Saturday, February 28, 2009

Dead Presidents

When I first read Blair's piece today about the Jays (quite obviously) shopping Scott Rolen and Lyle Overbay while confirming some interest in Orlando Cabrera, I was all ready to go. I was primed to break it down, to point out that Cabrera's worth about 3 wins a year, mostly due to his defense (which UZR likes a hell of a lot more than +/-). I would adroitly point out that Cabrera is a year OLDER than Scott Rolen, might as well be Scutaro's offensive twin, and is slightly detestable. I would re-recite my "Scott Rolen at any dollar amount is 10 times better than Jose Bautista for nothing" speech. It was going to be great. Predictable, but great.

But having read L'Homme Du Sports 18000 word piece on the NBA's finances, I realized none of it mattered. The Jays don't care about replacing Scott Rolen's wins or defense or bat or leadership; they want someone to eat the bill. Jose Bautista's warm body at $2.4M is better than Rolen's 3-4 wins at $11M because, shockingly, $2.4 million dollars is less than $11 million dollars.

This team is in full fledged cost cutting mode, and I don't think it will be any other way for while. I joked yesterday that the Jays were hardly the new Rays, but I foolishly recognize now that they aren't trying to be anything else. Keep the costs low, hope to catch lightening in a bottle. Hope you keep churning out quality pitching, avoid ANY contracts to avoid bad contracts.

Reinvesting in the draft? Sounds good, except the team is completely divesting themselves of cumbersome (and/or market value) dollar figures at the big league level. Will the Jays compete in 2010, with veterans in contract years and a group of promising kids come of age? Nope, they look to be running only kids out there because they're cheaper. You never know what will happen, right?

With great cynicism Rogers seems to accept the Jays continuing status as also-rans, so financially they might as well jog. As Paul Beeston said "if you're not going to spend $120 million you might as well spend $80." Improving the team is now secondary to cutting costs. Will Roy Halladay walk? Of course he will, because he won't get anything resembling a fair market offer. I foresee Carlos Delgado all over again.

Do we give them any reason to do otherwise? If the Jays win 90 games, how many more dollars does Rogers make than if they win 70? I'd hazard a guess very few. As long as the Red Sox and Yankees still show up 9 times a year, they'll be just fine.

This shouldn't effect me like this, but watching a team attempt to get worse is hard to take. Save a few bucks sure, but they aren't going to be recirculated into the baseball operation. That money will be gone. Would the kids be fun to watch? Hopefully they would, but the line between exciting youth movement and carousel of middling prospects is pretty fucking thin, and I have no interest in toeing it.

Friday, February 27, 2009

A Mild Smattering of Indifferent Hope

After all the scaremongering and doomsaying, it's nice to have a ray of light shine into your day. Last night I was ejected from the subway tunnels resulting in a forced march down Bloor Street. Turns out there was a a "security investigation" down the line that stopped the trains (Hey Broseph, I got a suspicious package for ya!). I stepped into a local confectionery to gaze at the magazine rack, where I encountered a sight more glorious than unexpected nudity in a movie of substance.

That's right, the Jays are the new Rays question mark. Big League Stew's been tracking everyone accused of being the New Rays, and it's pretty much every team that was awful last year. Nevermind that this magazine is the Jays season preview magazine, one that was designed for sales in Canada only (hello Morneau!). This is hope! This is a sign that they've got pieces in place!

Actually, this is kind of insulting. The Rays? Is this to say that the Jays were in the same sort of dire straights as the Rays? Fuck. That. The Jays may exist in baseball limbo, baseball purgatory, but they certainly do not exist in the seventh circle of baseball hell!

Thursday, February 26, 2009

The Upside of Down

GRRRRRRMan, it's good to have Blair back on the Jays beat. Slurping Blair seems to be the bloggy move de rigueur this spring, luckily he brings the goods each and every day so we just keep on swallowing. Even if it's only temporary, his sweet truth seemingly comes free of agendas. Unfortunately, the Teller of Truths isn't imbuing me with a great deal of hope for the Blue Jays this season, dropping some somber quotes during his live blog today.
  • On the various ways the Jays big three prospects have been ranked: J.P.'s got too many enemies for that list to be legit all the time.

  • On Roy Halladay's future in Toronto. Will he re-sign, trade, or walk: I think he walks(!)

  • On Adam Lind: I'm not as sold on him as I am on Snider. I see him getting fewer at bats than we think.

  • On the outlook for 2009: I'll be honest: this could be the second-worst team in the AL, unless Snider goes off and Litsch wins 15 games. They need to replace a ton of innings from Burnett, McGowan and Marcum. He later added: Jays record in 09: too early. How about 70-75 wins?
Nothing we all haven't thought, but scary to see in print. A lot of talk around the team seems to gravitate to Adam Lind being traded, given Travis Snider's emergence. Another good quote from Blair regarding A.J. Burnett, whom he doesn't see as the big flake others purport him to be. My skepticism gets eaten my my cynacism when I read conflicting reports on player attitudes. It stink of the ancient Chinese proverb:
What's the difference between a slut and a bitch? A slut sleeps with everyone, a bitch sleeps with everyone but you.
As an aside, where do I sign for the Bryan Bullington bandwagon? I said a few weeks ago that I liked the signing, what with the high ceiling and all. If Arnsberg can reclaim him from the depths, is it safe to anoint him the miracle man? He looked today against a tough lefty lineup in Spring Training, so the jury's not even been summoned, let alone out.

