Posts Tagged ‘Toronto Blue Jays’
At first it seemed odd that notorious dickhead and abrasive personality Shea Hillenbrand would be so gracious and contrite when asked to comment on the re-signing of John Gibbons as the Blue Jays manager, but after some cutting-edge journalistic work we at the Mockingbird have managed to uncover both sides of the AP interview quoted in part by the Star. Here now, in its entirety for the first time, is the complete and unedited interview with Shea Hillenbrand:
ASSOCIATED PRESS: Hello, Shea? This is the Associated Press calling. As you may or may not know, John Gibbons has recently been re-hired as manager of the Blue Jays. Just wondering if you had any comment on that?
SHEA: “That’s awesome. He’s a great guy.”
AP: What? No, I said JOHN GIBBONS. Former manager of yours. The guy who stopped playing you halfway through the season, challenged you to a fight during the ensuing fallout, and then refused to stay on as manager if you remained on the team. Do you have anything to say about him or what happened between the two of you?
SHEA: “I think he handled the situation that we had very professionally and I didn’t handle it professionally at all.”
AP: Wow, really? Gotta say I’m a little surprised. Did NOT think you were going to say that. Ok, well so much for that story…hey, how are all your wacky animals? Do you still have the rabbits and the lemur and the miniature horses and all those fucking tortoises? Did you ever get the Zebra and Buffalo you wanted? Ha ha ha. I mean, you run a petting zoo now, right?
SHEA: “All I know is that during my time with him he was a really good manager and I think he did a really good job with what he had.”
AP: Yeah, yeah, you already said that. Big of you. I was talking about…wait. Something’s wrong. Are you in trouble, Shea? Is he there? Don’t say anything…just use his first name in a sentence if you can’t talk to me right now./p>
SHEA: “I think John’s going to be a great addition to that ball club and he’s a great guy.”
AP: OH god. I’ll send for help. You just hang tight, Shea. I knew this wasn’t over.
Just a quick pillory of ‘shutdown innings’, a concept that is sadly making its viral way into Baseball’s consciousness despite having all the validity of ‘pitching to the score’, ‘clutch hitters’, and the rest of that baseball folklore that sounds plausible at first, but then less and less the more you learn and the more you use your brain. Let’s go to Richard Griffin for a sweeping introduction to the idea:
There are two sets of circumstances when you should step up if you’re a No. 1 starter. First is when your team scores runs for you. The shutdown inning is imperative to winning and to leading. Romero failed in those situations, miserably.
This is followed by a long stream of numbers, without any real explanation as to exactly why this is true. I mean sure, yeah, it sounds great to ‘keep the lead’, and ‘not let them back in it’, etc, etc — but obviously if the opposing team scores three runs in the first inning, nobody gives a crap if your starting pitcher allows runs in the second and then none the rest of the way or spreads them out over his remaining innings. What we’ve got here is really a ham-fisted attempt to statify a pitcher’s performance in high-leverage situations (those cases where the game is late and close and your team scores to go up by one), but there’s so much irrelevant data thrown into this method of collecting it that anything read out of such a “stat” is just a mirage.
Because the whole concept is wonky…just for fun, imagine there was a guy who for some freakish reason only allowed runs immediately after his team scored. So the worst example of this supposedly lead-killing, win-stealing phenomenon. Compared to other pitchers with the same ERA, this choke artist would actually have the lead much more often, since he would never give up a lead before the offence got going — and get more wins, since he would never give up leads when his offence went cold (i.e. he would pitch better in higher-leverage situations).
That’s a ridiculous example, but illustrative of the fact that there isn’t anything to the numbers or the logic behind ‘shutdown innings’ being an important factor to your overall effectiveness. Really, it’s a slightly-hidden form of the old momentum-and-emotions-heavily-influence-the-game theory — that somehow ‘giving the lead right back’ deflates your team to the point that they go up to the plate hating you as a pitcher and a person and fail at hitting out of spite and/or a sudden lack of confidence mystically tied to your performance in the last half-inning. Which is silly twaddle long disproven, if you want to get into it.
Incidentally, Griffin’s argument that “There is statistical evidence that even within his starts, Romero’s primary issues were mental, not physical” is garbage as well. Griffy makes the classic mistake of presenting inflated numbers (to support his preconceived notion) without anything to compare them to or any kind of idea of what a reasonable amount of deviation is. Taking into account that Romero’s ERA after May 23rd overall was 6.85, the fact that his ERA in a much-smaller sample size of ‘shutdown innings’ was 9.77 is not at all significant, let alone conclusive proof of a “mental block” caused by Joe Maddon. But at least those numbers come to a non-redundant point, unlike his “throwing more balls than strikes with two strikes leads to a higher ERA” followup…
Giant pat on own back time: you can follow this link or just scroll down a little to where I said this about J.A. Happ upon his arrival in Toronto.
“One thing I would consider is ditching Happ’s Curveball…”
Apparently Bruce Walton and the Blue Jays agreed, because when Happ went to the bullpen for a couple of starts he did not use his curveball once, and after returning to the rotation dialed the use of it way, way, back. In his last start before breaking his right foot, Happ threw just 3 curveballs while striking out 9 batters.
|Month||Happ’s Curveball %|
In his short time has a starter with the Jays, ditching the curve lead to a slightly better walk rate for Happ and crazy strikeout numbers (39 in 33 1/3 innings), although starts against Baltimore, Tampa and even Detroit padded those totals, as they lead the majors in whiffing against lefty sliders. Still, other than one shaky start against the Yankees, Happ looked promising during his transition to the AL East and has the potential to eat some quality innings next year — especially if Bruce Walton continues to read this blog and tweak his repertoire according to latest pitch f/x numbers, ha!
