Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Irritant in the Lotion

Regular GROF-lurkers know that prospect pr0n is one of the many relevant, topical items I tend to avoid around here. Mostly because I don't know jack about the kids and additionally because I don't care. That might be harsh, but there is so much noise in the evaluative process that it's near impossible to get a real handle on how players project unless you use a real scout's eye.

As such, the Jays bumpercrop of signed and unsigned kids from the 2010 class doesn't mean a great deal to me. Other than the kid that sounds like Rocco and the kid from Newmarket that didn't sign, I don't know much about prior years picks either.

My lack of prospect acumen firmly established, it is with a little dread that I pass along this tidbit from a Baseball Analysts post dated Monday. Batters Box pro and all around solid Jaysman Marc Hulet examines recent drafts by teams with a multitude of high picks in the early rounds. He lets slip a slight damnation of the previous regimes ability to maximize on the young talent they drafted in bulk.
The club has had little to no luck with developing prep players from this draft and the minor-league coaching staff may have been unprepared to handle the initial wave.
Obviously there is more to this story than a lack of preparedness on the part of the minor league instructors, but it raises an interesting point. Consider how much higher maintenance a player one year removed from high school is relative to a college player. First time on your own with a wad of bonus money in your pocket?

As I see it, minor league development is a numbers game. There are so many players and only so many coaches and instructors. There are so many opportunities to fail yet so little context outside of pre-established allegiances born from the long drafting process. How much love and attention a certain player gets may date back to war room debates and who fell into which camp.

That said; it is imperative the Jays (and all teams) put their kids into a position to succeed. If that means coaching them up or letting them run off and play, so be it. Not every kid is going to make it, the minors are littered with stalled prospects unable to adjust and push themselves to improve.

One can only hope that young prodigy Alex Anthopoulos learned more than "don't piss off every single person in sight" while under the tutelage of a certain Mr. Ricciardi. We can only hope a decent support structure is in place to guide, groom, and gird the loins of this fleet of young studs drafted in 2010. This is the path - no sense sparing the expense of ensuring the best foot goes forward first.

Image courtesy of Fadden Pics flickrstream

What's Up with Brett Cecil?

Why beat around the bush? Brett Cecil's last three starts haven't been pretty. It's simple - his change up just isn't getting it done like it was. People aren't swinging at it, he isn't throwing it for strikes. The totality of the problem? Of course not. But I think the beginning of this season proved he needs it to get right handed hitters out.

The first thing you should notice is the lack of swinging strikes. He only registered one against the Padres and none versus the Phillies. His start against the Cardinals actually featured 6 whiffs, but very little tangible success. He also threw it far less against the Cards than usual.

The change can be a tough pitch to control, as Keith Foulke can attest. Sometimes it just refuses to stay in the strike zone long enough to force hitters to respect it. It is the only problem but I feel like many of Cecil's problems can be traced back to it.

His strike outs are down in June, his already-low strand rate is teeny tiny. His home runs are to a manageable-but-not-enviable level. Interestingly, or depressingly, Cecil's xFIP is exactly the same for May and June. 4.00. Still good, but a slight uptick in batting average on balls in play, a slight decrease in runners stranded and boom: trouble.

My biggest concern with Brett Cecil is his ability to keep the ball in the ballpark and strike dudes out. Cecil keeps it in the park much more this year, but the Ks just aren't really there. He struck out tons in the low minors but hasn't kept it up in the big leagues.

This isn't to suggest I think Brett Cecil is a 4.00 FIP third starter and that's that. Call me crazy but I believe he can continue to improve in the future, adding strikeouts and further limiting walks while maintaining his current groundball attack. Does that mean we'll keep seeing 4.00 ERA/FIP Cecil in 2010? Probably. He won't be this bad for long, a couple bounces and he's good. We're all good.

Splits from Fangraphs, Gameday data from Joe Lefkowitz.

