Because there’s still a lot of time to kill this evening before Dan Haren’s first pitch in Anaheim, and because there’s no better way I can think of to jump back into the blog with two feet after a week mostly off, it’s time for my weekly-ish little caustic hijacking of  Richard Griffin’s mail bag from over at the Toronto Star.

Keep in mind that his was posted way back on April 27th, so– in what’s probably as good an indication of why you hear the words “small sample size” so much this time of year– a lot of things have kinda changed since then. Don’t worry, though, my ability to shit on dumb questions hasn’t.

As always, I have not read any of Griffin’s answers.

If there’s a question you’d like me to answer, submit it to Griffin here, and maybe he’ll select it for a future mail bag. Fingers crossed!

Q-Hi Richard Stoeten,

Been following you on twitter lately. Thanks for the replies and the RTs. My question for you is what’s the deal with Bautista? And NO I’m NOT talking about his stats! Rather, from my perspective, he seems more cocky this year when dealing with umpires (e.g. will make faces when borderline pitches go against him, talks back to umps, etc).

I have a three-part question for you about this:

1: Is this actually happening or am I just noticing it this year because he’s off to a slow start (e.g. this is a non-issue when you’re hitting HRs)?

2: Assuming it isn’t just in my head, does behaving this way hurt get you a bad rep among umps? In other words, is this going to come back and haunt Bautista?

3: Assuming it earns Jose a bad rep, whose job is it to talk to Jose about it (e.g. Farrell, AA, teammates)?

Thanks,

Francis P., Ithaca, NY

I’ve had the same thoughts myself, Francis, so I don’t think it’s in your head, but as far as being able to quantify how much impact it could have on his game, I just don’t think that’s possible. I mean, yes, Bautista has appeared– though lately I think it’s perhaps lessened, so maybe someone spoke to him, or he’s realized it himself– to be a bit of a Royal Dick when calls haven’t gone his way this year, and I’ve seen some calls that I would have expected him to get, but it’s not like that’s been his problem. He simply hasn’t been making good contact in a lot of at-bats, and it’s not really up to the umpires to save him by gifting him borderline calls. Besides, if umpires were going to hold his behaviour against him, they’d have to do it with enough subtlety that it wouldn’t impact things that much. But I’m with you, and I’d like to see him not be that guy.

As for who brings it up, I don’t really know. Some managers like players to police themselves, and some might pull someone aside. From what little we can see, John Farrell appears to have a good rapport with his players– especially the younger ones– but as I passed along in today’s Afternoon Snack, Griffin said his live chat this week that it was Bautista who pulled Brett Lawrie aside and told him to tone his act down a notch. It certainly seems touchy when it’s a superstar player, but… the guy’s human, too. Ideally, the hits will start coming more, he’ll be less frustrated, therefore less demonstrative, and it will work itself out on its own.

 

Q-Hi Richard Stoeten,

Two comments that maybe you can elaborate on.

John Farrell’s use of his bullpen has not improved over last year and may in fact be worse.

Thames stat line for April will be worse than Snider’s from last spring yet all we hear is that he will have a long leash, while Snider leads the world in every major offensive stat at AAA.

Matt Meisner, St. Catharines

I’ve barely had a problem with Farrell’s bullpen use this season, so I don’t know what the hell you’re talking about, frankly. If you mean he’s put in guys who’ve coughed up leads or not kept the team in the game a few times, that’s going to happen. I think he’s generally been putting guys into positions where they can succeed– and I don’t even think Francisco Cordero has been quite as bad as he looked, though I wasn’t fucking dumb enough to jump for joy that they’d netted an “Established Closer” when they signed him, either. Drew put the thing about relievers about as well as it could be put yesterday.

As for left field, I’ve made no secret that I really want to see the club stop dicking Snider around every year. Thing is, I actually think that what they’re doing is probably the best way to accomplish that. The numbers Snider has put up in Las Vegas are kinda irrelevant– they’re nice and as good indicator of the fact that his new, lower-handed approach might be working that we can see without actually, y’know, watching the games, but they’re inflated, and we already know he can be successful at that level. The more important thing is that while Thames hasn’t been great– e-fucking-specially defensively– he’s been a lot better than the general perception, I think. A .350 on-base is nothing to sneeze at, and while the power is down, the fact that his walks are up and he’s striking out less is a good thing. He’s even having success in his limited action against lefties (.365 wOBA in a tiny sample of 18 plate appearances).