CHONE Bones Jays

What a shock. Another projection system, another frightening Jays win total. CHONE reaches a new low, establishing the Jays as a 75 win team. Le Sigh.

Good old CHONE figures the Yanks for 97 wins and the Sox for 96. You can read the full list here, as well as their power ranking that ranks the Jays 12th. Whatever.

Links Cause I'm Lazy

They're actually playing baseball, like right now! I'll attempt to have something interesting to say about tomorrow. No promises.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Hometown Discount

Rather than wring my hands or my neck over the latest Wells injury news, I've decided to make a positive contribution to the Blue Jays organization. I'm no salesmen but I recognize added value when I see it. Judging by the information I gleaned from one Snarlin Jeff Blair's Twitter feed, the prospect of facing Roy Halladay is a daunting one for even the most highly paid slugger.

I don't want to tell JP how to do his job, but he must be capitalizing on this opportunity. First things first: lock Doc up long term. Like forever. Until the end of days; 'til our bodies are but dust and humanoids wander the dusty, scorched earth in search of sinkers down and away. Once you've secured Halladay's services in perpetuity, exploit the massive market inequity you've now created: NOBODY ON YOUR TEAM HAS TO FACE ROY HALLADAY. NOT EVEN ONCE.

Think about it. Look at some of the names on this list. Imagine the relief they'd feel knowing they didn't have to face Halladay for the duration of their contract. You don't think Torii Hunter lies awake at night before facing Roy? You don't think Nick Markakis would've landed a contract bigger than Alex Rios's if you removed his unsuccessful at bats against Halladay?

It works both ways of course. Can you imagine what a Roy Halladay v. Vernon Wells at bat would look like? The way Halladay carves up the strike zone combined with Wells's meth-addict patience would make for some hilarious results. 4 pitches, 4 ground outs, 4 loud profanities. But Wells is rich! Richer than an astronaut! Not being made to look a fool by Halladay benefits the fragile ego of a professional athlete also. Pro ballplayers protect their pride like jingoistic samurais, so they can carry the Halladay-free confidence boost forward when the face actual mortal pitchers. The money just prints itself at this point.

The Jays have long exploited Roy's ability to transfer flakey headcases into cartoonishly rich headcases that pull their shit together during a contract year. "Sign here Sonny and you can sit next Roy at basketball games AND in the dugout. Not every day though, you'll have to give up the opt-out in your clause to reserve that seat." He's really an untapped resource, one that provide numerous benefits to the Jays entire franchise.

Monday, February 23, 2009

Born to Ghostrun: Your Fantasy Baseball Post

I dunno, that's a pretty big shoe...Despite what my own eyes tell me, it is in fact spring. All the scribes are in Florida, alerting us that false Spring is in full swing. It's great, they let fill us in on pitching schedules, batter tip-offs and overweight pranksters. I can see the beautiful cherry blossoms falling from the sky; though they look suspiciously like snowflakes and pile up on the sidewalk like so much frozen joy. Luckily, the other real sign of spring will appear in the coming weeks. It will rear it's pimply head and awaken the dormant animal inside us all: fantasy baseball!

My dabblings in the SABRworld and determination to make sense of the senseless may lead you to assume I'm some sort of fantasy stalwart. You'd be wrong. Sure, I'll dominate a Yahoo public league or two, but when push comes to shove, when the nerdy rubber hits the road, I'm fucked. That doesn't mean you should ignore my sage advice. If it will make you feel better, I'll add expert, guru, or Grand Rotodragon to my Blogger title for some instant fantasy credibility. You can trust me, I finished second last in the Jays blogger pool last year!

Instead I'll offer fantasy advice for the advanced fan. Fantasy advice that will allow you to sleep at night, field a competitive team, keep your fandom liberated, and let you have a good time doing it. Don't worry about tipping your hand to the other feudal lords in your league, you weren't going to win anyway.
  1. Understand the point of the game: Obviously the purpose of fantasy sports is insulting your friends and work associates. If you don't talk trash constantly during the draft, what are you doing? Consulting charts and graphs? For what? If you need to win a fantasy baseball league for bragging rights over your friends, you obviously need to find a group of functional alcoholics and befriend them. If you're the type of degenerate that gambles hard-earned money on fantasy baseball, you should just give it straight to me instead. You've got a lot riding on the ligaments and tendons of Caribbean millionaires, I'm a much better cause.

  2. Beware the homer pick: Everyone knows the danger for picking a player from your favorite team: you're already invested so heavily, why make it worse? There is no need to die two deaths when the Jays lose, why put yourself through that? Additionally, you'll cheer for the Jays forever while dudes on your fantasy teams come and go. Remember that when you're hoping the Jays "only beat Joba 1-0, with a home run from Vernon Wells."

