Series Preview: Toronto Blue Jays (73-62) vs. New York Yankees (78-58)

Yeah, that'll do.

Now do it again.

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SCOREBOARD WATCHING

The Oakland Athletics took a beating from the Blue Jays, getting swept in three games, as you may be aware. They’ll try to regroup with a day off today before returning to Oakland to face the Chicago White Sox, a very tough assignment as the Jays know.

After beating the Baltimore Orioles in extra innings on Friday, the New York Yankees took a couple close losses against the O’s. Now they face the Toronto Blue Jays, who they’ll try to hold off to prevent a late surge. Fuck ‘em!

The COVID-decimated Boston Red Sox, crippled due to their own players’ overwhelming, min-numbing stupidity, still pulled off a series win against the visiting Cleveland Guardians. Now they’ll host the Tampa Bay Rays in a series that could see them re-take the top Wild Card spot, depending on how that and the Jays/Yankees series go.

TRANSACTION NEWS

On Friday, the Jays claimed left-handed-hitting utilityman Jake Lamb off waivers from the Chicago White Sox. To make room on the active roster, relief pitcher Connor Overton was designated for assignment, and lefty reliever Kirby Snead was optioned to Triple-A. Lamb won’t be eligible to play in the playoffs should the Jays make it, but should be a useful bench bat for the stretch run. He made his Blue Jays debut Sunday against the Athletics, pinch-hitting for George Springer and striking out against A.J. Puk.

Those unfortunate enough to follow the Arizona Diamondbacks will most remember Jake Lamb for his tenure with the Serpientes. A highly regarded third base propect out of the University of Washington, Lamb struggled after getting called up in 2014 before finally breaking out in 2016. He put together a couple of fine seasons with Arizona, earning an All-Star nod in 2017.

Lamb bottomed out afterwards though. Injuries and underperformance sapped his power, his strongest tool. In only 134 games in 2018 and 2019, he slashed .208/.315/.350 with a 79 wRC+. After 18 games in 2020, Lamb had a nauseating 14 wRC+, convincing the D-Backs to release him. He’s bounced around with a couple organizations since then, finishing the 2020 season up with the A’s, where he filled in well enough for an injured Matt Chapman during their short-lived playoff campaign. Atlanta signed him to a one-year deal for 2021, but released him after a poor spring training, allowing him to catch on with the Chicago White Sox.

With Yoán Moncada installed as the White Sox’s starting third baseman, Lamb moved around the diamond for Chicago, filling in at third and first base and playing both corner outfield spots for the first time in his career, playing almost exclusively against right-handed pitchers. While he was a perfectly serviceable left bench bat, the return of Eloy Jiménez and Luis Robert to the White Sox’s injury-depleted outfield, along with Brian Goodwin being another serviceable left-handed hitter with the added benefit of “actually being able to play the outfield”, led to Lamb getting designated for assignment.

The 2021 Jays haven’t had a league-average lefty bat not named Corey Dickerson, so Lamb gives them an option to start at third base against right-handed pitchers and play a corner infield spot when need be. He can also play corner outfield in theory, but that should probably only be an emergency option. He’s not especially good at third base, either. According to UZR/150, his defence ranks at 52nd out of 63 third baseman. Pretty bad, but also slightly better than Cavan Biggio while providing a better lefty bat, at least this season.

Connor Overton getting cut comes after pitching 6.2 solid innings for the Jays in which he didn’t concede an earned run. It should be noted though that these innings were all in extremely low leverage, and three of his four appearances were against the Angels, Nationals, and Tigers. He hasn’t walked a lot of guys or conceded much hard contact (leading to a 2.86 FIP and 2.53 xERA), but he just hasn’t faced very good competition. Baseball Prospectus has his Deserved Run Average (which accounts for quality of opponent) at 5.28.

This is all based on an extremely small sample size, though. I’m sure the Jays would like to keep Overton around, but more than likely he’s done enough to earn a claim from a team looking for some low-leverage relief bodies.

The same could likely be said to Kirby Snead, who is off to Buffalo, but remains on the 40-man. Snead is doing his best to fill the Jays’ quota of relievers named “Kirby” and he also filled in ably in higher leverage than Overton (though almost never in actual high leverage). He doesn’t strike much guys out, but he limits walks, but he’s also had some batted ball luck. He’s earned another shot to prove he can stick, but he’ll hang out in Buffalo until a need has to be filled.

BEST BIRDS

Hitter: Lourdes Gurriel Jr. (3)

Breaking through the fabled “Joe Panik Threshold”. Attaboy Lourdes.

Honourable Mentions: Bo Bichette, Marcus Semien

Pitcher: Robbie Ray (14)

Ho-hum. Just another extremely convincing argument in favour of the Jays driving a dump truck full of money up to Robbie Ray’s house.

