In his latest, epic Bullpen post over at the Toronto Star, Richard Griffin gives us a little bit of a teasing, offering a mini-mail bag in order to tide us all over until he posts a brand-spanking-new full-on one later in the week, and since I’m constantly on the lookout for something to keep me from working more on a majorly depressing year-in-review post that I’ve decided, for some reason, is necessary, let’s get to the hijacking!
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!
I am reviewing a psychology article called The Perils of Perfection in Sports. I keep thinking of Ricky Romero. He was like Atlas with the world on his shoulders this season. I remember when one of the starters (?) was injured, Romero volunteered to start the next game when he had pitched the day before. Richard, do you think that since he was considered the Jay’s “ace-starter” that he put too much on his own shoulders? Or could he have felt pressure from the coaches or fans? I think the shoes that he had to fill were too big for him to mentally handle this year. Your thoughts?
Susan Roberts, Sarnia
While I think it would be entirely foolish to understate the mental aspects of the game that contributed to Romero’s poor performance this season, there seems to be a tendency to do the opposite and dramatically overstate that element.
I suspect that tendency comes from a bit of an inflated belief in Romero’s true ability, especially after a 2011 in which he wildly out-pitched his advanced, fielding-independent numbers– a 2.92 ERA, but a 4.20 FIP, 3.80 xFIP, 4.12 tERA and 3.78 SIERA– and managed to have a top 10 strand rate in all of baseball.
Compared to that guy– compared to a guy people actually thought was better than Brandon Morrow– this season’s Romero looks like a total, unmitigated fucking catastrophe. The reality is probably a little more muted– just a very bad year for a pitcher who perhaps surprisingly appeared to have conquered his problems with the walk, which famously plagued him during his minor league days.
And sure, some of the issues with command are probably mental, but there are unquestionably other factors as well.
In a post I’ve passed along a number of times, earlier this summer Jon Hale suggested at the Mockingbird that “maybe Romero is trying to pick out the corners and/or overthrow because he is completely correct that he gets hit hard when he catches too much of the plate.” Hale noted how badly Romero’s changeup had abandoned him this year– though he pointed out a late season success against the Yankees in a game during which, oddly, the changeup wasn’t quite as sharp as many of his previous outings. This led Hale to quite interestingly theorize that perhaps “Ricky managed to improve his changeup movement to the point where it is very nasty, but not as enticing to swing at, and the league has adjusted to just lay off it at all costs.”
There is also the fact that he’s had a tremendous workload over the last three or four years, and must be hurting. In fact, we know he’s hurting, as Romero said so himself when Drew talked to him, among many others, about the grind of the season in the last regular season episode of the Getting Blanked Show this year (starts around the 16 minute mark).
And, really, can you blame him? Over the last three seasons he’s tenth in the Majors in total batters faced– a ranking that doesn’t drop a whole lot when you go back to include his 178 inning 2009– and he’s thrown the 22nd most pitches over that span, including the tenth most in baseball this year. (Aside: Henderson Alvarez was also in the top ten in pitches thrown in 2012. And you wonder why the Jays were so bad?)
That’s right, his arm didn’t even get a break this year, despite the fact that he logged only 181 innings– 62nd in MLB.
Does any of this bode well for 2013? No, not really, I suppose. But it maybe suggests that, if things do continue to go south for Ricky, it won’t entirely be because of the mental stuff people are so quick to point to.
Always enjoy reading your mailbag. I am confused by the reports of the Blue Jays allowing John Farrell to walk over to the Boston Red Sox. If the Jays were to get Clay Buchholz I would say for sure. Reports today say that it would be a fringe major-leaguer. Surely the Blue Jays would depend more than that in return than to allow the Red Sox to get the manager they want for nothing. What concerns me more is if the Sox turn it around with Farrell they will be the main competition blocking the Jays from the post-season. Your thoughts?
Andrew S., Alberta
Sorry, but managers just don’t mean a whole lot, so if the Red Sox get turned around, it certainly won’t be because of their manager.
