Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Report: Jays in as Potential Third Team in Marlins/Red Sox Move

With stories swirling about the Red Sox attempting to reacquire stud shortstop Hanley Ramirez, the Jays have thrown their hat in the ring. No longer content to sit on the sidelines, the Jays realize that they can't afford to fall any further behind the AL East Arms Race.

Which is why the Jays have offered, pending a Ramirez-to-Boston move, to trade places in the NL East with the Marlins. The Marlins, who harbor no false pretense about attempting to compete with their existing division rivals, would get the turnstile boost of 9 annual home games with the Yankees, Red Sox and intrastate rival Rays. The Jays would go from being outclassed by the upper stratosphere payrolls of their existing division rivals to being outclassed by the lower troposphere payrolls of their new division rivals.

The Jays pitching and defense approach would be right at home in the National League, not to mention their complete lack of a viable designated hitter. The Marlins would have a valid excuse to keep Dan Uggla, Josh Willingham and other porous fielders in their lineup because they'd be playing "the American League Way."

Jays GM J.P. Ricciardi, in a rare moment of honesty, acknowledged that Ramirez coming to the AL East would pretty much "spell the end" of his clubs chances of ever competing again. "Look, I don't care if Travis Snider turns out to be Ted Williams himself. If the Sox get Hanley less than a month after the Yanks get Tex, CC & AJ, we're beyond fucked."

Repeated calls to the Marlins front office went unanswered, as they employ only two full-time staffers. One to field calls from greedy AL GMs and one guy that works all concession stands and ticket offices at Dolphin Stadium.

Monday, December 29, 2008

Marcel the Projector Can See Inside Your Soul

If you thought the only benefit of the baseball stats revolution was nerdclusters emerging twice a year from their basement lairs to prop up the stripper and ear medicine industries, you'd be wrong. The real fun: projections!

Imagine the Farmer's Almanac if it were, much like the farmer and his children, on crystal meth. Take a wide range of rate stats, age curves, monkey blood stains and voila! Bill James accurately predicts Vernon Wells's slugging percentage to within 20 points! Add all the individual projections up, you can simulate the entire season! Why even bother playing??? These numbers make for good fun and the occasional fistfight, but how much stock should we place in them? More importantly, who should we believe?

The good men and women at Bluebird Banter tackled the Bill James and ZiPS projections earlier in the year. It would seem Bill James is quite the Blue Jays booster. Fangraphs also makes the Marcel projections available, and they got my attention for a number of reasons. Mostly because they differ from the other two so profoundly on two of the most important Jays in 2009: Travis Snider and Adam Lind.

Travis SniderAt BatsHome RunsOPSwOBA
Bill James44819.804.351
Adam LindAt BatsHome RunsOPSwOBA
Bill James59723.843.365

Encouraging signs? They both agree that Travis Snider is a raking machine. Discouraging? Marcel only gives him 213 at bats, and only 374 to Lind! Does this algorithm have secret access to JP's inner sanctum? Does the mythical Marcel and tangotiger's mathematical machinations foresee a high profile DH riding into town, depriving these young studs of plate appearances? Also, why the disparity? Marcel sees Adam Lind producing 2.1 runs below average, while Bill James believes in 10 runs above! What about the 30 point difference between their projected averages on balls into play? Does Marcel believe Adam Lind will suddenly stop hitting line drives all together?

In all seriousness, this is a big year for Adam Lind. Much like Vernon Wells and Alex Rios before him, this spring presents itself as the long hyped phenom's opportunity to prove he belongs. In some respects, they all are similar hitters. Not particularly patient (though Vernon is much better at getting the bat on the ball), similar line drive and home run/fly ball rates. An outfield of the three of them wouldn't lead the league in home runs, but hardly a weak spot among them.

There is another player that comes to mind when I think of Adam Lind, a player that we can all agree would be a nice ceiling for a player like Lind: Garret Anderson. As the linked chart shows, Garret Anderson didn't really take off as a player until his 26 year old season. They're both left handed left fielders without much patience but enough pop to hold down an outfield spot. If Adam Lind can develop Garret Anderson's consistent production, I for one would be content.

