Thursday, September 22, 2011


This is a GO Train, Ontario's regional commuter train. I spend in excess of three hours per day traveling by GO Train.

This kid lives at my house. This is a picture of her eating a hot dog in front of the Rogers Centre. She is now old enough to attend baseball games and tell elaborate lies and take ballet classes and ask interesting questions during walks in the woods.

She has a younger sister, still in the "wriggly loaf of bread" stage of life. Despite my best efforts, they both require constant care and attention. They refuse to do their own laundry and undercook the chana masala every single time.

They're pretty great.

This is what I do for work, some of the time. Most of the time I do this. Spoiler alert: I'm very lucky.

This isn't easy.

This wouldn't have been possible without the help of many, many people. If they don't already know who they are, I'll spend the rest of my life attempting to rectify that.

This is the final Ghostrunner on First post.

Thanks, friends.


Love, Actually.

Surely it can't be gone already.

The last home game of the season always feels like getting dumped by a girl who was out of my league. Yeah, I knew it was coming, but I had so many things left planned to do. We were supposed to go to a museum, pack a picnic by the lake, or maybe have dinner with my Dad. Now I'm just left with some old pictures and dozens of words that were entirely contextual to how I was feeling at the moment I wrote them and no longer hold weight in the present.

I was supposed to make it to more home games. I was supposed to take stronger advantage of being invited to write here. I was supposed to pick apart every pitch thrown to every player and take joy in the little moments that make up the season. Instead, I feel like I never even saw Travis Snider this year. I feel like I took for granted all the times the game was just on in the background while I was doing something more important (what could be more important?) like feeling sorry for myself or texting obscure rap lyrics to my friends. It doesn't matter, really, because it's over now. The putting off of worrying about what was happening because "There's another game tomorrow" is gone. They're gone again and I am left to my own devices for fighting off insanity for another 5 months. I am alone. Again.

Summer is dead and as any Game of Thrones watcher knows: Winter is coming. Yeah, we'll hear from them again a couple times in the next few months, but it will be short bursts. Internet reports, radio clips, or some fumbling predictions and analysis of the action or inaction of the off-season. But we all know nothing will compare. Nothing can touch the warming glow of the gentle buzz the Jays provide through my TV or the swell of sound as the wave passes through my section live in person at the Skydome.

Perhaps it is the decade and a half of middle of the pack results that have filled me with such apathy, but those who complain about the quality of the team always confuse me. I, for some reason, do not need this team to win to fill the void. Making a deep run in the playoffs would surely bring a lot of excitement to people I know, but for me, personally, it's most attractive feature would be having another 2 or 3 or 4 weeks without having to say goodbye. I simply need them to exist. I need them on my screen showcasing their talents or filling the content of my favourite websites to inspire my favourite writers. A quality team that plays quality baseball is secondary to just knowing they're around.  Knowing they exist. Knowing I can see them whenever I want. And, again, that feeling is gone.

So good-bye again, you heroes of my summer. I will miss you until we meet again next April, when we see each other across the street an unseasonably warm spring day and run into each others arms like we'd never been apart in the first place.

Goodbye. Goodbye. A thousand times, goodbye.

Friday, September 16, 2011


I've been away for far too long to pretend I'm an authority on the Jays so this post is a much more interactive one.

Albert or Prince? Move Reyes to 2nd! TRADE FOR VOTTO!! Blue Jays fans love them some big name acquisitions. And hey, sometimes I do too. But when Rasmus went down with a wrist injury and AA had to (chose to?) re-acquire DeWayne Wise my mind wandered from ballplayers with a WAR of around 8 or 9 to those closer to 0. Can the We're Finally Going For It Blue Jays of 2012 handle the injuries that hit every team in a 162 game season? Or better yet, do they have the depth to replace a regular contributor putting up Aaron Hill type numbers throughout the season?

What I'm asking is this; who do you see as being the backup plans for the Jays next season (being realistic) when the inevitable happens?

First let's get this out of the way; we all love the Prime Minister of Standing Ovations. There. Now let's be a little more open.

Does the guy who comes in 2nd in the competition for Left Field automatically get a bench job? Is anyone interested in copying the Rays and only allowing Shortstops who can play every single position on their team?

Please. I need you to reassure me that if someone goes down with an injury that DeWayne Wise won't be flown in from Japan next season.


- I want everyone who has watched Kyle Drabek come out of the bullpen at the end of this year and thought, even for a second, that the Jays should convert him to a reliever to put up their hand. Now, on behalf of Drew's new born baby I'd like to say you're an idiot. The Jays need to make sure he's not capable of being a 2nd, 3rd, 4th or 5th starter before they even let that thought creep into their heads. But he will be a starter so don't worry about it.

