Apologies for missing the last one, but hoo boy, I wasn’t going to take another week off, as we’ve got a fresh new Griff Bag in our hands, and I’m pretty sure it’s a doozy. So get yourself a taste of a seriously caustic hijacking of it, even though that, as I may have mentioned before, sounds kind of disgusting, flavour-wise. But I’m sure it’s all good, as it’s time for me to answer Richard Griffin’s mail bag from over at the Toronto Star!
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-Minor league management questions for you. What is the objective for each level of the minors? Winning or player development? I would think player development in the lower levels is the greater objective, but then I look at the composition of the Vancouver roster and wonder if they are more focused on winning and attendance. Secondly, what goes into the thought process around promoting or demoting players. I look at some stats (I know that is not the full picture) and wonder why some players are not promoted when they seem to have mastered their level (e.g. Pillar or the Big 3 at Lansing). Then I see others (e.g. Knecht in FSL) and wonder why they are not sent down as they seem to be overmatched at their current level. And then I see players who have been at the same level for years with no signs of progress and wonder why they have not been released (e.g. Ahrens, Balbino).
Tom F, Newmarket
To the first question, it’s player development all the way up to Triple-A, at which point there’s the side-function of being a taxi squad for the big league roster– though in the case of Vancouver, I think there might be some marketing concerns going on there as well, such as having a pitcher as advanced as Marcus Stroman pitch there, of all places, after being one of the club’s first-round picks.
As for the promotions and demotions, as you full well acknowledge, the stats don’t really tell the whole story– precisely because of the player development stuff, often. Guys can be working on different things that reflect poorly in their numbers while actually having successes from a development standpoint. Anthony Gose, for example, had the bunt taken away from him while he was in New Hampshire, in order to have him focus more on refining his approach. On the other end, the Lansing guys you speak of, because of the “piggybacking” system the club has employed, haven’t been forced to turn a lineup over very often this season, which is reflected positively in their numbers. So… it’s a little complicated.
And the guys who seem to make no progress? Well, you need to fill the roster of a lot of affiliates somehow, no?
I enjoy reading your articles, blogs and mailbags whenever they are posted. IMO, they are required reading for any Blue Jays fan. I’ve read that Jose Bautista’s recovery is ahead of schedule. That got me thinking…have the Blue Jays ever DL’d someone who recovered much quicker than the 15- or 60-day period and was ready to go, but had to wait more than a day or two for the period to end?
Tavis McLean, Chatham
That sort of thing happens from time to time, but I can’t recall any instance where a healthy player had to sit out for any kind of prolonged number of games because of it. Meh.
A promising trade announcement last week. If nothing else, a relief to Francisco Cordero haters like myself. And I stand corrected after my last question re: why not release Cordero outright? AA was evidently holding on to Mr. Batting Practice because he was still worth something on the trade market. Phew.
Matthew McKean, Ottawa
Loved you in D.A.R.Y.L., but could you possibly come off like a bigger dickhead? Yes, he was bad, but it’s not like he wasn’t trying. The seething hatred of this guy among some fans is… it’s just mind-boggling sometimes. Some perspective, maybe?
Do you think that the Jays – given the fact that at least 3 of their starters are injured, may seriously work on getting a couple of experienced starters come the trade deadline?
Tony D’Souza, Toronto
I really don’t like AA’s approach to waiting for last moment to possibly make a trade. He’s too attached to his farm studs for one and secondly, by the time the Jays go through their tough schedule (Yankees/Red Sox) they will be well under .500 and now no Bautista. This team needs an extended winning streak and it can’t happen with these starters at hand. It’s a shame but the wild card hunt will have to wait till next year. The Leafs slogan can now be applied to the Jays…”There’s always next year”
Kam H, Richmond Hill
Right. Because he sure missed out on ALL THOSE GUYS GETTING TRADED THREE WEEKS AGO.