Friday, June 25, 2010

Quick, Dirty, Ill-Conceived Thoughts

Remember how it always seemed that Roy Halladay struggled against the free-swinging Rays and Angels while (seeming) to carve up the patient Sox and Yanks? Like the chumps waiting for their walks ended up muttering on their way back to the dugout while the infernal Rays & Angels stood smugly on second base? Maybe, just maybe, that bodes well for the freest of free-swinging Blue Jays. Everything is around the plate, maybe the overwhelming bat speed and contact making abilities of the Jays will win the day?

That would be pretty swell, I guess. I more or less refuse to turn my back on the great pitcher because he changed shirts. Pitching does it for me (too), and watching so the thought of innumerable whiffs and Vernon Wells Brand Headshakes and Hurled ProfanitiesTM kind of excites me.

If it means the Jays lose, so be it. If Halladay strikes out 15 tonight, I'm just as happy. I watch for the show, for the execution. And nobody does it better.

Of course, should Mister Vernon Wells get on top of a poorly-placed cutter over the heart, riding it out of Citizen's Bank Park like an over-refreshed Jersey girl in a Chase Utley shersey, I'll shout, scream, and pretty much lose my shit all over my house. I'm fickle that way.

AP Photo by Daylife and somesuch.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Getting Nerdy

While nearly everyone and their sister visits Fangraphs, I wonder how many actually stick around and read the posts. If you don't, you're surely missing out as the gale-force blasts of levity provided by Carson Cistulli. His work is nothing short of brilliant. Look no further than the Cistulli-created NERD system; a ranking of the watch-ability of various starting pitchers.

Completely in-line with the founding (if slightly neglected) philosophies of Ghostrunner on First, I thought I'd lay out the Jays starting staff by NERD, mostly to see if my guts match up.

For reference, here is Cistulli's NERD definition/calculation:
To calculate NERD, I found each pitcher’s z-score (standard deviations from the mean) for cats 1-3*. I multiplied the xFIP score by 2, divided both the swinging strike and strike percentage scores by 2, and then added Luck to the total.

* - ed note: categories 1-3 are pitching ability by xFIP, swinging strike rate, and percentage of strikes thrown
Pretty awesome, no? This set of criteria seems pretty common among baseball fans. No doubt many of us hate a guy like Dice-K as he's impossible to watch. Conversely, the big red-head that used to hang out around here....well, let's move on.
  • Ricky Romero - 9
  • Brandon Morrow - 8
  • Shaun Marcum - 7
  • Brett Cecil - 7
Personal heartstrings aside, this adds up to me. Ricky Romero is a quick working whiff machine yet to reach his ceiling. Cecil's rating actually improved from the NERD launch to this past week, thanks I'm sure to his increased emphasis on strike throwing. Not listed here but worth noting: Dana Eveland's NERD score is 0. None.

The spreadsheet of magical nerdiness includes 2009 numbers, showing Scott Richmond and Brian Tallet as solid 4s. No data for Jesse Litsch but I'd guess 3 or 4, which likely means he'd actually be a 7.

The 2010 version of the Blue Jays bullpen would likely rank somewhere between 0 and negative a billion thanks to their seeming attraction to missed spots. Contrast that with the bullpens of the White Sox or Padres, who provide endless entertainment and confidence among their fanbases.

I think the ChiSox pen might actually break the Nerd scale, with their endless parade of bat-missing hulks straight out of Baseball Bugs. Each guy throws harder than the last, they miss innumerable bats and come across downright mean. That the White Sox pen features detestable dudes like JJ Putz and Bobby Jenks.

Guys like David Purcey (and Brandon League) are complete NERD fodder, owed to their constant presence in the "underperform their xFIP" realm. Scott Downs is admirable without being really lovable, while Shawn Camp's "I can't believe he's getting away with this charm" breaks down even the stodgiest non-believer.

Let's open this up: what skills and attributes do you look for in a starter? Is being good —by hook or by crook —good enough? When does one cross the line from endearingly promising to GTFO-frustration?

Carson Cistulli's NERD via Fangraphs, his brain via some very expensive institutions of higher learning, me thinks. Image from Reuters via Daylife.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Addition by Subtraction

I'm not going to lie to you: sending Edwin Encarnacion to the minors (by way of DFA) is weird but understandable. Whether or not it hurts the Jays in the marketplace is one thing, whether Jared Huffpauir's ability to draw a walk is worth a damn on The Team Ball Three Forgot is another. One thing I know for (almost for sure): Encarncion is going to put up some hilarious numbers in Vegas.

