Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Saint Richmond Flies with the Swallows

This is the part where I admit I was wrong about Scott Richmond.

Dead wrong. Maybe not dead wrong, but he's shown me things I didn't expect to see. Sure he gets hit hard by left-handed pitching and doesn't induce enough ground balls, but he misses bats in a big way. That counts for a lot.

Looking at Scott Richmond on his own I see a continuation and improvement on last year's numbers. Line drives are down slightly, ground balls up a little. His home run/fly ball has inevitably normalized, but not at the detriment of his overall line. Strand rate up, BABIP down from too high to too low. It will work itself out and settle around .300. It's God's will.

Looking at his contact numbers I see more improvement. Overall contact rate down, outside the zone swings up. Most importantly, inside the zone contact rate way, way down despite an increase in zone swings. Missing bats! Richmond has surprisingly added some velocity to all his pitches but throwing more offspeed stuff than last year. Mixing your pitches and missing bats? To me, those are repeatable skills.

Richmond may be exposed a second time through the league should "professional" hitters figure out his patterns and such, but reading this post Dave Cameron wrote for Fangraphs got me thinking about sample size. Consider this:
The evidence might not be overwhelming, but as it begins to pile up, remaining wedded to your preseason thoughts is just as ignorant as overreacting to the performance.
Comparing Richmond's early season contact numbers against the league leaders is something I encourage everyone to do. It's good for the soul and good for the boner. It's also easy to do as Richmond's right up there among them in terms of outside the zone swing & contact rates as well as strike zone contact rates. Better yet, look at the type of names that surrond him on those lists. Rich Harden, Ryan Dempster, Jered Weaver, Roy Halladay, Johan Santana, Tim Lincecum. I'm not saying Richmond will ever join this echelon of pitching talent, but the more you have in common with pitchers like that, the better.

One guy with across the board similarities to Richmond: Dan Haren. Similar contact rates etc, similar velocity. As a big league pitcher with similar experience, they share similar K/BB ratios, ground ball & home run numbers. I'll more than a little bit encouraged.

So here's to you, Scott Richmond. I've now publicly admitted I was wrong about you and your seemingly underwhelming stuff. Kool-aid is delicious on a nice, sunny day.

Imagination Running Wild

Imagine, just for a second, that Shaum Marcum makes it back this season. Some say the possibility exists. So imagine Marcum, sitting at home for a year, getting amped about playing baseball again. He works out, he runs, he focuses on conditioning and taking care of his expensive new body part.

So new/fit/hungry Shaun Marcum is ready for the stretch drive. (P!) Having worked diligently with the Jays staff and decides to ditch the curveball he doesn't throw often. He works on his mechanics to reduce strain on his arm, making his move to the plate a little free-er and easier.

So increased attention to fitness plus better mechanics equals a couple miles an hour on his fastball right? Maybe he starts throwing a little harder but his incredible change up stays just as deadly? Maybe he's now a speed changing force! Maybe he's the secret weapon during the race to the finish line!! Maybe I have a boner!

Don't rush Marcum, but don't drag your damn feet either.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Please Come Back Geoff Baker

We're pretty lucky in Toronto, and as Jays fans in general. Two big local papers, one big national paper and one joke of a national paper all employ people to think and write about baseball to fill the space around hockey conjecture. As with anything, we get the good and the bad. Not to say that any one writer is "bad" but the variety of tone and agenda helps push the Jays conversation to new levels.

As much as I like the curmudgeonly Blair and his keen, mostly cliche-free baseball sense. Over Twitter it's become clear he and I don't agree on all things (ahem, the Greatest Blue Jay of All Time) but he thinks about the game similarly to the way many of us think about the game. The batshit craziness of Griff owes a lot to the Joe Morgan School of Established Baseball Logic. That and the Richard Griffin School of Thinly Veiled Agendas. I've said before as long as Griff avoids talking specifically about baseball, he's quite an enjoyable read. The guys that write for the Sun that are forced to write like they write for the Sun, Bob Elliott makes me smile because I read everything with his voice in mind. How could I forget the National Post's prolific new writer AP? He (or she!) may only use his initials, but he's all over the map, following every game. Riveting stuff. Grinding yeoman like MacLeod and Zweloakljdasfklj turn in their game stories on time (no small feat I'm sure) and countdown the days until they're free to ignore baseball forever.

So what's missing? How about a statistically forward-thinking blogger/beatwriter that quotes modern advanced statistics? Turns out we had such a creature working here in Toronto, now working in Seattle. Geoff Baker's blog and writing in general are excellent to read even if you don't care much for the Mariners.

You might say "But Drew, isn't he basically doing the same thing you are? What would you do then?" I'm sure I'd figure something out. I haven't attacked J.P. Riccardi's character in a few months, that never goes out of style! The most obvious benefit of Baker or any writer with a large forum writing about baseball in a modern way is the education of the masses. The more people read about UZR or FIP in the daily paper, the more credibility it gains. Which could buy some time from the uninitiated to get their heads around the thought that batting average and errors aren't the be all and end all. Jesus, even the Royals beat guys link and refer to Fangraphs! (Here beat reporter Sam Mellinger aka Not Joe Posnanski breaks down Mike Aviles's struggles at the plate using contract numbers)

There is something bigger going on here, something Dave Burrows from Go Jays Go and I have discussed a few times over email. Are the MSM guys adopting a more bloggy or at least blog friendly approach because its better or because they think the audience wants it that way? If newspapers become just as dependent on ad revenue will they not become guilty of just as much page view baiting as the lowest common denominator blog? More on this at a later date.

At the end of the day, a more educated fanbase is likely to be a more dedicated fanbase. More fans = more money, more money = better team RIGHT BEEST?

Tonight in KC

Brian Burres goes tonight some time this goddamn week, hopefully for the final time as a Toronto Blue Jay. Gaps will be stopped and those that need filling will be filled by next week, I pray. Bryan Bullington hasn't exactly beaten the world in three innings, but his 5 strikeouts against 3 walks and 3 ground balls against 2 flies (and three line drives) come complete with the feeling he will get better, not worse. I'm rooting for you Bully.

Amazing image courtesy of Transguyjay's flickr stream

Monday, April 27, 2009

Mildly Amusing Monarchy Pun

The Best Team in Baseball rolls into Kansas City looking to eat BBQ and kick ass. Looks like Billy Butler ate all the BBQ so the Jays will have to take solace in kicking ass. The Kansas City Royals have nothing else in common with the previous victims from Chicago. They pitch well (best FIP in baseball), catch it when it's hit at them but hit in a way that flatters the 2008 Toronto Blue Jays. When your best hitter is your second baseman, you're in a word of trou....

The Royals send a vast array of wily right handers like Gil Meche and Zack "The Spiders" Greinke. Unfortunately outstanding closer/nickname owner Joakim Soria is on the self with shoulder soreness. It's fortunate for the Jays as it could directly lead to Th3 pr0FF3ss0r pitching in a high leverage situation but unfortunate for those that like awesomeness in fireballing forms.

Awesomeness like Scott Rolen's game winning base hit. Sure, the pitch missed by mile, but he lashed into the left like he meant business. Frozen Rope Machine! He aggressively tried to take second on the throw on said play, had he not lost his balance he might have allowed Lind to score in the ensuing rundown. Watching the video on Gameday is great as they use an ISO camera on Rolen running. That's a big dude.

