Wednesday, February 24, 2010
Dear Vernon Wells
Hey Vernon, I hope you had a nice relaxing off season. Glad to see you finally made it to camp, hopefully a kind clubby places this in your locker next to your hideous new hat.
Look Vernon, this is going to be a trying year for you. Another one. Which is too bad, as you seem like a pretty chill dude who doesn't need this stress and strain. So I want you to do two things in 2010: don't let the haters get you down, and remember how to hit left handed pitching.
They both seem so simple, yet so unattainable. The first one is especially tough considering you earn nearly as much money as all your teammates combined. This ordinarily wouldn't be too big a deal as you could pay a team of midgets to keep your unwashed teammates at a distance, but every single Blue Jays fan knows how much money your earn per annum. As such, they rain hatred down upon you in any and all situations. That I can't back, as it will only make you bitter and withdrawn. Bitter and withdrawn isn't the public persona of the veteran leader of a rebuilding team. Fun-loving Vernon is better for everyone involved. If Fun Loving Vernon is the only Vernon during the twilight of your career, you'll be fondly remembered by Blue Jays fans.
You see Vernon, you're important to this town and this team, whether you like it or not. With each passing day and each counting stat accumulated, your stature within the greater Blue Jays organization grows. You've been here a long time, the longest time of your teammates. I don't want to see you go out like your boss, burning every bridge in town. Additionally, people in Toronto are so wet for Americans to see Hogtown for the bustling cosmopolitan metropolis it is, if you leave town and never come back it will only hurt our collective ego.
Ah, your boss. A man &mdash Clarence as he's now known around here &mdash who does you zero favors. The curious decision to slot you into the cleanup spot before the season even starts reminds me (not unlike every single moment of daily life) of a Simpsons episode. The one when Homer becomes the coach of Bart's football team. The lack of a true Nelson on the Jays means you're likely to stay in the clean up spot for the year.
It's a role you're slightly underqualified for, especially based on recent results. Is it your shoulder, Vernon? Does bum equipment make it impossible to overcome your pre-disposition to pull everything?
I looked at every pitch you faced in 2009 in trying to find the answer. I focused on your at bats against lefties, since they gave you such a hard time. A wOBA of .267 against southpaws in 2009? Against a career mark of .370??? How could that be? For starters, pitching you away is a great place to generate outs. To wit:
Nearly 50% of the pitches you faced from lefties were on the outside 4 inches of the plate. And how did you fare on those pitches? Not well. A BABIP of .236. Four doubles, 1 home run, and 8 singles. A ground ball rate of 66%. An 8% whiff rate. There aren't even getting cute, nearly 66% of the pitches are fastballs. Basically: nothing good.
To be honest, I don't know what it means. It might just be your shoulder doesn't let you reach them and your great love of the roll over exacerbates it. At any length, maybe a new approach (your third in three years!) will help. Maybe The Manager will whisper some sweet nothings into your ear and you'll magically rediscover your old form.
All I really want to see is a solid year from you, Vernon. Reclaim some good will among the fanbase and serve as a solid bat in the middle of the lineup, for no reason other than your "every other year" template is so maddening. Remember how to hit left-handed pitching and rediscover a lost step in the outfield. Remember to have fun and don't let mouthy jackasses from Barrie get you down.
Daylife and shit with the Pitch F/X assist to Joe Lefkowitz.