The On Deck Circle

The unofficial home of Real Talk

Pitching So Good it Makes Me Want to Catch

Posted by Blake Murphy on May 6, 2008

Note: Instead of a series review from the White Sox sweep this past weekend (5-game winning streak, y’heard), I will be releasing a different Jays article every day for the Tampa series, instead. Today is a look at the pitching dominance, tomorrow is, of course, a Hinske piece with the D-Rays in town, and Thursday will be a comprehensive farm system update. The series reviews will resume on Friday with a Jays-Rays review.

The story of the Toronto Blue Jays this past week has been remarkable. The bats are still largely cold, but the pitching has been so insanely incredible it has to be terrifying other American League teams. Normally, you fear a playoff opponent that has two great starters to throw at you for five games of a 7-set, but four apparently great pitchers and one good one, to boot? No team is going to want to run into a rotation like that en route to the World Series.

Wait, what? The Jays are still below .500? Not even close to a playoff spot?


Yes, the bats are still frozen and probably won’t heat up until the weather here does, but the Jays have managed to stay afloat through rock solid starting pitching and a now-predictably lockdown bullpen. Don’t believe this apparent hyperbole? Allow me to introduce Exhibit A:

You have no idea who pitched which of those games, do you? Yes, earned runs may not be the absolute best measure of pitching performance, but it’s the best I care to find when looking at a small series of data. Oh, the data set is too small, also? Well, that’s probably correct, but I’m talking about the pitching thus far – I’m not saying the Jays possess Glavine-Maddux-Smoltz-plus-two for the long-term future. If you’re still not sold on how good this staff has been, allow me to introduce Exhibit B:

And in case you’re one to argue, Exhibit C:

And just because, Exhibit D:

So, are you catching all of that? 8 earned runs over the last 9 starts for Jays pitchers, totalling 66.1 innings? Not only is that an average of 7.1 innings a start, it’s also a collective ERA of 1.08 over that span. On top of that, the bullpen’s overall ERA for the season is 3.02, and that includes Burnett’s poor relief outing, League’s struggles, and Accardo’s time without his splitter. The Jays have the best overall pitching statistics of any team in baseball. Nobody can question the job J.P. Ricciardi has done finding talent for the pitching staff. Say what you want about his fiscal management or the hitters he’s brought in, but with a total rotation payroll of $24.4M and a total pitching staff payroll of $41.6M, this staff isn’t just pitching the lights out, it’s doing it on the cheap (comparatively, of course).

An additional note is that the Jays have performed better than average in allowing stolen bases, too – the staff’s main Achilles Heel from 2007. The staff has, for the most part, been the only bright spot on the team thus far.

So, is there anything left to say, really?

Sure there is; it’s the most important part.

There is no reason to believe the team can’t finish the season with pitching rankings just as good as they are right now. The 1.08 starters ERA over the past nine will come down (and yes, Jesse Carlson may turn back into a human at any point) but compared to the other top pitching staffs in baseball, you have to like the Jays staff to be one of the best.

Doc Halladay is Doc Halladay. A.J. Burnett has been himself this season, too – a few great starts and a few big mistakes. Dustin McGowan has been a touted prospect forever so you know the talent is there. Marcum’s control is getting better and he learned the importance of hard work in the offseason from Doc and a desire to be in better shape – his improvements should be sustained. And Litsch, well…as a #5 starter he’s just fine.

In the bullpen, you know what to expect from Downs and Ryan. Frasor, too, for the most part. Camp and Carlson are overperforming question marks, but so were Speier and Downs at one point. Accardo has four good outings in a row under his belt after a poor start. And Brian Tallet…well, who knows how that guy ticks?

Look at those lists. The only real question marks are with replaceable players (Litsch is backed by serious AAA starting pitching success, we don’t need Carlson as a 4th lefty if he were to struggle, and Camp is easy to replace as the 25th man on the roster).

Everyone knew heading into the season that if the Jays were to be successful the pitching staff would have to repeat its out-of-nowhere 2007. Check, so far, and I really think you can continue to check that criteria off for the rest of the season. This pitching staff is for real.