Also awesome: Matt Stairs as Jayson Stark points out (h/t DJF). He got too many at bats as his time in Toronto came to an end, but he's an obviously likable dude that's built quite the legion of supporters in Philadelphia. Meech and the good people at the Fightins have designed a Matt Stairs shirt I'm sure numerous Blue Jays fans would wear into public. I think I'll go against type and encourage this type of behaviour.

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Sunglasses on the Subway

No matter how nice the weather is, no matter how out of season the heat wave, nor how hot the local baseball is, under no circumstances are you to wear sunglasses on the goddamn subway! You, no matter who you think you might be, look like a douchebag. A giant fucking douchebag. All those fake D&G sunglasses succeed in doing is providing me two huge targets for the blows I'm about to rain down on your sad little skull.

Just like the huge blows the Blue Jays offense continue raining down on the teams of the American League!!! (East division excepted, that will come in time.) Line. Drive. Lots of them. Three for Vernon Wells (two to the opposite field!!!), two each for Scott Rolen and Marco Scutaro. Travis Snider hit a couple balls hard, pulling a grounder hard through the hole against a tough young lefty. Things are pretty awesome, like a Dad in a Doo-rag. Oh wait, that isn't awesome at all. If you've ever piloted a motor vehicle, it's time to retire the doo-rag, the gigantic Helly Hansen jeans and the Pacific Mall Rolex. If you've worn these things while piloting a motor vehicle equipped with a child seat: call CAS. Do it now.

Tonight the Jays send service-time placeholder and Oakland A in waiting Brian Burres, begging he can keep it within a field goal and eat some innings. The Burres's numbers were bad last year and in the spring, he did sport a nice little spring K/BB 6.50. His AAA rate of 3.50 will send me grasping for more straws than I'm comfortable with. Actually, noticing his terrible strand rate in Vegas (43.5% on the basepaths, 100% in the hotel lobby looking for Valtrex) and his respectable 3.68 FIP and I'm officially ready to be surprised. Positivity is a hell of a thing.

Don't forget to swing by Walkoff Walk this weekend, I'll be doing my thing as best I can over there. I'm liveblogging the Red Sox-Yankees game tomorrow night on the Score. Swing by and tell both teams they suck.

Friday, April 24, 2009

Elective Surgery

As tradition dictates, the first Jays series of the season against the Chicago White Sox means time for a post exchange. Andrew Reilly of the amazing 35th Street Review once again offers his perspective from the City with Broad Shoulders. Update: Don't forget to check out my accompanying piece here at

Toronto baseball needs an enemy.

I decided this today as I watched a bunch of drunken jackass fans of the other, lesser Chicago team stumble onto the subway. I seared with rage as their crooked hats and backwards lifestyles polluted my trip home with their obscene clothing touting false messiahs past and future. I looked on in disgust at their cuddly little logos and laughably weak ideas of what baseball is about.

And in these moments of nonsensical, misplaced rage, I smiled.

As a White Sox fan, I know what it's like to truly hate a team. Not just actively dislike, much like most people do with regards to the Yankees and Red Sox, but actually hate with true passion. A team whose failure brings joy to those working against them; a team whose good fortune makes the day a little less bright. We Sox fans have many such teams, but we are also an especially hateful lot. Such is life.

I know, Jays fans, that you have reason to frown upon at least four other teams out there, but where is the searing, deep-seeded feud with fans of those clubs? Where are the shankings of visiting Orioles backers? Why don't we hear more people in New York say "Oh no, I'm not going back to Toronto after what happened last time"?

So what I'd like to do, Jays fans, is declare war. In the interest of enhancing baseball for you and I both, I'd like to offer up the Chicago White Sox as a sworn enemy of those Queen City ballplayers.

But I won't, not just yet, and with good reason. Actually, just one good reason: I am scared to death of Roy Halladay.

It's not a numbers thing, as the Sox and Halladay have some fairly pedestrian numbers against each other, but more a product of the Legend of Roy Halladay. To the Jays fan, he's just your run-of-the-mill, once-in-a-lifetime talent, but in the context of everywhere else in the world, the myth always surpasses the man.
"Hey, did you hear about that guy in Canada?"

"What guy?"

"Some dude. They call him Doc. Dude once threw two complete games at the same time for two different teams. In two different parks. In two different cities."
The discussion always goes that if Halladay pitched for any of the glamour teams, he'd be the most famous arm in the game, and that's probably true. But what no one ever points out is how cool it is that Halladay pitches in relative obscurity, or at least whatever obscurity a five-time All-Star and Cy Young winner starring in a city of four million can lay claim to.

Obviously this is not a knock on the fair city of Toronto, certainly not a small place and not even a fraction the backwater hellhole certain other American League cities have come to be. (New York, Los Angeles, I'm talking to you.) But it's Canada all the same, meaning most American sports media outlets just assume "baseball" is coincidentally the Canadian word for "hockey." So now you've got this fantastic pitcher, already capable of such greatness, plying his trade away from the bright lights of Anywhere Else and instead shrouded in this layer of awesome mystery. By the time the news-wires and horseback messengers reach us with word of his magical accomplishments, an average six-inning, four strikeout evening has grown into twelve innings of two-hit ball.

So instead, I propose a compromise: trade Roy Halladay, and we will hate you with open arms. You get a much-needed rival, we dodge a much-feared savage beating at the hands of No. 32.

Better yet, trade him to the White Sox. You get a boatload of decent prospects, we get the true ace we're lacking and Halladay gets to take his right-armed savagery to the masses. The way I see it, everyone wins.

Until then, well, I hope you get a good chuckle out of the fact that the elderly, wounded Jose Contreras is scheduled to start opposite the Good Doctor. I look forward to headlines of "Outgunned," "Pass the Anesthesia" and "The Doctor Will Kill You Now."

Photo courtesy of Flickr user egorsha

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Rogers to Paying Customers: "Fuck You"

Remember the first week of the season, when I encouraged the more entitled among us to relax about the inability to see every game or every highlight pack? As Neate points out, Rogers has sold the rights to a Jays/Red Sox series at the ROGERS CENTRE to TSN for broadcast on TSN2. Guess who doesn't get TSN2?

Who am I to stand in the way of a media conglomerate's power play? I simply source Rogers for my cell phone, internet, cable, and home phone. I attend dozens of Blue Jays games a year, subscribe to the MLB Extra Innings package and have BASICALLY CREATED A SHRINE TO THEIR BASEBALL COMMODITY ON THE INTERNET where I (and dozens or hundreds of people like me) devote hours a week freely and actively promoting their product. What the fuck else do they want from us?

Has Rogers simply taken a sweetheart deal from TSN or the shadow company that owns them too good to pass up? Could either of these monoliths show more contempt for the lowly denizens that prop them up? Should I officially start stealing cable or anything else branded by these two tax havens not tied down? Fuck. This.

If this game is somehow NOT available via the Extra Innings package, it will be fucking on. I don't riot when I'm charged a "monthly access fee" nor do I storm the "campus" when my cable bill goes up as carrier costs decrease. If somehow I'm blocked out from these games, on principal alone, I'll fuck shit up. Off the grid I'll go, and I'm taking shit with me.