I’d explain a little about how markets have to develop or suggest that someone needs to take a piss on your ridiculous, smug negativity, but as someone who evokes the unceasing shittiness of the Leafs while AT THE SAME GODDAMN TIME suggesting the Jays start dealing away their top prospects, I think it would be far too big a waste our time.
Just going to throw out a trade idea to hear your thoughts on why it could/couldn’t happen from each end.
The Marlins are slowly falling out of the playoff picture and are likely to become sellers. Do you think that there is a chance that for the right price they would be willing to part ways with their recently acquired SP Mark Buehrle? He has the type of contract that AA likes and can be here for a few years. The Marlins would likely ask for young OF prospects back and young pitching which the Jays have plenty of. Could you see the Jays giving up a combination of one of their Lugnuts pitchers, Gose/Snider/Thames and either Yan Gomes or another middle of the pack prospect? Looking forward to hearing your thoughts.
Josh Cymbalista, Thornhill
As we’ve been discussing this week, Josh Johnson is definitely the prize among Marlins pitchers. Good call in seeing the fire sale coming and identifying Buehrle as a guy who’s having a pretty damn good year, but giving up six years of a high-end pitching prospect, plus that other stuff, for the last three back-loaded years of a contract you probably could have signed for money alone last winter? No thanks.
Buehrle isn’t moving, either, according to the latest reports.
Q-Thanks for the great blog. I am a fan of the Jays but still miss the Expos.
My question is on J Bautista’s fielding ability. During the last series with Boston JB played a ball off the fence poorly and the Boston commentators commented that he was a below average fielder with an above average arm. Is that the feeling around the league?
M Swain, Seeleys Cove
Well, if it isn’t it ought to be the feeling around the league, because it’s entirely correct.
The more I watch Yunel Escobar in the field the more I am convinced that he needs to go. On two occasions in the last few games (the most recent being G2 at Yankee Stadium) he has come across the diamond to steal pop up outs away from what I see as an annoyed Kelly Johnson. Earlier in the same Yankee game Escobar flipped the ball behind his back with men on base to an unsuspecting Johnson. I believe that the relationship between the two is poor and that Escobar, his sense of entitlement and constant glances to the cameras while in the dugout need to be traded and replaced by Hechavarria who appears ready for the majors.
Adam M, Waterloo
I bet you do believe you’re capable of understanding that relationship from watching these two guys interact with each other on TV for probably less than 10 minutes combined every week. Thing is, that’s kinda fucking stupid.
You don’t have to like Escobar’s play this season, or… shit, it’s a free country, you can be rubbed the wrong way by ludicrous misinterpretations of body language and the directions of his looks, but this armchair relationship counsellor stuff is such nonsense that I can’t possibly take the real question buried beneath the bullshit seriously at all.
Q-With all of the injuries that are suffered by MLB pitchers, I’ve been wondering if it’s time to implement the pitching version of Moneyball.
It has become clear over the years that throwing a baseball 90+ mph an excess number of innings is not sustainable for a large percentage of MLB pitchers. Injuries are inevitable, and many of those of the long-term variety requiring significant surgery and lengthy rehab. And with these injuries, huge chunks of roster salary are in effect wasted that in mind, I’ve been wondering if it is time to re-consider the whole concept of what constitutes a pitching staff and how that staff is employed.
Rather than spending in excess of $30 million, (or much, much more) on five starting pitchers, plus something like $8 million on one closer, plus an additional $12 million or so on 5 or 6 middle relievers, why not this: a group of 12 pitchers that pitch an average of 3 innings per game.
On this roster, there are no starters, there are no closers, and there are no set-up men. They are interchangeable parts of an elite roster that can be mixed and matched to provide the best matchups every game.
Instead of your $50 million average pitching roster that is prone to breaking down, you could have an elite pitching roster at a cost of $30 million that is much less prone to injury.
