6:13PM Eastern

The Blue Jays brought their brooms with them to Rogers Centre in an attempt to sweep away the New York Metropolitans, but fell just short despite having a seemingly golden opportunity to at least tie it up in the bottom of the ninth.

The Jays had climbed back from a 6-2 hole to close to within a run with some big hits late – a two-out RBI single by Jose Bautista in the 7th, back-to-back doubles by J.P. Arencibia and Eric Thames to open the 8th and an RBI single by Colby Rasmus later in that frame, which snapped his personal 0-for-20.

The Mets looked for some insurance in the top of the 9th but couldn’t get it, as Francisco Cordero came on for Darren Oliver with two on and two out and struck out Ronny Cedeno on three pitches, driving the crowd of 41,867 nuts.  It was an incredible atmosphere at the old Concrete Convertible, with the huge crowd – driven by a Brandon Morrow bobblehead giveaway and the gorgeous long-weekend weather – making its presence felt throughout the game, it’s just too bad the Blue Jays couldn’t emerge victorious.

As I said, the chance was there.  Frank Francisco, the Mets’ closer who had the same job with the Blue Jays for a lot of last season, came on  to work the bottom of the 9th to great celebration among the fans, and they were even happier when he walked Yunel Escobar on a 3-2 pitch to open the inning.  Jose Bautista followed, and with the Mets playing a major right-handed pull shift, Bautista bounced a two-strike offering through the wide-open right side for a single.  Escobar had to hold up at second because the ball almost hit him on its way to right field, so he had to stop to let it go through.

That put the tying run on second and the winning run on first with the Blue Jays’ 4-5-6 hitters coming up.

Edwin Encarnacion was first, and in no way should he have been asked to bunt.  Encarnacion has been having a rough time lately, just 5-for-25 on the homestand and hitting only .188 in May going into that at-bat (though with 5 homers in 18 games), but he has still been the Blue Jays’ best overall hitter this season.  More importantly, Encarnacion has NEVER laid down a successful sacrifice bunt in his career.  When some hitters come to the plate in that situation, it’s just screaming out for a bunt to be dropped down.  Not your clean-up hitter, though.

Edwin struck out, and J.P. Arencibia was next.  Unlike Encarnacion, Arencibia has been hot as a pistol in the month of May, hitting .339/.362/.732 going into that at-bat, and already with two hits in the game.  Arencibia got ahead of Francisco 2-0, fouled off a couple of pitches, then struck out too, leaving things up to Eric Thames.

The options on the bench were Jeff Mathis and Omar Vizquel, neither of whom is nearly the hitter Thames is, even Eric struggles through a tough May of his own, with an OPS under .600.  Thames fouled off a couple of pitches around a couple of balls, then, just like the two teammates before him, he struck out swinging. That ended the game and got Francisco his 10th save of the season in 12 tries, actually lowering his WHIP to a still-unsightly 2.040.

It’s too bad that the Blue Jays couldn’t take advantage of the opportunity Francisco afforded them with the two baserunners, but it’s not as though it should have been managed differently.  You don’t bunt with Encarnacion – nor do you pinch-hit one of your two worst hitters for one of your best in order to ask one of them to lay down a bunt that has no guarantee at all of working (remember Omar Vizquel in Oakland last week), nor do you bunt with (or pinch-hit for) your hottest hitter.

The only thing that perhaps should have been done differently was maybe having Yunel Escobar try to steal second with Bautista up.  Francisco has always been absolutely terrible at holding baserunners – over the last five years, 40 runners have tried to steal off him and 37 have been successful, including four out of four this year.  The thing is, Escobar is probably the second-worst basestealer on the team.  I don’t know why, he’s not slow, but he’s not a good basestealer.  He’s only tried once this season, and been caught, and for his career he’s stolen successfully on only 21 of 39 attempts.  That’s an awful conversion rate, and even with someone as bad at holding runners as Frankie on the mound, I don’t know if it’s worth taking a chance with the tying run.

It was an unfortunate finish, but an electric afternoon at the ballpark, and while I’m sure the crowd left frustrated and unhappy at the loss, I hope most people will think back to what a great time it was overall, and remember how great a place Rogers Centre can be when the atmosphere is like that.

