Friday, 26 July 2013

Mid-Season Report Cards: The Bullpen


So I wanted to finish these things over the All Star break, but it turns out there's a lot of guys on a baseball team (who knew?) and quite frankly lately they've been sapping my will to live, let alone write about them. As a result the "second half" is already well underway and I'm late with the bullpen piece. Sue me. It's also meant that with Melky Cabrera's return, Neil Wagner has already been optioned back down to Buffalo. I've included him anyways because he had a good long stint with the team and was an able contributor during his time here. His demotion is no reflection on his play, but somebody had to go and he's the guy with options. Baseball is a cruel mistress.

As I touched on in my piece on Casey Janssen's tradeability, the bullpen really has been great as a whole. It took a little bit of trial and error for them to settle on the right guys for the job, but now that they have, what was perceived as a weakness coming into the season has become the team's greatest strength. At least until guys that were untouchable started getting roughed up a little after the break forcing me to redo all their numbers. Not that I'm bitter. As usual, I'm not going to bother with the guys that have just walked through the revolving door from time to time. The team seems to have settled on a pretty consistent unit for a while now and those are the guys I'll be looking at.

Friday, 19 July 2013

Mid-Season Report Cards: Position Players

This will be the second installment of the Mid-Season Report Cards series, in which I will focus on the Blue Jays position players. As mentioned in the intro to the Starting Rotation piece, the original plan was to go around the diamond position by position, but that fell apart pretty quickly. The Jays have had too many injuries that have forced bench players into nearly full time duty at multiple positions for it to have made any sense.

Not to make excuses, but the injuries really have been a thing (again, sigh...) for the Blue Jays in 2013. Even if you ignore the injuries to the rotation, what was projected to be the starting lineup hasn't played a single game together since the season began. First Lawrie started the year on the DL, and by the time he came back Reyes was out. When Reyes came back Lawrie was out again with his own ankle injury, and when he returned it was Melky Cabrera finally taking his turn on the DL for the hamstring and quad injuries that have had him hobbling around left field like it's a geriatric ward. That doesn't even include the injuries to bench players like Rajai Davis, or the injuries to Lind, Bautista and Encarnacion that kept them out of the lineup for a few days even if they managed to avoid the DL. Obviously every team suffers injuries, but usually teams are able to field their starting lineup for at least one bloody game by the All Star break. Just sayin'...

Tuesday, 16 July 2013

Mid-Season Report Cards: The Starting Rotation

The New Kids on the Block
If you know me (or are one of the few people that don't, but have bothered to read the About The Blog(ger) page), you know I'm a teacher by day. As a teacher, I just can't resist handing out mid-season report cards, despite being on my summer break. What can I say? It's what I do.

This will be a three part series. I'll start with the starting rotation, because I'm also one of those people that just likes to rip a band-aid off to get it over with. Next up will be the position players, followed by the bullpen, so I can at least go out on a positive.

I think we can probably all agree that the results haven't been what we have hoped for so far in 2013. Injuries have been a huge factor, so much so that I had to revise my formatting for this whole exercise. My original plan was to go position by position, but injuries have pushed so many bench players into full time duty, often at multiple positions, that it quickly broke down and I decided to just go player by player. The list won't be exhaustive as I'll only be focusing on players that have played a significant role on the team so far this year, or who I expect to do so going forward. The occasional AAAA fill in guys will be omitted (with one notable exception) because quite frankly I just can't be bothered, and you probably don't care that much anyways. If you're really that busted up about not being able to read about the likes of Ramon Ortiz, Thad Weber or Andy LaRoche, I suggest you reexamine your priorities in life. You could probably be making better use of your time. Alright, enough with the life coaching. Let's get started.

Friday, 12 July 2013

This Week In Making My Second Base Predictions Look Foolish: Brett Lawrie?