    Note: Roy Halladay is obviously exempt from this rule. He wins every start anyway and is way above the law.

  3. When sleeping with the enemy, doublebag that shit: It is inevitable, as a Jays fan, that you will end up with Red Sox or Yankees on your team. They score many runs, it's in your nature as a baseball dork. Never forget you'll have to reconcile your hatred for them as The Opposition with your desire to send boastful emails to your close friends.

    The key is to take stock of your immediate reaction when the player's name first enters your head; if you want to throw up, pass and deal with the jeering. When drafting closers, remember that Mariano Rivera is a necessary evil. A divine force harnessed and enslaved by Satan himself, committing crimes against nature only out of duty. Jonathon Papelbon is an irredeemable douchebag that I'd rather felate than cheer.

  4. It's never too early to draft Ichiro: During a GROF-based draft a few years ago, El Leal sent the following message to the Reverend as our live draft progressed:
    And draft him I did. With that very pick, without any hesitation. Because cheering for players you actually like will bring you much more pleasure than hoping Michael Cuddyer can bust out of his 6 game homer slump. A obvious as this rule may seem, it comes with an important corollary.

  5. If you love someone, let them go: Loading your team with mancrushes and feel-good stories may sound good, but there is a terrible downside; the off-year. Once you develop the personal bond between overweight fantasy baseball owner and flashing name on computer monitor, you can never go back. You will turn a blind eye to your charge's shortcomings, only to have him submarine your entire season, fostering resentment. Worse yet, it may dent the fake relationship you'd built over thousand and thousands of Sportscentre highlights. You're not the man I thought you were Jeff Francoeur, and now my team's in last.
The only other important thing in fantasy baseball is your team name. Kissing Suzy Kolber always do an amazing job of this, so I'll just gently remind everyone that A-Rod jokes are bad form. Hacky, overdone, and obvious. I recommend something of a sexually ambiguous nature. So far, I've got two teams and both reference Roy Halladay in ways he may not be comfortable with. My Walkoff Walk team "Halladay in Canbodia" is pretty clean, though the lyrical content of the source material isn't likely to appeal to Roy's gentle constitution. Oh, and no matter what format or how far down the table you are, for the love of god maintain your team. Nobody likes to see A.J. Burnett in your starting lineup when he's been on the DL for 6 weeks (whoops), but people dislike the "your trade request has been denied as it hasn't be responded to for 10 days" email soo much more. Don't be that guy.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

A Sad Day

There is a great chance that I've already posted this video, but Conan's moving on to LA and I think it stinks. Either way, enjoy the best 8 minutes of baseball footage that doesn't involve Harry Leroy Halladay.

Friday, February 20, 2009

I Saved Latin, What the Hell did You Ever Do?

The first Rocco Report of the spring! Rocco's in camp doing (and saying) Rocco-type things. Though he was only ranked as the 20th most important on the Sox roster by the Boston Globe, any team that employs brittle Seminole JD Drew and bitter semi-old guy Mark Kotsay is going to need all the outfield help they can get. Though it seems Rocco is taking it slow, exempting himself from certain conditioning exercises.

Rocco needs all our support, as he's down one key backer these days. I understand where our friend David Chalk is coming from; he's a Ray through and through. Rocco walked away from Tampa, and he left David's love behind. That's okay, he'll always be welcome around here.

Other stuff

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Shut Up about Scott Rolen's Contract

A favorite hobby of The Blue Jays Doom and Gloom Squad seems to be lamenting Scott Rolen's contract. While I fail to see the point of magical rosterbation like this (if they weren't paying him X dollars, they could give it to fuckin MANNY!), I do understand why they complain about Rolen's contract. It's because they're idiots.

According to Cot's Contracts, Scott Rolen is due $11 million dollars per year through 2010. He is owed a $4 million dollar bonus at the end of the deal, which the St Louis Cardinals will graciously pay. While that is a lot of money, it's hardly unreasonable. Especially when you consider the previous third baseman is out for three months and wanted out of town blah blah blah.

Luckily for us, we can break down a player's value very easily thanks to sites like Fangraphs. And in 115 games last year, even after going 0 for July, Scott Rolen was worth just under 3 wins in 2008. Or $13 million bucks on the open market. But JP's an idiot! Some fool went so far to suggest that Jose Bautista @ $2.4M was better than Rolen @ $11M. Why? Because that person is an idiot.

In Bautista's best season (not the one in which he played for 4 teams) was worth 1 win above average. Why? Because he sucks. It's really that simple. Thankfully Parkes of Drunk Jays Fans noted last spring the Jays claimed they would keep both Reed and Shannon Stewart, only to unceremoniously dump Beardy Reed towards the end of camp. Parkes believes that Bautista will get the same treatment, an idea that is sounds great to me. Let him play some during Grapefruit league, see somebody wants to toss a left handed relief pitcher JP's way (you can never have enough!) or just eat the cost of releasing him. A move I wholeheartedly support.