As for the hitters…hey, at least Rios is hitting, and I hear Josh Phelps is available. (It’s not really that bad…the bats should heat up…they can’t be that bad all season…right?)

16 Responses to “Pitching So Good it Makes Me Want to Catch”

  1. Blake Murphy Says:

    Two things:

    1—The title of that article is an innuendo, not a really bad baseball joke

    2—I’ll be pinch hitting for Stu with my own Gary Roberts Wednesday tomorrow. One guess who the featured player is…

  2. khandor Says:

    … and with pitching THIS good, it’s absolutely criminal that the Jays management continues not to perceive the need this squad has for an everyday left-handed stick with some real power (in addition to an ‘average’ lefty like Lyle Overbay).

    What ‘Moneyball’ teams (like Toronto is right now) have proven over the years is that they can stay ‘competitive’ with the big boyz who routinely over-spend and still fail to win the World Series each and every season; while still failing, repeatedly, to win enough ball games in order to REACH the post-season.

    Until the Jays can add a significant left-handed bat - like what David Ortiz does for the Red Sox, and Jim Thome does for the Indians - they are destined to come up short every year vs the teams that have this vital cog in their machinery.

    [PS. Allowing Carlos Delgado to walk away years ago, was a good financial move for the club but it’s absolutely crippled their punchless line-up since then.

    Paraphasing what Earl Weaver used to say, repeatedly, years ago, when the Orioles possessed ‘the best’ pitching in all of baseball, “A three-run-homer … from a left-handed power bat … to go with solid defense & good pitching … produces a lot of W’s in this league.”

    Where are men like Boog Powell (L) and Eddie Murray (S) when a team like the Jays needs them, so desperately?

  3. Blake Murphy Says:

    Holy shit man, I’ve had enough. I’ve played your little game and responded cordially to your remarks, found stats when you asked for them, and largely been a good sport about your argumentative nature.

    But please….can you offer SOMETHING other than criticism for once man? Where are the stats backing up your stance on the need for a lefty power bat (they probably exist but at least I’ve had the decency to research)? Where is your solution to this problem (yes, it’s a shame we don’t get Bonds…given that, who and how?)? And geez man, this:

    “What ‘Moneyball’ teams (like Toronto is right now) have proven over the years is that they can stay ‘competitive’ with the big boyz who routinely over-spend and still fail to win the World Series each and every season; while still failing, repeatedly, to win enough ball games in order to REACH the post-season.”


    Oakland, THE moneyball team, has made the playoffs in 5 of the last 7 years. No World Series, but your point there is way off.

    So please man…if you’re going to criticize EVERYTHING, at least back it up and offer something more than “you’re wrong.”

    Oh, and stop ripping on joke articles/comments. Poor Dave Power.

  4. Erik Says:

    “PS. Allowing Carlos Delgado to walk away years ago, was a good financial move for the club but it’s absolutely crippled their punchless line-up since then.”

    Don’t worry Blake, you should have stopped reading right there.

  5. khandor Says:


    1) I am not arguing with you.

    2) Your observation re: Oakland ‘proves the point’ without need for stats.

    Are the A’s playing in the same division with Yankees and the Red Sox, or the Indians?

    Sometimes ’stats’ are not necessary to ‘prove a point’.

    3) After making an initial reference to the possibility of Mr. Bonds being the type of available ‘left-handed power stick’ a punchless team like the Jays could really use … if they were truly serious about becoming live contenders for a post-season berth this year … I haven’t made mention of that name again.

    So … I fail to see the reason you keep bringing up his name again, and again, in connection with my comments here.

    4) If anyone would like to assert that my contention re: Carlos Delgado with the Jays is not correct, then, they are free to do so.

    5) You shouldn’t be so easily disturbed by a simple opinion, like mine … unless, of course, there’s something of substance in what I’ve said so far to make you (re-)think that how you’ve viewed the righty/lefty nature of Toronto’s batter order to this point might not actually be the best way to appraise the effectiveness of this team’s ability to put runs on the board with their current roster of players.

