Thursday, April 15, 2010

Hello, Fred Lewis.

So, the Blue Jays have acquired Fred Lewis from the Giants for cash and a player to be named later. I love it.

About 40 minutes ago, when the news broke on twitter, I wondered where Lewis would fit.

For any of you who are unfamiliar with Lewis, he's a reasonably speedy, left handed bat with lead-off type abilities. He's also an outfielder.

So, in short, I don't know where he fits.

Cito Gaston and AA have both said that Lewis will be coming off the bench for the Jays, who remain committed to their outfielders.

Here's why I like the move, though. It's pretty obvious that the Blue Jays brass don't have a lot of faith in Randy Ruiz, which means that there's no one to spell off Lyle Overbay if he continues to sputter so mightily at the plate. That is, until now. With the addition of Lewis, once he returns from the DL, there will be an opportunity for Jose Bautista, the Jays current right fielder and walk machine, to slide into first base while Lyle takes some time off to right himself. Lewis could then play Right. Of course, it would be nice to see Bautista bring the average up a little bit, but for now I'll settle for his .388 OBP from the leadoff position.

In any case, the addition of an established Major League outfielder like Lewis should put pressure on any of the Jays current underachievers, as Bautista can play any of their positions should Gaston choose to shake things up.

Friday, April 2, 2010

How the Jays will MAKE THE PLAYOFFS THIS YEAR!!!!!

Okay, so here it is. The Jays season starts in less than seventy-two hours and I really need to start writing more now. Let's start with this, a list of everything that IS GOING TO HAPPEN THIS YEAR and result in the Jays shocking the world on an '08 Rays like scale.

1.Shaun Marcum is going to return to form immediately and win 16-18 games this year.

2.Dustin McGowan is going to come back by June and win 11-13 games.

3.Brandon Morrow is simply going to be awesome.

4.Ricky Romero is not going to suffer any type of sophomore setback. He'll also win 14-17 games.

5.Dana Eveland is going to perform admirably until the inevitable return of an injured pitcher like Rzepchinski or Litsch or McGowan, or the call-up of Cecil.

6.Brian Tallet will do the same thing, then he'll go to the bullpen and dominate lives.

7.Jose Bautista will be this year's Marco Scutaro. No one will be sure whether or not they should believe in him, except Cito, and Cito will be right.

8.Aaron Hill will stay healthy and be as awesome as ever.

9.Adam Lind will put up even bigger numbers than last year.

10. Vernon Wells will stay healthy, and I mean really healthy, not just healthy enough to play. We, the fans, will in turn forget all about the disappointment he's caused us over the last three years as he knocks out thirty-five dingers and says something silly about how chicks still dig the long-ball.

11.The new lean, mean, Randy Ruiz machine will get lots of playing time and look almost as good as he did last year, only less fat.

12.Edwin Encarnacion will step it up and learn how to play defense.

13.Lyle Overbay will take the bat off his shoulder, and drive in ninety plus RBI.

14.John Buck will prove to be a great pitch caller and hit a few home-runs as a bonus. His back won't bother him too much, and he'll shock the world by not allowing any past-balls ALL YEAR.

15.Alex Gonzalez will play good defense, and be traded when Hecchavarria surprises everyone and becomes the starter in June.

16.Adeinis Hecchavarria will surprise everyone and become the starter in June. And be awesome.

17.Travis Snider will force the Manager to move him up in the order by playing like...let's go with Griffey Jr. circa 1993.

18.Jason Frasor will save thirty-eight games.

And then; "Hello, Playoffs. It's been a while. Now, get out of the way of our trophy!"

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Why the Fifth Starter Matters

There have been a few articles in the sabermetric community recently on the non-existence of the 'fifth starter.'  The argument is basically that it is very rare for a rotation to include five starters make 25+ starts, so the classification of a full-time pitcher as a 'fifth starter' is a fallacy, since if he's truly full-time he'll be making the third or fourth amount of starts.

Marc Hulet of Fangraphs goes further, saying that since the fifth starter does not exist, the fifth start could be done by a committee of the bullpen long-man, a prospect, and a minor-league veteran.  This way a team can focus instead on getting four pitchers capable of starting 25+ games instead of worrying about the fifth.  Click through to the links of 'a' and 'few' in the opening paragraph for a longer argument from Hulet.

