Friday, January 30, 2009

Dereliction of Duty

It's official. I'm done. The naysayers have said nay so loudly and so frequently, I've lost the urge to fight them. I'm not alone in my battle fatigue; the Drunks are Robert Graysmith-ing their way around the Rogers Centre, chasing whispers and innuendo at a breakneck pace. It's the Lord's work they're doing, but the payoff will only equal the journey's worth of tears. The charmingly opaque way Rogers runs the Jays has run right the fuck out of charm, like a post-Anchorman Will Farrell. No matter how blissfully unaware I try to remain, horseshit politics creeps in.

I'm seeing negativity where it doesn't really exist now, like the recent Batter's Box post arguing the merits of various GMs. A good and honest attempt to evaluate general managers instantly had me thinking all the wrong things. I wasn't satisfied with the realization that J.P. is a pretty middle of the road GM. I got hung up on the immensity of the task at hand, displayed in the most innocuous/devastating way possible. Average number of wins required to win the AL East over the last five years - 94.6. 4 wins more than the closest competitor. Average number of wins required to win the AL Wildcard over the last 5 years - 95.4. That is a lot to ask at the best of times, when the ownership starts playing stink pinky with their advertising revenues and equalization payments, I get sad.

Those of us that occupy the upper middle class of Blue Jays fandom are getting it from both sides. We die hard, quasi-informed fans suffer Rogers-flavored shit sandwiches gladly each year, only now we have the huddled masses to worry about. A Yahoo fantasy post (yes I'm desperately filling the void with fantasy advice columns) brought out the best criminally insane commenters to make consistent winning club sound like the 1969 Mets. I made my way through 125+ comments like the true masochist that I am, trying to take the LOLs and the calls for a salary cap in stride.

But I stand before you a broken man, hoping desperately that Spring Training will bring me back. Green grass, wind sprints, and oddly numbered jerseys can hopefully talk me off the edge.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Small Town Hack has Jays Running Scared

The Rogers Centre press box portions are TOO FUCKING SMALLBeing a sports reporter in Collingwood, Ontario can't be too much fun. The occasional feature on the local minor junior F hockey team, its roster full of kids with brain cell counts in the low single digits due to the regional practice of getting high in the liftie hut from ages 13 to 35 inclusive, or a good ball washing of the one NHL player/Olympic skeletoner/former alcoholic ski coach at Blue Mountain that wanders into town twice a year. Sounds like a joyless existence. Such a sad state of affairs is the kind of thing that would drive you to flagrantly ripping off Snarlin Jeff Blair's article on the state of Toronto sports.

"Staff writer" Chris Fell takes the teams of the Big Smoke to task, labeling them wretched, horrible, awful, and terrible. He predictably tears into the Leafs and Argos, as if cheering for those teams isn't punishment enough. He accuses the Raptors of underachieving. Sure, fair, whatever. That isn't a good basketball team, not even BC himself believes otherwise. But Fell's description of the Toronto Blue Jays that got my attention: embarrassment. He calls the Jays an embarrassment! What could his reasoning be? How could a downright respectable baseball team, one that faces tremendous odds each and every year, done to embarrass itself? By award-winning staff writer Chris Fell's criteria, they've committed the crime of not spending enough money. They've sat around and watched their divisional rivals throw money around and done nothing, despite being owned by a big rich company. FOR SHAME ROGERS. You've been pwn3d by the ghost of John Updike.

Embarrassment? Regrettable maybe, but embarrassing? I'm not sure what is more embarrassing: winning more games than you lose in baseball's best division, obviously stealing a column from a national columnist, or MISSPELLING THE NAME OF THE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES, ALSO KNOWN AS THE MOST FAMOUS MAN IN THE WORLD. Fucking clown. Back to the Simcoe County junior girls volleyball beat for you, jackass. I'm sure Jennifer Gomes from Bradford won't be upset if you get her name wrong.



Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Loose Ends Won't Tie Themselves

There will continue to be sorrow for at least a few more weeks, because Spring Training hasn't quite started. Buster Olney had a good quote in his blog the other day, about winter being the time of numbers and analysis. I'm getting sick of playing analyst and pretending I have any fucking clue what I'm talking about. Every day that passes brings me closer to death, or picking away at an acoustic guitar like Old Man Graffin above.

The ceaseless wintry weather has my baseball jones up to full power, so much so that I plugged in a baseball game I don't even like just to satisfy my cravings. Yup, it still sucks.

Another way to reduce your sorrow is reading the BONLLIA's! My 30 year old projections (there's that word again) went up last week, please do check them all out. You think it's fun to write 700 non-sequitors? Labor of love baby, labor of love.