    When the Jays add that left-handed stick to their team … and their run production increases … to match their terrific pitching … you will see for yourself that I was right from the get-go.

    And, if they don’t add this stick this year, and continue to tread water, hovering about the .500 mark … then, I guess, we will never know just how close this team was to burying the Red Sox and the Yankees this season … when both of these outfits are struggling mightily with injuries and absences of their own (for a change), and they are ripe for the picking … if Toronto only had a better GM who could see the need for these things for himself.

  6. khandor Says:

    And, btw … when/if you run a ‘joke article’ that doesn’t also seem to me to be a sad indictment of the current state of affairs between the majority of men and women in our world today … I will laugh, heartily, right along beside you.

    Til then …

    What I felt, when reading that piece, was exactly what I wrote about in the comment I made.

    That’s all.

  7. Erik Says:

    Lots of big words Khandor, that’s a start. I guess this is what Mike Wilner feels like on Jays Talk.

  8. Blake Murphy Says:

    Dude, several problems with your response:

    3) I was saying that you haven’t offered a solution for the problem outside of the initial Bonds mention. I don’t keep bringing him up to refute you…you just haven’t suggested anyone ELSE who would fill that need.

    5) I’m not disturbed at all man. I really appreciate that you come on here and comment and discuss. My problem comes when you repeat the same thing over and over. I also never said you were WRONG about the need for a lefty power bat — I suggested that we need another power bat,period, and I wasn’t as concerned about it being a lefty. Everyone knows the Jays need more run production.

  9. khandor Says:


    There was a time when I could tell you exceptionally quickly the name of every single player on a major league roster. FULL STOP.

    But, no more.

    Today, in general, I leave that type of stuff to you younger fellas with a lot more free time on your hands, and who might be interested in doing this type of ‘research’ in the first place. :-)

    In my experience … it doesn’t matter where/how the Jays can come up with a left-handed power bat (or who that bat is specifically) to insert in the middle of their everyday line-up - which principally means vs Righties - all I’m suggesting to you is that their different problems on offense are not going to ‘go away’ with the current configuration of their roster … based on what I’ve seen from them so far this year.

    They don’t manufacture runs well.
    They don’t have an abundance of team speed.
    They don’t hit with enough power.
    They don’t have enough quality Left-handed power bats on their roster.
    They make base-running mistakes galore …

    while their Pitching is absolutely terrific.

    And based upon what I know about the game … the easiest way to address ONE of those problems I listed above is to go out and get 1 Left-handed power hitter from somewhere, especially now that they’ve opened up a spot in the middle of their everyday line-up by jettisoning ‘the Big Hurt’.

    How difficult to do is that, in today’s marketplace?

  10. Blake Murphy Says:

    Why are we still arguing this point? I agree with you that we need a power bat. Everyone agrees with you. Even Ricciardi would probably concede that argument.

    As for your final question — it is pretty difficult to do in May. Nobody is into full blown “seller” mode yet, most (MOST!) good free agents have been scooped up by now, and you would already know if you could solve the problem internally or not. Unfortunately for us Jays fans, the market won’t provide an adequately priced power bat until closer to the trade deadline.

    Oh, and with the pitching greatness and offensive struggles — how bad would a Rios deal have looked now, even with Lincecum’s -0.01 ERA?

  11. khandor Says:


    At no time have I been trying to argue with you … or say that you (or someone else) is being silly (or such) for not agreeing with the point(s) I’m amking.

