Monday, March 29, 2010

Who Needs What?

Inverted W - aiiiii!!!!
The emergence of the optionless King of Spring Dana Eveland throws all sorts of wrenches into the best laid plans of rosterbators and Clarence haters. Jordan Pulitzer suggests both Rzepcyznski and Cecil might start the season in AAA to make room for Eveland. Makes sense, the Jays need to finally strike it rich with a found money deal like Eveland. But I don't agree that Cecil or Rzekljal;kf should take the fall.

Bastian makes a good point in his justification of the kids staying south.
Why start the two youngsters in the Minors? Well... why not? The Jays want to get out of the practice of rushing players to the Majors. Developing properly takes priority and this is a season more about developing than contending. When there are guys like Tallet and Eveland to buy time for younger arms, why not use them and make sure the kids are good and ready?
Of Cecil, Rzepcyznski and Brandon Morrow, who needs the most time to rest a tender shoulder? Who is the furthest behind in terms of minor league (or even major league) starts? Who, by virtue of his high-end stuff, benefits the most for polishing his act to a fine sheen?

If every one is healthy and Eveland's truly an option, let Morrow grow even healthier and even more confident in his secondary stuff. Let Morrow hone his craft until the Cecil & R Zep show they aren't ready or Eveland proves spring numbers mean nothing.

Unless there's a section of the Jays front office concerned with the optics or burying the big stud horse 3000 klicks away while trotting out unassuming lefty after unassuming/ground ball inducing lefty. An understandable concern, though the number of semi-casual Jays fans able to ID Brandon Morrow on a bet is no higher than those chagrined him starting the season in Vegas.

Photographic evidence of the coming Dana Eveland labrum searing courtesy of Colin McConnell of the Toronto Star.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Saturday News Noms

When news is what you're after, ordinarily GROF isn't the place to come. But I'm stuck at work tonight and a few quasi-interesting news bits leaked from Twitter like braincells from a Red Patch Boy.

Eye Chart Tries on a Necktie

With Marc Rzepcynski all but assured a starting slot from nearly the start of spring, I'd all but counted out Brett Cecil's chances to make the big club out of spring. Not so fast, completely uninformed guy 3000 kilometers away from the action. Jordan Bastian says otherwise:
One battle that is not drawing much attention right now is the quiet competition between young lefties Marc Rzepczynski and Brett Cecil for a rotation spot. It has been assumed all spring that Rzepcynski — a favorite of Gaston's — was a virtual lock. It's worth noting that general manager Alex Anthopoulos made the near three-hour drive to Fort Myers on Friday to watch Cecil spin a strong five-inning outing.
Alex Anthopoulos must have some dirty-ass fingernails from turning over every last stone in Florida. Driving for three hours in Florida counts as six hours of driving in Ontario, as every mile driven along a Florida highway brings you that much closer to death.

Before I get my Brett Cecil boner all engorged once again, I might balk at the viability of this battle. Unless Rzepcynski forgot how to throw strikes, I'd let him start the year at the big league level. It would make sense if, as Hugo at Bluebird Banter suggests, that Cecil is a part of The Plan while Rzepcynski is just a happy accident. Should the roles reverse and RZep starts the year in Vegas while Cecil's clock runs, would it be reckless it assume the opposite, that the Jays think they've got something special in Rzepcynski? Or is it just good old-fashioned baseball "who's throwing the best right now" thinking? The answers to theses questions say a lot about the direction of the Blue Jays; luckily I haven't a clue to those answers.


The drugged up Dude singing in the back of the Malibu squad car is one of the funniest moments of The Big Lebowski. Though I'm sure Paul Beeston both makes a mean Caucasian and enjoys treating objects like women; I doubt he had a hand in branding Jason Frasor the closer. A report on Fox Sports by Jon Paul Morosi claims "Frasor is the guy they (ed. the Jays) seem to be peddling," attributing the quote to Bob Elliott's infamous "NL scout".

Could AA and friends market Frasor as their closer in an attempt to drive up his value? Would this even work? "He's our closer to start the season, YOU'D REALLY HAVE TO BOWL US OVER" hardly seems like the best way to extract maximum value for guy in the last year of his deal. Just as the rotational battles were likely over long before they began, I seriously doubt any team changed their valuation of Jason Frasor because Clarence deigned to name him The Closer.

Unless...added counting stats (like saves) could goose Frasor's value into Type A territory. If so, bravo Alex. You're a fucking genius.

Image of the last thing left-handed hitters of the AL East in 2011 will ever see courtesy of Getty Images via Daylife.

Friday, March 26, 2010

Subtracting the Bear

It's Friday and it's suddenly cold as balls. A few random tidbits to pass around. Some slight, some otherwise.

That Time of Year

Yes, Spring Training is winding down, which means it is time for Rich Lederer to unveil his annual pitcher categorization post. Always an enjoyable day, though Blue Jays fans should look at it with some measure of concern. Lederer combined all innings from 2007 to 2009 to give a more complete profile of the pitchers.

