Thursday, April 29, 2010

C'mon Down to the Great At Bat Giveaway!

Get your front foot down and get them while they're hot! We've got league-leading impatience available for you at rock bottom prices!
  • Out of zone swings? WE GOT'EM
  • League Worst On Base Percentage? WE'RE NEARLY THERE!
  • Contact Rate on Pitches in the Hitting Zone? BOTTOM FIVE AND AIMING FOR THE CELLAR!
  • Fly Balls? LEAGUE MOST! More balls sent skyward than the Pride Parade!
  • Infield Fly Balls aka Automatic Outs? CAN'T BEAT US IN THE AMERICAN LEAGUE!
The era of patience and avoiding outs is over. This is the dawn of a new epoch, one of grips, rips, and sitting on the fastball come hell or high water. The time has come to to make Jon Lester & Clay Buchholz1 look like Sandy Koufax and Don Drysdale.

It's fine, we've got some big sticks on this club. We're so good, in fact, we aren't interested in getting into hitter's counts, the 2010 Toronto Blue Jays are all about trying to hit the pitcher's pitch. We'll flail at a thousand sliders low and away before we take one fastball off the plate. Aggression isn't just out motto, it's our way of life!

1 To be fair, both these guys pitched brilliantly. Credit to them; though pitching against the Jays isn't exactly grounds for hazard pay these days.

Image courtesy of Flickr user Nep, depression courtesy of Fangraphs.

Monday, April 26, 2010

Frasor Follow Up

The temptation to throw a million data points up on a graph to granular all over Jason Frasor's declining ass is strong, but unnecessary. We can sum up the former closer's struggles (flatter, slower pitches) in convenient listicle form and be done before Monday's endless dirge reaches the seventh inning stretch.
  • Fastball velocity down nearly 2 mph.
  • "Change Up" (splitter/fosh) velocity down 1.5 mph.
  • Fastball horizontal movement down 1.5 inches.
  • Splitter/Fosh/Change Up vertical movement down 2 inches
  • Fastball "rise" decreased by 2 inches.

One and a half inches of horizontal movement may not seem like too much, but it represents a drop of 30%. A straighter, slower, flatter fastball is a pitch that is hammered. A slower, straighter, floaty-er change up thrown more often is a pitch either ignored or hammered.

Jason Frasor just ain't right. His less-than dynamic pitches are increasing ending up in the upper half of the strike zone too. He gets squared up well behind his career rate, cutting into his normally decent ground ball rate. His BABIP is absurdly high but throwing as many hittable pitches as he does, what does one expect?

Again I'll state there's more to Jason Frasor's struggles than "he sucks now." They'll find a tear or a flaw in his mechanics or get inside his slightly troubled head and he'll return to league-average. But for right now Bruce Walton can spare us all the bland niceties about bad luck and bad bounces.

Image courtesy of Reuters/Daylife, data from Fangraphs and Joe Lefkowitz.

Abdicate the Throne

Foolish as it is to completely write-off Jason Frasor, we have to believe something is up. He's missing a couple ticks off his fastball and leaning on his foshy thing more than ever. He isn't missing bats and it looks like he isn't nibbling as a dignified king should. More than anything, finally, he's getting hit hard. Lots of line drives and far too many base runners. It isn't fun to watch (he grinds the proceedings to a halt faster than an impromptu marching band-version of Twist and Shout) and hopefully it won't continue.

The scuttletweet skews towards injured, the reactionary conjecture almost laughable at this time. Worth noting is Frasor's sky high early season BABIP of .467, a number sure to make any BP tosser proud. Hopefully somebody within Castle Ted can set Frasor right; as one of the longest-serving Jays, fans should fight the urge to toss him aside so quickly.

Not to parrot Wilner too closely, but assuming Jason Frasor and/or Scott Downs are now officially useless is plain crazytalk. They obviously aren't firing on all cylinders, and perhaps 5+ years of warming up and high-leverage stress and strain are starting to show, but it doesn't all come apart at once like this. The ground balls will return, the walks will dissipate, these two bullpen stalwarts will ride off into the distance at the end of the year knowing they pitched really well as members of the Toronto Blue Jays.

