Friday, August 28, 2009

The Cult of the Unknown Commodity Strikes Again

Allow me to throw my hat in a very crowded ring by announcing the Jays should sign Matt Murton. I'd say at least half the "serious" team-specific baseball blogs around have already made such a claim for their moribund franchises, and while this site is anything but serious, I am both contractually and spiritually obligated to regurgitate anything Dave Cameron says 4 months after he says it. Murton was DFA'd by the streaking Rockies in favor of a middling middle reliever, which says plenty about the Rockies outfield depth as well as the impact of high altitude on your brain. I caught some of the Rockies-Giants game the other night and found myself eying both Ryan Spillboroughs (too old) and Seth Smith (too left-handed and too good) until I realized Murton is perfect for the Jays for a million reasons.

The greedy bastards at DRays Bay believe the Rays should acquire him (you've got Matt Joyce, bugger off), and it makes so much sense I'm surprised the smart men behind Bluebird Banter haven't already made a similar pitch. He's young, cheap, and can hit; much like the existing core of Blue Jays outfield talent. Unlike Snider and Lind, Murton is right handed and capable in the outfield. That, my friends, makes him a valuable Blue Jay.

That I've convinced myself of Matt Murton's greatness to a degree that not only should the Jays take steps to acquire him, in my brain they already have says a lot of this team's recent past. The Tao mentioned bad roster management as a source of major frustration and he's exactly right. I made a similar point a couple weeks ago, using a few more words and a lot less clarity, but the point remains: any team on a budget needs to get the most out of all 25 spots. This one doesn't. Worse yet, underusing players who appear capable and overusing abundantly incapable ones robs us fans of the one thing we're all so eager to share: hope.

My favorite kind of HopeThere is no hope in a Millar, a Wilkerson, a Mench, or even a Bautista. There is only pleading. "Please, please do that thing you did before. You don't even have to do it as well, just a reasonable facsimile will suffice." The young studs offer glimpses to the future while the filler around them constantly remind us of the grim present.

A younger guy like Murton isn't a retread, isn't coasting on his professionalism or reputation. He'd have something to prove as a fourth outfielder/occasional DH. Lind, Snider, Murton alternating between DH, left and right until something better came along, a scenario JP exploits perfectly with the arms but fails to replicate with the bats.

Of course it sounds good, you'll say. Aren't you just fetishizing another AAAA bat with a decent outfield glove? A league average player cut loose by a team in the thick of a pennant race? If he was The Answer, the Jays couldn't pick him up for a song.

Simply put; he doesn't have to be The Answer, he just needs to be what he already is and play. Fill in, hit lefties, catch the ball, make a name rather than get by on one. He could be everything Reed Johnson was before he became too expensive to be it. Throw up one good season, have one year in which everything comes together and you'll be getting second chances for 5-6 years. This is your chance to be washed up one day! This is the year you transition from never-was to has-been!

The apparent and/or imminent youth movement needs more youth, since the Jays are one of the oldest teams in baseball. Hardly an enviable position when your window is somewhere between closing fast and re-opening on the other side. Bringing in a younger guy with a future, no matter how bleak, will always be preferable to the leather ass of a big league grinder with nothing left to give.

Image courtesy of Flickr user Rich Brome

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Sado-Masochism: To Go!

The lively commentary in the post below is really inspiring and something I'm proud of. Awesome to see people come together and exchange ideas without a single person's sexuality being questioned. I chalk that up to my over-the-top Ace & Garyness. Anyway, two shaky points before I leave this topic for a while.

Team Salary Considerations

It is very true that six of baseball's playoff spots are currently inhabited by teams within the top 8 payrolls. BUT! Via Cots, we see the 13th and 21st ranked teams hold down the other two, with the 19th and 25th ranked teams within 3 games in the American League Wild Card and teams 12, 14, and 30 within shouting distance in the NL. The Rays - Rangers series this past weekend? Playoffs. The Rockies - Giants weekend tilt? Playoffs.

Meanwhile, in the salary capped NBA (from Hoopshype), three of the 4 teams contesting the conference finals fall inside the top 5 payrolls in the league. 6 of the 8 teams to reach the conference semis sit inside the top 10 ten.