As usual, the upper right quadrant spells out the keys to goodness pretty clearly. Ground balls, strikeouts, minimal walks. One of the reasons I like this post so much is it shows the true qualities that make Roy Halladay one of the best. The only pitcher to eliminate 15% of his own batters (strikeouts minus walks divided by batters faced) while inducing ground balls from more than 50% of his opposition. As always, ground balls don't turn into home runs very easily, this seems like a logical standard to set.

For the current Jays staff, the outlook isn't so rosy*. Brian Tallet ranks as one of the worst starters in baseball, landing in the dreaded bottom left corner. Just 8% of K-BB/BF and a mere 38% ground ball rate. Good thing he's only the nominal fifth starter! Whoops, third starter Brandon Morrow sports nearly identical numbers as Tallet, thanks to his complete inability to throw strikes. As a fly ball pitcher, he really, really, needs to eliminate the walks if he's to even approach respectability.

Ricky Romero isn't set up quite so poorly thanks to his heady ground ball numbers. He misses far more bats than some of the other wormburners in his section (Fausto Carmona, Chein-Ming Wang) and a slight decrease in walks could push our boy RR into the quadrant of greatness and riches.

Good signs or portents of doom? Both Shaun Marcum and Scott Richmond(!) rank as good strikeout guys dogged by persistent fly balls. Scott Richmond will fight for the remainder of his nascent big league career to keep the ball in the yard, while Shaun Marcum is the Opening Day starter we can all get behind. Strikeouts are sexy!

* - I should note, nay I MUST note, that Dustin McGowan's numbers land him in the super exclusive upper right column. Astounding! His strikeout numbers sneak up on you, as it turns out. Good for him, good for us. Hurry back Dusty!

SIERA Grande

Staying with the rotational audit, I finally threw some numbers into J's SIERA calculator. Is it a better ERA predictor than FIP et al? Who cares!! Let's see SIERA says about the current Jays starting crop.

Shaun Marcum12363050192176174.0214.384.244.463.39
Ricky Romero14177179286141124.1804.674.094.334.30
Brandon Morrow6331344768794.6225.104.895.054.39
Marc Rzepcynski60261308547 03.7994.623.704.143.67
Brian Tallet12071772185220144.6624.984.934.685.32

Note the "total SIERA" you see comes from the total components posted while the xFIP etc are just averages. Does this mean we can expect the Jays starters to give up 4.5 runs per 9 innings? With the potentially lousy defense behind them that would go down as a mild victory. Again, I'm not too sure what to make of SIERA and what we can expect from this crop of starts (R-Zep is awesome!) but it's just more to chew on, I suppose.

There Comes a Time

I used to really like Minus the Bear. I saw them for the first time in 2003 at the Reverb Rivoli, at which time I observed them imbibing incredible amounts of Jack Daniels for such a technical band. As an unabashed Dave Knudson acolyte, I dove right into their early records with gusto.

Sadly, I think my time with Minus The Bear is over. I just can't get into the whole epic prog-rock thing from outer space. The live show always left me cold since only one guy in the band can sing, but the records always hold my attention. The current direction might just leave me in the dust. Thanks MtB, it's been a slice.

Update: I just realized the MtB show was at the Rivoli, not the Reverb. Smaller and more credible! I drank a lot that night. Sigh.


Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Pall Lifts, Bullshit Lingers

Hooray everybody! Roy Halladay's gone so everyone can finally relax! Good for Jeff Blair for getting someone with some damn sense (Barajas!) to dispel this line of utter horseshit. To suggest the Jays clubhouse is a better, more relaxed place without Halladay patrolling it is garbage.

Maybe last year the rookies were excessively deferential to Halladay, as the only veteran starter on the squad. But remember not that long ago when the Jays much-older clubs were constantly derided for the overly relaxed, country club atmosphere? Where was Halladay then, on hiatus?

At the risk of making way, way too much of this, are the kids relaxing because of a lack of accountability? Without bullpen maven B.J. Ryan and rotation deity Roy Halladay, it's just a bunch of dudes. Dudes who can exhale & not worry about doing right by the game or any such nonsense.

While the Phillies and their fans breathlessly eat up eat up every note of Halladay lore that drifts their way, we're supposed to be thrilled that the Jays staff can recommence hotfoots and DP contests? The former teammates of a guy they listed, to a man, as the best in the biz at their position last year are now glad to see him go? I don't buy, but if it's true, it doesn't say a lot for the economic acumen of this bunch of minimum wage earners.

To follow the path of The Righteous One is, if nothing else, the path to great riches. "Don't stay out on the piss" isn't good advice for ballplayers looking to help their team, it's for players looking to maximize their earnings. When Roy Halladay says starters are assured "five good and five bad starts ... it’s what he does in the other 25 which determines how good he is" he uses "good" interchangeably with "how well paid." Treating every single one of those starts like a job interview is just good business. The window is open only briefly; reach on through when you have the chance.

