The Mockingbird

Archive for the ‘Baseball’ Category

Bolting the Barn Door on Burnett

with 9 comments


So the lip service from both the Blue Jays and A.J. Burnett is finally over and the Jays’ biggest free agent splash of the last decade has duly shuffled over to the Evil Empire just over halfway through his contract, for a boatload more money and time than the Jays were ever seriously considering. Well those grapes were sour anyway! Here is a rundown of the top 5 most statistically similar pitchers to Burnett according to Baseball-Reference through this point in his career, and where their careers went for the next five years from the age of 32 on.

Please note: this is purely meant for Toronto fans suffering through a cold, barren offseason and is in no way an attempt to be particularly scientific or predictive.

1. Pete Harnish

Coming off a career year, Pete put in another quality season at 32, logging 198 innings with an ERA of 3.68. His strikeout rate dropped, bu he won a career-high 16 games. Then his career totally went to hell – he only pitched another 166 innings over two seasons and logged a 5.09 ERA. Pete would tell you it was because he quit chewing tobacco and became clinically depressed, but we know better. He hit his expiry date.

2. Stan Williams

Stan was sent to the bullpen after a lousy April at the age of 32. He bounced back and forth and wound up salvaging a 3.94 ERA on the year, but would only start only one more game in his career after that. He had one year as a lights-out reliever (1.99 ERA), but was again mediocre at 34 and retired 3 games into the next season.

3, Juan Guzman

As I am sure you all remember, Juan’s career was already pretty seriously in the tank at this point. Except for a bizarre AL-leading ERA of 2.93 at 29, he hadn’t done anything since winning two world series in his first three years with the Jays so they dumped him to Baltimore. He managed to pull it together for one full season of 200 innings with a 3.74 ERA and then his career was toast (he was picked up the next season by the Rays, gave up 8 runs in his first 1 2/3 innings, and never pitched again).

4. Erik Hanson

Another familiar face! His velocity was already shot in his first year with the Jays (at 31), which sent his ERA up by about a run. By 32 his ligaments were well and truly spaghettified. After averaging 190.4 innings over the previous 7 seasons, he threw just 15 innings at the age of thirty-two, 49 the next season, and then done.

5. Kirk McCaskill

Similar to Stan Williams, McCaskill went from a really good starter at 31 to bullpen fodder at 32 after a lousy start to the season. And it prolonged his career a few more years as well – but he didn’t get that one more good year to show for it, posting a 5.05 ERA over three seasons in middle relief until retiring at age 35.

The next 5 aren’t much better than that horror show, but you get the idea. Except for a few high-profile automatons pitching into their 40′s lately, power pitchers in their 30′s aren’t really such a great investment. Of course this isn’t such an issue for the Yankees, who just want the cream of the free agent crop right now and can afford to swallow some major busts down the road. But I don’t need some stat dork to tell me that paying A.J. Burnett 16.5 million dollars to pitch when he’s 36 is going to be a farce.

And I’m actually kind of glad Nuke stuck around in the AL East, too – the Yanks would have gotten someone comparable like Derek Lowe anyway, and now we get front-row seats once A.J’s heater starts to lose a few mph and he trots out the old chestnut about how he’s going to start “pitching” instead of “throwing”, promises to bring his changeup out once in a blue moon, and maybe even mixes in his legendary cut fastball as the Bronx Zoo goes positively mental on him.

Written by halejon

December 18, 2008 at 3:46 am

The Right Wrong Call

with 4 comments

There was a strange play in game two between the Rockies and Diamondbacks last night. In the ninth inning with runners on first a third, a potential double play ball was hit to second. J.D. Drew’s brother, Steve, slid into the second baseman hard to break up the double play and the tying run scored. However, Mr. Drew did not notice that he had actually been called safe by the umpire because Tulowitzki was off the bag when he caught the flip from Kaz Matsui, and dutifully trotted towards the dugout, where he was tagged out. The commentators called it a “rookie mistake” and mentioned that the umpire had clearly made the “right call”, and it could have had a very big impact on the game- the difference between first and second with 1 out and they winning run on second, and only a runner on first with two away.