Photo courtesy of Flickr user Madison Guy

Fortune Resumes Hiding

I was ready. The early season signs were unmistakable. Games the Jays seems bound and determined to lose, they pulled out of the fire. Odd and/or questionable managerial choices worked out, the Ws are on the board for time immaterial. By divine providence and the benevolent guidance of one Clarence Gaston, the Jays are in first place without any indication of leaving. This was it!!! Slightly outperforming their Pythagorean record, winning one run games, coming from behind!! Who knew? Hell, the Jays are sixth in baseball with runners in scoring position (2nd in RISP OPS!!!) Sure, they're not exactly putting up 2008 Angels-level numbers in the clutch, but they're still winning! In November I said the only way the Jays can reasonably expect to compete for the playoffs (!) was a little bit of luck. Luck they are experiencing a most profound way: they're winning games they shouldn't. And it's awesome. No way am I going to fuck this gift horse in the mouth!

Alas, some luck seems to have run out. Injuries are now piling up. Some are fortunate; preventing any, as the Tao Tweeted, "kabuki nonsense" over the next few weeks in search of a competent replacement. The Ricky Romero injury is not fortunate. While it will usher in the Brett Cecil era, it will also prolong the Scott Richmond (not as bad as I'd think, says Wilner) and the Brian Tallet Found Money era. A rotation peopled with never-wases is slightly frightening, but it's okay. They're still in first place, and will be for a minimum of one more full day! If the Jays are in first place on May 1st, consider this season a rousing success. Far too many people that I care to admit have told me how excited they are for this Jays team and baseball in general. Which is great. I just hope they all stay on the ride when the inevitable (or not, PLAYOFFS!) turbulence hits.

Deep Sigh Update: Apparently it is not time for the Cecil era to begin. Instead the Brian Burres shitshow will roll into town just to piss me off. FREE BRYAN BULLINGTON!


Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Skynet Begins to Learn at a Geometric Rate. It Becomes Self-Aware at 2:14 a.m

A little bit of hubris is to be expected, nay encouraged, in someone as great as Roy Halladay. The fact that he wants the ball, he needs the ball is admirable and part of what makes him great. Halladay's knowledge that he can get anyone out at any time is awesome, mostly because it's true.

That said, is pitching around Ian "streak hitter notorious for fast starts currently crushing the ball in April" Kinsler really a bad idea? Especially with the ghost of Michael Young, to that point 0-3 with 2 strikeouts on deck. It's easy to say after the fact, but the better part of valor is discretion or some shit. No way is Cito going to tell Roy Halladay has to do his business, and nor should he.

Cito's Decision Making

I'm not going to touch this hot potato simply because I can't be bothered. There is too much room for ifs and buts in any given baseball game. This is as polarizing an issue that exists around a 10-5 (p!) team and I think my position on it is pretty clear. The only question I have is this: people rush to use the Jays record under Cito has their One True Defense of his tactics. Ever thought the team achieves in spite of him? Heretical as it may seem, it gives a lot of credibility to the "managers don't do a damn thing" theory. Three hitting coaches do plenty, in game management tends to come out in the wash.

Tonight, Tonight

Time to break out lineup 1b as the Jays face another shitballing lefty in Matt Harrison. Four pitches, all thrown around the same speed, the stuff that used to give the Jays fits. David Purcey, he of consistently inconsistent release point (first is a good start, next two were bad) will lead the Jays into battle. I love David Purcey, for his weird inability to string good starts together and lights-out stuff. Here's hoping he can set down the lumberjacks in short order. The closer the game the more room for complaint and venom.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

A Digressionary Digression

It's easy, when caught up in the day-to-day grind of baseball season, to lose focus on what's important. On what really matters to me and why I started doing this in the first place. My inborn nerditry sends me diving headlong into the numerical abyss, searching for truth or falsehood or an answer to a question nobody asked. My natural state of cynicism finds me picking nits and looking for chinks in the Blue Jays armor as that is my way. Just as it was last year when I repeatedly sought proof of the Jays greatness in the face of a fourth place finish and the perception of a lost or pointless season.

It's easy to get too close to a team, especially when things are going as well as they have been, and ride the wave of unexpected offense and incredible early season results. Strangely enough, a basketball game brought me back to my lazy, safe center.

Watching Ray Allen shoot spot-up jumpers with hand(s) in his face reminds me of glorious architecture. The perfect balance of form and function, of angles, forces and artistic flourish. His jump shot is as aesthetically pleasing as anything anywhere. I don't have a vested interest in the Celtics, the Bulls, or the NBA playoffs in general. I just know I could watch Ray Allen alone in a gym for hours without complaint.

We Blue Jays fans are lucky enough to have Roy Halladay: our very own aesthete here in Toronto. His precision and execution marvels us all, opponents and fans alike. It's not just because he wins, or because he increases the teams chances of winning. By watching him; we all win. A 1-0 Jays loss with Halladay on the mound has more value, to me, than a 10-2 drubbing with Scott Richmond or some other middling/slight effective starter. If that makes me a shitty fan then fine. I'll be enjoying the madness and uniqueness of Ichiro and the uncanny skill of Manny over here in my pretentious little corner. Until then, let's all enjoy watching the master work, starting tonight against the goonish Texas Rangers. They're a modern J-Horror rip-off movie: startling not scary. Minus the C-list starlets inevitably in her underwear. I guess you can't have everything.

Little bit of Housekeeping

  • Speaking of pretension, check out the latest addition to the blog roll Joy in Mudville. From the Free Darko school of thought, so you know I'll be ripping them off in no time.
  • The Walkoff Walk Furious Five Podcast jumped off again last night. Blue Jays content!
  • Speaking of Blue Jays content, Rob took Marco Scutaro's hot start as an opportunity to laugh at the weakness of the Oakland A's. Coming off a series in Toronto that sort of stuff should be expected.
  • The Onion's AV Club takes a good look at the baseball literary classic Ball Four. I'm currently reading Moneyball for the first time (I know!) and it's great. SO great in fact, I missed my stop on the subway yesterday. That's high praise.
  • I'm not good at fantasy baseball.
  • With Texas coming to town, it's important that we reflect on the value of pitching. We've got it, they don't. Be thankful.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Quick Words on Alex Rios


No, he doesn't look good right now. Some might even say he looks lost. But let's take a few things into account, just to make ourselves feel better.

His BABIP is very low compared to his line drive rate, which is very high (almost 30%). Very, very high. Hitting line drives is good for business, so long as he keeps that up he'll be good. He's just hitting it at people. He was, I should add. He hasn't hit a line drive since last Saturday in Minnesota. Ouch.

Remember the point I've been hammering on for two weeks now? I've been praising Rios's walk rate because, for him, it's absurdly high. It was, I should add. His walk yesterday was his first since Cleveland. His pitches per plate appearance are normal, he's just not making good contact.

Kman from Mop Up Duty suggested Alex needs to keep his ground ball numbers down to be successful, something he surely isn't doing now. His GB rate is well above his career number and still well above his fly ball rate, too. Since the Jays left Cleveland Rios has been racking up the ground balls at a frightening rate. 12 in the last five games. Yikes. What was the point of this again?

