Game Threat: Blue Jays (8-8) vs. Orioles (9-4)

Trashbirds
Photo Credit: Evan Habeeb-USA TODAY Sports

Look at those trash birds, celebrating like they won the whole goddamn AL East or something. Anyway…

I said it once on Twitter, but I’ll say it again here: the thing about hating on Josh Thole is: maybe actually look at what a typical backup catcher looks like in 2016, you fucking dopes. Not that everyone is being a dope on this, but last night Thole became the lightning rod for all the bile people wanted to spew in RA Dickey’s direction but couldn’t after his first inning wobble turned into a terrific performance from there out.

It’s not difficult to see why that’s the way things seem to be — especially, as far as Dickey goes, when you’re seeing things like Jeff Sullivan of FanGraphs wondering about Noah Syndergaard’s case as the best pitcher in baseball (which, of course, reflects poorly on Dickey and not the guy who made the trade, who is a damn saint!) — except… it’s totally difficult to see why.

People are holding up Dioner Navarro, who put up an 84 wRC+ last season, with not-great defence and poor pitch framing, as some kind of platonic ideal of a backup catcher, which… even if he is, that’s hardly damning of Thole. I’m honestly not sure what he is as a receiver, as we mostly watch him catch knuckleballs, but Thole is certainly capable behind the plate. The Jays may not have even made it to the tenth inning if it weren’t for his strong throw to nab Nolan Reimold trying to steal second with one out in the bottom of the ninth and ol’ funbags Storen likely ready to melt down on cue.

True, Thole’s batting numbers are unquestionably horrific, especially since about 2012 (a 57 wRC+ and a .286 on-base), but there’s quite possibly some Dickey effect in them. Catching Dickey, after all, is not an easy job — as Russell Martin will attest. In fact, I seem to recall that early on last season Martin had some trouble catching relievers who came into the game after Dickey. And it seemed pretty clear that catching Dickey may have had some kind of an impact last year Martin’s numbers.

Which isn’t to say that Thole isn’t, y’know, bad. He’s just a backup catcher.

Frankly, he should be one of those kinda endearing lunchpail guys that this town gets behind. I want to root for him. Look at the way he came out last night and took blame for the passed ball, even though Joe Biagini apparently has said tonight that getting crossed up was his fault. Thole taking one for his pitcher!

I don’t know. Obviously I’m stretching a bit there, but it’s just not as bad as people want to make it out to be sometimes. Backup catchers are bad. It’s OK.

Much worse, to me, was having Roberto Osuna sitting in the bullpen as you lose, rather than going to him in the game’s most crucial spot. Though @NorthYorkJays makes a good counterpoint, saying that he doesn’t “think it’s crazy to try and stay away from Osuna in a tie game in April, as much as I’d like to use him as frequently as possible.”

Anyway, on to face Chris Tillman, who is trash, and tonight’s game. I think it’s all going to be OK.

Scuttlebutt

Speaking of tonight’s game: Marco Estrada! And speaking of Marco Estrada, David Laurila of FanGraphs spoke with tonight’s starter about spin, speed differential, and simplicity (or so says the title).

Elsewhere at FanGraphs, we’re given a partial defence of the Dickey-Syndergaard trade, which… I’ll take it!

Hey, and Drew Storen’s fastball velocity is at least kinda trending in the right direction.

Deadspin felt that the Jays lost in the saddest way last night. Which… fair.

Another reason Roberto Osuna may not have been used last night is because the blister-y finger thing he’s dealing with means he can’t throw his new slider — which Nick Ashbourne of Sportsnet discussed in depth this week, seeing as it’s somehow made the Jays’ closer even better.

Hey, Roberto Hernandez is back! The pitcher, who opted out of his deal with the Jays when he didn’t make the club out of spring training (or something like that), has re-signed with the club on a minor league deal (or so they announced last night). Sadly for all of us, Fausto Carmona still isn’t back.

Gregor Chisholm tells us how the Jays are considering using a sixth starter for a spell, which would likely mean the call-up of Drew Hutchison.

TV: Sportsnet
Next Game(s): Tomorrow, vs. Athletics, 7:07 PM ET
And now, the lineups…

Toronto Blue Jays

Michael Saunders(L) LF
Josh Donaldson(R) 3B
Jose Bautista(R) RF
Edwin Encarnacion(R) DH
Troy Tulowitzki(R) SS
Russell Martin(R) C
Justin Smoak(S) 1B
Kevin Pillar(R) CF
Ryan Goins(L) 2B
RHP Marco Estrada

Baltimore Orioles

Joey Rickard(R) LF
Manny Machado(R) 3B
Adam Jones(R) CF
Chris Davis(L) 1B
Mark Trumbo(R) DH
Matt Wieters(S) C
J.J. Hardy(R) SS
Jonathan Schoop(R) 2B
Nolan Reimold(R) RF
RHP Chris Tillman