Posts Tagged ‘Blue Jays’
A quick post-mortem (literally) on Dickey’s start last night…remember from last post how sitting consistently around 79 mph was one of the keys to his Cy? Here’s a graph of his velocity (all types of pitches) from one of his stellar starts – a 12K one-hitter against the Rays as an example of how he’s throwing when at his best. Except for fastballs and at the very end of the game, Dickey threw over 80% of his knucklers in the 78-80 mph range back then:
And now here’s the same thing for him last night:
Not so much. It’s hard to tell, but it almost looks like he’s gone back to the ‘slower’ version of his knuckler that he for the most part ditched last season. Dickey also threw more fastballs than usual, including two that left the yard off the bat of Will Middlebrooks. The first time, Dickey seemed frustrated after allowing 4 consecutive hits to start the game, and put it on a tee for him on the first pitch — perfectly down the middle, straight as a board, letter high, 84 mph. Surprise value kinda goes out the window when you throw a meatball like that.
The second time, Dickey fell behind 3-0 on knuckleballs and then threw three fastballs in a row: 1) Called strike, 2) swinging strike 3) giant bomb on exactly the same pitch as in the first inning. I kind of get it if Dickey wasn’t feeling the knuckleball anyway, but seems like an odd call. Middlebrooks, again, was not so surprised.
Incidentally, I was in the first row behind the VIP section for that debacle (the best seat I have ever had and most likely ever will) and Dickey’s knuckle looked awesome as he warmed up between innings. He threw a half-dozen wicked darters for strikes that made me gasp, but once the cameras were on seemed to have trouble finding the plate with anything other than the slower, tumbling variety.
At first I was excited to learn that Romero is using pitch f/x information to diagnose his 2012 woes, but that passed quickly to outrage at the fact that it was provided in the form of printouts from Brooksbaseball by Brandon freaking Morrow. It continues to flabbergast me that teams show basically no interest in applying modern technology and analysis to get the most out of their multi-million-dollar investments on the field.
Romero is obviously open to and interesting in using this type of information, and the pitch f/x system takes an incredibly detailed picture of every pitch he throws. Yet, it takes a combination of internet hobbyists and a fellow pitcher taking the initiative for such stunningly useful and freely-available information to make its way to Romero, so he can be “amazed” by it. Le sigh. With apologies to Archimedes: give me a laptop and a place to stand in the dugout, and I will change your WAR!
Because yeah…in my not-so-humble opinion, Morrow botched the analysis (although obviously a standing ovation for him doing anything at all). When you look at more of Romero’s career than just the last two seasons, there is just no way to come to the conclusion that the key to Romero’s struggles is a lack of sinkers. He threw considerably more sinkers to RHB in 2012 (19.3%) than he did in 2010 (14%), and almost as many (16.1 compared to 17.5) to LHB. It was a mix that worked for him fine two (and three) years ago, not something that changed before the debacle that was Romero’s 2012 season.
***Note*** It’s up for debate/kind of arbitrary where your pitch-classifying algorithm draws the line between fastball and 2-seamer/sinker, as there is overlap in terms of movement as well as velocity. The way I split them, it’s a much more modest overall drop than Brooks’ numbers in terms of 2-seamers anyway, from 25% to 18% between 2012 and 2011. Here are a couple of graphs of pitch f/x ‘movement’ to give you an idea of the blurring between the two offerings, and because my contract stipulates I have to include at least one (x,y) chart per article:
The real reason for there appearing to be a sudden drop is that Romero’s sinker use soared in 2011, most likely to compensate for his AWOL changeup. As I argued at some statistical length a while back, everything else about Romero’s repetoire pales in comparison to the fact that his change now moves like a completely different pitch, with almost 6 (!!) inches more drop than average. But, with that transformation it has turned from being his primary offspeed pitch (and a great one at that) to hittable trash that he is quite rightly completely unwilling to throw to lefties.
Unless Ricky is trying to redefine himself as a true sinkerballer, the 26% of 2-seamers he threw in 2011 is very high, not some kind of career norm that he needs to return to in order to find his old levels of success. The one good thing about Romero’s sinker comments was that he seemed to be willing to throw it for strikes and let it be put in play. The percentage of Romero’s 2-seamers that were located in the zone fell to an ludicrous 34% last season, so concentrating on pounding the zone with it in spring training can’t hurt. Romero certainly should be getting more strikes and grounders by throwing it to contact instead of as a chase pitch — but he’ll never be the Ricky of old without his changeup.
