Toronto has called up utility man Munenori Kawasaki from the minors for some infield depth and in a surprising move they demoted right-hander Steve Delabar to Triple-A to make room for him on the roster.
Delabar has struggled somewhat this season, walking 16 batters in 25 innings, but his 4.68 ERA is hardly disastrous and he’s a 30-year-old veteran of four big-league seasons with a career 3.68 ERA and 202 strikeouts in 157 innings. Oh, and he made the All-Star team last year.
Delabar has always had poor control, but he’s also always missed a ton of bats while being plenty effective overall. In fact, among all active pitchers with at least 150 career innings Delabar ranks seventh in strikeout rate with 11.6 per nine innings, behind only Craig Kimbrel, Aroldis Chapman, Kenley Jansen, Greg Holland, Ernesto Frieri, and David Robertson.
A little while ago, the Blue Jays and Twins completed one of the craziest half-innings of baseball that you are ever going to see.
Blue Jays right-hander Steve Delabar entered the bottom of the eighth inning with a 5-3 lead, but he issued walks to Josmil Pinto and Chris Herrmann before Eduardo Nunez moved them over with a sacrifice bunt. Sergio Santos, Toronto’s fill-in closer with Casey Janssen on the disabled list, then took over. And that’s when things got really crazy.
Santos failed to retire any of three batters he faced. In addition to walking them all, he threw three wild pitches which allowed three runs to score and put the Twins in front. Per Jesse Spector of the Sporting News, he’s the first pitcher in the live ball era to throw zero innings while walking three batters and throwing three wild pitches. Seriously. He threw just four out of 16 pitches for strikes. A night to forget for Santos. Oh, but it didn’t end there for the Blue Jays.
J.A. Happ took over for Santos and issued two more walks, including one with the bases loaded. Then we finally saw our first hit of the inning, on a two-run single from Jason Kubel. Happ walked Pinto before retiring Herrmann and Nunez to finally end the nightmare frame.
All told, the Twins scored six runs on one hit, eight walks, and three wild pitches to take a 9-5 lead. Glen Perkins tossed a scoreless top of the ninth inning to finish off the wild comeback victory and sweep the day-night doubleheader.
Per Rhett Bollinger of MLB.com, the last time a team drew eight walks in one inning was when the Rangers did it against the Orioles on April 19, 1996.
UPDATE: You can watch the inning unfold here. But I’ll warn you, it’s ugly.
Between now and Opening Day, HardballTalk will take a look at each of baseball’s 30 teams, asking the key questions, the not-so-key questions, and generally breaking down their chances for the 2014 season. Next up: The Toronto Blue Jays.
The Big Question: Isn’t doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results the definition of insanity?
That’s what Albert Einstein said, anyway. To be fair, it’s only “over again,” not “over and over again” for the Jays. Last year was the big shakeup in which they traded for R.A. Dickey, Jose Reyes and Mark Buehrle and signed Melky Cabrera. That didn’t work. They’re back with almost the same team for 2014, however, and are hoping that last year’s expectation — a strong team contending for the playoffs — becomes this year’s reality.
There’s reason to think that things should improve, of course, because a lot of players lost time to injury last season. Jose Bautista was the biggest blow on offense, but Jose Reyes played fewer than 100 games too. The pitching staff was even more decimated with injuries, as 13 different men started games for Toronto last season, and only R.A. Dickey and Mark Buehrle pitched more than 20. But it wasn’t just injuries here. Dickey and Buehrle both posted below average ERAs, as did every other starter (we call that “The Reverse Woebegone”). Overall the Jays’ rotation ranked 14th in the AL in ERA.
The Jays are going into 2014 with basically the same pitching staff and most of the same offense. If Bautista, Reyes and the other 3/5 of the rotation can stay healthy — and if Dickey and Buehrle can simply pitch better — things should improve. But they finished 23 games back, and there is little if any reason to believe that even a healthier Blue Jays team can improve by anything close to that many games. They needed more than better health heading into this season. They didn’t get it.
What else is going on?
- The bullpen isn’t bad. A lot of teams would like to have Casey Janssen,Sergio Santos and Steve Delabar in the late innings. They and their friends in the Jays’ relief corps were overworked last season, however, and the pressure is on the starting rotation to take the pressure off the pen.
- The worst player on the Jays last year — and maybe the worse in all of baseball — was J.P. Arencibia. He’s gone, Dioner Navarro is in and even if Navarro comes nowhere close to his flukey .300/.365/.492 13 HR season from last year, catcher should not be a black hole like it was a season ago.
- Edwin Encarnacion, hit 36 homers last season while walking 82 times and striking out only 62 times. In this age of whiffs, that’s a pretty damn amazing accomplishment.
- The rotation, should it need reinforcements, may include Marcus Stroman at some point this season. He was the Jays’ first round pick in 2012 and struck out 129 guys in 111.2 innings at Double-A last season.
Prediction: They could be better, but I doubt it’ll be anywhere near better enough to contend. Fifth Place, AL East.