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Know Your Enemy: Toronto Blue Jays

The bird trifecta is complete

Toronto Blue Jays Mascot

Before we jump into this week, I’d like to remind everyone what Chrystal O’Keefe’s daughter said in relation to the Blue Jays mascot:

Ace is super creepy and I don’t think I’ve ever seen him on a broadcast or at Southpaw’s birthday, so I have to assume he’s only brought out to terrify children for special occasions.

2020 Blue Jays: 35-28 (third in AL East)

The Blue Jays started off 2020 quite literally homeless. They were denied use of their home stadium on July 18 as a result of concern by the Canadian government over travel between the U.S. and Canada for games. Pennsylvania denied them shared use of PNC Park (splitting time with the Pirates), but they were able to make a deal to use their Triple-A affiliate stadium in Buffalo. Their first home game was August 11, and prior to that they were the “home” team at some opposing stadiums. All this to say that 2020 was pretty rough on the Blue Jays.

During their September series against the Yankees they received the rather dubious honor of being the first team since 1901 to give up six or more home runs in three consecutive games (yikes). They made it to the Wild Card, only to blanked by Tampa Bay 2-0. It wasn’t all bad for the blue birds, though.

Teoscar Hernández hit 16 HRs to lead the team and slashed .289/.340/.919, earning him a Silver Slugger. Taijuan Walker came over from Seattle and threw a 1.37 ERA in six games, getting a 2-1 record which was much better than what he was doing on the Mariners. Hyun-Jin Ryu was the standout starting pitcher on the team with a 2.69 ERA in 12 games, earning a 5-2 record with 67 IP. Oh and Charlie Montoyo was nominated for AL Manager of the Year.

2021 Manager: Charlie Montoyo

This is Montoyo’s third season with the Blue Jays, having come over from the Rays where he was the bench coach. He doesn’t have much of a playing career to speak of, having played 1,028 games in the minors before retiring in 1996.

Our friends over at Bluebird Banter put together an appreciation thread of Montoyo because he’s subject to a lot of complaints/criticisms from Blue Jays fans. One of my favorite notes is that Montoyo allows for few bunts; in fact, his career sac bunt rate is 1.1%. He’s apparently a calming presence in the dugout, and from what I can tell he’s only been ejected three times in his career with the Blue Jays. I’m sure players and umpires alike appreciate it.

But one very telling note that I think is a key trait to a good manager?

... Charlie doesn’t make winning about him. Some managers seem to make winning about them, it never is. The players win or lose. The manager puts them in the spot and should try to stay out of the way.

2021 so far ...

In the offseason the Blue Jays added Robbie Ray, Tyler Chatwood, Kirby Yates, George Springer, Marcus Semien, and Joe Panik to their roster. One signing definitely gets a no-decision so far: Yates was brought down before the start of the reason by requiring his second Tommy John surgery.

The Blue Jays started off the season without a permanent home once again. They had to play 2021 home games through May in Florida at their spring training facility, as a result of COVID restrictions. Canada reduced the mandatory quarantine period from 14 days to seven for international travelers, so there’s a little light at the end of the tunnel for the Blue Jays to return home. In the meantime, they made some renovations on their Buffalo ballpark.

Here’s hoping the new digs stick around for their minor league affiliate when the Blue Jays head back to Toronto. At the very least, they’re in there until July.

The Blue Jays are sitting at third place in the AL East. George Springer, who was one of their biggest offseason signings, is out until June 11 with a quadriceps injury, so the White Sox won’t see him. But without Springer, the offense isn’t missing anything. Currently, Vlad Guerrero Jr. is leading the team in hitting with a .333/.436/.662 slash (and a crazy 1.098 OPS), making every series his personal home run derby by hitting 18 to date. He’s followed closely by Hernández with a .306/.362/.488 slash and .850 OPS. He has “only” hit eight home runs this season, though. Semien is proving his worth in tenfold since coming to the Blue Jays, slashing .294/.365/.531 with a .895 OPS and 13 home runs.

Pitching is a different story. The team ERA is a 4.01 (seventh in the AL) with Ryu and Ray being the only members of the starting rotation with a sub-4 ERA. The bullpen is a little spotty, with Jordan Romano having a 1.83 ERA in 21 games and 19 23 innings and Tim Mayza on the other end of the spectrum, throwing 6.28 in 16 23 innings. They’re ranked 14th in the AL in saves (11) and dead last in innings pitched (494 13). The pitching staff has given up 76 home runs and walked 184 batters.

Suffice to say the White Sox shouldn’t run into many problems with the pitching. The main focus should be defensively, and not giving up home runs (duh).

Series Pitching: Carlos Rodón and some guys

Today is going to see Carlos Rodón facing off against Robbie Ray. Rodón could have been better during his last start, allowing five runs and three homers over the six innings against Cleveland. Overall he’s posting a 1.98 ERA and 5-2 record with 80 strikeouts this season. Rodón has thrown more 4-seam fastballs than any other pitch this season (a whopping 56.6% of the time). His other two heavily-utilized pitches this year are the slider (25%) and his changeup (16%). Ray has a 3-2 record and 3.57 ERA with 69 strikeouts. In six of his last eight outings he’s gone at least six innings, so length is on his side. He’s also throwing mostly 4-seam fastballs (56.6%) with the slider (26%) and curve (12.1%) being the other two he’s relying most heavily on. Ray has a changeup and sinker, but hasn’t been relying on them as often.

Tomorrow Alek Manoah vs. TBD. This will be Manoah’s third game this season. He has a 1-0 record with a 3.86 ERA and 12 strikeouts. The 23-year old has been relying on four pitches: the 4-seam fastball (38.9%), slider (26.5%), sinker (22.8%), and changeup (11.7%).

Thursday is going to see TBD facing off against Hyun-Jin Ryu. Ryu allowed six earned runs in 5 23 innings during his last outing, and later said he felt he was rushing his delivery. This season he’s posting a 5-3 record with a 3.23 ERA and 59 strikeouts, so it’s safe to say that last outing was kind of a fluke. Ryu relies on a whopping six pitches: changeup (28.8%), 4-seam fastball (28%), cutter (25.4%), curveball (12.1%), sinker (4.4%), and slider (1.2%).

Why does everyone hate them?

The 1993 playoffs, mostly.