Because I Can't Help Myself

2008 American League
  1. Angels
  2. Rays
  3. Red Sox
  4. Yankees
  5. White Sox
  6. Twins
  7. Blue Jays &mdash .531
  8. Cleveland
2007 American League
  1. Red Sox
  2. Indians
  3. Angels
  4. Yankees
  5. Tigers
  6. Mariners
  7. Blue Jays &mdash .512
  8. Twins
2006 American League
  1. Yankees
  2. Twins
  3. Tigers
  4. A's
  5. White Sox
  6. Angels
  7. Blue Jays &mdash .537
  8. Red Sox
2009 NBA Eastern Conference
  1. Cleveland
  2. Boston
  3. Orlando
  4. Atlanta
  5. Miami
  6. Chicago/Philadelphia
  7. Detroit
  8. Toronto &mdash .402
2008 NBA Eastern Conference
  1. Boston
  2. Detroit
  3. Orlando
  4. Cleveland
  5. Washington
  6. Toronto &mdash .500
  7. Philadelphia
  8. Atlanta
2007 NBA Eastern Conference
  1. Detroit
  2. Cleveland
  3. Toronto &mdash .573
  4. Miami
  5. Chicago
  6. New Jersey
  7. Washington
  8. Orlando
Of course the Blue Jays currently sit 10th with a .463 winning percentage. Also, this pointless exercise makes no mention of run/point differentials over the same time frame. Well shit, why don't we dive right on in???

TeamRun/Point DifferentialRank
2009 Toronto Blue Jays+1512th
2008 Toronto Blue Jays+1044th
2007 Toronto Blue Jays+54T-11th
2009 Toronto Raptors-2.8123rd
2008 Toronto Raptors+2.912th
2007 Toronto Raptors+1.010th

I don't even know what I'm talking about anymore!

Playoffs!!! Fire JP! Make BC the mayor! Layoffs!!!1!

Monday, August 24, 2009

Quick Thoughts on the Playoffs

Vanguard of the blogosphere Eyebeleaf of Sports and the City posted a typically passionate piece this week, hoping for a salary cap/floor in baseball to help level the playing field. While it remains true that spending money is the best way to reach the post season, it isn't the only way. I sincerely fail to see how a salary cap benefits anyone, as though it is the key to competitive balance and renewed hope for the downtrodden.

Without getting too deeply into the vagaries of why using the NFL as a model is reckless, why dictating organizations spending habits simply doesn't help, why stupid organizations will always be stupid, I wanted to address another point attached to this debate: opening the playoffs to more teams. This idea, as it relates to baseball, makes me sad.

The playoffs, as currently constituted in the NBA & NHL, are a joke. As I said in the comments of the SATC post, they're a sop to fans too distracted to notice they're now being charged double for games that are no more meaningful that stretch drive games in September for a competitive team in baseball.

Not a playoff game, calm the fuck down fellasWhen the Rockies were charging down the stretch in 2007, how is that LESS significant than the Raptors being summarily dismissed by the Magic each and every year? When the Jays collapsed against the Tigers in 1987, are we to believe that weekend series meant less than the Cavaliers dismantling the Pistons this past spring?

Occasionally the rare instance of a Warriors/Mavericks or an Oilers run to the Cup final capture all our attention, but again I point to unlikely runs by the Marlins or Twins, reeling in the fast starting Tigers in 2006. Those ARE the playoffs, 30 games at a time, and you just don't have to pay double to see them. The baseball season is 162 games long, that should be plenty of time to separate the wheat from the chaff.

The salary-capped and playoff-free-for-all NBA can be one of the most frustrating leagues to watch due to its nebulous salary machinations combined with teams outright desire to tank or rig their playoff positioning. Teams actively putting out an inferior product night after night to avoid playing a tough 4 seed, hoping instead to catch a weak division winner propped up by the various playoff bracket restructurings.

I'm not pretending to dislike the notion of "making the playoffs" as a good thing, but you can't convince me the Leafs "making the playoffs" this season automatically makes it a successful year. Wow, they finished 8th and got dusted in the first round? Awesome. My Habs looked like legit Stanley Cup threats last year only to falter to a first round exit. Guess what? I don't care that they made the playoffs, they were supposed to be good. They weren't, we move on.