So which projection do we put the most stock in? Which is the profit and which is the lunatic screaming on the streetcorner? Perhaps I will just take the optimistic route for each, project them both as 5 win players and camp out for playoff tickets. For argument's sake; Marcel projected Alex Rios as a .354 wOBA player with 18 home runs and 35 doubles. Rios actually put up 15 home runs, a not-talked-about-enough 47 doubles (tying him with Aaron Hill for the fourth highest Blue Jay total ever) and a .350 wOBA. Pretty accurate, more so than Bill James who overestimated Rios' OPS by 40 points. So we're fucked.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Make it a Ghostrunner Xmas

What do you mean that's not Santa? Red hat, white beard. Same fucking guy right? I enjoyed The Life Aquatic more than 1000 Christmases anyway. Why you may ask? Because Christmas can go get fucked. No matter the circumstance, I'm ready and willing to celebrate the blessed event of time away from work. Paid days off are the real Messiah.

I'm not one to turn down free shit, so in the honor of the season of consumerism, I've thrown together a simple wishlist all my own.
  • Yankee Comeuppance. Even though their free spending ways haven't been as bad as I think, my hate has been reborn in surprising and refreshing ways.
  • The World Baseball Classic to not be a trainwreck. I need more baseball in my life.
  • To be on the radio. Seriously, somebody put me on the radio. I will keep the "like" count under 50.
  • Hell, while I'm getting all pie in the sky; season tickets. That would be awesome, hidden wealthy benefactors.
  • A walkoff walk every night for the entire season. That shrimp should look like Usain Bolt by next October.

One last thing:

Have a good few days off people. Make it happen Zissou!

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Weekend Buncheso'stuff

It's the weekend, it's almost Christmas; my least favorite time of year. At its heart, Christmas is a time to appreciate the under-appreciated, like hotter than you think Sinead O'Conner. An everlasting Irish agitator, she wrote some songs (no joke: nothing compares 2 U is a track. There's a lot there), is/was political defiantly, refused to perform on the same show as Andrew Dice Clay, tore up a picture of the Pope, and pissed people off at every turn. Here's to you Sinead, my pants are the real enemy.

Back to Baseball

The other day I wrote a post at Walkoff Walk about fielding being the new darling of Moneyball - underpriced and undervalued. The Mariners were my example of a team that shored up their defense at low cost. Turns out they're taking this whole run prevention thing seriously and hired the right manager. New boss Don Wakamatsu noticed poor results for groundball machine Roy Corcoran and wants to fix it (via U.S.S Mariner):
I look at Corcoran, and opposing hitters averaged .283 against him," Wakamatsu said. "But he had a four-to-one ratio of ground balls (to fly balls). Did they find every hole?

"The fact is that we have to catch more ground balls. I want to bring these kinds of statistics to the coaches and players. It's a way to get better. Maybe it just means we need to shade the middle more, or maybe we need to focus more on what specific hitters do against each of our specific pitchers.
Impressive talk from a manager, not the kind of thing I'd expect to hear out of Cito's mouth. Could it be that JP realized this years ago, thus assembling one of the best defensive squads in baseball? Nah, we wouldn't want to give him that kind of credit.

Speaking of defense, Raul Ibanez's comments regarding defensive stats are certainly interesting, if a little misguided. He offers the "I'm hitting it RIGHT AT people" rebuttal to his poor showing in each and every defensive metric. Sorry Raul, you come off intelligent and informed here, but slightly defensive. Ar Ar.

Weekend Links to Kill Some Time

Thursday, December 18, 2008

WBC - The Scoundrel's Last Resort

Proper GeezerGM Meetings - Done.

Winter Meetings - Done.

Long Hard Winter of Suffering - Only Just Begun.

The average offseason is nothing but pain and agony, but this winter offers a brief respite in the form of the World Baseball Classic. Cold, calculated corporate exercise designed to separate baseball fans from even more of their money? Of course! But this is a dot com not a dot org, who am I to judge? Besides, watching good players play baseball is good and good for you.