I’d be surprised if he can sustain it– *COUGH* .333 BABIP *COUGH*– but it’s hard to be frothing at the mouth to get him out of there at the moment, and I suspect that the Jays don’t want to leave any doubt that a switch is in order when they finally pull the trigger. At least, if they’re smart that’s what they’re thinking. Then, when the time comes, they’ll hand the position to Snider for, if not the extent of the season, at least a good 300 plate appearances. Unless, of course, he gets hurt, which at this stage feels almost inevitable, unfortunately.

I do think that it’s still a good bet that at some point a switch will happen, but as much as I’m in the tank for Snider, I’d be happy to see Thames keep it up, and right now there’s no way the team can demote their third-best hitting regular– which, believe it or not, Thames is… for now.

Of course, you could call up Snider, get Thames the fuck out of the field by moving him to DH, send Encarnacion to first, wave goodbye to Adam Lind, and (fingers crossed!) probably be better off for it. But I don’t think that’s happening any time soon either– Lind is still inex-fucking-plicably hitting fourth most nights, after all.

 

Q-Hi Richard Stoeten,

Do you think Eric Thames will last in left field for the Jays? Looks like he’s an average defender, with average speed, and average batting, with not much power. It also appears he doesn’t have a plan when he’s at the plate and has taken some awful swings. At this point I think Davis is a better option for the Jays. Your thoughts?

Paul Rudan, Campbell River, B.C.

Holy shit, if Thames is an average defender I’d hate to see what kind of fucking butcher rates below average.

Anyway, if they’re doing with Thames what I think they are– as explained above– then I understand and am OK with it. If not, I’m with you that Thames is probably a fourth outfielder, and in a vacuum in which Travis Snider didn’t exist, I’d be more than OK with a platoon of him and Davis eventually. That is, unless he shows he can sustain his run of success against lefties, and that last year’s .273 wOBA vs. LHP was somehow an aberration.

Obviously, though, my preference, should the club come to the conclusion that Thames isn’t ready, or won’t ever be an everyday guy, would be to call up Snider and give him the goddamn run of everyday MLB at-bats he deserves. Or, like I also said above, if they get to the point where they figure trotting Adam Lind out there to suck shit for three straight years is probably dumb, maybe DHing him could work in the short-term.

 

Q-Hi Richard Stoeten,

I know the Jays made a committment to Thames to start the season, but when does that change? 
Snider has a hit in every game this year in Las Vegas and either a 2B or HR in 8/10. How much longer do we have to wait to see the true future left-fielder take his place? Thanks,

Adam G., Brooklyn, NY

David Cooper led the PCL in a whack of offensive categories, and he’s basically a non-prospect who was made available to anyone this winter, and the club found no takers. So, numbers being put up in the PCL have to be taken with just a touch less salt than the average McDonalds french fry is bathed in. And as I said before, Thames has been better than you think– at least with the bat– so he’s not going anywhere for the moment.

Give it another month, then we can start getting all pissy about who is struggling and what to do about it.

 

Q-I like Eric Thames and his game but I am sad Travis Snider wasn’t able to crack the lineup or live up to his lofty promise after such a strong start to his career. I am hopeful there is a place for him on the club at some point in the future if he can earn it as he just looks like he can be such a force if he can ever put it all together. My question is, should the Jays remain injury-free in the outfield and should Snider somehow NOT get traded this year do you think he would be a lock next year as the 4th outfielder considering how he would be out of options and the Jays seem to hate seeing players lost to another club for nothing? All the best and keep the bag coming…the best Q&A blog out there!

Aaron Hickey, Sydney, Australia

In your scenario, yes, I think he’s on the bench, rather than outright released or lost on waivers. But there are so many potentially moving parts in this organization that it’s just too early to have much of an idea (read: any fucking clue) what’s going to happen.

 

Q-I haven’t heard any talk of the Jays hosting the all-star game again. How long before that happens? It’s been 20 years. With this up and coming team it would’ve been a perfect opportunity to put the Jays on the map again with the all-star festivities within the next few years.

Kam H., Richmond Hill

An All-Star game will put the Jays on the map? In what possible sense? I think people are aware that there’s a club in town. But… fuck, what do I know, because I’m so meh on the All-Star game at this point that I really couldn’t possibly care less where it’s being played. It’s a financial windfall for the club who gets the game, so I imagine Rogers would be interested, but it’s usually used to help coax public money into clubs’ stadium projects, and that kind of a thing ain’t happening here any time soon.

There are 30 teams in baseball, so it’s gonna be another 10 years before the Jays can even start whining that it’s their “turn.” Fuck, then, I’d probably give it another decade. Maybe we’ll even have a real goddamn stadium by then!

