5:03 PM Eastern

……..that son-of-a-Litsch can pitch.

Jesse Litsch has been the favourite of plenty of Blue Jays fans to kick around the last couple of years, with the majority seemingly having completely forgotten that he was legitimately one of the best starting pitchers in the American League in 2008, and that as a 22 year-old in 2007, had a fine rookie season.

When he’s on, he controls the strike zone and keeps hitters off-balance with a strong cut fastball - whether he’s on or not, he fields his position exceptionally well.  No, he doesn’t look the part, but yes, he has always done the job.

Throw out last year, when he came back less than 13 months removed from Tommy John surgery and got knocked around in every other outing he had.  He’s healthy now, strong and recovered, and can certainly contribute to a big-league starting rotation, even one as good as the Jays’.  In fact that his presence makes it that much better.

Today, Litsch fervently stated his case for the 4th spot for which he’d already been pencilled in, throwing 5 1/3 innings of three-hit shutout.  He didn’t walk anybody and struck out seven, four of those coming with a Twin hitter’s bat still on his shoulders.  He was only scheduled to throw five innings, but Litsch had only thrown 60 pitches through five so they sent him back out for the 6th to strike out Jason Repko on three pitches before giving way to David Purcey.  I’m not sure Litsch allowed more than two hard-hit balls all afternoon.   It was an incredibly impressive performance.

I’m not sure if this has come through, but I’m really looking forward to seeing Litsch back as a regular in the rotation.

Travis Snider had a big day as well, belting a two-run rocket out to right-centre in the bottom of the 8th to give the Blue Jays some breathing room, and he followed it up with a sensational catch along the warning track in the top of the 9th to help Jon Rauch in his perfect 9th inning for the save.  I’m still amazed at how many people believe that Snider isn’t a capable defensive outfielder and lacks speed.  Neither idea is even remotely close to the truth.

It was interesting to see how John Farrell used his bullpen today – he’d said that one of the reasons he was comfortable having Rauch be his closer if Frank Francisco can’t answer the bell is that Shawn Camp and Jason Frasor had histories of being able to handle the 7th and 8th innings, respectively, and handle them well.

Today -with the news that Francisco is headed to Dr. James Andrews’ office for a look-see on his sore right shoulder – Camp pitched the 7th, Frasor the 8th and Rauch the 9th.  It seems as though that’s the way things are going to break, though Octavio Dotel still has a shot at coming north with the team if his hamstring heals quickly enough.  I can’t imagine there’s any way that Francisco comes north with the club, and now it appears as though his entire season may be in doubt.  I don’t want to start any sort of panic, but Dr. Andrews plus shoulder doesn’t generally equal happy things.  It could be nothing, but even if it’s nothing, he’s not going to throw a pitch until Wednesday at the absolute earliest, which means Rauch is the closer for at least a while.

The big news this morning was that Marc Rzepczynski is no longer a candidate for the rotation, which really shouldn’t come as a surprise at all.  Zep wasn’t actually starting any games and was behind the other starters as far as innings buildup, though he was still being sent out to throw multiple innings.  I’m a big Rzepczynski fan, and think he can be an asset in the big leagues as a starter, but there are five guys better than him on this team right now and a sixth, Jo-Jo Reyes, who is out of options.  We haven’t found out whether Zep will go back into the rotation if he winds up down in Las Vegas, but odds are he’s going to wind up down in Las Vegas, so we’ll find out soon enough.

I’m confident that Reyes makes the team because of the options situation, that the same applies to David Purcey, and that Casey Janssen and Carlos Villanueva step into the spots vacated by Dotel and Francisco’s trips to the disabled list.  Of course, they could decide they want a third lefty and keep Rzepczynski.

Reyes and Kyle Drabek are in competition for the 5th spot in the rotation, and Drabek will throw six innings in a minor-league game tomorrow while Reyes is set to do the same Wednesday night against the Yankees.  I got the feeling the last time I talked to John Farrell that Drabek has a clear edge in any battle to win a spot in the rotation, so that’s why I’m thinking that way.