The astonishingly prolific Matt Synder of AOL's Fanhouse presented his dream lineup for Team America today, and did a damn fine job selecting his 30 superstars. This was his ideal team, so guys that aren't likely to play (Beckett & Halladay) were included simply because they're the best around. (I will quibble with his placement of Halladay toward the end of his starters list. Front and center sir!)

I liked a lot of his choices, from "sexy pick" Nick Markakis (well established as the Greek Rocco) to looking past Ryan Howard & Prince Fielder to select Lance Berkman's superior defense & switch hitting versatility as the backup first baseman. I'd take Brian Roberts over Pedroria and Kinsler because, in a word, fuck those two guys. It's also sad to think about J.J. Hardy condo shopping in Yorkville waiting for Spring Training to start thanks to pre-selected US Captain and grand inserter of butts-to-seats Derek Jeter. Again, quibbling.

As with most all star-type teams, the bullpen presents a unique challenge. Choosing between Brad Lidge, Joe Nathan, and Jonathon Papelbon is the kind of problem I wish I had, but questions remain about these creatures of habit fitting into unfamiliar roles. To fill out his pen, Snyder rationally and reasonably selected Matt Capps, the very dusty closer for the Pittsburgh Pirates. Capps is an excellent control guy (7.80 Strikeout to walk ratio in 2008, third in baseball for players with 50 IP.) Excellent numbers for sure, but that leaves the American 'pen without a lefty. Synder addresses this point immediately, suggesting he'll take his chances with random left-handed Japanese bench guy X against Brad Lidge or the Papelboner. That point is as valid as they come, but I'll make a different suggestion: Scott Downs should be on the American WBC team.

Though Scott Downs's numbers came back to earth down the stretch in 2008, he still had a great year. He ranked 2nd among American relievers and second among lefties in terms of WPA/LI, with very little variation in high leverage situations. His K/BB ratio isn't great, but has remained consistently around 2 for his career. While he occasionally puts guys on, people simply don't hit the ball hard off him. His line drive rate was 12% in 2008, and he only allowed home runs on 6% of his fly balls; a number that only looks better when you realize he only surrenders fly balls about 20% of the time.

LOOGYs like Downs don't often get credit, they simply bounce around from team to team during their eternal careers. There's always a market for a situational lefty, and situations will certainly arise in a high-pressure* tournament when every game matters. Despite the fateful pratfall in Boston this season, Downs has been one of the best relievers in baseball for the past few years. It would be nice for him to have the chance to play in front of his "home crowd" in Toronto also.

* - there is no actual pressure. Nobody really cares about the WBC. Except us! The Reverend and I have our tickets, and I plan on periodically checking in as this made for TV event approaches.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Throwaway Quotes

There is a real sense of negativity surrounding the Jays chances in 2009. I wonder what all this negativity stems from? It couldn't be the loss of AJ Burnett, a signing bemoaned by fans of both the team that lost him AND the team that signed him? How does that work anyway? How can Jays fans be pissed he's leaving and Yankees fans be pissed he's on his way? Something is amiss, there must be outside forces contriving to keep Blue Jays fans down...

Forces like the Shi Davidi, using a rousing metaphor to squash the Jays hopes and dreams in December.
So the Blue Jays will now try to slay the AL East beasts with a plastic knife, hoping their kids progress quickly, several players overachieve and they hit on some inexpensive, roll-of-the-dice signings.
No mention of their league-best defense, or the health/full-time status of their most important bats? Surprising. The plastic knife bit is effective though. It really evinces the desperation and futility of 2009.

What about Herr Blair, the finest Blue Jays voice? Though he's moved on from the Blue Jays beat, he still brings the goods and is realistic without being pessimistic. His piece in Monday's Globe advocating the Yankees big spending in the most rational, thoughtful way imaginable. But he threw in a dig at the end that makes me wonder why the song and dance goes all year long.
But Toronto Blue Jays general manager J.P. Ricciardi had the Yankees picked out as Burnett's destination as far back as the summer.
Really? It's unrealistic to assume JP thought for a second that A.J. was going to stay with the Jays, but when he's nailing the destination in the summer, why can't somebody print that in the summer? The whole song-and-dance of the last two months now seems officially retarded, and the biggest waste of time and column inches in history.