Boy, getting to know the business side of baseball sure takes a lot of the fun out of being a fan. Big trades used to be like opening presents on Christmas day: a consequence-free deluge of sparkly new toys to marvel at and get ready to have fun with. These days the wrapping is barely off the latest backup catcher and I can’t help but run to Cot’s Contracts and figure out exactly what we’re paying for all this.
But that’s what it all comes down to when you’re faced with management that sees the on-the-field product in strict terms of return on short-term investment. It may not be “our money” — but the fact is that if Rogers doesn’t spend it wisely, the lack of immediate on-field results and ensuing attendance increase will cause them to doubt that fielding a premium-quality team is really worth it, and WHAM! We’re back watching another slightly-better-than-average club for the next two decades or so.
The last time Rogers was almost goaded into spending dough on the rotation, the team ended up with a bait-and-switch boondoggle — Wells instead of Lilly and Meche — that sent the Jays back into a rebuilding phase overnight. So how does the latest round of acquisitions rank in terms of bang-for-buck, as compared to the dreaded free-agent market we always hear we are so wise to avoid? Wait…didn’t most of these guys get signed to these exact same contracts on said dreaded free-agent market last year?!?
Exhibit A: Mark Buehrle (3 years, 48 mil = 16 mil/per)
Exactly one offseason ago, the Marlins signed Buehrle to a 4-year pact that averaged out to 14.5 million a season over four years. Back then, pundits chuckled at how much the team was overpaying out of a misguided attempt to buy a winner for the new stadium because while Buehrle is ridiculously durable, he is also just a tick above average at this point in his career (even after his rather astute late-career move to the NL).
Anyway, since the original deal was overly generous AND back-loaded, the Marlins have managed to wiggle off the hook and dump their mistake on us (hey, that’s AA’s signature move!) after paying just 6 mil for one season along with Buehrle’s 4-million signing bonus. Even granting a lower-than average risk of decline in his mid-thirties because he’s a slow-tossing lefty, 16 million a season is way, way, too much to pay for a guy who is a minor upgrade on Henderson Alvarez, ten years older, and on the wrong side of his career slope. That’s ok though, I’m sure we’ll be compensated for doing the Marlins such a big favour later in the trade…
Exhibit B: Jose Reyes (6 years, 114 million = 19 mil/per OR the almost certain option of 5 years, 99 million, or 19.8 mil/year)
Have the Blue Jays ever traded for such a major contract? At almost 20 million dollars a year in salary (unless you think Reyes is going to be worth paying 22 million dollars at age 36) this is the big-name investment in the team everyone has been waiting for. And again, the Jays take on a slightly worse version of the deal that was widely reviled when the Marlins gave it to Reyes last season, when he was coming off a crazy contract year that to nobody’s surprise he in no way lived up to, regressing instead to his gradually-declining career numbers.
Reyes is an upgrade, but not a lineup-changing one that it makes sense to throw top dollar at. His glove drifted from not good to really bad last season, and other than 40 steals, Escobar had better production in 2009/2011. As well, turning 30 is a very scary time for speedy middle infielders. If people are going to scoff at the idea of Prince Fielder’s body holding up until he’s 36, I’ve got binders full of dynamic middle infielders wearing down in a hurry in their early 30’s. Imagine having made a major five-year investment in Jimmy Rollins at 30. Or Roberto Alomar at…errrr…33. “Young player” tools do not decline gracefully, and Reyes is on his way down what could be a very slippery slope.
Not that the team doesn’t get a lot more palatable. Reyes is a legit leadoff man who will be fun to watch when he’s healthy (triple=most exciting play in baseball), and Escobar was a lazy, underperforming, dickwad. But if coming into this offseason, AA had announced that Reyes had somehow become available and that he was planning on offering him a five-year, 100-million-dollar contract in order to beef up the offence, it would have been deemed an incredible waste of money at what clearly should not be the Jays’ #1 priority (especially when it leaves us with a backup player staring at second). But frame it as a trade, and wooooooooo! We rooked those guys by getting something for nothing!!! Unless you believe/it is true that free agents just won’t sign in Toronto of their own free will under any conditions, it just doesn’t make sense to get excited about trading quality prospects for players that the team could have been right there bidding on the previous season at a better price/year with no players given up in return.
So that’s two parts of this deal that sees the Jays taking on the Marlins’ mistakes and paying more than market value for these players, which means we’re going to get it alllll back in the super-sweet third part of the deal in exchange for all the prospects we threw into the deal, right?