In June I sent an open letter to the Blue Jays regarding the height of the outfield walls. Some kind soul was good enough to indulge me and respond. We went back and forth for a while, but then his email's stopped. Looking at the Jays front office roster, I see no Director of Guest Services (my correspondent's title) nor do I see his name any more, meaning he's moved on from the club. Which sucks, he seemed nice and somewhat interested. Here are the highlights of our exchanges:
  • I suggested the new, slower turf prevented balls from bounding over the fence, the original purpose of the 10 foot fences.
  • He wondered about the video board, which would be prohibitively expensive to alter. He then asked if I "would be offended by an asymmetrical setup." He noted I was the first human being to suggest such a thing.
  • Having just attended a game that night (REED!) I noticed that around the 375 foot sign, the walls turn out slightly before the video boards begin. I suggested that lower the fences up until this point wouldn't (shouldn't? couldn't?) be too costly and would leave the video boards and center field areas at the current height.
  • I continued with my ass-kissing tone and noted: A common (and unfair) knock against the Rogers Centre is of its sterile/homogeneous appearance. I think adding a few wrinkles to the symmetrical outfield would do wonders, without absorbing the major cost of altering the dimensions of the playing surface.
    I've attached a photo of Progressive Field (look, there it is --->), where the wall drops dramatically in height. While the changes I'm proposing wouldn't be as drastic, I like the idea of a straight drop. The potential, slight as it may be, for exciting plays born out of strange bounces is there.
    A little variation would be welcomed by most Jays fans, I assume?
  • The next email from "my contact" indicated he would be out of the office on vacation, but I never heard from him again. I emailed him back a few months later, and recently re-sent my original letter to the Fan Feedback email address without a response.
I can't see lower the walls from the corner to the 375 sign costing too much, especially compared to many of the recent changes to the Rogers Centre. If you think this is a good idea, I encourage you to send a note along to or email me here at Ghostrunner on First. The worst thing they could do would be to say no, right?

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Digging Deep in Search of Groundwater

In his recent State of the Blue Jays Blogosphere post, Parkes of the Drunks paid our corner of the innernerd a nice little compliment; saying GROF was like DJF with less swearing. Fucking right! My combination of modest output and middling humour isn't likely to draw a massive readership as those fine fellows do, though I long for day that the first comment after my posts is someone telling me to fuck off. Instead I have astute commenters pointing out that moving Vernon Wells to a corner outfield spot (I proposed moving him to left in the post below) would destroy any value in his contract and eliminate the chance of him taking the Jays off the hook after 2011 by opting out.

On the surface, this smart individual is right on the money. Conventional wisdom dictates putting up with a lighter hitting CF but demanding power from corner fielders, suffering their terrible defense in the exchange. It should be noted once again, just as the Southpaw pointed out months ago, that Vernon's deal doesn't appear so awful when compared to other recent free agent center fielders. His offensive production/contract years are on par with the likes of Ichiro and Torii Hunter yada yada yada.

By using (and understanding) Fangraphs's newfangled stats, we can look a little more deeply at a player's value in search of inequities. Based on his $18 million dollar average salary (not reality though, his contract is heavily backloaded), Vernon Wells needs to account for approximately 4.5 wins over average. 4.5 total wins would place him third among qualified left fielders in 2008 and fifth among center fielders. Remember these figures adjust for position, meaning a good left fielder isn't as valuable as a good center fielder.

Could Vernon Wells provide this type of value from left field in 2009? Vernon's superlative 2006 was worth 5.8 wins, 4.4 for his 2003 breakout season. According to the information available to us lowly blogger types, he didn't follow the same route to arrive at these numbers. In 2003 Wells provided more offense (+34.2 runs) but well below-average defense (-14.6 runs). His 2006 campaign married strong offense (+28 runs) with excellent defense (+7.1 runs) to provide more value on the whole.

The "penalty" for moving from center to left is 10 runs or one win. Johnny Damon is the perfect example of a below average (though once great) center fielder born again as an excellent left fielder. If Johnny plays 150 games as a left fielder in 2009 as well as he did in 2008, he adds one full win to his total. If Wells can play left to the level of Damon (a player 5 years his senior with a worse track record in center) a solid/good season at the plate would justify his paycheque.

Because I can't help myself, I'll use a nifty graph to look at the kind of value Vernon Wells would provide depending on the scenario. I'll leave the offensive projections the same (and completely made up, screw you Chone Petoca) and assume he's healthy enough to play 145 games or about 600 plate appearances.