- There are already multiple Brett Lawrie tribute videos on youtube. But somehow none of them have him mashing over an Eminem track. What's the point then, you know?

- Could Aaron Cibia be more excited about where this night is going to go?

- Finally, the fact that Colby Rasmus was able to answer this question without laughing out loud makes him a better person (liar?) than I'll ever be.

Dave Burrows is the West Coast contributor to GROF. He is able to bring a different angle to the site because he can stay up later. Follow him on twitter.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

McGowan Analysis

As per a request in the previous post's comment section, allow me to schill for my corporate masters/day job and direct your attention to the pitch f/x post I wrote today on Dustin McGowan. With a little Stephen Strasburg thrown in for good measure, you can get all your nerdiness in one sweet place.

Please to enjoy my Getting Blanked post from this morning. Don't be afraid to post comments both here and there as I need them to live.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011


The 2011 Blue Jays season hasn't been bad. Not by a long shot. The cursory 80-odd wins and fourth place finish are seemingly in place and I don't harbor much ill will over it.

There is, however, only so much a man can take. The disappointment seethes below the surface, generally spewing out in the direction of the American League Central or the poor Baltimore Orioles. Not often do I lash out at members of the local nine, especially now that AA either cycles through them in six weeks or brings in long-held mancrushes.

When a member of the Jays gets on my bad side, it's usually because of who they are not how they play. Eckstein drove me crazy for all the obvious reasons. Mench, Wilkerson and assorted retreads piss me off because I drink young blood. Rarely do I hold a strong distaste for a player just because he sucks.

Until now. Jon Rauch sucks and it drives me up the wall. I was less than enthused when the Jays announced one shitty reliever signing after another this past winter. I don't like feeling cheated and the spoonful of draft pick sugar barely makes the medicine go down.

Coming into the season, Rauch struck me as a cut-rate Jason Frasor - his 2010 line looked very Sausage Kingly with his strong K/BB numbers and fly ball tendencies. The very low home run rate in a gigantic ballpark didn't impress me much but hey, Anthopoulos has a hustle to run and Rauch is the means to an end.

Until, of course, Jon Rauch discovered facing the AL East teams isn't quite the same as taking on Cleveland and Kansas City on the regular. Either that or he just isn't a very good pitcher any more. Like, the worst reliever by fWAR in all of baseball bad.

Few pitchers in baseball match his low level of effectiveness (19 shutdowns against 11 meltdowns in 52 innings this season) with his continued high-level usage. His FIP is over 5. He gives up nearly 2 home runs per nine innings. He's been terrible. Only an ugly bout of awfulness by Frank Francisco and the sudden gutting of the bullpen left Rauch to pitch in big spots over and over again.

At some point, Rauch is either going to pitch himself right out of Type B status or pitch himself right out of a guaranteed contract next year. The Jays would have to offer Rauch arbitration to even get that far, at what point would a 33 year-old reliever coming off the worst season of his career turn down that opportunity? If Jason Frasor accepted last year, Rauch will run towards the arbiter with open arms. That I do not want.

Then this whole ugly scene will have been for nothing. Nada. A pointless exercise proving that gambling is better known as a tax on stupidity for a reason. It doesn't always work. Jays fans are the neglected children left to fashion some yellow-watered Mac & Cheese while Alex Anthopoulos spends all Daddy's money at bingo. It's no fair. He sold the damn strainer, for gamblor's sake!


From the tremendous Red Sox authority that is Over the Monster comes this:
Bad things happen when Brett Lawrie is at the plate.
This is very, very true. Awesomely true, in fact.

The OTM post mentioned alludes not only to Brett Lawrie winning the game and sending paroxysms of Canadiana coursing throughout the Great White North but his proximity to Josh Beckett's injury. While any suffering visited upon the head of Josh Beckett is usually a good thing (cheering for injuries is a bad scene)

A great scene was the one around home plate Monday afternoon after Brett Lawrie let Red Sox fans know exactly what they're forced to contend with for the next 5-15 years The wagging tongue was just awesome and over-the-top enough to forever cement Lawrie as a villain in the eyes of the RSN.

Other assorted awesomeness: Chris Woodward's on-deck circle bat flip, occurring at 1.45 of this clip. Chris Woodward's bizarre 2011 cameo is one of those little things I really, really like hearing about. Basically on his way out of the game when a chance to fill a triple-A roster came around and he took it. He spends a few days here and there with the big club and, clearly, loves every second. It's fun and I love it (in small doses like this. No need for a full-season mascot.)

Kelly Johnson didn't get the Sportsnet memo: you don't take bathroom breaks when Brett Lawrie is at the plate. I don't care how long the Red Sox interminable pitchers drag out the game. You just hold it a few more seconds.