The recurring Blue Jays blogosphere meme "PLAYOFFS!" was fun for one good reason: making the playoffs in baseball means something and represents a legitimate success. Hopefully baseball doesn't make the same pathetic stab at placating entitled fans eager to buy a mouthful of shit packaged as Grade A steak.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Odds, Ends, and Ugliness

A couple ominous notes and things I gleaned from the last few games. Spoiler Alert: I just dusted off the "we're fucked" tag. Look at the pretty picture before digging in the dirt. (Via the essential Go Jays Go)

The 2009/2010 Blue Jays are not/will not be good defensive teams.

Trading away Alex Rios and Scott Rolen will do that to anybody, but replacing them with Travis Snider (after a few weeks of infielder Joe Inglett in right) and Edwin Encarnacion makes this a bad defensive team. There is a lot of debate surrounding the validity and/or value of defensive metrics, so I'll cut through the shit and get to a difficult number to argue: defensive efficiency &mdash how well a team converts balls in play into outs.

From Baseball Prospectus, here are the Jays rankings in all of baseball since 2004.
  • 2004 &mdash 6th
  • 2005 &mdash 2nd
  • 2006 &mdash 10th
  • 2007 &mdash 7th
  • 2008 &mdash 7th
  • 2009 &mdash 24th
Ouch. I'm sure I don't need to impress upon anyone the value of converting balls in play into outs, especially with a young staff taught (forced?) to induce ground balls at the expense of their virgin tendons. If you're a disciple of Fangraphs, you already know UZR is no saving grace here either, establishing the 2009 Jays team defense a value of 15.4 runs below average. Bill James and John Dewan, only you can save us now!

I can't see how it will improve either. Losing Scutaro (as I expect they will) only drives this number down further. The three centerfielder outfield of Johnson Wells Rios from years gone by has given way to the three leftfielder outfield of Lind Wells Snider. 2009 seems to be a down year for Hill defensively, though his past performance indicates he can surely pick it back up. Even if the Jays DFA Encarnacion they're looking at nada internally or signing some sort of free agent and moving someone (Hill, as Wilner suggests) to the hot corner.

The umps didn't help matters the last two nights, but in no way are the Jays blameless. If Aaron Hill makes a routine throw; there is no blown call begetting a botched steal attempt begetting another blown call. Botched run downs, misplayed fly balls, they all add up. The only course of action to save the defence, nay the team, is acquiring J.J. Hardy and Carl Crawford. Another topic for another day, though.

Randy Ruiz &mdash One True Outcome

Hey guys, did you hear Randy Ruiz has a hit in every game he's played? Yeah, three home runs, too. He's playing for a job ya know. He's also playing with rabbit's feet dipped in barely legal cleavage sweat - his luck will soon run out. He's a nice story and certainly "doesn't get cheated", but his home run per fly ball rate is 60%! His walk to strike out ratio is 1:9. In his short time with the big club, he's profiled as a "free swinger." How free? Nearly 60% of pitches outside the zone, more than 2/3 of the total pitches he sees. He makes less contact than any other Blue Jay. In short, this won't last. Fun as it is, if word can even be bothered to get out on him, I'll have a better chance of getting within the court-order 1000 meter proximity to the local high school than Randy Ruiz will of seeing anything he can drive. I can drive too, girls. Would you like to go to the mall and try on somENOUGH.

While Randy Ruiz is a cute yet ultimately meaningless story (as far as the greater Blue Jays narrative goes, I suppose), the Jays inability to draw walks is becoming mildly alarming. Over the last month your Toronto Blue Jays pretty much stopped walking, drawing free passes at a slower rate than THE KANSAS CITY ROYALS. The Royals that just keep acquiring shitty middle infielders with no power but huge strikeout numbers. THOSE ROYALS. Lyle Overbay is the only hitter with the patience to draw a walk but that is all he wants to do. This is not what I had in mind when I coined the phrase Citocity, can someone please fix it? (so what if only I use it, it still gets to be a phrase)

Obligatory Travis Snider Positivity

Let me put the doom and gloom on hold for a second. Watch this video of Victor Martinez's home run off Brandon League (FML!). Go back and re-watch Travis Snider's home run from Tuesday night. Carbon damn copy, right? That, my friends, is a good sign. Why? Because Victor Martinez can fucking hit.