    The reason I keep repeating this same observation is because …

    much like the Raptors, who keep losing games the same way and don’t seem to believe that the reason they’re losing is connected with their deficiencies in Rebounding & Defense, as they keep signing ’shooter/scorers’ instead …

    the Jays keep losing games the exact same way (and there’s nothing I, personally, can do about this) …

    through an absence of run production in the heart of their line-up, and they don’t seem to be doing anything to address this problem from year-to-year …

    e.g. it was the height of incompetency that they were even entertaining thoughts of flipping Rios to San Fran for Lincecum (who is terrific, btw, but completely superfluous on Toronto’s team) … given the state of their batter order

    especially from the Left-hand side of the plate (maybe due to the Moneyball Philosophy that doesn’t place the proper value on this type of over-simplistic managerial technique to generate pitching changes from the opposition and pick up valuable hits from a Righty Pitcher’s inability to get out average-to-above-average Lefty batters, when they’re surrounded by decent-to-good Righties, like the Jays have right now, in the form of Wells, Rios, Adams, Stewart (?), Rolen and even Eckstein (although he is popless).

    I acknowledge that it can get tiresome fast, reading the same thing again and again and again, ad nauseum …

    but, no more so than watching the Jays cough up winnable game after winnable game after winnable game, etc. … for the exact reason.

    When they try to play a different record, maybe, then, astute observers of their team can sing along to a different tune.

  12. Blake Murphy Says:

    At least they provided me with a fun live game today. Me and about 45 other people that showed up.

  13. Blake Murphy Says:

    Jesus Kahndor you’re going to flip out. Lind has been sent down, the brutal suck-ass Jorge Velandia called up, and Jeff Blair of the Globe is reporting that the Jays are now actively looking to trade for a RIGHT HANDED bat. I don’t understand that one a bit….a bat? Sure. But why specifically a right handed one?

    The Lind move is stupid. 20 at bats? That’s it? Velandia? The Prime Minister of Defense said he can maybe play tomorrow (Fan 590) so we don’t need another shortstop…especially a 30+ year old (edit)wad.

  14. khandor Says:


    Flipping out ain’t my style.

    Once upon a time in the Great White North the Jays were run in a way that said, (loud and) clearly,

    “We are a 1st-Class operation, run by top notch people, that intends to win the World Series, one day in the not-too-distant future (even while we might be losing 100 games per season right now) … many times.”

    Sadly, those halcyon days are long gone.

    If they ever return … and, btw, it’s independent of them winning 97+ games; it’s dependent on ‘the type’ of people who they have at the helm of their organization, unlike, say, Ted Rogers/Paul Godfrey/JP Ricciardi, and the quality of decisions they make daily … it will be a ’simple pleasure in Life’ to cheer for their team again, but ’til then …

    an astute observer can tell the difference between an organization that is legitimately trying to Win the World Series and something else.

    Right now … something else is in the building.

  15. Erik Says:

    Way back when, The Jays spent through their teeth to win b2b world series. The reality is that we cannot outspend the top third of the league no matter what management does. That is a fact. Please don’t compare what happened in the early 90’s to the new economic reality of Major League Baseball.

    We are all like-minded friends here and all are fans of the Jays. If you expect to come here and make long-winded and tired arguments about our team (that we have all heard 100 times over) and expect us to engage in constructive debate then you are barking up the wrong tree.

    Lighten up, dude.

  16. khandor Says:

    Brother Erik,

    1. Nothing long-winded in what I wrote right there.

    2. Nothing about team ‘finances’ in what I wrote right there either.

    3. Am I not allowed ‘to play’ in this sandbox if I’m not quite as ‘like-minded’ as the rest of you (owners, domestics, visitors & the like)?

    4. So far, I’m not ‘debating’ anything with anyone.

    5. Neither am I barking.

    6. And, there’s no tree involved here, at least, that I can see.

    I’m a baseball aficionado.

    Are you?

    If you are … then, maybe we can share our thoughts about the grand ole with one another, once-in-a-while, on this blog, if you’re so inclined.

    And before you get yourself into a huff, please take a deep breath, exhale slowly and re-read carefully what I just wrote here, in my reply to you.

    If you do, you’ll see nothing there to which you or anybody else whose a fan of the Jays or not SHOULD take offense to.

    It’s a style that you might not like … but it’s my style, and I’m sticking to it.

    Thank you, very, much.

    [PS. and, FWIW ... I've got the Jays (Litsch/-120) extending their run of good play lately with another W tonight vs TB (Jackson).]

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