Posts Tagged 'dustin mcgowan'

Riding With the Wind, ’14: Ready to Go

It’s been interesting since the end of the 2013 season, with fewer moves than expected, rampant speculation, rumours, intrigue, disappointment, and, finally, resigned acceptance.  Without further ado, here’s the 2014 Toronto Blue Jays’ Opening Day 25-man roster with some brief comments:

Starters

RA Dickey; Mark Buehrle; Brandon Morrow; Drew Hutchison; Dustin McGowan

  • There are 2 surprises in Hutch and McG, but they’re good surprises–they both have significant injury concerns but they both pitched very well in Spring Training;
  • Brandon Morrow will once again be a key to the success/failure of the Toronto Blue Jays this season.

Relievers

Casey Janssen; Sergio Santos; Steve Delabar; Brett Cecil; Aaron Loup; Jeremy Jeffress; Todd Redmond; Esmil Rogers

  • This is the strength of the 2014 Toronto Blue Jays, just as it was in 2013;
  • Redmond and Rogers competed for the 5th spot in the rotation, but pitched poorly enough in ST to be relegated to the ‘pen as long relievers/spot starters;
  • this, while somewhat disappointing, gives the Jays admirable depth behind Morrow/Hutch/McG;
  • JA Happ was perhaps the biggest disappointment of ST as he was virtually handed the 4th spot in the rotation;
  • Happ’s back flare-up saved the Jays from having to cut a player who was out of options (Redmond; McG; Rogers; Jeffress), or service time issues (Happ);
  • with the speight of recent pitching-related injuries in MLB, the Jays didn’t need another Ervin Santana type of fiasco by losing a quality arm.

Catchers

Dioner Navarro; Josh Thole

  • Dioner Navarro is a significant upgrade over JP Arencibia in every facet of the game;
  • Thole beating out Erik Kratz was a surprise, as Kratz commended himself with a good ST, however, Thole does have years of experience catching RA Dickey;

Outfielders

Jose Bautista; Colby Rasmus; Melky Cabrera; Moises Sierra

  • Anthony Gose played his way to AAA Buffalo–he may never hit at the big league level;
  • Sierra isn’t ideal as a 4th OF, but he has improved and he’s out of options;
  • Sierra will also see time at DH and possibly 1B against LHP;
  • There are several questions here, and most of them relate to health: if these guys can stay healthy, they can be formidable and productive;
  • the one question that isn’t directly related to health is this: who is the back up CF?  Can a tumour-free Melky spell Rasmus every now and then…?

Infielders

Edwin Encarnacion; Ryan Goins; Jose Reyes; Brett Lawrie; Maicer Izturis

  • Ryan Goins may not hit his weight, and he only weighs 185 lbs.–his defense will need to be Wizard-esque to carry his bat if he doesn’t figure it out pretty soon (Mazeroski-esque is better since he was a 2B, but you get it, right?);
  • Adam Lind will slot in at 1B as well, as might Moises Sierra;
  • Edwin, Reyes and Lawrie NEED to stay healthy: Reyes has a slight hamstring issue and Edwin was plunked by the Yankees (no Granderson payback, I’m sure), but all reports indicate that they’re both okay;

Designated Hitter

Adam Lind

  • chronic back issues and an inability to hit LHP are the questions here;
  • however, both of those issues, while disconcerting, are answerable with the roster as constructed: Sierra and Encarnacion figure to see time at DH, plus possibilities like DH-ing Bautista and getting Sierra to patrol RF are also reasonable game-to-game scenarios.

The Bench will be comprised of Josh Thole, Moises Sierra, and Maicer Izturis and, as you can see, it’s a weakness.  Bounce-back years from Thole and Izturis will help considerably, as would one more player (such as uber-versatile-recent-pick-up-but-more-recently-cut Matt Tuiasosopo).  The problem is that the rotation has health concerns (Morrow; Hutch; McGowan), so the ‘pen needs to be fortified.  The ‘pen has guys who fill the role of swingman or long man, but several of them are out of options (Redmond; Rogers; Jeffress).  This stars ‘n’ scrubs roster was constructed with the related factors of health, depth and options playing vital roles.

This season won’t be like 2013.  Not only does it lack the hype and correspondingly high expectations; it lacks answers to some significant questions leftover from 2013.  The only way we’ll get those answers is by letting them play out over time.  The first several weeks of the season will be very telling for the Toronto Blue Jays.

Opening Day is exciting enough, as the season still has yet to unfold.  This one will be very special as Dustin McGowan is scheduled to start for the Blue Jays against Masahiro Tanaka of the New York Yankees.  Wouldn’t it be nice if the Jays play well this year, and we can sit back in November and say ‘that game set the tone for the whole season’?  Here’s to hoping…

Don’t let the lunatic fringe get you down if the Jays stumble out of the gate.  It could be worse: you could be watching darts.  Enjoy it for what it is.  Go Jays go!

Wes Kepstro

 

 

 

 

 

 

Riding with the Wind, ’14: Signing Santana Opens Doors

Of course it does, Kepstro…haven’t you kept tabs on the situation since last Saturday?  Well, there’s a new wrinkle, potentially, that could emerge, and it might benefit the Jays significantly.

Over at mlbtraderumors.com, someone asked Steve Adams in the Weekly Chat about the Atlanta Braves’ new situation.  Brandon Beachy and Kris Medlen might be out for a long stretch and that team is built to win now.  The problem is that they’re at or near their payroll limit.  Ervin Santana might be no more than a pipe dream for Braves’ fans (the same can be said to/about Jays’ fans), or they might just plain lose out on him.  What can they do if Santana signs elsewhere?