Victor's tater went further as it was propelled by the power of Kahuna, but the swing, the approach, even the stance is the same. V-Mart is a part-time catcher, but his offensive numbers are good (not great) for his career. .358 career wOBA (though two bad, injury-plagued seasons drag it down from good year levels around .370), 100 home runs, BB/K right around 1. I don't mean to suggest this is Snider's ceiling (he's still 21!!!) but the similarities exist. At this point, it's all we've got.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

The Power of Spite

You're Travis Snider. You're the Franchise. You're the Great Big Pasty White Hope. You're back in the big leagues after a few months of destroying AAA pitching. You hit a home run in your first at bat. How do you keep it going? How do you maintain momentum? Hate.

While most media members describe Snider as level-headed, or a kid with a good head on his shoulders, or a kid with his head on straight, or a 21 year old kid that doesn't have to promise to call you back to get head; there's a little simmering anger under the Snidey-surface. Reports of Snider resenting the treatment at the hands of our Black Dad bubbled, with Snider slightly distancing himself from the hitting guru. Snider didn't like being demoted, but who would? Snider overcame incredible hardships in his young life, now is the time to bottle those feelings and unleash them in a terrible way.

Never underestimate the power of high-level athletes driven to acts of madness by seemingly innocent comments or events. These are, by and large, bizarre humans with odd self-pushing buttons who draw motivation from the strangest of places. Let this be Travis Snider's motivation: prove Cito wrong.

About what? Who cares. Go out there with "fuck you" on your mind every single time and you can't lose. Already an intense dude, Snider can focus his hatred of Citocity into an energy beam of pure opposite field destruction. Travis Snider will seek and destroy all that spout the "don't believe anything you see in April or September" adage.

Snider's homer yesterday was indeed a thing of beauty, one that made a heartbreaking game much easier to swallow. Snider playing everyday should serve as reason enough to watch the rest of the season, though the thought of him growing into some sort of dark anti-hero is one I don't feel guilty about. Count down the moments until your free agency Travis, one "Fuck You!" at a time.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Underwhelming Over Slot

Gassing up the Barbersled today, I opted to throw down a couple bucks for a lottery ticket. Rarely do I support the government's tax on stupidity, but commuting, working for a dozen masters doing something I don't exactly love; who's stupid now? Anyway, the Barbersled and I sped away, windows down and sunroof open with the angry & angular sounds of the new Coalesce record blasting out at odd intervals. (I apologize for reaching deep into the record reviewer cliche bag for angular, at least I didn't use the go-to prefix "post.")

Reaching highway speed I noticed my precious ticket to freedom floating towards the window. Holy shit! My Blue Jays-influenced thinking immediately took over:
Had that ticket blown away, it would have been a winner for sure. I don't know my numbers, so come Friday's draw I will only be able to picture my ticket as the grand prize winner.
Sick as it may be, there is an element of human nature at play here.

My thinking then turned to Jake Eliopolous and James Paxton. What if they become the ones that got away? What if they go back to school and get hurt, or life throws them a curveball they can't hold up on? What if, had he signed, the tutelage of Arnsberg turned Eliopoulos into something great? Not Steve Carlton, but Andy Pettitte say?

Worse yet, what if they go on to become super duper stars for another team, the Orioles or Rays even! What if, as reported, the Jays and Eliopoulos weren't that far apart in negotiations? WHAT IF????

Needless to say, this depressed me. I quickly replaced Coalesce with The Loved Ones, turning my car into a anthem-ey pop punk conveyance of joy. The "What if" game is a fool's errand, but I've been accused of worse. I'm sure it's nothing and the young left hander with intimate knowledge of T&B Convenience and Whipper Watson Park has an outside shot at a solid if unspectacular career. But still, what if?

Monday, August 17, 2009

You Knew This Was Coming

Ahhhhhhhh Zaun. It had to be Zaun? This might be the problem with one trick ponies like Brandon League. A wily vet who happened to catch him over four seasons isn't going to be fooled. If you bisect the plate with a fastball he knows is coming, you're in trouble.

The blue dots are League fastballs, the red his splitter. The Xs are Zobrist's single and Pena's double. Fuck breakfast.