So if the Jays rotation hopefuls are glad he's gone, that's their mistake. If Ricky Romero is the newest hard-working gym rat, then good for him. As fans, their gain is our gain. They pitch better, we reap the benefits. EVERYBODY WINS.

Image courtesy of David Peliott

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Music to My Ears

Ricky Romero, speaking to Professor Griffin, on the benefits of getting work in against inexperienced hitters.
“I walked in the dugout and I said, I guess I can't throw first-pitch fastballs to these guys,” Romero chuckled. “They're just hacking. I think it's good because you have to work on those first-pitch off-speed pitches and we threw a lot of those. A lot of first-pitch strikes. A lot of first-pitch changeups. Later in the innings we worked on fastballs inside which is good.”
Good is what it is, Ricky. I love the thought of Ricky Romero throwing first pitch change ups — for strikes — against right-handed hitters. If RR, like Shaun Marcum, can plant the seed of doubt into hitter's heads, leave them trembling in fear of when that nasty change up might emerge again, I'm happy. Good for Ricky and good for Griff for doing his typical Yeoman's work in Dunedin.

Kill Your Idols

It's pretty easy to lose sight of why people become legendary in the Internet age. When someone like Bill James, the godfather of nerds, starts doing lots of press to pimp his new book, the questions come from all angles. James makes a few questionable comments and the existing cognoscenti, brought to life by his exciting thinking, leap down his through and proclaim his day done. "James has lost it!" was a pretty common thing to read on Twitter last week.

Another example of "what have you done for me lately" thinking is, of course, The Sports Guy. Simmons does what we all wish we could do, and he's been doing it for a long time. Admittedly, the more he talks about baseball the worse off he sounds. His podcast with Jonah Keri is highly entertaining and a worthy listen, so long as you don't put endless stock in what Bill says. He seems open-minded to new stats if a little underinformed.

It's sort of a shame, but it's also the way the world works. The very basis of what the Sports Guy is began with him rejecting the tired, lazy work of entitled columnists at the Globe and Herald. He did things his way, in his voice. The new generation weened on the internet share his voice but they (we?) use it in very different ways.

Not unlike Deadspin founder Will Leitch, who gave Simmons' bombast a slightly more cerebral and understated tone, changing the world with (as we live it, anyway) by launching Deadspin. Incredibly, Will examined The Manager and The Blue Jays today as part of his season preview/book promotion series. He, you may have noticed, caught Clarence-fever, and we're officially viral. I cannot pretend that I'm not a little shocked, a little embarrassed, and more than a little excited.

Long live Clarence, Cito is dead.

Reuters photo via Daylife

Friday, March 19, 2010

Parole Player

Randy Ruiz is so fucking close to freedom he can almost taste it. Brian Dopirak? Talk to me in ten years, it's Ruiz o'clock all over this motherfucker.

Unfortunately, due to Clarence's involvement, this victory for Randy Ruiz likely qualifies as Pyrrhic. His lifetime of toil should net him a nice spot nailed to the end of the Blue Jays bench. This is The Manager's show, after all. Ruiz might squeeze in some tidy ABs against the Jon Lesters and David Prices of the world, but our hopes should not rise too high.

But then again, let them rise. I'm not one for sappiness, but Randy Ruiz on the Opening Day roster of a major league ball club (even the Jays!) is a triumph for the little guys and the fat guys. The old guys and the slow guys. More than anything, it's a triumph of the clear-eyed future of the Blue Jays.

The Jays don't care about his pedigree or his spotty drug record, they'll let him fill a gap all the same. He may not be any great shakes with the glove, but they'll run him out there and get the most out of his divine bat.

So let's put it to a poll: just how much action might Randy Ruiz see this season with the big club? Offer your shots in the dark community projections in the comment section if you're so inclined. The poll will run for a couple weeks in the sidebar, too. Let's have fun with the Ruiz era, that's all it will ever be.

How many PAs for Randy Ruiz in 2010?

Image courtesy of The Bunker Complex

Thursday, March 18, 2010

The Dukes Dilemma

It is more than a little tempting to break out a standard sports writing trope here, give it the old "what we talk about when we talk about Elijah Dukes" treatment and call it a blogging day. Hint at discrimination here, touch on the multiple chances given to other guys with much worse track records while still tsk tsking Dukes enough to not come across as an apologist.

Briefly touch on all the reasons it makes sense for a team exactly like the Blue Jays to take a chance on Dukes, what a successful rehabilitation of Dukes would mean to this team in the next two or three years. It's just as easy to point to the many, many mistakes made by the Nationals front office recently and hold this up as another example of their flawed decision-making. Rob Neyer predictably nails some of the reasons the Nationals likely cut Dukes loose:
Life's not usually so simple. If Dukes was a better player -- a better fielder, a better baserunner, maybe a few more bombs -- the Nationals probably wouldn't have released him. If Dukes was a more responsible human being -- not so many children to support, no allegations of abuse -- the Nationals probably wouldn't have released him. Shoot, if he was having a good spring (he's not, at all) the Nationals probably wouldn't have released him.
This is one time those of us in the peanut gallery just can't &mdash and likely won't ever &mdash get it right. The numbers add up, Dukes is a much better 4th or 5th outfielder option than anybody the Jays have or might have in the near future. Overall, the return on investment just isn't there.

