griffbag

Baseball is in full swing-ish, and apparently so is Richard Griffin when it comes to answering questions from his readers over at the Toronto Star, because once again back on Friday we had ourselves a fresh Griff Bag to hijack. Nails much?

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

If there’s a question you’d like me to answer, email it to askrich@thestar.ca and maybe he’ll select it for a future mail bag. Fingers crossed!

Q. Richard Stoeten,

What would have to happen this year for Canada to win the WBC? If not this year, then when?

Tyler W, Toronto

Uh… I dunno…they’d have to find some half-decent players less willing to embarrassingly proffer the kind of lame excuses Ryan Dempster and Russell Martin have allowed themselves to use? Or maybe they’ll just have to wait for Jameson Taillon to get a bit older (yet not be quite good enough to get asked to play for the States), and guys like James Paxton to figure it out. Wouldn’t hurt to change the timing of the tournament, either. Like, why not do it in October, schedule it in the gaps between playoff series’, and feature only guys on non-playoff teams? Sure, some players would opt out due to fear of overuse, and MLB might not want their big showcase overshadowed, but I think organizations would much less fearful of injury, and it would make for a much, much better tournament.

Truthfully, though, in this kind of short tournament, anything can seriously happen. I mean, a 98-win MLB club still loses four of every ten games, so… shit happens in this sport. Some damn pitching and some participation from the best the country has to offer would help, but there’s always a shot. Just look at how achingly close they were to getting past Team USA, or how they beat them in ’06 and came close in ’09, or how the Mexican team that Canada beat the piss out of (literally and figuratively) also beat the States.

 

Q. Hey Richard Stoeten,

A lot of praise has been lavished on Anthopoulous for the way he navigated this off-season, and most of it is deserved. In the interest of balance, what would you say his worst five moves have been in his tenure as Jays GM? The ridiculous two-year contract he gave to loveable band-aid Dustin McGowan and moving Mike Napoli for Frank Francisco are the first that come to mind. Still, it’s not like the McGowan contract is prohibitive, it’s just dumb, and Napoli’s OPS dropped .243 last year to more Clark Kentian levels. What else springs to mind?

Bryn Gabriel

Flipping Napoli for Francisco sure is a whole lot worse than the McGowan contract– which, to be fair, is inoffensive in terms of dollar amount, but especially silly because of the timing of it and the roster spot it ties him to– and is pretty clearly the biggest misstep in AA’s tenure. But it’s certainly not the only one– so much so that I wouldn’t even place McGowan’s deal in my top five.

What I’d say is most remarkable about the bad moves Anthopoulos has made is how he’s been able mitigate the damage from them. For example, the Jays lost Edwin Encarnacion on waivers to Oakland in November of 2010, only to be dropped by Oakland and re-signing here a month later. It’s worked out, but to me that’s still one of his worst ones, and I think the Halladay trade, praised as it was at the time, has to be up there too. He managed to turn Michael Taylor into Brett Wallace into Anthony Gose, and took some of the prospect-y uncertainty out of it by making Travis d’Arnaud a key part of the R.A. Dickey deal, but the deal as first completed, with Kyle Drabek the centrepiece, doesn’t look so hot.

Fourth and fifth on my list are moves that I felt were based on solid enough reasoning to be fully behind at the time– and probably for far too long afterwards. For one, trading away Aaron Hill, and not being able to correct the problems with his swing that they appear to have done rather easily in Arizona, is a big whiff (and not just because it brought back strikeout machine Kelly Johnson). I mean, I get that the smart play for the Jays was to not pick up Hill’s options for 2012, given the two seasons he’d just had, so I thought the deal made total sense– trading that non-entity for either a Type-B draft pick or a year-plus of a second baseman who has averaged two-and-a-half wins over and up and down career– but obviously Alex would want a mulligan on that.

For two, while I honestly do still want to not discount too greatly the reputation that preceded John Farrell, which suggests he’s an intelligent, malleable open-minded baseball man who is capable of thinking through the obvious shortcomings on display early in his managerial career, the Jays demonstrated rather clearly that they made a mistake with his hiring when they dealt him this off-season to Boston. A lot of fans want to blame Farrell for orchestrating his own exit– and he’s certainly not undeserving of some of that– but the fact of the matter is that the Jays knew he wanted out the winter before and stopped it from happening, and there’s no reason to believe they wouldn’t have been capable of doing so a second time. All the stuff about wanting to let him go if his heart was elsewhere sounds nice, but since they were OK with that after closing the door on a move to Boston following the 2011 season, and since they showed zero interest in extending him before his contract expired, they basically acknowledged that he wasn’t the right man for the job.

