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 Baseball-Reference.com: 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 Baseball-Reference.com: 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.