Schedule:

Game 1 – Thu, 10/8 at Toronto

Game 2 – Fri, 10/9 at Toronto

Game 3 – Sun, 10/11 at Texas

Game 4 – Mon, 10/12 at Texas (if necessary)

Game 5 – Wed, 10/14 at Toronto (if necessary)

 

Lineups:

Toronto Projected Lineup:

Revere LF .306/.342/.377

Donaldson 3B .297/.371/.568

Bautista RF .250/.377/.536

Encarnación DH .277/.372/.557

Smoak 1B .226/.299/.470

Martin C .240/.329/.458

Tulowitzki SS .280/.337/.440

Pillar CF .278/.314/.399

Goins 2B .250/.318/.354

 

Toronto Projected Starting Rotation: (all pitching stats presented as ERA/FIP/DRA)

Price 2.45/2.75/2.90

Stroman 1.67/3.52/2.75

Estrada 3.13/4.38/3.42

Dickey 3.91/4.46/3.94

Key Relief Pitchers:

Osuna 2.58/2.99/2.99

Cecil 2.48/2.32/2.64

Sanchez 3.24/4.64/4.38

Lowe 1.96/2.54/2.84

Hawkins 3.26/3.27/4.12

Hendriks 2.92/2.12/3.20

Key Bench Players:

Navarro, Colabello, Pennington, Hague

 

Texas Projected Lineup:

DeShields CF .261/.344/.374

Choo RF .276/.375/.463

Fielder DH .305/.378/.463

Beltre 3B .287/.344/.453

Moreland 1B .278/.330/.482

Hamilton LF .253/.291/.441

Andrus SS .258/.309/.357

Odor 2B .261/.316/.465

Gimenez/Chirinos C .255/.330/.490 or .232/.325/.438

 

Texas Projected Starting Rotation: (all pitching stats presented as ERA/FIP/DRA)

Hamels 3.72/3.47/3.24

Gallardo 3.42/3.98/4.00

Holland 4.91/5.27/4.92

Perez or Lewis 4.46/3.38/4.02 or 4.66/4.15/4.00

Key Relief Pitchers:

Tolleson 2.99/3.41/3.76

Dyson 2.63/2.94/2.91

Ohlendorf 3.72/4.92/4.78

Kela 2.39/2.61/2.97

Diekman 4.01/3.64/4.18

Key Bench Players:

Napoli, Gallo, and…..uh….they don’t have much of a bench.

 

Let’s break this baby down position by position Dr. Jack (RIP) style!

Catcher-Russell Martin vs. The Texas platoon.

Martin had another quality season with a TAv of .275. The on-base was down from 2014’s likely outlier of .402, but an uptick in slugging makes him still quite productive. He also had a typically good framing season, but was hurt by losing 16 blocking runs — but that’s likely due to the Dickey knuckleball factor, so that could be thrown out. As far as Texas goes, Chris Gimenez had pretty good numbers in 113 plate appearances, but over 621 career plate appearances over 7 seasons he’s put up a line of .218/.303/.336, so, typical backup catcher fare. Robinson Chirinos isn’t horrible with the bat. He’s basically been right around league average for 2 seasons now, but he’s not all that great defensively. Advantage-Martin

First Base-Mitch Moreland vs. Justin Smoak

Mitch Moreland has had a decent season, with a career high .284 TAv and also a career high 115 wRC+ (not counting his small sample 2010, in either case, which was also .284 TAv and 115 wRC+). Moreland has always been quite splitty, so it’s possible Mike Napoli could get a start here when David Price pitches. Napoli will most likely play somewhere on that occasion, but it’s possible he could play LF. He’s actually played way more left since his acquisition than he has first. He’s getting up there and his days of everyday play are over, but the power is still there, and he could — in fact, I’d say he’s likely to — get a shot in a high leverage spot. You’d take him against Brett Cecil over pretty much anyone lefty in your lineup, other than maybe Fielder. Justin Smoak has rehabilitated his career after being “failed prospect guy” for what seems like a decade. He’s not a good on-base guy, but he’s got power. Problem with Smoak is if he’s not hitting home runs he doesn’t do much else. Advantage-Moreland

Second Base-Rougned Odor vs. Ryan Goins

Odor had a bit of a semi-breakout after being recalled from the minors after struggling horribly during an earlier stint in the majors. I think anybody will take a 3.1 WARP from a 21-year-old. Goins is just a glove first, below average bat guy. But, with the way the Jays rake, you can afford to have a glove first player in the lineup. But I’d still rather have Roogie. Advantage-Odor

