Tuesday, October 27, 2009
Pesky Hairs Refuse to Split
A good post at Batters Box got me thinking about the Jays continued failings in late innings, close games, or other such settings for inevitable heartbreak. The tenets of Blue Jays baseball under JP were clear, the bulk of which I agree with. Except one: the value of utility players.
The Jays seem to love guys they can plug into multiple positions with little or no notice. This does seem attractive and potentially valuable, but only to an extent. One thing you've seen here before is me pining for better use of all 25 roster spots. This is especially difficult under Cito, that doesn't mean it isn't important. The 2009 Jays weren't a great team, but at times they featured three guys (Johnny Mac, Joe Inglett, Jose Bautitsa) that could jump in and play any number of positions on the diamond. Not only does this give the team flexibility, it's a skill that comes cheaply. To make my point even more bluntly; the Jays keep these jacks of all trades around because they're cheap, not because they make winning games easier.
A popular thought making its way around the baseball world these days isn't all that new, its just expressed in modern terms. You'd rather have one 6 WAR player than two 3 WAR guys. That hold true at the ass-end of the bench, too. The Jays kept guys like Bautista, MacDonald, and Inglett (when healthy) around to perform a myriad of tasks at replacement level rather than employ one proper fourth outfielder. Sending Travis Snider in as a defensive replacement for Adam Lind is technically an upgrade, but going from "negligent" to "unfortunate" doesn't really help the team.
The Jays seem to lack specialists, guys that can come in and make the most of a late inning opportunity. There is something to be said for the team actually possessing the assets but if the manager is loath to use them&mdash inserting Overbay once the left-handed starter's gone or using Randy Ruiz in the reverse setting&mdash then there isn't much point.
Coming up with a list of names that will help fully flesh out a big league roster is easy (rosterbation - a victimless crime!) but getting them to fit into a real, live 25 man roster is not. The Jays seem to not have the same set of options that their divisional rivals have. Shit, a guy like Hinske would really help this team (power off the bench, corner outfield postions? FML).
I recognize these aren't the players that will make or break the Jays in 2010 or beyond. But meaningful contributions from bench and role players IS a key aspect of successful baseball teams. The Yankees, Red Sox, and Rays didn't make the World Series because Eric Hinske was on their team, but having a guy on their bench with specific skills and abilities helps a a lot more than a guy willing to run to any spot on the field. The Jays need production from guys (to go along with production from their marquee players, that is a given) like this if they hope to compete with teams that aren't forced to wring value out of every dollar spent.