Sometimes when I find myself with the free time to sit down and write something it's a bit of a chore to come up with a topic. This was not one of those times. For days now, the Blue Jays corner of the Twitterverse has been abuzz with just two topics and now that #TheBarHasBeenRaised (my sincerest congratulations to Steve Delabar) it's all about Brett Lawrie. Specifically, it's all about the possibility of Brett Lawrie playing at second base when he returns from his current rehab stint with the Buffalo Bisons during which he has, and will reportedly continue to be, a second baseman. He also spent a bit of time at the two bag while rehabbing from the rib injury he sustained in the spring. While the team maintains that nothing is imminent with either a pending trade or permanent position change, Gibbons has been very supportive of Lawrie's potential at second base, saying "[Lawrie] is an above-average third baseman as it is. But you look at his physical abilities, he's got a chance to be a great second baseman too. You look at the range factor and things like that, and it might be a nice combo, him and Jose up the middle for a few years." Hmm...

Reactions to the potential move have been mixed. On the one hand, the thinking goes, the Blue Jays moved him off second base for a reason and he's developed into an elite defensive third baseman whose cannon of an arm would largely be wasted at second. On the other, the Jays have been suffering an offensive black hole at second base so Lawrie couldn't help but be an upgrade, and the same range that makes him so great at third would also play very well at the keystone sack. Personally, I don't think that either viewpoint does the possibility justice because the move doesn't happen in a vacuum. It's not all about Lawrie and where he would be best, but rather about the team and how they can maximize all of their assets, so let's look at how moving Lawrie to second might help them do that.

Tuesday, 9 July 2013

Has The Time Come For Casey Janssen To Go?

Dirk Hayhurst wrote a piece over at Sportsnet about his belief that the Blue Jays should trade Casey Janssen. Some of the reaction to this has been pretty vitriolic, and that's really not surprising given the prestige that the closer role holds, not just among fans but in baseball media and management circles as well. The thing is, Dirk is right. Hayhurst may overstate the case for trading Janssen a little, at least while there are still a few weeks left before the non-waiver trade deadline, but he's correct in arguing that Janssen could net them a very nice return while still allowing them to deal from an area of strength. His case hinges on a few points, but you can pretty much boil them all down to one argument: saves are dumb.

I encourage you to read the entire article, as he makes an excellent case himself, but the takeaway quote on the historical impact of the save has got to be:
"In fact, since 1944, when a team has a one-run lead after the eighth, it goes on to win the game 85 per cent of the time. Two runs equals 94 per cent. Three runs makes for 96 per cent. From 1944 to today, it hasn’t changed, closer or no closer. Save or no save."
The save statistic wasn't officially introduced until 1969, so his point is that winning percentages in what are now considered save situations have been the same in the 44 years since the save was introduced as they were in the 25 years before it was even a thing. The biggest difference is, now that the save is a thing, "proven closers" are getting paid boatloads of money for racking them up when there is very little evidence showing they provide anywhere close to the value their salaries would suggest.

The first problem is that they just don't pitch enough to make a huge difference over the course of an entire season. Also, much like pitcher wins, saves have a lot to do with circumstances beyond the pitcher's actual control. They aren't nearly as much a product of ability as they are a product of opportunity. The fact of the matter is that recording a save just isn't that hard. Closers enter the game with a lead and the bases empty. Sure, some of those times will be with a one run lead facing the heart of a good team's order. On the other hand, some of those times will be with a three run lead and the bottom of the order up. No matter what the exact circumstances are, are either more challenging or more important to winning a ball game than, oh let's say coming into a game with the bases juiced in the eighth inning?

Wednesday, 3 July 2013

J.P. Arencibia Cares Not What You Think Of J.P. Arencibia

Jesus is his hitting coach.
 More ink has been spilled on J.P. Arencibia and his struggles, this time courtesy of Shi Davidi over at Sportsnet. What's interesting about this piece is J.P.'s response to being asked about how he deals with criticism from the media, something he's faced inexplicably little of in his time as the Blue Jays starting catcher.

There are a couple of money quotes in the piece, but he mostly sums it up when he says “I pay zero attention because I’ve learned more and more how — no offence — how much you guys don’t know.”

Well, he's not wrong about that. There's a lot we don't know. We don't know what his state of mind is when he steps to the plate. We don't know how he works with the coaches behind the scenes, or even really what they work on. We certainly don't know what he's thinking and seeing that tells him to swing out of his shoes on pitches that bounce a foot in front of the plate. But, while there are things we don't know, there are also a whole bunch of things we do know, things that JPA seems not to, or at least is only starting to realize.