Well, think along with me for a moment.  If the Jays win the Santana sweepstakes, one of their pitchers gets bumped down the depth ladder.  They already have several guys who are out of options who are candidates to be part of the rotation, including Dustin McGowan, Todd Redmond, and Esmil Rogers.  The Jays will need to move one or more of them.

The Bravos will still need an arm or two, and may need to bring a prospect up before he’s ready.  Steve Adams speculated that perhaps Atlanta would look to add an out-of-options arm (he mentioned Kevin Correia), or another inexpensive choice.  The Jays not only have out-of-options arms, they also have JA Happ, all of whom would be well within the Braves budget.

I don’t know if this will happen—there are a lot of contingencies and things that need to fall into place—but it’s one of the scenarios that the Jays face.  Let’s hope it comes to fruition: the Jays are the winning bidder for Santana AND THEN someone comes looking for their surplus arms.  It could happen, right?

Wes Kepstro

The Toronto Blue Jays, 2014: Riding with the Wind

Last season we borrowed from the images painted by glam rocker David Bowie in his classic, ‘Space Oddity.’  Major Tom’s tragic mission strangely anticipated the Jays’ own on-field tragedy.  High hopes led to disappointment in a flurry of injuries and poor performances.

Will this season be any different or will it be more of the same, results-wise?  Jimi Hendrix saw beauty at the Monterey Pop Festival.  He wanted to take that beauty and put it to music, so he thought of the experience and personified it in the form of a woman.  “Little Wing” was the result.  If you’re unfamiliar with Monterey Pop, Jimi Hendrix, or ‘Little Wing’, open another window in your browser, do some reading/listening, and come on back.  If you’re not interested, then this isn’t the blog for you.

The lyric ‘riding with the wind’ evokes an image of Jimi’s ‘woman’ soaring free, no longer earth-bound.  Riding against the wind is difficult, wastes precious energy, and often forces a traveller to seek shelter.  ‘Riding with the wind’ captures an elemental force of nature that can’t be controlled, just harnessed.   It’s about time for the Jays to harness the wind and loose the surly bonds of gravity.

The off season has been as quiet for AL Eastbound bloggers as it has been for the Toronto Blue Jays.  This blogger has had a tumultuous winter, but is ready and rarin’ to go for the 2014 season.  Can the same be said about the Jays?  TOR traded Brad Lincoln for Erik Kratz, signed catcher Dioner Navarro, cut ties with JP Arencibia, and they may be on the verge of signing Ervin Santana to a 1-year deal.  In other words the Jays, fresh from a 74-88 season, have inflicted a nauseatingly-inactive (passive?) off season on their fans.

They needed pitching, a catcher, a real 2B, and perhaps another OF.  They got Navarro and Kratz, and then complained about giving Navarro too much money over too many years.  Welcome to Toronto, Dioner.  Wait, wait, wait…after a tough season, we don’t need to start this one by complaining.

One thing we can say categorically about the Jays is that they are deeper, roster- and organization-wise, than they have been in years.  This is a good thing.  If Morrow goes down for a few starts I’d rather replace him with Esmil Rogers or Todd Redmond (or Sanchez or Stroman…drool, drool, drool) than Chien-ming Wang, Aaron Laffey, Ramon Ortiz, or, heaven forbid, Brian Tallet.

Also, a healthy RA and Melky and Rasmus and Bats and Reyes and Edwin are better than an unhealthy group with the same names.  Josh Johnson was bewilderingly bad as well as injured, so expectations coming into 2014 were murky.  Drew Hutchison is strong and healthy, and JA Happ, Kyle Drabek, and Dustin McGowan are all talented, somewhat healthy, and competing for roster spots.  Melky doesn’t have a tumour on his spine any longer, meaning LF might not be such an adventure.

That leaves second base.  Last year the carousel included, but was not limited to, Emilio Bonifacio, Maicer Izturis, Munenori Kawasaki and Ryan Goins.  Goins was the cleanest of the dirty shirts, ‘tho Mune gave us a lot of smiles while he filled in for Jose Reyes.  He performed passably at 2B.

The Jays plan to go with Goins at 2B (read, ‘it’s his job to lose’).  Ryan Goins is a shortstop, 25 years old, and doesn’t hit very well.  He’s their secret weapon at 2B, because the others proved they couldn’t handle it last season.  Several rumours (Brandon Phillips, Stephen Drew, Gordon Beckham, Darwin Barney, Nick Franklin, Dustin Ackley, etc.), have surfaced at one point or another only to disappear just as quickly.  It’s always come back to Goins.

Ryan Goins probably isn’t as good defensively as he showed in his 2013 cameo; let’s hope his offense is better than he showed in his 2013 cameo.  He’s one in a long line of good-field-no-hit middle infielders, of which the Jays have had a few.  Even in their heyday in the early ‘90s, they were going to run Manuel Lee or Dick Schofield out there and try to win a title.  Other teams have done the same sort of thing, some very successfully.  One key to success is the quality of the defense.  If it can offset significant shortcomings at the plate, then there’s a chance that he can contribute positively.  Other players in this mold include Ozzie Smith (maybe the best of this type), Bert Campaneris, Omar Vizquel, Larry Bowa, Mark Belanger, Bill Mazeroski, and from way, way back, Marty Marion.  Another key is the strength of the team’s overall offense.  If it can compensate for one black hole in the line-up, the chances of success are greater.

