Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Black Tie Knife Fight

So JP's done and Cito isn't far behind him. Right? Right. The search for a new GM to accompany the new president is surely in full swing. The mold for baseball GM's broke long ago, thankfully and seamlessly moving from wizened former player to learned young wunderkind. JP was a little from column A and a little from column B to predictably (and contentiously) mixed results, so what direction is Rogers likely to go?

If we step back and think about it, the concept of former athlete turned front office honcho is bizarre approaching idiotic. One need only consider the recent downfall of one Wayne Gretzky or the hilarious travails of Isiah Thomas and, to an extent, Larry Bird to see that entrusting minimally educated athletes with multi-million dollar enterprises is about the worst business decision one can make. The rise of Daryl Morey and even BC as smart guys with experience beyond the insular walls of professional sports. Only the NHL, pathetically and predictable, fails to break up this old boys circle jerk and examine the games with a slightly more educated eye.

The next step, logical or otherwise, is an on-field manager with no practical baseball experience. Moneyball first introduced the concept of manager as player-coddling parrot of the front office, an idea that continues to gain ground in the book's seismic aftermath. That said, so much armchair managing is predicated upon the poor, misguided choices of a manager with friends in one corner of the clubhouse and enemies in the other.

I don't mean to suggest that leathered asses and sun crisped skin has no place on the game or in the dugout, nor do I mean to come off as some kind of anti-populist wannabe. But if you are heading up a massive corporation (like Rogers) and have an incredibly large amount of money invested in a not-so profitable arm of the business (like the Jays) wouldn't you want to hire the best people but also the people most likely to give you an edge? When was the last time you saw a company give one of the most important roles to the guy who started out mopping floors (so to speak) and worked his way up to a comfortable role? No way. Jobs like that go to high-pedigree whiz kids with drive, determination, and everything to gain.

Maybe that's a little extreme, a bit too much to ask. A big part of baseball is surviving the sturm und drang of the regular season. What about, rather than having a second wizened baseballman sitting beside the head wizened baseball man, bring in a game theory math whiz. Immerse the nerd in the game, but have him bring some crazy, off-the-wall thinking that the bunters would never see coming.

Would it work? Probably not. The chances of 25 baseball players giving a single ounce of credibility to pencil-pusher B Math are pretty much nil. But, for teams like the Jays, the status-quo isn't going to make get them where they want to go either. Why not do something ridiculous? They have less to lose than they think.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Not Saying, Just Sayin

Were I ask you whom ranked second on the Blue Jays pitching staff in strikeout to walk ratio and groundball rate, first in ground out to air out ratio and strikeouts per nine, third in WHIP for the season, who would say? The man who's second on the team in second half appearances with 25, over which he's struck out 35 and walked 6? Same guy? Fourth on the team in FIP with one of the highest (most damning) ERA-FIP marks on the staff?

You would have to assume that guy's pretty awesome. You'd be right.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Fire Up the Roy Halladay for Cy Young Campaign!

Just kidding! That would be asinine. A vote for anyone but Zack Greinke is a vote for tyranny.

2009 is quite different from last year; when Cliff Lee and Halladay split most of the key stats with "strength of schedule" hanging over the proceedings. This isn't even close. The Zombie's got the Doctor in WHIP, strikeouts, strikeout rate, ERA, FIP, shutouts, number of games played for the Kansas City fucking Royals, home run rate (by a factor of 2), opponents average, opponents OPS, opponents superlatives, WAR, VORP, number of gushing blog posts per start, ERA+, tRA, and just about everything else other than K/BB. Whew.

More impressively, as Joe Posnanski pointed out last week, he is on pace to register one of rarest of all obscure pitching feats: 200/200/200. 200 innings pitched, 200 strikeouts, and an ERA+ greater than 200. Uh, wow.

So let's hope that Halladay can eek out a second straight second-place finish ahead of Verlander and Hernandez. We should never take Halladay's 7 WAR brilliance for granted, but not even the most die-hard, the most myopic, the most mentally deficient among us can tout Roy Halladay for the Cy Young with even a shred of sincerity.