Exhibit C: Josh Johnson (1 year = 13.75 Million/per)
Crap. Not so much. Johnson is the top of the rotation arm that the Jays actually need, and the one that they were willing to take on the other two bloated contracts for. His deal is also the only one of the bunch worth giving something up for, as it would almost certainly take more than 13.75 million to replace Josh Johnson on the free agent market next year. But not that much more.
Anibal Sanchez is essentially the same age and quality of pitcher (heck, he had a slightly better year than Johnson and his velocity isn’t down post-surgery — see my pitch f/x post on Johnson coming soon), and he’s asking for 15 million for six years, or 1.25 million more per season over five additional years. That means for the right to pay a similar pitcher in his prime 1.25 million dollars less, and to have him under contract for just one year instead of six, the Blue Jays took on two contracts that were bad when they were freely available last year and have since gotten worse, and gave up Alvarez, Hechavarria, Marisnick and Nicolino. How exactly is this better than blundering around in free agency again?
Exhibit D: John Buck (1 Year, 6 million)
It seems petty to mention it when there are 100-million dollar contracts flying around, but this is another part of this “trade” that is less of a “trade” and more of a “we’ll save you some money”. Since he left Toronto, Buck has completely fallen off the rails and doesn’t even have the defensive prowess of Mathis to compensate for hitting around the Mendoza line. So the Jays take on four million dollars for a clear downgrade at catcher, which is widely reported thusly: “also acquired in the deal is catcher John Buck, who hit .281 with 20 HR during his last stint with the Jays”…
I don’t mean to be a total grinch. This will make for much better baseball in Toronto next season. But this trade is being over-celebrated because the media looks at it like fantasy baseball, our guys for their guys — in which case it’s highway robbery. The truth is, under baseball’s current economic system, the only time a team ‘wins’ this kind of payroll dumping transaction is when in exchange for prospects they get players on the cheap, which is clearly not the case here. While it looks terrible for the Marlins in terms of talent lost and the direction of the franchise, these were such bad contracts when signed that it is isn’t a huge haul of talent for the roughly 50 million bucks a season the Jays are absorbing, either. Considering that the two top pitchers out there are asking for 15 and 25 million dollars a season respectively and it’s hard to imagine having to spend more than 30 million on the rotation, anyway, without the need to pay Reyes like a superstar and give up some good young players.
If all this happened because Rogers is opening the floodgates and finally making a big, sustained push for the playoffs and the hearts of fans, then great. For rather a lot of money and prospect value the team has managed to improve at a very thin position, leaving room for even more investment in left field. But if this was Anthopoulos’ one chance to get big results from the long-awaited cash infusion, then he didn’t get the value that he needed in order to make the making the postseason next season more than a faint hope — which could mean this round of rebuilding the Blue Jays just jumped the shark.
Here is a poem I wrote about the heartbreak and suffering of following the Jays through mediocrity and indifferent upper management throughout the decades, as they have their moments and are briefly hyped, but then inevitably fade down the stretch to superior teams time and time again. It finishes with a personal account of my painful processing of the latest moves and a return to the understanding that every trade has a silver lining. I hope you like it.
Everything’s the way it is
It’s got to be the way it is
Everything’s the way it is
It’s got to be the way it is
I need a heartache, but it won’t be long
Till I get to where it’s coming on
A little fame and I know it’s true
You can feel it and it’s coming for you
No matter how hard I’ve tried to stay
I feel you ṗulling further away
Feel like it’s a trivial game
You get in order but you stay the same
You look good when you shaking my way
But let me think of something awful to say
I step back take a total view
I take some little, baby it’s hard to do
But I’ll call, I’ll try to change
It’s better than to stay the same.
So much for bragging about AA’s trading proficiency. Unless there’s more to this trade than initially reported, Travis Snider for Brad Lincoln straight up really hurts. Lincoln is a guy who has been languishing as a AAAA prospect until this year — after some good work as a long man for the Pirates, they decided to try him out as a starter, but it didn’t work. I was watching one of his starts and he looked great the first time through the lineup but then got shelled later in the appearance. It’s probably because he doesn’t have a third pitch:
|Brad Lincoln 2012 Pitch Breakdown|
|Pitch Type||Four-Seam Fastball (93 mph)||Curve||Curve||Changeup|
Lincoln’s fastball has averaged 93 this year, but it’s a combination of just under 94 during his time in the pen and just over 92 during his starts. Overall, his fastball is a tick above average while his Curve is better:
|Brad Lincoln Vs League|
|Fastball Strike %||Fastball Miss %||Curve Strike %||Curve Strike %|
Still…27-year old middle relievers who have only looked good for their last 40 innings in the ‘pen are easy to replace and not worth much. 24-year-olds with Snider’s pop and potential simply do not exist (although the Jays clearly haven’t thought so for some time). This also seems to signal that the Jays envision either Rasmus or Gose as a corner outfielder in the long-term, which is just as troubling.