One thing that can be said about the 2014 season: it’s a book that is yet to be written.  The promise of so many pristine blank pages is alluring and exciting.  It’s part of what keeps us coming back for more, no?  Play ball!

Wes Kepstro

 

 

 

Mission ’13: A Mindset Informed by Chris Carpenter

I’ve been following the 2013 playoffs, but not very closely. A story that’s emerged is that Chris Carpenter may be at the end of a storied successful career. Perhaps it’s ironic that his career will come to a close with him on the 60-day DL. Perhaps it’s not. An imposing physical specimen (6’6”, 230 lbs.), Carpenter has struggled to stay healthy. He’s made no fewer than 13 trips to the disabled list. Five of those occasions saw Carp on the 60-day DL.

Drafted by the Toronto Blue Jays in the first round of the 1993 draft, the Jays believed he was an ace-in-waiting.

The timing was good as the team was coming off back-to-back World Series titles and everyone knows that good teams are built on the talent that’s drafted and developed from within, don’t they? I guess we could say that, of all the things it takes to become a champion, talent developed from within the organization is indispensable. And the immensely talented Chris Carpenter was at the top of the class within the Jays’ organization.

Carpenter developed steadily and made the jump to the Majors in his 4th season of pro ball. The results in the minors from 1994-1997 were mixed, and he looked overmatched in his first taste of the big leagues (81.1 IP/108 H/5.09 ERA). He walked 37 and only struck out 55. It’s not Matt Harvey territory, but it was a start.

Everything improved in 1998, as Carp appeared in 33 games, 24 of which were starts. But the really important thing was that he was learning from fellow starters Roger Clemens and Pat Hentgen, and from veteran catchers Benito Santiago and Charlie O’Brien. Sunshine and lollipops, man, sunshine and lollipops.

Chris Carpenter was an established major league pitcher by 1999 and made 92 starts (24, 34, then 34) over the next 3 seasons. He also suffered his first minor injury in 2001, as he was bothered by right elbow pain. Looking back it’s sort of ominous, but that’s what hindsight does: it makes us all seem like geniuses.

2002 was a different story. He missed 108 games, making 13 relatively ineffective starts in and around visits to the disabled list. Out of options and with 2 separate trips to the DL (a 15-day stint and a 15-day-transferred-to-the-60-day stint), the Jays tried to assign him to the minors. He refused and became a free agent. Chris Carpenter’s career with the Toronto Blue Jays was over after 152 G (135 starts), during which he compiled a maudlin 49-50 record and 4.83 ERA in 870.2 IP. The dream of a 1-2 punch of Chris Carpenter and Roy Halladay barely got off the tarmac before it crashed and burned.

His career with the St. Louis Cardinals has been somewhat different. He’s compiled a 95-44 record and 3.07 ERA over 1348.2 IP. The disparity is painful for Toronto Blue Jays’ fans. Did the Jays’ brass err in allowing him to get away? What would it have cost them to keep him? Well, the Cards took a chance and knew they were taking a chance, but Tony LaRussa and Dave Duncan were at the helm. They’d been responsible for more than one career resurrection over the years: think Dennis Eckersley, Dave Stewart, and Bob Welch. All 3 had been effective pitchers previously, but their careers were on the wane; all 3 enjoyed a resurgence under LaRussa’s and Duncan’s guidance.

Chris Carpenter was a different kettle of fish, though. The upside is that he was much younger than their other reclamation projects. The downside was that he represented much more of an injury risk than their other reclamation projects.

This is where LaRussa, Duncan and the St. Louis Cardinals’ brass needs to be commended. They signed Chris Carpenter as a free agent just before Christmas, 2002 (12/13/2002), to a 1 year deal worth $300,000 with an option for 2004. He missed the entire 2003 season because of shoulder surgery; they declined his option. The Cards signed him to another 1-year deal at the beginning of December (12/01/2003) with an option for 2005, and he was Comeback Player of the Year in 2004 (15-5, 182.0 IP, 3.46 ERA). They exercised his 2005 option and then he went out and won the Cy Young Award (21-5, 2.83). He made $2.6MM in bonuses in 2005 and $200,000 in bonuses in ’04

It was a gutsy move by the Cards and it worked out well. Or did it? He started 28 G in ’03-’04, and was left off the playoff roster after both seasons. The Cards are sort of the NL version of the Boston Red Sox: they aim for the playoffs, and when they get there, they expect to go deep. Chris Carpenter didn’t pitch at all in ’03 and helped them make the playoffs in ’04. But in 2005, he was brilliant. He pitched well in the playoffs before the Cards were dispatched in the NLCS. What to do, what to do, what to do…?

The Cards signed him to a 2-year, $13MM deal, laden with incentives and a 3rd year option that would vest based on reaching various performance-related goals. Carp was very good in 2006 (15-8, 221.2 IP, 3.09). It wasn’t up to the standard he set during 2005, but no one was complaining. Oh, and the Cards won the World Series. Carp pitched 8 innings of 3-hit ball, didn’t walk anyone, and struck out 6 in his only start. He pitched 32.1 innings in the playoffs and, though the Mets knocked him around, his postseason ERA was 2.78 in 5 starts.

Then he started 5 ML games total in ’07-’08. Then he made 97 starts from ’09-’11, with 2011 culminating with another strong playoff performance and another World Series win for the Cards. They went to the NLCS in 2012 and Chris Carpenter pitched well again.

