Marty Noble is brilliant, even when he isn't

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People often needle Marty Noble of MLB.com because he doesn’t really get sabermetrics, or even embrace “newer stats” like OPS and WHIP, which makes his analysis of David Wright’s odd 2009 campaign pretty interesting to read:

Will David Wright hit more than 20 home runs?


Yes. But more important is whether he drives in runs as he did in each
full season before 2009. His power plunge was a curious and troubling
development for the team. He seemingly became spooked by the
dimensions, shape and karma of Citi Field in ’09. His RBIs dropped from
a four-year average of 112 to 72, partially because his home run total
decreased from an average of 29 to 10. But he also missed two weeks
because of a concussion, returned without a full sense of comfort in
the batter’s box and struck out 140 times. All that undermined his RBI
and home run production.

Yes, these are all legitimate reasons for Wright’s subpar season, but the
drop in RBI? He’s leaving out that Jose Reyes, who was regularly
sitting on a tee for Wright at second and third base from 2006-08, didn’t play a lick after May 20. Some nice table-setters can do wonders
for certain players (see: Jorge Cantu’s 2009) and Wright was missing
his for most of the season. No matter. It’s easy to forgive Noble when
he can spin webs like this:

How can the Mets avoid a run of debilitating injuries like they endured last season?

Drink more water, stretch properly before games, avoid walls, slide
feet first and never slide into first base. Abandon the split-finger
fastball, hang around with Ripken, keep the dugout steps clear (see
Luis Castillo last summer). Reach back for something extra only if
something extra is available. Improve bunting technique (see David
Cone, 1987), don’t take Dave Kingman swings in batting practice, learn
how to cut the bases properly. Abandon all maple bats. Don’t bat
against Perez in intrasquad games. Keep the oblique muscles stretched
and strong. Avoid collisions — no, avoid all contact with Padres first
baseman/outfielder Kyle Blanks (he’s 6-foot-6, 285 pounds). Don’t
wrestle with Santana — he’s Kingman strong. Never play catch with Jeff
Francoeur at distances fewer than 250 feet. Heed the warning track.
Don’t accept assignment to the Citi Field lockers assigned last season
to Santana, John Maine, J.J. Putz, Ryan Church, Reyes, Beltran, Alex
Cora, Carlos Delgado, Fernando Nieve, Gary Sheffield, Jon Niese,
Schneider, Wright or Pagan. Don’t sign Ben Sheets. Don’t smoke. Cross
at the green, not in between. Duck, get out of the way and, if at all
possible, rub the belly of Yogi Berra, the luckiest man ever to play
the game.

Noble may never know Wins Above Replacement (WAR) from the funk band of the same name, but few understand the pulse of the franchise better than him.

Young Blue Jays say they aren’t intimidated by top seed Rays

Blue Jays roster and schedule
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ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. (AP) When the Tampa Bay Rays and Toronto Blue Jays opened the pandemic-delayed season a little over two months ago, there was little to indicate the AL East rivals might meet again to begin the playoffs.

While the Rays launched the truncated 60-game schedule with expectations of making a strong bid for their first division title in a decade, the Blue Jays generally were viewed as an immensely talented young team still years away from postseason contention.

Tampa Bay didn’t disappoint, shrugging off a slow start to go a league-best 40-20 and claim the No. 1 seed in the AL playoffs that begin Tuesday.

Lefty Blake Snell, who’ll start Game 1 of the best-of-three wild-card series against Toronto at Tropicana Field, also isn’t surprised that the eighth-seeded Blue Jays earned a spot, too.

The Rays won six of 10 games between the teams during the regular season, but were outscored 48-44 and outhomered 17-11.

And while Toronto (32-28) lacks the playoff experience Tampa Bay gained last season when the Rays beat Oakland in the AL wild-card game before falling to Houston in the divisional round, the Blue Jays are building with exciting young players such as Cavan Biggio, Bo Bichette and Vladimir Guerrero Jr.

“They’ve got a lot of young guys who can ball over there,” Snell said. “It’s going to be fun to compete and see how we do.”

Rays defensive whiz Kevin Kiermaier said Tampa Bay, in the playoffs in consecutive seasons for the second time franchise history, will not take the Blue Jays lightly.

“We know we’re playing a real good team,” Kiermaier said. “It’s not going to be easy, regardless of what a team is seeded.”

The Blue Jays, who’ll start right-hander Matt Shoemaker, aren’t conceding anything.

Bichette said he and his teammates respect how good Tampa Bay is, but are not intimidated by facing the No. 1 seed.

“I would say that we didn’t care who we played. I would say that we didn’t mind playing Tampa, that’s for sure. We’re familiar with them. We’ve played them well,” Bichette said.

“I think we’re confident in our ability against them. Our talent matches up well,” Bichette added. “We think if we play well we’ve got a good chance.”

NO FANS

The stands at Tropicana Field will be empty, leaving players to wonder what the atmosphere will be like for the playoffs.

Tampa Bay routinely rank at or near the bottom of the majors in attendance, but usually pack the stands in the domed stadium during the postseason.

“It will be different,” Bichette said. “Normally when you think of your first postseason you think 40,000, you think about not being able to think it’s so loud, stuff like that.”

The Blue Jays open the playoffs near where they hold spring training in Dunedin, Florida. It’s been a winding road for Toronto, which played its home games in Buffalo, New York, at the site of its Triple-A affiliate after the Canadian government barred the Blue Jays from hosting games at their own stadium because of coronavirus concerns.

CONFIDENT RAYS

Tampa Bay’s five-game loss to Houston in last year’s divisional round was a source of motivation during the regular season.

“It definitely lit a fire under everybody. It really showed us we belong. … We gave them a tough series,” second baseman Brandon Lowe said.

“We won the wild-card game. We belong in the postseason. I think that did a lot for us to understand that we should be in the postseason and we can go a lot farther. We know what to expect this time around. I think everyone in our clubhouse expects to be playing until the end of October,” he said.

CLOSE FRIENDS

Tampa Bay manager Kevin Cash has the Rays in the playoffs for the second time. His close friend and former Rays third base and bench coach Charlie Montoyo is in his second year as manager of the Blue Jays, who last made the playoffs in 2016.

“Pretty special,” Cash said of his relationship with Montoyo.

“I really learned a lot from him being around him. The way he carried himself. His hand print is throughout this organization,” Cash added. “A pretty big impact and a positive one. … When they clinched I talked to him, we face-timed at 1:30 in the morning. I’m so happy for him.”