Photo Credit: Nick Turchiaro-USA TODAY Sports
The dust has finally started to settle after last night’s stupidity, and we’re starting to get a clearer picture of how the events of Monday night will impact the Jays going forward, and what got the team so dumbly rattled by the Yankees.
The good news? Even though Mark Shapiro told reporters today that he expects there to be punishment handed out from the league for some of those involved in last night’s fracas, with the season so close to its end and the appeals process needing time, any suspension that may be handed out almost certainly won’t be served until next season. (And it’s more likely they’ll just see fines anyway.)
The bad news? Injuries aren’t suspensions! Devon Travis isn’t in the lineup for tonight’s game (and Andy Burns has been called up), with little word yet on what his situation is except that he hurt his shoulder in the melee, aggravated it on a swing, and is now considered day-to-day. And also that initial tests haven’t shown a major injury.
Meanwhile, Hazel May tweets that Joaquin Benoit has a torn left calf — similar to the injury that Brett Cecil suffered last year in the playoffs — and there is no timetable for his return.
But we had an inkling that the news wasn’t going to be good on that front, as the Jays announced earlier on Tuesday afternoon that they had called up Chris Smith, a right-handed reliever who spent most of the year at New Hampshire before moving up to Buffalo at the end. He doesn’t have a FanGraphs page that I’ve been able to find, for some reason, but trusty ol’ Baseball Reference tells us that he struck out 81 in 60.2 innings (while walking 22), Pat Malacaro of Buffalo’s WGR spoke to him about his story last month, and MLB.com’s Alykhan Ravjiani tweets that he’s told Smith sits in the mid-90s with movement. So… that’s something.
If the Jays really want to give their bullpen some juice, though, they could reuse the idea of sending Francisco Liriano to the ‘pen that they had a few weeks ago, back when Brett Cecil was still bad, only this time with Marcus Stroman.
I suppose you could make it Aaron Sanchez rather than Stroman here , but I think Sanchez is the clear choice to remain in the rotation, even if he hasn’t quite looked like First Half Aaron Sanchez in his most recent layoff- and blister-impaired starts. And some crazy folks will say it should still be Liriano, or even Estrada — the latter of which is almost certainly not happening, and the former of which doesn’t provide nearly the same kind of value out of the bullpen as Stroman does, I don’t think.
We’re getting ahead of ourselves here, of course, but honestly, a fourth starter isn’t called upon a whole lot in the playoffs. R.A. Dickey started just two of the Blue Jays’ eleven playoff games last season, and while starting a game is obviously huge, how much of a drop-off is there, at this point, over the course of a couple starts, from Stroman to Liriano? And how much better utilized could Stroman be coming out of the ‘pen?
Plus, as Joshua Howsam of BP Toronto tweets, if the Jays need to play to the last day of the season, Stroman is setup to pitch the Wild Card game, which means he could certainly shift to a bullpen role for at least the ALDS.
Jeff Sullivan of FanGraphs tweeted on Monday that in the 2015 playoffs, a fourth starters pitched exactly the same percentage of innings as closers and setup men (8%), and the ability to go to Stroman for more than just three outs could increase his role beyond that. The leverage would be better, he was an outstanding reliever as an amateur and has pitched in relief during his pro career as well (like in his first cup of coffee with the Jays, where he struggled), and he’s been much better this season the first time through an opponents’ order than afterwards, which could also work to the Jays’ advantage.
If Benoit is hurt, that is.
And if they even make it that far, that is.
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Meanwhile, Arden Zwelling of Sportsnet looked into some of the deeper causes of last night’s stupidity, and found some interesting, if disappointing, things.
“Earlier this month, after his Blue Jays were swept in a three-game series in the Bronx, Josh Donaldson made his teammates aware that he felt Yankees pitchers were taking liberties with him when it comes to pitching inside,” he writes. “Donaldson, who crowds the plate at times as many power hitters do, didn’t go so far as to demand retribution. But he did make his clubhouse aware of what he felt was happening.”
It’s good that Josh didn’t go so far as demanding retribution, because as the guy who, back in May, took such an admirable public stance about how dangerous it is to have pitchers throwing at opposing hitters — “It doesn’t take much in order to break these bones in your face. And Phil Hughes didn’t throw the ball at my face,” he correctly said at the time, “but it only takes an eighth of an inch off your release point in order to for the ball to go somewhere else” — that might seem a little fucking hypocritical and stupid and a rejection of one of the best damn points made by any player on the subject of safety all season.
But he’s also apparently not wrong about the Jays being pitched inside.
The great @james_in_to tweeted a link to a Statcast page showing how often each teams’ right-handed hitters were thrown balls up and in, and by both percentage and raw totals, the Jays and the Tigers stand head and shoulders above the rest of the league.
Does that justify any of this? Does that make me not think “you fucking idiots” when I see Kevin Pillar tell Arden “look, Severino didn’t have great control (Monday). He probably didn’t hit Josh on purpose. But this is how the game is sometimes. You hit a guy, especially one of our superstars, and somebody’s going to pay for it”? No. It doesn’t.
But it’s a thing that has demonstrably been taking place, and you understand a team getting fed the fuck up with it, too. They shouldn’t have let their emotions over this lead to such stupidity as last night, but you get it a little more when they put it this way.
What you don’t get is how MLB allows this to go on, and why they’re so careful to give players a chance to settle scores on their own — another layer of stupidity in this shit-cake.
My view? Award two bases for a hit by pitch, and then see how often pitches “slip.” A rule change like that would have a pretty significant impact on the game, of course. But given that this dumb shit is probably going to go on until someone ends up getting seriously hurt, and that the brawl that followed this incident may have put a significant dent in the playoff race and the Jays’ chance, maybe that’s a change for the better?