Since he established himself as a major league pitcher (1997-1998), Chris Carpenter pitched 3 different sets of 3 ‘full’ seasons in his career: 1999-2001, 2004-2006, and 2009-2011. The other years have seen Chris Carpenter’s career decimated by injuries: 13 G in 2002-2003, 5 G in 2007-2008, and 3 G in 2012-2013, or 21 G in 6 years.

Why did the Cardinals stick with him? Frankly, I don’t know. Toronto also saw the talent and the injuries, and still tried to hang on to him. He chose free agency then missed sizable chunks of his Cardinals career, including his entire first year with them.

Is there a lesson here for the Jays? I think so. The Jays currently have 4 pitchers who are very talented but also very injury prone: Dustin McGowan, Brandon Morrow, Kyle Drabek, and Josh Johnson. I suspect that at least one of those pitchers will make a significant contribution in 2014, and all of them have the talent to do it. The Jays showed that they were learning when they signed the oft-injured Dustin McGowan to a 2-year contract, and he made a contribution in 2013. The other 3 represent 3 pretty different situations:

  • Morrow’s a shoe-in for the 2014 rotation if he’s healthy;
  • Kyle Drabek is coming off his second Tommy John surgery, but threw the ball well in AAA and the ML when given the chance—his control/command are the main issue;
  • Josh Johnson pitched poorly for the most part in a free agent year and has a checkered history when it comes to injuries.

The average of the top 125 ML salaries is $14.1MM; this is the value of the qualifying offer that a team can make on a one-year deal to their own prospective free agent. The Jays would be looney tunes to make a QO to Johnson. However, a one-year deal loaded with incentives makes sense, n’est-ce pas?

The Toronto Blue Jays have a chance to sign a pitcher the calibre of Josh Johnson to a peanuts-level contract loaded with incentives, and turn him into a mid-to-bottom-of-the-rotation guy. After all Chris Carpenter went from $3.45MM to $300K contract with an option and incentives. I know it’s not a straight-line comparison, but why the heck wouldn’t they do it? If they’re all healthy and in the rotation, can Morrow, McGowan, and Johnson average 2.5-3.0 fWAR each? The entire starting rotation produced 7.0 fWAR in 2013.

Wes Kepstro

Mission ’13: Pitching: Whatever Went Wrong, It Wasn’t the ‘Pen’s Fault…

Welcome to installment #2 in our end-of-season-mop-up-with-a-view-to-2014 look at the pitching staff. I knew installment #1 was long, but I didn’t realize how long. Hopefully in keeping with their relative length of stay in a game, our overview of the relief corps will be shorter. No promises, though.

We’ll use the same motif to try to get a handle on what the bullpen did, and perhaps even what it can offer in 2014. Without further ado, here’s our table:

RP

G

ERA

FIP

xFIP

fWAR

Delabar

55

3.22

2.72

3.35

1.4

Janssen

56

2.56

2.74

3.09

1.3

Cecil

60

2.82

2.88

2.99

1.0

Santos

29

1.75

1.84

2.61

0.9

Loup

64

2.47

3.32

3.31

0.8

J Perez

19

3.69

3.71

3.39

0.2

Jenkins

10

2.70

3.95

4.25

0.2

McGowan

25

2.45

3.67

4.20

0.2

Wagner

36

3.79

4.13

3.53

0.2

L Perez

6

5.40

1.85

2.67

0.1

Jeffress

10

0.87

3.43

2.44

0.1

Lincoln

22

3.98

5.48

5.91

-0.3

By the way, the TP samples handed out with this material by Fangraphs weren’t used: http://www.fangraphs.com/leaders.aspx?pos=all&stats=pit&lg=all&qual=0&type=8&season=2013&month=0&season1=2013&ind=0&team=14&rost=0&age=0&filter=&players=0

  • minimum 10 appearances (except L Perez);
  • notable exclusions: the recently-retired Darren Oliver, Ricky Romero, & Kyle Drabek;
  • using our parameters the ‘pen produced 6.1 fWAR (the starters produced 7.1 fWAR);
  • 2 All Stars and a solid-if-unspectacular Closer led Hentgen’s boys in the ‘pen;
  • this table is ranked according to fWAR, but if you peruse the FIP/xFIP columns, they confirm that the Jays’ ‘pen was pretty strong;
  • AA’s desire to get RP who miss bats was successful, as 9 RP recorded 9.0 K/9 or higher;
  • at 0.85, Juan Perez recorded the highest HR/9 rate among the top 7 RP;
  • Steve Delabar made me think of Tom Henke in his early days: if Delabar wasn’t striking batters out (12.58 K/9), they hit their way on (.338 Babip) or walked (4.45 BB/9);
  • aside from Delabar, walks weren’t much of a problem with the guys who made the most appearances: of the 9 guys with at least 30 IP, only Cecil, J Perez, and Lincoln were above 3.25 BB/9;
  • of those 3 RP, 9 of Cecil’s 23 BB came in 11 July APP (9.1 IP), and 9 of Juan Perez’s 15 BB came in his last 5 APP (9.2 IP): not surprisingly, Cecil’s ERA rose from 1.47 to 2.81 and Perez’s ERA spiked from 0.00 to 3.69;

Okay, now to the tie some of this info together. We’ll use the same process as with the starters, but having 3 groups instead of 4: Keepers, On the Bubble, and Goner(s).