Talent plus luck wins out no the macro scale, every single time. A more talented team almost always beats a weaker team; a good player is always preferable to a marginally talented player. But when the difference isn't that great, when the baseball return on investment only slightly surpasses the intangible value of having a no-nonsense, professional ballplayer; that isn't even a choice for most big league teams.

What kind of real value might the Jays get out of a (perceived) malcontent over 300 plate appearances? Is it worth upsetting the "us against the world" feeling in the clubhouse a rebuilding team has a chance to build? When no less than Bill James goes on Geoff Baker's dog and pony show to say no less than the two-time World Series champion Red Sox spend a lot of time worrying about chemistry and clubhouse history, perhaps there is something to it. Again, I'm of the belief that talent trumps all, but when the difference between a potential problem and a cheery good times hot-footer isn't that much (less than a Win), the guy who farts on the plane is making the team each and every time.

The other side of this debate is the more insidious one, namely the tale-telling knitting circle that is any closed society like professional baseball. Once word gets out that Dukes is trouble, it's nearly impossible for him to break free of that label. The Nats paid lip service to shopping him but finding no takers, but that sounds more like union-placating white noise than anything. The only news Dukes made over the last two years was for being injured. But he did some wacky shit when he was 23 and it will follow him for as long as white people will make jokes about his menacing sentence structure.

If the Jays signed Elijah Dukes tomorrow, I'd be happy. He has a chance to be a solid major league player and he fills a need on the team. If (when) they don't sign him, I won't be disappointed. Alex Anthopoulos and his recruiting cadre don't strike me as the type to leave any stone unturned, though this stone likely didn't turn much past Dana Brown's Dukes-weary thumb pointing down.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

David Purcey: Closer, LOOGY, or Swingman?

The topic du jour around the Jays was ZOMG! David Purcey's a reliever! He trimmed the fat of his pitching arsenal, we're told. The results even mustered a compliment or two out of The Manager, who even managed to get Purcey's name right.

Coupling Purcey's 'pen rebirth with Jesse Carlson's balky knee creates even more havoc in the crowded bullpen picture. On the radio tonight, Wilner all but handed an Opening Day spot to Purcey. Meaning Accardo, Roenicke, the guy with the Zs in his name, are all fighting for a solitary spot in the bullpen as well as fighting to avoid the ignominy of telling Casey Janssen that he needs to pack his shit and go.

What role will Purcey fill in this bullpen? What role could he fill given the change? With Downs, Frasor and Kevin "The Please Don't Hurt Us MLBPA UFA Signing*" Gregg fighting it out for saves, will Purcey just mop up or might he face some high leverage situations? Might he find his way pack to the rotation one day or is he doomed to a life of journeymannery and service time groveling?

It's tough to base too much on David Purcey's 2009 season, as it was God-awful. Purcey, coming off a great spring, pitched like so many bags of so many asses and the team promptly gave up on him. He walked so many, sweats so much, and generally looked out of place the entire time (more on this in a minute.)

Before I dig too far into his split stats to decide if he'll ever get a right-handed batter out again in his life, let's look at the quality of his secondary pitches. Are the Jays right to ditch two of them?

WhiffOOZ (called balls)ContactBABIP
Curveball8.33% 47%20.80%0.333
Change Up4.08%59%14.30%0.429
Slider18.60%39%6.2%!!! 0.429

I think Papi Walton and I are going to get along just fine. Ditching the two ineffective pitches could give Purcey a new lease on life, though it might spell the end of his days toeing a pristine rubber. Two pitch starters don't have the longest shelf life.

The change up was a pitch Purcey used almost exclusively against right-handers to pretty poor results. Trying to keep batters from sitting on your fastball is a good thing, but you're going to need to throw strikes with that change at least some of the time.

Realistically, I could write 700 more words on what David Purcey did/does against right-handed pitching to justify his place on the team, but it really isn't that complicated: he needs to throw strikes. He can't throw strikes with the curveball or the change, so he's ditching them.

If B.J. Ryan can ride a deceptive windup and two solid pitches to a huge contract and one of the better seasons by a reliever in Blue Jays history, David Purcey can become an effective high-leverage reliever. As uncomfortable as I am saying it, make up really makes a difference for guys like these.

From what I've seen, David Purcey pitches scared and can't wait to come out of games. His furtive glances into the dugout are many, his gutted out innings are few. Maybe he needs a change of scenery, as they say. A wake up call demanding he stay focused with every pitch, ensuring he makes the most out of his abundant physical gifts.

So can he close, or be the high-leverage guy if that's how you get down? I think so. Purcey's strikeout numbers are strong and he doesn't give up too many home runs. The walks are what kill him, doubly so out of the bullpen. A refined repertoire and a renewed outlook could make David Purcey a completely new pitcher.

