Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Bait and Switch



Are you kidding me?

One can only speculate what this means, platoon-wise. Does Corey Patterson play right field against left handed pitching, with EE moving to first and Adam Lind moving somewhere far, far from the batters box? Mike McCoy? JOHN MACDONALD? What hath you wrought, Jose?

Just when I thought the team bought your silence about preferring the outfield, there you go, starting in right field. Not only have you ruined my infield AND outfield previews, you're going to kill poor Adam Lind. There is blood on your hands Jose. BLOOD. ON YOUR HANDS.


On the other hand...he just might.

Monday, March 28, 2011

Season Preview: Outfielders


Welcome to the Ghostrunner on First season preview series. Please bring your expectations to the fully reclined position. Focussing on a different aspect of the team, expect the unexpected! Or at least the uninspired.

Who are they?

  • Travis Snider - binge eater with truly elite hitting tools. Team-leading affability skills, wide frame to carry the hopes and dreams of an entire fanbase.
  • Rajai Davis - Speedy. Religious. Two things not usually seen in Godless Toronto.
  • Juan Rivera - Molting corpse, gladly accepted in exchange for freedom from the tyrannical Vernon Wells regime.
  • Scott Podsednik - Can't be any worse at baseball than he is at economics. Slap hitting base-stealer, if you can believe it.
  • Corey Patterson - White guys drive like this, black guys drive like this.

What we want them to do


All we need from Travis Snider is to stay healthy and, perhaps, heal the world. Put the Epic Meal Time dudes on his payroll. Endeavor to hit lots and lots of home runs.

It would be nice for Rajai Davis to blossom into a hybrid of 2009 Rajai Davis and Ricky Henderson. Really, just Ricky Henderson will do. Get on, steal two bases, score on a delayed double steal. Small ball!

I would enjoy Juan Rivera lurching back to life in the most jarring way possible, clouting home runs while looking surprisingly spry in the outfield. Not keeling over dead during a walk back to the dugout will suffice.

Best case scenario: Scotty Pods spends just enough time with the big club to prompt a trip to the ballpark from his wife, even just once. Corey Patterson, should he make the club, can hit left-handed pitching hard and play a little corner outfield from time to time. Nothing crazy. NOTHING MORE.

Worst Case Scenario


A long winter of gorging finally catches up to the Lunch Box Hero, rendering Snider's bones too brittle and flesh too meat-sweaty to compete at the big league level. An inability to command the strike zone the way he commands our hearts would also be a drag.

Rajai Davis tragically learns he cannot steal first, no matter how hard he tries. Scott Podsednik loses his foot to gangrene, his wife to a member of the Gang Green. Somebody hits Corey Patterson lead-off.

Realistic Season Goals aka Results We Can Live With


Travis Snider gets 600 plate appearances. Good, bad, or indifferent, all he really needs to do is play. Decisions can be made after a full year's worth of (hopefully) uninterrupted play can be evaluated. Many people (myself included) have nearly unshakable belief in Snider's ability at the plate. He is the One True Barometer for 2011 - his progress is all that matters (more on this later.) The other guys are just guys - they're impact is negligible. It is all about Snider.

Reuters image courtesy of Daylife.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Pot Shouts at Kettle Accusingly, Dozens Sigh in Boredom

Exclusive video montage of Jesse Litsch's career progression.


Far, far be it from me to criticize ANYONE for fetishizing the exploits of your favorite players. As anyone who reads this site regularly knows, I tend to focus in on the abilities of bit players and blow them up to legends in my own mind.

Additionally, I'm a big fan of Mike Wilner. Huge. Love what he does and hope he never changes his style. I don't always agree with him but that's understandable. He uses the pesky "reason" stuff so it is hard to argue too strenuously. Until today.

Catching up with Wilner's blog, I read his post after Jesse Litsch's great spring outing. Wilner is a big Litsch supporter, I get that. But what I read BLEW MY MIND (emphasis mine):
Jesse Litsch has been the favourite of plenty of Blue Jays fans to kick around the last couple of years, with the majority seemingly having completely forgotten that he was legitimately one of the best starting pitchers in the American League in 2008, and that as a 22 year-old in 2007, had a fine rookie season.
Whoa.