So what happened? How could he be so bad so soon after being so good? Location and getting ahead is one. Recall his Yankee outing, how everything was down in the zone? Sunday, not so much. Throwing strikes? That always helps. Against the Yankees, League started batters off like this:
  1. Fastball called strike.
  2. Fastball grounded to center for hit.
  3. Fastball flown to centerfield.
  4. Splitter high and wide, ball. ( runner is subsequently picked off by Raul Chavez's "works once in a liftime" snap throw)
  5. Splitter flown to right field.
  6. Fastball called strike.
  7. Fastball called strike.
  8. Splitter low and inside, ball.
  9. Fastball grounded to second for out.
  10. Fastball inside, ball.

So he threw the fastball for strikes or for converted outs while throwing the splitter outside the zone. Seemed to work. Against the Rays League went fastball fouled off, splitter swung and missed, fastball off the plate away, intentional walk (playing with fire!), splitter low and away, fastball low, and finally a fuck you fastball to BJ Upton's back. In the only two at bats that really hurt him (Pena and Zaun) he got behind 2-1 and couldn't recover. He did have Zaun 3-2, but served him up an old man gopher ball. So is that it? Perhaps not.

This image shows the speed of League's pitches graphed against their vertical movement. The blue dots are Sunday's Rays outing, red is the dominant outing against the Yankees. First thing you'll notice: the gas. League fired with reckless abandon against the Yanks, averaging 96.4 mph on his fastball. During Sunday's catastrofuck League checked in around 94.4 mph. According to Fangraphs, 95.3 is his average fastball this season, a number I'll trust as I believe Fangraphs uses the same data I steal. Also, League's fastball averaged 95.25 on Saturday night in Tampa and 95.45 in New York in July, so it isn't necessarily a difference between two parks/guns. So for Brandon League; speed is something but not everything.

One problem that League may experience from time to time is the flattening of his fastball. Again from Fangraphs, we see League's average amount of "rise" this season is 3.4 inches. Sunday he checked in at a much flatter and bangable 4.5 inches. Against the Yankees? Closer to 1.75 inches of "rise" or much more sink. More sink on his fastball is a good thing, as it already sinks more than the law allows. Less sink is just a high speed batting practice delivery, especially when you're his old catcher and you're looking fastball in.

I can't even pretend to explain why his splitter seems straighter, flatter, yet faster and more effective in that now quasi-famous outing against the Yankees, it was just one of those days when everything works. My hopes were sky high for Brandon League to emerge as a revelation during this dreary second half, and despite my excuse-making he seems to ALWAYS end up giving up the biggest of big hits. Relief pitchers who dominate meaningless appearances but struggle when it counts have a very limited shelf-life, and I wonder how long the love affair with Potential will last. He's obviously a gifted athlete and a pitcher with unique skills, but in that situation you simply can't make a poor pitch, one Gregg Zaun (!) can bang out of the park, and expect to keep your job forever.

I feel dirty insinuating such awful things about Brandon League, but I don't know how many more chances the team will give him. If Arnsberg's voodoo doesn't work on him and the Zen of Citocity doesn't work on him, what's left to try?

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Old Dogs

Things are pretty heavy in BlueJaysLand these days. The Tao's come down with some sort of PTSD shit usually reserved for veterans of Iraq, a "former teammate" that is so clearly Gregg Zaun (the piece did not say "former teammate/current Blue Jay") stuck Alex Rios's head on a pike in the middle of Bremner Boulevard. Add the coming inning controls exerted over bright spots Cecil & Romero and shit is gloomier than a Tragedy record.

Now my hands are wrung out like your sister's panties after a Jonas Brothers concert, so I've decided to give back via an anecdote from this past weekend. It's barely Blue Jays related (but somewhat!) and should also serve as a warning to any and all of you in your mid-twenties. Live now, it won't last long.

So the Reverend, EL Leal, and I make our way to Niagara Falls to attend the bachelor party of a mutual good friend. Some golf and assorted shenanigans are expected. If you've been reading here long enough you know I'm a new dad so there isn't much time for hedonism. I got the "we don't want Frank the Tank to come out" style speech before I left and genuinely wasn't up for heavy drinking.

We play our round of golf, I'm focussed on recovering past glories there more than the next appearance of the cart-tart. We return to the hotel for some drinks and pizza. I'm taking it slow, all is well. The guys we're with are pretty "regular dudes". They're into bottle service and night clubs and being bachelors of commerce. Whatever, good guys, we all get along. I generally dread the disco dancing aspect of their standard nights out because: 1) fuck that shit 2) seriously, it's the worst 3) I'm cheap and it isn't.