Speaking of wasted column inches, Cathal Kelly's now my favorite Jays beat guy; his modern voice is rare in the MSM. His column about the AJ & Halladay's relationship that never really was generated a lot of feedback, as these columns always do. The "he was trouble in the clubhouse/nobody liked him column" always come out after the fact. I ask why? Why are we not hearing about this until these guys leave? Before Frank Thomas was cut, we heard he was a good teammate, the guys respected his record blah blah blah. As soon as he's cut, Wilner and some others immediately start in on the "nobody's going to miss him around here!" routine. If that is the case, why don't we hear about it in the moment?

I understand reporters aren't too interested in biting the hand that feeds, and athletes can be an unpleasant and unreasonable lot (ie. A.J.'s sudden bloodfued with the Fan and Wilner.) But if they see it, and everybody knows it, why don't we get to hear it? It's true what they say about Griffin; he might not know what he's talking about, but at least he's there to face those he wrongly slams.

The Most Cynical Thing I'll Ever Write and Other Stuff

  • Holy Shit!!! Rocco's been misdiagnosed! He's cured! Just in time for free agency! I hate myself. Hopefully it's true, and Rocco can find himself a full time job. Or he can come here and be the fourth outfielder. At which point I will simply quit my job. Update: A much more in-depth and not entirely capitalized report on Rocco here. via Drunk Jays Fans and my borderline psychotic Google Alert.
  • Longtime supporter, prolific blogger and all-around stud NV aka eyebeleaf of Sports and The City has joined the Score Sports Federation. This man does a yeoman's work covering all the major sports in Toronto, while remaining active all over the blogosphere. Congrats sir, you deserve it.
  • Just in time for its violent shark-jumping, I created a Facebook page for Ghostrunner on First. Become a "fan" and sign up. There will be some Facebook exclusive stuff, as well as discussion among the other degenerates that I befriend and abuse. Click the banner on the side. Tell your mom to as well, god knows she has a facebook page by now. Old people ruin everything.

Monday, December 15, 2008

FIPing Ain't Easy

Oh goodness me, the Yankees have spent so much money this off season, those of us that spend our winters in a Turkish coal mine might as well forgo returning to the AL East to compete with this juggernaut. I mean look at this rotation (or SUPER ROTATION, as Fangraphs describes it.) Who could possibly compete with that? Well for starters, the Yankees -as currently constructed- don't have the defensive team to support their seemingly robust pitching.

In 2008, the Yankees were a bad defensive team. The finished the year with a stellar -30 defensive plus/minus. A.J. Burnett is a lot of things, but a control pitcher is not one of them. He is going to put runners on, and no outfield combination of Johnny Damon (in 2008 he sported a -5.6 UZR in 30 games in center but a respectable 8.6 in left), Hideki Matsui (-15.5 UZR/150 for his career), Xavier Nady (0.5 UZR/150 games for his career in RF), and Melky Cabrera (-6.1 UZR/150 games for his career in the outfield) is going to help matters.

Losing the awful Abreu helps make them less bad, but they really aren't replacing him with much. They will miss his strong arm though, as only Melky Cabrera is above league average in this respect. You might ask; what about Nick Swisher? And I heard they're going to acquire Mike Cameron to shore up the outfield, you might say. Mike Cameron can still go and get it, responding with a fine 2008 after being swallowed whole by Petco Park in 2007. Nick Swisher is a lot of things and competent outfielder isn't really one of them. He can play all over the diamond, but only in right field does he do more good than harm. He'll most likely play first base for this team, heading up a wholly uninspiring collection of infield glovemen.