Brett Cecil - Bat Missing Fool

Man, Brett Cecil is pretty awesome. He'll battle the long ball forever since he isn't really overpowering, but he pitched his ass off on Saturday night. 11 big whiffs (8 ks) in less than 7 innings of work is a welcome change to the guy with spotty control in 2009.

The Jays starters — Brandon Morrow excepted — continue to throw strikes at very impressive rates, walking only 2.75 hitters per 9. If this is the legacy of Bruce Walton, he'll be a rich, rich man in a very short period of time.

Interesting to hear Cecil interviewed on Wilner's pregame show*, discussing his new change, a discovery from his thumb-slicing incident in the spring. Cecil marveled at the effectiveness of the pitch when thrown at full power, rather than making a conscious effort to heave it at 80% effectiveness. Call me crazy, but that just makes sense. The grip on the ball should slow it down as much as you'd need, shouldn't it? Anyway, Cecil reiterated what everybody should know by now: the change up is the best pitch in baseball right now. Throw one or suffer the consequences.

* - I use the word interesting here very, very liberally. Cecil dropped enough "yuh knows" in the 2 minute interview to make me think I'd suddenly turned to HockeyCentral. He did mention he was a big Caps fan, so he's not perfect.

Have All the Donuts in the World!

So Lyle Overbay finally got a day off, after putting together his best offensive day of the season. I'm willing to believe almost anything about The Manager, but accusing him of punishing Overbay for complaining about his playing time last year seems a little extreme. Not beyond the realm of possibility, mind you, but far enough out there that I won't give it too much thought.

One would hope a man who prides himself on treating players the way he wished to be treated wouldn't stoop so low as to allow petty grudges into his professional decision making. Then again, there must be SOME explanation for the ongoing Citocity.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Pitching to Travis Snider

Travis Snider is a good hitter. His compulsive destruction of minor league pitching and jet-propelled path to the big leagues is ample proof. Travis Snider is really struggling to start the 2010. There are signs of Snider heading out of this slump; obviously if you read the box scores you see the moonshot he hit to right field Monday night against the Royals. Less obvious but equally important was the murderous line drive he screamed to right field in the ninth inning of that same game. Snider hit that liner with intentions so bad you wouldn't just hang laundry on it; you'd hang the drying flesh and bones of your many victims for use in a tough-but-tangy jerky.

Despite showing a few positive signs of late, Travis Snider sports some pretty ugly batting lines. Blame his criminally low BABIP if you will (or my evocation of that number in April! .312 xBABIP!) but he isn't "commanding the strike zone" as one would expect. How come? What's the deal? I may not have the answer but I endeavor to find out.

Before we get into the nitty gritty nerditry, we should look at the positives of Snider's start. He sees lots of pitches and even walks at a decent clip. His batted ball profile isn't too far out of wack, save a couple infield pop ups. The biggest shock for young Travis (or any of Clarence's disciples) is Snider's inability to handle the fastball.

My first assumption is Snider is overguessing or at least anticipating the fastball to a fault. I thought I'd look at the first pitches of his at bats this season, to see if he's digging himself into holes.

For your reference: this diagram is from the catcher's perspective. Snider — as a left-handed batter — stands screen right. I gave the strike zone rounded corners and extended the outside part of the plate to reflect the real strike zone lefties face.