I agree, in large part, with the first paragraph in that there doesn't exist a full-time pitcher who is a 'fifth starter.'  I would go further, however, and deny the existence of second starters, third starters, and fourth starters.  The whole numbering concept is extremely subjective.  Jesse Litsch (pictured, goofy) was the fifth starter for the 07 and 08 Jays, but in another rotation he may have been the number three guy.  To classify him as a 'fifth starter' only makes sense in a context where there are four better starters who stay healthier than Jesse, which is an extremely subjective argument to make.  AJ Burnett, number two in the Yankees rotation, would be number one in the Blue Jays rotation, same argument.
It is Marc Hulet's arguments that I disagree with.  He made his points now, as coaches are solidifying their rotations for the beginning of the season, essentially saying that the selection for the fifth start is a waste of time and energy (sorry Brian Tallet, pic from AP) since no five starters are likely to spend the majority of the year in the rotation.  My contention is that five starters are not going to spend the majority of the year in the rotation, probably more like three or four, but the coaches don't get to decide which three or four this is.  Pitchers get injured all the time and just because Phil Hughes starts the year as the fifth starter in the Yankee rotation does not mean he won't end up as the third starter when AJ Burnett inevitably gets injured.  When a pitcher gets injured and can't make the majority of the starts in their pitching slot, it's not like the coaches can decide that it's the fifth starter who has to go on the DL.

I would rather the fifth spot in the rotation go to the fifth best starter available, out of spring training, rather than Hulet's suggested committee.  They get regular turns in the rotation, perhaps with the occasional skip due to an off day, and can move up in the rotation pecking order if one of the better pitchers comes down with an injury.  This way the starter is used to the workload and is not a long reliever or a prospect riding the shuttle up and down to triple-A, and so is in a better position to step in and make 25+ starts.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

How much longer until the season starts?

I'm resisting the temptation to respond to the shot-across-the-bow post from fellow BJwaMG blogger J-Mac, because it's nearly impossible to change the opinions of the people I'm up against in this and it's not worth the frustration of banging my head against a wall.  My only contention is this: Overbay is not awful.  That's all I was arguing there.

On to more interesting notes:

  • MLBastian and Clarence rotation favourite Brian Tallet has been getting rocked in his recent starts.  Now, spring stats don't mean a whole lot, but I'm growing more in favour of Dana Eveland in the fifth spot and Tallet to the bullpen, especially if Carlson starts the season on the DL.  Cito still loves Tallet for his yeoman's work in the rotation, but isn't it a better reward to put Tallet where he has a history of success rather than the rotation where he, frankly, sucked?
  • FanGraphs' R.J. Anderson wrote a piece on the value of Jays reliever Shawn Camp, noting that he would likely come with a lesser price tag in a trade than Jason Frasor or Scott Downs.  It shows the depth and quality of the Jays bullpen that a player often considered the worst of the lot getting trade consideration.
  • David Purcey is turning into a reliever, while Ricky Romero is gaining success in the rotation.  Keith Law has been saying this all along.
  • Shaun Marcum is starting opening day.  Not much to comment on there, as he was the obvious candidate.
I notice that we have yet to comment on the Hechevarria.  All our hard-hitting team of analysts came back with was 'awesome!' and 'playoffs!!!!11!!,' so it was hardly worth posting that.  The fact that he's starting in Double-A is notable since starts within shooting distance of the bigs. It also gives the Jays a pretty steady stream of legitimate shortstop prospects from AA to low-A: Hechevarria, Jackson, Pastornicky, and Pierre.  Surely one of them will pan out, right?  And one of the others can man third.

Monday, March 15, 2010

On Overbay, and why I want him to go away.

Following up on a mini argument that I had on Twitter last week with fellow BJwaMG author JW, I feel that I must no justify exactly why I feel that Lyle Overbay is not useful.

When the Jays traded for Overbay in December of 2005 it was widely believed that they had acquired a player capable of hitting .300, belting 20 home-runs, driving in 100 runs and leading the American League in doubles.

Instantly, fans were rewarded. In 2006, although he didn't lead the AL in double and he didn't quite get to 100 rbi's, Overbay hit a solid .312 batting average, and a career high 22 home-runs. Pair that with his above average defense and Jays fans had all the reason they needed to believe in Overbay. With the solid tools that he possesses it seemed like there was even some room for improvement.

Since then, though, and partially due to injury shortened seasons, Overbay has never been able to regain his form. Although I believe that he still has the ability to be a high impact player, I've lost faith in Overbay, and I don't believe that he will ever again come close to reaching his potential.

The main point in the argument that Overbay is a useful player is his consistently high on-base-percentage. Although I would normally support this argument, it has never amounted to either runs scored or RBI's for Overbay, who declared shortly after being traded to the Jays that, “If I'm scoring runs or driving in runs, that's all that matters.”

Last year, he ended up seventh on the team in RBI's per plate appearance. That just doesn't cut it for a guy who should be hitting in the middle of the batting order.

More telling though, since OBP is supposed to be his saving grace, is his number of runs scored per plate appearance. Of Blue Jays who had more than 100 plate appearances last year only Chavez, Millar, Rios, and Barajas had lower runs scored per plate appearance averages.

You could argue that Overbay would score more runs if he hit higher in the order. I would tell you that you can't bat him higher in the order because he strikes out too much. Only Ruiz, Snider, and Bautista had a higher strike out per plate appearance ratio last season.