* - it isn't catchy but I hope it sticks! PDHUMTU!!!1!

Reuters Photo? Guess. Pitch F/X data? Joe Lefkowitz!

Monday, March 15, 2010

Depth Charges

In stark contrast to the exciting news of high-priced Cuban imports is the battle for fourth and fifth outfield spots and, as an extension of that, the battle for Cito's heart. Jordan Bastian reports the job is basically Joey Gathright's to lose, something he's doing his darnedest to accomplish this spring. As Jordan points out, the possibility exists for Travis Snider to not make the team out Florida, opening spots for two of Mike McCoy, Jeremy Reed, and Gathright. Mike McCoy is an interesting player as we've all learned by now, but the other two? Not so much.

My biggest problem with Reed and Gathright is they're terrible baseball players. Replacement level flycatchers with zero upside. There must be better options for the Jays outfield, right? Turns out there just might be, in the interesting form of Fred Lewis.

Fred Lewis is out of options and out of time in San Francisco. Luckily for some team (hopefully the Jays), the Giants run their organization like JaysTalk caller with a bankroll. Which is to say: poorly.

The Giants don't value Fred Lewis's ability to produce level average offense at worst to go with strong to decent outfield play. The Giants will likely waive or trade Lewis for a bag of balls at the end of spring training, choosing to focus on journeymen who make lots of outs and hit the occasional home run.

Just like Reed and Gathright, Lewis hits left and can play most outfield spots. While he's not the most accomplished center fielder, he wouldn't be called upon too often to fill that role in Toronto. Lewis offers the same things as the other two, but better. Much, much, better. Even the most conservative projections for Lewis bring his wRC+ in just over league average, with the various systems all landing in the 102-106 range. Gathright projects in the 80s, coming on the heels of 45 wRC+ season. Reed rows to Dunedin in a similar boat, projecting between 76-87 wRC+ after his paltry 57 wRC+ in 2009. Enough esoteric numbers, how about some slo-mo swing porn?

Call me crazy or delusional, and maybe it's just the Giants jersey talking, but that swing looks enough like Barry Bonds to get me through the night.

Once reality sets in and I come to realize this move will never happen, I'll be sad but only a little. The job we're talking about here is the 23rd man on Clarence's bench, meaning whoever fills this role gets used with less frequency than a condom at a SABR conference. Fred Lewis is a good enough player that he should really play every day, and that opportunity is surely waiting with some team.

Then again, this is the Giants were talking about. You could dangle just about anything in front of them and they're likely to take it. I bet they'd do Jose Bautista for Fred Lewis straight up! Needless to say, I'd make that move in a heartbeat. Unfortunately, that heartbeat would be the final one of Clarence's life, as losing his BFFautista would surely be the last straw.

Fred Lewis photo courtesy of the Lancing Parish Council.

Polysyllabic Cuban Crystallizes Elements of The Plan

Clearly, the main tenet of The Plan is signing guys with difficult names to spell and pronounce. As someone who wrote a post on Marc Rzepczynski this past Friday, I can attest to this strategy leading to a reduction in analysis as writers and bloggers simply throw their hands up in frustration after the 700th misspelling. (Leading directly to columns like this. Shine on you crazy diamond.)

Seriously, the Hechevarria signing is an exciting one. Not only is it an exciting sign of a front office willing to reach out and pay top dollar for top talent, it comes with the added bonus of generating genuine excitement and positivity around the team.

While most would agree the Jays did as well in the Halladay trade as they could have hoped; very little about the Blue Jays in 2010 is going create buzz around the city or at the dinner tables of casual fans. Bringing in a big-time Cuban prospect will certainly get people in Toronto talking about the Jays, even if it isn't much deeper than "Cuban? We're going to Cuba next week! Don't forget to pack the Immodium."

It would be irresponsible of me to suggest I know a single thing about Adeiny Hechevarria. In fact, I just had to look up his first name! He's 19, Cuban, plays shortstop and stands six feet even. Cuban Ball Players lists him at 160 pounds, which means he looks fantastic in those goofy red pants the Cuban national team wears. CBP has this to say about Hechevarria's tools:
Hechevarria covers a lot of ground, has amazing quickness, great hands and his footwork is excellent.

Iglesias (another top Cuban prospect and recent record-setting Red Sox signee - Ed.) had a higher batting average in Cuba, but Hechevarria hit for more power and had a higher fielding average.

Hechevarria likes to hit behind the runners. During last season, he hit 50 times toward right field. He also hit 38 times to left field and 32 to center field.
Using the whole field and stabbing at base hits is an interesting approach for a 19 year old. This is certainly a good thing in light of Justin Jackson stalling slightly during his ascent to a quad A label at best the major leagues.

Adding what I know about Cuban ballplayers (precious little), we can expect some hysterically stylish play in the field, putting the catch-all term "slick" to shame. I expect him to field hotshots behind his back with his bare hand just because he can. Don't forget the great Cuban love affair with the unicycle! He'll be out there on that thing every other inning, lunging and juggling and making the hard look easy and the easy look cartoonish.

