R.A. Dickey surrenders grand slam as struggles continue

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Blue Jays starter R.A. Dickey appeared to be getting back on track having logged quality starts in three out of his last four appearances entering this afternoon’s match against the offensively-impotent Mariners. Over six innings today, though, the right-hander allowed three home runs, including a first inning lead-off home run to Michael Saunders (his first of two) and a grand slam to Dustin Ackley in the fourth. When Dickey left after six innings, his ERA was a disappointing 5.36.

The Jays acquired the 2012 NL Cy Young award winner from the Mets with Josh Thole and Mike Nickeas for John Buck, Travis D’Arnaud, Noah Syndergaard, Wuilmer Becerra in one of two big trades the Canadian team made during the off-season. Dickey is just one small part of the 10-21 Jays’ problems, however. Josh Johnson — now on the disabled list — has a 6.86 ERA, Mark Buehrle 6.43, and Brandon Morrow 5.29. Despite having the third-most home runs in the league, the Jays have the lowest batting average (.226), second-lowest on-base percentage (.291), and third-lowest slugging percentage (.389). Their list of injured players is rivaled only by the Dodgers.

As for Dickey, his strikeout rate is down more than six percent and his walk rate is up by more than three percent compared to last year. He is inducing fewer ground balls consequently raising his fly ball rate. Known for having a faster-than-usual knuckleball, its velocity is down 2 MPH from last year. His first-pitch strike rate is at its lowest (52.6%) since 2008 with the Mariners.

Even if the 38-year-old Dickey were to right his sinking ship, the Jays are still in some trouble. But fixing their ace is a good place to start. Fortunately, the Jays are still less than one-fifth of the way through the season, so there is time to turn it around.

Japanese Baseball to begin June 19

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Japanese League commissioner Atsushi Saito announced that Japan’s professional baseball season will open on June 19. Teams can being practice games on June 2. There will be no fans. Indeed, the league has not yet even begun to seriously discuss a plan for fans to begin attending games, though that may happen eventually.

The season will begin three months after its originally scheduled opening day of March 20. It will be 120 games long. Teams in each six-team league — the Central League and Pacific League — will play 24 games against each league opponent. There will be no interleague play and no all-star game.

The announcement came in the wake of a national state of emergency being lifted for both Tokyo and the island of Hokkaido. The rest of the country emerged from the state of emergency earlier this month. This will allow the Japanese leagues to follow leagues in South Korea and Taiwan which have been playing for several weeks.

In the United States, Major League Baseball is hoping to resume spring training in mid June before launching a shortened regular season in early July. That plan is contingent on the league and the players’ union coming to an agreement on both financial arrangements and safety protocols for a 2020 season. Negotiations on both are ongoing. Major League Baseball will, reportedly, make a formal proposal about player compensation tomorrow.