Oh, I remember! The picture dummy! Walk off jacks! Playoffs! Look at that picture closely, do you see a really tall Puerto Rican guy? I don't. I noticed during the highlights Rios was one of the last one to the pile-on and is effort was lacking. Is this a real thing worth thinking about? No. It isn't. Though baseball players are pretty much ridiculous. If the rest of the team thinks he's putting himself before a winning team, it will be blackball city for Alexis. Clearly he doesn't need the grief right now.

So we should all relax. He's just in a slump. Of epic proportions. He'll be fine. Or else!

Friday, April 17, 2009

Sunny Analogy for a Sunny Day

The first place Jays host the not first place A's. The sun is out, the weather is warm, everything is coming up Toronto. In fact, the old lady and I had an exchange walking down the street in Toronto's glorious west end that summed up my feelings on the Jays and life in general quite nicely.

As per Canadian tradition, the first warm day sends every man, woman, and child diving to the bottom of their closets for something summery to wear. Some shapely lady (girl? The details are fuzzy and possibly illegal) approached us wearing a dress that, try as it might, wasn't able to cover all the real estate required by the laws of decency and the province of Ontario. As she stepped off the curb, we approached and I happily yet discretely gazed where a man's wont to gaze. Allow me to recount the exact dialogue:
  • Ms. Moseby: Did you see what I saw?
  • Drew the Pervy Barber: /ogling
  • Ms. Moseby the Patient: That girl wasn't wearing any underwear!
  • The Defendant: Really? The one in the ill-fitting dress?
  • Ms. Moseby: Yeah! She was wearing tights and nothing else. I saw stuff when she stepped off the curb
  • Drew: It sucks I missed that, but I'm content with my choice
That's right Toronto, we're spoiled for choice! Didn't see the exposed ladybits? Don't sweat it, plenty of cleavage for all!

Have a good weekend ya'll, I'm WoWing and so should you.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Stripmining the Positivity Vein

Of the myriad positive and amazing things that happened last night, I will naturally key on the least important. Scott Rolen's power, Vernon Wells hitting a home run in a win, and Scott Richmond's command are crucial, but the biggest takeaway for me was the return of Brandon League! League faced three guys, getting two ground outs and an ever-important strikeout. Better yet he threw 70% of his pitches for strikes -- Boners! Sure, it was literally a leverage-free situation (not literally the way people literally say literally all the time, I mean literally. 0.00 pLI); but he needed to get some swagger back if he's to keep his job.

Swagger is all well and good, but there was something more to Brandon League's solidly meaningless outing: release point. I mentioned a few days ago he didn't look comfortable and posited a possible mechanical problem. Turns out I'm a genius. With some help from the good people at Brooks Baseball, I checked out his recent release points. Here we go (click to englarge):

Get a life nerd

The blue dots are from good Brandon, commanding pitches and inducing groundballs. The lighter blue is yesterday's mop up outing, the other from an early season appearance that hardly lit the world on fire but wasn't awful. The red squares are two outings in Cleveland that went piss-poorly. Good Brandon throws under control and a bit more over the top. Bad Brandon slings and elevates and looks like he misses his mommy.

Hopefully Brandon League remembers that he's awesome and potentially unhittable. Like Roy Halladay and Francisco Liriano can be on any given night. Awesome matchup tonight in which the compubot loves the Jays. Exciting times. Exciting like the Shrimp! My liveblog turned into a shrimpfest last night, I couldn't have been happier. Thanks to everyone that came by and commented.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Rebel Without a Pause

Last week, I posted my reaction to Baseball Daily Digest's pre-season awards selections. I noted, because I'm clearly a bigot, that it's a good thing that several of the players listed where African-American. A commenter (possibly Steven Colbert) took umbrage with my gauche racial profiling. My belief that a resurgence in participation by a suddenly under-represented section of the American public was a good thing offended this commenter. Thankfully Major League Baseball sent out a press release yesterday (yeah, I'm big timing) celebrating the 20th anniversary of the RBI (Reviving Baseball in Innercities) program by adding a junior RBI divison. Current RBI alumnis in the big leagues: Carl Crawford, Coco Crisp, James Loney, CC Sabathia, Justin Upton, and Yovani Gallardo.

Call me a klansman, but all those guys have one thing in common beyond their preternatural baseball ability. A quote from Crisp:
Without RBI I wouldn’t be in the big leagues,” said Crisp. “There are so many other things that people can get into during their free time. I guess I found a lot of other places to play, but RBI helped me on the baseball field and as well in the classroom and I like to give back.
Baseball is like any another sport or North American enterprise: it takes money to make money. I read a SI piece on Dontrelle Willis years ago that interviewed his Mom. She was asked by another mother who D-Train's pitching coach was; she replied "Coach Smith" or whoever was the team's coach. The other mother scoffed, as Dontrelle was the only pitcher on the team without a personal pitching instructor. That, as they say, is a major barrier for entry to subsequent levels of competition. When more people have access to equipment and coaching, the greater the chances of more talent making it to the highest level. So good for you RBI program, and good for everyone taking time to reflect on Jackie Robinson's journey to the big leagues and it's significance.

Quick Whoring

As the Score's resident west coast baseball nut insomniac shift worker, I'm liveblogging tonight's Dodgers Giants tilt from delightful Dodgers Stadium. Vin Scully and I will help you drift off to sleep, so stop by!

O Cito My Cito

Look, this isn't even about pinch hitting. To me, it's about mixed messages. Of course Cito is a master motivator, as Wilner points out. I'm not here to question his in-game decision making, not just yet anyway. For me, it starts and ends with the lineup.

Cito is, and always has been a "roles guy." I touched on this at the end of last year, admitting that while I'm not 100% comfortable with his "go get'em tiger!" attitude, the results can be difficult to argue.

Ahhh, results. Presumably they're what keeps the batting order set in stone. Scoots is off to a good start, leave him in there to ride it out. Adam Lind and Cito are totes BFF, why let his mind wander in the field. Travis Snider is a rookie that must be brought along slowly, so on the bench he'll sit against lefties. I get it. But why not shake up the order, just to see what happens? Maybe let Wells DH for a day, maybe slot the hot bat of Lind between Wells and Rios?

This isn't new for Cito, who's WAMCO days are the stuff of legend. Thanks to Baseball Reference, I learned how frighteningly accurate the legend is. I looked a few successful teams: Cito's WS Champion teams, the 116 win Mariners under old school Lou, the 2002 Yankees that avoided injury and won 103 games with the petrified Joe Torre growing into the bench. For the sake of bludgeoning home my point, I looked at Cito's 1995/1996 Blue Jays teams that lost far more often than they won. How often did they use the same lineup? How many times did they use a given lineup? The results are quite something.

TeamTotal Batting OrdersMost Frequent Lineup Uses2nd Most Frequent Lineup Uses3rd Most Frequent Lineup Uses
1992 Blue Jays (96-66)58161515
1993 Blue Jays (95-67)71201312
2001 Mariners (116-46)115544
2002 Yankees (103-58)108966
1995 Blue Jays (56-88)822097

To throw fuel on a fire of my own creation; the only difference between Cito's A lineup in 1992 and his B lineup is Manny Lee in place of Alfredo Griffin. 31 games with a nearly identical lineup! Cito is obviously a man you can set your watch by. This little chart proves little, other than you can win with the same lineup and you can win with a variety of lineups. Though trotting the same 9 guys in the same order 20 times when you're losing 2 out of 3 games seems counterintuitive.

