Thursday, September 22, 2011

This

This is a GO Train, Ontario's regional commuter train. I spend in excess of three hours per day traveling by GO Train.

This kid lives at my house. This is a picture of her eating a hot dog in front of the Rogers Centre. She is now old enough to attend baseball games and tell elaborate lies and take ballet classes and ask interesting questions during walks in the woods.

She has a younger sister, still in the "wriggly loaf of bread" stage of life. Despite my best efforts, they both require constant care and attention. They refuse to do their own laundry and undercook the chana masala every single time.

They're pretty great.


This is what I do for work, some of the time. Most of the time I do this. Spoiler alert: I'm very lucky.

This isn't easy.

This wouldn't have been possible without the help of many, many people. If they don't already know who they are, I'll spend the rest of my life attempting to rectify that.

This is the final Ghostrunner on First post.

Thanks, friends.

Drew

Love, Actually.


Surely it can't be gone already.

The last home game of the season always feels like getting dumped by a girl who was out of my league. Yeah, I knew it was coming, but I had so many things left planned to do. We were supposed to go to a museum, pack a picnic by the lake, or maybe have dinner with my Dad. Now I'm just left with some old pictures and dozens of words that were entirely contextual to how I was feeling at the moment I wrote them and no longer hold weight in the present.

I was supposed to make it to more home games. I was supposed to take stronger advantage of being invited to write here. I was supposed to pick apart every pitch thrown to every player and take joy in the little moments that make up the season. Instead, I feel like I never even saw Travis Snider this year. I feel like I took for granted all the times the game was just on in the background while I was doing something more important (what could be more important?) like feeling sorry for myself or texting obscure rap lyrics to my friends. It doesn't matter, really, because it's over now. The putting off of worrying about what was happening because "There's another game tomorrow" is gone. They're gone again and I am left to my own devices for fighting off insanity for another 5 months. I am alone. Again.

Summer is dead and as any Game of Thrones watcher knows: Winter is coming. Yeah, we'll hear from them again a couple times in the next few months, but it will be short bursts. Internet reports, radio clips, or some fumbling predictions and analysis of the action or inaction of the off-season. But we all know nothing will compare. Nothing can touch the warming glow of the gentle buzz the Jays provide through my TV or the swell of sound as the wave passes through my section live in person at the Skydome.

Perhaps it is the decade and a half of middle of the pack results that have filled me with such apathy, but those who complain about the quality of the team always confuse me. I, for some reason, do not need this team to win to fill the void. Making a deep run in the playoffs would surely bring a lot of excitement to people I know, but for me, personally, it's most attractive feature would be having another 2 or 3 or 4 weeks without having to say goodbye. I simply need them to exist. I need them on my screen showcasing their talents or filling the content of my favourite websites to inspire my favourite writers. A quality team that plays quality baseball is secondary to just knowing they're around.  Knowing they exist. Knowing I can see them whenever I want. And, again, that feeling is gone.

So good-bye again, you heroes of my summer. I will miss you until we meet again next April, when we see each other across the street an unseasonably warm spring day and run into each others arms like we'd never been apart in the first place.

Goodbye. Goodbye. A thousand times, goodbye.

Friday, September 16, 2011

Depth


I've been away for far too long to pretend I'm an authority on the Jays so this post is a much more interactive one.

Albert or Prince? Move Reyes to 2nd! TRADE FOR VOTTO!! Blue Jays fans love them some big name acquisitions. And hey, sometimes I do too. But when Rasmus went down with a wrist injury and AA had to (chose to?) re-acquire DeWayne Wise my mind wandered from ballplayers with a WAR of around 8 or 9 to those closer to 0. Can the We're Finally Going For It Blue Jays of 2012 handle the injuries that hit every team in a 162 game season? Or better yet, do they have the depth to replace a regular contributor putting up Aaron Hill type numbers throughout the season?

What I'm asking is this; who do you see as being the backup plans for the Jays next season (being realistic) when the inevitable happens?

First let's get this out of the way; we all love the Prime Minister of Standing Ovations. There. Now let's be a little more open.