I could go ahead and dig up a mountain of data to show that Jesse Litsch was, in fact, not one of the best starters in the American League. He was probably the third best starter on his own team.

In terms of innings pitched and runs allowed, he was about as good in 2008 as Josh Beckett. That much I can agree with. Does that make him one of the best? Beckett is pretty famous so shit, I don't know.

Nope, I know. Jesse Litsch was not among the best starters in the American League. Not now or ever. He just isn't.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Adam Lind, Genius


Jon Paul Morosi of Fox sports drops the puff piece of all times today, polling Major League players on who they believe to be the best player in baseball. Many sane ballplayers, Ricky Romero and Jose Bautista included, selected Albert Pujols as the best in the game.

Adam Lind and Corey Patterson don't play by your rules. They care not for Wins Above Replacement or other convenient boxes to cram your "five tool" studs off some South Florida assembly line. They see the big picture and focus on what is good and pure in the world. Namely, awesomeness.
Jays outfielder Corey Patterson named Ichiro Suzuki and Josh Hamilton. Adam Lind mentioned the same two players.
Josh Hamilton? Surefinewhatever. But selecting Ichiro! presents Lind and Patterson as Renaissance Men; able to appreciate the finer things in life. Kudos to them. I doff a Labatt 50 in their direction, but mostly towards Lind. Marrying a local girl wins you bonus points.

Getty Images photo courtesy of Daylife.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Wasted Breath


There is no greater straw man in soapbox baseball punditry than the sacred batting order discussion. Parkes took an interesting, analytical approach a few weeks ago while the Tao chimed in with his specific take. Even I wrote about ongoing lineup discussions around the league for Getting Blanked.

Lineup machinations get a lot of coverage even though we, as fans and bloggers, over-emphasize their impact. But you know what? It is fun. It is fun and it is March. Nothing about March is fun so if sniffing our own farts and telling John Farrell how to organize his batting order entertains us, so be it.

As such, here's my ideal batting order.

Versus Right-Handed PitchersVersus Left-Handed Pitchers
  1. Yunel Escobar
  2. Travis Snider
  3. Aaron Hill
  4. Jose Bautista
  5. Adam Lind
  6. Edwin Encarnacion
  7. Juan Rivera
  8. Aaron Cibia
  9. Rajai Davis
  1. Rajai Davis
  2. Yunel Escobar
  3. Travis Snider
  4. Jose Bautista
  5. Aaron Hill
  6. Edwin Encarnacion
  7. Adam Lind
  8. Juan Rivera
  9. Aaron Cibia
So, yeah. That is it for today. I don't even know if I agree with what I have here, it is really up in the air. Bautista is the cleanup hitter now and forever more. I really think Escobar is a great fit for leadoff if he can regain his patience at the plate. Plus, hitting him first means he won't give away so many bloody outs with his confounding love of the first inning sacrifice bunt.

Seriously Yunel, the guy who hit right behind you last year hit FIFTY home runs. I'm sure the leadoff man can score just as well from first as third when that happens.

I have completely fallen in love with the idea of Travis Snider hitting second because it just makes sense. He's at worst the third best hitter on this team and one who benefits from getting lots of at bats AND not coming to the plate with two outs all the damn time.

Against lefties your guess is as good as mine. Rajai Davis draws more walks against lefties so I'll slide him up. Snider hits third because why not? Both he and Adam Lind aren't great against left handed pitching but they have to hit somewhere, I suppose.

I tried to take all the touchy feely stuff that inevitably factors into batting order discussions as best I could, not throwing out the established order of things too much. A post like this is clearly comment bait so I beg you take it. Same Guy Incorporated wants YOU on the Travis Snider Two Hole Bandwagon. Catch the fever!

Image courtesy of Exit 15b, apparently.