Magical Wells!BattingFieldingReplacementPositionalRuns/Wins
2008 Vernon Wells10.5-12.815.50.713.9/1.4
2009 Vernon Wells A18020240/4
2009 Vernon Wells B18-1520225/2.5
2009 Vernon Wells C18620-3.540.5/4.1
2009 Vernon Wells D18020-725/2.5
2009 Vernon Wells E181620-747/4.7
  1. Vernon Wells provides a full season of good if unspectacular offense and league average center field defense. An acceptable situation unless you are Vernon's wife or agent.
  2. Brad Hawpe-ish offense with still horrible but "slightly improved over 2008" CF defense from Vernobot. This is approaching the worst case scenario. He would need a monster season to cancel out the negative defense, lest he become the contract albatross we all fear.
  3. Vernobot starts in center, sucks for 60 games when Travis Snider is recalled and inserted into right field. Vern moves to left and bounces back just like Johnny Caveman. Likely? Maybe not. But it is a reasonable version of my little fantasy, and also nets the same number of wins as the league average center field Vernobot.
  4. Cito moves Vernobot to left field during spring training, which makes Vern sad. He does his thing at the plate but mopes around left field like a league average Eeyore. Trouble again, this looks suspiciously like bad center fielder Vernobot. Interesting to note that a full season of league average LF Wells is a full win better than 100 game CF dropsies Wells, despite the positional correction. Cheer up Vernobot!
  5. The final scenario is my pie in the sky, "Vernon Wells is not quite Carl Crawford but almost as good" left field star. 4.7 wins, thank you very much.
Conventional wisdom (aka Jeff Blair) once said if you're looking for defense from your left fielder, you're in trouble. Well I say a run saved is a run saved, it doesn't matter where you steal it from. This year's free agent market, depressed as it is, has also shown teams refusal to overpay for one dimensional players but reward players for their all-around play. If this trend is to continue, and should Vernon Wells successfully move to left field, he could still provide value to the Blue Jays or remain attractive enough on the open market to opt out and fetch a bigger deal elsewhere.

Friday, January 23, 2009

Wells Runs Dry

A couple nice chunks on the interwebs yesterday regarding defense. The obsessives at Fangraphs discuss deploying 3 center fielders at once to create a superb run saving juggernaut. The examples of the Rays, Orioles, and Mariners use three CF-style glovemen to cheaply prevent runs rather than expensively create them with a DH-in-waiting. I started to think "the Jays have a similar set up! They have two CFs and one kid that can play either corner spot." I then remembered that Vernon Wells is far from an effective center fielder anymore. We can all acknowledge that he had a down 2008 defensively, but I was amazed how far down it was. His UZR/150 games was a miserable -21.5 and his Dewan +/- was an equally depressing -16. So he either lost a step, or was playing hurt, or both. That's fine, I'll accept it to a point.

I've always held the belief that Vernon Wells has a strong, accurate arm; not overwhelming but effective none the less. I based this opinion on nothing but false hope, kind of like the friend of yours that convinces himself that the stripper LOVES him, not just cocaine. The Hardball Times published the results of their outfield arms research for 2008, and it doesn't look good for Vernon.

Chart c/o The Hardball Times
This chart (courtesy of the Hardball Times) shows Vernon to be slightly above average at throwing runners out but below average at holding them on. The most troubling aspect is how much of an outlier Vernon is among center fielders. He's far behind the field in holding runners while offering very few kills above average. People just don't respect his arm, it would seem. Troubling indeed.

This brings us to young Alexis. Alex Rios, as I've discussed ad nauseum, is a tremendous fielder. He also has a great arm, splitting time between right and center in 2008 to the tune of about +8 runs in 150 opportunities, compared to Vernon's -1.9 per 200 opportunities. So he can throw it better, and he can go get it better. Does that mean, in spite of his offensive struggles when slotted into center, it's time for Rios to move there full time?

If he can normalize his offensive performance from that position, I say yes. But not until Travis Snider is ready to play every day. In a too small to seriously consider sample size, Snider was an excellent right fielder in the big leagues. Add his plus arm (so sayeth the KLAW!) and hopefully big bat, and he sounds like a good candidate for every day right fielder. Moving Vernon Wells to left hopefully lends him a few steps in the outfield (hello Johnny Damon) and his arm, which figures to the be the worst of the three, is in the least impactful position. Wells may balk at a move to left just before his potential opt out year, and may recover his previous slightly above average form in centerfield. But if the Jays aren't going to shell out quite yet for a big bat, preventing runs and maximizing the skill set of the outfielders trumps Vernon's pride and his agent's tears every time.

Thanks to John Walsh for the chart and insight

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

An Ace Unable to Change

The air quality sure is bad here in my mother's basement. Dusty, probably asbestos. Something is definitely effecting my vision. Breathing, too! If you'll excuse me...

Hat tip to Big League Duk and the Rob Iracane

Tuesday, January 20, 2009


We go pretty easy on the Jays front office around here, mostly because of apathy. I try not to get too caught up in the machinations of the business side of things, because it's so far beyond my control and so far removed from the actual enjoyment I receive from watching the game. While my fandom remains liberated, my ire has been raised by the Jays agreeing to a one year contract with Jose Bautista worth $2.4 million American dollars! Legal tender! It won't have JP's face on it or anything. Honestly, what the fucking fuck is this?