Does the guy who comes in 2nd in the competition for Left Field automatically get a bench job? Is anyone interested in copying the Rays and only allowing Shortstops who can play every single position on their team?

Please. I need you to reassure me that if someone goes down with an injury that DeWayne Wise won't be flown in from Japan next season.

Asides:

- I want everyone who has watched Kyle Drabek come out of the bullpen at the end of this year and thought, even for a second, that the Jays should convert him to a reliever to put up their hand. Now, on behalf of Drew's new born baby I'd like to say you're an idiot. The Jays need to make sure he's not capable of being a 2nd, 3rd, 4th or 5th starter before they even let that thought creep into their heads. But he will be a starter so don't worry about it.

- There are already multiple Brett Lawrie tribute videos on youtube. But somehow none of them have him mashing over an Eminem track. What's the point then, you know?

- Could Aaron Cibia be more excited about where this night is going to go?

- Finally, the fact that Colby Rasmus was able to answer this question without laughing out loud makes him a better person (liar?) than I'll ever be.

Dave Burrows is the West Coast contributor to GROF. He is able to bring a different angle to the site because he can stay up later. Follow him on twitter.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

McGowan Analysis

As per a request in the previous post's comment section, allow me to schill for my corporate masters/day job and direct your attention to the pitch f/x post I wrote today on Dustin McGowan. With a little Stephen Strasburg thrown in for good measure, you can get all your nerdiness in one sweet place.

Please to enjoy my Getting Blanked post from this morning. Don't be afraid to post comments both here and there as I need them to live.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Nope


The 2011 Blue Jays season hasn't been bad. Not by a long shot. The cursory 80-odd wins and fourth place finish are seemingly in place and I don't harbor much ill will over it.

There is, however, only so much a man can take. The disappointment seethes below the surface, generally spewing out in the direction of the American League Central or the poor Baltimore Orioles. Not often do I lash out at members of the local nine, especially now that AA either cycles through them in six weeks or brings in long-held mancrushes.

When a member of the Jays gets on my bad side, it's usually because of who they are not how they play. Eckstein drove me crazy for all the obvious reasons. Mench, Wilkerson and assorted retreads piss me off because I drink young blood. Rarely do I hold a strong distaste for a player just because he sucks.

Until now. Jon Rauch sucks and it drives me up the wall. I was less than enthused when the Jays announced one shitty reliever signing after another this past winter. I don't like feeling cheated and the spoonful of draft pick sugar barely makes the medicine go down.

Coming into the season, Rauch struck me as a cut-rate Jason Frasor - his 2010 line looked very Sausage Kingly with his strong K/BB numbers and fly ball tendencies. The very low home run rate in a gigantic ballpark didn't impress me much but hey, Anthopoulos has a hustle to run and Rauch is the means to an end.

Until, of course, Jon Rauch discovered facing the AL East teams isn't quite the same as taking on Cleveland and Kansas City on the regular. Either that or he just isn't a very good pitcher any more. Like, the worst reliever by fWAR in all of baseball bad.

Few pitchers in baseball match his low level of effectiveness (19 shutdowns against 11 meltdowns in 52 innings this season) with his continued high-level usage. His FIP is over 5. He gives up nearly 2 home runs per nine innings. He's been terrible. Only an ugly bout of awfulness by Frank Francisco and the sudden gutting of the bullpen left Rauch to pitch in big spots over and over again.

At some point, Rauch is either going to pitch himself right out of Type B status or pitch himself right out of a guaranteed contract next year. The Jays would have to offer Rauch arbitration to even get that far, at what point would a 33 year-old reliever coming off the worst season of his career turn down that opportunity? If Jason Frasor accepted last year, Rauch will run towards the arbiter with open arms. That I do not want.

Then this whole ugly scene will have been for nothing. Nada. A pointless exercise proving that gambling is better known as a tax on stupidity for a reason. It doesn't always work. Jays fans are the neglected children left to fashion some yellow-watered Mac & Cheese while Alex Anthopoulos spends all Daddy's money at bingo. It's no fair. He sold the damn strainer, for gamblor's sake!