Honourable Mentions: José Berríos, Nate Pearson

BEST BIRD STANDINGS

Hitters:

  1. Vladimir Guerrero Jr.- 12

  2. Bo Bichette- 7

  3. George Springer- 7

  4. Marcus Semien- 6

  5. Lourdes Gurriel Jr.- 3

  6. Teoscar Hernández- 3

  7. Joe Panik- 2 (now on the Miami Marlins)

  8. Randal Grichuk- 2

  9. Santiago Espinal- 1

  10. Cavan Biggio- 1 (10-day IL)

Pitchers:

  1. Robbie Ray- 14

  2. Hyun Jin Ryu- 8

  3. Alek Manoah- 6

  4. Ross Stripling- 4 (10-day IL)

  5. Steven Matz- 4

  6. José Berríos- 2

  7. Julian Merryweather- 2 (60-day IL)

  8. Trevor Richards- 1

  9. Anthony Kay- 1 (Triple-A)

  10. Anthony Castro- 1 (Triple-A)

  11. Ryan Borucki- 1 (Triple-A)

SCHEDULE/PROBABLE PITCHERS

Monday, September 6 (1 p.m. EST/11 a.m. MST): Hyun Jin Ryu vs. Jameson Taillon

Tuesday, September 7 (7 p.m. EST/5 p.m. MST): Steven Matz vs. Gerrit Cole

Wednesday, September 8 (7 p.m. EST/5 p.m. MST): Alek Manoah vs. Néstor Cortes Jr.

Thursday, September 9 (7 p.m. EST/5 p.m. MST): José Berríos vs. Jordan Montgomery

THE OPPOSITION

Pythagorean Record: 74-62

Run differential: +51 (594 Scored-543 Allowed)

Season Series vs. Blue Jays: 6-6

Record since last series vs. Blue Jays: 42-26

Last 10 games: 4-6

Unfortunately, the New York Yankees have finally gotten good. Their once-anemic offence has seen a bump in production, mainly due to Aaron Judge and the now-healthy Giancarlo Stanton. The addition of Anthony Rizzo has been fine if not exactly earth-shaking, while Joey Gallo has performed quite poorly so far. Solid-to-league average results from the likes of Rizzo, D.J. LeMahieu, Gary Sánchez, Gio Urshela, and Luke Voit have nonetheless been enough.

Gerrit Cole has carried the starting rotation, obviously, but his supporting cast has been fine at worst, barring Andrew Heaney, who has been pretty resolutely, decidedly terrible. Jordan Montgomery has been the most consistent starter behind him while Jameson Taillon has settled into his new team somewhat. Domingo “Human Garbage” Germán was okay before getting hurt, and the last two spots in the rotation has thus been filled by Corey Kluber, who has struggled since his return from the IL, and oddly enough, Néstor Cortes Jr., a soft-tossing journeyman lefty who has suddenly turned into a fine starting pitcher and developed into something of a fan favourite.

The bullpen has been one of the better relief corps in baseball, if not the best. However, some cracks are there to exploit, with Aroldis Chapman being more inconsistent and brown to blow-ups than ever, and both Zack Britton and Jonathan Loáisiga on the IL. Chad Green is excellent, no doubt, but beyond him, Clay Holmes, Lucas Luetge, and Joely Rodríguez, there are a lot of non-sure things in the staff, wither because of inexperience or inconsistency.

After the Gallo and Rizzo trades, and especially after the Yankees’ 13-game win streak (rude of them, by the way) some pundits were falling over themselves to crown the Yankees the favourites in the American League, much like they were before the start of the season. While on paper it’s hard to deny that they’re up there with the White Sox, Rays, and Houston Astros, this team still has weaknesses to exploit. And the Jays should exploit them, over and over again, to accomplish their noble goal of making Yankees fans doomers once again.

Best Players:

(Stats as of September 4)

  • Gerrit Cole, Starting Pitcher, 2.73 ERA/2.72 xFIP, 35.4 K%, 5.3 BB%

  • Aaron Judge, Right Field, .297/.386/.541, 153 wRC+

  • Jordan Montgomery, Starting Pitcher, 3.47 ERA/4.02 xFIP, 23.4 K%, 7.7 BB%

  • D.J. LeMahieu, Second Base/First Base, .267/.348/.366, 100 wRC+

  • Giancarlo Stanton, Designated Hitter, .271/.362/.498, 136 wRC+

Underperformers:

(Stats as of September 4)

  • Andrew Heaney, Starting Pitcher, 5.53 ERA/4.10 xFIP, 27.4 K%, 7.7 BB%

  • Brett Gardner, Center Field/Left Field, .211/.329/.326, 86 wRC+

  • Joey Gallo, Left Field/Right Field, .138/.296/.345, 80 wRC+ (w/Yankees)