Kelly Johnson must be kicking himself after missing out on quality teambuilding like that. I anticipate a Dadboner-styled internal dialogue for weeks, you guys.

As for Lawrie, I dunno know what to say anymore. He has 10 plate appearances in high leverage situations in his brief career. He has 3 home runs in those 10 plate appearances. He sees the same amount of pitches per plate appearance as Jose Bautista, swinging at a very similar percentage. Under the tutelage of Brian Butterfield (nice long hug after Lawrie gets back to the plate in the walkoff video) he apparently morphed into Scott freaking Rolen.

This could very easily become a Brett Lawrie only fansite. I think it might already be just that.

Reuters Image by Fred Thornhill courtesy of Daylife and the best possible lack of self-awareness.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Pardon My Swooning

First from Baseball Prospectus on Jake Marisnick ($):
In April, or even June, Marisnick was a good story as the ultra-toolsy player who was finally translating his athletic ability to on-field ability. Now he's not just some work in progress—he's been the best position prospect in the Midwest League this year, batting .323/.396/.500 after a seven-hit weekend that included three doubles and a home run

...he's one of the few prospects out there for whom the term “five-tool player” doesn't sound like a misused cliché.
Keeping an eye on Marisnick's progress this season, you can officially count me as "in the tank" for Rocco 2.0. There is a lot of distance between him and the big leagues but, in my mind at least, he takes over for Jose Bautista in right field at some point.

And now, because there isn't enough of this to fill the internet three times over, a little Brett Lawrie fawning.

This wasn't really a pivotal at bat, a pretty run-of-the-mill encounter between Brett Lawrie and Wade Davis. Lawrie ended up singling on a soft flare to center field.

It does, however, confirm everything I believe and hold dear about Brett Lawrie.

Lawrie took ball one high then fouled off a fastball on the outside edge. He then took a 1-1 fastball inside for ball two. The next pitch, for me, is the difference maker.

2-1 count, many hitters have "giddyup" in the minds. Considering Full Tilt Lawrie lives his life at "giddyup" speed, it is easy to assume he has bombs away at the front of his mind.

Nope. Lawrie gets a fastball just off the outside corner and he spits on it. Take. Wow.

Maybe I'm making too much out of it but it is this stuff that gets me so excited for Lawrie's potential. For his present as much as his future. He makes such good decisions at the plate I cannot process it in real time.

With the count 3-1, Lawrie gets a fastball on the inside half and gets after it. The fastball tails further inside but Lawrie muscles it into center for a single.

Inspiring stuff, to me anyway. Discipline for days and the physical strength to overcome a decent pitcher's pitch. The future, she is in good hands.

Image courtesy of flickr user White Cap Wendy.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

The Brett Lawrie Post

He's ridiculous.

He isn't just ridiculous in the way people of a certain vintage use "ridiculous" to indicate excellence or excitement, though that is obviously true. He is also ridiculous in that he is a mass of twitchy muscle fibers that just can't still, a cartoon character version of an ADHD kid. He makes me laugh - and not always with him. He is a walking spectacle, the living embodiment of "COME AT ME, BRO!"

But mocking an excitable 21-year old isn't my intention here. This post is all about praise for Brett Lawrie - Professional Hitter.

It is still quite early but Brett Lawrie can help, well, anything. Everything might be a better description. Look at the pitches and locations he has drive for extra base hits in his 60 PA big league career.

Inside, outside, upside down! Lefties try to sneak fastballs under his hands? MASHED! Try to get him off-balance with a slider when you're Michael Pineda? MASHED!

As the sample size grows to nearly worth mentioning, Lawrie still sits with a outside the zone swing rate under 20%. For somebody who both hits for power and limits strikeouts (as Lawrie looks like he just might) that is extremely positive.

The hits in huge spots are really something else entirely. Lawrie already ranks third on the Jays in WPA. Huge, huge hits from a kid too young and too dumb to know he's supposed to be scared.

The captain is just about ready to turn off the "Reasonable Expectations" sign - what kind of a ceiling can we graft onto Lawrie at this point? Ryan Braun? Sounds about right. Ian Kinsler might be a more accurate, if not conservative, guess. Speed and power with excellent plate control. I don't even know anymore.

The energy, the histrionics, whatever. He can hit. He is even better at the plate (so far) than most of us believed. It is like a dream. Growing menace, indeed.

Getty Image by Abelimages courtesy of Daylife. Pitch F/X data courtesy of Joe Lefkowitz.

Monday, August 22, 2011

The Frank Francisco Flu

Shoulder soreness my eye. I know "flu-like symptoms" when I see them. I felt pretty much the exact same way at that exact moment on Sunday (and on to today. Old age FTL.)