Never mind the number of players hanging around at discount prices. Actually, fuck that, let's mind the shit out of them. Ignoring the fact that a player like Adam Dunn, however unlikely he is to sign in Toronto, is sitting out there facing the harsh reality of signing a one year deal in the neighborhood of $5 million. There are some REALLY shitty players out there that are still WAY better than Bautista. Looking for a right handed utility guy to cover Overbay against tough lefties? Rich Aurilla would come cheaper and be just as shitty. I may not like Ty Wigginton, but if he's around for the same price, you have to go get his 3 wins, don't you? Jeff Kent was worth 0.7 wins last year, he lived in Canada once! Richie Sexson, Kevin Millar, All right handed guys that can play first base. Is Jose Bautista's ability to spell Scott Rolen that valuable, on a team teeming with white guys that will play anywhere on the diamond?

Even if we set aside all the alternatives, be they cheaper, better or both. This deal sucks because the Jays are now OVERPAYING JOSE BATISTA! Only one non-BONILLA projection system puts him above average offensively. Defensively, he only saw noteworthy time at 3B, where he posted a negative UZR. His time at first base, the first of his career, was brief but below average. The only real value Jose Bautista offers is as a utility guy, on a team full of utility guys. Fuck. Overall in 2008, Jose's slide rule and abacus calculated value was $2.5 million bucks, despite being below average defensively and offensively.

The rational part of my brain buys that, but another part of my mind screams "his ceiling is nil. He brings next to nothing to the table, and won't even be a full time player!" If a team is cutting costs, parring down its roster and slamming the door on external roster development, how the fuck can it afford to pay a bench guy $2.4 million dollars? Are all the doomsayers correct, is this team being primed for a sale? Is this just clearing the cupboard so a new president and/or GM can start fresh? If you are lying down, fine. I'll find something to cheer about. But don't do it half-assed. Run the damn kids out there, you know they're cheap so it doesn't matter if they only play once a week. Christ, now I know why I don't bother getting involved in the drama side of the game. This shit is aging me quickly.

Angry barfly gesture of thanks in the general direction of the Drunk Jays Fans for the heads up on the story and the conspiratorial comments.

Monday, January 19, 2009

Mother of Christ was I Ever Wrong about Reed

Look at that fucking thing! He makes Rocco look like a virginal schoolboy. Why couldn't he have sported this look as Blue Jay? I'd have gladly traded my basic understanding that he's a limited player unfit for an every day role to keep him in town. I would have signed up for any groundswell, or any type of swollen earth movement. Awesome.

Hat tip to the wonderful Goat Riders of the Apocalypse.

Grecian/Spanish Friction Hits All-Time High

My first thought when I heard Nick Markakis signed a very familiar 6 year, $60+ million dollar contract extension was "Alex Rios is officially overpaid." Markakis is often in my thoughts, while Alex Rios has become our reality. Not that I'm complaining, but initially they don't compare quite so well. Markakis is like Rios with a lot more patience and very similar power output. The Greek Rocco notched 43 home runs over the past two years to Winfield Lite's 39. He actually bested Alex's superlative 47 doubles in 2008 with 48 of his own.

But then I remembered that I'm supposed to be some kind of holistic baseball try-hard, it couldn't be so cut and dry. So I let some much smarter people than I do all the work, and I realized that despite their nearly identical numbers in 2007, Alex Rios was worth a full win more than Markakis. And despite having creating nearly 20 runs of offense above average fewer than Nick the Greek, Alexis was worth but a half win less overall. How can that be? The Oriole in question had Rios by nearly 40 points of wOBA, a stat that accounts for Rios sudden surge in base larceny??

Oh right, Alex Rios is one of the best outfielders in baseball. How could I forget? UZR, RZR, +/-, they all love Rios. Markakis is no slouch, but using Fangraph's evaluation system, Alex Rios makes up 13 runs because of his defense. He also picks up some bonus points for being able to play both CF and RF well. That doesn't even account for his outstanding arm. Sadly Markakis's gun, just like his ball fetching and forefather's cuisine, is very average.

So what was it? Why did I convince myself that Roccopolous was better than Alex Rios? Could I overlooked his much more offense-minded lineup and position in the order, allowing myself to be swayed by "traditional" numbers like RBI? I'd have to shut this whole blog down and start commenting at, wouldn't I?

Thankfully, no. The value of Markakis getting on base an extra 50 times should not be diminished. The other point in Nick's favor is his age, especially relative to Rios. Alex Rios has what we like to call "Ryan Howarditis"; he's way older than you realize. Nick Markakis is headed into his 3rd full season at the age of 25, while the Jays right fielder will have reached the tender age of 28 before Opening Day. It should also be noted that Markakis has shown steady growth over each of his big league seasons, while Rios has ridden a roller coaster of staph infections, questioned effort and bastard children.

Realistically, both the Jays and O's are getting exactly what they must if they hope to compete in the AL East: excellent value for their money. Paying Markakis $10 million per year through his 30 year old season or Rios through 31 is sound business, considering their true worth starts somewhere in the neighbourhood of $16 million per year. A figure (plus inflation, naturellement) the Mets, Yankees, Red Sox or Dodgers will gladly pay them come 2013.

Friday, January 16, 2009

Why Can't You be More Like Diablo Canyon 2?