For all his faults (numerous), E5 is a proven slugger. Two-outcome mistake-crusher who gets himself out? Of course, but he hits for power at the best and worst of times. At the time of his demotion, EE rocks a wRC+ of 103 - very slightly above league average. His walk rate is three times that of teammate and potential all star Alex Gonzalez though his defense (and effort?) are, predictably, atrocious.

But power is the name of the game and power is what Vegas creates, often out of nothing. I predict some eye-popping numbers once the "Holy Crap I'm nearly 28 and just got sent down againDesignated for Motherflippin Assignment!!" hangover clears. The kind of numbers associated with slummin future studs like Travis Snider and Brett Wallace, I'd guess. Gawdy, crooked numbers with slugging percentages so high they're matched only by his BAC after a night at the Spearmint Rhino.

EE should destroy because Encarnacion, like many of the Jays recent acquisitions, hits the ball hard. He may not hit it often, but when he does, he gives it a prolific rap. You could say that about nearly all the guys signed this off-season, both by Cito Murphy design and checkered journeyman recent history. Which sort of begs the question...

What Kind of Proprietary, New Age, String Theory Metrics Do The Jays Use Under Cover of Darkness?

Whither Hit f/x? No matter how much bland slash line smoke is blown, no team that employs Tangotiger—in even the most advisorish of roles—gives much credence to PCL batting averages and slugging. This Jays team is curiously built and magnificent to watch, even after the expected fall to Earth. Did AA and his band of geeks sniff out players with high swing speeds and overwhelming screamer potential?

John Buck's ability to dent foul poles is legendary and Alex Gonzalez's power hasn't really ever been in doubt. Gonzalez's home run per fly ball rate is higher than normal but nothing astronomical. Maybe he suffered under the same axiomatic thinking I mentioned on Friday? Coach after coach urging him to go the other way or hit the ball on the ground and run, as he didn't fit their preconceived notion of a power hitter. Under the vacant gaze of The Manager, these line drive machines are free to mash at will!

It reminds me of something ridiculous I heard during my Strasmas liveblog on Friday night. The idiot Nats announcer (nope, not Dibble. The other one) waxed mystified at countless teams giving up on Juan Pierre every few years because of his ability to beat out infield hits and act disruptively on the basepaths. To paraphrase: "when Juan Pierre hits the ball on the ground, he has a 50/50 chance of beating it out." Excuse my Bill James Disease relapse for a second, but Juan Pierre's average on balls hit on the ground is a whopping .182. A far cry from .500.

But it's another example of the kind of thinking "hit the ball on the ground and run it out, son!" that discourages players from doing something productive like, I dunno, hitting line drives (Juan Pierre's average on line drives? .813!)

What am I getting at? What if the tall foreheads at 1 Blue Jays Way realize that empowering guys who make solid contact to worry about little else than making solid contact might just pan out? They all aren't going to square it up in unison all season long, but you get three of them teeing off in concert, you've got yourself a good time.

Wishful thinking? Absolutely. It's easy to connect make-believe dots once the pattern is halfway emerged. The Jays run on outmaking dong knockers doesn't follow with the type of player the team targets long term; guys with balance and patience and prodigious thighs used for cracking walnuts and nubile spirits. But they sure make for a fun team to watch, even when the balls start fading at the warning track.

Image courtesy of Scouting New York

Friday, June 18, 2010

Axiom to Grind

In my haste to assert my wide-reaching baseball knowledge, I fell victim to the classic/laziest blunder possible: axiomatic thinking. In the comment section of the post below, I prattled on and on about throwing change ups to same-handed hitters and what not.

Luckily wise commenter Peter Gentleman jumped in and set me straight with a great post from the Baseball Analyst Archives. It turns out change ups don't have real platoon splits, that right handed pitchers throwing change ups to right handed hitters isn't the end of the world.