Imagine the following pitching roster (approximate 2012 salary in brackets):
Vinnie Pestano ($490K) ; Jason Grilli ($1.1M); Joaquin Benoit ($5.5M); Sean Burnett ($2M) ; Mike Adams ($ 4.4M); Scott Downs ($5M) ; Sergio Romo ($1.6M); Matt Thornton ($6M) ; Luke Gregerson ($1.6M) ; David Hernandez ($1.25M); Sean Marshall ($2.4M); Tyler Clippard ($1.65M).
This staff would cost $33 million; give you an ERA of around 2.00, a WHIP of around 1.00, and a crazy K/9 innings rate. Basically, you’d have the best pitching staff in the entire league – by a mile.
If you employed a consistent strategy of rotating them in every 3 innings you get additional benefits: each pitcher would top out at about 120 innings per year, thus reducing arm/elbow/shoulder strain etc.; every game the opposing team would rarely have a batter see the same pitcher twice, which would in effect lower batting average against even further (batters can’t develop rhythm, learn from previous at-bats, etc).
And the biggest benefit of all might be the extra cash available to spend on the offence. Imagine if the Jays maintained their current payroll parameters, but spending $20 million more per year on offense while carrying an elite pitching staff. WIN-WIN.
Scott Postma, Waterdown
What??? You emailed this to Griff too? I thought I was special.
And my apologies, Scott, for not emailing you back, but… thing is… not only are some of those salaries low because those guys are still in their arb or pre-arb years, but… um… you really think you’ll get the results you suggest out of that collection of shitballers? By doubling their innings????
I don’t want to shit on creative solutions, because it’s certainly interesting (and OK, maybe they’re not all quite “shitballers”), but… uh… good luck with that.
Q-A big fan, but you’ve grumbled a few times about the Jays’ draft strategy this season, and I’m still not clear about why you don’t like it. It has been many years since players were selected solely on the basis of their talent level, and strategy has always played a large role. What is so different about the way the Jays approached the draft this year?
Neil Paris, Toronto
Who the fuck would possibly grumble about the Jays’ draft strategy? They absolutely nailed it.
Richard Stoeten …
How in the world did the Jays miss out on Ben Sheets?? Desperate for pitching, and they couldn’t have taken a flyer on him …. and I gather he was unsigned as of June 30 this year? It’s still early days on Sheets with the Braves, but my goodness, what was to lose?
David Williams, Oakville
The same way everybody else in baseball missed out on him? Especially, it seems, because he was at least partly able to punch his own ticket, with interest from the Yankees and Cardinals at least, in addition to the Braves, all of whom are playoff contenders.
It’s not like you just pick a player off the shelf like at the supermarket, y’know?
Q-Given the plethora of injuries to pitchers on just about every team, isn’t it maybe time to consider adding a 26th man to the roster just to have that extra arm available instead of the constant – and confusing – shuffling of minor leaguers up and down?
J.D. Tamblyn, Lindsay
If I was the Yankees I’d sure be interested. They sure do manage to get some great bench bats and role players, huh? Why not give ‘em a crack at one more?
Re the Jays pitchers’ injuries: Your colleague Kennedy’s column has the list. It appears as “bad luck”. Nothing wrong with the basic routine. BUT what if the young ones lack fastball command? And therefore are taught-encouraged to throw pitches that can hurt? And, worst of all, get sent to T. John surgery as a matter of routine.
Is it too conspiratorial to think that THIS in fact has become the system? That the surgery means teams can load up on pitchers with lots of breaking pitches and their pain be damned. What a shame it would be if 100 years after the sidearm and submarine pitchers of yesteryear (throwing with a much more anatomically healthy motion – ours arms after all do HANG DOWN -) went the way of the dodo bird we now have a situation where almost no one pitches complete games, medical science rebuilds the broken. There are many ironies in this tale. It deserves more analysis.
Charles Novogrodsky, Toronto
Clubs seek pitchers who have the tools to get excellent, well-equipped, well-trained, informed modern hitters out.
What were we talking about again?
It seems to be the Year of the Pitching Injury. The last couple of seasons have seen more and more pitchers heading off to Dr James Andrews’ clinic, but this year is ridiculous. A second Tommy John surgery for Drabek? Are managers tougher on pitchers? Are pitchers trying to throw harder? Or is it a statistical anomaly?