But really, Drew did baseball a favour. He jumped up because he knew he should have been out even if the shortstop was anywhere in the vicinity of the bag. Although he was technically off the bag, the phantom out is something that happens hundreds of times during the year, and is a totally accepted part of baseball. The player fielding the relay at second and trying to turn two just has to brush his foot by the bag somewhere around to the time he receives the ball, so he doesn’t get mauled by the runner coming in hard. It’s even how young players are taught to turn two properly. This is the third time in the playoffs a player has been called safe- it seems like umpires are being more strict about it and that’s just dumb. It’s like calling a textbook strike zone all of a sudden in the playoffs when nobody has done it all year. What are the fielders supposed to do now?? Guess if you’re going to be a jerk about it?

Here’s the play. It’s close enough. Give me a break…he could have touched the bag for sure if he’d had to, it’s not like he was trying to jump the gun. Nobody needs to see a rookie gold glove shortstop take spikes to the inner thigh on a routine out.


hype it up! :: Digg it

Written by halejon

October 14, 2007 at 4:59 am

Fielding Statistics are Pretty Useless

with 2 comments

Fielding statistics are the cutting edge in baseball statistics right now, full of complicated math and constant developments. There’s been a lot of progress since fielding percentage was the best thing out there. First came Range Factor, a simplistic but surprisingly effective way of looking at a player’s range based on how many times they touch the ball. But the big revolution was when STATS started manually (3 staff members record every game independently) tracking every batted ball and recording where it went based on a number of zones.


There have been a ton of defensive metrics developed since then (PMR, UZR and +/- are the most popular), but the data they crunch is all gathered in the same way. There are now two companies, STATS and Baseball Info Solutions (BIS), that collect play-by-play data and sell it for thousands of dollars to teams and organizations. Here’s an article talking about the difference between the two and how much they correlate. It mentions that:

During this year’s MIT Sloan Sports Business Conference, Rob Neyer told attendees that the evaluation of major league player hitting, pitching and fielding performance has been adequately addressed, and Bill James agreed with him.

Ok, so we’re done, right? Problem solved? Hardly! While I agree that the systems are ingenious, you don’t have to poke around much to find some huge inconsistencies between the two sources of data they’re analyzing, and it’s not the sort of thing that you can get around by comparing or weighting both sources or multiple systems. I was hoping that I’d totally overlooked something, so I sent in the following question to the Hardball times (ignore my typo, I meant RZR, and they returned the favour by calling me Jonathan G.)

I have a question about UZR. A lot of sites have Troy Glaus’ zone rating at .737, which is the worst in the American League. That makes sense seeing that he has been hobbled by plantar fasciitis this season. However, Hardball Times has his UZR at .706, which is among the best in the AL. He also has more balls fielded out-of-zone than most players, which makes his range look like the best in the AL other than Brandon Inge. I thought that UZR was just ZR separated into two different components. How could it give such a different impression of a players’ range?

- Jonathan G.

I was rather disappointed that the answer wasn’t just that I was being an idiot. As the Hardball Times said in their reply, the difference in Troy Glaus’ zone ratings is due to STATS and BIS (ESPN uses STATS, the Hardball Times uses BIS) recording very different totals for both the number of balls hit into Troy’s zone and how many he fielded; enough to swing his ranking between the second-worst and the second-best third baseman in the league (now, as opposed to when I asked the question originally).

First, the two companies have significantly different definitions of the size of a player’s fielding zone. STATS gives him a total of 281 chances, while BIS shows 204 balls hit into his zone and 48 plays made outside of it, for a total of 252. That’s a difference of 10%, but the zone doesn’t have to be that much larger; it makes more sense that it’s only a little bigger but a lot of balls were hit just outside BIS’s zone, because under their system Glaus leads the league in balls fielded outside of zone and wasn’t exactly known for his diving plays or lightning-quick first step this year.

As long as everyone used the same zones, using larger ones wouldn’t make a difference for figuring out a player’s relative ability. However, the two systems also differ by 15 on how many plays Glaus made, with STATS crediting him with 207 plays (281 chances, .737 ZR) and BIS 192 (144 in zone, 48 outside of it). So who’s right? In the article by Sean Smith mentioned in their reply, he points out that most putouts (which are mostly fly balls, line drives, etc.) don’t count as “plays” for the purposes of Zone Rating (unless a player fields a grounder and steps on the bag). Troy Glaus had 197 assists this season, so according to STATS he made an additional 10 plays by way of the putout. However, according to BIS, he completed 5 fewer plays than assists. In that case there had to be some unusual assists, such as a deflection to John McDonald that would give Glaus an assist but not credit for a play.