Why not follow a strange collection of colors and shapes with a giant data dump?? Okay!
  • 33 of his 57 PAs start with fastballs. 15 for strikes. 1 whiff on a CJ Wilson 2 seamer, 1 missed bunt. 4 fastballs fouled off. 1 single on a first pitch fastball.
  • The remaining 24 offspeed pitches largely miss the zone (only 10 strikes.) 4 whiffs - all on change ups. Not one ball put into play.
  • Of the 33 fastballs first pitch fastballs thrown, 25 followed up with another fastball of some kind.
  • 15 times pitchers went soft-soft against Snider.
  • Counts! 2-0 counts = 15 (one home run, one double, six walks [two intentional]), 3-1 counts = 9 (one home run and 4 walks), 0-2 counts = 11 (7 Ks, 1 hit)
The vast majority of the pitches to Snider are thrown on the outside half. Anecdotally (read: without really counting) I noticed most teams pounding away with no break to bust back inside. As for the rest of it, I'm not 100% sure what to make.

Snider obviously sees a lot of pitches, that's what Three True Outcome guys do. It's hard to strike out without seeing at least 3 pitches. It's hard to say whether he's on his way out of a slump, he's so strong home runs aren't the best heat checks. One thing I haven't seen from Snider this year is the vaunted power the other way. That's always the thing I come back to when I need convincing of Travis Snider's eventual greatness.

Hopefully Snider will keep hitting the ball hard and resume hitting the ball to all fields. The word is clearly out on him - teams know his strength and respect his eye. I turn to you, my fellow basement dwelling molemen, for your opinion on Travis Snider during the young 2010 season. Encouraging signs? Frustrations? Holes in his game? It's too early to tell but I'd be interested to hear the direction others think he'll take.

Credit to Joe Leftowitz, Brooks Baseball, and Reuters via Daylife.

Monday, April 19, 2010

My Solemn Vow

For the second time in week, I went out for an evening stroll with my progeny and dungeon master. We wander the streets surrounding our modest domicile; critiquing the exterior designs of homes far more valuable than our own. We make our way back to our house when the two-foot tall microperson that lives in my house is fast asleep, usually between 8 and 9.

Despite the shouts and screams of ever fibre of my being, I generally resist checking my ever-present phone during these outings. In other words, when I settle in and turn on the TV I do so without knowing the status of the ongoing Jays game.

As I said before, tonight marked the second time in a week that I left during a Jays night game. Both times, after coming home from walks, I've found myself smack dab in the center of Blue Jays pitchers working NO HITTERS. Twice. Twice!!!

Suffice to say, there is a lot of walking in my future. Expect me to announce a monochromatic shoe deal before the end of the week. I'm going to buy one of those obnoxious jogging strollers that crowd the sidewalks of a WASPy neighbourhood near you. Who cares! I'm going to walk into perfect games 4 nights a week! I'm already excited!

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Jays Acquire Fred Lewis, Make My Day

What is this strange, alarming feeling? Is it...smug satisfaction?? Why yes, smugly satisfied is exactly how I feel after the Blue Jays went out and acquired Fred Lewis for cash or a non-roster swine to be named later.

If you recall the halcyon days of one month ago today, you'll recall me openly pining for the Jays to grab the speedy Lewis, on the outs with the brain trust in San Fran. And they did it! We can naturally assume the large army of scouts under the Jays employ have exactly nothing to do with this deal, instead it was Alex Anthopoulos lazily perusing the internet one afternoon in March. ME ME ME!!!

Lewis is as classic a "change of scenery" guy as you'll find. He plays fine outfield —with a knack for dramatic routes and lapses in sanity, I've heard—and should work out well on the fast turf in the symmetrical Phone Booth. His swing is sweet as candy though his eye is his calling card. Resigning Bengie Molina while Buster Posey rots in Fresno? You get what you deserve.

Lewis clashed with Giants manager Bruce Bochy and Brian Sabean, which means he's okay in my books as those two guys are dummies. Lewis has the speed/on base combination of a lethal leadoff man, should Clarence play along. If Edwin Encarnacion is out for any length of time (he didn't play tonight with a bad shoulder), Fred Lewis might just get the chance to play every day.

Spoiler Alert: Fred Lewis isn't a major part of The Plan. Fred Lewis is, however, an excellent stopgap with enough potential and track record to insert himself into the conversation for 2011 if everything goes well.

