With the Blue Jays up 3-2 in the 5th, Aaron Loup relieved R.A. Dickey after he loaded the bases with nobody out. He got a strike out, pop out and pop out to escape the inning unscathed. That pretty much decided the ball game right there. Even though he obviously didn’t get credit for the save, he definitely saved Dickey’s pitching line which ended up being a decently okayish 5IP (+3 batters), 2ER, 7H, 4BB, 4K. 2HR on 94 pitches/57 strikes.
Before we get in to more on that, let’s figure out how we got there. In the first inning, it seemed like the Jays offense was ready to provide a full 9 innings of runs tonight, instead of just runs in the 9th like last night. They were having no trouble at all picking up Porcello’s curveball in the early going. The lineup was consistently letting it go by them without even pretending to think about it. You know, like the way you do when a gorgeous girl passes you on the street when you’re with your girlfriend and you’re trying to act like you didn’t notice. Melky Cabrera wasn’t having trouble picking up anything and blasted a bomb in the first inning that gave the Jays a 1-0 lead.
After that, they weren’t picking up much of anything. They fell behind 2-1 after Dickey gave up a couple of solo shots. Speaking of which, I would enjoy if Dickey never threw a fastball again. I would especially enjoy if Dickey didn’t try to sneak first pitch 83 mph fastballs right down the middle past Miguel Cabrera. It feels like the only time he has ever fooled somebody with his fastball in his life was in the first inning of this game, when Rajai Davis swung at a 3-2 fastball so late the ball was already being thrown around the horn.
But maybe I’m the one who’s been fooled. According to FanGraphs‘ Pitch Values, Dickey’s fastball has been an above average pitch (1.06 runs saved per 100 pitches) while his knuckleball has been below average (-0.63 runs saved per 100 pitches). If you factor in that FanGraphs thinks Dickey throws a changeup (probably because his fastball is 83 mph), which I’m fairly sure he doesn’t, and count that towards his fastball, his non-knuckleball pitches have saved 7.8 runs/100. Beware of small sample size and misclassification of pitches and all, but still, it appears I have a selective memory for Dickey fastballs and only remember the ones down the middle to Miguel Cabrera that he hits for home runs and forget the ones that Rajai Davis swings 20 minutes late on. Whaddya know.
In the 5th inning (I think) Buck Martinez dropped some relevant Dickey stats, noting that Dickey has given up 5 home runs in his last 18 innings of work, compared to 3 in his previous 58.1, which appears to be some sort of regression to the mean. Yes, he’s giving up fewer fly balls than last year (36% compared to 40%), which means he should give up less home runs, but his home run to fly ball ratio of 7.6% wasn’t going to last forever (it was 12.7% and 11.3% in 2013 and 2012).
So after the two solo bombs Dickey gave up the Jays trailed 2-1. That was until Adam Lind delivered a huge 2 RBI double in the 6th (in the bottom of the inning cue clutch Aaron Loup performance to hold the lead). Then in the 8th, after Porcello was taken out of the game, Jose Reyes got aboard with a single and his speed was a factor again. Evan Reed was overly concerned with Reyes at first, and after almost picking him off, his next pickoff attempt was wild and Reyes advanced to second. Reed tried to pick Reyes off again at second and couldn’t, and then Melky Cabrera singled him in. It was a funny situation because Cabrera’s single was to left, directly to former Blue Jay Rajai Davis. The Jays 3rd base coach Luis Rivera waved Reyes home even though Davis got to the ball well before Reyes reached 3rd. But since Rivera knows Rajai and his arm so well, Reyes scored.
Then, after a Bautista single, Lind doubled again. It could have been another 2 RBI-er, but Bautista got held at third (because it was to right field, not to Rajai’s limp arm in left). How great has Lind been this season? Like, seriously underratedly amazing. The Edwing gets all the headlines, but the man hitting in front of him against righties is up to .349 for the season. I realize his limitations against lefties and he missed some time on the DL, but still, he’s having himself a dandy of a season.
After that, a couple of RBI ground outs and a 9th inning 2 RBI double gave the Jays a 8-2 lead that they would hold on to. Starting to think after last night’s 9th inning explosion, and the big 8th and 9th tonight, that the Tigers bullpen might not be very good. Just an inkling. *Checks stats* *Tigers 4.52 bullpen ERA ranked 28th in the Majors* *Sees Jays are dead last* *Stops talking*
The defense was great as usual, save for Encarnacion’s error in the 8th, and Jose Bautista made a couple of beautiful diving catches. This made me wonder what the stats have to say about Toronto’s defense this year. Well, let’s just say it doesn’t match up with the eye test. Baseball Prospectus’ Defensive Efficiency stats ranks them as the 22nd best defense this year. So I cross referenced it with FanGraphs, but they didn’t fare too much better there at 16th. Just like the Dickey fastball nonsense, my intuition was not supported by the stats. I’ll admit I don’t understand why they rank so poorly, but on the FanGraphs page their range stat is -5.2, the only defensive metric that they rate below average. I mean, I guess Reyes, Melky, Francisco and whoever’s at 1st don’t exactly have great range, but I didn’t think it was thaaaaat bad.
Tomorrow, J.A. Happ squares off against Justin Verlander at ¡EARLY START TIME ALERT! 1pm. The Jays swept the AL West leading A’s last week, why not throw in the other AL division leaders? If you’re working, don’t forget to check back in here for all your coverage and analysis.
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