Fancypants photo of the Zombie by the AP and stolen from Daylife

Monday, September 21, 2009

Shames Enters, Ruins Rosterbation Afterglow

A funny thing happened along the way to my perfectly idealized roster. The always with-it Tao and a few others made an important point: in order to hang with the big boys, you need to get splashy and make a big signing. You need to shove all your chips into the middle of the table and make a labored metaphor. This is the exact same thought I had one second before I hit publish on my Adrian Beltre/J.J. Hardy post on Friday:
Wait a minute, do I really believe that adding Hardy & Beltre would be enough for the Jays to be competitors?
I felt awful. I felt dirty and dishonest. There is no way those two&mdash even with Carl Crawford thrown in for good measure&mdash are the missing pieces to the Jays puzzle. But then I thought some more: neither are Chone Figgans and Jason Bay.

If those are the big time, no guts no glory signings the Jays need to make, they're fucked. Matt Holliday is the lower end of guys I'd consider big-time impact players. Figgans and Bay, even if both provided 5 WAR, don't get you much closer. I'm all in favor of a splashy signing so long as the team throws down a legit cannonball rather than a bellyflop.

Let us not forget the Golden Rule

In the wake of my pining for Adrian Belre, some were quick to point to the recent resurgence of both Edwin Encarnacion and Jose Bautista. To which I say: good for them, it means less than nothing. Why? Because we DON'T BELIEVE ANYTHING THAT HAPPENS IN APRIL OR SEPTEMBER.

Consider the pitching woes of our local nine. How many other teams are doing the exactly same thing? Shutting down promising rookies while sending out gassed shadows of their summertime selves (see Romero, Ricky or Price, David.) How many runs did Sergio Mitre yield to the Jays when he was left in the game for the sole purpose of sparing the bullpen. This stuff happens nearly every night in September when teams at both ends of the spectrum&mdash methodically marching towards a division title or restlessly counting the days until October 3&mdash are playing out the string.

Every pitch Scott Richmond throws in pointless attempt to prolong his nascent big league career is one pitch the Jose Bautista of the Tigers or Rays doesn't see in July. I'll cut E5 some more slack but to me, Bautista had 5 months to prove he could still/ever hit.

His strong arm/no range defense is fun to watch as plays at the plate are exciting. In fairness, many outfield assists mean many people are running on you, but Baustista ranks well in Fangraphs more complete ARM metric in limited innings. To his detriment, other part-time outfielders with similar arm abilities all put up vastly superior range numbers. Again to be fair, he's never been a full time outfielder though he did log 600+ innings in the field in 2006. No matter how you slice it, he still isn't much more than a 25th man off the bench.

What does my ceaseless Bautista Bashing have to do with my earlier rosterbation? Plenty. A optical success in September could influence the decision makers into believing Bautista is valuable piece moving forward. You and I know that just ain't so. Every rep he gets the rest of the way is a strike against developing the young talent of this Blue Jays ballclub. Remember, all our hopes and dreams are banking on Aaron Hill's ability to pull everything and sustain a home run per fly ball rate double his career average. The is no amount of insurance too small to consider for 2010.

Something Completely Different

The very good and very wise people at Pitchers and Poets launched a new project called the Rogue's Baseball Index today. An "alternative baseball lexicon" of terms they didn't teach you in Little League. It is great fun and a great way to kill a few stray moments. They were foolish enough to let me contribute a few entries (see related on this entry). Please do check it out.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Where Did I Move?

I knew things were going to be different when I packed my shit and moved to glorious downtown Orangeville. There would be an adjustment period, sure, but one thing I couldn't have considered: Orangeville is a lacrosse town.

At first I didn't think anything of it. Then I started seeing kids with lacrosse sticks EVERYWHERE. On my street, at the park, at the complex where I drag my kid for swimming lessons. Lacrosse, lacrosse, lacrosse. I ducked my head into a sports store on the main drag in search of some new high socks for softball (WWBLD?). What was the response of the guy at the cash? "We don't have baseball, hockey and lacrosse only."

What? Hockey and lacrosse only? That blows. Things came to a head today as I walked through a parking lot. On the back of a shitty red minivan was a sticker with two crossed lacrosse sticks and a web address: baseballsucks.com. Baseball sucks dot com!!!

Look, I like date rape* and power violence as much as any one, but do I go around starting websites bragging about it? I realize the most troglodytic among us need entertainment too, lest they roam the streets in packs crosschecking seniors and doing kegstands on fire hydrants. What I don't understand is why anyone would brand their car like that. I can only imagine the excitement one feels when coming off house arrest, but you can only give exuberance so much credit. Honestly, was taking a shot at glorious baseball really worth it?

* - Nobody loves date rape. Obviously. Besides, no lacrosstitute ever said no.

Friday, September 18, 2009

ZOMG Megan Fox Nudez!!!1!