Here’s this afternoon’s edition of The BlueJaysTalk, for your listening pleasure:

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I also have to comment on a controversialish play in the top of the first inning.  With two out, Kirk Nieuwenhuis hit a blooper to shallow centre on which Colby Rasmus made an incredible headfirst, sprawling, diving catch.  He sno-coned the ball, though, and once he slid to a stop, opened up his glove to allow the ball to drop down into the pocket, as we see outfielders do all the time.  The ball fell out, and instead of a catch, it was ruled that Rasmus dropped the ball.  Everyone disagrees with me on this – which, while you wouldn’t think so, is pretty unusual – but I don’t see any difference between that play and an infielder dropping the ball on a transfer while trying to turn a double play.  Hopefully, the lesson Rasmus learns from this is that if he ever finds himself in that situation again, to either just stand up and start jogging to the dugout, or to take the ball out of his glove with his bare hand and not try to drop it into the pocket.  If that had been called an out, the inning would have been over, the Mets’ third run wouldn’t have scored and the game might still be going on.

It’s not, and the Blue Jays are off on a weeklong road trip that begins with a three-game set against the Tampa Bay Rays, who swept a two-gamer here at Rogers Centre earlier this week.  The series opens with Kyle Drabek taking on last season’s A.L. Rookie of the Year, Jeremy Hellickson.  We’ll be on the air at 7:00PM Eastern – join us, won’t you?

Please give me a follow on The Twitter, you can find me @wilnerness590.  If you do, you can have good times like Saturday night when I was on for an hour discussing Adam Lind being placed on outright waivers.  If you don’t, you miss fun stuff like that!

Comments are welcome – I read them all and respond to most.

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17 Responses to “Frankie McFrankFranked!”
  1. 1.

    How’s your “incumbent” looking in left field these days? Is average good enough?

    MW: MY incumbent? I’m sure you realize that I don’t make any Blue Jays roster decisions. If you’re referring to the designation of Thames as the incumbent coming into spring training, he was. http://www.dictionary.com

    - WIll
  2. 2.

    I was at the game, albeit in the upper deck and I thought the non-catch call on Rasmus was horrible!

    - Dan From Elmvale
  3. 3.

    I know the AL tends to win more games during interleague play, but do you know what the win-loss record is for games played in NL parks (i.e., without the DH)? I looked around but couldn’t find that stat.

    MW: Try baseball-reference.com, but you might have to do a lot of the legwork yourself. You’ll find it, though.

    - Rob_NS
  4. 4.

    Tough loss but you can’t win them all. It was great seeing the huge crowd on TV and hopefully a lot of those people come back.

    Alvarez was due for an outing like this (and probably a few more). He has a good fastball and that’s it. The changeup and slider are nowhere close to being effective right now. That’s the reason he can’t strike people out. In that 5th inning, the Mets got a couple hits on 1-2 and 0-2 counts because they knew to sit on fastballs. Development of a breaking pitch has to be the priority with him. Without one, he could still be a #4 guy in the AL East which isn’t bad at all but with his arm and talent, I’m sure everyone is hoping for more.

    The moment EE struck out in the 9th I knew there would be a mass of “why didn’t he bunt?” questions. I’m so glad Farrell didn’t ask him to bunt. You don’t bunt and give up an out with one of your best hitters. Especially when the hitters after him are JP and Thames who aren’t exactly the most talented guys around with the bat. Let the better hitter swing away. This is one spot where the Lawrie suspension hurt. It would’ve been nice to have him in there to at least make contact.

    - LS
  5. 5.

    Hey Mike,

    What about opting to pitch to Wright in the first inning with a man on 2nd and 3rd. I would have thought they’d pitch around him, especially with Alvarez being a pretty effective ground ball producer and Wright being one of the best hitters in the league this year.

    MW: No reason to manage scared in the first inning. It’s not the playoffs where you absolutely can’t let one particular guy beat you.

    - JGA
  6. 6.

    I was Tim in Section 233 today… what a beautiful day for a bobblehead and a ball game! I’m thinking about drawing a beard on the Morrow bobblehead — would it reduce the value of it? Can I trade two of them for the ultra-rare Wilner bobblehead? How about a Rogers Sportsnet day where the first 20,000 get the first pick of seven bobbleheads: you, Alan, Jerry, Greg, Jamie, Buck, and Pat. I guess Shi too. I’d take you in a second.

    Anyway, to the game. It was quite an atmosphere at the dome, but I don’t think the fans really got into it until the 7th when the comeback began.

    Alvarez did not have a good start, and the team failed (Kelly) failed to finish double plays. Short of committing the error, it was a tiny bit short on defense, enough to cause a couple of extra runs come in because the DPs weren’t completed. One was a bang bang tag of the runner on the way to 2nd, and another was a bobbled ball, where KJ was able to get the lead runner.

    Still, the 8th and 9th were thrilling, and though the Jays came on the short side of the fence, it wasn’t due to a lack of effort.

    Good, no great, to see Jose get 3 hits and another home run.

