J.P. Arencibia calls out Blue Jays analysts Gregg Zaun, Dirk Hayhurst

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I’m struggling to think of an instance where a ballplayer called out his own team’s analysts for a good reason. Most of the time it’s whining about the fact that people in a role filled with so many in-the-bag homers are shockingly telling it like it is.  We saw that when Cubs players got mad at Steve Stone a few years ago. I think we’re seeing it again with the Blue Jays where catcher J.P. Arencibia decided to call out Jays analysts Gregg Zaun and Dirk Hayhurst the other morning.

He criticized Zaun for using performance enhancing drugs (Zaun was mentioned in the Mitchell Report) and went after Hayhurst for not having much major league experience. Which would be fine if either of those guys had made similar personal attacks on Arencibia, but as far as I can tell, based on what Richard Griffin wrote in this followup and what Jays fans have said on various message boards I’ve seen the past couple of days, Zaun and Hayhurst did nothing more than note that (a) the Jays are struggling; and (b) Arencibia himself is struggling in particularly mighty fashion.

Which, fine, maybe in today’s media landscape analysts who work for team-related media outlets are expected to be pushovers whose criticism of struggling players has no teeth. But there’s no law that says it has to be that way. And when you’re a player who is expected to be one of the team’s rising talents and you’re posting a .217/.245/.420 line while playing suspect defense, you don’t have a ton of room to talk.

In the playoffs, the Yankees’ weakness has become their strength

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Two weeks ago, when the playoffs began, the idea of “bullpenning” once again surfaced, this time with the Yankees as a focus. Because their starting pitching was believed to be a weakness — they had no obvious ace like a Dallas Keuchel or Corey Kluber — and their bullpen was a major strength, the idea of chaining relievers together starting from the first inning gained traction. The likes of Luis Severino, who struggled mightily in the AL Wild Card game, or Masahiro Tanaka (4.79 regular season ERA) couldn’t be relied upon in the postseason, the thought went.

That idea is no longer necessary for the Yankees because the starting rotation has become the club’s greatest strength. Tanaka fired seven shutout innings to help push the Yankees ahead of the Astros in the ALCS, three games to two. They are now one win away from reaching the World Series for the first time since 2009.

It hasn’t just been Tanaka. Since Game 3 of the ALDS, Yankees pitchers have made eight starts spanning 46 1/3 innings. They have allowed 10 runs (nine earned) on 25 hits and 12 walks with 45 strikeouts. That’s a 1.75 ERA with an 8.74 K/9 and 2.33 BB/9. In five of those eight starts, the starter went at least six innings, which has helped preserve the freshness and longevity of the bullpen.

Here’s the full list of performances for Yankee starters this postseason:

Game Starter IP H R ER BB SO HR
AL WC Luis Severino 1/3 4 3 3 1 0 2
ALDS 1 Sonny Gray 3 1/3 3 3 3 4 2 1
ALDS 2 CC Sabathia 5 1/3 3 4 2 3 5 0
ALDS 3 Masahiro Tanaka 7 3 0 0 1 7 0
ALDS 4 Luis Severino 7 4 3 3 1 9 2
ALDS 5 CC Sabathia 4 1/3 5 2 2 0 9 0
ALCS 1 Masahiro Tanaka 6 4 2 2 1 3 0
ALCS 2 Luis Severino 4 2 1 1 2 0 1
ALCS 3 CC Sabathia 6 3 0 0 4 5 0
ALCS 4 Sonny Gray 5 1 2 1 2 4 0
ALCS 5 Masahiro Tanaka 7 3 0 0 1 8 0
TOTAL 55 1/3 35 20 17 20 52 6

In particular, if you hone in on the ALCS starts specifically, Yankee starters have pitched 28 innings, allowing five runs (four earned) on 13 hits and 10 walks with 20 strikeouts. That’s a 1.61 ERA.

While the Yankees’ biggest weakness has become a strength, the Astros’ biggest weakness — the bullpen — has become an even bigger weakness. This is why the Yankees, who won 10 fewer games than the Astros during the regular season, are one win away from reaching the World Series and the Astros are not.