By: Dan Grant
As Raptors fans have recently learned and Leafs might distantly recall, when a team makes a playoff push such as this, every game becomes an appointment. Whether it’s via TV or radio, down at the
Rogers Centre SkyDome or at a local watering hole with friends, when a team is this fun to watch, you notice things that you might not catch otherwise.
In a normal year, you’d be classified as hardcore and/or a huge nerd if you knew the entirety of the Jays 25 man roster. Now? Everyone and their sister’s cats former owner’s bowling coach is an expert on the likes Cliff Pennington, Ezequiel Carrera and Ryan Tepera. While this level of fandom is certainly fun, it makes it a little more difficult for the poindexters; they like to have a secret favourite. An inside joke. An unsung hero!
Fear not, fellow dorks, I’ve found a few! Without further ado, here are your 2015 Toronto Blue Jays unsung heroes.
Kevin Pillar’s Glove
Now look, we all know that Pillar is a fantastic defensive centre fielder who has provided a huge boost for the team this season. That’s not news. He’s had some nice streaks at the plate too, but his OBP sits below .300; he’s in the game because of his legs and his mitt.
But just how good has that mitt been?
It turns out, good enough that he currently ranks as the 2nd best player in defensive WAR in the American League (5th in MLB), behind only Tampa’s Kevin Kiermaier. Not outfielder. Player. That has propelled him to a 3.7 total WAR, ranking him as the 27th most valuable player in the entire AL, and the 8th most valuable outfielder, overall. At 27th in the AL, he ranks just ahead of the following:
28th. 1B Eric Hosmer KCR: 3.5
29th. OF Brett Gardner NYY: 3.4
33rd. OF Adam Jones BAL: 3.3
34th. 3B Evan Longoria TBR: 3.3
35th. 2B Robinson Cano SEA: 3.2
36th. DH Alex Rodriguez NYY: 3.1
37th. C Brian McCann NYY: 3.0
44th. OF Alex Gordon KCR: 2.6
46th. 2B Brian Dozier MIN: 2.6
51st. DH Kendrys Morales KCR: 2.4
58th. 1B Albert Pujols LAA: 2.3
A noticeable lack of shab on that list, eh? And a reminder that the game isn’t just about socking a few dingers.
Chris Colabello’s New Nickname
In case you didn’t know, Chris Colabello has a fantastic new nickname: Bing Bong.
If you haven’t seen the delightful Disney Pixar joint Inside Out, there are some spoilers in this next paragraph.
Inside Out is set in a child’s brain and deals specifically with their memories. Bing Bong is the main character’s (Riley) long forgotten imaginary friend; in the movie, there are processes called ‘Memory Dumps’ when fading memories are discarded. Bing Bong is found roaming through the memory banks, getting up to trouble, in the hopes of reconnecting with his old friend and trying to avoid being dumped.
Colabello is called Bing Bong because like the character, he was discarded onto the scrap heap, but resurrected himself; he played seven years of independent baseball before finally getting a shot with the Minnesota Twins in 2014, who then cut him after a thumb injury. The Blue Jays added him for literally nothing and since he’s arrived, he has come to the aid of his team in times of trouble, whenever they need him most. This has generally taken the form of many, many late inning hits. Walk off singles, tie-breaking homers, whatever. It seems that whenever the Jays need him, Bing Bong is there.
Let’s hope that he’s the one who can take us to the moon.
Marco Estrada’s Magical Butt Horse Shoe
I kid! He’s not thaaaaat lucky. Really!
As I write this, I’m watching Marco Estrada scuffle in the first inning against the Yankees. He doesn’t throw hard, just barely touching 90mph with his fastball; he has a slow, looping curve and a great, sinking change-up that eats up lefties and righties equally. He doesn’t look particularly impressive on the mound, never blowing anyone away, striking out only 117 batters in 160.1 innings before last nights match-up
He’s also been the Jays most consistent starter- bar none- since he entered the rotation in May.
R.A. Dickey struggled through a poor first half and Mark Buehrle is labouring now. Marcus Stroman didn’t pitch until last week and David Price joined the team just seven weeks ago. Drew Hutchison has been inconsistent; Aaron Sanchez got hurt and moved to the bullpen. Daniel Norris got sent to the minors and was traded. Through it all, Estrada has taken the ball every fifth day, and more often than not given his team a chance to win. He has 13 quality starts (6 innings, 3 earned runs or less) in his 25 starts so far this season; that in itself isn’t that impressive. However, he’s gone less than five innings in only three of those 25 starts and allowed four earned runs or more only five times. The quality start parameters may not fit his results exactly, but when you have the best offense in baseball hitting for you, quality control can be a little less stringent.
I’m as guilty as anyone when it comes to Estrada. I’ve written the following things about the guy this season:
“Are you really telling me that if one of these guys goes down – it doesn’t matter which one, ANY of them – that you’re comfortable with Liam Hendriks, Marco Estrada or Todd Redmond taking an extended turn in the rotation?”
“Marco Estrada has dazzled with his change-up this season and is a nice piece, but to lean on him too heavily is to be worried”
And I mean, that’s at bookends of the season! Talk about unfair by me.
All he’s done is post a 3.14 ERA with a 1.07 WHIP and provide reliability for a for a team that badly needed even a minute amount of consistency from it’s starting rotation. Skeptics will point to his 4.42 FIP/4.96 xFIP and American League low 6.8 hits against per nine innings as signs that he’s getting lucky, and maybe there’s some truth to that. His BABIP sits well below league average. In fact, at .221 it’s the lowest mark in the entire Major Leagues. But you know who else posts low BABIP’s? Pitchers on good defensive teams and pitchers that induce weak contact.
The next four on the BABIP list after Estrada? Zach Greinke, Masahiro Tanaka, Sonny Gray and Jake Arrieta. And while it certainly helps that Estrada can rely on the aforementioned Pillar, along with Josh Donaldson, Russell Martin et al, he’s also got a solid 2.5-1 K/BB ratio and has created ‘soft contact’ on 21% of his batted balls, good for 19th among 82 qualified starting pitchers. He ranks middle of the pack in medium and hard contact as well.
So maybe he’s getting a bit lucky but he’s also been really great. Let’s give the guy a little credit and treat him like the hero he’s been!
10 Dollar Beers at the Rogers Centre
Just kidding. Those suck. Also, they’re $11.50, which is a travesty. I can get six Old Milwaukee Ice’s for $10.50 and watch the game with my pants off. Shared experience my ass! Let’s stay with beverages though.
That Weird Pink Drink The Jays Are Quaffing
Nice use of ‘quaffing’, self. Top drawer.
Anyway, have you, like me, seen camera shots of the Jays dugout and bullpen, and wondered just what the hell they’re drinking? It looks like a combination of Pepto Bismol and club soda, and is frequently slammed after a big trip around the bases.
A quick google search produced exactly zero pictures of the stuff, except this one that I stole from a Reddit thread.
The Jays version I keep seeing seems a bit waterier in appearance, which lends credence to the whole ‘mixed it from powder’ thing. Whatever it is, it’s powering this team like goddamned rocket fuel, creating unsung heroes left and right! Get them more, even if it’s actually harvested from here:
So maybe after the season some of the Jays will turn into rage-filled ghosts, or haunt a medieval painting! If they can keep this up for another five weeks or so?
Worth it. Totally worth it.