Image courtesy of and my sense of obviousness

Friday, March 12, 2010

Unscrambling Rzepczynski

For no real reason, I don't think I've given Marc Rzepczynski a fair shake. Could be his cameo was just brief enough to keep him in the shadow of more prominent prospects, or the fact that he looks like a kid I hated growing up, but I don't know that I've spent enough time thinking about the potential of guy they call Scrabble.

Looking back at Rzep's 2009 numbers, the strikeouts and walks are the first things to jump out, as he collected both in bunches. Not to mention the plethora of ground balls induced by his sweet sinking fastball. How does Rzepczynski do it? Let's get a sense of what he throws. Click to enlarge. A lot

That's every pitch he threw in 2009, word is he added a few miles per hour on his fastball, touching 91 regularly this spring. Exciting stuff. Lots of sliders from RZep, an incredibly effective pitch for him, ranking right alongside Zack Grienke in terms of value per 100 pitches thrown. So what makes Rzepcyznski promising and what may hold him back?

Despite racking up impressive strikeout numbers, Marc Rzepczynski doesn't miss too many bats. Below league average, actually. He gets swinging strikes around 12% of the time with his slider, again a low number for such an effective pitch. The guys at Mop Up Duty looked at his numbers and found a very high rate of called strikes with his slider. Is that repeatable? Was that a fluke? How many rhetorical questions can I ask in one post?

Look at all those swinging strikes on junk down and away (to lefties, down and in on right handed batters.) It is worth noting that many of the errant sliders on the right hand side of the diagram (or inside to left-handed batters, we're looking from the catcher's perspective once again) would sit among the sliders I labeled "somewhat ruthful" above. Spinners that didn't really go anywhere, thankfully. Clearly the slider is an effective pitch to lefties, but right handed hitters have an easier time laying off. Which brings us to the key pitch in R-Zep's development, the change-up.

Rzepczynski throws his change almost exclusively to right handed batters, but not particularly effectively. While it might help keep hitters off balance no matter the situation, he needs to show he can throw it for strikes if he wants it respected. Even with the added mph on his fastball this spring, Scrabble needs to change speeds if wants to live.

The classification of change ups is an inexact science, but I think that covers most of Rzepczynski's. Almost all away from righties, not many thrown for strikes. I don't care how sinking or boring your two seam fastball is; if every swinging dick is looking for it, they're going to hit it.

If the guy with the difficult name but no worthy nickname is going to stick at the big league level, getting right handed hitters out is the key. Otherwise, he'd better ask Brian Tallet about career advice or ask Scott Downs about life as a setup guy. Obviously, he wants to start and the Jays would love for him to stick there. It's exciting to wonder if his walk rate dips at the expense of his strikeouts. Actually, not exciting, but interesting. Excitement and rate stats hardly go hand in hand.

Pitch F/X data courtesy my new friend Joe. Don't worry Brooks, I'll be back soon.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Relax and Take Notes

Biting the Hand is Easy When it No Longer Feeds
Far behind and out of the loop is where you'll find me, thus the two day-old obvious reference in the title. How about a quick-ish spin around the Jaysdial?

Brett Cecil and the Futility of Spring

So Brett Cecil chopped up his finger, can't throw his curve and now finds himself on the outside looking in? For some reason I really don't buy this. There is much to be said for the Grand Plan of AA and his cohorts, none of which likely boils down to "who pitches the best in three inning intervals in March."

Call me crazy or just a guy restating the obvious, but spring seems to be about health more than anything. As in, they know who's coming north and who's destined for the PCL or worse long before spring pitches are thrown in anger. What kind of business decision is made on the strength of 12-15 pointless innings? No good kind, that's for sure.

The supposed drama is good for column inches and motivating the players with the fear of God; there's no way one bad, chicken-impaired start by Brett Cecil is the lone factor between him making the big club. I suppose that goes for hitters, too. Can they (or should they) make big decisions based on the smattering of fine-tuning at bats in the spring? I'd like to assume the legwork on these decisions is long finished.

Frasor Rumors Persist, Grow Silly

As enjoyable and relatively valuable as the foshed-up Sausage King is; no way the Cubs trade a stud shortstop prospect for him. Sorry friends, as exciting as that thought may be, nobody, NOT EVEN THE CUBS, is that stupid. Frasor throws strikes and would do well for a year in the NL Central. However, losing a player with success in the low minors at a young age is too scary for most teams to consider, even with a potential first rounder coming right back in compensation.

Not only does it seem silly to overpay for a highly replaceable (albeit talented) right-handed relieving arm, it represents a move in direct opposition to current convention baseball wisdom. In other words, look for a shrewd team to cobble together a roster out of graying thirty somethings working on below-market contracts and somehow steal the World Series in about three years.