Either there’s a lot of human error, or there’s a really different definition of what counts as making a play. The BIS number is closer to the number of assists, but having watched Troy limp around out there and gaze wistfully at balls he would have dove for last year, I find the excellent ranking given by their system a little suspect, especially the huge number of balls ‘out of zone’ (48) he got to. But who knows? That’s one of the problems with secret, proprietary statistics. Unless someone has 10-20 grand lying around to delve into the raw data, there’s no way to know or to break it down and see what’s causing the difference or whose system could be leading to inaccuracies. And if the only two sources for play-by-play data available can report a player on absolutely opposite sides of the fielding spectrum, how can you take the results of all the fancy analysis based on them seriously? GIGO.

Written by halejon

September 27, 2007 at 1:54 am

Jesse Litsch – What Went Right?

with 11 comments

As I mentioned last week, Jesse Litsch has been all over the place as he learns on the mound this year. Fortunately, the good people at pitch f/x managed to capture his latest gem against the Yankees in all it’s glory, so we can dissect it to see what he’s figured out to get over his late-season slump.

Here is a graph of the movement on his pitches that befuddled the Yankees. As could be expected, it looks a lot more like his gem against the Mariners than when he was getting shelled. His changeup is back, and although it’s not dropping as much consistently, he’s throwing it more often than he ever has.

Also of note is that there isn’t much difference, if any, between his two big breaking pitches any more. This is good since his cutter/sinker/whatever has progressively started cutting further down and in this season. It has as much movement as his slider which almost makes that pitch redundant. Instead, Litsch is concentrating on a breaking ball that is halfway between his slow looping curve and faster slider, and throwing it as often as he was those two combined.

He was also getting his curve over for strikes low in the zone, and trying to back-door the Yankee’s left-handed hitters with it. Surprisingly, a lot of hit cutters ended relatively high in the zone, which is why he did get hit hard but for a lot of ground balls. He did manage to keep his tailing fastball low and away.

All in all, a nice way to end the year for the 22 year old – not just because he shut down the best offensive team in the majors, but because he did it with a return to consistency and a slightly streamlined approach that could help him continue that going into next season, wherever he ends up.

Written by halejon

September 25, 2007 at 5:44 pm

Somebody Call BJ Birdy

with 9 comments

Because the Jays are getting back to their roots. Next year the Jays will have a second “Home Alternate” uniform:


in addition to some other changes:

  • Change to road jersey lettering
  • Addition of sleeve patch to road jersey
  • Change to batting practice jersey lettering
  • Addition of alternate uniform (all-sky blue pullover jersey from the 80s)

As you can probably tell from the giant, gaudy banner, I just want to see the old classic logo from time to time instead of the current steel-grey, Tampa-Bay-ripoff garbage (incidentally, the Rays are undergoing a “Complete identity change including Club name and Club colors.” Yeah, that’ll get the fans back!!). Powder Blues were beyond my wildest dreams. I just pray that “alternate” means “every second day”, because those are amazing. I could probably hit a home run if the reward was trotting around the bases looking that fine…

Written by halejon

September 19, 2007 at 7:41 pm

The Call

with one comment

After a couple of questionable calls by the walking nightmare that is Kerwin Danley didn’t amount to anything, last night Coco Crisp legged out what looked like a sure double play to end the inning. The Doc cursed at the ump a few times, and then admittedly had a meltdown, giving up a home run on the next pitch followed (after some more cursing at Ellsberg for being a twit as he rounded the bases) by two straight doubles that iced the game.

So was it a bad call? The next inning they showed the only camera angle that you can tell anything from, and here are the important frames:

1) Just before


You can see the ball just about where Crisp’s foot is, as a streak downwards.