It's been a while since I last thought of my favorite closer-in-waiting cum doghouse inhabitant cum alien pitching phenom: Brandon League. Man oh man do I love Brandon League. But even with me, he is out of excuses. No surfing injuries, no triple A yo-yo action. This is the year that Brandon League realizes his destiny: being as good as Joba Chamberlain.

A lot to ask? Yes, but the similarities are there. Home runs/9, WHIP, average against, and strand rate were all very similar in 2008. They both bring pure gas, but in very different ways. Joba's fastball is straight, hard, and as pure as his love of fudge. Brandon League's fastball is more along the lines of a flying saucer, darting about the night's sky quickly and erratically. Brandon League's slider is a glorified cutter/drunk divorcee at a Firkin bar; waiting to be banged over and over again. Joba's slider is basically unhittable. Joba also features a big nasty curveball, a pitch League removed from his arsenal years ago.

In terms of stuff, Brandon League is unique in that he's been able to get this far on the strength of one pitch. Joba is a very traditional pitcher with supernatural stuff, he racks up huge strikeout numbers by deploying his arsenal of nastiness whenever the situation demands. Brandon League would accrue more strikeouts were he able to get ahead of more hitters, but his wildness keeps him relying on his hilarious GB/FB rate.

It is my hope that League spent this off season working on his secondary stuff. Any other pitch will do! Something he can throw for strikes with enough frequency to keep left handed hitters from getting too comfortable. Difficult as I imagine hitting a 97 mile per hour sinker is, any big league hitter will figure it out eventually if that's the only pitch he has to worry about. A second pitch (change up?) that keeps batters honest and doesn't need to be labeled as a "get me over" anything can only bring down League's slightly home run per fly ball rate.

Other Stuff

  • Walkoff Walk decided to get into the projection game. Our BONILLA system (Based On Nothing Interesting, Let's Look at Age) has been rolling out all week. My first entry, the 28 year olds, went up yesterday. Please check it out and LOL accordingly.
  • Canada is having hard time filling out its WBC rotation. Too many injuries? Let those that preach the gospel of virgin arms carry this cross with them forever.
  • Geoff Baker ranks Blogger's Valhala (the press box) of each American League park. Judging by the food selections, it's no wonder they're such a cranky bunch. The Rogers Centre press box ranking suffers due to Bob Elliott's spastic colon.
  • JP blames Rogers. Who doesn't at this point?
  • I don't blame Rogers for anything, so long as they abide by our uneasy agreement. I caved to my end of the deal, finally picking up an iphone the other day. Time to sign Halladay to that extension. Tout de suite!

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Burn After Reading

The cabal of eggheads that run Fangraphs recently added pitching win values to the sundry high-quality stats they provide. Wins above average combined with the going rate of approx $6 million per win (going, going gone with a little collusive lubrication), we can determine a player's value on the open market. The math behind these numbers is dizzying, so I'll make like your sister's prick "boyfriend du jour" that shows up unannounced at your Christmas dinner and take only the white meat.

Here's hoping that nobody from Rogers happens to glance at this collection of values, as Roy Halladay's value over the last few years has been at or above $20 million per season, including a dizzying $27 million bucks after his stellar 2008. Remember, he took a substantial hometown discount so he was only* paid $12 million in 2008. Holy shit, if they realize signing him to an extension will cost them in AT LEAST $20 million per year, he'll be shipped out for the first bag of balls they're offered.

A.J. Burnett's standout opt-out season netted him a big raise from the Yankees, averaging $18.5 million per year. According to FG's numbers, his 2008 season would have been worth......$18.3 million dollars. That Cashman is crazy like a fox.

Though he represents a reasonable bargain, Scott Downs's excellence still doesn't yield too big a difference (+1 win) from an "average player". Even though he generally pitches in high leverage situations, he ranked 0.7 wins behind similar LOOGY J.P. Howell. Many of the Jays young arms are signed to cheap entry-level deals, so anything they give you above replacement is money in your pocket. Jesse Litsch's decent season was worth 1.4 wins or $6.2 million bucks, a far cry from his $400 000 salary.

So please Rogers suits, don't read up on Win Values or do any investigating about Roy Halladay's true worth. Think about the crisis of confidence all your consumers would have if you shipped him out! Cost benefit analysis, you MBA shmuck! For the love of god, just give him what he deserves!

* - Yes, $12 million dollars is an ungodly amount of money. But skill sets, revenue, supply/demand. You know all this stuff. If you don't, write a letter to the editor of your local Sun Media publication.