With a serious hat tip to Vancouver Fan Boy #1 Dave from Go Jays Go, I present a very brief video of the Tiny Tim Collinsicum working out in a funky, unusual way. I expressed my interest in these new style exercises a few weeks ago, it's pretty exciting to see them put to good use by a young guy whose very survival in baseball depends on getting the very most out of his normal human-sized body.

You can learn a lot about a person by their reactions to specific, divisive items. If a person watches the power-building workouts and suggests "yo, grab some weight or sit down fag!" then we probably shouldn't hang out. If a man prefers the blandly obvious Tim "Tom" Collins nickname to the brimming-with-hope-and-awesomeness moniker "COLLINSICUM (c/o Drunk Jays Fans) we could still be friends, we just don't see things the same way.

Straight Up Listikillin

  • In the wake of Frasor trade talk, the value of Jeremy Accardo and Casey Janssen came up on John Lott of the National Post's twitter. The value of Casey Janssen? Nil. Word is he's a real prince, but one that doesn't miss nearly enough bats for my liking. He was pretty dreadful last year, I'll be amazed if he makes this team. Though the power of remaining options can never be overstated.
  • In spite of what I said above, could Mike McCoy play his way onto the Jays? No fucking way! Too many incumbents in front of him, including Randy Ruiz. Over Clarence's undead body.
  • Aaron Ciba = Rod Barajas in a younger body? Go Deep of GTFO!
  • This is pretty great.
  • So was this, as much as it could be anyway.

AP image courtesy of Daylife

Monday, March 8, 2010


Image courtesy of Relentless Jordan Bastian

It didn't take much, a little Alan & Jerry on the radio during my drive to work the other day and my raging spring boner blasted through my pants into the stratosphere. Malaise? Gone. Fog? Lifted. Clarencephobia? Intensified.

It wasn't anything that The Manager did on the weekend that got me riled up, that doesn't take much. At this point I think most of us default to an anti-Clarence mode, only toggling into pleasant surprise should he remove his feet from his mouth for a few minutes at a time. It was more what he didn't do or didn't say. I know it is early and spring results are anything but reliable, but I'll echo Mikey Wilner's sentiments on the Fan this morning: what does Randy Ruiz have to do to secure a job?

All he does is hit, as Big Daddy Bastian points out in his recent blog post on the slugging huskyman. (Note: Bonus points for the blurb on Ruiz touching nearly all the spring bases. BEST SHAPE OF HIS LIFE mixed with FRESH OUTLOOK with a side of OVERCOMING TREMENDOUS ODDS. The spring hat trick!)

Considering his total contribution &mdash assuming below-average defense &mdash stands (or projects, depending on your belief system) to outweigh Bautista's total contribution since Ruiz's looks like a better hitter and Bautista's defense just isn't that good. The questionable status of Edwin Encarnacion's wrist might prove this point moot, as Bautista will step in to play the hot corner leaving Adam Lind, Randy Ruiz, and Travis Snider one of Cito's pets to fight over the corner outfielder and DH spots.

Twitter neophyte Morgan Campbell offers an interesting look into Jose Bautista's path the big leagues in today's Star, but one thing that stands out is some insight into the change in his approach that resulted in an offensive explosion during the dog days.
Bautista went to the plate with a pitch in mind, attacking when he saw it and laying off everything else. He would also cock his hands and shift his body weight to his back leg sooner, allowing him to uncoil more quickly when the pitch he wanted came.
Interesting stuff. Sounds like Citocity 101: wait for the fastball and crush it! Sounds simple, and as I discovered in December, works when you're getting said fastballs served to you by replacement level arms. Let's see how this approach works when the pitcher can locate his fastball, or doesn't need to throw it for strikes.

Call me stubborn if you will, but I simply don't believe in Jose Bautista. Perhaps I'm swayed by his unique underdog/drug abuser saga, but the conclusions I drew in December are too powerful to ignore just yet. Not to mention how much cheaper he is, which could make him a worthy trade chip if that's your bag. Spring results notwithstanding, Randy Ruiz seems like the kind of player you need to make room for. Hopefully The Manager gets the go-ahead to do so.

Friday, March 5, 2010

Spring Malaise

It's your fault, fucking up the kids

It could just be I'm a little busy, or that I spend so much time wrapped up in the online baseball world anyway; but the start of Spring Training hasn't moved my needle one iota. Perhaps I'm just insulating myself against a summer of losing, scuffling, uninspired baseball played by green kids and two year stop gaps, I just don't care.

I don't care about the 30 or so arms they've brought in, I don't care about Edwin Encarnacion's wrist or Vernon's delusions of grandeur, I don't care about Brandon Morrow's arbitration clock or giving back Zech Zincola for nothing.

Blame Clarence, blame boring writers cluttering my mind and Twitterfeed with trivial news bites and lineup minutiae, blame the Olympic culture bomb, blame poor, unfortunate Rocco, or blame my dissatisfaction with all the swashes being buckled on Lost. Just wake me when actual baseball starts. Until then, I've got 2 feet of snow on my front lawn and a persistent, hacking cough that no amount of 25 man rosterbation can cure.