But we drank a lot of beer at the hotel so I'm coming around on the idea. We go to the club and do the pretentious "too cool for the lineup" dance and eventually get in. Booze arrives, we indulge.

Fast forward XXXX hours: I awake in the hallway of our hotel. On the 16th floor. A room attendant stands over me.

"Where is your room?" He asks sweetly.

Vowels and consonants fall out of my mouth, roughly in this order: "ajflksdjfklsdj 1911 (that's on the 19th floor if you're scoring at home.)"

This kindly man gently escorts me to my room where I promptly pass out alongside the snoringest GROFman around. I wake up some time later (fully clothed with a bonus mouthful of carpet fibers) and begin to fish through my pockets.
  • Wallet? Check.
  • Room key? Check.
  • Money? Check.
  • Phone? Check.
  • Blue Jays gift card? Check?????
There was a Blue Jays gift card right there in my back pocket! The fuck? Now I carry a couple gift cards as they're my "get into the 100 level" free passes, but why wasn't it in my wallet where it belonged?

Ahhhhhh right. While unsuccessfully trying to access (likely) every room on the 16th floor with my actual room key, I obviously went into my wallet for the correct key that I obviously stuffed into my wallet and obviously opens any door I need and obviously tried as many locks as I could with a Blue Jays gift card. Obviously.

Hardly a high point in my life, but not even within shouting distance of the lows. Overall a proud moment and reason for optimism. I didn't die! Nor was I mugged. The Blue Jays were there for me when I needed them most. I won't forget it Roy, I won't forget.

Who's the Boom King?

3 innings, 3 strike outs, 3 ground balls, 1 hit and a .343 WPA? You knew this was coming, here we go.

You may have known this post was coming but you sure as shit didn't know Brandon League was going to be off his off for three consecutive innings. Even I predicted doom when he came out for the second (and of course third) inning. How the hell did Brandon League do it? He threw strikes for one. He kept the ball down and he got whiffs (the Xs in the graph). Sounds like a recipe for success.

There's some debate (in the Drunk Jays Fan comment section) regarding League's movement. Some claim he's better when he works more regularly. The numbers support it, in the second half this year anyway. His bad outing against Baltimore was his first in month (even that appearance wasn't that bad.) From Baseball Reference, here are League's OPS by days of rest:
  • No Rest (back to back) - .765
  • One Day of Rest - .877
  • Two Days of Rest - .323
  • Three Days of Rest - 891
  • Four Days of Rest - .423
  • Five/Six Days of Rest - .900/.762
Hmmm. His career numbers support here, with 2 and 4 days of rest being his best (though not as microscopic as 09). Okay, but why? Sadly that will have to wait for another day. I'm building a League EXXtreme F/X database but it's still small, I'm still dumb yet busy. For now let's just say League was so good today uhhh, because he's awesome.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

The Beautiful Babies Don't Work the Midnight to Six Shift on a Wednesday. This is the Shank Shift.

Welcome all, to the brave new world. I'm not eager to delve too far into the Alex Rios mess because: a) he's already gone. If you saw this coming, you're a liar. b) Stoeten and the Tao both killed it already. Knocked it a mile out of the park. Why bother trying and failing where they've already so obviously succeeded? c) I make an effort to stay out of business affairs as best I can. But here goes.

Know this: reinvested my ass. Beeston famously said "if you're going to spend $100M, you might as well spend $80." Well shit, if you're going to spend $80 in the AL East, you might as well spend $60. So they will. The repercussions of letting a 4/5 WAR player walk ain't insignificant &mdash this will inform the team's decisions for the coming years.

Ed: I know it might cost me membership in the superduper Blue Jays friend club, but fuck Beeston. Why am I supposed to buy everything he or his parrot McCown say and treat every utterance of Riccardi's as patently false? Of the two, who has a bigger stake in consumer confidence and staying on-message? I'm sure he's quite the gladhander and he oversaw some good teams, but enough.

