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Blue Jays’ deep pitching staff allows for creativity as postseason nears – Sportsnet.ca

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In 2018, when he was taking regular turns in the Milwaukee Brewers rotation, Chase Anderson allowed a .758 OPS his first time through an order, a .639 OPS in his second, and an .894 OPS in his third. The season prior — easily Anderson’s best as a major-leaguer — the discrepancy wasn’t quite as pronounced, but the trend was the same. Hitters went from batting .216 his first trip through and .195 his second to .264 his third.

During the 2019 season, Milwaukee endeavoured to keep him from seeing a lineup a third time. In nearly half of his 32 starts, he exited after facing 18 batters or fewer. In 11 of his outings, he got to go between one and four batters into his third trip — in the final six, he got to go between five and seven. He completed six innings on only three occasions and surpassed 100 pitches just once.

So, it shouldn’t have been a surprise to see Anderson lifted Monday after five innings, having completed his second trip through the Baltimore Orioles order on 84 pitches. Never mind that Anderson was absolutely cruising, allowing only a run on three hits while striking out eight. Nor that he retired the final 12 batters he faced. Toronto Blue Jays manager Charlie Montoyo was just playing the percentages.

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That Monday’s result was unfavourable, as Wilmer Font entered for Anderson and quickly coughed up a game-tying run as the Blue Jays went on to lose 4-3, does not confirm that the process was faulty. You can certainly quibble with the usage of Font, who’s allowed a ton of hard contact this season, particularly with Thomas Hatch rested and available. It’s even fair to wonder if A.J. Cole would’ve made more sense, assuming Montoyo was saving Rafael Dolis for a leverage spot later in the game.

But Anderson was always going to be lifted. This is what analytically-minded organizations do. Like the Brewers, who have been to the postseason each of the last two years and set the standard for finding novel ways to maximize a pitching staff in October. And like the Blue Jays, who are currently cruising towards the playoffs and likely to try emulating that same creative pitching deployment once they get there.

Come October, it’s win-or-go-home baseball. You’re no longer thinking about individual workloads and letting pitchers build confidence from outing to outing. You’re thinking about getting 27 outs with whatever combination of pitchers makes the most tactical sense.

And this strange season, with its short schedule and expanded rosters, ought to present even more opportunity for novel approaches. We’ve already seen the Blue Jays doing it. The tendency is to bemoan the lack of length Toronto’s gotten from its starting pitching and suggest the club should to be getting pitchers deeper into games. But maybe that’s not a flaw. Maybe that’s a feature.

No one’s winning a SABR award by suggesting that starting pitchers tend to get hit harder their third time through the order. But that tendency has been even more pronounced this season. Entering Monday’s games, MLB starters had a collective 6.34 ERA on their third trip this year, up from last season’s 5.79 and 2018’s 5.50.

And Blue Jays starters have done their part to aid in that increase, pitching to a 9.19 ERA when facing an opposition lineup a third time. Sunday’s game was an excellent example, as Tanner Roark came back out for the sixth inning after rolling through five, and promptly allowed a double, a single and a homer during his third trip through Baltimore’s lineup, coughing up a lead in the process.

With 11 pitchers in Toronto’s bullpen — many of them converted starters — that doesn’t need to happen. It’s always a tough conversation for a manager when lifting a veteran workhorse like Roark who had thrown only 81 pitches through his five innings. But you don’t play to protect egos, you play to win games — this season more than ever.

“We want to give our team the best chance to win,” said Blue Jays pitching coach Pete Walker. “So, when you have arms that are ready and able in the bullpen, it’s tough not to go to those guys. Especially when you see the history of third time through the order for certain pitchers.”

Why, when you have 2019 starters such as Hatch, Anthony Kay, Ryan Borucki, Julian Merryweather, Shun Yamaguchi, Jacob Waguespack and Sean Reid-Foley all in your bullpen and capable of pitching multiple innings, would you ever push a starting pitcher any longer than necessary? It’s one thing with a Cy Young candidate like Hyun Jin Ryu, who’s earned his rope. It’s another with league-average innings-eaters like Roark and Anderson.

“It changes things. It changes how you look at a ballgame,” Walker said. “The hitters have a tough time with the different looks coming out of the bullpen. It makes it difficult for them making switches throughout the course of the game. They don’t know who’s going to be coming in, who they’re going to be facing late in the ballgame.”

The Blue Jays have to be careful, of course, not to stretch their bullpen too thin. But as they look at adding Nate Pearson and Matt Shoemaker to their mix of bulk pitchers in the coming weeks, and Ken Giles to the back end of the bullpen possibly as soon as this weekend, that concern alleviates.

Now you can add in Robbie Ray and Ross Stripling, each acquired ahead of Monday’s trade deadline. And Jordan Romano, who’s expected to return by the end of the season. Patrick Murphy’s standing by in Rochester if the club wants to add another hard-throwing arm into the mix. Sam Gaviglio and T.J. Zeuch are there as well, if low-leverage innings are in need of eating. There are plenty of options.

So, if anything, we’ll likely see the Blue Jays get more and more creative with their pitching deployment as the postseason nears. And they might just go full Brewers when we reach October. The club will surely do its best to line up Ryu and Taijuan Walker for its first two games of the playoffs. But beyond that pair, things could get interesting very quickly.

Think Ray for three innings, followed by Pearson for two and Stripling for two, with short stints the rest of the way based on matchups. Or say Anderson gives you four innings, then Merryweather and Kay combine for three, before the back-end of the bullpen closes things out. Or maybe Merryweather opens for an inning or two, giving way to a bulk outing from Shoemaker or Hatch, before Borucki comes on to chew up a couple mid-to-late innings and get you into the eighth.

