Another ghost sign

Birmingham, Alabama, April 2016.

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Ghost sign

Birmingham, Alabama, April 2016.

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The woes of Brett Cecil

There have been many explanations for why the Jays are off to a relatively poor 10-13 start. Many of these blame manager John Gibbons for his poor bullpen management. But I noticed one thing today: a lot of the Jays’ bullpen problems have really been because Brett Cecil is not pitching as well as he did last year.

Cecil is off to a horrible start. He has an ERA of 5.19 and has already been charged with four losses, which is the highest total in the American League. He was charged with the loss in the following games:

  • On April 5 against Tampa Bay, he entered the game at the start of the eighth inning with the Jays up 2-1. He then gave up a hit batter, got a fly out, and gave up the game-losing home run to Logan Forsythe.
  • On April 12 against the Yankees, he entered the game at the start of the seventh with the score tied at 2-2. He surrendered a single, a walk, a bunt groundout, and a go-ahead single. The score remained 3-2 for the rest of the game.
  • On April 21 against Baltimore, he came into the game with one out in the seventh, the bases loaded, and the Jays ahead 2-1. He got out of it giving up only one run, on a sacrifice fly, which is about as good as could be expected. However, in the eighth inning, Cecil stayed in the game and gave up a single and a double to put the Orioles ahead 3-2. Once again, this was the final score.
  • The April 25 game against the White Sox was the worst of the lot. With the Jays ahead 5-1 going into the seventh inning, starter Marcus Stroman loaded the bases with two out. Cecil relieved Stroman and gave up two singles and a walk, before being relieved in turn by Gavin Floyd, who gave up the game-losing double.

It’s unfair to assume that the Jays would have won all four of these games if Cecil had been pitching at his best. But the Jays might well have won three of them – in which case, their record would be 13-10 instead of 10-13, and nobody would be complaining about anything right now.

You can’t blame Gibbons for bringing Cecil into the game in close situations, given that he finished 2015 with 38 consecutive scoreless outings. In 2015, he didn’t give up an earned run after the official first day of summer (June 21). In 2016, he’s already given up earned runs in three of his 11 outings, and his total number of holds, 5, matches his combined total of losses and blown saves.

This sort of thing has happened before with Cecil, mind you:

  • In 2014, Cecil’s ERA on August 2 was 4.28. He then went 21 appearances without giving up an earned run.
  • In 2015, he had the closer’s job for a while but couldn’t hold it – he lost the job, and nearly his place on the roster, after five awful outings out of six in mid-June. At that time, his ERA peaked at 5.96.

This makes it even trickier to determine whether Cecil has lost his stuff or is having just another of his frequent speed bumps. He has enough of a track record to justify Gibbons’ decision to keep running him out there, even if that ultimately costs the Jays their season. Aaron Loup, come home; all is forgiven.

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We know something you don’t know

Runner attempting stolen base, Regions Field, Birmingham, Alabama, April 2016. (The vertical lines are because I was shooting through the backstop netting.)

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Pre-game stretching

Regions Field, Birmingham, Alabama, April 2016.

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Warmup

Regions Field, Birmingham, Alabama, April 2016.

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Prince

Good musicians seem to be dropping like flies this year – Prince is now the most recent to have passed on.

I was never a huge fan of his music, but his songs were a huge part of popular culture from the 1980s onwards. He wrote many songs for other musicians – for instance, I had no idea that the Bangles’ “Manic Monday” was his:

And there’s Sinead O’Connor’s cover of “Nothing Compares 2 U”:

And I had no idea how good a musician Prince really was. He shows up at the end of this Rock and Roll Hall of Fame performance of “While My Guitar Gently Weeps” and blows everyone away with awesome guitar work:

And, for me, Prince’s death forces me to keep life in perspective: he was exactly two years and one day older than I am. As the song goes, enjoy yourself: it’s later than you think.

 

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