Monday, January 12, 2009

Obligitory Hall of Fame Post

The prospect of another round of bloggy bloviating over the substandard HoF selection process bores me just a little. The BBRAA has proven to be nearly identical to the comments section of the very papers they write for: if you throw the net out wide enough, you're bound to catch a few mutated/inbred fish that could sour you on the entire idea of seafood. I can't muster too much indignation over Jim Rice's selection, but Tim Raines missing out is really a shame. I'll let Walkoff Walk commenter Dr. Lingerie perfectly sum up Rock's qualifications:
Purchase some blow from a gentleman who trades in such wares. DO ALL OF IT. Now, in spite of your brain's inability to focus for more than two seconds, the excruciating tingling restlessness in each and every extremity, the bone-dry Saharan just-ate-a-urinal-cake sensation in the back of your throat, and the blood in your mouth from unwittingly chewing a considerable hunk of your own cheek off, go hit against major league pitching purposefully and selectively until you are able to coax a walk.

Repeat 1,329 times and also knock out 2,605 hits so that only 40 men in the history of ever have gotten on base more times than you have.

Congratulations, 22.7% of retardeds comprehend how awesome you are.
I don't have any experience with White Girl's Gasoline, so I can't say for sure if this brilliant paragraph describes Tim Raines's achievements accurately, but it sure makes a hell of a case and a hell of a weekend.

Disappointment for Young & Old

Hey, Michael Young! I remember you spilling gallons of milk on your way out of town. Jays fans have spent a good 10 years crying over all that high quality wooyoo. But now, having been asked to move your immobile ass out of Elvis Andrus's way, you want out of Texas! For one, you should have begged out of Texas years ago for reasons too numerous to list, but your refusal to be a "team player" should stoke the fires of Blue Jays fans on the lookout for the next player who's name they don't have to bother learning.

Young's Overbay-esque 2008 (poor performance blamed on hand injury) has brought his value below zero. He just received a huge raise, despite being a sub-standard shortstop accompanied by offensive production in sharp decline. So please, Blue Jays fans, don't insist that JP could trade him for Jason Frasor and is incompetent for not doing so. Nobody is going near this guy for anything more than a song, and for good reason.

Somewhat Exciting Site News!

Hard to believe that it was one full year ago that today we chained the first monkey to the first stolen laptop with dreams of one day compiling the perfect listicle and/or adding sweet nuance to our particular brand of slander. Many things have changed along the way, and hopefully things will keep changing for the better (fingers crossed for fewer than 3 tenses per post in 2009. We can be doing thems!)

In honor of this meaningless milestone; I've opted for two different synopses of our year. The first you see above, as told by Walter and the Dude. Below I've selected one post from each month which has stuck out in my memory.

Thanks for reading etc for the past year, here's hoping for at least a couple more!

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Rocco's Red Sock

Update: Something about that picture just looks right.

Good on him. If not here under my stalkful eye, where else could he possibly go to keep me happy? He'll still get lots of screentime on Sportsnet without wasting away in some National League hinterland. Rocco's signing is expected to be announced tonight at the Boston Baseball Writers Association Awards; where Rocco will receive the Tony Coligniaro award for, as Mr. Rob Iracane said this morning, being awesome. I think Red Sox Rocco is great fun, though it spells bad things for the Jays.

The Tao nailed it as usual today, noting that the Sox signings (Smoltz!) are just as scary as the Yankees recent acquisitions. My esteemed colleagues at Walkoff Walk bookended their day's with Rocco comments. Kris aka CTC aka the resident Red Sox fan had this to say:
If Rocco is really on the health upswing he has the potential to be the best fourth outfielder in baseball. That's a huge asset to a team that employs awesome, but injury prone Florida State Seminole JD Drew.
You hear that Reed? Your mantle of best fourth outfielder in baseball has been passed to a guy with good reason for his scrap and grit. He also has the good sense to let the chin pubes envelop his entire face when the situation calls for it.

For Rocco to provide the Sox with anything more than pure aesthetic joy, he's going to need to improve some of his slightly scary 2008 numbers. He ended up with a Riosian wOBA of .358, but he struck out a shit-ton (30%!) and managed an amazing 20% home run/fly ball rate. Neither of those numbers are sustainable, but the Ks will come down so long as he doesn't take 5 month breaks from the game.

Generally regarded as one of the Good Guys, he'll get a pass from the Boston media horde until May 1st. If he isn't producing at or near the level of unfortunate Hall of Fame candidate Jim Rice at that time, I predict the scene below to unfold in the bowels of Fenway.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

On Choice

Disconnected IndeedThe cacophony of hand-ringing is reaching epic levels these days, as high profile DH-types and reclamation-styled pitching projects are signing much cheaper deals in far less desirable locales than sunny Toronto. The hand-ringing is such that, had these basement-dwelling molemen not masturbated their palmflesh off long ago, they would now be as fingerprint free as John Doe. Blame quickly falls to either JP or Rogers, for not being in on these bargain-basement sluggers or for slashing the payroll dramatically; leaving bored Jays fans fighting amongst themselves like angry Quebeckers at their Floridian retirement village's Yankee Swap.

