Wednesday -- A's 4, Jays 1: Someone should figure out a way to have Mike Wilner host every post-game show in Canada -- or at the very least, get the guys who handle those duties for Senators broadcasts on The Team 1200 and say, "This is how a real broadcaster does it."
Wilner opened today by calling the Jays offence "flaccid" and it got better from there. He coined a new word: "Frustcination."
- State of being a fan of a team that's ninth in the league in runs scored.
- Watching a .500 team that has the second-best park-adjusted ERA in baseball.
- Having to be Mike Wilner and trying to talk sense to a guy in Markham who bases his argument on the musings of "Richard Griffin of the Toronto Sun." Apparently the Jays had a five-year plan since one of Paul Godfrey's lucky-sperm-club spawn so said on Off The Record years ago. Who the hell cares? Ass.
- A not uncommon reaction to watching Esteban Loaiza shut down a team in his first start all season.
The genius manager continued to act on his belief the Brians (Wolfe and Tallet) are something more than innings eaters and consequently, another another winnable game fell by the wayside.
Reed Johnson was 0-for-5, struck out three times and made the final out in the wake of Richard Griffin's passionate plea about the need for his small ball skills (scroll down). Oh-for-five?
Dick Griffin writing a column that's completely crackers is nothing new, but what spurred him on in this case is a mystery. Maybe Johnson showed him a Ghostbusters lunchbox full of Dick drawings.
Monday -- A's 6, Jays 4: Making a list is better reading than a recap of a game that had about as much intensity as Monday night mixed slo-pitch, with countless errors, Shaun Marcum getting jocked (law of averages) and Dustin McGowan appearing as a pinch-runner.
- The Tao of Stieb (thanks again for all the help) picked up on context that needs to be given during the Jays' summer of craptacular hitting: Home runs are down.
Team home runs per game, American League:
The last time the average AL team hit less than one homer per game was 1993. It seems like Frank Thomas' comment last week about deadened baseballs is more than the whelp of a declining designated hitter.
This doesn't get Jamie Campbell off the hook for commenting, "Boy, if the fences were moved in 15 feet for this game, the Blue Jays would be winning 8-2," during Sunday's flyball fest vs. Orioles right-hander Jeremy Guthrie. Which park has a 385-foot centre-field marking again?
Worth looking at: Hardball Times showed earlier in the year that opposite-field home runs as a percentage of all home runs has dipped steadily across the past decade. Yet the Jays are still built around the home run.
- The Star's Dick Griffin wrote a panegryic for Reed Johnson and his "true top-of-the-order skills in the art of small ball" being left on the bench last night.
For (probably) not the last time, it's not about small ball, it's about production. The Jays had very good output from the leadoff spot in 2005 and '06 when Johnson hit there the lion share's of the time, but calling that "small ball" is a little rich.*
Johnson just flat-out hit in 2006. The difference between his .366 batting average on balls in play (BAbip) last season and the league average of .308 wasn't all bunts and bloopers. This season's been a write-off for him after the hernia surgery and subsequent rehab. He's still decent when he puts the ball in play -- his BAbip is .336 (through Monday's play).
Emphasis is on the last part. His batting eye -- which is a big part of the art of small ball -- is shot to hell in the wake of having undergone major surgery. Johnson's drawn nine bases on balls in 178 plate appearances -- about one per every 20 trips to bat. He's struck out once every five times.
How is a 4-to-1 strikeout-to-walk ratio small ball again? Do you really want a guy who's pressing and trying to make up for lost time with one swing or one big game hitting leadoff?
The Jays have had better-than-average production from the leadoff spot across the entire season with Alex Rios, Vernon Wells and 39-year-old Matt Stairs filling in there. It's the 3-4 slots that have killed them, as J.P. Ricciardi correctly pointed out.
The fact Johnson's BAbip has not fluctuated too much in light of what's gone wrong for him this season gives hope that he will be fine next season. He's a grown man who should be able to wait his turn and besides, he'll have a new manager and hitting coach to prove himself to next spring in Dunedin.
- A personal irony to Griffin, who occasionally reminds readers that he coaches kids' teams, writing in praise of Johnson and his small ball skills: In August 2005, good friend Jeff Dertinger and I took in a Jays-Tigers game in Detroit. It went to extra innings and Johnson was called on to bunt after Russ Adams ripped a double (you know it was a while ago when...). He popped up his bunt attempt, Brandon Inge caught it, the Jays didn't score and eventually lost.
So a couple nights later during a dinner break, I stopped by the ball diamond across the street from the Simcoe Reformer office. Right at that moment, another youth baseball coach was holding bunting practice for some 11- and 12-year-old kids, mentioning they would "need to play small ball -- you can't just hit home runs all the time" when they got into late-season tournaments. Guess who he cited as an example of how not to bunt?
Reed Johnson. And with god as my witness, I could have sworn turkeys could fly.
(* Others would have said, "it's a Dick move," but that's just not right.)
That's all for now. Send your thoughts to firstname.lastname@example.org.