Two extra reasons to be excited: hardcore Giants fans absolutely love him and are sad to see him go. He also comes complete with a tragic human-interest angle to make rooting for him that much easier. What more can we really ask of the general manager of a rebuilding team?

Image courtesy of the UPI. Hat tip to @22gigantes for the ESPN link.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Art Appreciation

I don't know the first damn thing about art. I don't think I've ever been to a gallery opening and have a difficult time discerning eras, styles, and motivations. I know what I like and I arrogantly assume I have a strong grasp of my personal aesthetic sense; but I don't give a shit what the Mona Lisa might be smirking about. Art is everywhere, in every thing we see each day and art is nowhere. It's all a rich tapestry blah blah blah.

Two kinds of art were on display at the Rogers Centre last night. The clinical, masterful display put on by Ricky Romero won't soon be forgotten by any of the dozen or so people who watched it (or illegally retransmitted it). In and out, up and down, swinging strikes and assorted awesomeness. Art. Just like all good art, it made us feel and think and talk and laugh. An artful performance by a young master still honing his craft.

To some art might only be Impressionistic masters or Frank Gehry or Jackson Pollack or Robert fucking Bateman painting loons and ponds and shit, but art isn't that easy to nail down. On the fringes or the definition and society, people express themselves through extreme acts of self-degradation or esoteric weirdness for weirdnesses sake.

Most of this stuff is harmless, some is vulgar and some approaches dangerous. Smearing yourself with feces while grainy 8mm footage of cousin Jeffrey's fifth birthday party doesn't really harm anybody, but it doesn't help me understand why daddy doesn't love you either. Which brings us to A.J. Pierzynski.

A.J. Pierzynski didn't hit the home run to break up Ricky Romero's would be no-hitter and there's no way to know what might have happened had he not play-acted his way to first base via the phantom hit by pitch. Pierzynski didn't hit the home run, Alex Rios did. Because Alex Rios is a talented major league ballplayer and A.J. Pierzynski is a worthless fuck.

I watch professional baseball so I can see crazy shit like world-class athletes throwing baseballs at speeds I wouldn't drive on the highway. I watch to see mammoth humans exhibit hummingbird reflexes with skill and nuance. I don't watch baseball to watch obnoxious jackasses con their way into victories or the opposition's head. I want to see something great, not a manipulative cunt do whatever he can to get his team a win. I don't care. The ongoing success of A.J. Pierzynski doesn't really hurt anyone per se but it is a blow to human decency and the Greater Good.

I don't want to see A.J. Pierzynski succeed. Instead, I'd like to see him try and catch a Brandon Morrow four-seamer with his spine. I want every sentence that includes "Pierzynski" and "head's up" to also feature the words "his own ass." Go away A.J. Leave here and never come back.

Retire to the White Sox broadcast booth where you and Hawk Harrelson can create a vortex of douchebaggery so strong it will tear the space-time continuum forever. I don't care if all that we see around us ceases to be, just stop playing baseball on my television set.

Images courtesy of Empty Easel

Process Versus Result

If I could play the role of apologist for a few more minutes, I'd point out that once again Jason Frasor pitched fine. The pitch he threw to Teahen wasn't quite as bad as he described, but it wasn't much better.

Worse than the pitch itself was whom he threw it to. Mark Teahen is a lot of things—Canadian not among them—and opposite field power threat counts as one of his skills. Teahen hit 8 opposite field home runs last, 7 the year before. Mark Teahen, in fact, is an excellent opposite field hitter, which makes Frasor's belt high offering that much worse.

Again, not terrible but not great. A little higher or a little further outside and I think he's fine. But it wasn't and now "everyone" believes Jason Frasor should lose his job. And he probably will. There are too many worthy candidates waiting behind him to pick up some cool counting stats that agents love so much.