Sometimes it feels like all the other GM’s are just bad AI in Alex Anthopolous’ video game. You know, the kind where you can eventually acquire Albert Pujols via trade if you lump together enough C-level prospects and filler major-leaguers. Didn’t like that deal? Ok, here’s another fourth outfielder and a free-agent I signed a month ago. No? Ok, I’ll throw in my entire A- team and some junk easily available on the waiver wire (also reminicient of 99% of the trade offers one tends to recieve while playing fantasy baseball).
Not that J.A. Happ is some kind of rotation saviour, but he’s a real, living, breathing, major-league lefty with some upside, whereas Wojciechowski and Musgrove are pitchers that many years and hopefully not too many surgeries down the road you hope develop into something like J.A. Happ. It’s like the Santos deal all over again! Errrr…forget I said that.
Anyway, as at least some of you know, I am a big believer in using K rates (or K/BB ratios if you’re getting fancy/accurate about things) to evaluate pitchers. They are much more indicative of a pitcher’s true ability and much less affected by luck or other factors than anything that involves runs/hits. I also like using graphs because trends pop out that might otherwise be obscured in year-by-year accumulations.
So here’s a graph of Happ’s K’s/start since 2009 that I was looking at a couple of weeks ago, thinking ‘gee, I wouldn’t mind if they picked this guy up while he’s struggling':
I know this is not highly scientific, but other than his 2009 September collapse (he was having a great year and then opponents hit .344/.976 off him the rest of the way), that looks to me very much like a pitcher that has been getting steadily deadlier. If I were Bruce Walton, I’d be excited about getting to work on him. His walk rate has been improving as well, and his fastball MPH is the highest it has ever been (90.33, up half a tick from 2009). It’s all the contact and HR that has the Astros giving up on him.
One thing I would consider is ditching Happ’s Curveball. Back in 2009, he was essentially a slider/changeup guy, and only threw 100 curveballs all year (4.5%). This year and last it has become his primary secondary offering (what a vile phrase) — he has already thrown 226 (13.7%), and while he gets more swing-and-misses on them than any of his other off-speed stuff, they only result in a strike 28% of the time, compared to 52% for his fastball, 38% for his slider, and 32% for his change.
Errr…wait. That probably explains the increase in K’s, too. He has fallen in love with his curve because guys don’t make contact with it, but he’s falling behind in counts and not getting the easy outs he was with his slider. So it makes sense that hits and HR would be up, too. Now do I rewrite this whole post so it looks like I knew that all this time, or just bail out now and put it in the title? Hmmmmm.
1) AAA is bunk.
Why do we even have all these stupid minor-league levels, anyway? Name me ONE hot Jays prospect not named Rios, Lind, or Snider that had any problems adapting to the majors after fast-tracking through AAA. Preparing for the major leagues via a carefully-planned and long-established series of steadily-increasing levels of difficulty is the worst idea Branch Rickey came up with other than the batting helmet.
2) 3B is easy.
From what I remember watching Scott Rolen, it’s the simplest position ever. The ball flies into your glove so fast you barely even have to move your feet. Lawrie should be able to adapt almost instantly as there’s no real difference between third and second other than the throw across the diamond, the speed of the ball, the angle off the bat, charging bunts, the hops, the dives, instincts and skills required. I flipped Lawrie across the diamond in my copy of MLB: The Show and in his first game he was laying out on shots ripped into the hot corner like he’d been doing it all his life. And that game isn’t just realistic — it’s ultra realistic.
3) The Jays are in contention.
BWAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAH….ok, sorry. I’m really sorry. Tried to keep a straight face for that one, I really did. Alan Ashby is going to have to step in here for a second while I catch my breath and get rid of the giggles. Hee hee…in contention. Whoooooooo. Boy.
Ok, I’m good.
4) You can tell just about everything about a player’s level of readiness from 25 spring at-bats.
Some pitchers aren’t throwing anything but fastballs at this point of spring – and during the major-league season, there are more fastballs thrown than any other pitch. So it’s a truer test, really. Also, 25 at-bats is a small enough sample size that there’s not a lot of noise. I mean, has anyone ever had this Gross a spring training, only to have the hype fade almost instantly?
