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


  1. Interesting, as usual. Moneyball was about (nobody remembers this) getting better value for a players skill that were undervalued at the time. OBP was the skill at the time the book was written, but every GM is at least looking at OBP and OPS now. The real question, is for 60 million dollars, how many games can you win in the AL East? If the answer was, say 88 or 90, you could certainly pair this lineup with a 20 million dollar bullpen and ask- How many games can you win in the AL East for 75 million dollars?

  2. This is a great post on so many levels, and you definitely raise many interesting points.

    And I must give you props on: The Team Ball Three Forgot and Gawdy, crooked numbers with slugging percentages so high they're matched only by his BAC after a night at the Spearmint Rhino.

    The Vegas Rhino is fucking legendary. It's going to be interesting as shit as to what numbers EE puts up out there. You're right: he should mash. Whether it parlays into a recall, and another contract, is another matter.

    I'm torn, though, on what to believe. Shouldn't the mindset ALWAYS be to go up there and make solid contact? Could it really be that simple, as to release guys like Gonzalez and Buck from their shackles, and watch them have career years? Genius, if it is. And if that truly is the case, props to the new regime for the approach. Would be a sign that they are searching, hard at work to figure out how the fuck to slay the dragon that is this division, without breaking the bank. I'm tempted to look at the line-drive averages of the 2008 Rays.

    Most importantly: absolutely, a fun team to watch.

  3. Also: didn't Freddy Lewis, the man you helped Toronto acquire, say something recently about being told to go to the plate and simply get a good pitch to hit, or something along those lines? It sounded like he was told to simplify at the plate, and it's worked pretty well for him too.

  4. Shouldn't the mindset ALWAYS be to go up there and make solid contact?

    I think the issue, and maybe the difference, is the Jays don't appear afraid to go up and look bad. Other teams (quite rightfully) discourage hitters from giving away at bats or selling out on one pitch.

    If what I said above is true (note: it is almost certainly not) then the Jays went out and found guys that empirically hit it harder than others. Strong guys that swing hard who are bound to get extra base results when they get mistakes to bang rather than guys who bleed out at bats.

  5. I admit that it is a beautiful thing when it all comes together. I am having a great time watching the team this year.

    It still sucks when they homer 6 times in a game and lose though...

  6. Holy shitballs, this is a great post. I'm not a baseball guy but I'm increasingly intrigued and confused about what the Jays' gameplan is. And I actually heard the dipshit announcer make that statement about Pierre at the time and I intrinsically knew it was wrong even though I didn't have the proof that you presented.


  7. "Under the vacant gaze of The Manager..."

    Hilarious. (giggle, giggle)

  8. Great post. I am very interested to see what EE does down there. I had such high hopes for him this season (high as in .225 average and lots of errors, but 30+ HR). He might go ahead and knock 30 bombs in a half season at AAA...


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