Does anyone even bother to read these fucking preambles, or are you all just jonesing the way I am to get to my weekly-ish little caustic hijacking of Richard Griffin’s mail bag from over at the Toronto Star. (Or, y’know, not really caring either way… most likely).
Whatever the case, let’s get to it!
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-I like John Farrell but sometimes I question his ability to manage this ball club. I was at the game on Tuesday against Oakland. Thames on third, Rasmus on first with one out and Arencibia up. Why did he pull JP out for Omar Vizquel? I can understand the desire to stay out of a double play, but Rasmus has speed and the infield was in. Why not send Rasmus and let JP who has been hot of late hit. Also, it backfired two ways: Omar tried to bunt and popped out but more importantly Jeff Mathis had to come in to play catcher in the 9th. The pitch selection was off and Francisco Cordero threw a 2-2 slider to Michael Taylor who had been late all game on the fastball. We all know what happened after that. Why not show confidence in JP, or is the organization getting tired of his low OBP. Adam Lind is also not playing well, so why not have Ben Francisco playing more against LH pitching as the DH, while Edwin plays first.
Jason Sinnarajah, San Francisco
There is literally nothing in your question I could possibly quibble with, Jason. I was as stunned that Rasmus didn’t try for second as I was that Vizquel was actually asked to go in for Arencibia. That Mathis came in cold and struggled couldn’t be expected, I don’t think, and he’s a better defensive catcher than JP, so it’s hard to fault Farrell for that, but… yeah… that whole sequence was a gargantuan what the fuck?
Q-Jays starters have won 15 of the 36 games played so far translating to a 42% rate. Applying this percentage through 162 games yields a 67 game win amount for the starters. If a 60 game minimum win amount for starters is the benchmark for playoff contention (according to some baseball analysts), does that statistic carry profound weight in playoff prediction?
Jan Bortoski, Belleville
I mean, beyond the fact that the results the Jays’ pitchers have produced have outperformed their peripherals in a lot of instances, there’s the fact that young pitchers are volatile, and we can expect more growing pains than we’ve so far seen, especially as the league gets to know Alvarez, Hutchison and Drabek better. There haven’t been any truly spectacular blow-ups, and you’ve got to think that at least a few of those kinds of outings are coming. Alvarez doesn’t miss enough bats to sustain his success– though every time he pitches I do think he looks more and more like he can be a really effective starter– and Drabek has gotten by in his last couple starts despite having nothing resembling what you’d call command.
In other words, I just think it’s a bit too early to start extrapolating. Plus, I can’t help but wonder if that 60 game benchmark applies to a division like the AL East, though I can’t claim to know a whole hell of a lot [read: anything] about that form of analysis.
Wow, still can’t believe I just watched another blown save opportunity for the Jays in the opener versus Oakland. As much as I’m thinking Cordero’s days as closer are thankfully close to the end, I’m wondering why the manager left him in the game when he clearly couldn’t throw anywhere near the strike zone? And his decision to lift Arencibia, one of your best and clutch, run producers in favour of an over-the-hill bench player was, well, dumb. Omar, as great as career as he’s had, didn’t help by popping up a bunt on a 3-1 count. It was sad, but again, it was the manager’s decision. On the bright side, Kelly Johnson is playing all-star calibre ball right now. Hope he keeps it up. Of course, I always appreciate your point of view, once you stop retching after watching that hideous ending.
Paul Rudan, Campbell River, B.C.
Blown saves happen. I think you’re just going to have to learn to live with it. But… honest to fuck, it’s going to start happening a lot less, now that Cordero has lost his job and Santos is heading back. The Jays bullpen is fine.
As for the Vizquel thing, though I’ve already kind of touched on it, I’d like to add that I get that Omar was perhaps making a little noise about not being used enough by the club, and that Farrell wanted to show some faith in his veteran and make him feel like more than just a mascot/expensive bench coach– I really do. But… then??? He couldn’t have picked– I don’t know– any other time??? I didn’t get it. At all. Though, if Vizquel had actually laid the bunt down I think we’d be a little less harsh on Farrell over it, for whatever that’s worth.