 

Q-”Prince has been to the post-season one time and, in fact, Jose Bautista has as many WS rings.” could possibly be the dumbest response to a very legitimate question I’ve ever heard in my life. 

For me, you lost all credibility with that answer. To insinuate that Prince’s lack of rings at the relatively young age of 27 in a very team oriented sport such as baseball somehow justifies AA’s non pursuit is at best moronic and at worst a frightening sign of your limited baseball knowledge.

Nolan Michael, Toronto

BAHHHHHH-URNNNNNNN!!!!!!!!!

 

Q-As far as your comeback player of the year assessment goes, your criteria doesn’t seem to hold for past winners like Aaron Hill and Cliff Lee – granted both came back from injuries (so maybe this is additional criteria)? Hill, for instance, never has a pre (nor even post) award OPS close to Rasmus’ 2010 total. Similarly, Lee only had one decent year prior to his win and it was at 2.3 WAR versus Rasmus’ 3.2 of 2010 (WAR being perhaps the best measure across these diverse positions).

Yes, Hill’s previous .291 batting average and Lee’s 18-win season stand out, but the value of Rasmus’ OBP, defence, baserunning, and more shouldn’t be underrated even if the focus on traditional stats tends to do that. You may be right about how many Comeback Player voters feel, but it doesn’t negate the fact that Rasmus’ 2010 was superior to the pasts of other winners and a monster 2010 could (and perhaps should) facilitate his being honoured thusly.

Derek Maisonville, Montreal

Probably, sure. But holy cock, I don’t even give a fuck about Comeback Player of the Year at the time when it’s handed out, so I sure as shit am not going to start talking about it on goddamn May 3rd.

 

Q-I think they should do something about the hitting coach, like replace him. What do you think ???

John Finch, Burlington

I think you should do something about your belief in how much fucking magical power a hitting coach has, like replace it.

 

Q-Hi Richard Stoeten,

Still anticipating your infamous mailbag. I know it’s early but how much longer can the Jays wait for Lind to come around? I’ve had enough. I believe more in Thames’ hitting ability than Lind. The Jays offence is a big question mark thanks to the lacklustre production of Joey Bats (whom I think will end up with a .265/30/95) and non-leadoff hitter Escobar. I really would like to see Davis playing almost every day. His career avg. is around .275. The lineup would be more productive with Davis leading off followed by, Johnson, Lawrie to start off and I’d put Colby to bat ahead of Lind. Any thoughts? April’s a soft schedule and they should take the most advantage from it. Any thoughts? or am I off in your opinion?

Kam H., Richmond Hill

Whoa camel! Or should I say Kamel? (See what I just did there?)

Um, a few things. Davis can’t hit right-handed pitching, so… uh… no, not your everyday leadoff hitter. Escobar is fine and will be fine– whether hitting leadoff, or second behind Johnson, as the Jays tried to marvellous effect against the Rangers on Wednesday. Also, putting left-handers Rasmus and Lind, and presumably Thames, too close together would make the club a little too susceptible to good lefty relievers when those spots came up, so that’s not exactly ideal either.

And batting average? Good lord, man, what stinking year is this?

Now… all that said, you do ask an interesting question– i.e. when do the Jays cut bait on Adam Lind?

I think it’s going to be a while– though the club certainly has shown in the past that it’s not necessarily as patient as I am when it comes to digesting real performance data to back up their actions (see: the McGowan and Bautista extensions). John Farrell has at least taken one step by sitting Lind against lefties more frequently than we expected, but they still evidently have enough faith in him to keep trotting him out in the cleanup spot, which suggests that they’re not exactly ready to ditch him.

That’s fair, frankly, because it really is a fantastically difficult call to make, even if it’s gotten severely old to hear that Lind showed in 2009 he can be an excellent hitter over a full season, and if he could somehow figure out how to get back to that level– which, Alex Anthopoulos would like us to not forget, was in line with the way he crushed the ball throughout the minors– the Jays would have a great contract on their hands. It’s a hell of a thing to just give up on– but at the same time, it’s a hell of a fucking thing to go three straight seasons with .734 as the OPS high water mark from your GODDAMNED FULL-TIME FIRST BASEMAN.

[Deep Breath]

I mean, let’s put it this way: Travis Snider had a .273 wOBA over 49 games in 2011, and he was sent down twice– despite having posted a .331 wOBA in half a season the year before. Through 22 games Lind is at .271 for 2012, and last year was way up at .315 over 125 games (and .309 the fucking year before!!!!). Another month like this last one, and it’s got to be a serious consideration. If not, something is very wrong with how they’re approaching this player.