Marco Scutaro WILL NOT be resigned. The two draft picks are what they're after. A sign and trade is the best case scenario for 2010. I've had this feeling for a little while, which is why all the "J.J. Hardy to waivers" talk got me excited. I've longed for Hardy before, and mired in a terribly unlucky season (xBABIP 50 points higher than his current rate, a sure way to fuck up your year) he could be a reasonable replacement for the suddenly superlative Scutaro. Now I'm dubious at best.

Two things I think I know for sure: this team is going hella young and Cito Gaston is not the man to lead it. I've made my comments about Cito before but I just don't see how he can continually be allowed to butcher the in-game management with kids and retreads when he clearly loathes one but fiercely protects the other.

Lose one now to win two later? How's that working out? I seem to recall more wins during the "now" phase than this "later" shitstorm. Two days ago Cito got the boot and I expressed delight over the bullpen management. Give Butterfield the job. Has he not earned it? Does this team not deserve a fresh start to accompany the ongoing face lift? How much more blood do we expect to ring from the 1993 stone?

Then again, the subtraction of Rios and Rolen will turn the Toronto Blue Jays into a bad defensive club in a hurry. Joe Inglett is no man's left fielder, a right fielder he'll never be. Butter's infield magic is in such dire need now that adding more to his plate should be discouraged.

At this point, doesn't JP kinda hafta go as well? There is zero value in keeping him around, other than to avoid paying two guys to do one job. If they truly think they're going to gear up for a huge push at Halladay and/or the wild card in 2010 then keep him in place. Give him a chance to really put his philosophy to the test with some new infielders supporting the pitching staff of his design. If not, promote the assistant GM and bench coach and try to catch fire in a bottle just like 25 other teams do a year. Better than a kick in head, I suppose.

Update: Check out my (somewhat cryptic) warning-come-introduction of Alex Rios to Chicago at the 35th Street Review

Friday, August 7, 2009

When You Grow Up, Your Heart Dies

Hey! Weekend at Bernies night at the Dome one day after John fucking Hughes dies! Exciting times. Ugh.

Excuse my cynicism eating my skepticism but, as I said back in April (when I made the same Weekend at Bernies joke) I can't muster up the courage to care. I'm more concerned, for the second time in a month, with beating the damn Orioles. Is this what's come to? Begging for the chance to hold off the OriLOLes as basement dweller? Sigh.

Luckily I have far more exciting things on my mind. Like Adam Lind and Aaron Hill. Honestly, how good a 2-3 punch is that? No matter how bad a defender Adam Lind is (worst in the league, says Baseball Digest Daily) these are two legit studs that we get to watch every day. Every single day! Both players have good chances to put their names on some all time Blue Jays lists for home runs and extra base hits in a season. Hill has an outside shot at 200 hits, a feat only 5 other Blue Jays have accomplished. As an aside, who might be the Jays single season hits leader? Vernon Wells with 215. I'll just scrape my mind up off the floor....

One more good thing to remember tonight while Rogers suits distract you from a disappointing year: Brett Cecil is awesome. He owns the O's (once, but that's enough for me) and will do so again tonight. Roccopolous is having a rather garbagey year (just like our version) and despite Adam Jones's awesomeness, the Orioles are still the O's. Go Jays.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Assorted Nerditry

I've got something cooking for later (today, hopefully) on Scott Downs, but for now I'll point out a few awesome things I found in the internets today. Firstly, my hatred of football knows no bounds. Because I'm an irrational lunatic, I've never been quite able to articulate how and why football turns me off. Luckily, Craig Calcaterra of Shysterball is learned yet of a similar mind. I'll let him explain:
...there's a basic humanity about baseball that is almost nonexistent in modern football's, robotic, gladiatorial culture, and I just can't look past it and enjoy the game.
The context is, Craig himself says, silly but that doesn't change the sentiment. I'm insanely jealous I couldn't put it that way first.

Sky Kalkman of Beyond the Boxscore does what any good nerd herdman does: finds a new angle or perspective on an established norm. Sky gets the "who's the MVP?" discussion started early but with an awesome twist: using not just Wins above replacement but his own version of WAR, with win probability added subbing for base runs above average. A nice twist especially in an MVP context.