It’s all on the table as the Blue Jays have built out a deep, versatile pitching staff that can be deployed in a variety of ways. Every team would love a five-man rotation of thoroughbreds capable of going seven every time out. But no team has that. In today’s MLB, creativity is key. And from the Blue Jays, we’re about to see even more of it.

“We don’t necessarily have to force the starter through the third time through the lineup,” Walker said. “We’re going to try our best not to force a starting pitcher into a situation that’s not ideal. I still love the history of baseball and starters going nine innings. But it’s just different nowadays.”

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Lakers' Davis questionable for Game 5 – TSN

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Los Angeles Lakers superstar centre Anthony Davis is questionable for Saturday’s Game 5 against the Denver Nuggets after suffering a sprained left ankle late in LA’s Game 4 win Thursday night.

Backup shooting guard Dion Waiters is also questionable with a sore left groin while Alex Caruso (sore right wrist), Danny Green (Volar plate injury, left ring finger) and LeBron James (sore right groin) are probable.

The 27-year-old Davis has been one of the Lakers best performers in the postseason bubble, averaging 28.9 points, 9.6 rebounds and 3.6 assists over 14 games, including hitting a game-winning three-pointer at the buzzer in Game 2 of the Western Conference Finals.

The Lakers can advance to the NBA Finals with a win on Saturday.

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'EXPERTISE AND CHARACTER': Maple Leafs add veteran Paul MacLean to coaching staff – Toronto Sun

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Article content continued

“Over nearly two decades as an NHL coach, Paul has filled every role on a staff,” Keefe said in a club statement. “Adding someone of Paul’s expertise and character to advise and assist our staff is something that we felt was very important as we seek to make tangible steps next season.”

Before Columbus, MacLean led the Sens to a record of 114-90-35 and a pair of playoff appearances. He also served two stints as assistant for the Anaheim Ducks, ‘02 to 04 and ‘15-17, between his days in Detroit (‘05-11). His Cup victory came on ex-Leaf Mike Babcock’s staff, having also appeared in the ‘03 and ‘09 finals under the same coach.

Born in Grostenquin, France while his father served on a Royal Canadian Air Force base, MacLean was raised in Antigonish, N.S. He was on Team Canada at the 1980 Olympics in Lake Placid and as a mid-round pick of the St. Louis Blues out of the QMJHL, scored 36 goals as a rookie after a trade to Winnipeg. In all, he appeared in 719 career games for the Blues, Jets and Detroit, recording 324 goals and 349 assists.

He transitioned to coaching with various minor leagues in the 1990s, until joining Babcock’s first NHL staff in Anaheim. A strong start in Ottawa made MacLean a finalist for the Jack Adams in 2012, won by Ken Hitchcock, followed by beating out Bruce Boudreau and Joel Quenneville for the award in ‘13. Only MacLean, Jacques Martin, Alain Vigneault and Bob Hartley have won the Adams for Canadian teams the past 25 years.

It was also announced Friday that the Arizona Coyotes have hired away amateur scout and player development employee Brian Daccord from the Leafs to be special assistant to new general manager Bill Armstrong.

lhornby@postmedia.com

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Maple Leafs hire Paul MacLean as assistant coach – Pension Plan Puppets

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Today the Toronto Maple Leafs announced they’ve hired another new assistant coach, adding Paul MacLean:

“Over nearly two decades as an NHL coach, Paul has filled every role on a coaching staff, winning a Stanley Cup and Jack Adams trophy along the way,” said Maple Leafs head coach Sheldon Keefe. “Adding someone of Paul’s expertise and character to advise and assist our staff is something that we felt was very important as we seek to make tangible steps next season.”

MacLean spent the 2019-20 season as an assistant coach with the Columbus Blue Jackets after being hired on November 21, 2019. He previously served as the head coach of the Ottawa Senators from 2011-15, leading the Senators to a 114-90-35 record and a pair of playoff appearances. He won the Jack Adams Award while coaching Ottawa in 2012-13 after being a finalist for the honour in 2011-12. MacLean served two stints as an assistant coach for the Anaheim Ducks spanning 2002-04 and 2015-17 and was an assistant coach for the Detroit Red Wings from 2005-11. He has been an assistant coach in the postseason on 11 occasions and has made three appearances in the Stanley Cup finals (2003, 2008, 2009), winning the Stanley Cup in 2008.

MacLean, 62, joined John Tortorella’s staff in Columbus in November of last year after not having a coaching job for two years. He worked for Randy Carlyle in Anaheim after being fired as head coach in Ottawa in 2015.

The power play of the Columbus Blue Jackets is not something the Maple Leafs should be looking to emulate. In my pre-playoffs coverage of the Blue Jackets I said their power play was so bad that the only PK squad better than Columbus’s own powerhouse unit was whoever they tried their power play against on any given night. That wasn’t exaggeration, their power play really was that bad, although it improved whenever Seth Jones was available.

Last offseason, the Maple Leafs hired Paul MacFarland, and most of us here at PPP weren’t very thrilled at the prospect of his power play concept coming to the Leafs. We can only hope this goes better.

With the news that Bruce Boudreau would not be hired by the Leafs, MacLean seems to be next man up on the veteran leadership coaching list. He joins Dave Hakstol, Manny Malhotra, and the goaltending and video coaching staff. And the new guy is getting the up in the rafters job.

And in case you were wondering how a guy who’d never been to the Soo got this job:

Update:

Also today, the Arizona Coyotes hired Maple Leafs goaltending scout/consultant Brian Daccord to be their Special Assistant to the GM and Director of Goalie Operations. I don’t think they mean hip surgeries, but who knows?

He has been with the Leafs for five seasons prior to this change.

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