So once again, I am forced to defend Scott Rolen with the same tenacity and skill of Scott Rolen defending the hot corner. Once again, I encourage Rolen haters to take a second to understand how valuable he is, from a baseball AND aesthetic standpoint. Leave my Rolen alone.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Brandon League - Stuff and Fluff

Brandon League's glorious name popped into my world twice yesterday, a rare occurrence for my favorite freak. He was featured in a mini bio in the print version of the Star; stating that his favorite place to eat in Toronto is Fune and his favorite sports team is the University of Hawaii Football Fightin' Rainbows. League then went deep into the sportswriter's cliche handbag and professed his love of In N Out Burger! Oh Brandon, you make me so happy. When asked who is the best player in the league at your position, he came correct:
Roy fucking Hallday, who else? I'm may be a little slow, but come on, I get to watch him from 300 feet away, it's retarded. It's like we're not even playing the same sport. He's tossing BBs in the dark, I'm hoping to get maybe five guys out while throwing the same screwball-come-sinker-come-reverse frisbee over and over. Honestly, the only person I admire more than Roy Halladay is Mathew McConaughey.
More accurately, he simply said Roy Halladay. Oh and he has a dog named Dirty Sanchez. Classy.

Later I came across League's name again on Fangraphs, where Dave Cameron showed the correlation between velocity and strikeouts. The graph shows, somewhat unsurprisingly, that guys that throw harder tend to rack up more Ks. Lo and behold, there is League's name, waay off the regression line as the Kahuna gods intended.

Fangraphs is the rare site that features knowledgeable commenters that add to the level of discourse, which is already well beyond my feeble brain. Some of the comments pointed to the use of K/9 rather than K/BF, suggesting that a pitcher with a good defense behind him (check) that induces a lot of groundballs (check again) is punished slightly, for the purposes of this exercise. There is also something to be said for selection bias in big league baseball, as a "live arm" will get dozens of chances while a soft tossing control type isn't thought to have the same "upside". It's pretty clear from their graph that more velocity = more missed bats, more often than not. Exactly the kind of nerdy numerical bullshit that sucks me in every time.

Good old Brandon League's name features prominently on the graph as a guy that throws really hard but doesn't have overwhelming strikeout numbers. To suggest League's K/9 numbers punish him as a groundball machine is letting League off a little easy. His limited repertoire allows hitters to sit on his one good pitch; luckily for League it's so good they can't do too much with it. His K/9 in 2008 was 6.27, or 23.2% of his outs were recorded by strikeout. His K/BF was only 16.3%, likely due to his slightly atrocious walk numbers. His contact rate is among the team's highest, though it is very similar to fellow groundball maven Halladay's. Halladay notches more strikeouts (and a million fewer walks) by having hitters swing at pitches out of the zone, something League doesn't do nearly as well.

Either way, Brandon League is one good secondary pitch away from being nearly unhittable. But who isn't.

Monday, February 16, 2009

Just One Gimmick Away

Last year the Tampa Bay Rays rode Joe Maddon's ridiculous 9=8 nonsense all the way to the World Series. I don't care what you say about their bullpen's historic turnaround, the lightening they caught in various bottles, it's all about the slogan, maaannnnn. If your team mantra, business plan, marriage proposal, or death certificate can't be printed on a t shirt, meaning even the thickest jackass will understand, you're wasting precious resources. The time has come to wedge the final piece of the puzzle into place: create a suitable slogan for the 2009 Blue Jays.


A little self explanatory, but the boost in the confidence the Jays will gain after they realize how much worse off the O's are will send them careening into the playoffs. It will be like every Hollywood fish out of water tale: they don't even know they don't belong here!.


Make sure all the minor league contract guys JP brought in realize the minuscule amount of money they'll make in the minor leagues. Bring in a greasy short order cook to prepare all meals for Spring Training, ensuring the players recognize the paucity of culinary options available to a no-account bum leading a transient quad A life.


No matter what happens, it won't be worse than this. Buoyed by a rare display of confidence by the front office, the Jays young sluggers take their first real opportunity to put full seasons together to heart. Glad to see huge holes from last year's lineup disappear, the Jays entire lineup relaxes.


That's right, hit'em with the mad sabrmetrics. Build a strong sense of team and belonging by coming right out and saying: "I am not more valuable than you, friend. There are no replacement players, only replacement feelings." Boom, motivated. The clubbies will spend more time cleaning UBUNTU out of the locker room than dirty socks.

I'll start printing shirts, you start printing playoff tickets.

Friday, February 13, 2009

Nevermind the Bollocks

Pitchers and Catchers. Mostly pitchers. There seem to be a lot of pitchers. But it's all happening.

Somewhat interesting update

I just came across, a site that walks the line between interesting and pathetic. Either way, it offered me more than a slight glimmer of hope. Earlier in the week I looked at where on the hot/crazy scale the Jays starters fell, and what it meant for the potential fifth spot in the rotation. I didn't mention Brett Cecil, but apparently I should have. Looking at his minor league splits, you can see he'd be in elite company. At three levels in 2008, he posted a GB rate of 62.5%!!! And a K/BF of 26.2%!!! That would place him well into the vaunted upper right quadrant, even if you converted his numbers into their Major League Equivalents (though his FIP would increase by a full run). Either way, consider me fully on the "Brett Cecil in the rotation by June" train.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Reverse one and a half somersaults with three and a half twists, in the Free position

Credibility - CrushedJ.P. Riccardi, our Lord and master, has decided that competing in the American League East is not enough of a task. He's opted to add some degrees of difficulty. Already hamstrung with a shrinking budget, JP's turned to the scrap heap in his search of available talent. This method has merit, but I'm beginning to question some of the acquisitions. In general: Really old Japanese guys. Specifically: Matt Bush.