2) Impact


This is the shot that the broadcast stopped on, and it looks like he’s out. The ball is nowhere to be seen and it looks like Coco’s heel is down but he might not be quite on the bag. However, the ball isn’t in Overbay’s glove yet, it’s hidden in front of the corner of the bag as a white streak- you can sort of see the start of it over Crisp’s shoe. Because in the next shot…

3) After


The ball is clearly inside Overbay’s glove, but Crisp’s knee is already buckling and he’s clearly touched the bag.

Sorry for the lack of high-def, you may now proceed to stop your eyes from bleeding…anyway, it could have gone either way but this looks like a great split-second call to me. I’ll be back for the next 40 or so weeks with every other @#$@#$ call at first base that HAS been blown for the Jays this season.

Written by halejon

September 5, 2007 at 5:31 pm

K/9 vs. ERA by league

with 7 comments

For all of major league baseball:


Now broken down by the AL:


And the NL:


Written by halejon

September 4, 2007 at 12:35 am

Posted in Analysis, Baseball

Tagged with

Break it down

leave a comment »

Sorry, Tao of Stieb- your Youtube boyz have nothing compared to my man Jonny here:

Punchy and topical…Vote Gibby for GM of the year!

Written by halejon

August 20, 2007 at 6:21 pm

Posted in Baseball, Blue Jays

Tagged with

Prove me wrong, kid. Prove me wrong…

with 4 comments

A whole two weeks of decent hitting after I wrote this article saying that Russ Adams’ season had completely gone off the rails and his career with the Blue Jays was pretty much over, he’s back with the Blue Jays. And this isn’t even the Toronto Star messing around this time, it’s official.


In retrospect, sending Hector Luna straight to the majors when the team we got him from didn’t like him in AAA was a little silly. He looked lost at the plate and not much better in the field.

Adams had a few games at third before his promotion, so he will probably be used as an utility infielder, especially with Troy Glaus probably needing days off from now until the end of the year. His throws across the diamond could be a bit of a circus, but at least we have another lefty bat on the bench.

Written by halejon

August 17, 2007 at 5:33 am

Nothing Sacred

with 16 comments

Why was I not informed? This is probably the worst thing I have ever seen on a baseball field:


Just in case naming your stadium after one of the biggest economic frauds ever, then changing it to a product with the word “maid” in it wasn’t embarrassing enough. Just in case having a 300 foot left field fence and a home run porch sticking out of it hadn’t shown enough disdain for the subtlety of baseball. Just in case you didn’t think that making your novelty home-run train carry oranges instead of coal wasn’t quite enough of a sell-out, there are now cartoon cows on the freaking foul pole telling you to EAT MORE FOWL.

I know there are plenty of advertisements at the Rogers center, even on the outfield walls. But this is messing with one of the classic lines of the ballpark. What’s next? You could probably fit some double arches around the batters box. Maybe a logo or a swoosh or two along the foul lines? Bases are just crying out to be painted like credit cards, and the back of the mound is an empty canvas that is shown for most of every TV broadcast…

I will stop now because they’re probably listening. But I hereby vow that if this sort of thing ever comes to Toronto, I will not let mere incarceration thwart my vigilante attempts to remove them by whatever means necessary.

Written by halejon

August 13, 2007 at 6:52 am

Posted in Baseball, Blue Jays

Tagged with , , ,

Towers Calls out the World

with 5 comments


Fresh from calling out his team:

“We just gave the game away. Personally, that’s what I think,” Towers said. “Today was just a game that I felt we were in complete control of and we should’ve won and we didn’t. All around, it just wasn’t a great game played by us.

And then his coach:

“I don’t think we consistently show up as a coaching staff and as a team every day, and I think it shows sometimes.”

Tonight Josh Towers decided to put the best player in the game in his place by telling him to shut up and go to first base after he hit him in the shin. Then he threw in a shot at the universally adored Tony Pena:

“I heard somebody chirping when I was talking to Lyle (Overbay) and I didn’t think it was Alex and I asked who it was,” said Towers. “And Tony Pena is running his mouth and I was like, ‘What’s this guy running his mouth for? This dude is a quitter, he managed a team and quit in the middle of the season because he couldn’t hack it. He’s going to run his mouth to me?’ So I ended up getting into it with Alex a second time.”