Yessir, it is official rosterbation time! Thanks in no small part to Brunt, Blair, & McCowan offering up enough hope in baseless speculation form to break out the rare "in-season rosterbation." Stoeten did a good job of a) recapping the conversation that stopped just short of throwing hard numbers into play but provided enough fodder to stoke the fires and b) offering up a few potential big names that could fit with the team thanks to their new found, wait for it, financial flexibility.

Before I drop names like Marco Scutaro drops routine grounders in high-leverage situations (zing! low hanging fruit!), understand a couple things. No matter how much perceived cash the Jays may or may not have to spend, they will still be strictly budgeted. If they aren't, they should be. Spending money just because you have it gets you into terrible situations, like the 2009 Mets or any mid-level NBA team at any time. The fear of not spending and turning potential customers off with your inactivity prompts very, very bad decisions. Like handing second starter money to Oliver Perez because shit, you've got to give it to SOMEBODY. This is the kind of thinking that buries medium sized spenders like the Jays.

This leads to point two: never sign a player coming off a career year. This would eliminate Chone Figgans and Jason Bay from consideration. Figgans is a damn fine ballplayer who even turned himself into a good fielding third baseman. He's also a 31 year old speed player who's missed considerable time to injury two of the last three years. Thanks but no thanks.

Jason Bay is also coming off a better than average year. The temptation to sign the Canuck is very high, but the Jays must relent. As was said elsewhere, if you're going to make a run at Bay, why not just go for Matt Holliday? This baseball team needs another awful defensive outfielder like it needs another entitled, arrogant prick starting a condescending blog about it. So who should they acquire, smart guy? Why not start with two guys coming off bad years like Adrian Beltre and J.J. Hardy.

Adrian Beltre is coming off an awful year. Only 6 home runs, one full negative offensive win overall. His walk rate is half his career mark, his slugging and ISO are both way down, too. Bear in mind Beltre is a victim of Safeco Field. 114 extra points of OPS on the road this year &mdash which is even less than usual. Beyond that he's an incredible defensive third baseman that won't command a tremendous price on the market because of his poor traditional counting numbers. He's also a glorious corollary against signing players after huge years. The Jays wouldn't ask him to anchor the middle of their lineup (where have we heard that before?) Beltre at his best is a free-swinging guy with power to all fields. This year he's a free swinging guy with much lower contact numbers and power to no fields. He still spreads the ball around but to no avail. His contact rates are down nearly 4% and he appears to be incapable of hitting a fastball.

J.J. Hardy will not be a Milwaukee Brewer next year. Mostly because of this and I can't say that I blame them. The tweaking of his service time only cements his status on the block (side note: isn't screwing with his service time a clear-cut signal that you're trying to move him, thereby lowering his value? I digress...) Hardy is also coming off a terrible 2009 who he can surely attribute to some bad luck. No matter how hard I try, I can't explain away all his troubles in 2009 to a criminally low BABIP. But criminally low it is, a whooping .257! Compare that to his xBABIP of .306 and you have the recipe for a terrible slump. But you know this, I've gone on and on about Hardy before. I can't see his price being more than one big league-ready pitching prospect. David Purcey? Brad Mills? The kid with all the z's in his name? Go ahead Melvin, take your pick.

These are two players that represent excellent run prevention (which rarely slumps) and it-can-only-go-up-from-here offensive potential. Are they the keys to success? Not on their own. They should come cheap enough to resign Halladay no questions asked and make a run at the biggest prize the Jays could ask for: Carl Crawford.

Unfortunately, it will take more than money to acquire Carl Crawford. It will take players to get him here and money to extend him. And I don't think they have the young players. The gulf between those that will be the future and those that are the future right now is wide, and the stuff in between isn't worth considering. I'm not comfortable trading Ricky Romero in the division or Brett Cecil at all so what does that leave? Pretty much nothing, which sucks. With Crawford, Beltre, and Hardy in place, the Jays would have the best defensive team around with plenty of money to spend on a free agent starter should a worthy arm emerge from the wilderness.

But one thing the decision makers must recall this time around (if there is a this time around) is spending money now cannot cripple you later. It isn't about squirreling money away until The Perfect Ballplayer enters stage left, it is about getting value at the beginning and end of a deal. 35 year old Jason Bay and 35 year old Chone Figgans don't offer value and they create just as many problems as they fix.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Jesse Carlson: Psychobilly Freakout

The Blue Jay voted "most likely to die in a meth lab fire" decided to sack up and do something for the often trod-upon Blue Jays. I was live blogging the game and it was pretty intense. Punches were thrown including an invaluable kidney shot to Matsui by my boy Brett Cecil. I'd be lying if I said it wasn't great, even though that sort of pissing contest is silly and stupid but who cares! Fight fight fight!! More video here.

