think the ump dropped at least 3 F-bombs.

  • Erica

    That gif of Brett Lowrie is mesmerizing. I’m giggling to myself at my desk and it’s starting to turn into real laughs.

    Too bad he’s suspended. I like to see that kind of entertainment from a team that’s not the Yankees. Good stuff.

    • Robinson Tilapia

      That’s…….something, isn’t it? Someone needs some anger management classes.

  • Leg-End

    It was a pretty horrible call on the should have been ball 4 to be fair to Lawrie.

    • Guest

      Technically, it should have been ball 5.

      What Lawrie did was incredibly boneheaded and deserving of suspension. But the ump’s actions were almost a charicature of douche-y “bigger than the game” umpiring actions.

      Make terrible call, get huffy when player’s body language evinces displeasure, make pre-determined decision to make next call against player if even remotely possible, act indignant and above it all when player invariably flips out.

      I mean textbook. So while Lawrie should get suspended, there should be some form of come-uppance for Davidson as well. Maybe a public rebuke, maybe a nominal fine, or maybe a one series suspension. Something to show that there’s no need to be a prick if you’re an ump, just do your job and call balls balls and strikes strikes.

      • I am not the droids you’re looking for…

        And ball 5 wasn’t even remotely close to being a strike.


        • Darren

          What are you talking about? That ball looked like a back door breaking ball that broke back in over the plate. Could it have easily been called a ball? yes. Was it a surefire ball that was called a strike out of retribution? Maybe, but nowehere near deserving of that kind of reaction.

          He deserves 10 games, minimum.

          it’s funny how if I didn’t go lok athe video and beleived what you guys wrote I would have had the totally wrong impression

          • Guest

            Wait, wait, wait. We’re all in agreement that Lawrie deserves a suspension. I like you’re number of 10 games. Firing a helmet in the direction of an umpire and then getting up in his face to yell even more is beyond the pale. Lawrie’s suspension should recognize this fact.

            But I think you’re giving the ump way too much of a break here. Ball four was egregious. Ball five was high when it crossed the plate, still high where it was caught by the catcher, and if it wasn’t outside, it just hit the corner.

            I think saying that pitch “maybe” was called a strike out of retribution is incorrect. It was DEFINITELY called a strike out of retribution. Look at the way the ump handled the situation from beginning to end and tell me he made that strike call based on a completely dispassionate analysis. No way.

            Look, I’m not trying to say Lawrie was in anyway in the right. Someone on the interwebs described it best: Lawrie acted like an angry teenager and Davidson acted like an empowered child.

            They were both wrong.

          • Bo Knows

            That ball hit the glove at damn near neck level, Lawrie was screwed royally. He had every right to be pissed, but he was wrong to flip off like he did.

            Umpire’s by nature are petty, vindictive, thin-skinned, ego-maniacs by nature. They will screw you over if someone looks at them wrong…which is probably why that neck high breaker was called a strike.

            • Darren

              Ok, I agree he definitely called it a strike out of retribution. But I wouldn’t say that it was so obvious that the ump should be fined or suspended. Unless they start instituting new rules with baiscally a zero tolerance for ump retirbution.

              I’m a little torn, on the one hand, umps can be total dic*s when they insitgate or don’t let things cool down. On the other hand, it’s probably necessary to keep players somewhat in line. if I had immature dudes constantly berating me all night, I doubt I could keep my cool either. Yeah, I know they’re paid for it and professionals, but that doesn’t mean much to me.

              • Bo Knows

                Referees in other sports are no where near as bad as umpires when it comes to fuses. MLB officiating has its strengths (they are assholes, but they are impartial assholes; unlike the NBA) but too many times have we seen umpires deliberately attempt to start fights with players, and they have little oversight in trying to get the right call.

                A big problem here might be due to age, so many umpires are in their 50’s and 60’s and a baseball traveling at high velocities is hard for players in there 20’s and 30’s to visually process, I can’t imagine the difficulty if your 50+ and your eyesight is declining (even if its only slightly).

  • UncleArgyle

    Lawrie’s suspension should be intresting. He threw his batting helmet at an ump and it hit him. I wouldn’t be shocked if he got 25 games. But most likely it will be something like 10, which will be reduced to 7. Personally I think MLB should drop the hammer and send a message.

  • LiterallyFigurative

    The umpire should be reprimanded in some way. He blantantly called the final pitch a strike, just to get a reaction out of Lawrie. Now, Lawrie has no excuse for his behavior and deserves a suspension, but the umpire went out of his way to be a douche.

    So he dropped his bat on a pitch that was clearly ball 4 and ran to first, and when you erroneously called it a strike, he isn’t pleased. That gives you a reason to cheat the kid and the Blue Jays?

    And people think NBA refs are crooked?

    I might not have thrown my helmet in his direction, but the game would’ve been delayed 20 minutes to clean up all the debris I throw on the field.

    • I am not the droids you’re looking for…

      Yup. And as per my post above ball 5 wasn’t remotely borderline. It was a ball. Clear as day. No other explanation but for doucheyness on the part of the ump to prove his dick is bigger.

      • LiterallyFigurative

        It looked like ball four……of an INTENTIONAL WALK!

      • Ethan

        To be honest though, the 5th pitch was in the same spot as the 4th. So if he thought the 4th “ball” was a strike, he called the 5th because he also thought it was a strike not to get a reaction from lowrie.

  • Tim

    As bad as JoeyBats and Adam Lind have been this season there #’s v Yanks pitching always gives them a boost:

    Bautista v Yanks (2011) .283/.467/.565 4 HR’s, 8 RBI’s 16 BB’s

    Lind v Yanks (2011) .345/.377/.618 (YIKES) 4 HR’s, 9 RBI’s 8 R’s

    Now, granted their punching bag, AJ Burnett, isn;t around anymore but a series w/Toronto isn’t a series w/Toronto until JoeyBats hits one 400ft and with Philly Long balls on the hill tomorrow I think it is a safe bet

    • Mike HC

      Encarnacion is doing the damage this year.

  • Reggie C.

    With the tats covering his arm Lawrie looks like a younger version of Josh Hamilton.

  • Mike HC

    Great gif. That guy might have some anger issues.

  • TomH

    I wouldn’t take the Jays lightly, no matter how poorly they’ve played recently. They’re like Purdue against Notre Dame (in the old days, of course). They get all excited and try really really hard. I wouldn’t be surprised if, some year, they hired cheer leaders for when the Yanks were visiting.

    You’d know, if you knew Canada in general and Toronto in particular.

  • mustang

    Making matters worse Bill Miller (the umpire in question) got hit by a drink thrown by a fan while walking off the field after the game.
    Its not like the Jays can control their fans, but Brett Lawrie’s actions opens door for some idiot to act the fool.

  • http://twitter.com/urbainshockcor Urban

    He’s been suspended four games, but is appealing. He’ll end up serving I’m sure after the Yankee series.