As per Gregor:
Janssen was expected to give way to Frank Francisco in the ninth inning. Toronto's closer started warming up late in the game but was forced to shut it down after experiencing soreness in his right shoulder.
The sneaky thing about Frank Francisco is how good he's actually been of late. FIP over the last 30 days? 2.23. FIPs by month? 4.32, 6.79, 2.29, 2.70, 2.41. He's missing bats and generally being the guy expected to hold the fort and then net a pick.

If he is actually injured, well, this whole pick-compiling mess takes an ugly turn. Subjected to inferior and, worse yet, boring players makes the calculated gamble that much harder to take.

Don't get me wrong, I appreciate the deftness behind the moves. Sometimes it is hard to see the forest for the trees when somebody scrawled "AA WAS HERE" on every trunk in sight.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Your New Favorite Player

Linking to an article in which Brandon Morrow refers to preferring "nerd stats" is pretty much a Pavlovian response at this point. The paper reports it, I liberally blockquote from it and we all go about our business.

The piece in question is more of a notes article with, what, 200 words on Morrow? It alludes to Morrow's appreciation of advanced stats (though it ignores FIP, which LOVES him) without mentioning his Cal education, making Morrow smarter than 90% of SABR dudes anyway.

This is supposed to be the part where I gush over Morrow for embracing stats, even if he does seem to appreciate them on a more Greinkian level i.e. they make him look good.

The most telling and enjoyable part of this tiny Bellingham Herald piece is actually a quote from Morrow on Vernon Wells, after Morrow threw a terrible pitch which Vernon used to bookend his career by taking it deep to left-center field.
“He stepped out, tipped his cap, and when he got back in I threw him the single worst slider of my career,” Morrow said.

Wells homered.

“The only good thing was the crowd cheered him all the way around the bases,” Morrow said.
I dunno, that's just a decent and real thing to say. I appreciate his candor and honesty. Sue me.

P.S. He struck out 50% of the batters put before him against the Mariners on Wednesday night. That helps too.

Update! Oh hey look! Another reason to appreciate Brandon Morrow! These are really starting to pile up.

Reuters Image courtesy of Daylife

Friday, August 12, 2011

Something Ain't Right in Toronto

Something weird is going on when hitters get to Toronto. I don't know that it gives any credence to the Man in White conspiracy but it makes me uneasy all the same. An alarming pattern and something I'm not altogether okay with.

Why do hitters stop walking when the come to Toronto?

Colby Rasmus drew 5 walks in his final 7 games as a member of the St. Louis Cardinals. He has drawn a grand total of 2 as a member of the Blue Jays, 1 in his last 10 games.

Brett Lawrie - one walk in 22 plate appearances as a Blue Jay after drawing 8 walks in 17 games since coming off the DL.

Travis Snider - twice as many walks and half as many strikeouts at AAA compared to the big league.

Even Fred damn Lewis - I guy I wanted the Jays to acquire because of his patience - posted the only below-average walk rate of his career as a member of the Jays.

This...isn't a welcome trend. It the ballpark to blame (Statcorner ranks the RC as a poor park for left-hand hitter walks, if you put stock into such phenomena.)

Maybe it is the hitting coach, the esteemed Dwayne Murphy?

I'm not saying the Jays should replace Dwayne Murphy at the end of the season but the Jays should certainly consider adopting a more sound offensive strategy. I can't pretend to know how the players feel about Dwayne Murphy or even if it is his doing. The hitting coach makes an easy and obvious scapegoat but this total lack of patience worries me.

Speaking of Patience

Patience is not something the good people of Toronto are known to possess in spades. They (we) certainly didn't show Vernon Wells a lot of patience.

When I first starting thinking of how best to receive Vernon Wells, I went with my usual "the idiots will do this so I'll do the opposite" contrarian shtick you have come to expect.

But then I thought about it for a second - when Vernon Wells left I wrote that he was just a guy.
Vernon Wells isn't much different from Roy Halladay or Carlos Delgado. They all presided over middling times for a middling club. Except those two players are better than Vernon Wells. They hit better or pitched better and smiled bigger and became the thing we desperately want athletes to be, each in their own way. Vernon Wells just played and went home.
He isn't a local legend or a player with whom the fans experienced great ups and downs. He came, he played, he was traded.

A nice enough guy but, for whatever reason, he didn't make as deep an impact as he probably deserved. Thems the breaks.

With that in mind, I hope Jays fans greet Vernon Wells with exactly what he deserves: a mild smattering of indifference. A few claps and a some boos but basically allow a non-event to unfold as such. Overzealous cheering will seem insincere, raucous booing pointlessly cruel. Just let it be. It is how Vernon would want it to be.

Image courtesy of the Ruin Porn flickr pool. Which is, of course, fantastic.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

A Growing Menace

Menace. When Brett Lawrie stands at the plate, waving his bat with exteme prejudice, I can only think about the word menace. He is a menacing figure, with his cartoon traps and barely-simmering intensity. I fear for pitchers, standing but 60 feet away from a quaking mass of broed up energy.