Tomorrow, the Blue Jays are off – with the exceptions of Drabek and Aaron Hill, who will continue to prep for his real fake game debut, scheduled to come Tuesday afternoon against the Phillies.  Ricky Romero will start that game against Cliff Lee.  No radio, no TV, no webcast for that game, so keep an eye on my Twitter feed @InTheWilnerness.

The collected works of audio from today are as follows:

Clips from Jesse Litsch, on his fine performance:

[http://pmd.fan590.com/audio_on_demand/Jesse-Litsch-mw-20110320.mp3]

A short one-on-one with J.P. Arencibia, done after he came out of the game (love his response to the question about his offensive “struggles” this spring):

[http://pmd.fan590.com/audio_on_demand/J.P-Arencibia-mw-20110320.mp3]

And, finally, this afternoon’s brief edition of The JaysTalk, for your listening pleasure:

[http://pmd.fan590.com/audio_on_demand/Jays-Talk-mw-20110320.mp3]

Rational, reasonable comments are always welcome!

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27 Responses to “In Case You Forgot……”
  1. 1.

    Mike,

    With 17 Ks in 17 innings this spring, I’m curious if Litsch has changed his approach to get more strikeouts. Or has his velocity gone up even over his ’08 performance?

    I’ve never been a fan of the pitch-to-contact philosophy; it’s good to get grounders or pop-ups, but the best outcome in any given at-bat is to strike the guy out. Litsch is never going to strike out a batter an inning (outside of ST, anyway), but if he can K 7 per 9 I think he becomes a far stronger pitcher.

    MW: He has no idea why he’s striking so many people out.

    - nearlydenzil
  2. 2.

    Mike, during today’s broadcast Jerry & Alan were discussing the “fact” (or theory?) that the team that issues the fewest BB’s tends to be the winning team. Just for fun, and because I have the (unofficial) info available, I took a look at the Jays figures for last year. I thought your listener/readers might be interested in the results, as follows: 1) First, bear in mind that Jays pitching allowed a total of 543 BBs, while Jays hitters drew only 462. This alone “should” indicate that the above theory is incorrect, since the Jays had a winning record. 2) However, looking more closely at game-by-game stats, I find that the Jays drew more walks than the opposition in 54 games, in which their record was 39-15 (.722). In the 80 games in which they allowed more walks, their record was 29-51 (.363). 3) To complete the picture, there were 28 games where the team total BB were equal, in which the Jays went 17-11 (.607). In summary, the figures seem to be showing that an effective way to improve your winning percentage is to “out-walk” the opposition. Of course, the walks have to ultimately turn into runs! (Apparently, since they weren’t great in either average, RISP, or steals, the Jays’ power numbers greatly skewed the overall record). Anyway, like I said, I thought the results were interesting (and apologize in advance if any of my “unofficial” records are inaccurate).

    MW: I’m glad you took the time to do the research!

    - Norm
  3. 3.

    Hey Mike,

    How did the trade that sent Francisco to the Jays in exchange for Mike Napoli go through if he’s experiencing these potentially serious shoulder problems? I actually liked the trade initially, because it’s important to have a solid bullpen with a young starting rotation.

    It just feels like the Jays received damaged goods in exchange for a pretty good slugger in Napoli.

    MW: Not according to Alex Anthopoulos.

    - Brandon
  4. 4.

    Mike,
    I like Litsch and I think he was good in 2008 but one of the best? It is a bit of a stretch. He cracked the top ten in 3 areas that year, walks per 9 innings (10th), shut outs (he was tied for 1st with 2!) and complete games (9th with 2). I’d expect more out of ‘one of the best’…maybe top ten in era, k’s, innings, WAR, WHIP, or even wins (although they don’t mean anything). I agree with you that he is good but he’ll never blow you away. He is poor man’s Mark Buehrle and I am happy to have him at the back and in the rotation.

