The Toronto Blue Jays play the role of pleasant also-rans in the AL East, and when considering why the Orioles are so poor there is little attention paid to them. There is something about Toronto, though, since the O's have gone a combined 9-27 against the Jays in the past two seasons, including a 6-12 season series last year. Why have they done so poorly against these Jays in particular? Home or away, it doesn't particularly matter: the O's have lost.
Tonight's contest will set the tone for this year's season series. Actually, it won't set the tone at all, because the tone is just people applying narratives based on small sample sizes - like, say, one baseball game - that probably don't have a heck of a lot of predictive value towards the future. Taking this kind of baseball nihilist philosophy to its logical conclusion is not as fun as indulging in some statistically unsound commentary, so I hope you will forgive me for the latter.
There are some things we can say based on more data, however, like that Mark Reynolds should not be spending a lot of time in the field. It is therefore a good thing to see that he will be starting at DH tonight. According to MASN's Roch Kubatko, this is Reynolds' first career DH start, a statistic that sounds insane until you remember that he was in the National League and then on a team with the barely-animated Vladimir Guerrero. Say, I wonder why Reynolds isn't playing third base? Roch informs us: "Reynolds committed two errors in five games on the homestand."
Errors are bad. Let us not downplay that fact. If you are offered a binary choice, on a given play, as to whether or not a fielder for your favorite team will commit an error, you will naturally respond that you don't want him to commit an error. That said, acting like errors are the only problem a fielder can have is a serious mistake. Errors, in fact, based on UZR, are only about one-third of the problem for Reynolds. The other two-thirds have to do with range, as in, getting close enough to balls to even make a play on them that may possibly be an error. This is the core of that classic joke, "What do you call a ground ball to Derek J***r's left?" "A base hit up the middle!"
Reynolds being out of the field sounds like a good thing, if only for one game. It is a good thing, except for this: Wilson Betemit is starting at third base in his stead. If you watched Betemit in the field in spring training you saw a man you never wanted to see in the field. Consider this: Betemit has played at 3B for 2,784 innings in his career, innings during which, by UZR, he has cost his teams about 22 runs solely based on his range. Reynolds has played at 3B for 5,502 innings, very nearly twice as many innings, and has cost his teams a total of 23 runs based on his range. If Betemit played in 300 more games and at the same rate, his range, by this part of the UZR metric, would be almost twice as bad.
Contact pitcher Tommy Hunter is starting for the Orioles tonight. Strikeout pitcher Brandon Morrow will take the carpet for the Jays.
|BALTIMORE ORIOLES||TORONTO BLUE JAYS|
|Nolan Reimold - LF||Yunel Escobar - SS|
|J.J. Hardy - SS||Kelly Johnson - 2B|
|Nick Markakis - RF||Jose Bautista - RF|
|Adam Jones - CF||Adam Lind - 1B|
|Matt Wieters - C||Edwin Encarnacion - DH|
|Wilson Betemit - 3B||Eric Thames - LF|
|Mark Reynolds - DH||Brett Lawrie - 3B|
|Chris Davis - 1B||Colby Rasmus - CF|
|Robert Andino - 2B||J.P. Arencibia - C|