Thursday, August 4, 2016

Reasons not rules

Aaron Sanchez will continue taking turns in the Blue Jays rotation. This is an exciting and not insignificant piece of news for Blue Jays fans. It’s exciting for any number of reasons, not the least of which relates to the 2016 club, its playoff chances, and Sanchez’s ability to contribute to those chances.

But if you’re a fan of the Toronto Blue Jays, take the team’s willingness to proceed down uncharted waters with Sanchez’s innings as the best sign yet that things are not as they once were, they changed for the better.

It would seem that the Blue Jays did not cower before the looming monolith that is Conventional Thinking. The front office - and the player himself - opened themselves up to considerable risk by allowing Sanchez to push past previously established innings limits. But by all reports they do so with their eyes and their minds open to the possibilities.

From the sounds of it, the Jays opted to treat Sanchez as an individual, combining their own data models with his on-field performance to sniff out signs of fatigue. They haven’t found any yet (we assume) so Sanchez stays in the rotation.

That’s good for 2016 and it’s good to know the tall foreheads from Ohio, who brought a reputation for risk aversion with them across the border, are not willing to let a chance to win the World Series slip away because of staid, untested thinking.

It doesn’t matter what happened with Dylan Bundy or Stephen Strasburg. Speaking of looming, Noah Syndergaard didn’t cast a pall over the proceedings. Nor did the cherry picked cases of Chris Sale or Nolan fucking Ryan. All that matters is the information the Blue Jays are able to extract from Sanchez’s performance and what they believe it means for him going forward.

Since they drafted him, the Toronto Blue Jays have done what they feel is best to preserve Sanchez’s arm. Altruistic as seems, teams do this so they might benefit from his health and performance and keep the player where he wants to be: on the field. And it worked!

Today the Jays are trying to decide the fate of a 24-year old pitcher with six years of professional experience under his belt. Spring Trainings and Arizona Fall Leagues and side sessions and endless attempts to refine a changeup. A player who quite literally altered his body this offseason, getting thicc to better absorb a real starter’s workload. Surely these facts worked into the internal calculation of how much is too much.

Moving Sanchez to the bullpen isn’t the answer as much as an attempt to have it both ways. Bullpen arms are subject to microwave assignments and working three days consecutively. Hiding your maxed out started does more harm than good.

It’s this that most fans will hate, the lack of a clear and unquestioned option. While the messaging was a little ragged, I have nothing but respect for the way the team never stopped looking for a way to respect the wishes of their pitcher while keeping his “best interests” in mind, though his best interests and the team’s desire to not lose a year of his cheap production overlap as much as possible.

Aaron Sanchez deserves all the credit in the world for forcing the Blue Jays hand. His performance this season is off the charts, improving in ways even his own catcher did not think possible.

His play forced the issue, provoking a creative response to ensure his unlikely rise to the front of the rotation continues. The team needs him, so fans should be happy he’s staying a starter. That the team is willing to break from the norm, to consider all angles and adjust on the fly? That’s a sign of bright days to come on top of the enormous days at hand.

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