But why slavishly adhere to "sending the right message" when they're coming out so mixed? If I'm Adam Lind (or his agent, more accurately), I'm officially concerned with my client's long-term earning potential. A 25 year old DH that wouldn't be classed as a "bad body" is incapable of playing the field? In today's holistic baseball society, that won't fly. Not wanting to mess with a hitter's hot streak only applies when the hitter isn't a pet project? Are we really to believe these professional athletes, who have been playing baseball their entire lives, can't cope with the uncertainly of their position in the batting order? So much so that it effects their performance on the field? I should hope not.

Tinfoil Hat Update: After digging around a bit more on BR, I've come up with a conspiracy theory worthy of the Patrick Ewing Draft Lottery. Cito's best season as a player came in 1970, when he hit 29 home runs with an OPS+ of 144. That season Cito hit from the number 3 spot 133 times! He never again approached that level of power nor that consistency in the lineup. He blames never matching his career season on a constantly moving lineup! Conspiracy! Playoffs!! Mental Health Issues!

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Not fer Nothin'

Dirty Uniform = BallplayerA few quick and dirty numbers and things that caught my eye:
  • 29.6% - Scott Rolen's line drive rate. In 32 PAs he's notched 8 line drives. That's good, I like it.
  • .529 - Travis Snider's isolated power or number of extra base hits per at bat. That's great, I love it.
  • I guess I'm human - Ichiro's line when asked about his ulcer. That's amazing, I couldn't like it more.
  • -20.7 - Alex Rios's UZR/150 games based the start to his season. Now, this number means next to nothing (less in fact) as it's based on 71 innings. But he hasn't looked great so far, what with the balls careening off his skull and all. It WILL improve, but it's got my eye.
  • 0.71 - Alex Rios's Walk per K rate, the highest of his career. He's also slashing liners around at a healthy clip. That's encouraging, I enjoy it.
  • .181, .212, -1.91 - Glen Perkins, starting tonight for the Twins, average against, BABIP, and ERA-FIP through one start this year. Unsustainable! I don't care if it's only one start and junkballin' lefties are Blue Jay kryptonite, he's going to regress like a motherfucker tonight!
If you shout sample size I'll encourage you sample the size of my genital region. PLAYOFFS!

Monday, April 13, 2009

Ah Yes, Denim Like a Jean

A few odds and ends to sort out before tonight's game against the Twins. I don't like the jerkoff Twins. I don't like their new jerkoff ballpark (it's cold in Minnesota in April, enjoy the snow-outs), I don't like their jerkoff outfield (untrue! Carlos Gomez is great), I don't like their overrated jerkoff catcher (untrue! Despite the lack of power, Mauer's pretty great), and I don't like their bush league hustle and thieve approach. Jerkoffs. The Jays missget Francisco Liriano in the forgotten fourth game of the series but get Slowey, Perkins and Baker LLP in the first three. Perkins is a lefty, hopefully Cito will give Lind the opportunity to play the field. Is he worse than Bautista? I don't like the thought of young Adam's muscles atrophying on the bench. He'll be running like Frank Thomas before the All Star break.

Random Announcements and Things

  • In case you hadn't noticed, I've begun the process of shedding my fake blogger name. As good and Be Sharps-ish as Lloyd the Barber is, you'll see the name Drew a lot more than Lloyd in the future. But we're the same guy. The Revered is still the Reverend, Jesse BOBD is still the same, but as it has been for the last six months, it's pretty much my (Drew's!) show.
  • Speaking of shows and clumsy segues, the Walkoff Walk Furious Five podcast goes down tonight at 10! You can still get it on iTunes etc. Bring your recipe book!
  • Because I'm made of magic and old horsehide; I'll be liveblogging the Red Sox/A's game tonight on the Score. Lefty Dallas Braden takes the mound for the A's...FINGERS CROSSED FOR A ROCCO START!
  • The commentariat around here is small but loyal, so I'll pose this question: how do you prefer the comments section to work? Do people like the pop-up window (or trackball click new tab style) or the newfangled DJF scrolling style. Chime in with your preference, I'm good either way.

My Worst Fears Confirmed

Remember a week ago when I warned the bullpen could become a concern this year? Remember when I said the combination of starters with high pitch counts mixed with a bullpen primed for a regression could spell disaster?

It might have only been one game, but outings like yesterday's could haunt the Jays all season long. Brandon League will NOT be this bad going forward. He'll probably lose his "prime right handed set up guy" job to Jason Frasor's fosh, but he'll get to work out the kinks at the big league level. If I knew about such things, I'd be inclined to believe League's problems are a combination of mechanical and mental. Whatever the source, he forgot how to locate his pitches. That's bad. Moderately effective Shawn Camp couldn't find the plate either, and hasn't all week. That's not as bad, but it still isn't' good. The Jays pen has already allowed 16 walks. That sucks. The staff ERA is up around 4.75; a figure made worse by their (very early, of course) bloated FIP, currently hovering near 6.

Obviously getting hysterical about a 5-2 team isn't worth the effort (PLAYOFFS!), but the starters are going to continue to place the bullpen in tough situations. Just throw strikes people, it's really that simple.

Weekend Mechanical Goats/Simulated Hero-Figures

You'll be shocked to learn that Saturday's win came courtesy of real life Simulated Hero-Figure Roy Halladay. Aaron Hill's bases loaded single in the second inning matched Jason Frasor's strike out of Victor Martinez in the 9th in the race to become the game's biggest play.

The sweep didn't pan out and we have Marco Scutaro to blame? If the robots tell me so, it much be true. I suppose his strike out with runners on second and third with one out in the seventh inning of a one-run ballgame will do that. I can't stay mad at Scutaro as he's playing so far above his replacement-level head right now. This is all house money anyway.

Friday, April 10, 2009

You and I, Let's Make a Pact

All of us reading this today and moving forward in perpetuity will swear an oath together:
I, ______________ (your name here) do solemnly swear to never, ever refer to a pitcher's won/loss record EVER again. So long as we all shall live, unless the crusty old powers that be come to their senses and change this antiquated rule, will never make mention of a pitcher's ability or inability to nail down a decision.

I'm better than that, and despite knowing I should exhaust my ire somewhere more meaningful, I will punch the next Cy Young voter I see in the throat for parroting win totals. Thank you.
Brandon League entered last night's ball game with two on and two out with his team up by one. God bless him, but he threw nine pitches, TWO FOR STRIKES, hit a guy to force in the tying run while looking more like he was awaiting a paternity test than trying to win a baseball game. He was credited his first blown save of the year and of course, his first win. Brandon League is now 1-0 on the season by virtue of the Jays offense. Fuck wins.