Right now, I really do think it’s still too soon.

 

Q-I commend the work of AA in the last couple years and I believe that the Jays are two players away from truly contending for the next few years and that the dynamite lefty arm of Aroldis Chapman would be a great addition as the #3 starter. What would it take to pry Chapman loose from the Reds and do you think that the addition of a top-3 lefty is needed? I don’t want to wait for the kids in the minors! GO JAYS & GO SPOS 4EVER

Dave Loney, Ottawa

To get Chapman it would probably take a time machine– and Alex Anthopoulos would happily climb aboard to go back and outbid the Reds on him, as he has said he regrets not doing at the time.

Seriously, though. Wait for the damn kids in the minors. The Jays could very well stay in contention this year, he said, with not entirely insincere hope.

 

Q-Did you see the latest SI power rankings based on team WAR?

The Royals are ranked #7 while the Jays are down at #20. The article says that the Royals are due for a turnaround based on their team WAR.
 My question is what do you think will happen in the likely scenario that the Royals finish near the bottom of the league? Will FanGraphs admit that WAR is just plain wrong?

Eric E., Toronto

Hmmm. You’d think that someone might attempt to understand a concept before actually sitting down at his computer to smugly shit on it like they have a fucking clue.

WAR has its flaws, to be certain, but it provides a nice, easy, digestible number that combines and weighs well a broad range of factors that provide tangible value on the baseball field. It’s useful as a method of comparison if you don’t want to do a whole lot of thinking about breaking down its individual components– which sounds like something that might be right up your alley, if not for the problem that you’d have to actually attempt to understand it.

But shit, I’m a nice enough guy, so I’m going to do you a favour and not explain to you why you’re seeing what you’re seeing in those power rankings. You’d be better off actually finding out for yourself. The answer is not as laughable as your pat-me-on-the-back-for-my-goddamn-ignorance letter insists.

 

Q-Hi Richard Stoeten,

Well I’ve been impressed and excited by the start so far, and I’m not greatly worried about AA’s ‘failed attempt’ to get a #2 or #3 starter in the offseason. I just look at all the home-grown possibilites and wonder which one is going to be this year’s Juan Guzman. Although with a longer career trajectory, of course. Who do you think has the best chance of that?

Bryan Willis, Vancouver

I don’t know if there’s a “this year’s Juan Guzman” kicking around– he posted 13.6 fWAR in his first three seasons, if you’re not so willfully ignorant as to shit on such a quick and dirty way to accurately represent his value to the club in those years *COUGH* Eric E. *COUGH*– but I agree that all three of the youngsters the Jays have used– Alvarez, Drabek and Hutchison– have looked comfortable enough here in the early going to start to have a little bit of confidence that the team might really have something here.

As for down the road, the heaviest praise this year for any of the Jays pitchers in the low minors has been heaped on Aaron Sanchez, so let’s go with him. Kevin Goldstein of Baseball Prospectus said last week that, of the four big arms at Lansing, Sanchez “not only has the best stats, but the best stuff.” He good.

 

Q-Hi Richard Stoeten.

Why do the Jays have so many call-ups from Double-A? You would think they would come from Triple-A Las Vegas. Also, why do they say the Triple-A Pacific Coast league is so ‘hitter-friendly’? Thanks!

Terry Fallat, Espanola

A lot of teams these days treat their Triple-A affiliate like a Major League taxi squad– as Keith Law always likes to say– meaning that it’s really more of an extension of the club’s 25-man roster, and less of a place where prospects go to develop. That ought to be especially true for clubs with affiliates in the extremely dry, or the extremely high altitude cities of the PCL, as the climate changes the way pitches break, and the way that the ball comes off the bat– the way it does at Coors Field in Denver, still, despite the best efforts of the humidor.

 

Q-Richard Stoeten,

I have a quick question on scoring in baseball. When the Jays use their funky defensive set up where the third baseman is lined up behind first base like against Tampa’s Luke Scott. When he grounded to Lawrie is it still scored as ground ball to third and put out at first even though it was a ground ball to right field. How would it make sense in the box score later?

Brian Runciman, Oakville

It won’t make sense in the box score, but I do believe it’s scored as a grounder to the third baseman. I’d double check that, but I truly just don’t care.

 

Q-Hi Griff Stoet,

What is up with Joey Bats? I have seen him take more “ugly” swings this year more than ever. He was always patient to me, but now seems to be reaching at balls out of the strike zone. Is this cause for concern? Another point, Brett Lawrie is also struggling. Is he up too soon? I love my Jays, but this series with Baltimore is giving me fits.