Ok, I lied about the photoshopped Bautista. I do have some more numbers, though. They’re kinda fun. According to Hit Tracker, Bautista lead the league in:
“Just Enough” home runs – Means the ball cleared the fence by less than 10 vertical feet, OR that it landed less than one fence height past the fence. These are the ones that barely made it over the fence.
With 13. But of course, he also lead the league in the real ones by a considerable margin. So what percent of Bautista’s home runs were cheapies? Here he is compared to the top 10 in the AL:
|Name||Just enough %|
|Jose Bautista||24 %|
Looking good, Jose! If Bautista was a fluke, it’s because he was running into balls, not because they were creeping over the fence.
And just for curiosity’s sake, here’s the same list with no-doubters, defined as
“No Doubt” home run – Means the ball cleared the fence by at least 20 vertical feet AND landed at least 50 feet past the fence. These are the really deep blasts.:
|Name||No Doubter %|
|Jose Bautista||35 %|
Also comforting…I still hate this contract!
If you watched every pitch of the game tonight, I both applaud and shake my head sadly at your dedication, as David Purcey looked absolutely horrible, alternating between not being able to find the plate with a map and giving up monster bombs to Jose Freaking Guillen and one of the worst offences in the league.
Captain obvious brings us the breaking news that Purcey didn’t have his fastball control, but it was more than that – he didn’t even try to throw his slider, tossing a mere 7 compared to the 43 he threw against (random example) the Indians. And his Big Curve is pretty much a show me pitch these days too – 21 of Purcey’s first 22 pitches were fastballs, and he threw 16 straight fastballs in the third. That’s not going to cut it in the bigs.
But wait — he did compensate somewhat by mixing in a changeup, a pitch that he’s only thrown twice to date in 2009. Except sadly, it’s more of a “slowball”, really, because it has zero drop or movement to it (there’s actually one more that should be labelled a change but that confuses pitch f/x). Of the 6 that he threw on the night, two of them were hit for the aformentioned monster bombs by Jose Guillen. It might be time to cut off Barajas’ ring finger so he can’t call for it any more…
Incidentally, if you’ve been following Purcey’s career, you know that both his hot-and-cold outings last year and brilliant spring followed by a 7+ ERA through five starts are par for the course. That’s what you get with good stuff and zero command, and what we’re signed up for a lot of with all the children in the rotation this year. Although Casey Janssen pitched in AA today, and went 4 scoreless, allowing 2 hits and walking 2. If they’re stretching him out to start, Purcey might not be around for too long with Litsch and Romero coming back in mid-May.
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.
At this point, who really cares about the result- but didn’t Tuesday’s game against Baltimore feel like a real baseball game? You know, the kind that other teams play on Elysian fields that feature comebacks, multiple lead changes, home runs, a little sweat under the collar in the 9th, etc…Even if B.J. had succeeding in coughing it up in the ninth, last night was so much more palatable than the normal fare of watching the Jays go down by one run in the 3rd inning and then total 4 hits (and 3 double plays) over the rest of the game.
A tip of the hat to Ari, who cast some doubt on the ump’s strike zone today. Here’s are the calls that Baltimore pitchers were getting from the home plate ump Jim Joyce over the game (to learn how to decode these charts, click here):
News flash: when a team loads up the lineup with righties above all else (Eckstein DH?!? HELPPPPPP MEEEEEEEEEEEE!!!), and a lefty pitcher can’t get a call against them on the outside of the plate to save his life, it’s going to be a looooooong night. Like 9 hits and 6 runs before 5 innings are up long. Olson didn’t stand a chance, no matter how hard the Jays tried to help him out the first few innings.
Marcum wasn’t as affected by the weird, shifted zone as much (partly due to being a RHP). His problem was that he didn’t throw any freaking breaking pitches. Seriously. He threw 4 curves, a bunch of cutters, and from what I can tell (comparing his classic gold standard of every kind of pitch movement to last night) not a single slider all night. On the one hand, I feel comforted because that wasn’t really Marcum getting bombed repeatedly by the Orioles last night. On the other, was he not entirely ready to come back from the DL or what the hell?! Marcum with half of his palette is nothing, with tonight a case in point.
Anyway, here are the calls that the Jays’ pitchers got. Still incredibly generous inside to righties/outside to lefties, but without the missed strikes on the right side of the plate:
One final charty tidbit is a look at Adam Lind’s heroic 4-5 night. A glass half-empty type might try to cut his performance down by pointing out that he just laid off some ridiculously unhittable pitches out of the strike zone and was gifted some hanging meatballs (that HR of Castillo was probably the juciest pitch of this millenium). Or you could say that he didn’t do anything dumb, and hammered almost every pitch he was given to hit – which is what good hitters do, and what the Jays haven’t, this season.
Despite batting 8th last night and 7th tonight (gotta get more at-bats for Scoot!), Lind has hit .346 with 5 home runs (the most of any Jay is 9) since being called up a month ago. Those fans who (according to J.P.) “want him on the team because they haven’t seen him and therefore he’s the next big thing and fans always want the next big thing” (J.P.) are strutting around and acting pretty @#!!@ smug these days…