What this tells me is that Overbay isn't achieving his potential because he simply isn't putting the ball in play often enough. Being among the team leaders in OBP is great, but being among the team strike-out leaders, without driving in or scoring runs, isn't. Only Hill and Lind had more total strikeouts last season, and I don't think there's any need to point out their runs scored and RBI totals.

Ultimately, it's easy for Overbay to get walks. We all know the kind of power that he is capable of, and so does every pitcher he faces. He has no threat behind him so there's no harm in letting him on base. For Overbay to be useful on this team he has to find a way to turn a few more of his walks, and many more of his strikeouts, into balls in play. His walks won't turn into RBI's any time soon.

I also did a quick check against some of the greatest hitters of our time, and the greatest hitter of all time, to see how Overbay has stacked up over his career when he has put the ball in play. I looked up the career batting average on balls in play for Albert Pujols, Alex Rodriguez, Ken Griffey Jr., Barry Bonds, Ichiro Suzuki, and the great Pete Rose. Overbay's career BAbip was higher than every player on the list except Ichiro.

Get the bat off you're shoulder, Lyle. You're role on this team isn't to sit back and take walks.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Wednesday Notes

by jw

Gonna try to cover a few points quickly, hopefully stealing post ideas from J-Mac.

Divisional Realignment?

There has been talk from semi-influential sources about a sort of floating divisional realignment, where if, say, Cleveland wanted to join the AL East and Tampa wanted to join the AL Central for a season they could swap.  In this example Tampa would have a good chance of making the playoffs, while Cleveland, who have little shot at the playoffs anyways, could gain revenue from playing in the same division as the Yankees and Red Sox.  Obviously this whole scheme was brought forth with Tampa, Baltimore, and Toronto in mind.

Better people than I (and also the Drunks) have discussed this, and Neyer pointed out some of the practical flaws of a system like this - notably the unlikelihood of two teams agreeing to switch divisions at the same time.  Regardless, at the very least some people around Major League Baseball are taking note of the competitive imbalance and are proposing solutions.

I think there are about three camps within Jays fans on the topic: that it would mean more to beat the Red Sox and Yankees in order to make the playoffs (see: Rays, 2008), that the divisions are fine they just need a balanced schedule between divisions, and 'screw it, just pick the option that gets us to the playoffs fastest.'  I think I lean more toward the second camp, but I will note that according to team WAR numbers the Jays have been a top five team these past four years and they would have likely made at least one playoff appearance had they played in the Central.  Also: they were 23-15 against AL Central teams last season.  Just saying.

Jason Frasor Trade Rumours

Jason Frasor's name has been mentioned a few times in connection with both the Cubs and now the Twins who have lost closer Joe Nathan to injury.  It seems like a no-brainer that if Alex Anthopoulos can get a decent prospect for Frasor he would pull the trigger - even if he has to eat Frasor's salary - and it's quickly becoming a seller's market on the once-castigated right hander.

On the other hand, Frasor seems to be a good bet to claim Type A free agent status this coming offseason - especially if he's traded and gets the closing job - so any team seeking a deal would have to send the Jays value at least equal to one year worth of a good reliever, a supplemental round pick, and a second round pick (I've given up the hope of netting first round picks with Blue Jays free agents).  That's a rather substantial package and the other teams may not be willing to meet Toronto's price, so we may not be at the end of the Jason Frasor era in Toronto yet.

It was only a year ago that fans were calling on the team to just non-tender Frasor, wasn't it?

Saturday, March 6, 2010

Spring Optimism

by jw

It seems we do this every year, doesn't it?  Spring training comes around and the players whose value we questioned have suddenly become heroes when they play well in meaningless games.  It was not too long ago, while the Morrow-League trade was going down, that JP Arencibia's (left, courtesy of phxwebguy) name was mentioned as possibly being the minor league player sent to Seattle, and I thought good, I'm tired of being disappointed by him.

A few games into Spring Training, with a couple home runs by Arencibia, and suddenly my opinion has shifted again.  Maybe its the warm weather, but I'm feeling optimistic again about the Blue Jays' Catcher-Of-The-Future (part viii).

As beat reporter Jordan Bastian states in Friday's article, Arencibia was apparently having trouble with his vision during the 2009 season, making it harder for him to see at night.  According to his splits, he hit .284/.338/.432 during the day, as opposed to .227/.274/.446 as night.  With his Lasik surgery this offseason it seems reasonable that his numbers will look more like the daytime line this coming season.

His major offensive flaw through the minors has always been his walk-rate and on-base percentage, but if we consider his daytime batting line more in line with his capabilities, a .338 on-base is not that bad and is an improvement on his batting average driven .320 OBP from 2008.

Arencibia has legit power, good defence, and seems to be improving his walk rate.  This should be the season he makes his major league debut in September if not sooner, and with a good showing in the minors and the majors he could make a claim on the starting catcher job as early as 2011.