Keepers

  1. Steve Delabar
    • Re-sign this guy, and as soon as the ink’s dry get him in touch with the heavy ball program co-ordinator (who’s now an instructor with the Jays);
    • he has shut down stuff and was recognized with an All Star selection;
    • there’s no hint of complaint that he isn’t the Closer or desiring a more prominent role, more money, etc.;
    • he tired and was injured later in the season, but there’s no (major) concern;
    • he’s a high-quality set-up man: perhaps the Jays’ best since Duane Ward;
  1. Casey Janssen
    • Who would have thought that the Jays would get 2 high-quality seasons as the Closer from Casey Janssen?;
    • he has 117 SO, a 2.55 ERA and is 56-61 in save opportunities in his last 2 seasons as the CL, covering 116.1 IP, but he’s been terrific since the start of 2011;
    • It’s a lead pipe cinch that the Jays pick up his $4MM option for 2014;
  1. Brett Cecil
    • Cecil broke out as a RP after using the heavy ball program recommended to him by Steve Delabar;
    • an All Star selection highlighted a solid all-round season;
    • two wrenches have been thrown in the works, though: he ended the season on the DL, and he expressed a desire to move back into the rotation;
    • he’s arbitration-eligible and mlbtraderumors.com guesses that he’ll get ~$900K;
    • get him signed, give him a shot at starting in ST, then move him into the BP where his real value is found;
  1. Sergio Santos
    • 2 long, injury-filled seasons gave way to a successful recovery and a brilliant 29-game stint in 2013 (25.2 IP, 11 H, 5 ER, 1 HR, 4 BB, 28 SO);
    • an effective, healthy Santos combined with an effective, healthy Delabar giving way to an effective Janssen is the stuff of dreams;
  1. Aaron Loup
    • Loup was barely on the radar prior to his initial call-up in 2012;
    • Darren Oliver’s last 2 seasons allowed Loup time to develop into a good LHP out of the ‘pen, effectively replacing Oliver;
    • owing to his tendency to pound the zone (1.69 BB/9), he can get hit a little hard (.299 Babip; 10.6% HR/FB), but it’s a small price to pay for a LHRP of his quality;
  1. Dustin McGowan
    • he spent some time on the DL in 2013 but, as he pointed out, it’s the first time that he’s gone on the DL with something other than an arm/shoulder injury;
    • that said, like Cecil, he’s expressed a desire to return to the rotation;
    • he was effective without being stellar in 25.2 IP: he still has a high-90s fastball and can get hitters out pretty well (2.45 ERA) but the question is, and always has been, his durability/fragility;
    • I like him out of the ‘pen but drool at the prospect of having him offer legitimate rotation depth: he may be the perfect swingman;
  1. Luis Perez
    • I’ve always liked Perez, and sometimes that’s been a little irrational: he tends to be inconsistent;
    • he has 45 SO and 18 BB in his last 47 IP, covering 2012-2013: the BB rate is high(er) but the 2.5:1 ratio is nice;
    • I like his fastball, he seems to be fully recovered from Tommy John surgery, and a surplus of LHP is like having too much ice cream: it’s a nice problem to have;

On the Bubble

  1. Juan Perez
    • I honestly thought they should have dealt Juan at the deadline: he’s 34 years old and was having a career year, but alas…;
    • His injury status clouds his future as a part of the Jays’ organization;
    • If he’s healthy, I’d like to see them sign him to a Minor League deal, send him for rehab, then let him excel at Buffalo;
  1. Chad Jenkins
    • he’s a young guy who pitched well regardless of the role they gave him;
    • the problem is that his stuff doesn’t really “play” over the long haul: his BB/9 was super-low (0.98) in his brief stint (7 APP; 18.1 IP), thereby obscuring his very low K/9 rate (4.42);
    • Frankly, I think this guy would be solid in a big park with long grass or lots of foul territory, like O.co or Safeco;
    • otherwise, I’d like to see him in Buffalo for depth;
  1. Neal Wagner
    • I like Wagner: he put it all together in his age-29 season, was rewarded with a call-up, and pitched effectively;
    • he has a good, live fastball and dominated AAA;
    • if he’s willing, sign him to another minor league deal and have him start the year in AAA;
  1. Jeremy Jeffress
    • my oldest daughter has epilepsy so I have a soft spot for Jeffress;
    • the news that it was diagnosed this season and is being treated effectively with a medication regimen is very good: this may be the first time in his career that he has a realistic chance to reach, or even surpass, his potential and I think we got a glimpse of that after his call-up;
    • this means that I’d like to see him signed to a minor league deal, and send him to AAA to get established;

Goner(s)

  1. Brad Lincoln
    • I don’t care if he goes to Buffalo or is run over by a herd of buffalo: if I see him pitching in Toronto again, I may throw something through my screen. Seriously though, my arm’s not strong enough to do anything like that, but I think the disdain-fueled adrenaline rush gives me the extra MPH to get the job done. Think ‘Edsel’.

Okay, this is longer than I thought but you had nothing better to do anyways, right? Since we’re so many words into it (I confess to using some more than once), we might as well finish it. Here’s what I see from my admittedly-flawed perspective, based on a 13-man pitching staff:

Starters

Bullpen

Potential Swingmen

On the Bubble

1. ???

1. C Janssen, CL

JA Happ, LHP

J Perez, LHP

2. RA Dickey

2. S Delabar

T Redmond

C Jenkins

3. ???

3. S Santos

E Rogers

N Wagner

4. M Buehrle, LHP

4. B Cecil, LHP

C Jenkins

J Jeffress

5. J Johnson

5. A Loup, LHP

D McGowan

B Morrow (inj.)

