Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Now and Zen

Obviously there is plenty going on in the baseball world and zero going on in Blue Jays world. Zero outside of, as the Tao smartly points out, AA doing the identical thing to J.P. (firing/shaking up scouts) without a peep emanating from the local slam gang.

A popular past-time here in the land of milk, honey, and schadenfraude seems to be one of two things:
  1. Laughing at the Red Sox or
  2. Lamenting the Twins.
There is only so much of the former I can take without it becoming a little perverse. Too bad for the Red Sox fans, I guess they'll have to drown their sorrows in the two World Series titles in the past five years, the historic ballpark, the pre-punched tickets to the playoffs next year yadda yadda yadda. The other topic, however, I'm more than willing to dive into.

The Twins, you won't be surprised to hear me say, were awful. Terrible. Their inclusion in the post season was nothing more than a tragedy. While some trot them out as baseball's be all and end all, one cannot get away from the fact that they suck. Well they don't suck, but they aren't good.

I could go on and on about their easy schedule and their adjusted records and blah blah, but you've heard that a million times before. How about a different approach to define the cosmic screw job that is the Toronto Blue Jays: let's use WAR.

I've used WAR and its component stats all year and with good reason: it is by far the most comprehensive way to evaluate the talent on the field. Hopefully, it all comes out in the wash. Why not use it on a team-wide scale (with a hat tip to U.S.S Mariner) for the Jays?

Screw You Pythagoras, you tease-ass trickThe Jays won 75 games, this you know. The Jays were "expected" to win between 82 and 85 games, depending on you calculated it using their runs scored and the strength of their opponents. Does WAR support that? Would this be another stat to prove that the luck the Jays so desperately need continues to allude them?

In a word: yes. If you combine the WAR of all Jays batters and pitchers, you get a grand total of 39.1 wins above replacement. 20.9 for the pitchers, 18.2 for the hitters. We know, thanks to smart people like Tom Tango, that a team of replacement level players (good AAA guys that are freely available) would win about 46 games in 2009. Add'em together and you get 85.1 wins. Shit.

The Twins, the playoff bound role models for all to see, got 21.8 wins from their offense and 16.4 wins from their pitching. That's 38.2 WAR, making a total of 84.2 total wins and making my day completely ruined.

This type of disparity gets your GM run out of some towns yet put up on a pedestal in others. I will note two things before we proceed: the Jays figures don't tell the whole story as the team was markedly different at the end of the season compared to the beginning. That said, the late-season runs by Vernon Wells and Jose Bautista made their seasons look much better than they did in August. Vernon ended the season a hair below replacement level; all for the low low price of one zillion dollars!

The other thing I would like to note is the 2008 Toronto Blue Jays finished the season with 86 total wins. Their WAR-adjusted total? 90. 90 fucking wins! Replacement level in 2008 was slightly higher (47.4 wins) yet the Jays, on the strength of their insane pitching (26.3 WAR) amassed 42.6 WAR. That is nuts. I think we can say the 2008 Jays are among the better Blue Jays teams of all time. We can say because I just did, that doesn't make it true. (Ed Note: I think I'll actually do this another time. Just looking quickly, I see the 2006 Jays were a 93.7 win team! Eep!)

Where am I going with all this? Realignment! The only answer remaining, the one least likely to ever occur! What? How could that be? Why doesn't baseball adapt the ingenious ideal (that I first came across in the DFJ transcription of a Keith Law chat) of two big divisions with two wild cards from wherever? Surely in the name of all that is collusion the owners want to please their customers, don't they? Of course they don't.

Who do you think would oppose this move the most? The owners of the Jays, Orioles, and Rays would fight tooth and nail to avoid this. The value of 9 home dates with the Red Sox and Yankees CANNOT be overstated. You think the Jays or Rays want less of that with more weeknight dates against the Royals and a slightly increased possibility of the playoffs in return? Fuck no, they don't.

An alignment of this type would expose the fraudulent Twins and their shitty division mates, but it surely wouldn't help the Jays. Even during the aforementioned 2006 season, the Jays coulda/shoulda won 93.7 games, the damn Twins WAR'd 93.4. So there'd the Jays would be again, hoping against hope to string some lucky wins together with a chance at grabbing the remaining non-Red Socked wildcard spot. Sigh.

As for fixing the everpresent disparity between the Jays actual win total and their projected one? Just hit like crazy in the clutch like the Twins! Who cares how unsustainable it is or how inaccurate it is of the team, just follow their lead! Fill your team with one superduper start, two decent power bats and dozens of shitty singles hitters! Just hit single after single because your luck will never ru...oh, right.


  1. It probably wouldn't be that bad for the Jays. The AL East would get Cleveland and Detroit, and while they're probably not as good as Boston/New York, Detroit would still be a pretty good draw. Thus, former ratio of good draws to bad: 2:2, new ratio 3:3. Given the improved chance of making the playoffs this seems to be a pretty decent trade if you run the Jays. However, how much that chance improves is questionable when you add the Tigers, the biggest spenders in the AL Central, to the East. This gives you 5 teams capable of spending 100M+, Cleveland, and Tampa.

    Meanwhile, the AL Other 3/4 of North America gets KC, Chicago, and Minnesota. Basically LAA starts to include the playoff tickets when they send out the season tickets at the start of the year and every Jays fan cries themselves to sleep at night after looking at LAA's schedule.

  2. I proposed the 6 team playoffs with the top 2 getting byes on this blog a few weeks ago. It was in one of those recent posts where there were a bunch of comments. But yea, it'll never happen because like you said, the Jays themselves wouldn't want it. FML.

    As for the luck thing. It still boggles the mind. How can they be so monumentally unlucky 4 straight years? This stuff is supposed to correct itself over time, right?

    It's not like things haven't changed either. The bad luck has persisted through 2 very different coaching regimes, 3 hitting coaches, with good to great pitching, defense, and fielding in each of those years.

  3. I think the baseball Gods are done shitting all over us. At least that's what I keep telling myself.


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