First interesting thing is the non-pitching WAR leader: Franklin Gutierrez. Alarming, no? The formula includes defense and clutchness as stated above, two things F-Gutz does really well. Something else I find interesting: Alex Rios and F-Gut are almost the same guy. The only real difference is 16 points of wOBA (.343 v. .327.) and Rios having a down year in the field as a right fielder rather than center. Strange, but on the whole they're very similar. Anyway, it is an interesting (though not bulletproof) way of calculating the MVP. I've used Sky's formula to calculate the WAR* for your Toronto Blue Jays. Clutch dreams!

Blue JayWPA RunsFieldingReplacementPositionalWAR*Clutch (1)
Marco Scutaro1261653.9-3
Aaron Hill1731613.74
Scott Rolen (2)1631213.35
Adam Lind19-115-92.3-3
Alex Rios9015-42.010
Rod Barajas0N/A1071.68
Lyle Overbay4311-71.1-4
Jose Bautista-407-20.1-5
Kevin Millar-5-17-5-0.50
Vernon Wells-18-20151-2.1-10

(1)Clutch is the difference between the batting runs above average and WPA runs. It isn't included in the calculation, it's simply included for reference.

Click here to see the standard WAR rankings for your 2009 Toronto Blue Jays.

Interesting and vomit-inducing stuff. Because UZR isn't yet able to quantify catcher defence, Rod Barajas gets a N/A. I'm hardly the man to judge but many people have positive things to say about his receiving skills. If you add handful of runs for defense and suddenly Rod isn't quite as disposable as I thought. He, as well as Alex Rios, benefit by their ability to hit in the clutch with 100% boosts to their WAR.

The sweet irony of Marco Scutaro being thought of as the team MVP in 2008 once again comes full circle by him being the non-Halladay MVP in 2009. His excellent defense and reliability (listed here as replacement, a reward for playing every day thus keeping a "replacement" level player on the bench) make up for his relative lack of clutch hitting.

Which brings us to Vernon Wells. Poor, poor Vernon. So unclutch in 2009 it doubles his negative value, to 2 wins BELOW replacement. That doesn't make it okay to boo him though. I think. Kevin Millar kills the Jays too, though it is on a much less frequent basis. Jose Bautista does exactly what he's supposed to do: fill in. He can't really play but he'll do it whenever you'd like. Other Jays not listed don't count because the fuck difference does Raul Chavez make? Well Snider matters, now that he's on his way back. He's worth a little less than Millar (-0.6), penalized for struggling under pressure. Unlike Millar, he's 21 fucking years old with the world his oyster. I'll cut him some slack.

Saturday, August 1, 2009


This is probably the last time I'll address it (or anything) this weekend, but I've had some time to think. I don't have any right to kick and scream as I've spent this entire summer encouraging people to let the business be the business and take heart in what we have. I guess this trade just cut me too close for comfort. Saving the money is great if it goes to re-sign Halladay, but I'm less than confident that'll happen. I'll pull my self-styled analyst hat down low over my reddened eyes and attempt to be look at this deal for what it is: a cold-blooded salary dump that has taken the best third baseman of his generation out of town.

While this looks like it should be the time to run kids out there everyday, it won't quite be that. We'll be subjected to plenty of Jose "I've never played well as an everyday guy" Bautista and a little more Johnny GD Mac, but also plenty of Millar for the rest of this month. JP is determined to do two things this season:
  1. Continue his streak of justifying the trade of a big name by insisting they begged out of town.
  2. Get something for nothing out of Kevin Millar.
Reclamation project bullpens on the cheap don't happen by accident so JP needs to replenish his rapidly aging pen and quick. Should Kevin Millar string a couple decent games together in August, you can bet JP will pry a 12th man on the staff arm out of some foolish contender needing a clubhouse guy/useless pinch hitter. Which is, in the end, the kind of horseshit that drives us crazy today and goes completely unnoticed down the road. I just know I don't want to look at Kevin Millar for one more day.

Enough hand-wringing. Some good back-and-forth in the previous post about the validity of E5 Encarnacion's defensive stats. Yes, his -23 URZ/150 this year is bloated by a smallish sample size. It was unfair of me to cherrypick it, but that doesn't raise his career UZR/150 of -12.2. Fact is, he's a bad defender. But as Johnny Hale ain't a damn thing changed said: work your magic Butterfield! I agree with Hale and commenter DaveC that EE presents an excellent buy low option. The two arms are live and after a good Arnsberging and the requisite year of rehab; they'll be holding down the bullpen in no time.