    Otherwise, at the beginning of the season, we were celebrating the available options for outfield. It should be Thames in left, Rasmus in center, and JoeyBats in right. All three of them (season to date) are underperforming for their positions. Bautista now is the notable exception and is hitting .333 / .381 / .795 in the last 10 games. Francisco and Davis as the alternate two outfielders are really no better at the bat than Thames in left (except both are superior defenders). Snider is still hurt. So, what is Farrell going to do, long term?

    MW: Long-term, I still think the solution is Snider. As for the bobbleheads, I don’t even have one of mine!

    - Tim in Niagara Falls
  7. 7.

    Hey Mike,
    I agree with you on the Rasmus play. He demonstrated control and the ball was not moving it then is a catch. The ball then came out when he opened his glove which is exactly as it would have been called on a middle infielder transfering the ball. See something new everyday in this game if one looks. It’s why I love the game and why it frustrates me all at the same time. Keep up the good work. Go (blue)Jays Go.

    - Darryl M
  8. 8.

    Hi Mike
    The Jays are still the AL second wild card, which raises a question for me.
    If they keep this up what happens to the young pitchers Hutchinson and alvarez.
    Do you think they can hold out for the whole season or will the Jays have to bring up others?

    MW: It’s a good question. I know the Blue Jays are hoping they get Dustin McGowan back at some point, but there’s certainly no guarantee that he’d do any better than either Drabek or Hutchison have been. There’s always the opportunity to upgrade via trade in July if they struggle.

    - richard
  9. 9.

    Ok, I vote that the Eric Thames as our starting left fielder experiment ends now. He was a 7th round pick, he seems to basically be a below average fielder, below average base runner, and an average hitter (.260/.300/.400 maybe). Ben Francisco as our starting left fielder would be of more value. He is better in the field and on the bases and hits the same.

    I think the Blue Jays community expressed a giant sigh of disappointment when an average left fielder was chosen over a 5 tool prospect who can man any outfield position. If Travis Snider’s AAA stats were cut in HALF in the majors, he would still have been a much more productive offensive player than Thames, let alone a better fielder and base runner.

    I understand that Anthropolous didn’t want to mess with Snider’s head with all the call-ups & send-downs, but why is he so high on Thames? The only answer I can think of is that he hoped Thames would produce and become trade value.

    MW: I wouldn’t say that Anthopoulos (no R) is “so high on Thames”. I think that he wants to keep Snider down in AAA for a good long time this season to try to get him straightened out for good, and while he’s doing that, he might as well see what he has in Thames. Less than a year in the big leagues is not long enough to make a determination on what a guy is.

    - Ryan
  10. 10.

    Whats your take on zack grienke to toronto? Alex Anthopoulos tried getting him in 2010 seems like a good fit . Young and is already accomplished

    MW: He wouldn’t waive his no-trade to come to Toronto then, why would he do it now?

    - Jason
  11. 11.

    I was listening to Sunday’s pregame show, and enjoyed your interview with Brandon Morrow. Your question to him about the nerd stats was great, since I rarely get to hear what players think about that subject.

    Morrow’s answer was something to the effect that Henderson’s low strikeout rate is not an issue since he is an extreme ground ball pitcher. It’s hard to say if that’s a sincere answer or not, since clearly he’s not going to slam his teammate. If he is being sincere though, it shows that he does not fully understand how the “nerd stats” work. There are four key indicators involved, namely K, BB, Ground Balls, Fly Balls. Alvarez is already being given full credit for being a ground ball pitcher. There is no reason to suggest he is somehow exempt from the system.

    Alvarez has an ERA of 3.30. The best predictor, SIERA, suggests that going forward we can expect a 4.56, **IF** he continues with the same rates of K, BB, GB, FB. His numbers from last year suggest he is capable of higher K rates, so here’s hoping he regains that form.

    Morrow is an interesting example himself. For the past two seasons, SIERA has expected an ERA of 3.31 from him. Maybe this is his year to realize it.

    - Doug D
  12. 12.

    So, I was thinking greatly about your comments about “there is no such thing as clutch” and started thinking about the statistical evidence required to prove it was, or wasn’t true.

    A clutch “stat” would be Runners in Scoring Position. In 2011, for the MLB, this “clutch” stat is .254 / .339 / .392 over a sample size of 48,338 plate appearances. For all plate appearances (185,245), the stats are .255 / .321 / .399.

    What’s clear here is that there is no clutch going on, as an average. The higher OBP for RISP can be explained through the intentional base on balls over the smaller sample size (1,226 IBB for RISP, 5 IBB for non-RISP).