5) Scouts are stupid.
Raw talent? Needs some more time? Questionable hands? You morons. I have HIGH DEF on my TV, and I’m pretty sure I can tell when a swing is ready for the bigs. I haven’t actually seen him make any plays in the field yet, but they sounded all-star caliber over the radio. I don’t need some loser ex-player who has nothing better to do than follow baseball players around night and day, creeping around minor-league parks to see them first-hand so he can use his vast “experience” and extensive baseball “knowledge” to tell me what’s what.
6) Kid needs to be taken down a notch.
Lawrie comes with a certain cocky attitude, which is really the sort of thing you want to beat out of a player by putting them in over their head as soon as possible. There could be a long-term attitude benefit in crushing him mentally this year, and his kind of faux-bravado personality would almost certainly respond to failure and demotion well. An added bonus would be if Lawrie hit so poorly for the first month the team was forced to choose between “giving up” on him by sending him back to the minors, or platooning him with Encarnacion for a while. Part-time play is so frustrating and difficult that it teaches a player how much they want to avoid it at all costs. Which makes them try harder. Which makes them play better. Works every time.
7) Get that clock running!
Everyone knows that players typically have their best seasons in “contract” years, i.e. right before they hit the free agent market. The Jays need Lawrie at their best when they are ready to compete; can they really wait six whole years to get the best out of him? Best to get Lawrie’s clock running as soon as possible — he will be hitting his power years in 2016 and with a little financial motivation could slam the door hard on his way out of town.
8. The Jays don’t need contractual control anyway.
On the other hand, the Jays don’t have to let Lawrie walk when that time comes. Rogers has a gabillion dollars, and since they’re a publicly-traded company I’m pretty sure AA is free to spend as much of shareholder’s money as he wants (since most of them are from Toronto). Anyway…there’s no need to worry about being thrifty or careful in managing control of potential future stars, since the Jays can always keep them around. Again and again, management has shown a willingness to commit to signing home-grown players no matter the cost to long-term extensions in order to keep them in Toronto until it’s time to give them away to teams that can actually afford those contracts.
9) He’s done with the minors.
Players always know best when they’re ready. Especially super-young, comically-confident ones. Nobody knows better than Brett Lawrie if he’s ready for the majors. Except his coaches. And I’d give it to the professional evaluators, too. Ok, probably some other players with way more experience of what it’s really like. Maybe some really good stats guys. Ok, there are many, many, people who know better than Brett Lawrie if he’s ready for the majors. But that’s beyond the point. He’s a pure athlete.
10) Zero downside.
It’s not like there is anything to lose by rushing a young prospect. Offhand, I can’t think of a single third-base prospect who had his development completely retarded to the point of almost ruining his career by a team that threw him into the majors way too early, causing him to bounce around for years as a washout journeyman before finally getting the time and training he needed to break out long after his original team had given up on him and traded him for nothing. (Bautista came up as an outfielder, smartass).
And hey, if the Jays hurt his development by getting greedy in a meaningless season for a slight upgrade at a position we’re paying 2.5 million to fill already, who cares? They have plenty of other hot prospects, or can always just trade another front-line starter for one. Lawrie is expendable.
Update: Today the Jays held a coaches meeting and actually announced the obvious about Romero, while stating that “The final two members of the staff likely won’t be announced until the final week of Spring Training,” as Farrell wants to see as much of them as possible before making a final decision. Boooo-ring. It’s bracket time. “(Litsch and Drabek are officially)…The final two members of the staff…(but that)…won’t be announced (to anyone other than me) until the final week of Spring Training.” SCOOPVILLE!!
Today the Mockingbird brings you inside the latest inside scoop, with a word-for-word transcript of the inner workings of star reporter Mike Rutsey of the Toronto Sun as he gleans a major scoop on the Jays’ rotation from a seemingly innocuous series of quotes from Blue Jays’ manager, John Farrell.
Farrell: “To say who’s one, who’s two and three and so on, I don’t know where we’re at the point of designating those guys or are really ready to announce our opening day starter…”
Ok, so you really want to dodge making any kind of statement about the rotation, even who the opening day starter is going to be, despite the fact that everyone already knows. I get it. You hate us reporters. You want me to starve. Because two weeks of spring training just isn’t enough for you to make major decisions about the makeup of your first club, nooooooo…
“But at the same time you look to arrive at some kind of contrast of style, to split up the lefties that have effective changeups, yeah, you’d like to get some power (Brandon Morrow) in between those two…”
Yeah, yeah…standard manager boilerplate. If you have a choice, go lefty-righty-lefty, or soft-hard-soft. Any other revelations, like you’re thinking of putting a guy who steals 50 bases in the leadoff spot? Maybe you’re going to let someone else hit for the pitcher this year? I’m staying in a seedy motel 6 in Ft. Fucking Myers for this?
