Tuesday, September 23, 2014

The Other Teams Are Better

No point in burying the lede. The Blue Jays aren't in the playoffs (though they're still mathematically alive) because they other teams are better. Or they're not good enough. One of those two things.

It isn't for a lack of trying and it isn't by a lot, but wins 84-90 are a lot tougher to come by than wins 74 to 83. There was one great month and few months that were decidedly less than great, months that undid the goodness of that magical May.

That pretty much sums up the club on a more granular level, too. For all Jose Bautista's GBOATery, there were far too many sinkholes undercutting his production. Rather than tower over the lesser mortals, he was a fully-grown actor walking in a moat so Sylvester Stallone doesn't look like oompa loompa while laying waste to an Oregon village.

Too many at bats given to players who simply cannot -- or could not -- hit. Look at this list. It is one of infamy. The names on this list represent more than 1000 plate appearances from guys unable to muster offensive production even 80% of league average. That's a bad list to be on. There are six names on it and one more that just jumped off.

One of those guys might be the best defensive second baseman in baseball. Even the "unreliable" defensive metrics (relative to the agenda of those who attach such qualifiers as damnation rather than disclaimer) say so. He is still below replacement level this year. There is no glove reliable enough to carry such a bat. Not at that position. Not unless your name is Ozzie or Andrelton.

The teams that won more games than Toronto did so because they were better in some facets of the game, like the Royals and Mariners outright refusal to allow even a single run all year, or the Orioles, with their bonkers offense and enviable defense. The Yankees are not better but they're also not demonstrably worse. The Angels have both better players and essentially no bad players. That's a good way to be the best team in the American League.

The Jays offense is good, thanks to a very strong top half of the order. But the holes at the bottom of the lineup grew wider as the season grew older, and the timeliness of the hits suggests an offense not in the top 10 in baseball but the middle of the pack when the game is at its most intense. The stats say they weren't clutch this season. Twisted stomachs vouch for the stats' story.

Which isn't to say this season is or was a disappointment. It is disappointing, yes. But a disappointment? I dunno. All those days spent in first place, coming on the heels of a capital-D Disappointment in 2013. That counts for something. And while the September Wild Card chase was more titular than titillating, it's going to have to do for now.

There is nothing to gain by shitting on the season, dismissing the run out of hand just because it came up short. But the fact of the matter is the Jays got as close as their assembled talent allowed. The other teams were better. Better balanced or better in one dominant facet of the game. The Jays got close with a roster than was deeply flawed last year and to which little was done to address is glaring weaknesses.

It isn't over but it's mostly over. It's over because they weren't good enough. Maybe next year, with a rotation full of children and the two best hitters playing for another paycheck, things will be different. In the end, this year was all too similar to many years that came before. Nothing will change until it does. Be better next year.


  1. The list gives me five names, for some reason. But the point is taken.

    Great post. I've made my peace with a surprisingly fun season, even if it does sting to be so (kind of) close. The starting pitching was probably better than anyone expected, Brett Lawrie had his annual trip to the disabled list, and Colby Rasmus decided he didn't like baseball again. The Jays rode Juan Francisco well past his best before date, Jose Reyes got bad at defense, Melky Cabrera was way better than anyone expected. Also, Ryan Goins is bad at hitting, as everyone outside the organization figured he would be.

    Did anyone at the beginning of the year think the Jays were more likely to sign Melky than Rasmus? Remember when we thought Colby would get the BJ Upton contract? He's looking way up at that right now.

    1. The Melky vs. Colby thing is still there even after this year. Free agent corner OFs include Nelson Cruz, Michael Cuddyer, Josh Willingham, Alex Rios, etc. All of them could adequately replace Melky, and they would all come much cheaper. The potential replacements for Rasmus include a Gose/Pillar platoon and a putrid free agent crop that includes Emilio Bonifacio, Nyjer Morgan, Grady Sizemore and Chris Young. Assuming that all goes well with Dalton Pompey, one more year of Rasmus is the perfect bridge to Pompey in 2016, but of course the Jays would rather bury Rasmus in case he had a good September and became worthy of a pricey qualifying offer again.

  2. Its sometimes hard to forget that last season was so much worse than this year. (Mostly due to having to block out the painful memories with beer.)

    Like you mentioned, the team failed to improve where it needed to, and this should have been the expected result.

    May showed what this team is capable of when firing on all cylinders. A few changes to address the holes in the infield and the new rotation and we might be taking another step forward next season.

    I for one, am excited about this off-season.

    Well....depending on what the financial parameters really are.

  3. This is the best analysis of the Jays' struggles I've seen. I don't, for the life of me, understand why AA went into the season thinking that Izturis / Kawasaki / Goins / Getz / Tolleson et al. would be sufficient as infield depth. It was even more mystifying that the Jays repeatedly trotted out Tolleson against RHP, Kawasaki against LHP, Francisco against LHP and on and on.

    AA made a serious miscalculation with the Marlins and Mets trades. He was either unwilling (because he thought the depth was good enough) or unable (because of payroll).

    Either way, the failures of the Blue Jays over the last two years are failures of roster construction (lack of pitching depth in 2013, lack of IF depth this year). Those are on AA.

  4. Did you check the playoff teams in your 80wRC+ list? Which, by the way, is not positionally adjusted. So

    Athletics : 8 names, 1633 PAs
    Orioles : 6 names, 1381 PAs
    Angels : 6 names, 768 PAs
    Tigers : 4 names, 681 PAs
    Nationals : 6 names, 1110 PAs
    Cardinals : 5 names, 744 PAs
    Dodgers : 4 names, 416 PAs

    Almost every team uses below average hitters at premium positions sometimes.

    1. Jays got 1.6 WAR from those guys in 1098 PAs
      Athletics got 1.3 WAR in 1633 PAs
      Orioles got 2.1 WAR in 1381 PAs
      Angles got -1 WAR in 768 PAs
      Tigers got -0.7 WAR in 681 PAs
      Nationals got -0.1 WAR in 1110 PAs
      Cardinals got -2.6 WAR (!!!!) in 744 PAs
      Dodgers got 0 WAR in 416 PAs

      Seems like the Jays did really well finding replacement players.


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