Q-Love the Q&A and am always interested to see it up when you are able to squeeze it in. The hard work is much appreciated. I have noticed over the past decade or so bullpens have increased from 5 to 7 people. As the major league rosters have remained stable at 25 this cuts down on the number of role players available, especially as every team carries an extra catcher, you end up with space for three (AL) or four (NL) position players. Inevitably the players chosen end up being ‘super-subs’ able to play multiple positions. Without the extra bench players some of the strategies of the past have disappeared, such as platooning (except for catcher), grabbing a Rule 5 player and sitting him on the bench (except for pitcher) or having a uni-dimensional player available for late inning situations, such as a speedster. Has there been any discussions about increasing the size of the roster? The union would be for it for obvious reasons, and teams should be interested as it would drastically increase their options and end of bench players should in most cases be pretty low cost. If nothing else it would help situations like that for the Jays next year when hard decisions over Snider/Thames will be needed solely because Snider is out of options and there are no bench spots available.
Neil Somers, Thornhill
Meh. I dunno.
Q-I was watching game recaps of other teams today (which I don’t normally do) and I kept saying to myself “our infield would have made that DP” and “our outfield would have run that down.” When you look at the defensive abilities of this team, we’re pretty solid. Leading the league in double plays allows our young pitchers to not worry about getting hit. Our pitching is also holding other teams to less points (RUNS 108), compared to our hitting (RUNS 133). On the plus side, we’re not hitting as well as we could. This is a good sign of a balanced team going in the right direction. We’re not that far from a playoff team and it’s exciting. GO JAYS GO!
Chris Read, Beamsville
I don’t disagree, Chris. I think the pitching is overperforming, the hitting is underperforming, and there will probably be a correction on both fronts that continues to balance things out. The Jays still need some breaks and some guys to heat up *COUGH* Bautista *COUGH* before they can realistically think of themselves as playoff contenders, but they’re a pretty damn good team– and defensively they’ve been a lot of fun to watch. Though… I suspect the defensive improvements have a lot to do with the shifts the club has employed– which isn’t to say that Lawrie and Rasmus haven’t looked great in the field, but clearly the shifting is helping everybody out.
Positioning players to where it’s most likely the ball will be hit– what a revelation!
Anyway, it’s kinda like I told a guy before the year started: the Jays may not be a better club in terms of their end-of-year win-loss record, but they sure are a better team. This statement, perhaps expectedly, was met with his fucking mush brain exploding and tiny pieces of it flying out of his mouth as he tried screaming his way into coping with a concept he wasn’t able to handle, but it wasn’t wrong.
Absolutely great blog, great commentary, great mailbags (which I look forward to every week — or so!). Please keep them all coming. Okay, here’s the question: Adam Lind said in an article recently that he did his best under Cito, and that going up there aggressively and putting a good swing on the first pitch if it looked good really worked for him. Now, however, he’s trying to fit in with the new team philosophy, which is make the other team’s pitcher throw you as many pitches as possible to get to the supposedly weaker middle relievers faster. And now he can’t hit his sock size.
So, why don’t they get Cito in, let Lind go back to the old way that worked for him, and just let the others keep on working the opposing pitchers deep? Is Farrell so inflexible that he’d rather have Lind hit once a week than to let the guy loose on the first pitch and get a hit or two a game? Is he worried that the others will ask to be allowed to swing at good first pitches, too? Is baseball really so one-size-fits-all in its strategies that it can’t adapt when the anointed strategy doesn’t work for a player? Last time I looked, getting lots of hits against a starter usually got you to middle relief early, too.
Free Adam Lind!
Allan Lane, Cincinnati, OH
Holy mother of fuck, bring back Cito??? The guy who figured you were some kind of goddamn pussy if you took a walk? No fucking way. Especially since I don’t know what the fuck you’re talking about. It’s not like Lind hasn’t been allowed to do whatever bullshit he figures is going to help him this week. I mean, at this point in Lind’s excuse parade, who the fuck knows what’s worth believing?
He needed to DH, he needed to not DH, he needed Cito, he needed controlled aggression, he needed to be aggressive again, he didn’t work enough in the off-season, he worked too much in the off-season, his body started breaking down at goddamn 27 by playing first base, etc. etc. etc.
Give me a break… in the eighteen miles of rope he’s been given! HEYO!!!