R.I.P.czynski


...and with that, Marc Rzepczynski's career with the Blue Jays comes to an effective end. Probably?

Hyperbole? My specialty. Gregor Chisholm got some key quotes from AA regarding RZep's future, I'll do my best to provide them without comment.
...at the end of the day we still think he [Rzepczynski] has upside as a starter. But we know his first and foremost priority is that obviously he wants to be up here and he wants to be in Toronto.
Call me crazy but offering a "marginal" big leaguer the choice between trying to make the club as a reliever or taking a guaranteed trip to AAA to iron out the kinks is offering no choice at all. Not many professional athletes are wired in such a way that they'd make the "sound" decision.

I admire Rzepczynski's ambition, in some ways. When asked about possible role in the bullpen, RZep sounds like he models himself after one of the best.
"We had a great guy in [Scott] Downs ... he found a home in the bullpen," Rzepczynski said. "I'm not saying that's going to be me but for right now I see myself kind of as the same guy. We throw about just as hard, have the same kind of stuff. For right now, it fits perfect for [Toronto] so it works for me."
When I think about valuable guys in the bullpen, pitchers who struggle with their command (due to inconsistent mechanics) and pitchers who give up the occasional long ball don't jump out at me as high-leverage reliever candiadates.

Rzepczynski issues too many walks when he isn't right and fights the tater tot from time to time. I really don't how moving to the bullpen would help that. Maybe he doesn't listen or maybe he doesn't work. Maybe he Accardoed somebody he shouldn't have. It just seems that, despite AA's assurances of upside, that the Jays don't see a real spot for Marc Rzepczynski long-term.

Overreacting as I might be, it remains difficult to see where the guy with the name I can't spell fits in. If can sort out the issues that keep him from throwing strikes in the bullpen, he has to be a rotation candidate again, right?

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

So it Gose


Mind the hacky pun but I've thought a lot about Anthony Gose this week. Yesterday at Getting Blanked I compared him to Jacoby Ellsbury, which some readers thought unfair. "Gose is the number three position player in the Jays system!" I heard.

It is true, Baseball America ranked Gose third in the Jays system, also rating him as the best defensive outfielder, best outfield arm and fastest runner. Clearly Gose is a great natural athlete with, judging by early spring reports, the ability to step in and play defense at the big league level today.

To say his bat is a question mark is a little on the cruel side to question marks the world over. Gose is still very young and very raw so any leap to base judgement on his ability is misguided.

Consider, once again, Jacoby Ellsbury. His 2010 was forgettable but his 2009 was quite decent, 70 steals are fun to look at no matter how many outs he made at the plate. Consider for a second that Ellsbury was the Red Sox number one prospect in 2007, according to Baseball America.

At that time Ellsbury ranked as the fastest runner, best athlete, best defensive outfielder and best hitter for average. Yikes. How things change. Ellsbury is a league-average offensive player with exceptional speed, a strong arm and so-so defense. Uncomfortable as the comparison may be, I don't think it is wildly off-base.

Perhaps another comparison suits you better, like Michael Bourn by chance? Bourn is a great fielder (across the board) and a feared base runner. Ed Wade dragged him to Houston and Bourn broke out, posting two consecutive seasons worth more than 4 WAR each.

Bourn always sported strong walk rates, both in the minors at as a struggling Major Leaguer. If anything, Bourn is too much like Brett Gardner (a.k.a. the player we all want Gose to be but know he isn't likely to replicate) for the comparison to be fair. So I guess we'll have to hope for Ellsbury.

I'm interested in your reactions to this comparison. Does this excite or terrify you? What is Gose's absolute ceiling, in your mind? Are back to back 4 WAR seasons the kind of "high ceiling" Alex Anthopoulos had in mind when he acquired Gose?

Image courtesy of Reuters via Daylife.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

The Company You Keep


No sense burying the lede here: I'm legitimately concerned about J.P. Arencibia. I fear his offense might not be what we would consider "acceptable." Not for anything he has or hasn't done, it is just the nature of the beast.