    MW: I don’t remember saying he was one of the 10 best pitchers in the American League. He was 23 years old, pitching in the A.L. East and had a very, very good year.

    - JW
  5. 5.

    Could the Francisco injury (if proven) possibly turn into one of those “he was injured before we got him” scenarios and Toronto and Texas argue or haggle over compensation?

    MW: Nope.

    - hey 19
  6. 6.

    Hey Mike,

    always enjoy the read. Just wondering if the numbers might work out by keeping 8 in the pen, and going with a very flexable 3 man bench. Early in the year especially. I assume McCoy has option(s).

    MW: McCoy does have options, but it’s very unlikely that you’ll see an eight-man bullpen. Neither John Farrell nor Alex Anthopoulos is a fan.

    - new2this12
  7. 7.

    Hey Mike,

    Keep up the updates. Am enjoying your blog updates, and interviews.

    I’m curious about Jesse Carlson’s status. He doesn’t get discussed very much as an option for the bullpen even though he’s a leftie and had a fantastic 2008 season and a respectable 2009 season. He started 2010 in the minors and didn’t get much playing time in the majors and I get the sense that he’s going to be heading to Vegas again. What have you heard about him?

    MW: He hasn’t pitched for about a month; inflammation in his shoulder.

    - Alex
  8. 8.

    Litsch was one of the best in the league in 2008? He didn’t crack the top 10 in any of these categories:

    K’s
    ERA
    Innings
    WAR (For Pitchers)
    ERA+ (Adjusted ERA)
    K/9

    You honestly cannot believe that he was among the best pitchers that season. He had a fine season but he wasn’t close to being dominant and his FIP and xFIP both demonstrate that he was very lucky. Being lucky is not the same as being one of the best pitchers. A pitcher’s ERA does not tell the full story of his season. We both know that a pitcher only really controls 3 things: Homeruns, BBs, Ks. Your dependence on Litsch’s ERA for his ‘great’ season would be the same as commending Joe Carter for having a ‘great’ year in 1990 for his 115 RBI. He may have driven in the runs but it is obvious that he was lucky due to the .290 OBP, and .681 OPS. I am pretty surprised that a sabremetric savvy reporter such as yourself does not understand the logic.

    I have always been a fan of Litsch but I believe you are way too high on his upside. He is a good pitcher but most likely a back end starter.

    MW: I’m sorry to have disappointed you. A pitcher controls more than just those three things – there is room for differing viewpoints in those areas, and WAR, FIP, etc. are not gospel. Thing is, when you look at a season in the rear-view mirror, you can absolutely say that if a pitcher had a good ERA, he had a good season. If a hitter drove in a bunch of runs, he had a good season. Those are absolute truths. Did he get lucky? Will he be able to repeat those things? Those are the things that FIP, xFIP, BABIP and other things help to evaluate.

    - Dave J
  9. 9.

    we’re on the same page with Litsch and Snider’s D.

    Litsch was one of the best in AL in 2007 after the all star break.

    Never never understood why people were in such a rush to dismiss him. Plus he has a great attitude and only 25yrs old.

    It’s going to be the most interesting season since 1994.
    (injuries pending)

    - eddy
  10. 10.

    Just wondering what forces a team to add someone to the 40 man roster. For example Carreno and Farina were added but Z Stewart is still able to be kept off. I assueme it has something to do with yrs in the minors and how they were signed?

    MW: It has to do with whether they were signed out of high school or college (or internationally) and how many years of service they’ve had since turning pro. Carreno and Farina would have been eligible to be selected in the Rule 5 draft had they not been added to the roster. Stewart, not so much.

    - again
  11. 11.

    Hi Mike, this makes the Napoli trade even worse, do you think the jays received fair value for him? Did AA move him to quickly?(4 days after he was aquired) Would the jays rather have his bat when compared to McCoy, Patterson or McDonald?

    Thanks.

    MW: He may not even miss two weeks.