Shortstop-Troy Tulowitzki vs. Elvis Andrus

Well, if Tulo’s healthy, this is a no-brainer. Andrus is nothing else if not consistent, unfortunately, it’s consistently mediocre, posting wRC+ numbers from 2013-2015 of 78, 78, and 77. Both guys can pick it on D, so I’ll take the better offensive player, and it’s not really close, with the caveat of health. Advantage-Tulowitzki

Third Base-Josh Donaldson vs. Adrian Beltre

I like Beltre a lot. I think the guy’s a Hall of Famer, although I’m not sure if the BBWAA will actually vote him in. They seem to have a bias against third baseman, but that’s a post for another day. That being said, he’s 36. He’s declined a bit this year. His wRC+ was still a respectable 108, but that’s the lowest number of this decade for him. The glove is still solid but not what it was in his prime. Adrian Beltre has over 80 bWAR! You could probably win bets with that fact. Now that I’m done gushing over Beltre, Josh Donaldson is probably going to win the AL MVP, and I can’t argue with that. He’s better NOW. He’s got a long way to go to have Beltre’s career though. Not enough is made in my opinion of how Donaldson wasn’t even a guy who was regarded as much of a prospect and all of a sudden at 27 he becomes a superstar.  Advantage-Donaldson

Left Field-Ben Revere vs. Josh Hamilton

I always root for Josh Hamilton. I know the guy has his demons, but people who have followed my writing here or heard my inane podcast babbling previously know I’m a Reds fan, and as everybody knows, Hamilton debuted as a Red in 2007, quickly won the hearts of Reds fans everywhere, and was then quickly flipped to the Rangers for Edinson Volquez. It made sense at the time, I guess. Josh Hamilton is now 34, can’t stay healthy anymore, and is nothing more than around a league average hitter nowadays. Ben Revere is also right around a league average hitter, or slightly under, but he runs better and fields better so, sadly, I can’t give the advantage to Hamilton here. Hamilton’s power potential makes this too close to call for me. Advantage-Push

Center Field-Kevin Pillar vs. Delino DeShields Jr.

Pillar and DeShields are basically equals with the bat. Pillar had a .257 TAv and DeShields had a .259 TAv. I think DeShields has more potential to improve in the future, and Pillar is 26, so he’s likely who he is at this point. But, we aren’t here to talk about the future, we’re talking about this series, and Pillar’s defense gives him the nod for right now. Advantage-Pillar

Right Field-Jose Bautista vs. Shin-Soo Choo

I was really close to writing Choo off after his horrendous beginning to the season (.096/.254/.173 in the month of April) but he quickly bounced back to have another quality season with a .295 TAv after a struggle in 2014 due to injuries. Jose Bautista had yet another plus .300 TAv season, coming in at .316. He seems to be overlooked by the national media, with all the star power on this team now, but all this guy does is hit, year after year. Advantage-Bautista.

Designated Hitter-Prince Fielder vs. Edwin Encarnacion

Prince Fielder has revived his career, after missing most of 2014 with a neck surgery that some thought might derail his career. He’s declined a bit from the halcyon days in Milwaukee, but he’s still a good player. Unfortunately for the Rangers, Edwin Encarnacion is a great player. He’s yet another one of these Josh Donaldson types who blossomed in their late 20s, and since his age 29 season in 2012, he’s posted the following wRC+ numbers: 150, 146, 151, and 150. This is a guy who was non-tendered as recently as after the 2010 season. Blue Jays fans hope to see The Parrot a lot during this postseason. Advantage-Encarnacion

 

Starting Pitching

At one point earlier this season the Blue Jays pitching was seen as a legitimate weakness, one which could have very likely taken them out of the hunt before it was time. On June 26, the Jays had the 26th ranked DRA in the majors, breaking down as 29th place for starting pitchers. Regression to the mean has corrected some of that, because some of those pitchers weren’t really as bad as they were performing up to that point. But then the Blue Jays traded for David Price. Toronto finished the season ranked 10th in DRA, and 14th by starting pitchers (and let’s keep in mind that their home ballpark is a launching pad). That’s a drastic difference, and that’s the main reason why they took off in the second half. Troy Tulowitzki got a lot of press, but honestly, he hasn’t really played that well since his trade. It’s the pitching. I don’t really think I need to throw superlatives David Price’s way. He’s fantastic. I do want to touch on Marcus Stroman, however. This guy tore his ACL on March 10th. At that time he was actually ruled out for the entire season, announced officially by the team and everything. After 4 rehab starts, he started a major league game on September 12. That’s really quite insane. And he also pitched very, very well. Do I think a 1.67 ERA in 4 starts means anything? Not really, but I think he pitched well enough to make Price and he a good enough 1-2 punch. On June 14, Marco Estrada’s ERA was sitting at a not very good 4.24. Since that day, Estrada has posted an ERA of 2.62, so he along with Price also deserves quite a bit of credit for the turnaround of the Jays’ starting staff.

