Weekend Wrap: The Strogglin’ A Little Less Edition!

Marcus Stroman
Photo Credit: Kevin Sousa-USA TODAY Sportsdraft-kings-top

The Blue Jays dropped two of three to the White Sox over the weekend, meaning they’ve only won three times in their last eight, after splitting a two game midweek series with Arizona and losing two of three last weekend in Baltimore, as well. They now find themselves five games back of those surprisingly strong Orioles, but not without some silver linings.

For starters, a series loss is always going to be on the cards when you’re slated to face Chris Sale — and indeed, the the White Sox’ ace was tremendous, as usual, on Sunday. For two, despite this current less-than-fortunate spell, the Jays are only a game behind the Boston Red Sox, who early on looked like they’d be a force to be reckoned with all season long. And they still might! But the Jays’ position so close to the Red Sox reminds us that division leads can be fleeting, and that no one needs to anoint the Orioles anything just yet.

Another silver lining, at least for me, was the performance Marcus Stroman put in on Sunday.

No, really!

Stroman again wasn’t the guy everybody keeps waiting to see return, but he was at least a little bit closer. Some green shoots: Stroman’s line drive rate (12.5%) was his lowest in a game since May 11th, his contact rate (76.7%) was the lowest of all but one game over that span, and his swinging strike rate (11%) was better than all but one outing since May 6th. Also, his hard contact rate on the day (29.4%) was at least below league average, and worlds apart from the rates over 60% that Orioles and Red Sox blasted him to the tune of in two games over his recent awful stretch.

When Stroman pitched like an absolute ace against the Dodgers and the Rays on May 1st and May 6th, adding a bucket of strikeouts to his already elite ground ball skills, he posted swinging strikeout rates of 13.6% and 12.3%, and contact rates of 71.7% and 70.2%. Sunday wasn’t quite there, and but it was close.

More importantly, there is this:

stroman-heatmaps2

If you can’t read the text at the top of the image, those are Stroman’s pitch location heatmaps for his previous start (left), and yesterday (right). Though in the image on the right there are still too many balls being left up in the zone, and though he a little too low too often, and not quite painting the bottom of the zone the way you’d like him to, it looks a whole lot better than last week’s disasterfuck. Or at the very least better.

The Jays seem to think he can pitch his way out of what’s been ailing him, and as much as it was a disappointing result again, there were signs that maybe he can.

So… progress. I think.

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Performance Notes

Not a tonne I want to cover here. I sure don’t want to talk about the bullpen. But I will bring one thing up, which is Devon Travis. Because… how about Devon Travis! The Jays’ second baseman continues to hit, picking up five more (including a home run) in Chicago this weekend, and having posted a 221 wRC+ since Philadelphia came to Rogers Centre on June 13th. He’s not walking much, but why walk when you’re hitting like that? And maybe even more remarkably, the 25-year-old now has an ISO of .186 for the season, to go with his .194 in the big leagues last year. Those are better raw power numbers than he has posted at any other level of pro ball, save for a 237 PA stint at High-A in 2013. Kinda amazing.

Quickly…

Chris Cotillo tweets that 2013 MLB All-Star Steve Delabar is on the move again… to the Hiroshima Carp!

Great note from Shi Davidi of Sportsnet on the reason the Jays dealt Wade LeBlanc to the Mariners last week, despite LeBlanc kind of looking like the sort of layer of starting pitching depth the club would have reason to horde. “Common practice with minor-league free agents, such as LeBlanc was, is to not prevent them from getting an opportunity elsewhere in the majors under such circumstances [i.e. with his path to the big leagues blocked]. The Mariners are expected to bring LeBlanc up at some point, and the new Blue Jays front office will have built up some cache with agents, who’ll know their clients won’t get buried in the system.”

Worth a read…

If I may point you in the direction of three great pieces that are very much worth your perusal here at the start of a new week: Keith Law of ESPN.com writes about the New York Mets’ signing of Jose Reyes; John Lott heads to Bluefield for Vice Sports —  but, more specifically, for Vladimir Guerrero Jr.; and Anthony Alford talks to Gare Joyce of Sportsnet in an excellent profile of the Mississippi high school star turned NCAA quarterback turned young man in trouble with the law turned big time big league prospect. (I could have used Alford not bringing up Ray Lewis and saying “that’s who I want to be,” though. *COUGH* — though you really need to read the comment in context before you get all weird about it. So go read it!)

Up next…

Monday – Tuesday @ Colorado, 8:40 PM ET

Wednesday @ Colorado, 3:10 PM ET

Thursday vs. Cleveland, 7:07 PM ET

Friday vs. Cleveland, 1:07 PM ET (Canada Day!)

Saturday – Sunday vs. Cleveland, 1:07 PM ET

Yep, it’s Troy Tulowitzki’s return to Colorado this week, and — speaking of good stuff to read — Patrick Saunders of the Denver Post has some excellent reflections on the Tulo era there, and what his return means.

Oh, and as our awesome weekend editor, Cam Lewis, noted in his great rundown of the three games against the White Sox, the Jays have never actually won there. Time to change that, boys!

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