By Bob Elliott
The title of original post-season prognosticator is not an honor we toss around lightly.
The man who dissects, analyzes and goes out on a limb is legendary scout Ken Bracey, who retired from the Los Angeles Dodgers at the end of the 2014 season.
Bracey, the third man to hold the title, expects some home runs when the best-of-five American League Division Series between the Toronto Blue Jays and the Texas Rangers begins Thursday at the Rogers Centre and then moves to Globe Life Park in Arlington, Tex.
“The parks are both home run friendly,” said Bracey from Dunlap, Ill. “Throw out Cincinnati and Atlanta, they might be the two easiest parks to hit a home run.”
Besides the big boppers playing in the friendly confines Bracey sees another similarity between the two clubs.
“They were both dead in the water, didn’t seem that long ago,” said Bracey.
The Rangers lost 8-7 in walk-off fashion to the Colorado Rockies July 20 falling six games under .500 and nine games behind the Houston Astros. They went 45-25 to win the American League West.
After losing 3-2 to the Philadelphia Phillies and slipping to 50-51, the Jays were eight games behind the first-place New York Yankees on July 28. From the next night when Troy Tulowitzki made his debut until Wednesday in Baltimore they then went 42-14 to clinch first in the AL East with a 15-2 win over the Orioles.
Who does Bracey like to advance to the AL Championship Series?
“Not that Texas is a bad ball club, but Toronto has a good club,” Bracey said. “The Blue Jays are better on paper. Whether it’s on paper or on the field, from what I’ve seen Texas is not as good as Toronto. I like Toronto better.”
So, he’s picking the Blue Jays over the Rangers?
“I would pick Toronto over anyone in the league and I’m not saying because I’m on the phone with someone from Toronto,” said Bracey.
Huey Alexander, signed by the Cleveland Indians in 1936, was our original prognosticator when we began 26 year ago.
Then Jim Fregosi, signed by the Boston Red Sox in 1960, took over for 14 seasons.
Bracey headed south in 1956 to joined the New York Yankees organization pitching nine seasons in the minors for the Yankees and San Francisco Giants. His teammates included Hall of Famer Juan Marichal, Manny Mota, Jay Alou, Jose Tartabull, Chuck Hiller, Coco Laboy, Hal Reniff, Jay Ward, Jim Ray Hart, Frank Linzy and Hal Lanier.
Last year was his 47th scouting. He scouted for the Giants (1968), San Diego Padres (1969-86, 1991-2009), Milwaukee Brewers (1987-90) and the Dodgers (2010-14).
While the Series does not come down to which third baseman gets the most hits, a position-by-position breakdown is always one way of examining the two teams.
And now for our 26th annual post-season matchups complete with players’ stats, Bracey’s comments and his ratings out of 10:
Rangers: Robinson Chirinos (.232 average, 10 homers, 34 RBIs, .762 OPS) or Chris Gimenez (.255, five, 14, .820) “The Texas catchers aren’t the calibre of Martin. Gimenez is Hamels’ personal catcher. They’re ordinary.”
Jays: Russell Martin (.240, 23, 77, .787). “Martin is a leader, a plus player. Look at the times he’s been into post-season with the Dodgers, Yankees, Pirates and now Toronto.”
Rating: Martin 7, Chirinos 4, Gimenez 4.
Rangers: Mitch Moreland (.278, 23, 85, .812) or Mike Napoli (.224, 18, 50, .734). “Moreland is a good player and a good hitter against right-hander pitching. Napoli is a not a real good hitter, but he can run into one. He’s doing better with the Rangers than he did in Boston earlier.”
Jays: Edwin Encarnacion (.277, 39, 111, .929) or Justin Smoak (.226, 18, 59, .768). Encarnacion is not a good defensive first baseman, but he has good power to any part of any park, especially these two parks. Smoak has gotten better. He’s a low ball hitter with power. He’s better than he was in Seattle, better than he’s ever been. If a pitch is down, he’s dangerous. They’re good mistake hitters. Basically all four are typical first basemen.”
Rating: Moreland 7, Napoli 5; Encarnacion 7, Smoak 5.
Rangers: Rougned Odor (.261, 16, 61, .781 OPS); “He still makes mistakes, but he has a chance to be a very special player. He’s a guy who looks like he’s going to be a real good player. He’ll make some mistakes like a lot of young players.”
Jays: Ryan Goins (.250, five, 45, .672). “Haven’t seen him a lot. He fields OK, but he’s not in the other guy’s league as a hitter.”
Rating: Odor 6, Goins 4.
Rangers: Adrian Beltre (.287, 18, 83, .788). “Not what he used to be, Beltre is a tough out with men in scoring position. He has that ability to rise to the occasion. They tell me his hand is all messed up. I read where he had 32 RBIs the final month and knocked in 53 the final 48 games.”
Jays: Josh Donaldson (.297, 41, 123, .939). “Wow. Donaldson. That Donaldson trade, now that was a great deal. That’s why Toronto is in the playoffs. He’s a leader. I know guys that know him personally off the field.”
Rating: Donaldson 9, Beltre 7.
Rangers: Elvis Andrus (.258, sevem 62, .667, 25 steals). “This guy has all kinds of ability. I am not sure he shows it all the time. If he wants to play he can be real dangerous. From what I’ve seen he doesn’t always take the game seriously. But man he can do some things on the bases and in the field.”