This doesn't have anything to do with his piss-poor spring, either. I really don't care that he has 3 hits (but 5 walks!) in 35 plate appearances. Spring is spring. Whatever. I am seriously concerned he won't contribute anything in 2011 and very little at any point down the road.

His offensive profile is a little scary: boom or bust with patience only showing up during his most recent season at AAA. Not unusual for catchers but I don't get the sense that is what Jays fans expect.

Catching is hard, this we know. Catchers who can hit are rare, we know this too. Look at some of the other Catchers of the Future who posted much better numbers in the minors only to fizzle at the big league level.

You may remember Taylor Teagarden as the guy who ruined your 2009 fantasy team. Teagarden put up similar minor league numbers to Aaron Cibia before making a huge splash during a September call-up. His offense never materialized so he's a backup for life. Jarrod Saltalamaccia was a prized prospect now onto his third organization. Now he's just another player with solid numbers through the minors left to fight for every at bat as he's yet to produce in the show.

Even Matt freaking Wieters hasn't lined up his minor league numbers with big league production. Matt Wieters!

The cause of the Cibians isn't entirely without hope. Brian McCann posted less than stellar (though still respectable) minor league numbers and continued improving as he reached the big leagues. He, of course, made his big league d├ębut at age 21 after toughing it out in the pitcher-friendly Sally League. J.P Arencibia just turned 25, a full 2 years older than Travis Snider. The smart money is on most of his development being already, um, developed.

Any temptation to compare J.P. Arencibia to Buster Posey is laughable as Buster Posey is a demigod mixed with a superhero mixed with Jesus.

Look, I don't mean to piss on Aaron Cibia. I'm sure he will provide enjoyable power numbers coupled with some unsightly strikeout/contact/outmaking numbers. The marketing arm of the team wisely put him out front this offseason as he's good looking and "well spoken." Expecting him to put up numbers similar to his MVP season in Vegas just isn't fair. In a perfect world his play will match his marketability but I just don't see it that way. I hope I'm wrong.

Surely the focus this season won't be his offense. Will hear a lot about his ability to "handle the pitching staff" and how the team just wants him to feel comfortable behind the plate. Which, to an extent, is important. Not, apparently, as important as giving a good target. Hey, it's Spring Training for us all.



Image courtesy of Reuters via Daylife.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Borepen

You know, just hanging out
Far be it from me to criticize Alex Anthopoulos and his great love of compensatory draft picks. As you're read numerous times, it is a good bit of business to snag these picks before the league closes the loophole. AA and his crack staff did a great job acquiring both players in this boat and other decent stop gaps.

The pen is jammed with right-handed arms of varying levels of competency, all that remains is sorting out the roles and responsibilities. Which bums me out. The last few years the Jays have a few intriguing bullpen pieces, guys with an intoxicating mix of youth and plain stuff who I hoped would one day figure it out. This year's pen has none of that.

These guys all are what they are. An injury or trade might move them up or down the leverage ladder but expecting anything shocking from anybody currently slated for the Jays bullpen is foolish. David Purcey still owns a significant chunk of my heart though I worry for the quality and quantity of innings tossed his way.

Jon Rauch, Octavio Dotel, Jason Frasor, Frank Francisco might pitch well or they might pitch poorly but all the steps in their career are behind them. They can either hold on to levels achieved in the past or decline. If they all pitch well, it is something. If they all struggle badly, it is something not too different. I guess this is the price to pay for the wise foresight of not overpaying for a closer.

Image courtesy of flickr user roopez123

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

He Just Needs to Play


Before Travis Snider took over the world as The One True Twitter Follow and Consumer of All Meats, he was just another up-and-coming hitting phenom. Emphasis on phenom.

The jury, as they say, is still out on Snider at the big league hitter. If you're a naive fool, I say. Snider's shown me things at the plate I don't think I'll forget, I just want to see him get the right number of reps. Injuries and stubbornness stood in the way of that, derailing what looked like a Snider breaking out last May. He really seemed to get his offense going and down he went.

