Toronto Blue Jays vs. Red Sox
May 27th – May 29th
The Blue Jays are coming home after a successful 5-2 road trip. Things looked uncertain at times, with an extra inning win pulled out of their hat in Minnesota, and a getting shut out on their first night in Yankee Stadium, however the overall results were positive. The Jays haven’t really demonstrated a home field advantage this year. In fact, they are 9-13 at home and 15-12 on the road. The hope, of course, is that they will find their comfort zone sooner rather than later. The Red Sox are one of the toughest opponents in baseball, at 29-18 on the season, outscoring their opponents by 72 runs overall.
May 27th – 7:07 PM ET
Aaron Sanchez vs. Joe Kelly
After last season, there were many who were fully in this “Sanchez will be a great starter” boat; I (Matt) was not among them. The reason? While Sanchez had been successful in the bullpen, he was ostensibly a two-pitch pitcher. In fact, he’s arguably still a two-pitch pitcher. Two-pitch pitchers are generally prime candidates for the bullpen, but Sanchez’s main pitch, the two seam fastball, has so much movement and velocity that he’s able to fool hitters anyway. Even still, I worry that a team is going to adjust to that, and the Red Sox, with all their smart hitters, are as good a candidate as any.
Joe Kelly has career highs in every single category that you can name. Unfortunately for him, those ‘highs’ include career high walk and home run rates. Kelly’s start against the Blue Jays will be just his fifth of the season after landing on the disabled list with a shoulder injury. He’s likely to get a bit better, but that probably won’t start with the Blue Jays. As Joshua Howsam noted this week, the Jays’ hitters are real good at hitting fastballs, and that’s Kelly’s specialty. In fact, Joe Kelly has always thrown at least 50% fastballs, but this season he seems to have swapped his primary pitch from the sinking fastball to a four seamer. Against the Jays, that should hurt him.
May 28th – 1:07 PM ET
Marcus Stroman vs. Rick Porcello
Marcus Stroman is magical. He doesn’t lead the team in strikeouts, he doesn’t have the fewest walks, and he doesn’t have the lowest ERA. He’s also not the tallest pitcher nor does he throw the hardest. Yet Stroman does lead the team in innings pitched with 69 and a 1/3 thrown. As you likely know, he’s done that by being one of the craftier starters in the league; throwing six distinct pitches. Unfortunately, the Red Sox have been fairly good at hitting just about anything thrown their way this year. However, the pitch that they’ve faired worst against is the curveball…expect Stroman to toss a few more of those than normal.
In many ways, Porcello is much like Stroman. He also throws six distinct pitches, and his pitch of choice is the sinker. However, Porcello has never been able to induce the elite ground ball rates that Stroman routinely puts up. Nevertheless, he has had success this season in his own way, and has a case as the best Red Sox pitcher thus far. And again, like Stroman, against the heart of the opposing lineup, expect a few more breaking balls than usual.
May 29th – 1:07 PM ET
R.A. Dickey vs. David Price
There’s something unfortunately notable about Dickey’s 2016 season: it marks the first time that he’s had an ERA that is greater than his FIP. This year, through 10 starts, R.A. Dickey is sporting a 4.60 ERA and a 4.41 FIP, creating a FIP-ERA of -0.19. In general, one should expect that a pitcher’s FIP roughly equal their ERA. However, Dickey’s different. As a knuckleballer, one would expect that his BABIP fall far below the .300 average as knuckleballs are proven to induce weak contact. In turn, that should allow him to post ERAs well below his FIP. This season, Dickey’s sporting a .287 BABIP, which is well above his average of .269 since becoming a full time starter. As such, we can expect a little positive regression there, and in his 63.8 LOB%. For R.A. Dickey, it gets better.
Similarly to Dickey, David Price also has an ERA above his FIP this season. However, unlike Dickey’s -0.19 FIP-ERA differential, Price’s is at -2.52. His walk rate and home run rate are right in line with his career averages, while his strikeout rate is a career best. Ergo we should unfortunately expect Price to get better. Price has run in to some BABIP woes himself, sporting a .337 BABIP on the season; he should be at around .300 and his career average is .288. There’s something to be said for the fact that Price may just be leaving too many hittable pitches in the zone. If that’s the case, hopefully the Jays can take advantage. However, David Price is an ace and those pitchers don’t fade so quickly. This will be his first start back in Toronto since his magical run last season, so expect a nice hand from the sell out home crowd.
Additions and Subtractions
Joe Kelly returned to the Sox Rotation and threw six no-hit innings on May 24th, as noted above, he might not have as much success against the Jays lineup. Brock Holt, on the concussion DL, will remain absent for the Jays series as he recovers. His .310/.355/.448 career line at Rogers Centre will be one that the Jays are happy to bypass.
Troy Tulowitzki is day-to-day with a quad injury, but is expected to play again very soon. When that situation firms up, the Jays are most likely to drop a bench infielder (I see you hiding over there Mr. Goins) and call up the rehabbing Aaron Loup.
Keep an Eye On
Jackie Bradley Jr.’s Hitting Streak
Okay, so the 29 game hitting streak that Jackie Bradley Jr. had been on actually ended in the final game before the Red Sox came to Toronto. Instead, we can all check out the player with the longest current hitting streak in the majors, Xander Bogaerts, at 19 games. The Red Sox, folks. All the hits.
David Ortiz Retirement Tour
If there were an award for “Player Who is in Final Year but Looking Like He Is Leaving Too Early”, David Ortiz would be the unanimous choice.
David Ortiz's last 162 games
54 doubles, 1 triple, 45 homers
141 RBI, 87 BB, 103 K
As good as any season he's ever had.
— High Heat Stats MLB (@HighHeatStats) May 27, 2016
Better to hang them one year too early than one year too late, I guess.
This ‘Wacky’ Jays Lineup
Apparently the Blue Jays players discussed a lineup change with management a couple of weeks ago, and their ideas were implemented. This included putting the highest OBP hitter, Jose Bautista, at the top of the lineup, instead of a guy who ‘has speed’. This crazy idea did not lead to the Jays scoring nine runs every night, but they have won some games with this configuration, and it keeps being pencilled in. That said, Devon Travis has returned, and after a nifty little single against a 102mph Aroldis Chapman fastball, you have to wonder if Gibbons will be tempted to move things around in a more ‘traditional’ way.
— Ian Hunter (@BlueJayHunter) May 27, 2016
|1 Mookie Betts – RF||1 Jose Bautista – RF|
|2 Dustin Pedroia – 2B||2 Josh Donaldson – 3B|
|3 Xander Bogaerts – SS||3 Edwin Encarnacion – DH|
|4 David Ortiz – DH||4 Michael Saunders – LF|
|5 Hanley Ramirez – 1B||5 Justin Smoak – 1B|
|6 Jackie Bradley Jr. – CF||6 Troy Tulowitzki – SS|
|7 Travis Shaw – 3B||7 Kevin Pillar – CF|
|8 Christian Vasquez – C||8 Russell Martin – C|
|9 Blake Swihart – LF||9 Devon Travis – 2B|
via Roster Resource
The Red Sox are a hot team, and are way out in front of the division, like many predicted in the preseason. These are games that the Jays really do need to win the majority of in order to stay in contention. The winning formula for the Jays has been, to this point, seven innings from the starter, and then squeeze out three or four outs and give the ball to the unflappable Roberto Osuna. Only he and Joe Biagini have been worth trusting with the ball in the last month, which is kind of crazy. Until the lineups starts putting runs on the board, great performances from the starters are going to be the most important element of the Blue Jays game plan.
Lead Photo: Mark L. Baer-USA TODAY Sports