Monday, September 14, 2009

The True Victim of an Unbalanced Schedule

As Blue Jays fans, we're used to getting a raw deal from the unbalanced schedule. Beyond the fact that "our" team is 7 games over .500 against the rest of the league but 20 games under in the home division and so on and so forth, we getting robbed in a different way. Simply: not enough games against Detroit.

Playing the Tigers is great fun. The closest team geographically, an old rival of many battles and shared fans, a team with a great ballpark and nice uniforms. While I appreciate the tradition of pitting the Jays against the Tigers at the season's outset, it also means only one more series all year long. That blows.

As a collective, I'm sure we can muster up the support for the Jays and Major League Baseball to eschew one meaningless interleague series in favor an extra Tigers tilt. I can't help but think there's more revenue in it for all involved parties. If a return to a fair and balanced schedule were to surface, I'd gladly take an empty series in Kansas City or two in exchange for another trip to Comerica.

Irony Alert

The Jays close out the season series against the Tigers tonight with David Purcey making his first big league start since April. Despite what I've stated above, and despite David Purcey making a scant 17 big league starts; tonight's will be his FOURTH against the Tigers. That makes less sense than most things. Even more bizarrely, he's kind of owned the power hitting and right hand-heavy Tigers. Only 9 hits allowed in 17 innings (what? 13 walks. Hush your mouth.) While most seem to have completely written Purcey off, I'm excited to see what he can do. Big dudes with live arms will get more than their fair share of chances, hopefully Sweaty Dave can make the most of this one.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Spin Cycle

A couple really quick thoughts on this week of nightmarish P.R. for the Jays. Firstly, the attendance is pisspoor and there is no argument to be made otherwise. Beeston can spin it however he likes, but the fact remains: people aren't lining up to be pummeled with advertising in an antiseptic environment while watching a bad baseball team. That said, the entire "Doc was pitching!" rationale is faulty.

Walk ups are such a small part of the ticket sales, the vast majority of ticket buyers (the customers Rogers needs most) buy their tickets well in advance and make a day of it. The number of "hey, Doc's pitching why don't we head to the park" sales are minimal and likely viewed as free money by the team. As the Tao said with an assist to Malcolm Gladwell: Halladay himself won't make people buy tickets but his absence could certainly preclude them from doing so.

The local media really picked up the "smallest crowd" factoid and ran with it, an unfortunate and not entirely fair but understandable move. Beeston or whomever he dumps this Cleveland Steamer on have a hell of a P.R. task in front of them. If Paul and friends thought the caretaker business plan of trotting out the old dogs and riding the Cito Nostalgia Fixed Gear Bicycle of Wellness until his skinny jeans tore in the chain would buy him indefinite grace; boy was he wrong. My indifference (bordering on hostility) towards the wise and benevolent Beeston and his free pass is well documented, no need to compound the shitty feelings now.

Cito V. The Rod

Again, I call spin and think people are looking for ways to tear this team down. Would a player's manager like Cito really go out of his way to make a player look that bad in public? Considering only get pieces of the exchange, I interpret Cito's comments to mean "he's played so well, we won't be able to afford him next year." That would jibe with Cito's desire for the players to love him and his apparent disdain for the front office. It reminds of the situation in San Francisco, where manager Bruce Bochy defiantly refuses to play wunderkind Buster Posey to stick it to a front office that (may have) leveraged Posey to chase noted handful Bengie Molina back to work.

Managers like Cito and Bochy love to prove to the players how "on their side' they are by passively telling management to fuck off. I know I used to manage my team at my previous job(s) that exact way. Stealing minutes at the cracker factory is one thing, stealing fans money and will to live by sticking with Kevin Millar/Bengie Molina is bad business and bad form. For Cito to have shown up Rod in this manner would be completely out of character. I call shenanigans. Sadly I doubt we'll get the whole story.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Add It Up

It didn't take too many ringing line drives careening around a 80% empty Rogers Centre before I dove headlong into something interesting: win probability added. WPA is a wonderful thing, one I wish would gain more traction outside the Nerd Herd. Unfortunately, if ever a stat was in need of a rebrand, it's WPA. Click here if you'd like a full definition of Win Probability Added. Old school types should eat it up for its ability to elevate the clutch while de-emphasizing the usual counting stat nonsense.