As far as the Rangers, of course the injury to Yu Darvish before the season even got going was a huge disappointment. Their starting pitching, as a result, is quite pedestrian. Reaching back down into the DRA pool, their DRA from their starting pitchers is a middle of the road 18th ranked in baseball. Colby Lewis somehow managed to win 17 games with a below league average ERA, proving once again that we need to stop looking at individual pitcher wins. Cole Hamels is definitely the ace of this staff, and they almost definitely wouldn’t have made the playoffs without him, but after him it’s a whole lot of meh. Yovani Gallardo has a fancy 3.42 ERA, which is actually the best of his career, excepting a small 4 game sample in 2008 when he was injured much of the season, but I can’t help shake the feeling that he’s a house of cards just waiting to fall. The strikeout rate has cratered and he walks too many guys to withstand that long-term, but that doesn’t mean he couldn’t bust out a couple of good starts in a series, he absolutely could, but I wouldn’t trust him all the way. Martin Perez and Derek Holland are both just kind of whatever at this point. Advantage-Toronto

 

Bullpens

Although Toronto’s starting pitching struggled out of the gate this season, the bullpen wasn’t horrid early on. On the aforementioned date of June 26 their pen was ranked 13th in DRA. It finished the year in a solid 7th. On June 21 Brett Cecil took the mound in the ninth inning against the Orioles in a game tied at 9. Four runs later Cecil was out of the game, having retired only two batters, and the game was lost. Amazingly, those were the last earned runs Cecil would allow. At all. For the season. He did allow two unearned runs during that stretch, but, in 31 innings, he struck out 44 batters and walked only 4! You kidding me? He walked 7 batters in the month of June alone. Kind of interesting that his great stretch seems to concur with his move out of the closer role. I know that for most guys that’s a bunch of crap — if you can pitch you can pitch in any inning — but perhaps it’s possible Cecil is one of those guys who just can’t handle the role mentally. Or, it could just be an odd coincidence, which honestly I believe is more likely. Speaking of closers, Roberto Osuna is decent, especially for a guy who’s only 20. You have to wonder about him wearing down a bit at this point, because he’s into uncharted territory as far as innings go, and his K rate and ERA both are trending in the wrong direction since the calendar flipped to September. As far as Texas goes, their bullpen was ranked 22nd in baseball by DRA this season. After Shawn Tolleson, Keone Kela, and Sam Dyson there isn’t much there, but in the playoffs you don’t need your depth as much so their bullpen being top-heavy won’t hurt them as much as one might think. Advantage-Toronto

 

Benches

Not going to spend too much time on this. I think Mike Napoli is the kind of guy who, given his career to date, and the fact that he can still rake lefties, could come up facing a guy like Brett Cecil in a huge spot and swing a game for you. The closest thing the Jays have to a guy like that is Chris Colabello, who had a great season but you have to wonder how real that is. I mean, the guy’s 31 and this is the first time he’s ever even had more than 300 plate appearances, so you have to wonder if there’s enough data to say that this is who he is now. I think it may be a little flukish.  Napoli has the better track record and that swings the advantage to Texas here. Advantage-Texas

If you’ve managed to read this far, you’ve probably deduced that I like Toronto in this series. I do. In fact, I like them to win the whole darn thing. Caveat being that baseball playoffs are almost impossible to predict, and when I say I think a team will win a series, that means I think they have like a 55/45 edge at most. The difference from the best team and worst team at this point in the year is just a sliver. Toronto Blue Jays in 4 games.

 

 

 

 

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One Response to “ALDS Preview: Toronto Blue Jays vs. Texas Rangers”

  1. Rob Mains

    I like the position-by-position format. Left field is a really interesting comparison, given how the players wound up with their clubs via trade (one in a fit of Arte Moreno pique, the other in a worst-to-first move).

    Reply

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