“We’d also like to get a power arm in the five spot preceding Ricky the next time through, or whoever that might be….”
Gaaaaaaaaaaa…..this is going nowhere. You won’t even trick yourself into referring to Ricky as the #1, you wily bastard. And while obviously Drabek’s power arm (although you could be thinking Zach Stewart) is eventually going to break into the rotation as a great #5, since he’s only pitched two innings this spring there’s not a chance you’re going to make a call on whether such a young kid is ready as that would have huge ramifications for him, as well as the rest of the guys duking it out for the last two spots. So you’re being vague and rambling about that fast-slow garbage again in the hopes that I’ll go away. Can I at least get a crowd-pleasing comment about opening up the running game this year? No???
You know what I’d wish you’d said? Something definitive along the lines of the opening day honour officially going to Romero and the hot prospect having made the team. People love scoops like that. Oh, what the hell. I’m a baseball Journalist, not a blogger! We don’t just relay news, we make it! Let’s have some fun with the ol’ interpretive brackets. Drabek confirmation, in. Romero set in stone, in. Twice. BAM!
“We’d also like to get a power arm in the five spot (Kyle Drabek) preceding Ricky (the No. 1 starter) the next time through, or whoever that might be (too late, the rabbit’s out of the hat).
Now that is a serious improvement right there. Way to go, Mikey! They give you shit to work with, and you manage to excrete pure gold. Now if only he had said (or not said) anything about the race I just decided just got a lot tighter for the last spot between that yo-yo guy, and Rzy…Rezpy…Rpez…oh fuck it, I’m pretty sure it’s going to be Litsch. I already wrote an article about how he says he’s “feeling strong“, so it’s basically a lock, anyway.
He will be followed by Morrow, then Cecil, then Litsch, or whomever, and then Drabek.
Wow. It all fits together so perfectly – almost as if it were some sort of fantastical preconceived notion. Now all we need a sign-off that sounds pithy and so ridiculously overconfident that this is what Farrell actually meant that if he calls me on it, I can bail and say I was just kind of joking and speculating wildly, and that it was a “tip”, i.e, my loosely-drawn opinion, and not the actual first-hand information with any kind of weight to it that people will no doubt take it for as it is redistributed widely across the internet.
So it is written, so it shall be.
Boo-yeah! That’ll teach you to dodge reporters’ questions for the sake of the team, you stupid manager! Exactly what you refused to come out and say is now splashed across the internet as fact! From now on when I come knocking, you’d better tell me what I want to write, and what people are clamoring to hear. Or else. Eat. My. Brackets.
It now seems relatively official that the Jays are getting back Edwin Encarnacion, Josh Roenicke, and Zach Stewart for Scott Rolen. There’s going to be a lot of crying that this is a sign the Jays are not going to attempt to compete next year, but come on – when you get three young, cheap, almost major league ready players with upside for a guy who at the end of last season wasn’t sure he was ever going to play again, how can that be a bad thing? It has been an absolute once-in-a-lifetime treat to watch Rolen at third base, but if you take off your Blue-Jay tinted glasses for a second, he’s a walking time bomb that is at his highest value in years right now.
If you still need some confirmation that 2010 isn’t a totally lost cause, just listen to J.P:
But if we keep Doc now I think that means we are trying to put together the best team possible for 2010.
Notice I didn’t say believe him, but doesn’t that sound nice? Anyway, here’s the skinny on who the Jays are getting back.
1) Edwin Encarnacion
The Good: He’s 26, with a career OPS of .793. Hit 26 home runs last year. Will cost less than half (4.75 -> 11 mil) of Rolen’s Salary next year. Makes announcers go nuts with clutch bombs.
(Ok, I was trying to find the time that he made Jeff Brantley look like a tool by hitting a walk off home run at the precise moment Brantley was going on about how he was not a clutch hitter — but that is almost as entertaining a broadcast of it instead of what has long ago been removed from Youtube by the MLB facist regime).