Basically calling him mentally weak and unable to deal with personal failure. Which, granted, is something that Towers has a lot of experience dealing with. Notice I didn’t say ‘bouncing back from’, because after a half-decent month, Josh is back to having the second worst year of his career, and once A.J. Burnett comes off the DL, he will no doubt be removed from the rotation in favour of a 22-year-old who is still learning how to pitch.

So where is he going to go? Unless we’ve really given up on Jason Frasor, it looks like AAA. Which barring injury, would likely make that the last game Josh will ever pitch for the Jays. I can’t say I’m particularly disappointed since lately he seems to have graduated from the role of plucky underdog to that of self-important, posturing, muckraker.

“These guys didn’t back down at all,” said Towers. “Those guys ran their mouth a little bit and they came out pretty forceful and our guys stood up right to them. Ain’t nobody in here going to back down from anybody, especially in that situation.

“A lot of guys had my back and their own backs at the same time.”

Give me a break…this is baseball. Nobody cares how tough you looked out there when you get outhit 14-5 and lose by 7 runs.

Written by halejon

August 8, 2007 at 5:57 am

Quote of the Day

with 3 comments

Dan: “Where the heck did we get Luna?!”

Me: “Well he had a great season for the Cardinals last year and only wasn’t starting because he’s so useful for his versatility but then he came to spring training fat and made a lot of errors and they gave up on him.”

Dan: “Hey, that sounds like something the Blue Jays would do!”

I really like that they Claimed Luna off waivers. Yes it’s a longshot on an erratic, mentally unstable player, but instead of a major leaguer who nobody wants, think of him as a new, only slightly old, minor league prospect who is better than anyone else we have coming up. He’s the super-versatile player we wanted Jason Smith to be, but he’s as young as Russ Adams. He’s quick, walks, has a little power. And although he’s been frustrating for some teams, it’s not like he’s burnt out. He hasn’t even played a full season in AAA yet, and he was rushed to the big leagues- the fact that his major league totals are better than his minor league ones tells you something.

And back to the quote…doesn’t it seem like the Jays are a little rough on the young guys? Rios was almost out the door for some pretty mediocre talent when his power wasn’t even developing that slowly. (Compare Magglio Ordonez to Rios and you can see that Alexis was not the first “late” (wait…he was 25?!) bloomer).

I guess Russ Adams and Josh Phelps were legitimate scrap-heapers, but the way they just sat Adams on the bench for a season was bizarre. Then there’s the cycle of 1-outing appearances they gave Jamie Vermilyea and Gronk and Brian Wolfe this season until they accidentally Wolfe up long enough to figure out how to pitch. And finally…remember when we told Marcum that due to his strong finish to 2006 he had a shot at the starting rotation, and then we went out and signed a bunch of extreme longshots so he didn’t really? Can we at least fire a scout somewhere for that decision??

Written by halejon

August 6, 2007 at 4:27 pm

Posted in Baseball, Blue Jays

Tagged with ,

What Happened??

with 6 comments

Two years ago, Russ Adams was ending what looked like the first of many seasons as our starting SS and leadoff man. It wasn’t a great season, but our team wasn’t so hot that year either. And compared to the black hole that we’ve had there for years, a guy who could hit .260 with a little pop, a lot of walks and a few stolen bases was positively intoxicating.

His defence was lacking, but the team was so sure he would continue to improve that they took the other SS we drafted in the first round and stashed him at second, even though Aaron Hill has a much better arm. Now that’s confidence!

Then he pulled a Knoblauch on us.


And couldn’t even hit any more.

Three months into last season the Jays had seen enough and he lost not only his spot with the club, but his position. This was no short term demotion to iron out some kinks, or to “find himself”. He was knocking the cover off the ball in AAA, but they didn’t even treat him like a prospect any more, and just kept him on the bench for most of the season gathering rust.

Then they signed Ray Olmedo, John McDonald, Jason Smith and Royce Clayton to make sure they had shored up the middle infield with mediocre players just to remove any chance that he could get another shot due to injuries. There were a few positive articles on him and Jerry Howarth shot his mouth off about him coming back in 2008, but all that J.P. would concede was that he could earn his way back to the club (i.e. BE BETTER).

At the all-star break this year, reported when Hill was(n’t really) injured that Russ would be recalled, but now that Royce has been given the axe, it’s Olmedo who is going to fill in around the infield and maybe play some SS as well.