Paul B, England
Jason Frasor has had a pair of Tommy John surgeries as well, so it’s not like this is entirely a new thing.
I suspect– and I can’t claim it’s an original thought, though I’m not sure where I heard it from– that part of the reason we seem to be seeing more of these surgeries lately is the fact that they’re getting more and more effective. Rather than choose lengthy rehab and pitching through pain, the success rate for the surgery is so high– and the number of pitchers who will require it sooner or later so high as well– that clubs and players don’t have a lot of reluctance to viewing it as the best option for an injury, rather than a last resort.
That’s not entirely true, as we’ve seen with Drew Hutchison this year, but there isn’t the same fear of it that there used to be.
And pitchers’ arms are coddled more than ever these days, so I don’t think it’s an issue of them being worked too hard– though throwing too hard, or being able to generate too much arm speed for their own good (thanks to fitness levels in other parts of their bodies that were unheard of two decades ago, perhaps?) could be a factor. I suspect it’s part anomaly, and partly our tendency to misremember injuries of the past, as well.
But… fuck if I know.
I mean, if I had the answers to these questions would I be sitting here hijacking the mail bag of a local sports reporter?
Just watching Sunday’s Indians game and wondering about Derek Lowe. A crafty veteran who still has the right stuff – could he be the “Jack Morris” piece to next year’s pitching puzzle? I believe he’s a free agent after this season.
Rod Salloum, Vancouver
Good god no. He’s an ageing ground ball pitcher who isn’t striking guys out anymore, walking more than when he was good, and having the worst statistical season of his career. It’s been a terrific run for Derek Lowe– just 9 WAR fewer than the overrated Morris– but he’s not anybody’s answer to anything at this point, I don’t think.
What’s going on with the Jays pitchers. There have been too many with season ending injuries that are requiring surgery. It’s too coincidental to have this many pitchers out in one season. Is it poor training or poor preparation. The bright side is that over the course of the next two years they will be back.
Doug Peat, Dorchester
Alex Anthpoulos said recently that they haven’t changed anything they were doing from the last two years, during which the club was far healthier– and I entirely believe him. He added that they’re still exploring whether there might be something in the system, the regimen, the types of pitches they’re getting guys to throw, which might explain what seems like an inordinate number of elbow blow-outs this year– and I believe him on that too, and I have said since pitchers started dropping like flies that that’s exactly what they should be doing.
In my mind, most likely it’s just a shitty coincidence.
Q-Hi Richard -
Baseball more than any other of the Big 4 North American sports places a strong importance of the history of the game. This year they’re celebrating the 100th anniversary of Fenway Park. Wrigley Field will be 100 in 2 years. (Personally I think it’s a sewer). But stadia such as Rogers Centre seem to lack a connection to the past (Other than the names listed on the Level of Excellence).
Could you suggest that they return to acknowledging 5th deck homers or those off the Windows restaurant) with permanent markers of where the balls landed for the Jays and other teams. Perhaps marking the seat where the ball landed with a different colour with a name and date. Might add some history to an otherwise sterile building.
Bo Buczko, Toronto
I’m all for the club doing whatever they can to improve the atmosphere and the look of the building, so… sure, why not?
Grass, though, would easily be the biggest improvement they could make. By the way, how’s that little phony project going, Paul???
Love your work and appreciate your time to interact with the everyday Jays fan. I am hoping you can clarify something for me. With the trade deadline fast approaching, all you hear from the media is that with all of the injuries the Jays have faced they can’t possibly be buyers this year. How does the loss of a few fringe starters affect their chances of making the playoffs? It’s not like anyone could possibly believe they would succeed with any of the three rookies as the #3 starter so they were going to need to add pitching anyways. I get the loss of Morrow, but he appears to be on his way back and will certainly be healthy by the late push in September. And I would understand if Bautista was done for the year, but the way I see it this team could be right there to the end with one or two solid to great starters and at least one more reliever. Their offence is clearly as good as anyone right now. Am I completely off base? Also, a fun hypothetical trade question. Morneau for Lind. Who says no?