A guy picked first overall is obviously a good athlete, but a no bat shortstop turned pitcher at age 22? Sounds dubious. I recognize that Shaun Marcum was a similar case, but he pitched in college and isn't a huge douchebag. I'm all for plugging holes with no cost/no risk projects, but what is Matt Bush's ceiling? Double A roster filler? Aren't there dozens and dozens of dudes, far hungrier having missed out on signing bonus money, that could fill the exact same non-role? A guy like Bryan Bullington I get, and support. Matt Bush just leaves a sour taste in my mouth.

On Controversy

I have very little to say about Alomar & Rodriquez. Just know this: the amount of outrage & coverage that an alleged steroid abuser gets compared to KNOWN wife beaters and drunk drivers is disgusting. Will Tony LaRussa be kept out of the Hall of Fame after putting numerous innocent people's lives at risk? Absolutely not. Sports are important, and a huge part of all our lives. But when my first thought is "I wonder how this will affect his legacy" not "what a horrible set of accusations, if they're true he's one of the worst humans on Earth" I wish it was less-so.

Announcements and Linkage

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

I'm Going to Egg Nate Silver's House

I'll crush your hopes and dreams when Firefly is overThat's right Mr. Fancypants election-predictor. I've had it up to HERE with your anti-Blue Jay numerical bias. Sir your continued devotion to algorithms and alchemy have had their day in the sun cowering from the Earth's unfamiliar, retina-burning Sun. You unleashed your latest "projections" onto the world, and I couldn't help but notice you only computed 81 wins for the Toronto Blue Jays baseball club. 81! The eggs are soon to rain down upon your domicile my friend, I only hope you have a large enough pocket protector to spare your mother's rosebushes.

81 wins, yet you believe they'll only allow 692 runs? That doesn't even seem fair. That's 80 more than they allowed last year. So what if it's still the third lowest total in the league. IT'S STILL ONLY THIRD BEST IN OUR OWN DIVISION. Apparently you haven't heard of a certain reclamation project named Matt fucking Clement!

At least you had the good sense to extend a peace offering to the Jays offense. A tidy 16 run increase, fuck you very much. Only a team on base percentage of .319? Apparently your little adding machine didn't input the prodigious walk totals of Alex Rios, Vernon Wells and Adam Lind, our starting outfield. I don't care if they had fewer walks combined than Carlos Pena, BJ Upton, and Nick Markakis had individually. There's been change of philosophy. Cito makes them chill, you see.

Why can't you be more like Bill James? Kindly old Bill James, all his projections seem to favor the Blue Jays. He sees big things for Vernon Wells, for Travis Snider, and for Adam Lind too!

So screw you PECTOA elves, you were way off last year. (77 wins, are you joking??) I don't need your love or affirmation. You don't play the game with a slide rule nerd. You play it with your heart, and with dirt on your uniform. Grit! Scrapgritastic! [Sniff] Now look what you've done, I've smeared eye black all over my boxer shorts. I hope you're happy, you heartless devil!

Monday, February 9, 2009

Slowly Rounding into Form

Due in no small part to my bloggy lifestyle, I am rounding into a tub of shit. Must be the constant sitting & snacking. Without a moment to spare, the de-rounding of pitchers and catchers is on the horizon. I can almost taste it, like the various delicious fatty snacks around my ankles in my mother's basement!! Before I get to the main course below, I'll send out some delicious baseball morsels.

Update: ZOMG! Pictures of snowy birds? Fuck that. Via Dave at Go Jays Go, I've been alerted that Ichiro dabbles in the dark pitching arts, mostly because he can. I love Ichiro so very much more now.

The 3:10 to Joba guys are having a contest! You can win a hat! They're awesome anyway, so you should read them without the lure of a free hat. Though, ordering and shipping a Blue Jays hat to Canada would cause J a tremendous amount of pain. A fate worthy of any Yankee fan.

Professor Griff speaks, but this time he says something worthwhile! Ole Griff send baseball a big sloppy kiss today, and it really showcased his strengths and voice. Better yet, he didn't mention baseball transactions or stats, so it's highly readable. Good work Griff.

Following up on my Steve Phillips-bashing, his team lost in the first round of the ESPN made-for-page views tournament. I feel slightly vindicated.

Fancy talkin' Baseball Graphs Meal

While reaching for tastes of spring, Rich Lederer of Baseball Analysts offers up his annual tasty treat: pitcher categorizations! Looking for an exciting break from work to look at charts and examine percentages? Here's your chance! Organizing pitchers by their strikeout and ground ball rates, two keys to pitching success. Unsurprisingly, Roy Halladay sets the standard, missing bats and inducing ground balls. Were Lederer to include walk rates, the third pillar of pitching Islam, Halladay would surely stand out even more.

