Deep Thoughts: The Blue Jays' home runs

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A friend of mine emailed me a few minutes ago and asked — all of my previous objections to PED accusations of Jose Bautista notwithstanding — whether the fact that the Blue Jays had hit so many home runs this year still didn’t raise any suspicions in my mind. Specifically, he noted — correctly — that the PED scourge of the 1980s-2000s followed a pattern in which players on one team “infected” players on another team with some of them — notably Jose Canseco — acting as Typhoid Marys or what have you, so why couldn’t this be happening on a team that, as a group, is hitting a ton more home runs.

I thought about it a bit, but I came back to the same place I’ve been all along: yes, anything is possible, but give me some evidence — any evidence — that anyone on the Blue Jays is using in 2010 and then I’ll entertain the thought.

But my friend’s question did cause me to wonder if the mere fact of the home runs themselves, absent any external evidence, can be explained by some factor other than random chance. I came up with two possibilities that, in my mind at least, are more plausible than PEDs:

1) Non-PED cheating such as hanky panky with baseballs thrown to Blue Jays hitters, some elaborate sign stealing scheme or the like.  No, we have no evidence for this either, but if we’re going to assume cheating of some kind, doesn’t this seem like a better bet than ‘roids?  With steroids a couple dozen guys would have to sneak through multiple PED tests this year.  If you pulled a 1951 Giants or had a secret humidor for balls for the opposition however, everyone could benefit and no would get caught unless there was a snitch in the group (I got my eye on you Yunel Escobar!);

2) Swinging for the fences. I’m sure someone has written about this at some point this season, but it’s worth noting that the Blue Jays’ 2010 offense is worse than the Blue Jays 2009 offense, home runs notwithstanding. Team OBP is down from 2009, as is
their run scoring. Meanwhile, their strikeouts are up substantially
(they’ll finish with 130-140 more this year than last year). 
Essentially, they’ve traded a number of singles, doubles and walks for a
greater number of home runs and strikeouts, all to the detriment of
runs.

Like I said, I’m sure someone has asked Dwayne Murphy or Bautista about it at some point this season (I put his under “Deep Thoughts” because I’m suffering from the mid-afternoon blahs right now and I don’t want to look it up), but it would not shock me at all if, as a team, everyone just decided to grip it and rip it this year. Proudly Canadian — you always school me on Jays stuff. Am I out to lunch here?

Anyway, the whole reason I even wrote all of this is not because I think either cheating or hacking is the best explanation — I still think chance played a huge role — but because, if people are going to gravitate to easy explanations like the “Bautista is a ‘roider!” thing, they may as well have another couple of easy options at their disposal as well. Especially a couple that seem slightly more plausible.

Battle of the Aces: Max Scherzer takes on Clayton Kershaw tonight

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I hope you don’t have any plans tonight at around 10PM Eastern time, because that’s when we get a pitching matchup for the ages as Max Scherzer will take on Clayton Kershaw at Dodger Stadium. When they meet tonight it will be the first time two pitchers with three or more Cy Young Awards have matched up since 2006. That year, and in 2005 and 2000, Roger Clemens faced Greg Maddux. In 2001 Clemens faced Pedro Martinez.

Kershaw won his hardware in 2011, 2013 and 2014, with an MVP award in 2014 to boot. Scherzer collected trophies in 2013, 2016 and 2017. Each has started the 2018 season in Cy Young form. Kershaw is 1-2, but that record is due to poor run support. He has a 1.73 ERA and has struck out 31 batters and has walked only three in 26 innings. Scherzer is 3-1 with a 1.33 ERA and a whopping 38 strikeouts to only 4 walks in 27 innings.

This will be the third time that Kershaw and Scherzer faced each other if you include the playoffs. The first meeting was a decade ago when both were rookies. They most recently faced off in Game 1 of the 2016 NLDS, way back when Scherzer only had one Cy Young Award to his credit. Kershaw beat Scherzer in that playoff game and the Dodgers beat Scherzer’s teams in the two regular season matchups, with neither guy setting the world on fire. As so often happens in baseball, the hype hasn’t been matched by reality.

Still, there’s always a chance it will. And even if, in the end, this turns into a slugfest, the first couple of innings should at least give us some hope of something good. I’ll be watching.