Honourable mention bad moves: Adam Lind’s “team friendly” contract, the signing of Omar Vizquel, keeping Cito Gaston on to manage one last season, and the multiple prospects given up for J.A. Happ (plus a couple months of Brandon Lyon and David Carpenter).

 

Q. Hi Rich Stoet,

I’ve read a lot about batting order recently and most in-depth analysis shows that hitting your best batters in the 1 and 2 spots produces more runs in a season than hitting them in the traditional 3 and 4 spots.

This makes sense to me as it gives your best hitters more ABs over the course of a year and makes a positive difference (albeit a small one of maybe 5 to 10 runs over a full year).

My question is – why isn’t any team following this advice? With everyone trying to eke out every last ounce of performance why is everyone ignoring this avenue?

Thanks

Matt, Etobicoke

Breaking with tradition just isn’t that easy– I mean, look at how beholden clubs continue to be to the closer myth, which I think is a much more obvious traditionalist bugaboo than lineup optimization. To successfully go a different way, not only do you have to convince whatever old reptiles occupy other parts of your front office and coaching staff that it’s worth it, but the players themselves, who attach prestige– and, more importantly, see money attached– to certain lineup spots and the type of production associated with them. On top of that, you have to be willing to endure the added media scrutiny that will invariably come when reporters and fans can’t wrap their heads around the fact that the changes don’t work like magic.

I’m with you, I’d like to see more thinking like this start to permeate the game at the big league level, but Major League jobs are just so scarce that I understand why most managers or GMs don’t want to risk running afoul of their employers, their players, and their markets by being excessively unorthodox. Give it time, perhaps.

 

Q. Hi Rich Stoet,

Here’s possibly another angle on the “Who catches Dickey” conversation. Dickey seems happy with any of the three options. Thole seems to be destined for Triple-A. By Opening Day JP could well have caught him about the same number of games as Blanco (and more recently) although they will obviously be Spring Training + WBC vs. “real” games. And catching Dickey seems to be more of a physical issue (chasing knuckleballs to the backstop!) than a mental one (calming the pitcher, pitch selection, etc). Would one of the other pitchers (e.g. Romero) benefit more from Blanco’s veteran-ness than Dickey? Your thoughts?

Thanks!

CB in Toronto

Uh… Blanco was brought in because Dickey himself had spoken to the club about how comfortable he was throwing to him, and because the pitcher had said he was the only catcher to really seem to be a natural at handling him, so I don’t think it’s simply a matter of athleticism and having caught him more recently. And while Dickey has said that he thinks all the catchers in camp can handle him, so he’s fine with whoever he’ll be working with, that may simply be the diplomatic thing to say with microphones in his face. The team certainly seems to be of the mind that he should have a personal catcher, or that it’s maybe too much for an already deficient defender in Arencibia to handle, and I think that makes total sense. So no, I don’t think Blanco would be better off with someone else.

More importantly, let’s not go fucking nuts with ascribing magical powers to a catcher just because he’s old. The San Francisco Giants have won two of the last three World Series with a catcher who won’t turn 26 for another two weeks, so… yeah, no.

 

Q. Hey Rich Stoet,

The lineup for the Blue Jays seems almost set, and we have a pretty good idea who is likely to fill the few remaining holes. But AA has also promised the Bison owners that he’s going to put a competitive team on the field in Buffalo, and has signed a bunch of guys with that in mind. As well, the Bisons represent our insurance policy, so we want them to be playing well, and winning games. With that in mind, any idea what their lineup looks like, and what their chances are for this season? Moreover, they’ve got a great stadium, and it will be fun to slide down the QEW to catch some games through the season. How are the Bisons shaping up?

Thanks,

Richard Worzel

If you’ve been watching the Jays in Spring Training so far, you’ve seen yourself a large number of Buffalo Bisons– and your right, it would seem that the Jays have stocked up on minor league veterans in order to both show commitment to their new affiliate and to ensure that they have some warm bodies if they need some depth.