Scott Richmond - Coat Yourself in Maple Syrup While You Can

Look, Scott Richmond isn't very good. I tweeted so much three batters into the game, slightly premature on my part. His line wasn't awful in the end; but something I saw scared the shit out of me. He struck out 4 and walked 2. Not bad, you would assume. The scary part was the ground balls, or lack thereof. He faced 19 guys, subtract the Ks and walks and 13 guys put the ball in play. Take the six fly balls and add the five line drives or flies that went for hits and measure them against only 2 ground balls. Ouch. He can't survive like that for long, especially getting smacked around by left handed hitters as he does.

Opposite Field Power

That is one opposite field shot each for Lind and Snider this year. They're so awesome. Like Scott Rolen and Aaron Hill, who are on a strict "ropes only" diet. FIRST PLACE!!! PLAYOFFS!!!

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Youths Succeed, Arrive Home before Streetlights Come On

After today, I decree that 50% of all Jays games should start at 12:37 PM, and the Jays should win 100% of those very same games. I saw the first few innings, Romaro looked pretty good, despite his unwillingness to go inside. The tater tots followed en masse, and all is right with the world. Adam Lind hit a big flat curveball out, something I always enjoy. Aaron Hill, aka the Jays streakiest hitter, is currently slugging .688. Boners!

Inverse boners go out to Jose Bautista and the Jays suits. Bautista more than atoned for his brutal misplay/flagrant cut-off of Scutaro today on a bounder towards the hole. Ball takes bad bounce (made more difficult when the third baseman is trying to go across his body) and it cost the Jays a run. He made a really nice play later that likely saved the Jays two, but it should have already been over. And no Wednesday's with JP means no more Thursday Good Time Smile Hour for me. Boo to JP but yay to my free time. H/T Tao & DJF

Not all is right with the world. As I added to yesterday's post, the Nick Adenhart incident as lead to the postponement of tonight's Angels/A's game. No live blog obviously, and thank goodness for that.

Hope everyone enjoys the long weekend, keep your eyes open for more mechanical goats and/or simulated hero-figures this weekend against the apparently terrible Indians. Good Friday afternoon games are great opportunities to get drunk with your grandmother. Don't pass that shit up.

Hail Ants

Unfortunately life has kept me from seeing much of this week's games. Despite the scarcity of highlights, I saw Jesse Litsch leaving the ball where Jesse Litsch can't afford to leave it. And that was that.

The worst part, for me, about not seeing the games in real time is the dearth of defensive information. I know! Wilner mentions a great stab by Scott Rolen the other night. Did I see it? Of course not. Fuck my life! Worse yet, I own a PVR! Was I recording tonight's game? Of course not. I'm an idiot (FML).

So, I've decided to quit fighting off our inevitable robot overlords and let the machines run my life. For games I don't see much of, I'll rely on numbers and witchcraft to assign my Mechanical Goat of the Night/Simulated Hero-figure depending on the outcome of the game. I'll use Fangraph's WPA data and do it coldly and dispassionately like Charles fucking Bronson.

Mechanical Goats for 5-1 Loss to Detroit: Adam Lind, WPA -0.135; Jesse Litsch WPA -0.256.

Update! After some errors in the live boxscore last night, the cruel light of day has let Adam Lind somewhatoff the hook. The fly out/throw out double play has been attributed to Scott Rolen, much to my dismay. Lind still did the most damage offensively, but Litsch's punished mistake mean he took the most off the table. So go ahead and ignore the below paragraph.

Well isn't this interesting? I turn myself over my algorithmic foes and they immediately fuck up. Adam Lind's WPA is calculated incorrectly, as a quick scan of the play log shows him being dinged for an "out advancing" with 2 outs in the first. Alex Rios was put out on that particular play, so he should be docked the 0.76 WPAs, whatever they are. After Lind, little Litschy and his gopher ball delivery service would wear the Kevlar hooves. The robots tell me Vernon Wells's GIDP in the third with two on and one out was the single most damaging play of the night. Stop me if you've heard that one before.

Other Stuff of Varying Value

  • Alex Rios has three walks in three games. I'll start polishing my lobo, the zombies can't be far behind.
  • Travis Snider listens to Paul Wall? All the maturity in the world can't stop a 21 year old white dude from being a 21 year old white dude.
  • The Tigers may not be a great team, but they do feature a lot of excellent right handed bats. What better place for the Jays to debut a young lefty for the second year in a row. Good luck Ricky, I hope your dodge bullets as well as Purcey did last year.
  • I should have mentioned it yesterday, but they let us do a second edition of the Walkoff Walk Furious Five podcast this week. You can find it on iTunes if you search podcasts for Walkoff Walk. My soup recipe is killer!
  • Any left coasters, alcoholics, night owls, or criminals looking for something to do tonight can join me as I live blog the Angels/A's tilt on Grab yer phone and comment from the comfort of your own slumber! Sadly, tonight's game has been postponed due to the untimely death of Nick Adenhart. My thoughts are with his family and friends.

Amazing Update

Ummm, there really are mechanical goats!!

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Serenity Tao

The Tao's call to arms this morning touched on similar ground to something I briefly mentioned (in a self promoting way, of course) on the weekend: the baseball audience in Canada is underserved. Hockey gets so much more coverage and so on and so forth. The discussion that followed is informed and intelligent, with numerous excellent points and suggestions about how baseball coverage can be improved.

Sadly, it never really will.

The Tao's original point regarding baseball highlights being buried during TSN's 11PM Sportscentre is accurate but unlikely to change. In a perfect world, with "journalistic balance" it would be much more attainable. Sadly, Sportscentre is 50% news and 50% brand awareness platform and cross-promotion opportunity. TSN and Sportscentre tell the hockey story first because they have a heavily vested interest in the success of hockey on their networks.

This isn't new, Sportsnet's baseball coverage is more extensive than other Canadian networks, but if Rogers sold the Jays would it continue? Baseball fans don't show up in the numbers (at the ballpark or on TV) that hockey fans do, which is why you'll never see one network walk away from hockey without anyone running to pick it up.

ESPN is famous for this (good discussion on the topic during a couple recent L'Homme du Sport podcasts) most notably the significant uptick in NASCAR coverage right around the time the four-letter increased the amount of NASCAR races on the airspace. The Score covered college basketball far more extensively this season, culminating in the network broadcasting the tournament this March.

We're all at the mercy of the dreaded branders and marketers once again. TSN officially ceased to be a journalistic entity the day the LEAD STORY on Sportscentre was TSN's acquisition of the Hockey Night in Canada theme. Sportsnet will assign more resources to baseball so long as they stand to benefit from our association of Sportsnet and baseball.

The real question remains: is this such a bad thing? We love to hold baseball writers and sports entities hands to the fire with cries of balance and integrity, but at the end of the day they're just games. We love them all the same, but as Joe Posnanski wrote in as many words recently, shouldn't we reserve our ire and desire for transparency for the business section? For the news or editorial sections? Sporting conflicts of interest are harmless compared to the fleecing of a generation. (Sorry, a little too much Shock Doctrine this week.)

In the end, sports fans and lazy slobs alike have it pretty fucking good. I will likely watch more baseball this year than my father watched in the decades that preceded and followed the Blue Jays arrival in Toronto. It's not a bad life, even if we know how much better it could be.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Mixed Precipitation Thrown on the Fire

I like 6 RBI games as much as the next guy, but two of those hits were humpbacked fliners that happened to find holes. Don't even get me started on the pitch Halladay grooved to Inge. Let's have a little perspective here, okay?