He is also a menace because that level of energy — when wholly expelled after an orgiastic grand slam — is going to get someone killed. Be it an errant high five-cum-Ric Flair knife-edge chop to the neck or a pointed fastball between the numbers from a jilted pitcher, somebody is coming away bruised. Consider it collateral damage.

Brett Lawrie is not alone in his menacing ways. The swagger, youth, and confidence that permeates this team belies its fourth place standing. This collection of cast-offs and unwanted middle children has a massive chip on its collective shoulder - nobody believed in them individually and now, facing long odds even as they stockpile talent, nobody believes in them collectively.

Which is foolish for the nobodys. Fools will count this team out, both now and in the future. Not because of the attitude or the swagger but because of the talent.

Good God Damn, there is a lot of talent. Even if the talent can't look eye to eye with the competition today, there are still a whole lot of age 27 seasons waiting to happen in that clubhouse.

Failing that, the league is lousy with potential problem children to absorb into the fiery womb. There are plenty of tarnished dollar bills remaining for Gordious Dougolous to acquire for two shiny quarters.

There is promise and there is hope. There is entertainment and there is pride in the offing. Get in on the ground floor while you still can. Tell a friend. Act like you knew.

Image of Edwin Encarnacion's punctured lung by Fred Thornhill courtesy of Reuters via Daylife Fred Thornhill! Gordie Dougie life!

On The Future






Man in White Makes First Public Comment

Click to enlarge, it is mostly worth it
I really, really hope the Jays are cheating at every turn. Not because I care about a competitive advantage, merely because there is nothing I like more than watching (or reading) sanctimonious jackass scream about cheating makes it easy to track the kind of people to avoid at all costs.

Besides: if ever there was a trustworthy and otherwise focused group of individuals, it's one of the American League's lesser lights relief corps. Only something so heinous and insidious as a man signalling to the plate could drag their attention from the riveting action before them.

Original Image credit to Flickr user Dave Zolis.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Does Brandon Morrow hit the wall or does the wall hit Brandon Morrow?

Brandon Morrow exceeds at throwing baseballs. He is really good at it. I know this despite results that, on the long view, are merely mixed. He strikes out lots of people while walking only a few, compared to his copious strikeouts.

On days like Saturday, when Brandon Morrow is cruising along and everything seems to be going swimmingly, it seems the he cannot be touched. Then one bad inning comes along and submarines the entire process.

Is Brandon Morrow the victim of consistently bad luck? Is he proof defense independent stats are missing a key element to successful performance? Does his diabeetus limit his potential as a starter? I don't think I can answer any of these definitively, but we can surely look.

Brandon Morrow tires easily

Do I believe this to be the case? I don't believe that I do. It is a possibility, especially when we consider Morrow's fluctuating blood sugar. Some people, like Dustin Parkes, believe Morrow gets hurt during Spring Training because he isn't conditioned properly. This may well be the case but I don't know that I'm ready to condemn Morrow's off-season workout routine. But it is worth investigating.

Firstly, let's look at Morrow's numbers by inning. Using Baseball Reference's numbers it is more about results than process but that is what we're after - the source of middling results.

1st inning 78 5 10 1 10 23 2.30 .152 .269 .212 .481 .209
2nd inning 82 6 15 1 8 35 4.38 .205 .280 .301 .582 .368
3rd inning 84 11 19 1 3 17 5.67 .257 .280 .351 .632 .300
4th inning 86 12 18 3 8 21 2.63 .237 .326 .434 .760 .288
5th inning 79 16 23 1 6 15 2.50 .319 .367 .472 .839 .386
6th inning 60 9 13 2 6 19 3.17 .245 .317 .415 .732 .333
7th inning 39 1 9 0 2 9 4.50 .250 .308 .306 .613 .333
8th inning 8 2 1 0 1 0 0.00 .167 .375 .167 .542 .167
Provided by View Original Table
Generated 8/9/2011.

Hmmm, highest BABIP over the inning with the most runs/worst numbers? Not too surprising but hardly conclusive.

Instead of innings, let's look at pitch counts. Baseball Reference uses 25 pitch buckets so guess what? So do I.

Pitch 1-25 111 9 21 2 13 34 2.62 .219 .315 .333 .649 .311
Pitch 26-50 124 7 22 1 6 39 6.50 .196 .230 .259 .488 .276
Pitch 51-75 130 20 27 3 12 25 2.08 .237 .323 .368 .691 .276
Pitch 76-100 125 22 29 2 11 37 3.36 .264 .336 .418 .754 .370
Pitch 101+ 26 4 9 1 2 4 2.00 .375 .423 .583 1.006 .421
Provided by View Original Table
Generated 8/8/2011.