Data and graph courtesy of David Appelman, FanGraphs.

The upper right section is where you want to be, so it's unsurprising that A.J. and Halladay both hung out in that area. Jesse Litsch is in the north west section, the kind of guy that relies on throwing strikes and the fielders behind him. If the ball starts flying out the yard, he could be in trouble. Shaun Marcum and Dustin McGowan are found in the lower right or SE quadrant. Not bad, though the lower ground ball numbers can obviously lead to more extra base hits and tater tots. For all his obvious physical gifts, McGowan is the closet Jay to the dreaded south west quadrant, aka The Shitballers of the Highest Order. For McGowan to succeed, he must increase his strikeouts. Considering what he's shown thus far, a career along the lines of Javier Vazquez shouldn't be a disappointment. Which is disappointing.

But what about the 2009 rotation? The candidates are many, outcomes unsure. No question the Jays will miss Burnett, he of the numerous Ks and solid GB numbers. Litsch will be fine if he continues to improve and allow batters to get themselves out. Now for the question marks:
  • David Purcey: Another solid strikeout pitcher, Purcey posted a K/Batter Faced rate of 20% in 2008 and a GB rate of 31.8%. Not bad, enough to land him in the south east quadrant. Very similar numbers to fellow serviceable lefty heartbreakers Ted Lily and Oliver Perez. Lily may not sweat as much as Purcey, but I bet he has a similar case of ADD. Good news Dave, in a few years you'll be horrifically overpaid!

  • Casey Janssen: Never much of a K threat, Janssen posted K/BF rates of 13.1% (as a setup man in 2007) and 10.8% (mainly as a starter in 2006). His ground ball numbers sit right around 50% for his career. Not exactly awe inspiring, though they are nearly identical to teammate Jesse Litsch. Somehow I convinced myself of a higher ceiling for Janssen than Litsch, apparently I was wrong. The biggest determining factor for Janssen is keeping the ball in the park, something he did much better as a reliever (5.3% HR/FB) than as starter (11.3%). Other pitchers with similar rates include Joe Saunders, Pat Maholm, and Braden Looper. Uhhh, let's move on.

  • Canada's Sweetheart Scott Richmond: The grittiest, hardest working motherfucker around is another hoper and prayer. His numbers may be misleading, as he only pitched 27 innings in the bigs and 48 innings at AAA. At three levels in 2008, his K/BF rates were good at AA (21.54&), not good at AAA (10.26%) and medium for the Jays (17.7%). Only posting a 36% ground ball rate in for the Jays doesn't fill me with promise, as he's dangerously near to the shitball quadrant. If his Ks stay up, he will avoid the 6th starter hell that swallowed Dave Bush, Paul Byrd or recent JP refuse pile Brian Burres, who sucks something awful.

  • Other hopefuls: Who else is out there? Brian Burres is AAA rotation filler (obviously, if you read the preceding listicle point). Matt Clement's always been a good ground ball guy, but without K numbers similar to his 2004 levels, my precious will time be wasted yet again. The Japanese guy? I reserve comment to keep from losing face.

Friday, February 6, 2009

The Ballad of Aaron and Rusty

Once, while falling into approval's tricky arms
I saw esteem's corpse
Deafened by allure's sweet, sweet song

Poor, poor Rusty Adams. Everybody's favorite whipping boy and/or reason to whip JP was DFA'd yesterday to make room for the 30th relief pitcher on the 40 man roster.

The Jays much maligned former first round pick was selected over such future studs as Cole Hamels and Scott Kazmir (who were completely unsignable anyway, given the Jays inability to go over slot) blazed through the minors just like he blazed through college. One excellent September call up later (RED HERRING ALERT!) and he was on his way. Wasn't he? How could this have happened? How could a can't miss kid be on his way to quad A purgatory already?

It's quite simple, really. Lil Rusty loves fastballs, and as soon as everybody figured this out, he was cooked. Over his three "full" big league seasons (2005-2007), Adams saw progressively fewer and fewer fastballs. From 65% down to 57% percent as the opposition offered him far more curveballs and sliders. This seemed to cause Rusty problems, one can assume he wasn't able to identify these pitches as his outside the zone swings went up, up, up. He actually swung at fewer and fewer pitches inside the strikezone, something that screams "over-thought at bats" to me. Not to mention "a complete loss of confidence manifested as scratching and floundering attempts to stay in the Bigs." His line drive rates may have been impressive, but he started striking out and never really stopped.

Perhaps, as Marc Hulet of the Batter's Box and Fangraphs suggests, he can latch on in the straighter balled National League and surprise some people. But if you can't hit a breaking ball son, you aren't likely to be employed in the game for the long. Oh well, you'll always have my favorite Spring Training moment of all time.