Piling on Jeter is tired and boring, and he showed a tremendous improvement from 2007 to 2008, according to his UZR. Sadly, he "improved" to a -0.4 UZR, so let's not start etching another Gold Glove quite yet. Robinson Cano's universally terrible 2008 saw him go from a +17 in 2007 to a -16 in 2008. Which is the real Cano? Considering 2007 has been his only season with a positive UZR, I'm going to go ahead and assume that he sucks. Alex Rodriquez offers league-average defense and far below average taste in women.

What does this mean for the Yankee hurlers? Only Chein Ming Wang is a true groundball artist counting on that less than airtight infield. Joba, AJ, and CC are all around 3/2 GB to FB. Last I heard, they aren't making the new Yankee Stadium any smaller, so they will suffer some slights at the hands of their bumbling outfield. While it would be ridiculous to suggest they haven't improved their team and their chances of returning to the post season, the team they've built around their world-beating rotation isn't helping the cause.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Fortune's Always Hiding

Story time. Once, there was a young boy that lived in Asia for a few years. This young boy grew up in Canada and was something of a soccer (football) fan, but this sojourn in the Far East helped him to focus his fandom. He read some books and had some relatives from the area, so this young boy developed an affinity for Chelsea Football Club. They had a wee little Italian sparkplug and a few genuine English stars. It was great fun, they were in their ascendancy, which was quickened by a very rich oligarch unafraid to splash the bloodmoney from Russia around on big name players.

The team improved and starting winning trophies. Soon though, the whole vibe around the team changed. They spent recklessly, bringing in instantly hate-able jackasses that made it hard to like the team. Then, the bloodmoney Russian owner started pretending like he could be the coach, firing one of the best football minds in the world and replacing him with an unqualified patsy.

Meanwhile, a famous club made its return to the top flight and was fighting for its survival. They had a lot of history and a proud tradition. The young boy found myself pulled towards this team more and more, especially after the exploits of the goofy Russian owner. An incredible run to survive and he was hooked.

Fast forward to Sunday, December 14th, 2008. These two clubs are playing on national television in Canada. The big money team is still a big money team while the wee Italian sparkplug is now the coach of the plucky "working class" team from East London.

As in any sport where there is a massive inequity between the haves and the have nots, it didn't look like much a matchup. But the plucky kids scored first, the supporters sang and sang, and everyone had a great old time. The game finished as a draw, but that won't detract from the enjoyment. Just like it doesn't matter how much money the other teams spend, it doesn't matter if they contine to sign away our best talent, or how hopeless things seem in the offseason.

Already writing the Jays chances off? Good, fuck you. Go watch UFC. Considering abandoning the Jays because they haven't made the playoffs in 15 years? Awesome, continue fucking off. Feeling sorry for yourself because the baseball men don't win more games? Get a life. I'll still cheer and curse, I'll still rush home on Wednesday nights and I'll still care. It's a lot more fun this way.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Friday Bunchostuff

It seems that I forgot a superduper shitballer the other day. Matt Clement is the latest refuse pile project. His ceiling? Paul Byrd??? His basement? Josh Towers. How much touch will a control guy with meh stuff have two years removed from getting shelled in the AL East? His minor league deal is completely non-threatening, and JP is due to have one of these break his way. Godspeed, chinpubes.

There are plenty rumours kicking around; the Barretts, the Furcals and the other assorted shitballers. The one that really gets my attention is Ty Wigginton. The wrong kind of attention that is. The offseason hand-wringing is getting to be a bit much to take, with fans ready to trade anyone and everyone. Anyone ready to ship out Scott Rolen in favour of a Jose Bautista/Ty Wigginton platoon can kindly fuck right off. A run saved is nearly equal to a run scored, the Hardball times says. I can't see Ty Wigginton continuing his 18.5% Home Run per Flyball rate outside of Enron Field. Add his "never-above-zero" Ultimate Zone Rating/150 games at third and it doesn't sound like he's saving any runs,either. So fuck him, and fuck you for considering him. Leave my Rolen alone.

