JFtC Brings You Blue Jays Coloured Snapshots Of The MLB Landscape. This Week, the MLB Pitch Clock is Coming, Why So Many Blue Jays Injuries, and Why Not Blue Jays Contract Extensions
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* Major League Baseball announced last week that strict use of a pitch clock will be used in all 30 ballparks starting in 2023. Pitchers will be required to start his motion within 14 seconds with bases empty and within 19 seconds if there are baserunners. Experimenting at the Low A-West level in 2021, MLB reported the average game times were reduced from 3 hours and 2 minutes to 2 hours and 41 minutes. Umpires at all levels of the minor leagues have enforced a strict pitch clock this season, resulting in an average of 20 minutes being shaved off game times with no significant affects on scoring. Game times have increased by 5 minutes every year from 2019-2021(as well as from 2016-2017).
Major League pitchers are split in their opinions on the new rule change. Younger pitchers who have already been pitching with a pitch clock seem resigned to the change, while veteran starters are far more outspoken with their objections. Mets veteran Max Scherzer fired the first shots back in 2019. The vocal member of the MLBPA Executive Committee said ,”As players, it just shouldn’t be in the game. Having a pitch clock-if you have ball-strike implications-that’s messing with the fabric of the game. Retired pitcher C.C. Sabathia voiced his support for pitch clock usage on his podcast. “Have you been watching the #*!@ing same games I’ve been watching?” challenging objections by major and minor league pitchers and coaches. Commissioner Rob Manfred stated that MLB “owed it to our fans” to improve pace of play.
A hand-in-hand partner to this new initiative is the PitchCom system the Blue Jays and 15 other MLB teams have begun to use. While PitchCom has been primarily hailed as a way to limit sign stealing, catcher Danny Jansen opined that quicker game pace will be an offshoot of using the system. Before getting injured, Jansen appeared to have the usage of electronic pitch calling system down to a science and he emphasized the benefit of not having to change sign sequences with every at-bat. Former Jays catcher Reese McGuire told Sports Illustrated during spring training that he found it difficult to get into a rhythm behind the plate, though conceded the PitchCom system would speed up the pace of play. Jansen and Bench Coach/Catching Coordinator John Schneider believe the majority of the bullpen will use the digital pitch relay devices while starters may require some additional time to adjust to the process.
With the pitch clock on the horizon for next season, use of the PitchCom system by Blue Jays pitchers this year will make the transition to a pitch clock more comfortable and less unsettling.
* The Colorado Rockies announced on Wednesday that their 2014 first round (8th overall) and Denver native Kyle Freeland had agreed to a 5 year, $64.5 million dollar extension. the Freeland extension comes on the heels of Ryan McMahon signing a 5 year year, $70 million dollar deal during Spring Training and Antonio Senzatela being extended for 5 years at $50.5 million bucks in 2021. Not to mention the free agent signing of Kris Bryant for a price tag of $187 million dollars over 7 years in March. New Rockies GM Bill Schmidt has made it a franchise priority to buy out multiple years of arbitration and free agency for players they consider core pieces. Even after the unpopular trade of former Rockies icon Nolan Arenado and the departure of All Star shortstop Trevor Story after the 2022 season. Top of the rotation starter German Marquez is in the 3rd year of a 5 year, $43 million deal.
Blue Jays fans no doubt are pointing to these extensions as a model for how their team will seek to secure multiple core players over the next 2 seasons. Vladimir Guerrero, Jr., Bo Bichette, Teoscar Hernandez, Lourdes Gurrel, Jr., Jordan Romano and Alek Manoah lead the parade of young, core players who are not yet eligible for free agency and will be expecting hefty pay raises during their arbitration year. Extensions given to staff ace Jose Berrios (7 year, $131 million) and third baseman Matt Chapman (2 years, $25 million) are a promising start to the process.
The Jays front office and GM Ross Atkins has already begun the process of acquiring keystone talent and ensuring their presence in Toronto will be extended stays. Free agent signings such as George Springer and Kevin Gausman have set the standard for aggressiveness in the free agent market. No doubt Atkins would like to extend and/or sign each of the young core players-the sooner the better. He and Team President Mark Shapiro signed players like Grady Sizemore to early extensions in Cleveland, though also were forced to trade the likes of C.C. Sabathia and Cliff Lee and let Hall of Famer Jim Thome leave via free agency. The Blue Jays do have the means to continue to add payroll dollars while securing the short and long term stability of the current roster. But resources are not unlimited and tough decisions will certainly need to be made.
The current Rockies model as well as the approach Atkins and Shapiro took with the Indians/Guardians is a road map leading to that goal. But it is not realistic to expect every passenger that starts the trip towards contention will make it to the final destination-a Toronto World Series appearance.
* Much has been made of the rash of injuries occurring across the MLB landscape. Most of the blame has been placed upon the shortened Spring Training, brought on by extended CBA negotiations. The Blue Jays have certainly had their share of key injuries, but the cause for the majority of them probably did not take root in Dunedin.
Oblique injuries to Teoscar Hernandez and Danny Jansen happened on swings. Given the ferocity of Hernandez’ at bats, an oblique strain is not an unexpected occurrence. Jansen has changed his approach at the plate, seeking to pull the ball more often to take advantage of his power potential. These injuries could have happened at any stage of the season and hopefully will not have lingering affects once the starting right fielder and catcher return from the IL in a few weeks. George Springer has missed a few games due to a forearm contusion, but that resulted from being hit by a pitch. Again, hit batters are a normal result of taking regular at bats.
It would be more of a surprise if Ryan Borucki and Nate Pearson did not serve a stint on the injured list at some point of any season. Borucki suffered a hamstring strain during the strain- a commonplace injury regardless of the length of spring training and was activated earlier in the week. The star-crossed Pearson contracted mononucleosis shortly before camp broke and the team headed north to Toronto. Illnesses tend not to be the result of training regiments so the loss of Pearson could not be prevented. The only impactful injury that might be blamed on an excelerated spring could be the forearm strain that landed Hyun-jin Ryu on the IL. Ryu has suffered from arm fatigue throughout his career in North America. His ineffectiveness during his first 2 starts mirrored the disappointing finish to the 2021 season by Ryu. The jury is still out on the seriousness of the arm injury and the length of the lefty’s stay on the sidelines.
Are these injuries frustrating to fans and staff alike? Yes. Are they a result of the loss of 10-14 days of Spring Training games and on-field work? No.
*Featured Image Courtesy Of DaveMe Images. Prints Available For Purchase.
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Jersey born, Pittsburgh resident, baseball lifer. Staff Writer jaysfromthecouch.com. Host THE ON FEK CIRCLE on JFtC YouTube Channel. Regular guest on Jays From the couch Radio Podcast. Established WPPJ Rock-a-thon benefit, which has been broadcast annually since 1981 and has raised for than $500,000 for the Early Learning Institute of Pittsburgh. IBWAA member.