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Steve Phillips is a Little Slow on the Uptake

God bless the Four Letter. They've trotted out four of their baseball analysts in a vain attempt to accrue page views; the Fightin' Battle of the Killer Budgets! Each seamhead is saddled with a $40 million dollar budget for their team, which will compete in a simulated baseball tournament. The winner progresses to face the Yankees and their diamond encrusted twelve-sided die, which will once and for all settle the salary cap debate. The exercise ostensibly measures the writers' budgetary acumen and eye for talent, but really just serves as a platform to expose Steve Phillips as an idiot. Jayson Stark, Roy Neyer, Buster Olney and the aforementioned Phillips have been drafting away, wasting some time, and generating baseball discussion/ad revenue. Armed with Steve Phillips's lunacy, I'm going to play right into their hands.

Phillips is the somewhat reviled former Mets GM and latest addition to the Sunday Night Baseball booth. He's credited with drafting/signing Scott Kazmir, Jose Reyes, and David Wright and blamed with inking Mo Vaughn, the ghost of Roberto Alomar and Bobby Bonilla. Imagine Richard Griffin, only instead of being a PR flak, HE MADE ALL THE BASEBALL DECISIONS. I think Stoeten's head would explode. It would seem that his experience helming the Mets removed any consideration of budgetary constraints, because some of his selections have been ridiculous.

While the nerdy writer types key on the best and cheapest available players early, Stevo drafted Hanley Ramirez in the first round. Fair enough, though he does make a little bit too much money for this experiment. He continues picking up big(ger) contracts while the BBWAAs pluck the lower priced quality around him. In the late rounds, Jayson Stark plucks Jays back up LOOGY Jesse Carlson, a steal in the 14th round. This is about the time that Stevie loses his fucking mind.

Despite paying $13 million bucks for David Wright and Hanley Ramirez (32.5% of his budget), good ole Stevie thought shelling out another $6.25 million bucks for his closer was a good idea. Me thinks the SABR nerds have rattled his cage, gotten him off his game. After a bizarre statement that he'd prefer to serve hard time than vote Democrat, Steve settles in for a long winter nap. In need of a left handed bullpen guy, Phillips reaches out for Hideki Okajima, he of the $1.5 million dollar salary. For a left handed specialist. On a budget. Two picks later, Stephanos selects his third shortstop in 20 picks in the form of The Riot. Sigh.

It should be noted that Phillips only has $2.5 million dollars to spend on 5 players. There's hope for you yet, Litsch! The other, smarter writer's picks have been excellent and nicely budgeted, leaving plenty of money at the end to pick up a higher priced guy that could make an simulated impact. As I mentioned, the only Jay selected so far has been Jesse Carlson. I think I like Stark's team the best. Joey Votto, GROFavorite Brandon Morrow, Evan Longroia and Cole Hamels. The final round goes Friday, and the "games" are to be "played" next "week." Here's hoping Phillips gets a delicious taste of comeuppance.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Tuesdays are for Whoring

The Exhausting Life of LtBDo you ever feel as though you've stumbled upon the set of a hacky hidden camera show? I was on the subway the other day and I came across a guy that took the "nerd" archetype to new heights. This poor bastard looked like every shitty sketch comedy cliche heaped on top of one another. The ferret-like posture, the mustache/goatee of dried and cracked skin, the Issac Asimov reader (not a book underlined; clearly something that picked up at an event that's title ended in -CON), all the way down to glasses that resembled, in both thickness and aesthetic appeal, the headlights of 1986 K Car. I don't know that I felt bad for him, but I definitely couldn't take my eyes off him.

With that self righteousness out of the way, I encourage everyone to read my Jays season preview over at 3:10 to Joba. These fine fellows are previewing every team in the league, and they asked me to address the desperation felt by Jays fans. The only thing I'm really desperate for is acceptance of the Jays as a good team. I hate that they're swept aside as a "non-contender" despite being such a good team. A little respect is all we ask for, AMIRITE?

Speaking of respect, Walkoff Walk celebrated it's one year anniversary on Saturday. This week kicked off with some best of lists, and today was my turn. It's truly a pleasure to work with those fine gentleman, and I thank them for the opportunity to spread my Clooneyness.

If you are a Mariners fan, there is good reason for excitement. A new GM has taken the club in new and modern directions, giving hope to the pointy heads at USS Mariner. Recently they used the 2003 Mariners as a successful model that the 2009 Mariners could follow. While I don't care too much for the M's, I certainly see connections between the 2003 Mariners team that won 93 games (Pythaged for 98!) and the 2009 Toronto Blue Jays.

In fact, the 2008 or 2009 Jays stack up very favorably to the 2003 Mariners. That year the Mariners had a pretty meager offense, solid pitching and excellent defense. Looking around the diamond, they got next to no production from 4 positions (C, 3B, LF, 1B). The Jays aren't likely to match the 3 offensive wins at DH and 2B, but they can more than make up the slack at the previously mentioned spots. Lyle Overbay should easily match the output of 36 year old John Olerud offensively while providing the same high level of defense.

As the USSers point out, they were one of the top defensive clubs with a +55 for the season. The Jays were +72 last year, and could improve in a few ways. A full season of Aaron Hill, no Mench-Wilkerson-Stairs shaped holes in the outfield, a hopefully recovered (or relocated) Vernon Wells could all contribute to improving the Jays already excellent defense.