But I got lazy, I fell victim to the same tired thinking that astute guys like Overmanagin Joe Maddon and the like exploit. Joe Maddon doesn't stack the lineup with righties against Marcum because it gives him an explicit advantage, he does it because Shaun Marcum thinks it gives the Rays an advantage. I imagine hitters to as well. One can assume they're more confident that they can handle that type of pitch from that type of pitcher, perhaps they incorporate it into their plan at the plate.

The issue of confidence is impossible to quantify, but it really plays into the game in innumerable ways. A seed of doubt is the goal of every pitcher, make the hitter keep something other than "see ball, hit ball" in the forefront of their minds. Which is why a guy like Marcum —changing speeds and locations at will—is so effective with such iffy stuff.

It's the same reason you don't bunt into the extreme lefty shift - you're playing into the other team's hands. Even the finest David Ortiz bunt has zero chance of turning into a home run; you can't say the same when he swings away. Just like numbers show most pitchers aren't much worse when from the stretch, they often believe that they are.

The same thoughts polluted my brain this week as I tried to think of the best possible batting order for the worsening Jays offense. Traditional thinking says your best hitter in the third spot, masher at 4, fast/OBP guy leads off. More recent research shows 1,2,4 as the spots for your best hitters.

I tried to apply that thinking to an optimized Jays lineup but couldn't get past the traditional thinking. Adam Lind looks so good as the number three hitter, who cares that he's often hitting with two outs? The Jays make outs/hit dingers at such a crazy rate anyway; I don't think the order matters too much anyway.

So please accept my apologies for the earlier post and credit to Peter Gentleman for calling me on it. Hopefully Shaun Marcum and the Jays brass realize a good change is a good change, no matter who stands in the box. Hopefully Travis Snider's return can return the offense to its unlikely rightful place as the most potent in baseball. Hopefully Alex Gonzalez staves off pumpkinhood for a little while longer. Hopefully somebody notices how awesome a cleanup hitter Vernon Wells is. Hopefully...

Monday, June 14, 2010

Did the Danks Theory Solve Shaun Marcum?

Please excuse the exceedingly bloggy leading title, but I'm legitimately concerned that Overmanagin' Joe Maddon opened a window in Shaun Marcum's soul. The contents, like sweat stains on his hat, are disturbing and unsightly indeed.

The Danks Theory, for those that don't troll Rays blogs, is the practice of starting pitch-sided batters (right handers against a righty) to negate the impact of a pitcher's best out pitch, often a change up. After Dallas Braden fly ball and changed up a standard righty versus lefty Rays lineup; Joe Maddon threw down a 2006 Malbec and got crazy. He put together a lineup of lefties to face White Sox change up master John Danks, going as far as to instruct his switch hitters (the Rays are lousy with'em) to hit left against the southpaw. The results, both against Marcum and Danks, are impressive.

I realize that a) not many managers have the sack (or the wherewithal) to ignore the book and load up their lineup with out-pitch neutralizing maniacs. But Marcum's change is his out pitch, without it he looks pretty ordinary.

During my liveblog of that game, I argued over and again with a commenter who insisted Marcum doesn't throw hard enough, that his fastball and change aren't usually 10mph different, apparently a magical key to victory. This, obviously, is ludicrous.

Marcum's strength is his ability to throw just about any pitch in just about any count. Should the opposition take away one of those pitches —the one most likely to miss your bat—has to swing the advantage slightly towards the hitter, doesn't it? It at least goes a long way to even the odds. Remove the best pitch from any pitcher and you

Interleague Blows

Hardly an original statement, but I think the Jays are getting extra, superduper boned by the interleague gods this year. It is bad enough when the teams the Jays are "competing" against in their "push to the playoffs" play a completely different set of teams, but when the Jays draw the Ubaldo and the Rockies on the road while the Yankees host the god-forsaken Astros, something ain't right.

Cruel blows by the schedule maker are one thing, being victimized by circumstance is another. Not only did the Jays have to stride into Coors to face the hottest pitcher in baseball, they got to do it on a terrible night. The rain, the sleet, the whatever should've put an end to the game long before it began. Except the Jays don't play the Rockies again this year. The two teams play at opposite ends of the continent, so scheduling a make up date is pretty much impossible. Playing a double header the next day doesn't work because of the Fox fascist regime national blackout order.