Again, a rebrand is in order. Drop the tweedy "probability" from the name and go with something that pops like "grititude" or "total awesomesness." Total Awesomeness Added is a stat I can get behind. Perhaps take it in a more bonered direction; like Overall Engorgement Factor or EDHM (Equivalent Dry Hump Minutes.)

Johnny Mac's big home run the other day got me thinking and looking at individual WPA contributions this year. That context is the main driver behind WPA cuts both ways. It can undermine an otherwise dominant performance (as you'll see below) because the game just isn't close enough. But this is a "team game" after all and winning is everything. So just which hitter made the biggest single contribution to a Jays win thus far in 2009?

Thoughts or concerns? Lots of extra innings as the added leverage really jacks up the win probability. Also, Aaron Hill is apparently vastly underpaid. 5 of the offense's top 10 games this season, including one loss? Shocking. I am shocked. Barajas accomplished his 0.473 of a win in just one at bat, a pinch hit, game tying affair with the Rays. Remember when Travis Snider hit those two home runs that one game? Yeah, that was awesome. How about the pitchers?

Roy Halladay0.458May 22, 0-1 v. Atlanta
Ricky Romero0.443April 19, 1-0 v. Oakland
Roy Halladay0.430July 19, 3-1 v. Boston
Ricky Romero0.423July 1, 5-0 v. Tampa Bay
Brett Cecil0.421July 21, 1-2 v. Cleveland
Brett Cecil0.414May 10, 5-0 v. Oakland
Roy Halladay0.398July 24, 2-4 (10) v. Tampa Bay
Brett Cecil0.385July 10, 2-0 v. Baltimore
Brian Tallet0.385August 8, 3-2 (10) v. Baltimore

Holy shit, Brett Cecil! Interesting to see Cecil & Romero up here so many times. I guess pitching yourself into and straight out of jams will keep your games tight and your WPA high. 3 losses among the top 10 games, which really says a lot about the amount of context given to WPA. Pitch to the score my ass. Brian Tallet pitching 5 innings of scoreless relief is enough to let the big man amble into the top 10.

Do you notice anything when comparing the contributions of pitchers relative to hitters? The hitting performances carry much, much more weight than solid starts. Again, context is king. Creating a positive event weights that much heavily than preempting negative events before they occur. In other words, it takes a lot to build a large WPA pitching while for hitters it comes in bunches. Again, extra innings helps a lot. Consider Brandon League's three innings of ol'time killin in extra innings against the Yanks ranks ahead of Roy Halladay's one hit masterpiece (which I gave a pitch f/xing earlier this week). Two early runs and the Doc's complete domination worked against him, as it relates to WPA.

Check the list as I compiled it here. I basically took the best performances from each guy this year to a limit. I've also included something else interesting: how hugely a bad pitching performance impacts a win. Seems obvious but I was still surprised. Sadly, Brandon League has 2 of the biggest negative WPA outings of the year. A severe bed-shitting by Tallet in which he repeatedly gave away leads the offense handed him is the worst of the lot, totaling -0.681 WPA.

Thanks to Fangraphs for the WPA info and Baseball Reference for the game logs.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Wise Words of a Sage