Long-time reader, first-time question. The recent 2HR game for Jose Bautista is great and I hope it symbolizes the beginning of the end for his slump. But I think the fact that the Jays hit 4HR in that game and still lost (despite the iffy pitching) our problem is a lack of consistent hitting i.e. hitting for average…I know you’ve discussed the Batting Coach situation in the past, and that running the count high is the Manager’s approach, but hitting for power is just not enough or does not seem to be enough. Our BA is too low throughout the lineup. I’d rather see more RBIs off of a few .300 hitters rather than scattered HR from the likes of .200-.250 hitters, especially in a 2-on, 2-out situation. A .300 hitter will more likely keep an inning going. Why aren’t the Jays hitters hitting? Seems to be a copy of the situation from Cito’s last year at the helm, is it the batting coach or the manager’s approach that is not allowing players to hit for average? I find it hard to blame the whole lineup with the exception of our DH and 3B?
On another note, even with the excuse of the bunt execution option, the move just doesn’t add up to pinch hitting for JPA?? Seems to be one of those trigger happy situations decision handling like the closers last year by Farrell. I would say this even if it would have worked out.
O.S., Tel Aviv
The Omar-Aaron Cibia thing has been exhausted, I think. As for the other stuff… I can’t even….
I mean, precisely how much influence do you think the hitting coach does? And… fuck… it’s just so hopelessly oversimplified to think of it as “Murphy likes power” and “Farrell likes long at-bats”– nor does it make any goddamn sense at all to talk about batting average, or… fuck, I don’t even know.
Thing is, the problem with the hitters runs far deeper than something to do with what they’re hearing from the manager or the hitting coach. I can’t say I know precisely what it is, but a lot of it has to do with the fact that… this is what these hitters look like when they’re struggling. Arencibia is pretty one-dimensional, Rasmus is hitting the ball hard but isn’t showing much, Lind has been one of the worst regulars in baseball for the last two-plus years, Thames is OK but doesn’t get on base, Encarnacion is streaky, Johnson is hitting great, and Lawrie, Bautista and Escobar just don’t have it going the way we know they can yet.
It is what it is. It’ll get better. Probably.
Do you think a team with actual and realistic hopes for a playoff run can afford to have a Thames or a Lind (far less both) at a power position without them producing, well, you know…power? Or (in the case of Thames) a modicum of defence? How long before you see the Jays demoting them both to the minors (can’t imagine anyone picks up Lind at his salary) and calling up Snider and Coop? Do you think that Thames has anything close to a high ceiling? I see a guy with very limited speed, zero defence, and no particular game plan at the plate, who tantalizes with the occasional mammoth home run but is as soft a .290 hitter as you’ll ever see. And how long do you let Lind try and magically recreate his one excellent season?
Lee Zimmerman, Ottawa
Huh? Why narrow it into some bullshit about what is or isn’t a “power position”? Teams can absolutely succeed without power from power positions– last year’s Rays got 30 home runs combined from their first basemen and left fielders, and they were more than just a little bit fine. But that’s because they had guys who could do other things– and therein lies the Jays problem.
Lind, I’m with you on… kind of. They don’t really have a lot better options against right-handed pitching, so I don’t think he needs to be off the roster entirely, just not playing nearly as much. And if Thames can get on base at a rate like he was up until a couple weeks ago (he’s now down to .311– which is about where he was at last year, and where ZiPS projected him to be), he can get by despite not having a tonne of power and playing horrible defence. Problem is, I don’t think he can get on base at that rate, or why anybody else would.
Also– hold on a goddamn second. Did you say you envision Thames hitting .290? In what cock-smoking universe???!?!?
Regardless, you know… I’m real tempted to scoff at your suggestion of David Cooper, who doesn’t seem to be taken seriously as a prospect by this organization, any other, and nobody in the media who is serious about player evaluation, but at this point… why the fuck not give it a try? And I’m all for them finding a way to get Snider regular big league at-bats, just as soon as he looks like he’s recovered from his wrist injury (he’s hitless in four games since coming off the DL).
Q-The last time I checked the Jays lead The Majors, not the American League, but THE MAJORS in blown saves again (T3rd most last year). Is this another example of AA undervaluing higher priced closers that went to other teams in the off season? Was he hoping to get a “deal” on the closers that were left on the market in the off season?