6. L Perez, LHP

B Cecil, LHP

JA Happ

7. D McGowan

K Drabek

E Rogers

8.

T Redmond

D Hutchison

K Drabek

Obviously there’s room for pitchers to be moved around in this scheme and we haven’t given contractual status much consideration, but this is merely a skeletal framework based on the past. Equally as obvious is that some pitchers potentially fill more than one role. In that case, as you’ve probably noticed, I put them into all the categories into which I believe they fit. Other than AA’s stated desire to acquire at least a mid-rotation starter I have very little idea what the Jays plan to do, so I can comment meaningfully but I lack conviction.

Hopefully this serves as a decent guide or reference point for you as we look forward to the 2013-2014 offseason. The Jays have work to do, yes, but as you can see, there are a lot of pieces (20) with which to work and many of these pieces are high(er) quality. How many other teams have 5 quality LHP from which to choose? At the very least, their ML-calibre depth is encouraging: even the guys ‘on the bubble’ are pretty good options.

Wes Kepstro

It is with gratitude that I acknowledge that files from http://www.fangraphs.com, http://www.baseball-reference.com, http://www.mlbtraderumors.com and http://www.baseballprospectus.com/compensation/cots/al-east/toronto-blue-jays/ were used in the creation of this and the previous piece about the Toronto Blue jays’ pitching staff.

Mission ’13: Did Anthopoulos Boot a Routine Grounder in a Tight Game? A Response to Giving Him a ‘Pass’

Alex Anthopoulos does not get a pass from me. I’m not part of the radical fringe that screams for his head or whines game-in and game-out, but he’s responsible for this mess. I wouldn’t be upset if he was fired, I just don’t think it will happen. A results-based assessment recognizes that they’ve declined every year that he’s been at the helm. 2013 may be slightly better than 2012, but they had to double the payroll to do it.

I, too, think John Gibbons has done okay, given the teams’ indifferent/poor play and the overall circumstances (‘new’ manager; lots of new players). The problem is that someone needs to be held accountable and, since John Gibbons is AA’s man, the finger points at AA.

He rebuilt the farm quickly, then used it as currency to assemble a contender at the ML level. I like that strategy. As a matter of fact, it’s encouraging: it didn’t take long to restock a long-neglected aspect of the organization.

The problem is that the talent he assembled hasn’t contended. This problem is magnified by 2 other factors: an emptied farm; and different rules for draft pick acquisition. No longer can they sign the Miguel Olivos of the world for the purpose of acquiring a supplementary round draft pick when he signs elsewhere. Rebuilding the farm is more difficult now.

A Brief Review

I believe Jose Reyes, Mark Buehrle, and Mark DeRosa have lived up to advance billing. Reyes was injured for 60+ games, but that’s not surprising. When he’s played, he’s played pretty well. His defense isn’t great, but his offense has been good (.347 wOBA; 117 wRC+).

Buehrle had a rough start but has pitched as expected for some time now. He owns a 4.14 FIP and 4.17 xFIP for his career; this year they’re 4.18 and 4.19, respectively. He’s also on pace for 200+ IP.

Mark DeRosa’s real value has been on the bench: he’s a leader and he’s intelligent. On top of that, they’re getting unexpectedly good offensive production from him (7 HR, .328 wOBA, 104 wRC+). Offensively he’s playing slightly above the level of an average major leaguer, which is excellent for a utility player. It means the Jays don’t lose anything on offense when he starts occasionally or pinch hits.

Here’s the sordid side of the off season tale:

  • Maicer Izturis is the worst player in Major League Baseball;
  • ‘Ace’ RA Dickey presently has a FIP north of 4.75, which is 4th or 5th starter territory;
  • Melky Cabrera came injured, and has been one of the worst outfielders in baseball;
  • Emilio Bonifacio played so poorly in TOR that he’s already been dealt;
  • Josh Johnson is Ricky Romero 2.0. He may go down as the worst acquisition that the Toronto Blue Jays have ever made (at least Mike Sirotka didn’t play fast and loose with our hopes by subjecting us to AAA quality pitching);
  • Josh Thole catches Dickey, but he can’t hit and he’s not much better behind the plate than JPA; and
  • Mike Nickeas gave them veteran depth at catcher for AAA Buffalo.

Several other trades have produced a mixed bag of results, which is normal. Steve Delabar was a great pick-up, especially since Eric Thames did nothing with SEA and has since moved. Dumping Vernon Wells’ huge contract was a boon, as well. Other acquisitions (Brandon Morrow, Frank Francisco, Jon Rauch, Brad Lincoln, Francisco Cordero, Sergio Santos, Kelly Johnson, etc.) haven’t worked out very well.

What Can They Do?

I’d like to see Bautista dealt. It’s nearing the last opportunity to get a good return for him. His defense has been shoddy in the 2nd half—missed cut offs, misplayed balls, poor throws, etc.–and his offense is nothing like it was a couple of years ago. Trading him, plus some expiring contracts (Oliver, Rajai, etc.) may give them some wriggle room. The expiring contracts are (over) balanced by some arbitration cases (Rasmus, etc.) that loom.

The glaring weaknesses are: the rotation, left field, 2B, C and team consistency. The rotation needs 2 upper level pitchers but so does every other team in MLB except the Tigers. Where are the Jays going to find those pitchers? I don’t know. Someone may want to dump salary (LAA? TEX?), opening previously-closed doors, but I haven’t heard any rumours.