Jon K, Aurora
I think the Jays say no, strictly based on money. (Morneau is owed $14-million for 2013, while Lind will get a salary of $5-million, which could go up by $3.5-million if they buy him out of all three of the option years that follow.)
As for the stuff about contention, um… who is saying that the Jays can’t be buyers? They’re not buying rental players, but certainly they’re looking to add, especially when it comes to pitching. Now, that doesn’t mean that they’re anywhere close to as likely to be in it as you seem hopeful of, but sure, there’s still something resembling a chance.
Q-Reading about Warren Cromartie’s Montreal Baseball Project fills me with nostalgia about the great Expo teams. My question for you is this – If Montreal is able to resurrect a baseball team (AA or AAA since I don’t think that they will be able to support a MLB team at this point), who do you think will be the likely MLB team to establish a farm system in Montreal?
In Edwin’s recent contract I see the influence of Jose Bautista. You can see that the two get along really well and complement each other in the line-up. After watching the Home Run Derbies the past three years I can see the same sort of respect and admiration being expressed between Bautista and Big Papi (Ortiz wanted Bautista on the home run team in 2010 and this year he acted as an adviser to help him). I know it’s a long shot, but do you see the Jays aggressively pursuing Ortiz as a FA based on Bautista and Ortiz’s perceived mutual respect and admiration.
I can easily see a line-up of Bautista in RF batting third with Big Papi as the DH batting fourth and Edwin playing 1st Base and batting fifth hitting a combined 100+ HRs – A modern re-creation of the Yankee’s Murderers Row.
That, coupled with an aggressive move to acquire a proven veteran pitcher like Cole Hamels or Cliff Lee would be enough for them to not only compete for the 2nd WC position but quite possibly win the Division
Forever an Expo’s fan -
PS – Did you pick Miami’s park as one of the worst because of the owner’s former association with Montreal?
Mike Tremblay, Vernon, BC
I think the Jays would obviously be the best fit for a Montreal-based affiliate, and I know I’m not the only person who would love to see MLB-affiliated baseball return to the city– or, shit, they could take the team away from that swine in Miami if we really wanted to exact some cosmic payback.
As for Ortiz, he’d be a tremendous fit here, you’re absolutely right, and if things are really as sour in Boston as the media sometimes makes it seem, it might be more than just a pipe dream. But I doubt it.
And I certainly wouldn’t go getting my hopes up this far away– for that, or for the Jays finding the money for some kind of mega-deal with a pitcher. Someone in the second tier of pitching free agents, however– of whom there are many– wouldn’t surprise me at all, and would itself go a long, long way to making the club even more viable than they already are.
No need to dream so big to get excited about the 2013 Jays.
There are now other pitchers injured – Perez and Frasor. We were lucky that Alvarez is okay, but is he really okay? Morrow, Drabek and Hutchison are injured. And all the talk is going towards who can the Jays trade for? But let’s change the focus. Who is going to figure out why all these injuries to pitchers have happened over the years? I am sorry but when you look back over the last few years at the pitcher injuries it appears to me that this is something more than bad luck. It continues to occur, and it is not being addressed. Let’s look at the history that I can find on the internet:
In March 2006 a heading on the Jays’ website said Scott Downs is the latest pitcher to go down; Downs was slated to step in as the temporary fifth starter in the first week of the season so A.J. Burnett can continue his steady recovery from an elbow injury in March. In April 16, 2006 the Jays took A.J. Burnett off the 15-day DL. Seven days later, Burnett was back on the DL again, citing a sore right elbow. On June 11 2006 left-hander Gustavo Chacin was headed to the DL with a strained left elbow. When the Jays activated Chacin, they placed Pete Walker on the DL with a shoulder injury. Walker came off the DL on June 28, and was back on it by July 8 with a right shoulder strain. On August 9, Justin Speier went to the DL with tightness in his right forearm.