This...this is something. Something more, anyway. Morrow's numbers in the 75-100 pitch group are actually better as far as strikeouts and walks go but it seems that more balls turn in hits. His BABIP is WAY out of whack with the rest of his numbers.

Beyond the numbers here, I looked at Morrow's pitch f/x info and created the same 25 pitch buckets to look at some more in-depth numbers.

Pitch BucketWhiff RateAverage Fastball velocity

Does that look, to you, like a man who tires early? It doesn't look that way to me. Less than a full mile-per-hour is not significant in my eyes. He keeps missing bats and the home runs aren't even that much more significant.

One thing that does increase as Brandon Morrow starts progress: errors. Hardly the perfect metric of the fielding support he receives but it stands our none the less. In fact, of the 90 balls put in play in the 50-75 pitch bucket, 4.44% of them were turned into errors. That's only 4 errors of 6 committed behind him this season in total.

It isn't that Morrow is completely free of guilt and his defense has completely let him down, it is that shit happens. Shit seems to happen over and over to Brandon Morrow - only when it matters most. He comes so close to putting together completely dominant starts.

The skill is there. I don't think there is much development left for Brandon Morrow, more discovery.

Data from Joe Lefkowitz, AP Photo by Patrick Semansky courtesy of Daylife.

Sunday, August 7, 2011


Sometimes you don't need Twitter to verify shit to know an account is real. Give everyone's favourite Type B Free Agent hopeful a follow. You know, if you're into following someone just because they're a Blue Jay.

If you're not and you've been holding off on following some Blue Jay players may I recommend Brandon Morrow? I recently nominated @2Morrow23 for the Toronto Blue Jays Twitter Level of Excellence (currently holding a single handle; @Lunchboxhero45)

He has the smack talk down (exhibit A / B / C), understands the culture of twitter enough to get sarcastic with it and lets you know he's more than just a 98mph fastball throwing stud (an athlete who's going to hit double digits in books read in a season? Swooooooon). Plus, angry tweets hours after a game show 10 times the Grit (!) and Will to Win (!) than smashing up a Gatorade container mid-game.

If the hashtag #beastmode causes you to involuntary roll your eyes try having #rallysquints pop into your twitter feed.

Yes, the Jays get Rasmus and call up Lawrie since my last post and this is what I write about.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Not a Bad Problem to Have

Name the Toronto Blue Jays starter by his stats over the last 30 days (slash line is ERA/FIP/SIERA because we fancy):
  1. 37 IP, 3.23 K/BB, .303 BABIP, 66.0 % strand rate, 4.62/3.26/2.97
  2. 22 IP, 3.00 K/BB, .341 BABIP, 72.3 % strand rate, 4.76/3.61/4.23
  3. 37 IP, 3.00 K/BB, .259 BABIP, 88.5 % strand rate, 2.19/3.83/3.83
  4. 33 IP, 2.00 K/BB, .265 BABIP, 72.9 % strang rate, 3.82/3.84/3.54
Who's your ace? Who's your number one? Who is the big second half guy and who just fixed his mechanics? NO CHEATING!

Make with the wild guesses in the comments, if you please.


Morrow, Carlos V, Cecil, and Ricky Romero.

Watch the unsustainables, Mr. Cecil! Keep being Brandon Morrow, Brandon Morrow. Ricky Romero is, always and forever, Ricky Romero.

The whiff rate breaks down just as you expect for these four pitchers, too. Morrow (11.8%), Romero (10.2%), Cecil (9.2%), and Villanueva (6.9%). League average is 8.5%. Carlos Villanueva, your pumpkinhood awaits.

All numbers cherrypicked from Fangraphs. Image courtesy of Destination 360.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Saint Anthopoulos' School for Wicked Boys

We all know you have to give to get. It is never easy to give, no matter the return. Except today.

What We Lost

The biggest piece the Jays parted with is Marc Rzepczynski. Whacked out of their gourds as the Cardinals might be, I remain confident they'll do the right thing and return Rzep to the rotation; where he will quickly turn himself into Jaime Garcia's Polish Brother.

Ghostrunner on First is pretty much Ground Zero for Rzepczynski love - losing him hurts differently than the other GROF pet projects. I'm bummed he's gone but tempered heavily by, you know, all the bonerz.

The Cardinals did improve their bullpen for this season, which is the basis under which they generally operate. Appease The Genius and win now. Say what you want, they're aren't exactly wasting the peaks of Albert Pujols and Matt Holliday waiting for a "troubled youth" to figure it out.

Jason Frasor hurts to lose but only in the most sentimental way possible. It is nice (and fitting) he set the appearances record recently and is now gone. It's the nature of the battle he fought so well for so long.

