Series Preview: Jays vs A’s

The Toronto Blue Jays had a poor start to their west coast road trip, dropping all three games vs Seattle this past week. They hope to get back on track but they have quite the task ahead of them as they visit the surging Oakland A’s for a four game set.

I wrote a preview earlier this week for the Mariners series. Originally I was going to post a ‘report card’ of the scouting report but, frankly, this post is long enough as it is. On Monday I’ll post an update for both the Oakland and Seattle series.

Series Preview:

Toronto: 51-53, 4-6 past 10, 23-30 road

Oakland: 56 – 48, 6-4 past 10, 30-23 home

Going through the numbers online, two things absolutely jump off the screen. #1; the majority of A’s pitchers throw four pitches; #2; the A’s avoid count patterns such as first pitch fastballs, two strike breaking balls, etc. Opposing batters have to be ready for any pitch in any count.

Also, A’s pitchers do not like to issue walks.

Walks per 9 IP:

  • Colon: 1.46
  • Blackley: 1.97
  • Griffin: 2.09
  • Milone: 1.81

The Coliseum has the 5th lowest park factor numbers this season, with all rates being well below average except triples.

The Jays would be wise to shift to a speedy lineup throughout the four game series. This includes multiple starts for Davis and Gose in the OF. I’d also like to see Lawrie and Rasmus become more aggressive on the base paths this series. Work Moses Sierra into the lineup but give him the red light on the base paths: He’s 23 for 43 in SB attempts over the past two seasons.

Light hitting cather Kurt Suzuki has a 37% CS rate. Newly acquired catcher George Kottaras has a 23% CS rate.

Onto opposing pitcher scouting reports:

Game 1: Henderson Alvarez vs Bartolo Colon

Bartolo Colon is going to make hitters earn it. Over his past 4 starts he’s walked only 3 vs 20 K. He’s also limited total bases against, as 26 of the 30 hits allowed over this span have been singles.

He’s not the thrower he used to be; He’s now a bona fide pitcher.  Able to dial it up to 94 when needed, his fastball can range from 86 – 94 during the game.

The fastball is thrown 88% of the time. A slider and change can be mixed in to keep hitters off-balance. But the Jays and the league in general know what’s coming.

With that said, Colon gets the benefit of the doubt from umpires.

Jays Plan of Attack: Attack early, attack often. Colon is always around the zone. He’s thrown 462 pitches over the past month: 428 have been rated as ‘competitive’, in or near the strike zone, a rate of 92.6%. Contrast this to Ricky Romero’s 78.9% competitive rate. Go up (or down) hacking vs Bartolo.

Game 2: Brett Cecil vs Travis Blackley

Originally signed by Seattle in 2000 as an undrafted free agent out of Australia, Travis has bounced around numerous organizations.

At one time he was Baseball America’s 63rd ranked prospect. Seven years in the Mariners organization yieleded only six major league appearances. He was eventually traded in 2007 for OF Jason Ellison. Earning a cup of coffee for the Giants on two occasions in 2007, Blackley found himself being released at the end of the year. This started the ‘Travis Blackley World Tour’.

Starting in America, he bounced around four organizations: Phillies, Diamondbacks, Mets, A’s

He ended up playing for the prestigious (well, not really) Melbourne Aces in the Australian Baseball League, and then joined the KIA Tigers of the Korean Baseball Organization.

He found his way back to America in 2012, signing a minor league deal with the Giants during the off-season. Starting in AAA., he was later called up by the Giants for four games, then designated for assignment. The A’s jumped on him, signing him off waivers in mid-May. Beginning in the A’s bullpen, he’s  worked his way into the rotation and found a degree of success.

This year he’s kept the ball in the park, allowing only 3 HR allowed in 73.2 IP. He throws four pitches, using a  FB, slider, curve, change vs RHB and a FB, slider ,curve vs LHB.

Travis stays away from lefties and righties, expect for two strike counts vs righties. At that time he likes to go in with a cut fastball or his breaking pitches.

Blackley owned the Jays last time out, going 7 IP, allowing 1 ER and striking out 8. During this start the Jays were 0 for 10 vs his curveball

Jays Plan of Attack: Hit the curve. Or at least swing at it. The Jays struck out four times watching third strike curves, including two right down the middle.

UPDATE: The A’s have elected to move Blackley to the bullpen, and call up rookie Dan Straily.

Some info:

Dan failed to make Kevin Goldstein’s top 20 A’s prospects. John Sickels ranked him 18th in the A’s system:

Strong performance in California League, reports on stuff are promising. Under-the-radar prospect will need to prove that he can duplicate this at higher levels, but a sleeper.

Straily started the year in AA with a 11.4 K/9 rate. He was promoted to AAA, in the PCL no less, and repeated his 11.4 K rate, striking out 67 in 53 IP.

According to Kevin Goldstein:

…arsenal of three plus pitches that play up due to above-average command and control. He sets up hitters with a 92-94 mph fastball that can touch 95, then gets his strikeouts with an above-average slider and/or a changeup that is at least plus,

The 23 year old, 6’2, 220 pound right hander is now considered a top level prospect. The A’s and keeper fantasy players will be watching intently on Friday night.

Game 3: Ricky Romero vs A.J. Griffin

Coming into the season A.J. was considered a lower-end prospect, frequently at the back of or not even a part of A’s preseason top 10 prospect lists. He’s a righty that averages 90 MPH on his fastball, topping out this season at 92.9 MPH.

His strikeout pitch is a slow curve: A slooooow curve, clocking in at an average of 67.8 MPH this season.

He also features a slider to righties and a change to lefties.

Griffin stays away and up to both lefties and righties early in counts. This is likely the reason for his higher (well, at least for an Oakland SP) HR/FB rate of 9.6%

Griffin owned the Jays last week, allowing only 3 hits, 0 ER vs 9 K. During this start Jays hitters on both sides of the plate chased poor, and mostly high pitches. This is a heat map of chases outside of the strike zone during the 9 K start:

Jays Plan of Attack: While the higher pitches are enticing, the Jays hitters need to lay off pitches out of the zone and make Griffin come to them.

Game 4: Aaron Laffey vs Tom Milone 

How good is Tom Milone? I’m not sure. The overall stat line is impressive for a rookie in the American League. The Home/Road splits, plus his mid-level stuff lead me to believe he’s a 4th, 5th type of pitcher:

Home: .196/.231/.255 , 1.4% HR/FB rate

Road: .313/.353/.530 , 17.8% HR/FB rate

The Jays beat up on Milone during the last A’s/Jays series, touching Milone up for eight hits and two dingers. One of the reasons for their success? Being aggressive. RHB ended AB’s in about 2.6 pitches, which is far below the average P/PA rate across the league.

Milone works down to a point of predictability:

Jays Plan of Attack: Stick with the game plan from last week. Remain aggressive, attack Milone’s low offering and look to drive the ball to the outfield.

Conclusion: That’s it for this preview. If you like this post please share it view social media, link it on your website, email it to a friend, etc.

Sources: ESPN True Media, B-Ref, Google Images, Minor League Ball, Baseball Prospectus

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