Good old Bob Elliott, he of a zillion years of service to baseball in Canada, has an interesting feature that (apparently) only runs in the Edmonton Sun. I know! Like shouting at a deaf man. Anyway, Elliott turns to a wizened scout &mdash with whom he's surely shared numerous chili dogs and almost certainly witnessed acts of stripper degradation that would make the average Romanian wince &mdash for a feature called "The Book." Wouldn't you know it, Brandon League's turn came 'round and caught my eye. Take it away MAJOR LEAGUE SCOUT:
He has always been a perplexing guy to me. In Texas the other night, in the doubleheader, he was 94-95 m.p.h. He walks two and gives up two runs, one earned. He should be better than that.
Well yeah, that's sort of League's deal. He should indeed be better than that, but if he threw hard and that's it I'm sure he'd be done by now. Lots of people throw hard, very few throw it like a damn whiffleball. What else, holder of my dream job?
Then, I see him against the Yankees and he is 96-97 m.p.h., and he's clean. I know guys aren't machines, but it's like: 'Oh, it's the Yankees, we'll dial it up a notch.' That's been the case with Toronto for some time. They get excited when they play Boston or the Yankees. Other teams? It's like: 'Game today?' Alex Rios was like that, too.
This is slightly unsettling. That League dominates the Yankees isn't news (Tabby went on and on over the weekend, mere days after I posted this.) I recall a very similar charge being leveled against Vernon Wells. Other than this year, that held true. Troubling indeed. Back to League
WEAKNESS: "When you have that kind of an arm you expect better than five losses and seven blown saves. Maybe that's just me, but he can lose his focus."
The blown saves are unfortunate but a little misleading. Maybe not misleading, but they sound worse than they are. He isn't a ninth inning guy (yet!), so it isn't as though he blew saves in the Brad Lidge sense. Not being in a position to pick up wins too often (i.e. pitching in relief for the damn Blue Jays) doesn't help offset the optical burden of all the losses.
STRENGTHS: "The good Lord blessed his arm. He can be overpowering. Look at his strikeouts to innings. A lot of teams asked for him this year and last. I wouldn't deal him. Some day the light is going to go on, he'll figure it out."
A lot of teams asked for him? That's because a lot of teams are smart. Just like JP, as it turns out. The strikeouts to innings comment is bang on. League currently sports a career-high K/9 of 9.28 thanks to his whiff rate jumping through the roof into some pretty heady company.

Ol'Bob goes on to give Brandon League a not-subjective-or-meaningless-in-the-least 2 out of 5 rating this season. That sounds about right? Brandon League is almost "there" but hasn't quite reached the point where he's completely trustworthy or praiseworthy. The Jays have invested a great deal to this point; here's hoping they don't give up now.

Image obviously stolen from Eye On Springfield. P.S. I love Bob Elliott.

Friday, September 4, 2009

In Other Fetishized Bit Player News

Rocco returned to Tampa and hit a towering home run (hooray for video!) on the very first pitch he saw in his second ever start as a visitor. The 3 dozen Tampa fans and 20000 gathered Red Sox horde gave Rocco a nice standing ovation, something I'm sure he appreciated. Quietly (as quietly as a Red Sock can do anything, so about as loud as your kid sister after 4 Pomtinis) Rocco is coaxing his OPS back up over .800, with 7 home runs in 138 PAs.

Basically, Rocco offers a Rocco-sized contribution. Most of his rates are right on his career numbers though his home run per fly ball is still a little high. Rocco in Boston is working out almost exactly to plan with two unfortunate trips to the DL thrown in for good measure. Playing for the Red Sox put a slight damper on my all-consuming Rocco love but, considering the way things are looking around here ahead of this long weekend, this seemed like as good a time as any to resurrect the Rocco love train.

Yup, long weekend. Do something fun. Watch the Jays and appreciate whatever you can find to appreciated. Grab your damn glove and heave a ball at your best friend's head with Jerry & Alan on the radio. Read Jon Hale's continuing work with Hit F/x at The Hardball Times. Read Jimjam and Manny's ongoing adventures at the Dugout. Just enjoy baseball. This season is surely trying our last nerve, but we'll miss it like crazy when it's gone.

Photo by AP via Daylife with an assist to the Providence Journal

Niche Marketing

Everyone is good at something. Brandon League is good at confounding Blue Jays fans. For fun, let's check out Brandon League's splits by team. Who is he best again? Who has his number in 2009?

California Angels 2 11 4 0 .364 .364 .364 .727 1 0 .400
Atlanta Braves 1 5 2 0 .400 .400 .600 1.000 0 0 .500
Baltimore Orioles 3 21 7 0 5.00 .350 .381 .450 .831 1 0 .467
Boston Red Sox 6 26 4 1 10.00 .167 .231 .292 .522 0 1 .231
Chicago White Sox 2 7 0 0 0.00 .000 .429 .000 .429 2 0 .000
Cincinnati Reds 2 10 2 0 1.00 .286 .444 .429 .873 0 1 .333
Cleveland Indians 4 25 9 1 1.00 .450 .542 .700 1.242 2 2 .471
Detroit Tigers 2 8 3 0 .375 .375 .375 .750 0 0 .429
Florida Marlins 2 15 7 2 3.00 .538 .600 1.154 1.754 0 1 .625
Kansas City Royals 2 9 0 0 .000 .000 .000 .000 0 0 .000
Minnesota Twins 1 3 0 0 .000 .000 .000 .000 0 0 .000
New York Yankees 8 35 6 0 6.00 .188 .235 .250 .485 1 0 .300
Oakland Athletics 2 13 3 0 0.00 .273 .385 .455 .839 0 0 .273
Philadelphia Phillies 4 16 4 1 .250 .250 .563 .813 0 0 .333
Seattle Mariners 1 3 0 0 .000 .000 .000 .000 0 0 .000
Tampa Bay Rays 8 43 11 3 2.40 .297 .395 .595 .990 1 1 .364
Texas Rangers 4 15 2 0 2.50 .154 .267 .154 .421 1 0 .250
Washington Nationals 2 5 0 0 .000 .000 .000 .000 0 0 .000
Inter-League 11 51 15 3 6.50 .326 .380 .652 1.032 0 2 .400
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 9/4/2009.