He got his eulogy and we all noticed how fond we are of Frasor and how thankless his role. His job is an easy one to fill right up until it comes to actually doing so.

Zach Stewart will likely appear in a number of big league baseball games. Either as a starter or reliever, he will get there. Some really like him while others suggest he's 25 and playing at Double-A. I cannot pretend to know too much either way so I'll just say neither fate will surprise me.

Trading Dotel and Patterson is a testament to patience, and how much of it smart people have while dummies like us bray for blood all too easily. Two true pros who will go about their highly specialized business in the most businesslike manner imaginable.

Dotel is like a La Russa wet dream, when you think about it. Patterson is a nightmare for Cardinals fans, a La Russa fever dream of too clever by a half in-game ego stroking. Corey Patterson will single-handedly strip the Cardinals of the "best fans in baseball" moniker, just you watch.

What We Gained

Hope. By the truckload.

An unshakable belief in a general manager we already believed in implicitly.

Colby Rasmus, a hopefully not very sick but good to have around again like an old shoe Brian Tallet, proto-LOOGY Trevor Miller, other things shaped like Mark Teahan. Colby Rasmus. Colby Rasmus. And somehow, even more swagger.

As much as AA likes to crow about the value of good people and good citizens, he's clearly drawn to (and sees fit to compile) swagger. Swagger puts some baseball people off, which is fine. Most people I know, in real life and on the internet, are not some baseball people. We like swagger because guys with swagger can often play.

Throw a bunch of swagging ballplayers who aren't quite living up to expectation together and you have, at the very least, potential. Imbue these malcontents with the freedom to let their freak flags fly, with some gentle pillow talk about how much belief there is in them, and you just might have something more.

Throw a few option-heavy contracts their way and you have a carrot-on-a-stick to go with the chip on their shoulder - you have fuel for their hate game. That fuel might just burn hot and move the whole ship along at high speed.

What it all means

Phase One of The Plan is now over. 2012 is now Next Year. It is, in a word, fucking on.

Not only is getting a cost-controlled, 24 year-old centerfielder with a 4 WAR season already under his belt a great move for the club moving forward, it is also the kind of move that reverberates. Moving from a replacement level-ish stopgap to a guy with legit 6 Win upside right now, not 4 years down the road means the club requires one fewer piece to compete. One piece (Prince Fielder?) makes them not a good team but a competing team. A "better than the Rays" team. A "shit down the throats of the AL Central" team. A "buy your tickets now" team.

It is happening, people. Maybe Prince Fielder is a bad example but, then again, maybe he isn't? This coming offseason starts the whole "marginal win value" debate anew. That is a debate that can be an awful lot of fun.

Then again, why go out and throw money at a player when another GM will grow tired of some underperforming asset. Whomever will stand by ready to scoop up that unwanted trash? The Toronto Blue Misfits want your problem children - they're starting a movement.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Rosterbation: Engage

The Corey Patterson Outfield Experiment of Hilarity may just have hit its nadir on Saturday night. After Patterson replaced Thames in right field for "defense", he spun and twirled and turned a possible inning-ending fly ball into a walkoff hit. It was ugly and Jays fans (myself included) took to Twitter with our knives out.

There isn't a lot of love for Patterson among the Jays fans, most of whom are ready for just about anything and anyone else to take those at bats. The calls for Adam Loewen puzzle me, however.

Adam Loewen is a cute story but calling him up now or any time before September 1st makes very little sense. For my money, Eric Thames is the fringiest player in need of a serious look for as long as possible. With the Brett Lawrie call-up all but a certainty on August 1st, bring up Adam Loewen would only clog up the works.

As a guy without options and a very limited skillset, I can't bringing up Loewen and having him rot on the bench as a positive move for him or the team.

When I say "limited skillset", I am making an assumption based on very little. A career pitcher suddenly reborn as a plus outfielder seems unlikely, doesn't it? He continues to show an improved approach at the plate but a .920 OPS at Las Vegas is only worth so much, especially when you consider Chris Woodward's .860 OPS in 330 PAs in the very same ballpark.

Other than offering him a cookie for waiting in the minors like a good soldier, bringing up Loewen is a waste. Bring up Lawrie (NOW!) and play him every day at third. Snider starts in center against righties with Thames in left and Bautista in right.

You need as much information on Eric Thames as possible. Bring Loewen up in September and give him some run when other guys need rest. But get as much of the core you want to see in the future and let them play. Sorry Adam, it's all in the game.

Corey Patterson image courtesy of Killer Movie Reviews, which is weird.