One area of Frasor's game worth watching is his whiffs, or lack thereof. In 5 outings this year, Frasor's only missed 4 bats. In 88 pitches. Quite early to sound the alarm bells, and missing tonnes of bats was never The Sausage King's thing, but it's still worth watching. Frasor living and dying on the outside corner coupled with his pained, distressed facial expressions don't instill a great deal of confidence.

The Fastball Travails of the Toronto Blue Jays

Will be an interesting subplot during this 2010 season. Early on, Jake Peavy fed the Jays a steady diet of heaters and sinkers, many of which they sent flying in the opposite direction. Later in the game, however, the fastballs increased in pedigree and the swinging strikes a-followed.

Matt Thornton, who might be the best left-handed reliever in the American League, threw fastballs in places you can't hit them, even if know it is coming. (And want it to!) Sergio Santos came in firing smoke before deftly switching gears to the slider. The Jays were so geared up they whiffed like madmen at the 85 mph spinner. Bobby Jenks and J.J. Putz may not be who they once were, but there hard-throwing ways and scintilla of offspeed control took care of the Jays through the late innings.

Will it continue? It might be lazy and convenient of me to say so, but the Jays can be a powerful offensive team but they can also be an easy team to pitch. One junkballing lefty or control specialist might keep them tied in knots for days. God help them when they have to face Wakefield.

Opening Day - Spectacle.

Read my thoughts about Opening Day over at The Blue Jay Hunter. Because Ian's awesome and works hard for his money. I very well could be bitter because I was home liveblogging while everyone else got to drink beer. Not that I was home liveblogging in lieu of drinking beer, I would've been home anyway. If anyone ever asks you if you want to have kids; say no. Then turn a chair upside-down and jump on each leg crotch first. You'll thank me eventually.

Pitch F/X data courtesy of Brooks Baseball

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Do That A Dozen More Times and We're All Getting Lapdances

No, Dana Eveland will not pitch into the 8th inning every time out this season. Additionally, Dana Eveland will not hold opponents to .208 BABIP with a whiff rate just north of 3%.

BUT—and given his track record, it's a rather large "but"—if Dana Eveland can surrender one well-earned walk and one "what the fuck is he thinking, that's Julio fucking Lugo" walk a dozen more times between now and the end of the season, he'll be rich.

Dana Eveland does get hit pretty hard at times. It's natural; he doesn't throw hard and obviously doesn't miss many bats. But he keeps the ball in the park and he generates a fuckton of ground balls. If Eveland goes out and manages to do his thing while throwing strikes, he'll win 60% of his starts. If he makes 20 starts, he wins 13 games. Easily.

Some nights the hits will come in bunches or the defense won't be nearly as strong as it was tonight, no matter how well he throws it. Some nights he'll revert back to Dana Eveland - Professional Journeyman and walk everyone; leading to short outings and crooked numbers. But a guy that doesn't issue free passes while keeping the ball in the park and on the ground gets away with a solid single every innings.

In a world where Jarrod Washburn's career earnings exceed $50 million dollars, a grounder machine who promises not to walk anyone is certainly valuable. Meanwhile the Rogers Center is awash in free money after a Spring Training minor league invitee finally pays off. Many innings eaten, many arb clocks spared. Sounds like a party. Keep throwing strikes Dana.

Reuters image stolen from Daylife. You may notice that isn't a picture of Dana Eveland, the subject of this post. Well that incredible 'stache is tossing to Eveland, so it'll have to do. Besides, that looks like a man who knows his way around the business end of a lapdance.

Friday, April 9, 2010

Vernon's Hot Start

By request, a quick and dirty look at the quick and dirty start to Vernon Wells' season. You know, the guy with four home runs in three games. Stack that paper.

If you watched on Opening Day, you already know Wells home run off Scott Feldman was a thing of beauty. Sinker down and away, a pitch nobody has any business hitting out to left centerfield, let alone Vernon Wells. The game-tying shot VW hit Thursday was a big, fat, juicy splitter up in the zone; a total mistake from Francisco. A couple fastballs in bad spots and Vernon sets a few team records.