From memory, and a quick glance at some spring stats, I’d say the Bisons will look something like this, more or less:

C Josh Thole
1B Lars Anderson
2B Mike McCoy
SS Ryan Goins
3B Andy LaRoche
LF Ryan Langerhans
CF Anthony Gose
RF Moises Sierra
DH Luis Jimenez

SP J.A. Happ
SP Justin Germano
SP Dave Bush
SP Ramon Ortiz
SP Claudio Vargas

There are some missing names, for sure– Velez and Zawadzki jump out– and certainly some guys might get dealt or won’t want to ride the buses, others might get promoted, but… I dunno… off the top of my head that’s probably something like what it will look like at first.

 

Q. Hi Richard Stoeten.

Enjoy your blog.

The for and against DH is being debated once again and I have, what I think is, a simple solution to the issue. Let the home team manager decide before each game whether to play with or without a DH. The home team manager would base his decision on whether he felt it would be advantageous to his team to play with or without the benefit of a DH. This would allow a new element to managing and create a whole new reason for sports writers and fans to second-guess managers.

Would love to hear what readers of your blog have to say about this suggestion.

Bob

It’s interesting, but… no. The National League is one of the few pro leagues left where the DH isn’t used, and while I can’t deny that it think it’s quaint and cute in its own little way, on the other hand, pitchers, as a group, are simply fucking atrocious at hitting. They posted a .327 OPS and .149 wOBA in 2012, while striking out over 37% of the time. It’s just not a thing that should be happening in the Majors anymore, I don’t think.

 

Q. Rich Stoet:

My wife and I own a home in Dunedin and have been coming down to spring games for years. Two things we’d like to know:

a) In away spring games, the Jays often seem to be in violation of the rule which requires teams to bus a minimum number of starters that were on the prior year’s regular roster. Yet the veterans often play in B games, which the fans are not encouraged to attend. Why doesn’t the media do more to protect the fans’ interests in these issues?

b) Can fans attend B games, and if so, how do we find about them?

Bill and Vi Grimmett

I think you’re absolutely right about the Jays not sending quality players to some of their road games, but what are these star-studded B-games you’re talking about? Pretty sure that’s not really a thing.

Comments (54)

  1. Got one I wouldn’t mind hearing your answer too.

    Did you hear JA after his start yesterday? Seems very unhappy……what would you do if you where A?, and on the other side, do you feel JA is right in showing the world his feelings, or should he have kept that to himself?

    • That should say,
      If you were AA? no where A ffs

    • I don`t think it`s a big deal and I wouldn’t do anything about it, except maybe try to make clearer to him that injuries will happen, and Romero doesn’t have a whole lot of rope to play with (or might find himself needing some time on the “DL” with elbow or knee trouble they can easily point to if he struggled). Happ should believe he’s a big leaguer and want to be there, and I can’t blame him for being frustrated, given that he’s pretty clearly been the better pitcher than Romero during his brief time here, but Ricky’s status is what it is for now, and there’s not much Happ can do about the position he’s in.

      • What about starting the season with a 6-man rotation? Gives guys a little more time to get into the groove and when one guy inevitably goes down to some injury, you now have a 5-man rotation. Come the pennant race, if a guy has been struggling all year, he goes to the bullpen and again, you now have a 5-man rotation.

        I know. It’ll never happen.

    • JA has every right to be upset with how the 5th slot has been handed to Romero in spite of no indication that surgery was the solution to his problems last year. It’s still early, but Happ clearly out-performed Romero last year in spite of being jerked around back-and-forth between the bullpen (for the 1st time in his major league career) and spot starting. They both went under the knife, and now Happ is clearly ahead of Romero in terms of whether he’s going to be ready to be a reliable contributor starting Opening Day. Romero’s issues are as much mental as they are physical… I was one of the chorus calling for him to go down to the minors last year and re-establish his control and confidence out of the spotlight… still think that is the way for him to go. Worked for Doc.

  2. I can understand his frustration. I get the feeling that it almost doesn’t matter how weel JA pitches, or how poorly Rickey pitches, Rickey will still get 10-15 starts of 5+ ERA baseball, given his contract and “Romero brand loyalty”.