Just so we're all clear, the road to rookie of the year awards and future stardom is paved with opposite field home runs. Big ones make up huge chunks of the pavement.

A few things to make us all smile: Aaron Hill ranging far behind the bag and Lyle Overbay driving the ball to the left field power alley, Alex Rios working a walk, and Adam Lind squaring one up for once. Finally!

Monday, April 6, 2009

Prediction Time

My prediction of my reaction, once I realize I won't make it to Opening Day. You said it, Hurley-looking guy.

As for baseball, I'm out of the prediction game. If ever there was a fool's errand...I'll simple say this:
  • The Jays total wins and total loses will both be in the 80s.
  • Travis Snider will have a good season and spend time in Vegas.
  • Scott Rolen will justify my love. (Our love, my loyal and like-minded friends)
  • The Yankees will be good, the Red Sox will be better
  • The Twins and Angels will be exposed
  • Roy Halladay will be Roy Halladay
  • You will buy a Ghostrunner on First t-shirt
  • A.J. Burnett will be the Yankees best starter
  • Seriously, buy a shirt. Let me design them first, but then buy one.
  • We will have a whole lot of fun. Both here on the nerd and at the ballpark.
Holy Shit! Opening Day! Amazing! PLAYOFFS!!

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Pre-Opening Day Sundaze

A few things to take care of here on the dawn of the season. Firstly, a little rosterbation and/or lineup wankery. I'll post my dream lineup alongside Cito's probably Opening Day lineup, the one he's currently engraving in tablet until injury forces his hand.

Cito's Jays
  1. Marco Scutaro, SS
  2. Aaron Hill, 2B
  3. Alex Rios, RF
  4. Vernon Wells, CF
  5. Adam Lind, DH
  6. Scott Rolen, 3B
  7. Lyle Overbay, 1B
  8. Rod Barajas, C
  9. Travis Snider, LF
The Toronto Drew Jays
  1. Alex Rios, CF
  2. Adam Lind, DH
  3. Vernon Wells, LF
  4. Travis Snider, RF
  5. Scott Rolen, 3B
  6. Lyle Overbay, 1B
  7. Aaron Hill, 2B
  8. Rod Barajas, C
  9. Marco Scutaro, SS
Wow, that was much more difficult than I originally imagined. Despite my most earnest prayers, the Jays don't have a player like Grady Sizemore (pop, speed, and patience) for the top of the order. Am I overrating the ability to see pitches and get on base in the number one slot? Either way, I like Rios in that spot a lot more than Alex Rios does. I fought with myself to leave Hill second, but Adam Lind sees more pitches, hits left and doesn't quite have the power we all wish he did. Aaron Hill doesn't generally swing the bat at the top of the order as well as he does at the bottom, so I'll leave him there to do his thing. Travis Snider hits in the middle of the order because he will fuck you up like a bad accident, why hide him? Scott Rolen almost led off, but he's too awesome for that stigmatized lineup slot. Scutaro and Barajas get the fewest at bats because they're the worst hitters. It's just that simple.

Other Stuff for the Spring Christmas Eve

  • I hope this doesn't make me a racist, but I consider the four different black American baseball players that Baseball Daily Digest predicts to compete for Rookie of the Year honours in 2009 a good thing. Am I wrong? Am I racist? More diverse talent pool just makes for better on-field talent, so we the consumer win. Right? Racist!
  • Baseball Musings compiled the WAR (wins over replacement) totals for every team's lineup, rotation and closer. The Jays rank just above the Orioles with 29.3. The Yankees and Red Sox lead the way. Sigh, No Funeral.
  • I don't mind that Jeff Blair's proud of not watching Carter's home run, I deeply mind that he exchanged hard-earned currency to watch Madonna. Remember that next time he pimps Gaslight Anthem or something of that ilk.
  • I wrote a post for Walkoff Walk yesterday based on this post at Baseball Analysts. Championship Win Probability Added and Championship Leverage are enough to blow your mind and make you cry. The Jays "biggest" game of the year, the game with the highest level of importance relative to them making the playoffs took place on May 31st. Let's hope they can hold on until Victoria Day once again.

Finally, the season is about to start. What better way to kick off the 2009 baseball season than joining me at the Score for a live blog of Sunday's Phillies Braves lid-lifter. Everyone who reads this site or any like it believes we baseball fans are underserved (relatively) by the mainstream Canadian media outlets. If we can turn up en force for stuff like this, content producers and suits alike will recognize the breadth and intelligence of Canadian baseball fans and work harder to satisfy our nearly insatiable needs. It's worth a shot, worst case scenario you crack wise with me for a couple hours. What else were you doing on a Sunday night?

/shameless whoring.

Saturday, April 4, 2009

The Grim March towards Fate

Last time I turned to an e-friend for a preview, it exposed us Jays fans as sensitive souls. The Yankees obviously touch a nerve, but what of the Red Sox? The team many people love to hate (but more people, myself included, like in spite of themselves) is the best run organization in baseball. The also added my favorite player this off-season. I turned to Walkoff Walk co-proprietor & urban cowboy Kris Liakos to preview the Red Sox and detail the inevitable.

Pitching: The Most Important Part Of Any Pitching Staff

The Red Sox stockpiled a surplus of pitching of every age from about 13 to 50. They made three key winter thrift store acquisitions, the first two, John Smoltz and Brad Penny will have an opportunity to make an impact on the rotation. The latter sooner than the former. The third thrift store acquisition was an old copy of Boz Scaggs' record Silk Degrees which I guess was supposed to be ironic, and in no way can help the staff. Penny locked up his job in the rotation sending Clay Buchholz to start the year in the minors along with other nearly ready for the rotation young dude, Michael Bowden. Familiar faces round out the rest of the staff. With 1. Beckett 2. Matsuzaka and 3. Lester all being welcomed back by my open arms. 4. Tim Wakefield, not so much. He's not in the last year of some long term deal, the Sox ponied up for one more season. With two solid starters sitting in Pawtucket it's going to be frustrating watching Wake get smacked around every other start.

The bullpen is, in my opinion, the obvious strength of the team. The 7 Headed Pitching Hydra allows Justin Masterson to continue working on his sinker against major league batters in long relief. Ramon Ramirez got batted around the couple of times I got to see him in Spring Training but his ball still looked way "live" for whatever that's worth. Takashi Saito is healthy and was acquired for a bag of balls. Hideki Okajima was perceived as having a not so good 2008, but still logged a 177 ERA+ and struck out nearly 3 guys to each one he walked. Jonathan Papelbon may have lost some dominance last year, but will be throwing a slider for the first time since his rookie year, and is still more beloved in Boston than the goddamned Zoo Babies slideshow that runs in the Boston Globe every couple weeks.

Hitting: A Good Way To Score Runs

The 2009 Red Sox lineup has only 3 "sure things" in it: Pedroia, Youkilis and Bay. Leadoff hitter Jacoby Ellsbury needs to improve that .336 OBP, Mike Lowell's hip needs to stay in one piece, as do JD Drew's back, Rocco's cells and David Ortiz's wrist. Unless George Kottaras can immediately translate last year's minor league numbers. He's Greek and Canadian so I think we can all agree on him here. In any case, the surplus of pitching is a savings account if too many of those question marks can't come together by the deadline. Clay Buchholz and Mike Lowell would really like Oakland I think.