    - Joe MacDonald
  12. 12.

    hey mike i’ve suggested lately that snider will hit 40 bombs this season and people think i’m high what are your thoughts on that

    MW: I don’t think you’re high.

    - mitchkubie
  13. 13.

    As a sign of respect for a veteran, I would like to see Molina as the opening day catcher. It would also remove some pressure from JP.

    Your thoughts…

    MW: I don’t believe in showing signs of respect, I believe in giving your team the best chance to win every game. That means Arencibia gets the majority of the starts, including Opening Day.

    - Scooby
  14. 14.

    I remember you referring to Litsch on Jaystalk as a perfect 5th starter, and as far as 5th starters go, he was probably “The best in the biz”

    - Shooter
  15. 15.

    michael,
    something finally occured to me while watching the jays highlights on the news last night. what is up with all the spring training games now having both teams sporting black hats and tops & white pants?
    guys on base, guys up at the plate, 1b, 3b coaches, the other team all out in the field in the same uni’s….
    i realize this sport can manage itself ok out on the field during a game moreso than all of the other sports needing the opposite contrast but what the heck…. would it really kill one of teams to just put on a white or grey jerseys for a few hours??
    i’m watching highlights of the jays twins tilt yesterday evening and i can’t figure out which team is up at the plate and which one isn’t until names are divulged.
    not a biggie here obviously but hey, we’re getting near the end of another long & enduring spring training and we got to talk about something…
    michael, are you with me on this one or what?

    MW: Honestly? Not at all. That kind of stuff doesn’t even register with me.

    - darrrell bishop
  16. 16.

    I’m trying to justify my high expectations for the Jays this year. I think that someone with a high OBP will increase the OBP of the players around them in the lineup. I was thinking that this is why the Yankies OBP is so much higher then the Jays and that we’re not as far off from the yankies as it may seem. Would you like to feed this fire or put it out?

    MW: I don’t know why a high OBP guy would increase the OBP of the people around him.

    - habitant
  17. 17.

    I have felt for some time that a healthy Jessie Litsch is as good as most of the Jay’s other starters.He appears to have lost weight since last year and that should help as well.It is good to see him back in the groove.

    - Paul
  18. 18.

    As I’ve said many times in different ways (also hoping the Jays super young ones would force him into the 5th starter spot), Jesse Litsch will be a valuable team member, add some maturity and experience to the starters and perhaps be your consistent 6-inning-giving-over-.500-give-me-the-ball-2011-Todd-Stottlemyre :0)

    After an ace, this staff needs some experience after Marcums departure.

    - Gary
  19. 19.

    I was never happy about trading away Mike Napoli & his power.

    - tomas
  20. 20.

    michael,
    very very nice outing by young litsch yesterday in having him nail down one of the rotation spots for this team going forward.
    truth be known, based on overall past performance when properly healthy, he’s a solid 4th or 5th starter for almost any team in the majors. so why in the world wouldn’t he be one for us?
    all one needs to do is take a close look at w/l records & other pertinent pitching stats to see that virtually all other 4th & 5ths around mlb don’t show any better than jesse l. has (certainly at the very least when he’s been healthy & able to perform & compete with complete competence)
    30 teams or so in both loops and you could probably count on a couple of hands the no. of 4th & 5th sp’s who can or have mustered up winning records to any convincing degree.
    litsch has (i’m pretty sure) done that 1 or 2 times thus far.
    let the young man have his health & he’ll be the least of this teams problems over the course of the next 162 coming up….
    10-13 wins and/or perhaps a record above .500?
    will take that all day in this day & age of mlb it seems to me michael…

    - darrell bishop
  21. 21.

    Nike does Kevin ahrens have a future with this team. We drafted him out of high school and he chose to come hear and 4 years later he has never played above a ball. Will he have a shot at making the team in the next few years. The thing that bugs me is that if the blue jays were 2 picks earlier they could of drafted Jason heyward. Or they could of drafted Rick porcello but we could of got him with our next pick which was arencibia. Doesn’t,t this bother you or was jp just bad at drafting. As I can remember anthopoulos let all of jps scouts go and hired new ones and now we are going in the right direction.

