Photo Credit: Nick Turchiaro-USA TODAY Sports
Sunday’s series-ender between the Blue Jays and Dodgers featured some maddeningly familiar themes for the home side: great starting pitching undone by an offence that gave the bullpen no margin for error and a bullpen that simply isn’t cutting it.
Drew Storen has been a disaster so far. There is no other way to put it at this point. I don’t blame John Gibbons for again going to him on Sunday — this guy is supposed to be one of the club’s key lock-down relievers, which is a title he earned after a terrific late-inning career in Washington, and after looking the part well enough in spring, where he allowed just three runs on six hits and two walks over seven innings/appearances — because it seems to be Gibbers’ people-managing style to trust his relievers until they show that they can’t be trusted, and then some. But it has to stop (and I think the manager’s ever-quickening hook shows he understands this).
Fans always seem quicker to want to kick a player (and a manager) to the curb than the people who have to actually work, deal with, and try to get the best out of him. I suppose this is understandable, even if it’s annoying to be called an apologist homer sheep by some for simply preaching restraint (as inevitably happens). But we don’t need too much of that in this case, because I think we can all agree that, at the minimum, Storen’s leverage needs to be dialed back until he figures it out.
If he figures it out.
I’ve been a bit wary of Storen since the day that trade was made (though I’d still make the deal 100 times out of 100, given that Ben Revere was surplus to requirements and adding a late inning bullpen arm was what, in all likelihood, allowed Aaron Sanchez to grab a spot in the starting rotation), but the team needs him. Or, at the very least, they could seriously use not having to go out and find someone to start logging high leverage innings for them, while Storen mopes at the bottom of the pecking order while collecting $6.25-million (his salary minus the portion being paid by the Nationals). You don’t even consider abandoning him until you’re sure he’s too deep into the abyss to ever come back.
The lost velocity makes the threat of that possibility a little more real than when a reliever normally hits a rough patch, and calling this a rough patch is probably even being a bit too kind — the peripherals, like a 7.7% soft contact, and 46.2% hard contact rate, are rather terrifying — but it’s still just 11 innings so far.
Mind you, that isn’t to say it’s just small sample variance or bad luck. This isn’t Aaron Loup ca. 2015, when cheap hits and misplays made his line look a whole lot worse than he’d actually pitched. I’m pretty sure Storen has pitched this badly, and I can’t believe any longer that he can keep plugging away and expect things to right themselves. Something’s got to change. But evidently, for his part, Storen doesn’t agree. At least not publicly, as he told reporters after Sunday’s game that “you’re going to have these stretches,” and the solution is to “just keep your head down and do your thing.”
“There’s a reason I’ve had the career I have,” he added. Which is true! But a lot of it was tied to consistently throwing 94-95, not struggling to crack 92. Maybe a rethink of some kind is in order. Or a trip to the DL for the infamous “right-arm shittiness,” just to get him some work in spots where he can’t piss-blast away wins for the big league club, and Gibbons won’t feel compelled to keep trying to build trust with him.
After his first seven starts of the season, RA Dickey is sitting on a 5.18 ERA, a 4.43 FIP, and a 4.39 xFIP. He’s allowed five home runs, struck out just 16.0% of the batters he’s faced, and walked 8.6%. Through seven starts in 2015, he had a 5.00 ERA, a 5.73 FIP, and a 5.38 xFIP. He’d allowed seven home runs, struck out just 10.5% of the batters he’d faced, and had walked 10.0%. From that point in the season onward he posted a 3.61 ERA (4.15 FIP, 4.54 xFIP), with an 8.9% HR/FB rate (down from 13.3%), a strikeout rate of 15.3% and a walk rate of just 6.1%. He was, in other words, pretty good. That doesn’t mean he’ll pull the same trick again this year, or that I’m suggesting he should be given slack in perpetuity, but I think we can all relax on the calls for his demotion just yet. Even if his most recent start was, once again, kinda ugly.
Player A: 13.6 K%, 6.4 BB%, 60.9 GB%, 3.96 FIP, 4.09 xFIP
Player B: 29.3 K%, 6.9 BB%, 59.5 GB%, 2.48 FIP, 2.44 xFIP
Looks like a decent but fairly run-of-the-mill good-command groundball pitcher and an elite good-command groundballer with big strikeout ability, right? Well, it should. That’s Marcus Stroman’s first five starts compared to his last two. More of the second guy, please!
Worth A Read…
Keegan Matheson of Jays Journal ruminates on a Jeff Blair tweet in which he says he gets “the impression” that John Gibbons has “mentally pencilled in” Joe Biagini as a starter in 2017. I’m filing this next to Troy Tulowitzki’s first baseman’s glove, but it’s at least an interesting thing to be thinking about — and not even too early. With RA Dickey, Gavin Floyd, and Jesse Chavez free agents, not to mention relievers Brett Cecil and Drew Storen (plus a couple sluggers you may have heard of), finding some cheap starting pitching depth pieces for next season will be a necessity.
John Lott points us to a fascinating one here, especially given that the Jays have been working on a new deal for their spring training site of late, and that their ownership structure is probably the most similar to the Braves’…
When you ponder MLB baseball returning to Montreal, consider how the system really works, as this piece illustrates: https://t.co/0cyrFF5ecb
— John Lott (@LottOnBaseball) May 8, 2016
PSV Eindhoven and Ajax came into the last day of the Dutch Eredivisie season tied on 81 points, but with Ajax holding the tie-breaker (a +6 advantage on goal differential), PSV needed to win and to get help. Ajax’s opponents, minnows De Graafschap, having already sewn up 17th place (and a relegation playoff next week against MVV), perhaps needed some extra motivation to give PSV a lifeline. So the Eindhoven side’s sponsor (telecom company Telefoniebedrijf PHC) provided it: they offered to give an iPhone 7 to every member of De Graafschap if they won. I love this cynical bit of marketing so much, and need to see a whole lot more of it on this continent! Think whoever is playing the Red Sox in September might be swayed by a few of the skids of old Blackberry devices that I’m sure are still overflowing in a 1 Mount Pleasant basement somewhere??? (via Football Oranje)
Oh yeah, and also: the scheme sorta worked. Ajax blew numerous chances and ended up with a 1-1 draw while PSV won to dramatically lift the trophy. Crazy!
What do you meme?
It’s going to be this easy to find some kind of wacky internet content every week, right? Right??
Yasiel Puig is kiiiinda great, both on and off the field. And evidently his time as a tourist here in the city of Toronto didn’t end with his early morning Lake Ontario fishing trip on Thursday…
— Yasiel Puig (@YasielPuig) May 7, 2016
— Yasiel Puig (@YasielPuig) May 6, 2016
Honourable mention here has to go to the real mini Bautista, though, as Jose Instagram’d a pic of him and his mom in honour of Mother’s Day…
San Franciskie? So how did you came, did you drove or did you flew? (Oh lord, I’m so old.)
Monday – Tuesday @ Giants, 10:15 PM ET
Wednesday @ Giants, 3:45 PM ET
Thursday – off
Friday – Saturday @ Rangers, 8:05 PM ET
Sunday @ Rangers, 3:05 PM ET