Anyway, now that I’ve got you all hyped about the walking epic tragedy that is the career of Mr. Adams, go on over to Flying Through the Farm/The Jays Nest and read an absolutely superb, in depth analysis of his stats in AAA this year. God, they do good work over there.

Written by halejon

August 3, 2007 at 5:49 pm

Posted in Analysis, Baseball, Blue Jays

Tagged with ,

A New Low?

with 12 comments

Two days after losing a pitcher’s duel to a kid’s first career home run, the Blue Jays managed to lose tonight to the worst team in baseball (6 wins in their last 30 games!) off a booming home run to left-centre by a guy who didn’t start the game because he has a sprained wrist.

Crawford always beats us, and just when it looked like it was physically impossible, he came off the bench for a couple innings and did it single-handedly (get it??) with a pinch run stolen base to tie the game and a miraculous, improbable, home run to win it in walk-off fashion.

“Oh, it didn’t feel good,” Crawford said. “I didn’t get a chance to loosen my wrist, I didn’t know I was going to be hitting today. I didn’t have a chance to loosen up. I took a hack and I missed it, kind of hurt a little bit.”

Then he smashed it 400 feet.

Do not adjust your set. This is the Blue Jays on the road. They were also had a number of chances to put this game out of reach close and late and failed miserably. But enough moaning…here are some tidbits that you might not actually know:

  • Jeremy Accardo is now leading the league for relievers with 8 against. True, our catcher’s aren’t great, but he’s much worse than our other relievers. Zaun didn’t have a chance to get Crawford even if he hadn’t 3-hopped it. The word is out on him- run, run, run.
  • Our Bullpen is one of the best in the league, but has a terrible record. Part of this has to be that we never give them any support. Close and late the team is terrible, and when trailing after 7, the team is 2-41. Losing BJ has had a huge effect- especially considering he was also at the top of the league in stranding runners even when he wasn’t closing a game.
  • Pitchers seem to have trouble with the Jays until they realize nobody on the team can hit a breaking ball. Ok forget it, you knew that.
  • John Gibbons used to be an Olympic hurdler.


Written by halejon

July 31, 2007 at 6:47 am

The J-Train’s Final Stop

with one comment

If there was ever a chance that Towers was actually going to be traded, last night sealed the deal. Not only did Josh pitch much better than his line of 4 runs in 5.1 innings would suggest (thanks, Tallet), but he ripped the entire team and coaching staff after losing the game.

“We just gave the game away. Personally, that’s what I think,” Towers said. “Today was just a game that I felt we were in complete control of and we should’ve won and we didn’t. All around, it just wasn’t a great game played by us.

“I just don’t think that we consistently put ourselves in positions to make plays ahead of time,” he continued. “I don’t think we were heads up. I don’t think we consistently show up as a coaching staff and as a team every day, and I think it shows sometimes.”


Are you kidding me?? Our marginal fifth starter, fresh off a season that would make most grown men put a bag over their head and move to a country that had never heard of this baez-boll you speak of, is preaching about consistency, calling out the defence (although only 8 other pitchers in the league can match his 3 errors this season) whining that he was on a short (90 pitches) leash, and blasting our bullpen for allowing 2 runs in 4 innings? What happened the hemming, hawing, a-couple-of-baserunners-just-broke-my brain-but-I’m-happy-to-be-in-the-bullpen-as-long-as-I’m-on-the-team Josh?


A month of decent starts and now he’s kicking ass and taking names. That game ticked the heck out of me, too, but I did the emotionally healthy thing and burnt my Jays jersey to a crisp on an impromptu mound Damaso Garcia style. Pissing on everyone else to the media is for whiners and, uh…above-average players. So I’m calling the shot- JT is out the door, for a bag of doughnuts if need be.

Written by halejon

July 28, 2007 at 5:55 pm

RSS Recent Posts

Recent Comments

Happ’s Grasp O… on New Blue Jay J.A. Happ is Over…
The Daily Duce: Tues… on More on the Wind vs. Dickey…
The Daily Duce: Tues… on Does closing the dome help R.A…
My Toronto Blue Jays… on Does closing the dome help R.A…
halejon on Does closing the dome help R.A…


RSS bluejays mlb


Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.