Friday, July 22, 2011

This is Going Swimmingly

The Kid Stays in the Middle of the Picture
There isn't a better description of the "Travis Snider to Centerfield" experiment better than the way Stoeten of Drunk Jays Fans presents it - if a commenter or Jays Talk caller suggested it, I would trip over myself trying to shoot it down. What? Snider in center??? THAT'S CRAZY TALK!

Yet here we are. The husky kid some worried might only be DH down the road started two of the last three games in centerfield. And the results, they aren't terrible!

The ball stung right at you is really tough to judge. Snider does well to take a decent route and add the stylish "lunge-dive" at the end for style. Like all good centerfielders do.

Snider's arm and positioning drew raves all season in left after his work with Jose Bautista, will it hold up in CF?

Not the strongest throw of all time but he got rid of it quickly and right on the money. I like the way he just powered off his back leg, not much of a crow hop to eat up valuable seconds.

While this catch stretches my "highlight" credulity a little, it does demonstrate Snider taking a very direct route to a fly ball hit over his head.

Drawing any sweeping conclusions from this tiny sample is folly, but with my eyes I can say he doesn't look out of place in center. Obviously more innings present more challenges but, for now, this experiment deserves to continue. I cannot say I object to Farrell moving Snider to left and bringing in a move experienced guy as a late-inning defensive replacement when the situation allows.

Because the bat, the bat plays anywhere. It plays quite deliciously in centerfield, that much I know.

Update: - According to Total Zone fielding stats, Snider is 6 for 6 on balls in his zone as a CFer with one out of zone play. +/- ranks him as a +2 in a totally-not-worthless 21 inning sample. USA! USA! USA!

AP Photo courtesy of Daylife. Video finally prized from the cold, dead hands of MLBAM.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Cameron on Bautista

From Dave Cameron's top 50 trade value series, in which the Head Nerd in Charge ranks Jose Bautista the second-most valuable trade commodity in baseball, behind only Evan "Paid in Foodstamps and a Lifetime Supply of Orange Juice" Longoria. (emphasis mine):
At just $14 million per year for each of the next four years, he’s producing at a best-player-in-baseball level while getting paid a little less than Jason Bay or Adam Dunn. The Blue Jays saved themselves at least $100 million with the extension they gave Bautista last winter, which now looks like one of the best decisions any GM has ever made.
Ummm, wow. It is crazy to see it there in black and whitegreen. Jose Bautista is ours and you can't have him, even if you're offering Troy Tulowitzki.

Some awesome stuff from Fangraphs commenters, who kept their #6org jokes at bay long enough to make a little bit of sense. Take this hot shot of comment gold from SC2GG:
Considering the number of high value deals this particular GM has made, someone in the business is due for a prettttty good raise, I’d think. Imagine the employee review meeting that AA is going to get:
“What have you accomplished this year?”

“Well, aside from giving the entire country a sense of excitement about baseball that hasn’t existed for 15 yrs, rebuilding the farm system from nearly last to in the top 5, across the board I also saved the team and the company more than $200 million which is more than you paid for the whole team only a few years ago."
Wow, it really makes you think that things in Blue Jays Land might just be okay, doesn't it?

I made a concerted effort to stay neutral and/or non-committal on the Jose Bautista contract. As much fun to have him prove me definitely wrong in every way, I don't think betting against Jose Bautista is a very good idea at all. He proved people much smarter than me wrong last year before proving the laws of physics nearly irrelevant. It is officially time to just enjoy the ride. As if we aren't already.

Reuters image courtesy of Daylife. Make sure you read the entire top 50 series, it is great stuff.

Where are we on Eric Thames?

As part of my heartfelt desire to remain open-minded, I'm forcing myself to be confused with Eric Thames. What kind of a hitter is he? Can he stick at the big league level? He is the smileyest player since Torii Hunter?

Eric Thames numbers look pretty good, so far. A .948 OPS since his recall with 8 doubles and 4 home runs. The BABIP is still high .375 and the walks are still low with only two versus 18 strikeouts.

Over the weekend he bashed Freddy Garcia and Bartolo Colon before CC Sabathia made him look rather shameful. CC represents an incredibly tough matchup for the young lefy but then Phil Hughes sat him down three times yesterday.

The Sabathia troubles I get, the struggles against righties that worry me. How are right handed hitters getting him out?

(In case you aren't familiar with these charts, remember they're from the catcher's perspective. Thames is a left-handed batter so he stands on the right side of the image.)

Fastballs up in the zone, sliders and curveballs on his back foot and some change ups over the outside corner. Nothing too unexpected but the holes in his swing are as advertised.

I get a fair amount of flack for not believing in Eric Thames implicitly and, sadly, I can't get 100% behind him yet. Hopefully the team keeps playing him every day so we can all make a more informed decision at the end of the year - good, bad or indifferent.

Pitch F/X from Joe Lefkowitz, Getty Images photo from Daylife.