One Surefire Contributing Factor

Call me sappy and sentimental if you will, but any Roy Halladay news item that splashes in front of my face instantly gets my full and undivided attention. Read this post I wrote for Walkoff Walk a few weeks ago, then consider this quote from CC Sabathia on our once and future King (courtesy of Todd Zolecki):
"I think it will be a pretty easy transition for him," Sabathia said. "He'll like facing the 7-8-9 guys in the National League. The type of pitcher he is, I expect him to go out and be even better than he was with the Blue Jays."
Remember when CC Sabathia pretty much demolished the National League for 3 months in 2008? Halladay is going to do that for 3 years. Hopefully the Phillies are wise enough to trade Ryan Howard before it's too late.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Paying for Pedigree

If there's a lazier trick in the blogging playbook than "Player A/Player B" (other than insert hot girl photo when you're bored), I don't know it. But it serves a functional little device when you're looking to cherry pick facts or stats about a decision you aren't particularly happy about. So guess what, here we go!
Player A: 93.67 mph average fastball, 10.33% whiff rate, 7.7% home run per fly ball, 2.06 strike outs per walk. 27 years old.

Player B: 91.71 mph average fastball, 9.52% whiff rate, 15.3% home run per fly ball, 2.37 strike outs per walk. 31 years old.
Wee, such fun! You've likely guessed Player B is big free agent signing Kevin Gregg, one of only three bullpen arms guaranteed an Opening Day job. The other? GBOAT barter chip Josh Roenicke. Maybe it's just the association with Rolen, but I'm convinced Roenicke is awesome.

Based on nothing, really. Roenicke made a handful of forgettable performances towards the end of 2009, nothing I can really remember. Other than the scouting porn. The build, the stuff, the mechanics. Mmmmmm, I'll crosscheck you anytime big boy.

However you get there, watching Roenicke progress and mature has to sound like a lot more fun than praying Kevin Gregg doesn't butcher the rare opportunity to preserve a Jays win in 2010. Just for fun, let's took a closer look at their repertories and what it means for their futures. Click to make image much, much bigger.

The WonderCutter/SuperSlutter that Roenicke humps in there helps him induce a whole lot of ground balls, the rare curve seems to miss a lot of bats. Gregg's splitter should do the same but, for some reason, doesn't. Gregg gets a lot of whiffs with the splitter but next to zero ground balls. That either means it doesn't last long in the strike zone or most hitter know to lay off it.

By all accounts, Kevin Gregg was pretty bad in 2009; worse than his skill set and track record suggest. On the other hand, Kevin Gregg has the appearance of a man who sucks. I don't know what it is (yes I do, it's the glasses. Real men wear goggles.) but I already don't trust him. But Kevin Gregg has pedigree, he's closed at the big league level and all that good stuff. Josh Roenicke is just a guy that probably prefers football. With options. So in Vegas (his home state!) he will rot.

Griping about the job done by Alex Anthopoulos after all he accomplished in the offseason isn't fair nor is it my goal. The Gregg signing doesn't really hurt or hinder the Jays neither in the present nor the future. But failing to give Roenicke a fair shake in the 'pen as the new League would be a real shame.

Hugs and Kisses to Joe Lefkowtiz, the first of his life if you go by the ugly stereotypes in my mind.

Monday, March 1, 2010

A Crack in the Facade?

When fan hero and noted gloveman John McDonald signed a two-year deal this past offseason, many eyebrows jumped in shock. While the terms are peanutty (relatively), the second guaranteed year of the deal caused the most consternation among hardcore Blue Jays watchers.

The back and forth, uniquely web 2.0 as it was, about the curious second year being a waste of valuable resources or an essential non-issue grew tiresome instantly. Inconsequential as it may be; that 35 year old Johnny Mac is one of only three players under contract for 2011 stuck out. Something had to be up.

Something just might, in fact, be up. In the comment section of my slightly hysterical/poorly conceived Eric Hinske "don't make fun of his tattoos!!!!" post, an astute Anon noted that Mr. John McDonald currently posses 8 years of big league service time. (8.118 years, technically.)

So, all John McDonald needs to do is stick on the big league roster for the bulk of his deal with the Jays and boom: vested. Interesting, very interesting.

Occasionally the Drunks hilariously and on-the-nosingly refer to the Jays as Rogers Baseball Operations. Could this be a small example of the Jays doing right be a long-time soldier and favorite of the organization? Might his $1.5 million dollar pittance be returned in the form of a lifetime of minor league instructorhood or future bench bossery?

As unlikely as it seems, enough of the pieces fit to make it an enjoyable mental picture of backs slapped and hands shaken. Unless all our wildest dreams come true and Butterfield is named manager for 2011 season, I seriously doubt the PMoD's place on the roster is secure next year. A wasted roster spot as it might be, a lifetime of security isn't a bad thing to hope for a dedicated gym rat (or whatever the baseball equivalent of gym rat is) like Johnny McDonald.

Image of poor J-Mac pissing in the ocean courtesy of Reuters via Daylife.