The fact that AA brought in two closers (even though they stated that Cordero was going to be a set-up man) maybe indicates that they weren’t 100 per cent convinced that Santos (a position player converted to pitcher) could handle the position. I thought this was the one area that they addressed in the offseason after not acquiring a big bat or starting pitcher. Watching the Jays blow late leads has got to be one of the most frustrating things. Your thoughts??
Also, a stats question, does the game that Lawrie hit the walk off home run on Tuesday count as a blown save even though the Jays won the game?
-From a lifetime Jays Fan,
Shan Manocha, Detroit
I think you asked a legitimate question there at the end, but I’ll be fucked if I’m going to answer it after enduring the migraine you just gave me by trotting out that horseshit about the Jays needing an expensive closer. Holy fuck.
Q-At what point do we give up on Lind? Do you foresee any scenario where we could send Lind thru waivers and call up Snider w/ a 3 way DH/LF/1B rotation between Snider, Encarnacion and Thames?
Tony Baer, Baraboo
I don’t know about waivers for Lind, but I definitely would be interested to see what they can do with some kind of a scheme like this, though… I was a lot more on-board with it when Thames’ OBP was at .350.
Of course, I am not the Jays, and I don’t think they have the same stomach for such a profound switch. Not yet, at least, and I couldn’t possibly put a date on when. Busting Lind down to eighth in the lineup was a great baby step towards it, but then they moved him back to the cleanup spot because of some ludicrous small sample bullshit about his ability to hit Jeff Niemann.
So… fuck… as long as the pitching manages to somehow keep them in games, the hitters are going to keep getting rope. Once the pitching turns south– like it probably will– if the bats don’t hold up their end of the bargain, you’d think there’d have to be changes. You’d think…
A couple comments/questions: About Jose Bautista and his reaction to umpires, in last week’s mailbag you and the mailer seemed to imply that this was new behaviour this year. But I noticed him doing this all of last year as well, even when he was hot (only difference is after making a big scene of the call he didn’t like, he’d hit a homer). In fact, it seemed to be contagious (Escobar started doing it too). I don’t think this is about the slump. And it’s not about being unhappy with a call. It’s about showing up the ump when you’re unhappy. And Bautista could surely use from friends in the umpiring ranks about now.
Next, you have mentioned the possibility of Brett Lawrie hitting second, but how about leadoff? I realize he has his hitting issues this season, too, but leadoff hitters with power are no longer taboo, he’s as good for on-base as just about every other Jay, and we could use the distraction on the base paths. I know last year Davis would steal and then they’d walk Bautista, but if any manager wants to walk Bautista right now I’ll send him flowers. If this overall batting slump lasts much longer the Jays will need to start manufacturing runs, and that means speed at the top of the order.
Mark Acheson, London
I think you’re absolutely right about Bautista’s behaviour taking place last year as well– it just wasn’t quite as noticeable as we high fived each other while he trotted around the bases. But… um… he’s still walking as much now as he was when he hit 54 home runs in 2010, so you’d better have a big budget for flowers.
Lawrie could lead-off, sure. But there’s the whole left-right thing the manager is so worried about, so I’m not sure you’ll see it happen. I’d love to see him get more opportunities than he’s getting hitting seventh, though. But… whatever, over time the lineup stuff will work itself out– and at least Farrell has finally shown that he’s willing to mess around a bit with it. He’ll get there.
Q-Too many of the Blue Jays hitters are taking the first pitch for a strike. They are then behind in the count and swinging at bad pitches. Appreciate your comments.
Clary MacDonald, Merigomish, Nova Scotia
You might be right– I won’t bother looking– but if you’re suggesting the answer is that the Jays hitters need to come out swinging at the first pitch every single time, go ask Vernon Wells and Aaron Hill how much patience fans have for that kind of hitting when it doesn’t immediately lead to Ruthian numbers. It’s a long season and talent has a way of shining through in the end, so let’s not get too hung up on the nuts and bolts of horseshit with think we might maybe be possibly seeing that could have all kinds of unimaginable transformative properties for the Jays hitters.