It made me think - Snider doesn't seem like a streaky hitter to me, most like a guy that builds and builds and suddenly you look down and he has 25 home runs and his OPS is over .900. So I took to the spreadsheets and internets and here we go.

Taking a cue from the great series on player volatility for Beyond the Box Score by Bill Petti, I then used Devil Finger's linear weights to calculate Snider's wOBA for rolling 10-day periods throughout the 2010 season. It was fun, let me tell you. The results are below (click to enlarge).



That looks, pretty much, exactly how I expected. Snider scuffled then made incredible progress, then fell off. It took him a while after returning from injury but eventually posted some big numbers to finish the season1.

By the grace of God Snider stays healthy enough to get a full season of at bats in 2011. He is only human so he will obviously slump, but avoiding the lulls and timing required to get back on track are really important for the Jays in 2011 and beyond. Beyond, like what beyond. That's what we're talking about here. Right?

Thanks to Beyond the Box Score for the inspiration and Matt Klaasen for the linear weights yeoman's work. The game data came from Fangraphs. Buy a shirt yo.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

More of the Same


Another day, another reminder of what it means to be a Jays fan. Important-sounding website Market Watch released a study measuring the amount each team in baseball spent on each win above replacement. And would you believe it? The Jays are very good at efficiently picking up wins.

As it turns out, the Jays are good at picking up wins, period. The study examines total payroll from 2008-2010 and measures them against WAR over the same period. The Jays rank seventh in baseball at grabbing cheap wins, spending just over $1.916 million dollars per fWAR. More impressively, the Jays ranked fifth in WAR from 2008-2010. In the whole league.

Model franchise, and sportswriter Pinnacle of Baseballing Might and Defenders of the Faith, the Minnesota Twins rank just ahead of the Jays in efficient spending, paying out around $125000 less per win. But lo, what's this? The Jays actually amassed more Wins than the sainted Twins, (125.5 to 124.3)? How could that be? The Twins have two playoff appearances in that time while the Jays languish at the bottom of the AL East??

I think this highlights stuff Alex Anthopoulos already knows: the Jays are able to find cheap talent well enough, now they must increase the quality of the talent. The team continues positioning itself in a way that allows them to pay top dollar for high end talent because of all the freely accessible cheap players at the ready.

Again, this isn't news to most of the people reading this site. All the talk about the "money being there when we need it" is key, because the only thing worse than not having the money at all is spending the money for the sake of spending it. The Jays — Jose Bautista notwithstanding — display the patience to stay away from this sinkhole. The foundation is in place, I think we're all ready for the next step.

Image courtesy of flickr user Moctagon Jones

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Let the Anthony Gose Mythmaking Begin


I'm beginning to worry that I'm impossible to please. Wait wait wait with baited breathon the edge of my seat for Spring Training to start...and I'm already bored. Maybe bored isn't the correct word but I hardwired to ignore the ups and downs of early spring.

With good reason, as the San Fran Chron lays out here. Grapefruit games, especially at the start of spring, are more about conditioning than anything else. I'm not even a little concerned with the Jays ability to score runs or Jose Bautista's lack of taters.

All that said, Anthony Gose is making a name for himself. With his defence, if you can believe it. And by "making a name for himself" I mean "recruiting legions of followers who will begin crowing for his promotion to the big leagues almost instantly."



Which is, of course, already happening. After the breathless Tweets and messages (as seen below) people are pestering Wilner, questioning if Gose might see some time with the big club in 2011. Yes, the 20 year old player who made outs by the boatload at High A is going to jump to the big league club. Sigh.

The reports on Gose's superlative defence are exciting. Knowing that Gose is ready to contribute on the defensive side only makes the wait to see if his bat will play that much worse. Simply put: if he can't hit, he can't play. I mean hit in the loosest sense of the word, I assure you.

Luckily, a tweet from Phillies minor leaguer Jiwan James gives me hope that Gose has what it takes. That Anthony Gose is willing to do what it takes to get to the next level. Namely: cheat.