Yup


From the tremendous Red Sox authority that is Over the Monster comes this:
Bad things happen when Brett Lawrie is at the plate.
This is very, very true. Awesomely true, in fact.

The OTM post mentioned alludes not only to Brett Lawrie winning the game and sending paroxysms of Canadiana coursing throughout the Great White North but his proximity to Josh Beckett's injury. While any suffering visited upon the head of Josh Beckett is usually a good thing (cheering for injuries is a bad scene)

A great scene was the one around home plate Monday afternoon after Brett Lawrie let Red Sox fans know exactly what they're forced to contend with for the next 5-15 years The wagging tongue was just awesome and over-the-top enough to forever cement Lawrie as a villain in the eyes of the RSN.

Other assorted awesomeness: Chris Woodward's on-deck circle bat flip, occurring at 1.45 of this clip. Chris Woodward's bizarre 2011 cameo is one of those little things I really, really like hearing about. Basically on his way out of the game when a chance to fill a triple-A roster came around and he took it. He spends a few days here and there with the big club and, clearly, loves every second. It's fun and I love it (in small doses like this. No need for a full-season mascot.)

Kelly Johnson didn't get the Sportsnet memo: you don't take bathroom breaks when Brett Lawrie is at the plate. I don't care how long the Red Sox interminable pitchers drag out the game. You just hold it a few more seconds.


Kelly Johnson must be kicking himself after missing out on quality teambuilding like that. I anticipate a Dadboner-styled internal dialogue for weeks, you guys.

As for Lawrie, I dunno know what to say anymore. He has 10 plate appearances in high leverage situations in his brief career. He has 3 home runs in those 10 plate appearances. He sees the same amount of pitches per plate appearance as Jose Bautista, swinging at a very similar percentage. Under the tutelage of Brian Butterfield (nice long hug after Lawrie gets back to the plate in the walkoff video) he apparently morphed into Scott freaking Rolen.

This could very easily become a Brett Lawrie only fansite. I think it might already be just that.

Reuters Image by Fred Thornhill courtesy of Daylife and the best possible lack of self-awareness.





Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Pardon My Swooning


First from Baseball Prospectus on Jake Marisnick ($):
In April, or even June, Marisnick was a good story as the ultra-toolsy player who was finally translating his athletic ability to on-field ability. Now he's not just some work in progress—he's been the best position prospect in the Midwest League this year, batting .323/.396/.500 after a seven-hit weekend that included three doubles and a home run

...he's one of the few prospects out there for whom the term “five-tool player” doesn't sound like a misused cliché.
Keeping an eye on Marisnick's progress this season, you can officially count me as "in the tank" for Rocco 2.0. There is a lot of distance between him and the big leagues but, in my mind at least, he takes over for Jose Bautista in right field at some point.

And now, because there isn't enough of this to fill the internet three times over, a little Brett Lawrie fawning.


This wasn't really a pivotal at bat, a pretty run-of-the-mill encounter between Brett Lawrie and Wade Davis. Lawrie ended up singling on a soft flare to center field.

It does, however, confirm everything I believe and hold dear about Brett Lawrie.

Lawrie took ball one high then fouled off a fastball on the outside edge. He then took a 1-1 fastball inside for ball two. The next pitch, for me, is the difference maker.

2-1 count, many hitters have "giddyup" in the minds. Considering Full Tilt Lawrie lives his life at "giddyup" speed, it is easy to assume he has bombs away at the front of his mind.

Nope. Lawrie gets a fastball just off the outside corner and he spits on it. Take. Wow.

Maybe I'm making too much out of it but it is this stuff that gets me so excited for Lawrie's potential. For his present as much as his future. He makes such good decisions at the plate I cannot process it in real time.

With the count 3-1, Lawrie gets a fastball on the inside half and gets after it. The fastball tails further inside but Lawrie muscles it into center for a single.

Inspiring stuff, to me anyway. Discipline for days and the physical strength to overcome a decent pitcher's pitch. The future, she is in good hands.

Image courtesy of flickr user White Cap Wendy.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

The Brett Lawrie Post


He's ridiculous.