The comments following a recent Drunk Jays Fans post reflect this anger, but also reveal some rational thought among frustrated Jays fans. Unless these lowish risk acquisitions blows all expectations out of the water, they are viewed as failures right from the start. When the price on Giambi falls considerably (to nearly Luol Deng levels of thievery, Giambi protecting Holliday is fine work indeed) the outcry explodes from the peanut gallery. If player X signed for Y, how come the Jays didn't sign him for Y + 1??? JP sucks, we're told. Rogers is cheap, we understand.

This thinking is obviously flawed. When teams league wide go into spending freezes, the price of a Giambi or Bradley is brought artificially low. If the Jays chime in with a slightly higher bid, the As or whomever else will come back slightly higher until Fat Slugger X's contract is no longer a steal but a liability.

The other side of the coin is choice. Most free agents go the mercenary route, especially if it they see that particular contract as their career Big One. But if they will be taking a deal well below expectations anyway, why not be choosy where you go? Giambi started his career in Oakland, perhaps he thought best to finish it there? Eckstein took less money to come here last season because he'd have the chance to play shortstop every day.

Pitchers can afford to pick their spots and, as Tomo Ohka & Victor Zambrano can attest, will always sign a cheap deal with a team that sports a big offense (which the 2007 Jays promised but did not deliver) or stands a very good chance of winning many games in spite of rather than thanks to their contribution (here's looking at you Penny). Limit the damage to 3-4 runs allowed in 5 innings of work most times out, grab a dozen wins, turn that into a Carlos Silva deal on the free market. Mr. Scrap Heap can laugh all the way to the golf course.

Of course it's lamentable that the Jays couldn't sign Giambi for less than they paid Eckstein last year, or half of what they pay Johnny Mac. In fact, I just died a little on both the inside and the outside. But there are too many factors at play to simply announce "management is incompetent" and be done with it. Besides, Adam Dunn is still out there, and now LOTS of people are saying he doesn't like baseball. He can't blacklist them all.

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Straws Within Our Grasp

The good people at The Hardball Times recently took to changing the way we look at Batting Average on Balls into Play. A neat little stat we can use to determine who may have been lucky, who may have been unlucky, and who may be terrible. When predicting BABIP, one adds .120 to the batter's line drive rate. Where the .120 comes from I honestly have no idea. But these fine gentlefolk decided to dig a little deeper into BABIP, adding many more factors to create a more telling predication of a batter's success.

A quick look at a player like Vernon Wells, you can see how much BABIP hints at potential success. His BABIP goes up, he has a good year. It goes down, he's not so hot. But why? What does this number tell us? Using factors such as speed, patience and contact rates, park effect, GB/FD, line drive rate, spray and many others (read the full explanation here), they created xBABIP, or expected BABIP to determine when a player's been getting lucky and when he's been getting hosed. Their research uncovered quite a few guys that had huge or unexpected 2008's (Ryan Doumit, Milton Bradley, Shin-soo Choo and Giovanny Soto) as players that outperformed their xBABIP as well as potential bargains for 2009 (Nick Swisher, Jason Giambi, Willy Aybar) that didn't get the bounces. Here are the numbers for the Jays core over the last few years. Actual BABIP is simply their non-homerun hits divided by balls in play (PA-K-BB-HR).

YearScumbag in QuestionBABIP (actual)xBABIPPoint DiffPercentage Diff
2008Vernon Wells.291.280-113.64%
2007Vernon Wells.260.29232-12.14%
2006Vernon Wells.305.3094-1.25%
2008Lyle Overbay.311.310-10.19%
2007Lyle Overbay.270.32151-18.86%
2006Lyle Overbay.340.319-216.20%
2008Alex Rios.329.314-164.71%
2007Alex Rios.316.3205-1.50%
2006Alex Rios.333.320-144.06%
2008Scott Rolen.283.2896-2.12%
2007Scott Rolen.282.2907-2.54%
2006Scott Rolen.295.2983-0.92%
2008Adam Lind.313.302-113.44%
2007Adam Lind.265.30338-14.29%

I believe these numbers tell us quite a few things about the Jays of the past as well as moving forward. Vernon Wells was, in addition to being injured in 2007, really unlucky. His shoulder was so bad it cut his Home Run per fly ball rate to nearly half is career number in 2007, not to mention he wasn't getting any love from the baseball gods. Vernon put up good numbers in 2008, numbers he should have no problem replicating in 2009 if healthy. One possible cause for concern could be the steady decline of his xBABIP for the past three seasons.

Lyle Overbay went from being really lucky in 2006 to freakishly unlucky (and injured) in 2007 to just about right in 2008. Overbay consistently puts the fat part of the bat on the ball, with high xBABIP year in and year out and a nice 20% line drive rate to go with it. Can we conclude that 2008 Lyle is about what we should expect in 2009? Without a marked improvement against left handed pitching, yes.

Alex Rios is a strange case. A little lucky in 2006 and 2008, unlucky in 2007 when he notched career highs in home runs and walk/k rate. Hmmmm Alex, put the bat on your shoulder?