In April 2007, pitchers that went to the DL with arm injuries included Brandon League, B.J. Ryan, and Gustavo Chacin. In June, AJ Burnett took his usual position on the DL. On August the 13, Brandon League again hit the DL in time for Burnett to return. Reliever Casey Janssen also suffered an injury that wouldn’t see him return until early 2009. He missed all of 2008 due to shoulder problems.
In 2008, trips to the DL with arm related issues included Brian Wolfe, Shawn Marcum twice, Dustin McGowan twice and Brian Tallet. Their 3-4-5 pitchers in 2008 all underwent Tommy John surgery: Jesse Litsch, Marcum and McGowan. Dustin McGowan had right labrum surgery after the 2008 season. After the 2008 season Shawn Marcum had Tommy John surgery to repair ligaments in the pitching elbow. Marcum and Litsch underwent Tommy John surgeries in late 2008 and early 2009 respectively.
In 2009 Ricky Romero and BJ Ryan were placed on the disabled list. Others that have made a stop on the DL that year included Ryan, Ricky Romero, Bobby Ray, Casey Janssen, Scott Downs, Scott Richmond, and Roy Halladay.
In 2010 Richmond and Dirk Hayhurst were injured.
A few years ago when these injuries occurred we were saying wait until Drabek and others came. OK we waited and now Drabek and Hutchison are injured. We traded for Morrow and he is injured. Now we are being told to wait again. How many more times do we have to go through this? Have the same training staff been with the team all this time? Is there any way to look back over the past six years and compare injuries to Jays pitchers to the injuries to the other 29 teams’ pitchers? I strongly suspect that the Jays would be no. 1.Why is the cause of the problem not being addressed?
Bruce Hutchison, Winnipeg
You see graphs of man-games lost to injury from time to time, and the Jays haven’t been near the top on any that I’ve seen. Ballplayers get hurt. Relax.
I’m curious to know what is the cost/fee to perform Tommy John surgery? And do the Blue Jays receive a discount for their frequent business on the procedure?
Omair Rana, Chicago
Always enjoy your column. Lots of talk about baseball rather than salaries or rumours. One of the most fascinating stereotypes in baseball involves small (short) right-handed pitchers. A small, left-handed pitcher is crafty and baffling. Whitey Ford (yes, I’m old) was the classic, Hall of Fame, crafty lefty. Small right-handed pitchers are, well, little guys. I recall that when the Expos got Pedro Martinez from the Dodgers, the experts lamented that he was a small, right-handed pitcher. i.e. not good. Ramon would have been a better guy to get. Should we in Jayland be pleased or worried about the Jays signing Marcus Stroman who’s just a little guy?
Timothy Daniels, Toronto
We should be thrilled with the selection of Stroman, I think, as he was billed as having the most “electric” arm in the draft, which should at least play out of the bullpen, if he’s unable to hang in there as a starter. And yes, that might be the case in part because of his stature and handedness.
Put far too simply (but as well as I can), there are far fewer left-handed pitchers out there, so a lot of times lefties are able to get away with skirting the “height rules” more easily. Clubs don’t bend the rules as much with right-handers because the sheer number of them available raises the bar overall. This limits opportunities for shorter right-handers, because they generally aren’t capable of generating the same degree of downward plane on their fastballs, which, all else being equal, will make them more hittable than a taller pitcher. There is also a persistent belief that shorter pitchers are less durable– either because of some odd logic of physiognomy, or because it’s believed they need to put more strain on their bodies than taller pitchers in order to throw as powerfully– which I’m not sure has a whole lot of basis in reality, but is likely another factor as well.
Just wondering about something. When there is a rain delay, what happens with the players that are already on base, do they have to stay there until they continue play or call the game? I heard someone on radio say that they have to stay on base, and when once the umps decided to continue a game the next day
the poor guy had to stay all night. Is this really true?
Anne Guenther, North York