So on the game went with a predictable result. The conditions were horseshit, the game only lasted six inning. It was terrible. If the Jays are hosting the Orioles, there is no way a single pitch is thrown Friday night. Let us band together and, if not end, then severely limit the amount of interleague forced upon the teams.

One road, one home series a year. That's it! The charade mustn't continue any longer. Especially since Tim Lincecum isn't scheduled to start in Toronto, making the entire Giants visit pointless. Man cannot live on Panda alone.

Hat tip to D-Rays Bay for the Danks Theory and some fancy-pants school of science for the image.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010


Late in a game with an outcome no longer in doubt, David Purcey emerged from the Jays bullpen to mop up against the stellar Rays of Tampa. Sure, the Rays looked like they needed to catch a bus, but hey, his stuff was good. Purcey missed some bats, threw some smoke and generally did his bit to end the game in respectable time.

Glancing quickly at the Gameday Pitch F/X data, it looks like Purcey might messed around with this change and curve again; getting away from the streamlined approach that afforded him so much success in the spring.

Please Cito; use this fine two inning performance as a springboard to higher leveraged appearances. A little at a time, like Brandon League last year. Give Purcey a change to earn your trust and a chance to get used to warming up in a hurry or whatever magic spell relievers use to be effective 4 out of 5 days.

Bandit Auditions

As someone who lives blogs a few games a month, I can say the 2010 Jays are a god send. Not only do they seem to play a lot of close games, they do it in a hurry. The Jays reckless offensive abandon coupled with their pitching and defensemore pitching run prevention strategy, the Jays sliced a cool 12 minutes off their average game time.

According to Baseball Reference and my sweet Excel skills, the average Jays game in 2010 checks in around 2 hours and 49 minutes. While not the brisk pace of a popless NL West tilt, it is down from 3:01 last year, according to Joe Posnanski.

What does it mean? Not much, other than an extra quarter hour to spend waiting for the other Clarence shoe to drTOO LATE.

Monday, June 7, 2010

Brett Cecil is a Really Good Starter

Pitch Grip Porn
Like, really REALLY good. Like sixth in the American League in FIP, ninth in xFIP, seventh in strikeout per walk good. His splits show him to be nearly unhittable for left-handed batters (1.18 FIP) and decidedly excellent against right-handed hitters (3.84 FIP.) I could go on, if you'd like.

Since the famous finger injury which shoved his change up to the fore of his attack, the 57+ big league innings have each been thoroughly awesome. Of his 9 starts, only two ended with negative WPA totals; a fancy way of saying he puts his team in a position to win.

Those 57 innings are an interesting total. 57.2 innings is the same amount (or more) tossed in 2009 by MLB save leader Brian Fuentes, Mexicutioner Joakim Soria, Hillbilly Dynamo Bobby Jenks, Ageless Bon Scott fan Trevor Hoffman. All closers, all guys who provided the valuable service of recording the final three outs of a winning baseball game.

If any of one of the Angels, Royals, White Sox, or Brewers called up your Toronto Blue Jays and said: "hey, we'll trade you our 57 inning guy for your 57 inning guy," what do you think the Jays would say? The Jays most logical answer:
Today is June 7th. He figures to throw at least another 90 innings this year, giving him about 140 total. 140 innings is way more than 57! Even after his home run per fly ball and line drive rates come up to a more sustainable level, the 140 innings we get from a guy making 400 grand are much, much more important than figuring out who gets the last three outs of a close game.
Honestly, I respect Blair and Griff a ton, but suggesting (or even considering, as they did on the Sportsnet pre-game Saturday) making Cecil the closer is absolutely asinine.

Blair mentioned (via Twitter) that the conversation behind closed Jays doors references Cecil's experience closing in college. To which I say: who cares? Since that time Brett Cecil developed a great outpitch against any and all comers not to mention proving his ability to pitch deep into games. THAT IS A GOOD THING!

