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Toronto Blue Jays: Guide for the Part Time Fan Week 20

The Jays managed to steal only one from Baltimore and are now tied with the Yankees for second place in the AL East. Lawrie made a brief cameo, but is once again injured. Cabrera’s elbow isn’t broken and will hopefully be back to work by the weekend

The Blue Jays had an opportunity to make a statement this week as the first place Orioles rolled into town. Unfortunately, it seems their message was garbled, and the Jays won only one of the three game series. Mix that with some coinciding victories by the Yankees and the Jays have now fallen to five games behind Baltimore, tied with New York. Not exactly the feel-good result Toronto fans craved. 

As insult would not be complete without more injury, Brett Lawrie, who missed over a month with a broken finger, returned to action on Tuesday – long enough to play three innings before being removed with back issues. The Jays have announced Lawrie has a strained left oblique and will miss another 3-6 weeks. 

In other concerns, Melky Cabrera was hit by a pitch in the elbow and had to leave Thursday night’s game. Fortunately, x-rays were negative and the Jays are treating the injury as day-to-day. Cabrera has been one of the most consistent offensive contributors; hopefully Melky will be back soon, doing what the Melk-Man does best

On a positive note, the Jays have seen some remarkable pitching from their starting rotation, including a one-hit ball game by Drew Hutchison on Wednesday and 12 strikeouts by J.A. Happ on Thursday. Unfortunately, the Jays’ inconsistent offence has not always capitalized, meaning some of this great pitching has essentially gone to waste. 

The Jays must continue to tread water while their injured have time to heal. Adam Lind has begun his rehab assignment and may return as early as the weekend. There’s been less information regarding Edwin Encarnacion, though we hope his return is no more than a week or two away. 

The Jays host the Detroit Tigers at the Rogers Centre over the weekend. Starters R.A. Dickey, Marcus Stroman and Mark Buehrle are scheduled to take the mound during the three-game series, which will also feature Detroit’s recent trade deadline acquisition and former Cy Yound Award winner David Price. 

Insider Stuff
Amidst injury, under-performance and pennant race concerns, it’s easy to forget that the Blue Jays are playing meaningful games in August. They currently hold second place in a division that is historically baseball’s most competitive. 

To hear the experts talk as the season began, this team was hopeless; and those were only the Toronto-based experts. The rest of MLB’s pundits couldn’t find Toronto on a map, let alone believe the Jays would be in the hunt. 

And yet, before us lies an opportunity to see Canada’s only remaining baseball team in the playoffs for the first time since 1993. As the summer fades to fall, take the time to attend, tune in, turn on or flip through the sports section – however you prefer to digest what might just be a miracle year for Toronto sports fans. We may not get where we’re going, but we don’t recommend you crowd-surf off the bandwagon just yet.

Buzzword of the Week: Wins Above Replacement (or “WAR”)
The past decade has seen a revolution in baseball statistics. Your father’s measurement of a “good” player is no longer. The emerging field of ‘sabermetrics’ (Society for American Baseball Research/SABR-metrics) has demonstrated that many traditional baseball stats are, in fact, unreliable or circumstantial and, therefore, not an ideal way to gauge the talent of an individual player.

As an example, you’d expect the win/loss record of a pitcher should tell you something about his abilities. Well, not necessarily. Imagine a pitcher with a record of 2 wins and 20 losses; seems pretty awful. But now imagine that those 20 losses were all 1-0 ball games in which his teammates failed to score. Is it fair to say he’s a bad pitcher? Not really.

It seems clear we need a way to evaluate a player’s individual efforts beyond the support he receives (or doesn’t receive) from his team.

The new statistic “wins above replacement” (commonly pronounced “WAR”) is a complicated mathematical mess that takes into account nearly every contribution a player can make towards his team’s success. However, even the experts disagree on one standard calculation. But in a simplified sense, the stat hopes to estimate the number of runs a player helps his team score through his offensive actions, contrasted with the number of runs he helps deny the other team by his defensive actions.

These estimates are then projected across an entire season, and the result is the number of extra games his team should win as a result of that player’s contributions when compared to an “average” player at that same position.

For example, Angels’ center fielder Mike Trout currently has an 8.6 WAR for this season. 

(Have we lost you yet?)

Basically, this means that the Angels will probably win an extra 8+ games with Mike Trout on the field than they would compared with a replacement (i.e. average) player. Yes, Trout is actually THAT good.

We should also note that it’s possible to have a negative WAR; meaning that a player’s contributions (or lack there of) will likely cost his team wins when compared to an average replacement.

Imagine a world where your boss is able to calculate your ‘WAR’. Yikes. Best not give management any ideas.

So what have you learned?
The Jays managed to steal only one from Baltimore and are now tied with the Yankees for second place in the AL East. Lawrie made a brief cameo, but is once again injured. Cabrera’s elbow isn’t broken and will hopefully be back to work by the weekend. And speaking of Wins Above Replacement, the Jays must go to “WAR” with the rest of their AL East rivals if they hope to continue this pennant chase. 

The Detroit Tigers visit Toronto this weekend, new ace Price and all. If you find your way down to the Rogers Centre, come find us and say hello. Otherwise, we can meet back here next Friday to discuss all the heroic moments from the best damn (and only) ball club north of the border.


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Matt Antaya