Wow. Somehow, Brandon League completely owns the Yankees. He has his entire career. The number one offense in baseball in terms of runs, home runs, wOBA, walks, pretty much any number you could use to evaluate an offense. Yet Brandon League holds them to .464 OPS. Also note his K/BB ratio of TEN TO ONE in 7 appearances versus the Red Sox. Try to ignore the savage beatings he took at the hands of the National League. How in God's name does this happen??

Last night he sandwiched a lonely double & sac bunt with a two fly outs and two strike outs (with the patented Brandon League wild pitch thrown in for flavor). He struck out Johnny Damon and Mark Teixeira, a feat unto itself. It makes such a small amount of sense that a team traditionally chock full of power hitting lefties gets run over by League consistently while a more slap-dash team like the Rays completely owns him. Let's revive the speed * vertical break graph from a few weeks ago to see what he had last night.

Click to Enlarge
So the blue dots are a combination of three separate outings; some good, some bad. Green was last night's outing against the Yankees, red is the legendary 3 inning ball gag and whips outing in the Bronx. What does this tell me? His stuff during the extra innings marathon was nuts. Insane. Last night he kept the Yankees at bay with pretty much is standard arsenal. None of this explains why League owns the Yanks or why he's so inconsistent though. What about spin?

Click to blow up real good

That is a little messy. Generally, speed versus spin direction angle charts show much more distinct patterns (like this), grouping pitches nicely to ease identification. With Brandon League we get a typical clusterfuck that leaves me scratching my head. Apparently Brandon League can't do a couple things:
  1. Maintain a consistent release point/arm angle to support a repeatable breaking ball or
  2. He throws a second breaking pitch so badly it is nearly indistinguishable from his splitter.
I could be wrong, but I think it's the former. League's split fingered pitch is essentially to keeping hitters off his dangerous fastball, especially on days when it isn't doing what it's supposed to.

The real question is: will I ever "crack the case" on Brandon League? Will I one day discover the key to his future success, to dozens of saves and healthy paychecks? Probably not. But if you've been reading this site for long enough you know I'm having a great time trying to figure it out.

Thanks to Brooks for the pitch data, B-R for the splits, and Daylife for the photo

Cito's Beard

This is Kevin Millar. I'm sure you know all about Kevin Millar, as just about every single blog or media outlet has written a post decrying his continued employment this year. So it will come as no big shock to you that Kevin Millar sucks. Terribly. Awfully.
April/March 38 35 12 1 3 4 .343 .395 .514 .909
May 60 55 12 2 5 12 .218 .283 .364 .647
June 57 50 10 1 7 11 .200 .298 .300 .598
July 50 45 8 1 4 8 .178 .260 .333 .593
August 29 25 6 1 4 5 .240 .345 .440 .785
Sept/Oct 4 2 0 0 2 0 .000 .500 .000 .500

Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 9/4/2009.

Those are Kevin Millar's super swell monthly splits for 2009. Not news, not pretty. (Though the direct link BR stats are, thanks Baseball Reference for not making your tables work with blogger? I'm dumb.) Yet Cito continues to run Kevin Millar out there. With less frequency &mdash though he'll still throw in a pinch hit appearance in 5 run game with the tying run washing his balls in the clubhouse &mdash but he still finds his way in. Why? Because Kevin Millar is a built in "Get out of jail free" card.

How can Cito be held responsible for this mess given the meager tools he has before him? Is it Cito's fault Randy Ruiz wasn't called up until August? Of course not, though it was Cito's idea to start Adam Lind every day. For sure. Cito is made of magic you see, he only gets credit for things that go well while dodging all manner of shit.