Good and Quick

  • You may now be familiar with the Ballad of Rinku and Dinesh. The two Indian cricketers won a contest, trained in the US and have been signed by the Pittsburgh Pirates. Kris @ Walkoff Walk has been all over this story since the early days of the Million Dollar Arm blog, and recently got some closure on this now-huge story through an interview with the two phenoms. My boys haven't received enough credit for groundflooring this story, so check the interview out and then sign up to be a commenter at Walkoff Walk. Good times are guaranteed!
  • Someone decided there was too much joy in the world and adapted Cormac McCarthy's The Road for the screen! And they got Viggo Mortensen to star! It looks truly, soul-crushingly depressing! I could not be more excited. Actually, I could be and in fact I am. World War Z - the Movie. Don't fuck this up, guy that fucked up Daniel Craig's James Bond.
  • The Matt Joyce for Edwin Jackson fleecing has created possibly the best defensive outfield in baseball. The new-look Mariners outfield will be good too, but anywhere near this good. I remember really liking what I saw from Joyce the few times I saw him this year. If someone in Detroit can turn Edwin Jackson into A.J. Burnett, consider that man a genius.
  • I've been wanting to mention this for nearly a month now, but the Free Darko book is simply incredible. I had high hopes and the Macrophenomenal Guide completely blew me away. If you care AT ALL about basketball you will rush out and grab it. If you like the Raptors, you may not understand what you read because they are simply the ugliest, most boring team on the planet. And they suck, too. Jose Calderon is the best back-up point guard in the NBA. There, I said it.
  • The always underrated Tao has been killing it all month long. The Tao was the first Jays blog I ever came across, and I'm sure glad that I did. There would be no Ghostrunner on First without the Tao, and that would certainly make me quite unhappy. So thanks Tao, you're an inspiration to us all.
My bebcation is nearly over, which sucks terribly. At least going back to work will allow me some more company time to update this dick joke party. C'mon Brad Penny, do what feels right.

The video is of Barrit, who were twice as awesome as Michael Barrett and three times as badass. Screaming so loud that you can hear it over the music without a mic? Where do I sign? RIP Steve Neal.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Flying Scumbag Innings Eaters

I'm a cheap bastard, and certainly not one to pass up a bargain. I've acknowledged the value of a proven innings eater on an incentive based contract. But mother of god, some of the names being bandied about are making me lose faith.

I stumped for Brad Penny in the past, a proven guy with good stuff and a solid track record (2.17 K/BB, 45.6% GB rate, 9% HR/FB). I recognize these traits come at a cost, one the budget-conscious Blue Jays aren't willing to pay.

Some of the scumbags that are being rumoured as cheapo replacements are making my skin crawl. Carl Pavano I get, his stuff isn't bad. Looking a his numbers a little deeper (45% GB rate for his career, 10% HR/Fly ball, 2.3 K/BB) he doesn't seem to be terrible. One strong year surrounded by a few mediocre ones. For a minor league deal sure, but let's adjust our expectations accordingly.

As reported by Jordan Bastian today, the Jays have had some discussions with Kris Benson. Fuck. That. He hasn't pitched in the big leagues since 2006, and he sucked when he did. Only once in his career did he amass a FIP under 4, he makes Carl Pavano look like Cy Young. Fewer ground balls, more home runs per fly ball, lower K/BB rate. Ugh. Add his sideshow wife to the mix; I'm not happy.

Pavano & Benson K/BB Graphed Against Tomo Ohka for Comedic Impact

In other words, these guys are looking at Jesse Litsch as a ceiling. Mid thirties Jesse Litsches, not 23 year old Litsches with lots to learn and clean injury histories. Don't even get me started on Brian Tallet in the rotation...

Graph courtesy of, you won't believe this, Fangraphs.

Sunday, December 7, 2008

A.J. Burnett - Cornering the Boo Market

A.J. Burnett lives for your scorn. His goofy agent recently announced that the Orioles are among the 6 teams A.J. has shortlisted as possible free agent destinations and the Braves jumping out as front runners by reportedly offering a guaranteed fifth year. The shortlist includes all the non-Ray teams of the AL East plus Atlanta and Philadelphia; all teams that regularly show their faces in Toronto. So tan up your leathery lungs, the chance to boo is yours!