He isn't just ridiculous in the way people of a certain vintage use "ridiculous" to indicate excellence or excitement, though that is obviously true. He is also ridiculous in that he is a mass of twitchy muscle fibers that just can't still, a cartoon character version of an ADHD kid. He makes me laugh - and not always with him. He is a walking spectacle, the living embodiment of "COME AT ME, BRO!"

But mocking an excitable 21-year old isn't my intention here. This post is all about praise for Brett Lawrie - Professional Hitter.

It is still quite early but Brett Lawrie can help, well, anything. Everything might be a better description. Look at the pitches and locations he has drive for extra base hits in his 60 PA big league career.



Inside, outside, upside down! Lefties try to sneak fastballs under his hands? MASHED! Try to get him off-balance with a slider when you're Michael Pineda? MASHED!



As the sample size grows to nearly worth mentioning, Lawrie still sits with a outside the zone swing rate under 20%. For somebody who both hits for power and limits strikeouts (as Lawrie looks like he just might) that is extremely positive.

The hits in huge spots are really something else entirely. Lawrie already ranks third on the Jays in WPA. Huge, huge hits from a kid too young and too dumb to know he's supposed to be scared.

The captain is just about ready to turn off the "Reasonable Expectations" sign - what kind of a ceiling can we graft onto Lawrie at this point? Ryan Braun? Sounds about right. Ian Kinsler might be a more accurate, if not conservative, guess. Speed and power with excellent plate control. I don't even know anymore.

The energy, the histrionics, whatever. He can hit. He is even better at the plate (so far) than most of us believed. It is like a dream. Growing menace, indeed.

Getty Image by Abelimages courtesy of Daylife. Pitch F/X data courtesy of Joe Lefkowitz.

Monday, August 22, 2011

The Frank Francisco Flu


Shoulder soreness my eye. I know "flu-like symptoms" when I see them. I felt pretty much the exact same way at that exact moment on Sunday (and on to today. Old age FTL.)

As per Gregor:
Janssen was expected to give way to Frank Francisco in the ninth inning. Toronto's closer started warming up late in the game but was forced to shut it down after experiencing soreness in his right shoulder.
The sneaky thing about Frank Francisco is how good he's actually been of late. FIP over the last 30 days? 2.23. FIPs by month? 4.32, 6.79, 2.29, 2.70, 2.41. He's missing bats and generally being the guy expected to hold the fort and then net a pick.

If he is actually injured, well, this whole pick-compiling mess takes an ugly turn. Subjected to inferior and, worse yet, boring players makes the calculated gamble that much harder to take.

Don't get me wrong, I appreciate the deftness behind the moves. Sometimes it is hard to see the forest for the trees when somebody scrawled "AA WAS HERE" on every trunk in sight.



Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Your New Favorite Player


Linking to an article in which Brandon Morrow refers to preferring "nerd stats" is pretty much a Pavlovian response at this point. The paper reports it, I liberally blockquote from it and we all go about our business.

The piece in question is more of a notes article with, what, 200 words on Morrow? It alludes to Morrow's appreciation of advanced stats (though it ignores FIP, which LOVES him) without mentioning his Cal education, making Morrow smarter than 90% of SABR dudes anyway.

This is supposed to be the part where I gush over Morrow for embracing stats, even if he does seem to appreciate them on a more Greinkian level i.e. they make him look good.

The most telling and enjoyable part of this tiny Bellingham Herald piece is actually a quote from Morrow on Vernon Wells, after Morrow threw a terrible pitch which Vernon used to bookend his career by taking it deep to left-center field.
“He stepped out, tipped his cap, and when he got back in I threw him the single worst slider of my career,” Morrow said.

Wells homered.

“The only good thing was the crowd cheered him all the way around the bases,” Morrow said.
I dunno, that's just a decent and real thing to say. I appreciate his candor and honesty. Sue me.

P.S. He struck out 50% of the batters put before him against the Mariners on Wednesday night. That helps too.

Update! Oh hey look! Another reason to appreciate Brandon Morrow! These are really starting to pile up.

Reuters Image courtesy of Daylife