I doubt it is unique to Wells, but the Rangers threw a whole wack of fastballs his way this series (Nearly 75%). Wells was awful against the heat last year, but during his up years he turns on fastballs like Cito on Randy Ruiz. As the season progresses, the true test of Wells (and every good hitter) will be his ability to hit offspeed pitches. Perhaps he'll pull a Derek Jeter and perfect the art of fouling away pitches he doesn't like in search of the perfect, blessed fastball.

A hot start from Wells doesn't necessarily mean he's due for a huge year. While his best month as a professional was April 2006 (.487 wOBA!), posted decent Aprils in two of his worst seasons, too (2007 & 2009). However, the Tao excitedly points out how good Wells looks, making nice swings and working good at bats. Easy to do when you're knocking everything out of the park, but hopefully the real (good) Vernon Wells is here to stay in 2010.

Image courtesy of Celluloid Heroes, Pitch F/X courtesy of Joe Lefkowitz and good old Brooks Baseball.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Cruel to be Kind

This isn't going to be a normal baseball season. Look no further than the next sentence (fragment, I'm a hack after all) you read: leave Cito alone.

This season, as we've all said in various round tables or comment sections or social media outlets, isn't about wins and losses. It's about growth and development and kittens & puppies frolicking together on clouds fluffier and whiter than Brett Wallace's thighs. As such, sweating the minutia of Citocity isn't worth the effort.

The games are ultimately trivial and The Zombie Cito wasn't reanimated overnight. Guys are going to get their chance to hit and odd match-ups in the name of teambuilding are likely S.O.P. all year long. We all want to see Randy Ruiz get many more at bats than he will, but I'd rather see him get real PAs with real prep, not tossed off pinch hits in high leverage situations.

"Lose one to win two later" has a whole new meaning in 2010; those two wins are on indefinite layaway; don't expect Clarence to collect during his victory lap. Let Cito build their confidence or free agency cases or whatever a player's manager is supposed to do.

One Game Closer Controversy

Nice to see far too many people who know far better all set to hang Jason Frasor after one "bad" outing. He isn't good under pressure? Funny, as Baseball Reference and I see it, Jason Frasor struck out 21 while walking only 6 in high leverage situations last year. He held batters to a .620 OPS in giving up 1 home run and 1 double. What a bum.

The fifteen-hop infield single, the sliced/blooped seeing eye double, the intentional walk to one of baseball's least successful batters; those things are not controlled by the pitcher. He's fine. He's better than fine, he's a damn good reliever with a stellar track record and decent potential trade value. He'll throw the ball just like a dozen more times and record 12 saves. Relax.

Lind Deal Late Pass

Good for both parties. Let's remember something about Adam Lind, something less than comfortable. Adam Lind is a less patient, less powerful version of Adam Dunn. He's a DH who may have already put up his career season.

Those aren't slights on Lind, they're reasonable facsimiles of the truth. He's a great hitter and the team options make the deals convenient, but I don't believe for a second that the Jays somehow picked Adam Lind's pocket.

Speaking of picking pockets and/or cherries, how long until this creeping feeling the Jays gave up on Alex Rios too early goes away?

Monday, April 5, 2010

Rambling Season Preview Shaped Item

Of all the things in the world I don't understand; self-pitying sports fans rank as most perplexing. Fans that brag about their long-suffering history, that wear their dedication to their club as a badge of honor. Being a sports fan is about the easiest single thing any person can do, it requires next to no effort and turning off the TV quickly spares any "suffering" experience.

That said, this won't be an "easy" year to be a Blue Jays fan. This team, pointed in the right direction as it might be, is going to lose a lot of games. The benchmark for "suffering" among sports fans is pretty low, "drinking beer watching grown men play sports unsuccessfully" doesn't really sound like suffering to me, it sounds like heaven and a fair representation of manifest destiny. Worse than watching the Jays lose many games in 2010 might actually be watching them play many games in 2010.