The "he closed in college" thought process seems lazy to me. To paraphrase a tweet by the occasionally great/occasionally annoying Matt Klaasen
Shaun Marcum played shortstop in college, should they move him there?
A bit dramatic but I can't disagree with the thinking. Yup, Brett Cecil was a closer in college. He's much better now at a much more important job, why waste his talents in a limited role?

Please please please, keep Brett Cecil out of the bullpen and out of the closer discussion entirely. I don't want to write this post again, you hear me?!? While there are many other internal rotation options, how many of them represent an upgrade over Cecil? At what point would devaluing a prospect/starter by moving him to the bullpen be better than simply trading that piece for something else of value? I don't get thinking like this, please don't make me waste more time on it in the future.

Thanks to Reuters/Daylife for the photo, Fangraphs for the data, and Brett Cecil's overwhelming clumsiness for the grip shown in the photo

Friday, June 4, 2010

Credibility Pouring from Every Orifice

By now you've likely read about The Fan's curious decision to "bench" Mike Wilner for the weekend after an "altercation" with "The Manager" during a pre-game scrum. John Lott of the National Post has the story and it's a eye-opener. To wit:
Friday, Wilner was absent from the game and his usual post-game call-in show. A source close to the situation said management had “benched” him for the weekend. It was unclear when he would return to his post-game show.

“My only comment is that I have the weekend off,” Wilner said in response to an email seeking comment.
The Toronto chapter of the BBWAA expressed concern to Paul Beeston in a letter, which Beeston promptly ignited and used to light his $40 cigar. When asked for comment on the matter, Beeston claimed he would look into the matter as soon as he finished gazing longingly at the full-sized image of Cito (in full 1992 regalia) adorning his office wall.

It isn't all that surprising that a guy known for petty grudge-holding like Clarence would ask the media relations arm of the ROGERS TORONTO BLUE JAYS BASEBALL PARTNERSHIP to keep Wilner at a distance, but it is baffling that any of the witless suits at The Fan would acquiesce to such pathetic request. The flagship station is clearly more interested in stooges like Eric Smith, Roger Lajoie, and The Enunciator David Alter; who read the commercial copy on time and bend over backwards to agree with every caller.

Wilner certainly has his detractors, and I'm generally sympathetic to him here though I don't accept his version of the events as gospel. If a reporter wants to hector The Manager to his face, that's fine. Publishing a "full" record of the confrontation on his company blog leaves him exposed for this type of corporate backlash. Criticize Clarence the manager fine, but once you start encroaching on the Black Dad Brand, then you're in trouble.

Peep the Segue

The Brand that is Cito Gaston is a tricky thing to pin down. Call me crazy, but were we not sold his ability to coach and instruct young hitters? A guy that would teach them how to play the game at this level while offering his patented confidence boost via consistent playing time. Which makes this quote from The Manager about Fred Lewis a little odd:
“I can see sometimes that he needs some work here or there, but I think that’s something that whoever’s here next year will address,” Gaston said. “The only thing we’ve told Fred is that when the ball’s hit right at you, just make sure you go to your strong side.”
Umm, why wait until next year? Is this part of the lose one now, win two later" ethos? Is the concern filling Fred Lewis's head with so much knowledge that other important things like "remember to come to the ballpark before game time" and "shoes go on feet" might fall clean out of his head?

Lewis has shown, on a few occasions, lapses in judgment or attentiveness; his calling cards back in San Fran. I'm not going to lie to you: I don't give a good god damn. His routes are wacky bordering on cringe-worthy in the field (and his metrics back it up) but I'm having a grand old time with the Fred Lewis Era.

At the risk of venturing off on a dangerous tangent, does the lack of "heady" play by uber-athletic ballplayers like Lewis and Alex Rios speak to a lifetime of poor coaching? Not bad coaches necessarily, but as if often mentioned in the discussion of black quarterbacks, coaches don't devote the required time to guys who make the game look so easy.

Why spend 45 minutes working on outfield positioning minutiae with Fred Lewis when he'll just outrun the fly balls anyway? Why fix the million moving parts and bizarre weight shifts in Alex Rios's swing when he hits one-handed home runs off his back foot? Why teach Vernon Wells to lay off the high fastball when he gets on top of it and drives it out of the park? A dangerous can of worms indeed, one Cito has no interest upsetting.

