Series Preview: Toronto (July 13-15)

In May, Omar Vizquel became the oldest player to play shortstop in Major League history.

This Series Preview brought to you by TiqIQ.

The Indians will embark on an all-turf road trip to start the second half. This is the second straight that they've made their only trips to Toronto and Tampa Bay (the only stadiums in MLB with artificial turf) on the same road trip.

Team in a Box (click to enlarge)

Toronto_july_13-15_medium

The Indians will be facing a club almost diametrically opposite to the team they faced to close the first half. The Blue Jays have one of the best offenses (or should I go with offences, since the game will be played in Canada?) in the American League, led by Colby Rasmus, Edwin Encarnacion, and of course Jose Bautista, all with at least 17 home runs. But their pitching hasn't matched their hitting, and with some major injuries to their starting staff, they'll be hard-pressed to keep pace with the rest of the AL East in the second half.

Typical Lineup

Pos. Player BA OBP SLG OPS+ PA
3B Brett Lawrie .291 .334 .425 103 350
CF Colby Rasmus .259 .328 .494 117 355
RF Jose Bautista .244 .360 .540 138 378
1B Edwin Encarnacion .295 .382 .565 150 356
DH Adam Lind .206 .287 .388 79 178
SS Yunel Escobar .254 .299 .335 71 362
LF Rajai Davis .253 .310 .390 87 201
2B Kelly Johnson .246 .333 .387 93 344
C J.P. Arencibia .225 .261 .426 81 265

Toronto manager (and former Tribe front office man) John Farrell has generally batted his best four hitters in the first four places in the lineup, which is similar to how Manny Acta has built his order. And, like with the Indians, the quality of batters drops off considerably after that, though there's no real gaping holes. Adam Lind, who in 2009 had a magnificent season (.305/.370/.562 at age 25), seems to be trending downward at the age of 28; the problem, however, is that Toronto is committed to him for at least another season. The Jays have become a sort of refuge for talented players thriving since cast off from other clubs; they have Yunel Escobar (dumped by Atlanta), Colby Rasmus (St. Louis), and Edwin Encarnacion (Reds); Encarnacion just signed an extension that will keep him in Toronto through at least 2015. Had the Jays not extended him, Encarnacion could have become a free agent at the end of the year, and most certainly would have been on the Indians' radar as a trade possibility.

Barring a trade, this will be the last time to see Omar Vizquel on the same field with the Indians. Vizquel has announced that he'll be retiring at the end of the season.

Probable Starters

Date Pitcher ERA Innings SO/9 BB/9 H/9
July 13 Ricky Romero (L) 5.22 110.1 6.2 4.7 8.5
July 14 Aaron Laffey (L) 2.67 27.0 4.7 1.7 7.0
July 15 Carlos Villanueva 3.05 44.1 9.9 4.5 7.5

Tribe fans will obviously recognize the starter on Saturday; Aaron Laffey is getting a chance in the rotation, his first chance since with the Indians in 2010. I still have a perhaps irrational feeling that Laffey can be a decent starter in the majors, and so far the southpaw has done well in his first three starts, going six innings and averaging 2.33 runs per start, though he isn't inducing ground balls like he used to.

Romero has been a mainstay in the rotation, starting Opening Day in Cleveland and every turn since, but he's the only one of this three to do so. Carlos Villanueva was elevated from the bullpen to the rotation in late June; he's been moved back and forth from the rotation to the bullpen his two full season in Toronto.

Key Relievers

Throws Pitcher ERA Innings SO/9 BB/9 H/9
Right Casey Janssen 2.36 34.1 9.2 1.3 6.6
Left Darren Oliver 1.42 31.2 9.7 3.8 6.3
Right Jason Frasor 3.74 33.2 11.2 4.8 7.8

After Sergio Santos got hurt, Casey Janssen was elevated to the closer's role and has pitched in the ninth as well as he pitched in setup last year. Jason Frasor is back in Toronto after spending a couple months with the White Sox, and is having his typically competent season as a setup man. With the loss of Luis Perez, the eternally youthful Darren Oliver is the primary left-handed reliever. The Jays have both the oldest active position player (Omar!) and the oldest active pitcher (Oliver) in the American League.

On the Shelf

  • RHP Kyle Drabek (Tommy John surgery) - out for the season
  • RHP Drew Hutchinson (elbow) - 60-day Disabled List
  • 3B Brett Lawrie (back) - day-to-day
  • RHP Jessie Litsch (bicep) - out for the season
  • RHP Dustin McGowan (shoulder) - 60-day Disabled List
  • RHP Brandon Morrow (oblique) - 15-day Disabled List
  • LHP Luis Perez (elbow) - out for the season
  • RHP Sergio Santos (shoulder) - 60-day Disabled List

After looking at this list, you can begin to understand why Toronto has struggled with run prevention. Many of the injuries are to key pitchers, and almost all of them are serious. Three pitchers (Drabek, Litsch, and Perez) are already out for the season, and three more (Hutchinson, McGowan, and Santos) are on the 60-day DL. Drabek and Morrow, both members of the starting rotation, both got injured in mid-June. Santos was acquired from Chicago over the winter, and was to be Toronto's closer, but he's only appeared in 6 games. Luis Perez, who had been a key setup man, was just placed on the DL with a tear in his UCL.

talonk's Almanac

All-Time Record 186-186 (.500)
Runs Scored/Allowed 1770 1762
Pythagorean Win % .502
Best Record 10-3 1995
Worst Record 1-12 1991
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