Anton Forde, Freeport, Bahamas

Well… here’s where my biases maybe kind of come out, because as quick as I am to think that Thames will regress, and Lind is pretty much is what he is, I’m also pretty sure Lawrie and Bautista will be fine. Of course I feel there’s more reason, based on past performance and sheer talent, to believe that of the latter two and not the former, but I couldn’t not acknowledge that saying so is also partly a reflection of my being generally down on the first two guys, and up on the second. It’s still a bit too early to be concerned for any of them, really. If the needle doesn’t start moving the other way in the next two or three weeks, it might be. Maybe.

As for Bautista’s swings outside of the zone, the Pitch F/X numbers at FanGraphs have him up just three percent on his rate last year, which can slide back down real easily due to the small sample. However, while his plate discipline rates are all pretty much in line with what he’s been like the last two years, the glaring exception there is the fact that his contact rate on pitches outside the zone is up about 14%, so maybe that’s what you’re seeing. He’s also swinging at slightly fewer pitches in the zone, and making less contact on those, which is surely part of what’s up, but… again, give it time, he’ll figure it out. I think.

 

Q-I was wondering if you believe there would be any benefit in signing someone like Vlad Guerrero as a threat off of the bench. Is he too expensive to have around as a pinch hitter and sometime DH? He’s past his prime, no doubt, but he would also represent much more of a game changer than Ben Francisco, I think.

Mark Twain, Charlottetown, PEI

From 2009 to 2011 a lot of the numbers (wOBA, wRC+, OBP, ISO, to name a few) that Vlad put up aren’t real different to Francisco’s, with the exception of plate appearances– and Francisco can actually field a position… sort of. So, I’m not sure he’s an upgrade at all, and that’s without even considering the potential cost and the fact that he hasn’t even been playing.

More to the point, honestly, it kind of surprises me that so many people around here who are fans of Vlad– presumably going back to his days as an absolute fucking beast for the Expos– actually would want to bother seeing whatever’s left of the husk that remains. I consider myself one, and I sure as hell don’t.

Comments (14)

  1. Nothing to do with the mailbag…but is there anything more annoying than the Tampa Bay Rays winning ANOTHER one run game. Fuck their…well, it’s probably not luck…but fuck whatever it is.

  2. Wow, feels like a long time ago, but man was Vladdy ever a beast in his time with the Spos. Agree 100% as an Expos fan it would be painful to see him play with the shape that body is in and how different he is from the yearly MVP candidate he was 7-8 years ago.

  3. I would have minded Vlad a couple years ago, but it’s just far too late in his career now to even bother with the notion.

  4. some breaking news on Mariano Rivera – might have hurt his knee before tonight’s game – watch for it

    and Jayson Nix is playing LF for the Stankees tonight

    oh the humanity!!!!!

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=F54rqDh2mWA

    • I know you’re trying to be cute about the collective reaction of Yankee fans, but that’s some real shit in that video, dude.

  5. “I have a hard time seeing Henderson Alvarez as that guy because, despite his solid repertoire, he’s won just once in 14 starts and despite the low regard in which Ws are looked upon, that is how they rank teams in the official standings.”

    This, from a professional baseball writer.

    Also, I really feel that all tHames is doing is bumping up his own trade value at this point. I’m sure the Jays would prefer to sell high on Thames as opposed to low on Snider.

    • “Why is it that stats aficionados universally seem to have absolutely no sense of humour or sense of the absurd or the ability to see the game as a game. They are like the Christian right. Everything must be black or white, right or wrong and if your opinion does not agree with my opinion then you are wrong…and an idiot to boot.”

      Clearly Richard was going for humour with his response to Alvarez’s lack of W’s. It’s the only thing that makes sense.

  6. Speaking of the All-Star game, can they finally take down that ’91 ASG banner? Is that really a point of pride for the franchise, up there with division and World Series championships?

  7. Joel Sherman tweets re: Mariano

    Rivera has shagged entire pro career. In Single-A in ’91, his mgr Brian Butterfield watched, said, “This guy’s our best outfielder” #Yankees

    For those killing #Yankees/Rivera for shagging flies in BP. Hasn’t been on DL for 9 yrs and does same routine daily for 20 yrs and (cont)
    why would he stop or be stopped now. If you haven’t noticed, routine has worked out quite nicely for him #Yankees

    https://twitter.com/#!/Joelsherman1

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