What a great long weekend that turned out to be. In addition to watching the Jays sweep away the Rangers on Sunday, I was able to watch Cleveland put away the Red Sox last night setting up the ALCS the majority of us seem to favor. While I was in the camp for preferring to play Cleveland over Boston, let’s not sleep on the Tribe. In 2016, Cleveland’s offense placed 4th in cumulative WAR led by position players Francisco Lindor (6.3), Jason Kipnis (4.8) and Jose Ramirez (4.8) who was a particular thorn in the Jays’ side during their last series in August. Their starting pitching is depleted with the Carlos Carrasco and Danny Salazar injuries (Salazar may return for the ALCS but will likely be in the bullpen as reported by MLB.com) but this is a team that just swept away a team many selected to appear in, or win, the World Series. This should be a tough, close ALCS.
Cleveland won the season series against Toronto 4-3. Sportsnet provides a brief recap of the season series and there were a couple of really memorable games in there. On Canada Day, the Tribe beat us 2-1 in 19 innings in a game that saw both Ryan Goins and Darwin Barney on the mound for the Jays in the loss. On July 3, the Blue Jays beat Cleveland 17-1. Corey Kluber started that game for Cleveland which is encouraging since on paper he’ll represent the toughest pitching match-up for Toronto in the ALCS.
There seems to be plenty of blame to throw around for the team that Cleveland quickly dispatched from the 2016 postseason, much of which is following a couple of ex-Blue Jays. Whispers of a John Farrell firing have begun though ESPN reports that his job is safe - for now. David Price’s latest playoff failure has once again fueled the fire about his lack of ability to pitch well when it counts the most. Personally, I didn’t like the “I was just saving all my playoff wins for Boston” comment when he inked his 217-million dollar contract so I don’t mind seeing him shouldering a lot of the blame for his part in the series loss. Sports Illustrated ran a story about Price’s latest playoff failure, opening with:
David Price looked like a tragic hero again on Friday afternoon, when he allowed five runs on 65 pitches over 3 1/3 innings to the Indians in another October flop. The Red Sox needed him to shut down Cleveland to avoid plummeting into an 0–2 series hole, but Boston ended up losing, 6–0, and Price once more proved flawed in one particular way: When it counts.
Afterwards, Price reminded some of the Boston media that he technically has two playoff wins, though as a reliever. Shockingly, after a poor start that saw his team fall in a 2-0 series deficit, the local media (including www.masslive.com) didn’t care to hear it:
Saying that he has two playoff wins, just not as a starter, is the type of comment a pitcher in the first year of a seven-year, $217-million contract in big-market Boston probably wants to avoid making.
I don’t blame Price for signing with Boston since they emptied the bank for him. I am glad however that we chose to diversify our starting pitching portfolio instead. In one of the few things I enjoyed hearing on the telecast by TBS, they pointed out that J.A. Happ, Marco Estrada, Aaron Sanchez and Marcus Stroman collectively earned less than David Price this year.
Craig Edwards of Fangraphs profiles Roberto Osuna’s recent performances after he starred in the ALDS. As we know, Osuna pitched very well for us in the series (18% of Bluebird Banter felt that Osuna was deserving of our fictitious ALDS MVP award) and Edwards argues that any doubts we may have been feeling about Osuna after some lackluster outings late in the year and his shoulder tightness in the wildcard game can possibly be extinguished.
...(Osuna’s) availability for the recently completed Division Series against the Texas Rangers was in some doubt. Osuna has laid those doubts, as well as those that accompanied a less-than-stellar end-of-season run, to rest.
Osuna’s win probability added (WPA) in the playoffs is exceeded only by Josh Donaldson and if the Blue Jays are to continue their postseason run, a healthy and productive Roberto Osuna is paramount. I still have some worries about Osuna but hope the article is correct in that the pitcher we watched dominate in the majority of his outings is back:
While it would be irresponsible to read too much into five playoff innings, it should be comforting to see that those five playoff innings are much closer to the Osuna that we saw in the regular season. The slider is working. The velocity is there. While the sinker is an interesting dimension with unclear results, that Osuna’s results and velocity match up with the good part of Osuna’s season is a real positive. The other positive for Blue Jays fans is that the sweep just bought the team and Osuna a bit more rest.