A.J. the Oriole is the best and most benign option. The "rivalry" between the Orioles and Jays would have to improve to be nonexistent. Burnett could take the mound on a lazy Sunday afternoon with less than 30 000 in attendance, all of which are ready and willing to unleash a full throated maelstrom of hate. The hate is mostly undeserved, but let me help you focus your anger into a concentrated beam of millionaire-taunting, girlfriend-embarrassing, toy cop-baiting anger.

Opening Salvo

It is important to lay groundwork early in the game, letting A.J.'s sensitive soul know what he's in for. It can be tough to get into the groove before you've determined what kind of section you've stolen seats from and before you've established a good tipping precedent with the kingcan guy. The ever-popular "you suck" is too bland, he's going to get carpet bombed with those from the uninitiated. "You suck" and the like are no different than general booing: a noise used to express disapproval. You've got to be able to cut through the din with some biting commentary.

You could go two ways: ignore the obvious shortcoming of a pitcher's won/loss record as a measure of his value and give Burnett a good "you're just a .500 pitcher" Griffing. You may just win over your section, but you don't want to go out like that. Consider wowing your sectionmates with some FIP, some strand rated goodness or even a little VORP. Discount the fact that A.J. was the only Jays pitcher to have a FIP higher than his ERA. Marvel at A.J. Burnett's incredibly high Value Over Replacement Puma. Don't be afraid to loudly recall the time you caught him in the bullpen, adding to his pitcher abuse points without a batterymate (SUBTLE WINK.) It's considered bad form to get your signals crossed and announce your prediction for his gamescore tonight as fag.

Staying Strong

Remember this is an A.J. Burnett start, so it is going one of two ways. He's either going to utterly dominate and shut down the Jays (with this offense? Easier said than done LOL!) or he's going to defecate all over the sheets in the most spectacular manner possible. Should hammer of doom and live fastball Burnett show up, making the Jays look positively Denboian, you must prepare yourself for doing the right thing: a complete about face. You should show him the proper respect and offer him earnest, standing applause. Three wacky years of occasionally brilliant but never dull entertainment has to be worth that much. Stand and salute a spotty warrior with a success record similar to Sex Panther.

Should A.J. feel slighted by the umpire and hatefuck a few fastballs down broadway, leading to the Jays dinking and dunking their way to crooked number, prepare yourself for a true delight: the derisive ovation. Think Patrick Roy's last game as a Hab or what a savvier ACC crowd would do if the Raptors managed a fast break basket. Nothing beats a smirking standing O, often earning a finger to the crowd.

Value Added Nuance and/or Desperation

As the innings roll by, you may be running out of ammo. After a few beers have lubricated the proceedings, I advise pulling a Josh Beckett and starting in on AJ's wife.

You see how easy it is?

Make something up, run it out there and you've got his attention. You could always dip into the L'Homme Du Sports playbook and drop some Boogie Nights on him. Rollergirl, limo rides; the heavy lifting is already done here. Don't be afraid to go low and encourage AJ to opt out of your balls. It doesn't make any sense, but you'll entertain at least one drunken frat boy within earshot.

It is our duty as Torontonians to both uphold our fierce pride and hilarious inferiority complex. Tell him sucked when he was here while trying to distract from the way he broke your heart by leaving.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Buster Onley Tells You What You Already Know about Vernon Wells

ESPN seamhead supreme Buster Olney introduced a new feature yesterday; having three baseball "talent evaluators" offer their scouting reports on a specific player. His first selection is Jays moneyman Vernon Wells.