Like Stoeten said yesterday, I really like the idea of Cito. But just like going to see movies based on toys of your youth is stupid and regressive, supporting Cito just cause isn't any wiser. It's quite telling that the Jays best hitter by far does so with a very non-Cito/Tennaci approach. Varied spray chart, patient, takes the first pitch almost without fail.

Obviously Cito isn't to blame for all the Jays misery, but at least some guilt must attach itself to the Teflon Glare. The offense is in the tank because the players aren't good enough, but isn't coaching'em up supposed to be his thing? I don't know, it just seems the odd lineup choices are a convenient way of washing one's hands of the whole fiasco.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

The Blue Jays Offer Invaluable Service to Fans Everywhere

Replacements - Bastards Of Young

The concept of VORP or WAR or any of the various statistics which tout the mythical "replacement player" can be confusing to the casual fan or non-geek first toeing the SABR waters. Who is this replacement-level player? Who is he replacing? Is it like average?

The replacement player is the 26th man on any team; a guy freely available to any team for a very minimal investment. The proverbial "guy off the street/man out of the stands" filling in for a more capable player.

If this definition is still too hazy, too abstract for you to fully grasp the concept, allow me to introduce your 2009 Toronto Blue Jays. The late season edition of the 2009 Toronto Blue Jays any way. These Jays starting lineup featured 8 players at or near replacement level during their weekend series with the Rangers.

Westerberg in QuestionWAR
Rod Barajas0.8
Randy Ruiz0.4
Jose Bautista0.3
John MacDonald0.1
Raul Chavez0.1
Joe Inglett-0.3
Kevin Millar-0.4
Edwin Encarnacion-0.4
Travis Snider-0.4
Vernon Wells-0.9

Now, not even I am dumb enough to suggest these are all "replacement players." Vernon Wells is having a terrible year and capable of much more, also his enormous contract makes him irreplaceable. Travis Snider is 21 and still learning his way, 9 Ks at a time. Randy Ruiz's boom or bust start to his Blue Jays career is only replacement level because of his limited at bats. Were he to play a full season at DH, he'd surely amass 200 strikeouts, 20 home runs and 10 doubles be worth 2 wins above replacement.

As I stated before, the moving target that is catcher's defensive evaluation keeps us from getting a true sense of Barajas's value. He's hit a bunch of home runs this week (two last night!) but don't get it twisted, he was terrible for a long, long time. Offensively he's been worse than many catchers that don't get nearly the at bats Rod does. Chavez doesn't get enough starts but he can't hit so what does it matter?

The rest? What's left is the true definition of replacement level. Guys with 50 PAs minimum (about 10 starts) that could easily be replaced by any available baseball talent. Millar, Inglett, Bautista, Johnny Mac, E5; they've seen reasonable amounts of playing time with as close to nothing to show for it as possible. Kinda sad.

The worst part of it is there isn't anyone beating down the door. The only players being blocked are Brian Dopriak aka Randy Ruiz 1.2 and quad A Buck Coats. All the food is on the table honey, looks like a lean Christmas this year.

A Few Random Thoughts

  • I find it really interesting when Jays fans get all riled up over Sportsnet showing the Fenway Faithfuls singing "Sweet Caroline." The Jays are about the most soulless, bland, corporate, and guileless organization around. What's wrong with something with a bit of character? Don't we all constantly whine about the sterile atmosphere at the Dome? Let them sing and let Sportsnet broadcast it, it's a part of the game and that's the show you're watching.

  • Another question along a similar line: are we fans unhappy with a lack of homerism from the Jays broadcast team? This shocks me, as nothing is worse than a cheerleader in the booth. Tom and Jerry never pretended only one team was on the field, I salute the numerous Jays broadcasters for avoiding the Hawk/Swirsk brand of blather. If Rod Black is praising Dustin Pedroia it's because he can play. We all hate on out-of-market announcers that do the same, we can't have it both ways.

  • Listen to the Walkoff Walk Podcast. Seriously. We do it live every Monday, but you can download it after the fact via Itunes or by clicking the fancy button on the right. I mention the Blue jays every single show because I'm biased and my scope of knowledge is narrow.

  • Not so narrow that I can't tell your 50 ways you could better live your life. I contributed A Handsome Man's Guide to Golf over at valued reader and rakish gadabout Archimedies home base; The Handsome Man's Guide to Life. I've played a lot of golf and done a lot of awesome stuff so consider yourself in good hands. Check it out and drop some valued golf/life nuggets of your own.