The free agent market, which AA is generally loath to use, isn’t very promising either. Perhaps they can re-sign Josh Johnson and get Tim Lincecum for serious bargains in the hopes that they’ll rebound from their poor performances. One problem is that dumpster diving hasn’t really worked very well for the Jays, partly because it’s a strategy they overuse.

I’d love to see them make a play for Cano, but that’s a pipe dream. Not only are the NYY and LAD likely to get into a bidding war but Jay-Z’s his new agent, and Jay-Z wants to make a splash. AA said he’s looking to go for a defense-first 2B. I don’t know who fits the bill here.

I’m not interested in Ellsbury: more injury-prone players are unnecessary. No, the next 100 games or so are make-or-break for Anthony Gose, AA’s ‘golden boy’. He pouted when he was demoted earlier in the season and has played poorly ever since (regardless of where he’s played). He’s yet another speed merchant that hasn’t performed because he doesn’t fit the Jays’ in-game strategy: they’re boppers, not bunters.

I don’t expect another year like this from Rasmus (Matt Klaassen wrote a good piece about him at http://www.fangraphs.com). I like what CLE and, to a lesser extent, BOS did when they acquired good OF. The Jays need a good all-round, reliable OF to play with Rasmus. They also need Colby to repeat his success this year…

Team consistency is likely going to be an issue again. The Jays have too many players who aren’t good enough to be consistent. Jose Bautista is a good player but a terrible leader. Leaders don’t argue, whine, or make as many misplays as he does. He’s also pretty inconsistent, and the team takes its cues from him. Adam Lind’s not consistent enough to play everyday. Then there are all the utility-level players (Rajai, Izturis, DeRosa, Thole, JPA, Kawasaki). These guys are a petrie dish for inconsistency, especially when they play full time.

Also if they don’t do something about their catching situation, they’re in trouble. They hitched their wagon to JPA, but he’s not a good catcher for reasons that have been flogged mercilessly. What other possibilities exist, though? How about Carlos Ruiz? Chooch is at the end of his tenure in Philly: he wants to stay, but they don’t seem interested. Another former ped abuser, nearing the end of his career, who isn’t wanted by his own team?

The Skinny

Adding it all up, the Jays need: 2 starters, a #1 catcher, a 2B, and an OF. Each one of these players needs to excel on offense or defense, preferably both. To acquire these needs, the Jays have: a bunch of underachieving MLers and a farm that’s been ransacked, but they’ve also ‘promised’ to maintain or increase payroll as necessary.

At this point my guess is we’ll see more of the same next year. There are too many needs and not enough talent or resources to fill all those needs, even if they trade roster players. They’d be selling low on almost everyone on the team. Also, do we seriously expect the ‘pen to be this good again?

Finally…

A key element of strong, contending teams is good homegrown talent. The Jays have Romero, McGowan, Lind, JPA, Lawrie, Pillar, and several ‘pen arms. Another element is good, astute trades that work out well. They haven’t been successful enough on the trade front for me to be confident that another round of trades will make a significant difference.

If Alex Anthopoulos is fired after the 2013 debacle, I won’t miss him. He’s not responsible for the poor play by good players, but he is responsible for the results. He assessed the talent, acquired the talent, but didn’t alter the talent. He’s given hope to the fan base, but it’s been a false hope.

In 2010, he promised 2 trips to the playoffs over the next 5 seasons. 2013 will be the 4th year of missing the playoffs under his direction, and the 19th straight overall. Pittsburgh and Kansas City have positioned themselves for the post-season, and Baltimore has leap-frogged the Jays in the AL East. Toronto is no longer the 4th-best team in their division: they’re the worst team 2 years running with only a fool’s hope of improvement. What more needs to be said? I used to sing his praises. Seeing as how I don’t think he’ll get canned, I won’t do that until anymore he gets some positive results. Why? I don’t trust him.

Wes Kepstro

Mission ’13: Aces Wild: RA Dickey’s Mediocre Season

Perhaps nothing encapsulates RA Dickey’s season better than his own comment after the Jays beat the Astros 12-6 on July 26: “I picked a good night to be very mediocre, that’s for sure”. The problem is that RA has picked a lot of [games] to be mediocre.

The season began with high hopes.  RA was coming off 3 good seasons, culminating in a Cy Young Award. You may recall that he was the first knuckle ball pitcher to accomplish the feat. Star knucklers Wilbur Wood, Phil and Joe Niekro, Tim Wakefield, Charlie Hough, and Hoyt Wilhelm never won it. (Similar to RA Dickey, Joe Niekro also won NL Sporting News Pitcher of the Year, but he was never a Cy Young winner.) This campaign, however, hasn’t lived up to the promise of his past 3 seasons.

RA’s made 26 starts this year, twirling 168.1 IP. He’s well on his way to a 200+ IP season: ZIPS (50 IP) and Steamer (47 IP) both have him pegged for 215+ IP. This is perhaps the only facet of the game in which he hasn’t disappointed. If it wasn’t for the bewildering pitch count restriction imposed on him (and the rest of the rotation), he might have reached 200 IP already.