Blue Jays: Troy Tulowitzki (.280, 17, 70, .777). “Tulowitzki is a good player when healthy. I don’t know if he’s really healthy after that injury he had in New York. If he’s healthy ... he’s a star. He was a hell of player with Colorado.”
Rating: Tulowitzki 8, Andrus 7.
Rangers: Josh Hamilton (.253, eight, 25, .732, 31 steals). “If he gets a pitch down in the zone he can do damage. He can get hot for three or four days and carry a team. Or he can strike out three times a game for three games. Sometimes he has terrible swings. He does have power. You can’t throw him a low pitch and expect not to have to back up third.”
Jays: Ben Revere (.306, two, 45, .719). “Always liked Revere, he’s a small guy who can run, not a bad outfielder defensively. His arm is not always accurate. He’s below average.”
Rating: Hamilton 5, Revere 5.
Rangers: Delino DeShields (.261, two, 37, .718, 25 steals). “They both look like they’re going to be better in the future. DeShields is not the player Pillar is at this moment.”
Jays: Kevin Pillar (.278, 12, 56, .713, 25 steals). “Pillar looks like he is going to be a whale of player He’s good now and should be even better three years from now.”
Rating: Pillar 7, DeShields 5.
Rangers: Shin-Soo Choo (.276, 22, 82, .838). “Choo had a good year, least he did the games I saw.”
Jays: Jose Bautista (.250, 40, 114, .913). “He’s another reason Toronto is in the post season. They don’t make ball players any better than Bautista. He’s a good defensive outfielder, with a strong arm, big time power. Donaldson and Bautista might be the best two position players on the diamond in this series.”
Rating: Bautista 9, Choo 6,
Rangers: Prince Fielder (.305, 23, 98, .841). “A good offensive player, Beltre and Fielder are the two hitters Toronto pitchers have to be very careful with.”
Jays: Chris Colabello (.321, 15, 54, .886) or Encarnacion. “Colabello has power. He’s hit better than I thought he would. His bat used to be slow. He never got his bat in play with power. This where Encarnacion should play every day.”
Ranking: Fielder 8, Colabello 5.
Rangers: RHP Yovani Gallardo (13-11, 3.42) LHP Cole Hamels (13-8, 3.65), LHP Derek Holland (4-3, 4.91) and RHP Colby Lewis (17-9, 4.66).
Rangers: “Gallardo can give you a good game and he had a couple against Toronto already. Hamels is their only stopper, but I don’t know how many lineups he has faced that are so lopsided with right-handed hitters like Toronto. Holland is not what he once was, he used to have better stuff, but if he stays out of the middle he can get you into the sixth or seventh. Lewis is a location guy the type no one minds facing, but he gets a lot of outs even though he looks hittable.”
Jays: LHP David Price (18-5, 2.45), Marcus Stroman (4-0, 1.67), R.A. Dickey (11-11, 3.91) and Marco Estrada (13-8, 3.13). “Price can be dominant, the best starter in the group. It looks like Stroman is back to where he was last year. Dickey? He pitches good and he pitches not so good, you never know. He’s been better of late. Estrada I’ve seen for ever and he’s been as good this year as I’ve ever seen. He has that deceptive motion. His change is above average, fastball average. I don’t think anyone dreamt Estrada would be as good as he’s been. He’s throwing easy.”
Ranking: Jays 7, Rangers 6.
Rangers: RHP Sam Dyson (2-1, 1.15), RHP Keone Kela (7-5, 2.39) RHP Ross Ohlendorf (3-1, 3.72) RHP Chi Chi Gonzalez (4-6, 3.90), LHP Jake Diekman (0-0, 2.08) LHP Andrew Faulkner (0-0, 2.79). “Dyson has a fastball that sinks as good as any natural fastball I’ve seen. He might have more sink than anyone. It has so much sink he can’t always control it. If he gets the ball over the plate he’s tough. The Texas scout did a great job acquiring him. He could be one of the better set up in the majors.”
Jays: RHP Aaron Sanchez (7-6, 3.22), LHP Brett Cecil (5-5, 2.48), RHP Mark Lowe (1-3, 1.96), RHP LaTroy Hawkins (3-1, 3.26), RHP Liam Hendricks (5-0, 2.92) and LHP Aaron Loup (2-5, 4.46). “Sanchez has an easy arm. I like him, but he has trouble with his fastball command at time. Cecil has been strong. I’m not that sure they get enough credit for re-building their bullpen.”
Ratings: Rangers 6, Jays 6.
Rangers: RHP Shawn Tolleson (6-4, 2.99, 35 saves). “He’s an old Dodger. He gets the most out of his stuff. He’s not your protoype hard thrower. He’s pitched a lot. The other day (Saturday) when he had trouble, he had pitched five day in a row. The change up is good. The fastball is 92 mph and he locates well. He’s not a top of the line guy, but not bad for having never been a closer before.”
Jays: RHP Roberto Osuna (1-6, 2.58, 20 saves). “He’s not consistent now, but I think he will be. Five years down the road he’s going to be a real good one. I don’t think Toronto is thinking about five years into the future this week.”
Ratings: Tolleson 6, Osuna 6.
Rangers: INF Hanser Alberto (.222, zero, four, .500), OF Drew Stubbs (.195, five, 10, .665), LF Will Venable (.182, zero, three, .552), Napoli and Gimenez.
Jays: OF Ezequiel Carrera (.273, three, 26), INF Chad Pennington (.210, three, 21, .578), OF Dalton Pompey (.223, two, six, .664), C Dioner Navarro (.246, five, 20, .682), Colabello and Smoak.