    So what would be an acceptable variance to show that batters have a different batting average in a clutch situation? In a league of 30 teams, you could look at the batting average for each team and compare it to the batting average with RISP for each team and use the sample size to determine the variance from the batting average. For 2011, what I found that the only team that was more than 2 standard deviations (5% probability) out from the average for RISP was the San Francisco Giants (BA, .242, with RISP, .219, p value 2.8%) and Oakland (BA, .244, with RISP, .267, p value 2.9%).

    These statistics show that there is no such thing as clutch hitting as a team.

    For the Blue Jays in 2012, a statistical analysis of RISP shows that the Jays are in the 1.9% percentile in the RISP statistic so far this year. The team is hitting .241, yet the RISP is .292.

    All that means to me, and anyone else watching this team is that the Jays have been LUCKY. If there is no such thing as clutch, then the statistics will normalize themselves, which means that the Jays are likely to bat .241 with RISP and therefore be subject to some pretty poor outings. Since a higher batting average with RISP results in more runs scored, you can show easily that the Jays wins have been more due to luck than skill. There is a fairly direct relationship between SLG and runs, and not as much (but still strong)of a relationship between BA and OBP and runs. The Jays are 5th in the majors in runs scored but are 24th in batting average, 21st in OBP, and 10th in slugging. The variance is due to RISP.

    Baltimore’s runs scored (6th in the majors) is due to the team being 5th in slugging. When you look at the team as a hitter, one man stands out: Adam Jones. With 14 dingers so far this year, he’s on pace for a Jose like season. If he comes back to earth, so does the team in terms of batting. On the pitching side, Jason Hammel is liking the pitching friendly confines over Colorado and has been a great pickup. But the story for Baltimore is their relief, which so far has been absolutely phenomenal. Each of Johnson, Strop, Ayala, O’Day, and Lindstrom (5/7th of their bullpen) are having their best career year so far. This explains the Os success thus far. I don’t think that’s going to continue.

    - Tim in Niagara Falls
  13. 13.

    Any thoughts on what 1B/DH/LF combo will be tonight ? EE ? Yan ? Raj ? Thames ?

    MW: I’m going to say Encarnacion/Arencibia/Thames but then, I’ve seen the line-up.

    - Paul Millar
  14. 14.

    Hey Mike,

    When do players who were drafted the previous year begin playing in the minor leagues?

    MW: Pretty much as soon as they sign, unless they sign so late that the minor-league season is almost over, but that’s no longer an issue since the signing deadline has been moved up.

    - Alex
  15. 15.

    Frustrated to see the Jays get 1st and 2nd batter on base only to see the next 3 get out.
    Maybe they should not all think that they have to hit home runs when a single or double will do.
    Don’t care if Johnson or Rasmus smiles, they do great in the field. Rasmus has an awkward deceiving run which some people think he isn’t trying hard. We are waiting for his bat to come around.
    Why was the game on 590 live broadcast on computer blocked out?

    MW: Because it’s always been. MLB holds all rights to online broadcasts, so they don’t let any radio station stream the games. You have to buy the audio package from mlb.com in order to hear the broadcast online, but there is also the MLB At Bat 2012 App that you can get.

    - Molly
  16. 16.

    Hi Mike,

    I have to say I was not pleased to see Frank Francisco succeed. When I saw the first two guys get on, I was waiting for the Jays to tie it and I was going to laugh hysterically at Francisco and make a comment like “same old Frank”. However, it was not to be. I’ll take the 2 of 3 and 4-1 record vs New York teams. Anytime the Jays can win an inter-league series is a goood thing. Inter-league play has really killed the Jays over the years.

    - Charlie Harper
  17. 17.

    Hi Mike,

    I tried calling tonight (May 21st), but was on hold as you took your last call for the night.

    I wanted to discuss Drabek being allowed to complete the 6th inning when he allowed the lead-off man to reach base and had like 110 pitches already. I was assuming that he wouldn’t come back out for the 6th, having that slim 3-2 lead and when he did come out, I thought for sure he would be pulled once anyone reached base.

    I would have loved to get your thoughts on the move during “The Blue Jays Talk”, but I’ll settle for your quick analysis here.

    Personally, I think it turned out as a great move that can only help Drabek’s confidence going forward…. but if the move hadn’t worked, I’m sure you would have fielded many angry callers about it tonight. (Although not too many because we were not granted the extendo tonight.)

    Keep up the great work Mike!

    Eric C

    MW: I was very surprised to see Drabek come back out for the 6th, and even more surprised that he stayed out after he walked the leadoff man, but John Farrell seems bound and determined to get his starters six innings a night, and it worked.

    - Eric C
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