Professional Hitter Scott Rolen steams along, grinds out at bats and hits line drives. One thing to watch is his HR/FB%, which finished a little over 7% for the year. His terrible month of July was the real outlier here, as he managed 0 home runs in 94 PAs. The rest of the year he sat near 12% HR/FB, a number that would suit me nicely for 2009.

Adam Lind is a little worrisome for 2009. He was so unlucky in 2007 with a correction coming in 2008. He really went into the tank in September, but his BABIP stayed high (.329) He's still young so I still have hope that he, unlike Overbay, will improve and show the kind of hitter he was in AAA.

A few other notes on important Jays. Aaron Hill is a player that exceeded his xBABIP in successive seasons but also improved his number from 2007 to 2006. Potential Jay scrap heap find Michael Barrett should take heart in getting terribly unlucky during his last full season .266 actual versus .292 expected. If you were wondering about Rod Barajas or Marco Scutaro; you shouldn't. Neither of them are important nor are they any good. Fine, Marco Scutaro got a little unlucky in 2008 while Rod Barajas's numbers don't count for much because he hits naught but home runs and gets on base less than Johnny Mac. Travis Snider didn't have enough at bats to quality, but surely his xBABIP for 2009 will be in the neighbourhood of .400. BECAUSE HE'S TED WILLIAMS RE-INCARNATE!

Monday, January 5, 2009

GROF Exclusive: Adam Lind's New Years Twitter Feed

Like most young people that refuse to get off my lawn, up and coming Blue Jays slugger Adam Lind combined his always-at-the-ready Blackberry and his desire to record his most mundane thoughts into a Twitter feed. Seems Lind brought some of his boys from back home down to Vegas for New Years Eve. Unfortunately, he's since taken his page down (DON'T BOTHER LOOKING) but my unprecedented access will show lowly scum like us how the big timers do it in Vegas.

Lindiana's Finest

Headed home, we ran this shit. I wuz straight juiced last night! Next time I holla atch ya, I'll be chillin in Flo-Rida! LOL
10:27PM Jan 1 2009 from Twitterberry

Loks liek nobodee pulled, dis place dead NEway. 2:32AM Jan 1 2009 from Twitterberry

Man, don't these girls know who I iz? Once I get that arbitration paper, they recognize!!!11! 1:14AM Jan 1 2009 from Twitterberry

POP THA BOTTLEZ! Happy New Year bicthes!! 2009 Linds blowin up. Fuck the hattters, Imma big leagurr!!! 12:07 AM Jan 1 2009 from Twitterberry

500 for a bottle of Patron???/? We'll stick with Bud Lite. Hoosiers reprazent!!! 11:23 Dec 31 2008 from Twitterberry

Headed out 2 da club. Couple mexican dudes onna Strip told me Weezys gonna be there. We big timin! 11:11 PM Dec 31 2008 from Twitterberry

I cant believe we staying at the Trop. Big extenshun = Hard Rock Suite baby 10:41 Dec 31 2008 from Twitterberry

@Sniderman You needs to relax broseph, LOL @ watching tape on New Yearzzzzzzz 10:12 Dec 31 2008 from Twitterberry

Me an teh crew watching a little Entourage LOl @ Turtle, hes just like my boy D-Rob 9:59 PM Dec 31 2008 from Twitterberry

Imma get so laid tonight, deez ladies know how we do 9:14 PM Dec 31 2008 from Twitterberry

Dinn3r time * big steaks for da big dogz 6:30 PM Dec 31 2008 from Twitterberry

Just got a message from lil Jess, hes running shit @ Circus Circus 3:45 PM Dec 31 2008 from Twitterberry

Last nite was sickness, we gonna do it up big time this NYE! INDIANS FINEST!!!! 2:07 PM Dec 31 2008 from Twitterberry

Friday, January 2, 2009

College Football, Friends Marathons, and Gimmicky Hockey Games

None of these things are remotely as interesting as the MLB Network. The MLB Network that I would have invested a good 30 or 40 hours in today. And there I was, lamenting my Canadian citizenship while not watching the MLB Network. No joke, I'm pissed.

The largely overblown Raptors/TSN 2 debacle helps crystallize the utter contempt television providers and the content providers feel for their customers and the incredible amount of entitlement the average fan has developed in a very short period of time. Falsely entitled as I am in most avenues of life, this is a certain exception. Here and now, I am announcing to all cable companies and television carriers that I will pay ANY PRICE for this television network. Damn my child's education, food, clothing, and general well-being. DON LARSEN'S PERFECT GAME DAMMIT. And that was their first day on the air!!! It will only get better, and be a continued respite from made-for-TV hockey tournaments/cottage industries (this just in: fuck junior hockey) and god-forsaken curling skins games.

I'm sure Rogers will finally make this available to us poor, downtrodden Canadians once they've figured out how best to maximize it as a revenue stream. The appetite for baseball in this country may not be as voracious as for other sports, but that is the beauty of specialty channels, isn't it? I will be stealing it from shady Chinese streaming websites in the meantime.