Thanks to his massive contract; Vernon Wells faces a great deal of a scrutiny from Blue Jays fans and writers everywhere. In the past few weeks ago The Southpaw broke down his big extension by comparing it to other free agent centerfielders and the deals they received. Unsurprisingly, the Wells deal shakes out pretty well. The good men at Mop Up Duty took a look at his frustrating pattern of good year-bad year, a phenomenon that all Jays fans are painfully aware of. I recall L'Homme du Sport mentioning Vernon Wells being completely unsatisfied with his play in 2005 and vowing to get better for 2006. After kick-starting his season at the WBC he did just that. So when Olney kicks off his piece detailing Wells new commitment to fitness, I'm encouraged. But what do the scouts/front office lackeys have to say?

Generally, they say the same stuff you and I say during an average Jays game. He has far too many bad at bats. He seems to lack focus on a consistent basis. He's a highly skilled player but not quite a franchise cornerstone. Sigh. Let's get specific with a few choice quotes:

I can't get over how many at-bats he throws away chasing high fastballs or breaking balls off the plate, even in fastball counts, almost like he occasionally lacks any semblance of patience or ability to slow down the game

That is certainly how it seems, but is it true? As far as patience goes, Vernon Wells was last among Jays regulars with 3.4 pitches per plate appearance, consistent with his career numbers. Wells also has a little bit of Joe Carteritis, falling victim to the slider low and away, but does he really swing at that many bad balls? Yes, yes he does. He swings at approx 27% of balls out of the strike zone. Compare that to other highly paid center fielders like Carlos Beltran (19%), Torii Hunter (28%), Grady Sizemore (19.5%). The most telling part of this quote is the "even in fastball counts" part. Wells is best when he's aggressive, as his 42 career first pitch home runs will attest (most of any count). But when Vernon Wells is ahead 2-0, his career OPS dips to .795. How does that make any damn sense at all?

...when he's not (ed: emphasis mine) playing against some of the tougher teams in the AL. I wonder about his ability to maintain his focus and concentration at the plate

Very interesting. AL teams that hold Vernon Wells to a sub .800 OPS: Anaheim, Cleveland, Detroit, Minnesota, Tampa, Texas. Aside from LAA, hardly the elite of the American League the past 10 years.

Wells could conceivably be a classic change-of-scenery guy who really wakes up when he finds himself in a larger, more pressurized market

Would you like to see me cry? I'll break down, right here and now.

In addition to leading the Jays in home runs in 2008, he also leads the Jays in affability. He seems like a genuine goof, and probably the Jay I'd most like to hang out with. Does this Dude-like demeanor keep him from getting up against the shitballs of the AL? The Indians have killed the Jays for years now, so he's certainly not alone. Does Vernon Wells need to work more on his day to day effort rather than his physical performance? He's got all the tools, what will it take to keep him interested? Being in the thick of a pennant race? His strongest months are May, June, and July, but he's a Toronto Blue Jay so that doesn't tell us jack about pennant races or Meaningful Baseball, does it?

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

A Matter of Respect

Out of respect for a rich man that wasn't satisfied with mere comfort and endeavored to be truly wealthy, I don't have too much to say.

Out of respect for the 22 people that lost their sales jobs with the Toronto Blue Jays, I wish I had less to say. I get that fake-offering A.J. Burnett a $15 million dollar contract extension offers more return on investment than 20-odd sales managers does; but that doesn't make it any easier to take 3 weeks before Christmas. Despite my best efforts, baseball is not a abstract entity free of all the corporate trappings of horseshit business. Don't worry pro sports, once the golden goose has drowned in its own excess, we real fans will still be here.

The last word on respect goes to Rotoworld. When announcing the death of the owner, how did they choose to extend this information to their widget-loving public? Which player has the gravitas to to reflect the heft of a team owner and media magnate?

Monday, December 1, 2008

Make Your Own News

As you are well aware, the offseason fucking sucks. My incredible foresight allowed me to knock up Ms. Moseby 9 months ago, knowing there wouldn't be anything to write about anyway aside from the birth of the Barber's assistant on Saturday morning.

Now that I am a dad, my entire world view has changed. My days of mancrushes are over, as I no longer see baseball players as five tool studs or original characters. I see a toxic concoction of Ed Hardy, chlamydia, and road beef. Even you Rocco, stay the hell away from my kid!