The Yankees and Blue Jays have quite a bit in common this year, with most everything that could go wrong going wrong for both teams. A crucial series with the Blue Jays begins tonight at Rogers Centre, and the Yankees are going to have to continue their winning ways against Toronto this season if they have any hope of staying in the playoff race.
Tom Dakers of Bluebird Banter was kind enough to answer some questions as a preview to the upcoming series. I also answered some questions for him on their site, which you can read here.
1. With the season nearing its end, which Blue Jays are finishing out the season the strongest right now?
Moises Sierra, one of the players called up because the entire starting outfield was on the DL, has been great with the bat, hitting .324 but with 14 of his 22 hits going for extra bases. He plays defense like he has never seen the game before and runs the bases like he doesn't understand the other team is allowed to tag him out, but the bat looks good.
Jose Reyes looks like he has finally totally recovered from the ankle injury he suffered early in the season. When he first came back, he looked slow, it seemed like he was being careful with the ankle, now he looks like the Jose Reyes we were promised.
And the starting pitching is looking better. Esmil Rogers and Todd Redmond seem to have figured out that, if they want a starting job next year, they have to show something this year. R.A. Dickey and Mark Buehrle have been much better of late.
2. If you were a hitting coach for the opposition, what is the main thing you'd tell your hitters about R.A. Dickey, J.A. Happ and Todd Redmond?
Dickey? No matter how good the knuckleball looks, at the start of the game, he seems to always have that one inning where it doesn't work. Wait for that inning and hit the ball hard.
Happ? He throws too many pitches, he averages about 19 pitches an inning. Wait him out, he'll tire early.
Redmond? He gets a lot of strikeouts, 9.3/9 innings, but he isn't going to pitch deep into the game and, as he tires, he tends to leave a lot of pitches up, giving up a lot of extra base hits. Wait for something up in the strike zone.
3. The Blue Jays have a chance to play spoiler over the next two weeks with series against the Yankees, Orioles, Rays, and Red Sox. Do Jays fans relish that opportunity at all?
Well, it is all we have. It has been a terrible season, we have to come up with some reason to watch the games.
4. The Blue Jays have a good-looking bullpen on paper, with Brett Cecil, Steve Delabar, Casey Janssen, and Aaron Loup all pitching in 50+ games with ERAs near or below 3. Do you think they've done as well as they look like they've done?
Delabar, almost always, looks unhittable. In a game in August, he came in a struck out the side on 9 pitches. He's great fun to watch. Cecil was terrific early in the season, he may have been over worked. Since the All-Star break, he has a 5.65 ERA, and has been used more as a LOOGY in the past month or so. Loup is another one that hasn't been as good in the second half, putting up a 3.38 ERA. He may have been over worked too. Janssen might be my favorite pitcher to watch. He has been a little more hittable than normal, for the past month or so, but he hasn't had a blown save since July. He seems to be able to get the out when he needs one.
5. If you could go back and revise history, what is the one thing you'd have the Blue Jays re-do this season?
I don't think 'one thing' will do it. There are a bunch of choices:
- We had a lot of players go to the WBC, maybe we'd have been better off to keep them together during spring training, maybe I'd have asked them to skip it.
- Some of the players we picked up this summer seemed to have a hard time getting used to the turf at Rogers Centre. If I could go back, I'd maybe have had a few exhibition games in Toronto to let them get used to the speed of the turf. Or, if I can go far enough back in history, I'd put in real grass, maybe right after our two World Series wins (don't want to mess with those years).
- We signed two free agents, Maicer Izturis and Melky Cabrera. Maicer has the worst WAR in baseball, at -2.2. Melky looked slower than my mom (to be fair to her, she's had 2 knees replaced in the past two years) out on the field. He has just had a benign tumor removed from near his spine, so at least we know why he was so slow, maybe there is hope for improvement next year but I'd gladly go back and stop Alex Anthopoulos from signing either one.
But, if I had to stick to just one thing, I'd undo the trade for R.A. Dickey. Not that R.A. has been all that bad but, we gave up our former catcher of the future Travis d'Arnaud and pitching prospect Noah Syndergaard. With the trade of d'Arnaud, we are stuck with J.P. Arencibia and he has been awful. His batting line is .200/.236/.374, pretty terrible for a 'good bat, poor glove' catch. Add in that there is no sign that he is going to improve (he's had three seasons in the majors, each worse than the last). It makes me wish that we still had d'Arnaud. We are also a little thin in pitching prospects and Syndergaard is a good one, he struck out more than 10 batters per 9 innings splitting time between Single and Double-A this year. So I'd gladly undo that trade.