Fielding: What To Do When The Ball Is Hit To You

Ellsbury, Lowrie and Pedroia are all solid up the middle. Unfortunately, once healthy it seems like the Sox are hellbent on giving Julio Lugo playing time and he might as well be playing short with a pair of salad tongs. They're solid at the corner infield spots.

Predictions: If I Could See The Future, I Wouldn't Be A Blogger

The Red Sox stockpile of arms will allow them to absorb injury, make any needed deadline moves and, I predict, allow the fewest runs in baseball. This will propel them to the top of the American League East standings and at least to the ALCS. I mean, what else did you think I was going to say when Lloyd asked me to do a Sox preview? Enjoy the season everybody.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Some Positivity, in Relative Terms

Scott Rolen's spring line: .375/.500/.781/1.281. This means very little, as it's only Spring Training.

Just for argument's sake, not to celebrate the missteps or bad fortunes of others, a quote:
Once hopeful of a return in April, the Cardinals now say they will be without third baseman Troy Glaus for more than the season's first two months and can not guarantee his return before the All-Star break.
Get well soon, Troy. Continuing being awesome now, Scott.

I should be getting cease & desist papers from Daylife anytime now.

Cynical Staredown

Is it more cynical of me to want to shoot holes in all the Back2Back weekend horseshit or them for doing it?

Is the level of faith moving into this season so low the team feels the need to roll out the fluffy old bones of Kelly Gruber, Jimmy Key, and Joe Carter to keep us plebes interested? What gift is usually associated with a 17th anniversary? Gold? No. Paper? No. Must be horseshit.

Am I just looking for something to complain about? Am I a terrible person for not caring, AT ALL, about seeing 50 year old guys that were good when I was a kid?

What the fuck is a Fanfest? Will I get to meet Scott Rolen? Why won't Doc return my calls? Does it hurt when you rape a corpse?

I have so many questions, there are so few answers.

Hoof in Mouth Outbreak Imminent

The one thing even the most ardent J.P. bashers have in common with those of us that spend our days cradling his glorious nutsack is bullpen appreciation. One high-priced closer, one well-paid LOOGY-come-set up guy, one freak, and a cast of shitballers and never-wases combine to form a tight, effective, league-leading unit. With all the attention given to the movement of mop-up righties and the lack of rapid movement in the closer's fastball this week, is it time to worry about the stable back-end?

In a word, yes. I don't want to say the entire Jays bullpen is due to regress, but all signs point to a correction looming on the horizon. Two big factors have worked in the bullpen's favor in recent years: pitching very few innings and the excellent defense behind them. The defense isn't going anywhere, thankfully. A full season of Aaron Hill can only improve the Jays batted ball-to-out conversions, even if Scutaro returns to his career averages at short. One thing the bullpen will be asked to do this year is work more. Work long and hard. I'm not overly concerned with the rotation per se, but two of the newcomers share a predilection towards walks and high pitch counts. With extended exposure, some of inconsistencies are bound to come out in the wash.

Let's look a little closer, using the 2008 Dodgers bullpen for comparison's sake. Of course, the Dodgers made the playoffs but won fewer games than the Blue Jays. Their bullpen ERA was third in baseball behind our Blue Jays and the World fucking Champion Phillies.

2008 Jays7.543.752.011.2579.8%.2753.852.94-0.91
2008 Dodgers8.623.222.681.2674.5%.3073.473.34-0.13
2007 Jays7.243.362.151.2673.1%.2903.773.46-0.31

What jumps out at you? The 2008 bullpen either made great use of the defense or got lucky as hell. The BABIP is under the baseline of .300, the strand rate is higher than average (75%) and the K/BB rate is lower than the year before. The biggest difference is ERA-FIP, showing how many runs the team allowed versus how many they "should" have allowed. A difference of more than half a run per game seems pretty severe. As a unit the Dodgers register more strikeouts yet fewer walks, stranded about the league average while dealing with a slightly above-average BABIP. In other words, with a little luck, they could be much better this year. The Jays, not so much.

If that didn't make you want to kill yourself quite enough, it gets worse. What about the individual pitchers? How did they each shake down in the past, and how do they look for 2009?

JP Demands More Lefties!2007 E-F2008 ERA2008 FIP2008 E-F2008 BABIP2008 Strand Rate2009 Mean FIP (projected)
Scott Downs-1.071.783.39-1.60.26486.6%3.67
Brandon League-1.01*2.184.16-1.98.27185.7%3.99
B.J. Ryan-0.77*2.953.68-0.74.28578.7%3.42
Jesse CarlsonN/A2.253.80-1.55.23586.6%4.04
Shawn Camp2.00^
Jason Frasor1.414.184.55-0.36.25972.6%3.97
Brian Tallet0.112.883.61-0.74.30080.7%4.10

Wow, that's a lot of nerdy shit. First things first, the * indicates a 2006 number due to insufficient innings in 2007. Shawn Camp's ^ comes from his 2007 season in Tampa Bay, where he was disgracefully bad. Before I go any further, I'll admit strand rates for relievers can be deceptive as it can be attributed to a repeatable skill.

That said, does Scott Downs strike you as a ticking timebomb? That strand rate is very high and his E-F went from fortunate to elephant-in-the-roomish. Did I mention he's 33 years old, and got knocked around last year as he tired and his curveball flattened? How about Ryan, who wasn't nearly as bad as he seemed in 2008, but still benefited from the defense behind him. The velocity concern is troubling though there is light at the end of that tunnel, I hope. P.S. He's 34.

Jesse Carlson and Brandon League are virtually the same guy: one pitch wonders for medium leverage situations. Though they both present as regression candidates, I'll give League the benefit of the doubt. His crazy velocity, his overwhelming ground ball numbers (a few more than normal are BOUND to sneak through), and his prototype pitcher's body. I really hope the league (and physics. .235 BABIP? See you in hell, seeing-eye grounder) doesn't catch up to Carlson's slider as he's a good story and a fun guy to watch.

Somehow Jason Frasor and Shawn Camp could make Cito look like a genius. Shawn Camp due to the clear signs he was better than it seemed last year. Jason Frasor's presence keeps Jeremy Accardo from spreading disease all across Southern Ontario, which makes Cito a hero for sending him off to douchebag central. I don't want to live in a world where Shawn Camp is being counted on in high leverage situations, numbers be damned.

Brian Tallet! I almost forgot Brian Tallet. Because he's utterly inconsequential! My time clearly has little or no value, just like the value of a 4th left handed pitcher in a major league bullpen. Congrats Brian Tallet, you are cold pasta salad.

So I guess we're fucked? Hardly. This is still a good group of complimentary relievers, being judiciously deployed by a bullpen master run into the ground by a glorified hitting coach. I kid, Cito, I kid. But we should all be concerned. Age, luck, and heavy work schedules could all conspire to catch up to the Jays this year. It won't be pretty. PLAYOFFS!!??!

1000 blessings and thanks to Fangraphs, Baseball Reference, and the Brooks Baseball Pitch F/x Caravan of Chuckles.