    MW: Ahrens is still very young and may still be able to hit his stride and make it; he might not. A lot of first-rounders never do get to the big leagues. And by the way, you mean “come HERE” (though Ahrens was drafted, he had no real choice), and “could HAVE”.

    - David
  22. 22.

    Mike,

    If Hill starts on the DL (or worse, misses a major period of time), I see three (pretty ugly) options.

    Firstly, and most likely, IMO, is JMac with some McCoy mixed in. This isn’t too bad, because JMac’s defence at second is fantastic. This option clearly weakens the offense, though.

    The other two options depend on the answer to this question…

    Can Bautista still play 2B? I think he’s played only five MLB games there, and only about ten in MiLB. If he can…

    EE could play 3B with Lawrie (or Thames) at DH, or Lawrie could play 3B with EE at DH.

    You can see why I said these options are all “ugly” ones.

    Do you think Farrell would push for Lawrie if Hill is out for an extended period, or do you think he would go for JMac, and/or McCoy?

    Another possibility may wind up being Emaus, too, no?

    Sorry about the Lawrie question, but I think he may have a better shot at making the team with Hill injured.

    Hill’s “day off” today does not inspire confidence concerning the imminence of his return.

    MW: If Hill can’t go, McCoy and McDonald will share second base. I don’t see Emaus coming back and I don’t think they would have sent Lawrie out if they’d wanted him as Hill insurance.

    - Anonymous
  23. 23.

    Hey Mike I’m heading to my first game opener next week, what time should I show up, game starts at 7:07pm, is there going to be festivities before the game?

    I’m so excited.
    Thank you!

    MW: Aim to be there by about 6:30.

    - Lady Jay
  24. 24.

    michael,
    you can of course & most certainly file this one under the ever so popular spilt milk category but would personally love to see mike napoli right about now in a jays uniform for the upcoming season as the secondary tandem to young arencibia.
    he’s having a real nice spring with the rangers so i noticed. real nice indeed…
    especially i guess when you consider that the returns for him is sitting right now down in an office in alabama waiting to see the doctor.
    i think fair commentary here. i understand for the most part the reason for a.a. making the decision in pulling the trigger on this transaction but in the ever proverbial world of 20/20 hindsight was the fact this guy was shut down early last yr & not able to return even for the playoffs at least not a bit of a warning sign? surgery ensuing or not?
    i don’t know. i’m not going to fault a guy who has made so may seemingly great moves since being in the helm to second guess this 1 move as it “currently” stands.
    i’d just like to see napoli here when you consider we already had him here in our collective laps is all michael.
    still i think a semi-legit contender for this upcoming season even without him but man, i’m really loving the prospects of the team we would have fielded with the man side by side with rookie arencibia.
    oh well. spilt milk as i
    they say…..

    - darrell bishop
  25. 25.

    the defensive stats like UZR and FSR suggest Snider has been a slightly less than average fielder in the majors.

    I wouldn’t trust such stats based on roughly one year of full play, but I don’t think I’ve heard or read anyone but you suggest Snider’s defence will be a plus to his game.

    I think the defensive stats will prove the point one way or the other in the next two years.

    MW: Just remember that UZR is a stat that needs three years before it’s reliable.

    - jmaron
  26. 26.

    I agree with you Mike. With the exception of last season I think Jessie Litsch is great. He seems like the same pitcher as 2007 and 2008 which is great news for the Jays. I do have one question, should the Jays have known about Francisco’s shoulder problems before the finalized the Texas trade?
    Thanks.

    - Mark
  27. 27.

    Mike, I have read that if Dustin McGowan is ever to come back its to be as a reliever because of his arm/shoulder problems. What do you think about him as a potential closer?

    MW: We’re a long way away from even having to think about that.

    - Leo
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