Now, if Farrell somehow turns into an absolutely optimal tactical manager– something he has shown very little sign of becoming– perhaps the Jays should worry about the Red Sox potentially having him while they employ someone else, but… I can’t possibly imagine that being a legitimate concern, can you?
That said, I entirely agree with you that the Jays– unless they genuinely have major issues with Farrell, or he with them– ought to insist on much more than just a fringe player. And if the Sox don’t want to deal, they can toss right fucking off.
Q. Last year, Alex Anthopoulos said payroll dollars are available when he can guarantee success. With his credibility and job perhaps on the line, he needs to present a strong case to his bosses. If you’re AA, how do you convince Rogers that the time to spend is now?
Erich von Stroheim, Toronto
It would seem to me, actually, that the time to spend isn’t now, but was last winter, and the player to spend on was Yu Darvish– or, shit, how about Yoenis Cespedes?
Be that as it may, I actually don’t think Anthopoulos will have much convincing to do this winter. He’s said, and I tend to believe him, that extra payroll dollars will be there to be spent– not a crazy amount, but more than we’ve seen lately– and I can entirely view this as a logical progression of what was planned all along when Anthopoulos sold himself to Rogers and Paul Beeston in order to get the gig.
The much bigger concern, for me, is just who the hell they’re going to convince to take those dollars, and whether whoever they do convince are guys who can take them to the next level.
I want to ask what your thoughts were on the situation that Omar Vizquel got himself into last week. Disregarding the fact that the man has had a Hall of Fame worthy career, I question his decision to go public with his discontent with the Jays clubhouse with a week to go in the season. It seems as if it’s a whole lot easier to dump on the Jays this season with everything that has gone wrong. As someone who was brought in as a veteran presence to help mentor the younger players on this team, it seems hypocritical for him to then criticize a ‘lack of veteran leadership’ without having to look in the mirror himself. This is also a guy who also said that the phrase that Yunel Escobar had under his eye blacks wasn’t a big deal. While it’s entirely possible or perhaps likely that there are communication issues with the Jays coaching staff, it seems as if his comments should’ve been made behind close doors without throwing the manager under the bus. It seems like Omar is more concerned with positioning himself for a coaching gig next year than setting an example for the young players on the team.
Dan McKinnon, Toronto
Couldn’t have said it better myself.
There are three things the Blue Jays need next year. Starting pitching, starting pitching and starting pitching. According to Buck Martinez, the starters for the Jays have 47 wins. Teams that are in the playoffs, average about 70 wins. They won’t get Greinke who has already declined a trade here. They already had Edwin Jackson but moved him. The starters in the minors are just prospects so you had better know that to get what you want you will have to give up positional players. I personally believe that no one is untouchable including Bautista and Encarnacion. I believe the only way to go is the trade route. Any ideas as to who looks good to you???
Dave Mulholland, Scarborough
It’s as hard for me to see Bautista or Encarnacion being dealt in anything but a lateral move for 2013 as it is to imagine how anybody could actually quote Buck Martinez as an expert, or still bother using fucking pitcher wins for anything in two-thousand-and-goddamn-twelve. But yes, the Jays need pitching, and the trade route will certainly be explored.
Possible names? I still think Oakland and St. Louis may have a surplus to acquire from, though Jamie Garcia’s wonky shoulder may change that calculation, and there are still guys on short-term deals like Matt Garza or Josh Johnson who would help. And if you really wanted to go big– and could stomach helping a division rival by sending a monster package of players their way– the Rays may be listening on David Price.
Of course, as Alex Anthopoulos would be quick to point out, there are probably a number of guys who’ll be available that, right now, nobody thinks will move. Adrian Gonzalez, Josh Beckett and Carl Crawford weren’t exactly on anybody’s trade radar– er… tradar?– before they were moved in August, and we know how Alex likes to work silently.
I just read your Sept 18 column on homophobia in baseball and I have to say one thing: you really get it! Connecting the homophobic/transphobic nature of rookie hazing to locker room culture is really important. Thank you so much for your voice! I await the day that a representative from GLAAD throws out the first pitch at a Blue Jay game. I also await the day when a woman plays major league baseball!
Ann Travers, Vancouver
Agreed, Ann. Entirely agreed.