In the chat, you mentioned that Brandon Morrow would be more dangerous if he went back to pitching for strike outs in lieu of ground balls. This will max him out at about 6 or 7 innings per start. Is that enough from their No. 2 hurler and is it more taxing on the arm to throw a strikeout pitch (reaching back for a little extra for that 3rd strike)?
I do believe it is less of a problem because B. Morrow pitches behind Ricky Romero, who is going to throw deep into the ball games, so it wouldn’t be as taxing on the relief corps. If Henderson Alvarez pitches behind B. Morrow and keeps his pitch count low and throws deep into the games, it would be even better for the pen. Is it realistic to expect Alvarez to consistently pitch 7 innings each start to put less stress on the pen? This is my favourite edition of the Jays since the glory years. Thanks for your continued insight,
Alex Henriquez, Toronto
While I’d love to see some kind of combination of the swing-and-miss Morrow and the one that can induce groundballs at will on a consistent basis, I’ll gladly take the guy who’s going to strike a shit tonne of guys out, and let the bullpen handle whatever he can’t. I know a lot of fans have a fear of the Jays’ relief corps., and given the results of a lot of their outings this year I guess I get why they do, but they remains exactly what we thought they were in the off-season: a pretty damn good collection of relief pitchers. They’ll be fine.
Besides, if you’re worrying about starters creating too much extra work for the ‘pen, I’d start looking in the direction of Drabek and Hutchison, not Morrow.
When will Farrell wake up, smell the roses and actually make some lineup changes based on strengths and weaknesses and put people in a position to succeed? For example, Yunel has been a better hitter in his career with runners on base and in scoring position than with no one on. Thames, on the other hand, hits about .200 with runners on base and about .160 with runners in scoring position and .300 when no one is on base. Time to flip flop those guys in the lineup and at least guarantee Thames 1 AB per game when no one is on base.
Um… so you want the guy with the .313 career on-base to hit ahead of probably the best hitter in baseball for the past two years, instead of the guy with the career .369 OBP? Because of some horseshit situational split that doesn’t really mean a whole lot, even if there was– which there isn’t– a reasonable enough sample of data on Thames?
And you’ve got the fucking gall to tell other people how to do their jobs? The scones on you…
I’ve been a big fan of your Jay’s mailbag and columns. That being said, I was extremely taken for a loop in regards to one of your comments. A reader of yours disagreed with one of your statements and you responded by saying “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.
“ I am a follower of Jesus Christ and I just can’t understand why you would take such a cheap shot at Christians when the comment by your reader had absolutely nothing to do with Christianity. You apparently just saw an opportunity to take a swipe at people who believe in something you apparently do not and you took it. I base my life around the principles and teachings of the Bible and I certainly won’t apologize for that. I just wanted you to know that I won’t be reading your work anymore.
Nathan Hoffman, St. Catharines
Awww. Did bad old Griffin make your magical space daddy sad? :(
I have been reading your blogs and mailbags for a while now and to this point have enjoyed your views and comments on the Blue Jays. But due to one of your comments in your last mailbag, I will no longer be reading your work. Someone criticized your views on a Prince Fielder comment, and for some reason you decided to result my faith of Christianity in response? I really do not see how the two are related, or why you would make such an insulting remark to the Christian faith. The irony is we Christians are easy to pick on because we are told to turn the other cheek. I doubt you would make such a jab at Islam, I’ll bet its adherents wouldn’t be as forgiving. I am sure it means very little to you but you have lost this reader.
Eli Hoffman, Three Hills
Hahahahahaha. Seriously??? You’re actually trying to champion your kindly, forgiving religion as you shit on a billion people of another faith? Jesus would be proud, I’m sure– y’know, not that Jesus or his teachings seem to actually have the slightest fucking thing to do with what passes for Christianity a lot of the time these days, or what gets co-opted as nominally “Christian.” But I digress. I’m certain all that stuff is a lot more complicated and personal for people than I, as someone who couldn’t possibly give a shit, am able to see.
What are the special attributes of an outfielder that make him more suitable for right field than left field, or conversely, more suitable for left field than right field?
Stan the Man, Jr., Toronto
Let me put it this way: there’s a runner on first and a batter singles to right field. Would you rather the lilly-arm of Eric Thames fielding the ball and attempting to keep the runner from advancing to third, or the goddamn cannon of Jose Bautista?