Even with big seasons from Bret Boone & Edgar Martinez, an Ichiro-sized season from uh, Ichiro, and average contributions from the rest, that Mariners offense was almost identical to the 2008 Jays. 20 extra points of team OPS, a little higher isolated power (4 points) yet the Mariners were worth almost 50 more runs above average than the 2008 Jays. How could this be? Get the vomitsacks ready, it's all about situational hitting.

The 2003 M's lead the league with a 3.74 "clutch rating", or how much the performed in high leverage situations versus their calculated context neutral rates (WPA/LI). That is a very high number, but not nearly as out of this world lucky as the 2008 Angels, who's unsustainable 7.32 dominated the American League in unnatural ways. As you may know, the 2008 Jays were a terrible situational or clutch team, notching a pathetic -1.65 clutch measurement. The main offenders predictably were Lyle Overbay and Alex Rios, each struggling in high leverage situations.

So a few bounces, continued glove work, the kids make up AJ's 3 wins - boom the Jays win 90 games. Right?? Right??? Why not debate it tonight with the Blue Jay Hunter, he's hosting a live chat over his way at 9pm. Swing by and check it out!

Monday, February 2, 2009

First Pitches and Last Whacks

Isolated in the post, once againAhhh, the Superbowl. I split my prop bets this year, though I only bet on one thing: the half time set list! After my McCartney sweep of a few years ago, I was riding Born to Run hard as the show closer last night. I knew Glory Days would be there while others I know doubted. Either way, football season is over which means baseball is even closer! Right??

In my never ending search for remotely interesting baseball content and excuses to curse at Excel, I took notice of The Hardball Times doing some predicitably good work last week by using Pitch F/x to track first pitch fastballs and which batters see them the most. Josh Kalk of THT tracked what percentage of first pitch fastballs each hitter saw and whether or not the pitches were strikes. He also tracked overall swings, swings at balls and swings at strikes. The player's first pitch fastball average and slugging percentage are included, too. The Jays info provided a few surprises and perhaps some insight into their fortunes in the future.

Who sees the most heat on the Jays? Slappy middle infielders, of course! The no-bat gloveman at the center of our heart wastes the least amount of time, swinging at 63% of first pitch fastballs, including 43% of which were out of the zone. Hopefully Cito and crew can gear Johnny Mac down a little bit. Equally stout-hearted but marginally less shitty Joe Inglett took a lot of people by surprise in 2008, something he won't be able to do in 2009. Inglett saw and attacked the large number (73%) of FpFb (First pitch Fastballs) he saw in 08, to modestly Joe Inglett-levels of success. AL pitchers will likely adjust, can Doctor Joe? Marco Scutaro is a fine mayonnaise sandwich, sure to offend no one. He sees a lot of fastballs because he's not going to do shit with them. Shocking, I know.

One big surprise to me was the amount of fastballs used to start off Scott Rolen (73.25%). My assumption is word got around that Rolen's shoulder prevented him from catching up to hard stuff, but he jumped all over these pitches to record a .610 slugging percentage on FpFb. He remained patient (professional even!) only swinging at approx 52% of the first pitch strikes and only 12% of the first pitch balls. Not for nothing, but Scott Rolen the Blue Jay is still in the "President Barack Obama" stage for me. As in: holy shit, Scott Rolen is a Blue Jay! That is fucking awesome, I'm excited all over again!

How's your mind? Ready to be blown? Here you go: Vernon Wells is an aggressive hitter. Pitchers started him off with the fourth fewest fastballs, the second fewest for strikes. Do you think that keeps him from swinging away? Fuck and no. Vernon's got shit to do. Wiis need playing, checks need cashing. Wells flailed away at 43% of these FpFb, even a slightly absurd 23% of first pitch balls. Reckless? Not even a little bit, as Vernon Wells hit .430 and slugged .850 on all first pitch fastballs. Amazing. Vernon Wells doesn't give a fuck, and is probably twice as talented as we credit him.

One hilariously predictable trend that ever so slightly fractured my heart was JP's long lost crushes staring at meaty pitches like high school students at an exposed thong. Who swung at the fewest amount of first pitch fastballs? Kevin Mench and Brad Wilkerson. Who swung at the fewest first pitch fastballs outside the zone? Mencherson, with Jose Bautista right on their shitheels. This may seem like sound strategy, but these chumps were so awful, I'm willing to advocate doing the opposite of whatever Mencherson does. Incidentally, could Gary Denbo have been scapegoated for delivering the philosophy straight from JP's mouth? He obviously covets these kinds of players, in spite of their inherent crappiness. Are they the worst two (or three) Blue Jays in recent years? Balls.

As for the rest; Rios does well with an early fastball while Adam Lind prefers to chill the fuck out and wait. Lyle Overbay sees the fewest FpFb, which is a shame because he swings at 75% of the strikes, smashing them to the tune of .390/.550. As for Rod Barajas, too bad. I don't care what he does, because it matters so little. Hopefully Cito and his team of bat doctors encourage these obviously aggressive hitters going bombs away right from the jump this season. Making Vernon Wells and Alex Rios work the count isn't in their nature, nor is it in their best interests.