The Bad: He’s having a terrible season, batting .209 apparently because he can’t hit an inside pitch to save his life (or at least before he landed on the DL in April – he has hit an excellent 276/375/526 since his return at the start of this month). Sounds like bat speed to me – he’ll fit in nicely with Vernon. Defensively, he’s at -10 in =/- right now, bad enough for 30th in the league. And that’s where he’s been every year, so the Jays just went from one of the best defensive 3B of all time to possibly the worst in the majors. Work your magic, Butterfield!
2) Josh Roenicke
The good: Dude throws gas. He has a fastball that averages 96 with movement, and a Litschian cutter that comes in at 86 with so much break it’s almost a slider. The occasional curveball. He’s 26, and pitching effectively in the majors. Got off to a late start in his career because he started as a hitter.
The bad: He only really has two pitches and is therefore just a reliever, although the Jays amazingly now seem to be in need of them. For a full scouting report including a generally rosy report on his mechanics with one minor qualm, check out the one at Redlegs Baseball.
3) Zack Stewart
The good: Big, athletic former quarterback . Throws a hard sinker around 93 mph, an average slider, and a developing change. Here’s his official draft report, or from more recently, a video of him facing the Reds in April of this year – not great quality, but you can really see the dirty movement on his fastball a few times:
Keeps the ball in the park (2 home runs in ~90 innings this year) He has roared through the Reds’ system this season, posting an ERA around two in A and AA before ending up AAA at the age of 22. Good mechanics, doesn’t fly open. Originally slated to be the Reds’ future closer, he was starting this season until he got to AAA (likely to try and build up his innings slowly) and the Reds were apparently toying with moving him back to the rotation next year, where he pitched some in college as well.
The bad: Doesn’t strike a lot of guys out. Has had command issues (John Sickels gave him a B-/C+ because of them before this season), although they seem to be in the past. According to the Hardball Times: “[His slider] can lose some of its tightness at times and turn into a slurvy-type pitch”. There is a frame by frame-by-frame breakdown of his two main pitches halfway down this page that is really worth a look and I would totally rip off if I didn’t write there.
“They’ll call him on his cell, that’s how much they had his number,” said Gaston.
There’s a story here beyond spectacular failure from a key player right as it looked like he had turned the corner sighhhhh…In his first strikeout of five, Alex Rios saw four fastballs and was eventually punched out on a rather terrible call (the strikeouts are numbered on the graph above).
His second time up, Rios swung through a really excellent slider on the first pitch, right at the bottom of the zone. Maybe Lackey could see that his brain was broken, or the frustration in his eyes because he poured on the junk for the rest of the game (just one more fastball), and Rios swung at almost quite literally everything.
The Prince saw only 2 fastballs and 15 breaking balls over his last 4 strikeouts. It took just 17 pitches, five over the minimum to strike him out! And three (maybe four) of those pitches were in the strike zone, which lead to two foul balls and one called strike. It sure looks like he just got frustrated and went on a hacking bender – reminds me of A.J. Burnett in reverse…(who incidentally has been suspended for throwing at a batter – ha!)
“Doc Halladay has surgery,” Hunter said. “He was a doctor today. You have got to give it to him. He had surgery on all of us.
That’s not a pretty quote…but here are some pretty pictures of what Halladay did to the Angels in a stunning 133-pitch performance en route to a career-high 14 strikeouts. First, the pitches he threw (incidentally, he baffled the automatic pitch algorithm all night, so if you were watching on gameday it told you he threw nothing but sinking fastballs). 2 Changeups, 33 curves, 40 sinkers and 58 cutters:
Is it just me, or does it look like Halladay is throwing two different kinds of cutters again? He only threw his changeup twice all night, but didn’t need it against lefties, as his two seamer was in control. All 6 of his swinging strikeouts came against his curve, and most of his strikes looking came on his cut fastball:
Now here’s his pitch location (looking from behind the plate):
“We’re doing different things now, kind of throwing everything to both sides which at times will give you a lot more takes and swings and misses.”
Interesting that he gets away with a lot of high cutters over the middle of the plate (although that starts at a right-handed batter’s neck). Here’s the same graph with all his strikes labelled:
Notice he seems to get better calls on his cutter, including one almost 4 inches off the plate. Some of that is likely due to the bending around the plate effect (or at least the umpire’s exaggeration of it) effect discussed in this article by Josh Kalk over at the Hardball Times. I’m trying to think of a way to show how much effect that should have…
The only blemish on Halladay’s evening was the 7th, when the Angels scored all their runs as the result of a couple of very hittable 0-2 pitches, a walk, and a couple of sac flies. It was just a blip for Halladay, but you can see it in his velocity, which was down on both his fastball and cutter to start that inning:
Maybe the Jays left Halladay sitting on the bench too long by hitting all those singles and scoring 3 runs in the bottom of the 6th, because he came out cold. Otherwise, Halladay did not tail off at all towards the end of the game at all (as almost all pitchers typically do) – his 130th pitch was a 94.7 mph sinker.