Excursus: Has anyone else noticed that the pitch count hasn’t worked? Starters are getting injured anyways (Morrow, Johnson, Ortiz, etc.), and now the ‘pen staff is overworked and dropping like flies (Delabar, McGowan, Perez, etc.). But I digress…

So, what’s gone wrong? In short: everything. His K-rate is way down, his walk rate is way up, his home run rate is way up, his ground ball rate is way down, his strand rate is way down, his ERA and FIP are way up and his WAR is way down. It’s hard to succeed when so much has gone awry. This table should highlight the difficulties he’s experienced:

IP

SO/9

BB/9

HR/9

LOB%

GB%

ERA

FIP

xFIP

WAR

2013

168.1

6.84

3.05

1.44

71.6

41.0

4.49

4.78

4.39

1.2

2012

233.2

8.86

2.08

0.92

80.0

46.1

2.73

3.27

3.27

4.5

Sure, 2013 is only partially represented but I ask you: will the next 45-50 IP make much of a difference? He’s not striking out as many batters or inducing as many ground balls. His fly ball rate is up, as is his HR/FB rate (13%). He’s giving up more walks, but he’s not stranding as many base runners. All-in-all, it isn’t really a formula for success.

What’s been the greatest culprit in his downfall? Here’s how he’s done against the AL this season:

Versus the AL East, 2013

Opp

W

L

G

CG

ShO

ERA

IP

H

R

ER

HR

BB

SO

HBP

WP

BAL

0

2

3

0

0

7.71

18.2

22

16

16

5

10

13

1

1

BOS

0

1

1

0

0

13.50

4.2

10

8

7

2

2

5

0

0

NYY

0

1

1

0

0

3.86

7.0

4

3

3

2

1

4

0

0

TBR

2

1

5

1

1

3.00

36.0

24

14

12

4

13

30

0

1

Total

2

5

10

1

1

5.08

67.1

60

41

38

13

26

52

1

2

Versus the AL Central, 2013

Opp

W

L

G

CG

ShO

ERA

IP

H

R

ER

HR

BB

SO

HBP

WP

DET

1

0

1

0

0

2.57

7.0

6

2

2

1

1

4

0

1

KCR

1

0

1

0

0

1.42

6.1

5

1

1

0

2

4

1

0

MIN

0

1

1

0

0

7.71

7.0

7

6

6

1

2

3

1

0

CWS

1

1

2

0

0

5.73

11.0

12

7

7

2

2

7

2

1

CLE

0

2

2

0

0

3.75

12.0

10

7

5

2

7

11

2

1

Total

3

4

7

0

0

4.36

43.1

40

23

21

6

14

29

6

3

Versus the AL West, 2013

Opp

W

L

G

CG

ShO

ERA

IP

H

R

ER

HR

BB

SO

HBP

WP

TEX

1

0

1

0

0

1.59

5.2

7

1

1

0

3

3

0

1

OAK

0

0

2

0

0

2.08

13.0

12

5

3

1

3

9

1

1

LAA

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

SEA

1

1

2

0

0

5.27

13.2

14

8

8

4

4

10

0

0

HOU

0

0

1

0

0

7.50

6.0

7

5

5

1

2

8

1

0

Total

2

1

6

0

0

3.99

38.1

40

19

17

6

12

30

2

2

Inter-League, 2013

Opp

W

L

G

CG

ShO

ERA

IP

H

R

ER

HR

BB

SO

HBP

WP

ATL/SF

2

1

3

0

0

3.54

20.1

19

8

8

2

5

17

0

0

Total

2

1

3

0

0

3.54

20.1

19

8

8

2

5

17

0

0

And just for the sake of comparison: his performance versus the NL East, 2012:

Opp

W

L

G

CG

ShO

ERA

IP

H

R

ER

HR

BB

SO

HBP

WP

ATL

1

1

3

0

0

8.80

15.1

21

15

15

4

8

12

0

0

MIA

5

0

6

2

1

1.80

45.0

35

9

9

4

7

36

2

2

PHI

1

1

3

0

0

3.43

21.0

25

9

8

3

4

22

1

0

WAS

2

2

4

0

0

3.25

27.2

30

12

10

3

7

22

0

0

Total

9

4

16

2

1

3.47

109.0

111

45

42

14

26

92

3

2

If Pitcher W/L is one of your pet peeves, don’t get too hung up on it in these tables: they’re used only for illustrative purposes.  It is interesting to note RA’s HR/9 numbers: ALE, 1.73; ALC, 1.25; ALW, 1.41; Inter-League, 0.89; and 2012 NLE, 1.16.  Neck/upper back problems, a new league, a new team, a new pitching coach, post Cy Young letdown, playing in the AL East, and playing at the Rogers Centre have all contributed somewhat to his struggles.

Also of interest are RA’s home-road splits this season:

Split

W

L

ERA

GS

CG

ShO

IP

H

R

ER

HR

BB

SO

HBP

BK

WP

BF

WHIP

SO/9

SO/BB

Home

4

6

5.79

13

0

0

82.1

82

56

53

19

28

74

4

0

4

356

1.336

8.1

2.64

Away

5

5

3.24

13

1

1

86.0

77

35

31

8

29

54

5

1

2

360

1.233

5.7

1.86

Perhaps you noticed what I did.  Most of the numbers are strikingly similar but 3 categories stand out immediately: ERA, HR and SO. These suggest 2 things: first, that he’s more aggressive at The Rogers Centre, but that he’s getting killed for it; and second, that The Rog is a good hitter’s park.

RA Dickey had 3 good seasons as he developed and mastered the knuckle ball. Now his circumstances have changed dramatically. He pitches for a new team, in a different league, in a new park, with greater expectations placed on him. Lately he’s mused about the changes he needs to make in order to succeed in his new environment. Blue Jays’ fans can hope that his late-career adaptations continue to be successful.  Given the adversity he’s overcome in his personal life and his professional career, my guess is that he’ll figure it out by 2014.

Wes Kepstro


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