Shout out to reader Kevin for the tip on the Globe piece. Follow him on twitter @allisauce24

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Breakfast Balls

Probably my favorite part of golf (aside from the golfing) is the lexicon. The never-ending dictionary of off-the-cuff phrases and terms that add a certain colour to the proceedings — the more cryptically embedded the better.

A "breakfast ball" is a first tee mulligan, part of the ever popular "hit til yer happy" philosophy made famous by all golfers big and small. Breakfast balls are often a by-product of "shop swings", a rusty gate of a pass made after a long day standing in the pro shop hitting on cart tarts of dubious age working hard at making the joint run properly. A poor shop swing elicits a breakfast ball and a better result is sure to follow. The first tee jitters are gone, as are the delusions of grandeur and even par.

Your Toronto Blue Jays have no need for breakfast balls, as the serening effect of one Dwayne Murphy sends them to the plate with the happiest of thoughtholes. Blue Jays batters stroll to the plate with no fear of hack-happy first pitch swings, as the punishment is usually a pat on the back. The result of this approach: a truck full of first pitch tater tots.

Call me crazy, but Vernon Wells's ability to get on top of high fastballs ranks him as "special talent" in my book. Anybody that can do that when healthy is bound to struggle when they aren't. He's the kind of natural athlete who does stuff most of us can only dream of when his body lets him. He isn't going to suddenly develop a normal, human approach when he has a bad shoulder or wrist. Thus, the struggles.

As for the rest of them - the words "get me over" have no place in the minds of pitchers who dare oppose the Jays. My heart looks at all those cookies down the middle and says "Fuck yeah! Tear into that weak first pitch nonsense!" but my head isn't so sure. It is difficult to argue the results right now but a second trip through the league might go very, very differently.

But who cares? This wild run involves lots of quick jolts to get your attention, just a like a first pitch tater tot. Maybe it won't change; the Jays see the most first pitch strikes in baseball if you can believe it. Maybe this aggresive approach is the new moneyball - guys with no sense or concern for the strike zone certainly come cheaply. Get'em by the bushel. Give me home runs or give me death!

Image courtesy of Mad Baker, pitch F/X from Joe Lefkowitz

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Every Man for Himself

Whenever you hear a coach or player prattle on about individual results and accolades placing a distant second to wins for the team - they are lying. If you believe the players think stats don't mean anything other than double u's - you are mislead.

What other possible explanation could there be for The Manager's affinity for letting "his guys" acquire counting stats. Want Marcum to get the CG and win? Cool. Leave him out there after two balls were completely covered, absolutely smoked? Why? Do the contributions of Aaron Hill - the bug on the windshield seen above - mean less than Marcum's potential complete game? I know you got knocked around second base like a tender nipple ring Aaron, but it's important that Shaun gets his CG." Thanks for coming out!

Does the front office have a copy of the "Lose One to Win Two Later" flowchart? I'd love to see the exact hierarchy so I know who matters most inside the Blue Jays clubhouse. At least then I'll have some appreciation for the moves as they're made.

I know better than to sweat Clarence's wheelings and dealings, but once any and all logic falls apart, I'm at a loss. I found myself agreeing with Cito today as I caught the daily shitshow that is baseball talk on The Gameplan. "You can't yank the closer after to batters with a three run lead" I agreed. But leaving a tiring starter out as he flies past the 100 pitch mark is another matter all together.

Does Cito double as a player agent as part of a vast club-wide conspiracy to make Toronto a more inviting place to play? Does Clarence even strike you as the kind of man who cares what the players think of him? I'm sure he wants them to respect him, but as I said above, the "teacher's pet" target seems to move an awful lot from one guy to another.

It's only one game, but like everything, it is symptomatic of a deeper problem. Whether you believe these games to be "important" or not, that is the clear impression among the ticket buying public. I wonder how impressed the brass is with the potential ticket sale losses brought about by a pair of heartbreaking losses?

Image courtesy of the Steve Russell's awesome Toronto Star photoblog.