The Jays weren’t exactly doing themselves any favours at the plate tonight – but then neither was home plate ump Marvin Hudson. Not only was he calling strikes over 4 inches off the plate, but he was doing it in high leverage situations. His worst calls punched out Hill and Rolen, then Bautista’s at bat with two on started with a doozy and he ended up grounding into a double play.
Ray only got one gift — although he didn’t “nibble” that sweet spot 4 inches off the plate as often. C’mon, Blue! Get off your knees!
Well, so much for the “rising cutter”…Halladay only threw one kind of cut fastball today as he demolished the Indians. It was the same boring old deadly consistent Doc. Only thing of note is that all the hits came off his sinker – his cutter and Curve went for no contact other than ground outs.
And what to say about B.J. Ryan’s latest collapse except that he couldn’t find the plate? Maybe that he’s still not throwing his slider, and certainly not effectively. Ryan’s first 13 pitches today were fastballs, and then then his first slider was smacked for a single. It also looks like he’s trying to pick at the corners with his 88 mph fastball.
Ricky Romero’s release point – mostly not terrible, but you can see that he comes over the top for his breaking pitches, sometimes very much so. Most pitches have something like this slight (4 inches) difference in where their fastballs and breaking pitches come from, however. I lumped all of his fastballs together for some resaon – as you would expect, the ones that bleed into his curves and sliders are the cutters.
I think it’s safe to say that Roy Halladay was just outdueled by his own offence. Ugh. I don’t even want to think about that game, let alone delve into it. But the show must go on…Just when you think that the Jays couldn’t lose another brutal 1-run game in disappointing fashion (they now fall to 2-7 in one run games and 11-16 in disappointing ones), or waste another complete game gem from Halladay, they get one-hit by a struggling Jon Lester- and just to drive the dagger home, on the last play of the game Wells bobbles the ball and doesn’t even get a throw off that might have cut down David Ortiz at the plate.
But forget about Vernon continuing to put his gold glove further and further in the rear view mirror (he is now a very distant last in balls both in and outside of his zone) this team is supposed to kill left-handed pitching, and they didn’t square anything up against Lester over 8 innings. I’m not going to graph his movement. It was his normal stuff, a nice mix of 5 pitches but nothing special. So maybe he came out with pinpoint command? Well, no…
If you see anything that looks like a 1-hitter here, let me know. Lester threw two fastballs, a 4-seamer and a 2-seamer with good sink down and away (as shown – 100% of the contact outs came off his fastballs), and a bunch of cutters in on the hands. But he also enough pitches left up and over the plate to do something with.
For lefties he stayed away from the middle of the plate nicely, but also gave up the only hit to Lyle Overbay on a meatball cutter high and right down the middle.
Just to prove that I wasn’t making this stuff up, here’s the Doc’s movement on the night:
As predicted, his sinker wasn’t diving any more than his cutter, but the had the curve working and the cutter was aces. On days like this it looks more like Rivera’s pitch that he throws hard and it goes straight sideways, as opposed to Jesse Litsch’s- which could easily be confused with a slider. As mentioned on the TV broadcast, Roy was having problems with his Changeup in the cold (and supposedly he got together in the offseason with Trevor Hoffman to work on it by applying more pressure with the pads of his fingers) so it wasn’t dropping much.
Now for some location- first against righties:
Beauty. Roy painted the outside corner all night with his cutter, and either floated the curveball in low or dove it way off the plate. Sinkers were mostly tailing in on the hands, but the game winning hit was left low and down in the zone, which as I mention every second post, down and in is the secret pitcher killer. DON’T DO IT, ROY! Especially the two seamer will just start out down the middle of the plate and then dive where hitters really like it.
Unlike a lot of pitchers Roy still throws the curve to lefties, down and in. Tough pitch to lay off. His changeup may have been flat, but it was nicely placed on the outside corner.
Anyway, this has become a long attempt to distract myself from what just happened that doesn’t do much but confirm what you probably thought anyway: Lester was solid but hittable, and Halladay brought his best stuff to the mound except for one pitch that it shouldn’t have come down to. Doesn’t it seem a lot less like a greek tragedy when reduced down to dots, squares, and the occasional squiggly line??