This team, with all the hope and expectation that accompanies a youth movement and about-face in direction, still stands to field replacement-level players at close to 5 positions. Any positive contributions from third base, shortstop, catcher, centerfield, right field, and 40% of the starting rotation count as nothing more than pleasant surprises. This team still projects as one of the worst defensive teams in baseball and still takes direction from a manager considered well past his best before date. The kids are coming, the future is bright(er), but for now we're left with a lot of ugliness.

Sometimes you need to get a little ugly, to appreciate the beauty of the view from the top. Sometimes you have to really hit bottom to realize how good you had it before and how good it feels to be at the top again.

I said being a sports fan is easy and requires no real investment, but that's only half-true. Anyone seeking out opinions and analysis from a rank amateur like myself is not a normal person; any more than the person who spends hundreds of hours pouring over spreadsheets in an attempt to express their love and affection for this team, this game, this life. Fans like us don't have the choice to walk away, we've made baseball and the Toronto Blue Jays a part of who we are. The losses sting and the wins set us soaring, flicking a switch and abandoning a losing or uninspiring baseball team simply isn't an option.

We'll "suffer" through a rebuilding season, a season with placeholders all over the diamond as we await the next wave of young talent to rise. We believe whatever we have to, we make excuses and ridiculous comparisons and find the bright side of whatever we can to allow the ray of hope a way in.

We'll watch and cheer and boo and shake our heads and wonder if there wasn't a better way to spend a Friday night in downtown Toronto. We'll wait with baited breath for all the can't-miss kids and Cuban imports to one day take the field in front of full houses of appreciative fans; knowing most of the kids will miss and most of those full houses weren't here to see it begin. The celebratory toasts and quiet moments of contented reflection feel that much better when you've been to the bottom and lived to tell the tale.

We might not hit bottom in 2010, but we'll have a nice view of it from our seat in 500 level. Under the direction of Alex Anthopoulos, we might not see the top of the mountain but again, we'll eventually have a nice view of it from that same seat. This is the best part of the roller coaster anyway: the slow, ticking ascent with the whole world about to rush by our faces. There's only one thing left to do: buckle up.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Better Know a Grifter

In the interest of completeness and giving a man his due, how about a hand for reclaimation project Dana Eveland. The Opening Day roster of the Toronto Blue Jays is not a place I'd ever see his name, but there he is.

Just what do we have on our hands with Mr. Eveland? A kitchen sink lefty, throwing all manner of crap against the wall hoping something sticks and you get yourself out. Not the kind of thing likely to shock the world, but a useful arm none the less. Let's look at nerdy stuff.

There they are, all 50 of his pitches. Fastball, cutter, slider, change, curve. He throws them all. They all move as you'd expect pitches like that to move, touching 90 on occasion but realistically he's upper 80s.

So we can see what, but what about how? What's his deal, what didn't he stick at the big league level before? Walks my friends, walks. Lots of them.

Even when Dana Eveland was pretty good, he still wasn't very good. He does some important things well (his career ground ball rate is over 50% and he gives up NONE home runs, way less than 1 per 9) but walks haunt him year after year. He doesn't really strike anybody out, making his walks that much more impactful.

He only missed 5.4% of bats in 2009, a bad year ever for him. His slider generates a good number of ground balls and a third of his total whiffs. Basically he lives for the grounders while dying by the middle of the plate. He fits the current model of Jays starters (ground balls, left handed, control issues) but the others have an out pitch that Eveland's lacked in the past.

Does Bruce Walton know how to glimpse into the soul of these troubled hurlers and cure their arms of wickedness? A lot of the Jays hopes in 2010 (innings eaten) and beyond (titles won) depend on nibbling lefties figuring out how to throw strikes. If Bruce Walton knows the key to that lock, he has a long, long career as a pitching guru ahead of him.

Image courtesy of Inside Social, pitch f/x from Joe Lefkowitz and rates stats by Fangraphs.