    Unless AA is willing to entertain Rickey in AAA, I think that AA will just have to have an unpleasant conversation with JA to make him understand. I don’t think anyones being traded, though.

    • Someone will get hurt and Happ will get his shot. I’d bet he gets 15-20 starts this year at least.

      • Maybe Rickey will get “injured” around May 1st…Happ’s been great this Spring so far…

        • So was Ricky last spring, so let’s not go too nuts. But yes, it’s disturbing to see Romero looking quite a bit like the guy we saw last year.

          Thing is, I really don’t think that, given the investment in the club and the urgency to win now with this group, that they’re going to let him get to 15 starts if he looks as bad as he was last year. Maybe 10, but 15 is a shit-tonne, and there is going to be a lot of pressure and calls to get him the fuck out of there, if such a thing were to transpire. Of course, Gibbers was the one who gave Josh Towers 12 starts in 2006, at the end of which he stood with a putrid 9.11 ERA, so he’s not above giving a guy a lot of rope, even in a year in which there are some pretty high aspirations for the club. But Towers had his good year the year before, so hopefully Ricky doesn’t even get that.

          Or, y’know, hopefully it turns out he’s fine.

          • In a perfect world, Ricky will figure it out by April and throw a no-hitter against Boston.

            More likely, he has a 6.something ERA in April and gets put on the DL for knee problems in early May

          • I’d be ecstatic if Rickey averaged 6 inning, 3 run starts this year and a 4.50ish ERA. I can’t decide if I think that he doesn’t truly believe in his stuff (and nibbles) or has simply mindf#*ked himself and can’t pitch with control. I think that he’s got at least 10 weeks from today to figure it out.

            If he doesn’t figure it out this year, the question becomes at what point do the Jays decide that “the juice isn’t worth the squeeze” anymore, especially with capable arms in Buffalo?

        • And Romero was ‘great’ in spring last year. We all know how that worked out.

    • If Lincecum can be moved to the pen then I don’t see why Romero is guaranteed anything. I still think he’s a better option than Happ.. but its absolutely incredible to me to even be thinking that 5 starters could go the whole way this year after the year we just had.

  3. They don’t usually do B games unless it’s for a player that isn’t ready to play 5 innings or so, but still wants 2-3 at bats. They had 1 a few years ago for Hill when he was rehabbing a minor injury. I was there. He hit 3rd in the first, then they skipped everybody else and had him lead off the second and third innings so he can get his at bats. Then, after he was done, they end the game.

  4. I’d give Ricky 5 starts. If he keeps this up for all 5 then he’s Buffalo-bound.

    • Would have to put him on the DL – it would no doubt get picked up by someone if they tried to pass him threw wavers.

    • Agree, that in a year they hope to contend, the length of Romero’s rope should be quite a bit shorter than in the years when finishing 3rd was a dream season.

      But, there is a good chance Romero never sees success again.

      His success stemmed from inducing swings and misses at pitches out of the strike zone.
      Mostly, he relied on a changeup out of the zone as his put away pitch.

      Joe Maddon was the first to “expose” Romero by having his squad lay off the changeup and by stacking his lineup with wrong side hitters. The rest of the league quickly caught on.

      Until Ricky can get good hitters out IN THE STRIKE ZONE, he will not be a viable starting option on a good team. I’m rootin’ for him, but so far see no evidence that he will be able to do that.

      • I don’t think the problem is that the league figured him out, I think it’s more about his lack of fastball command. In 2011, he was able to get a first pitch strike 57.9% of the time (per Fangraphs), compared to 53.3% of the time in 2012. It’s a lot easuer to lay off the change-up in a 1-0 or 2-0 count than it is if the pitcher gets ahead of you.

        I don’t think Ricky’s ever going to bounce back to the 2.92 ERA he posted in 2011. His 4.20 FIP that year suggests he was incredibly lucky. However, if he comes back healthy and can locate his fastball a bit better, I don’t think it’s a stretch to think he can put up an ERA around his career mark of 4.09.

  5. Anybody interested in joining a fantasy league?

  6. Anyone else think the Bison roster looks better than the Houston Astro’s LOL

  7. In the last question I believe he’s referring to minor league games. Morrow is starting in one tomorrow so he doesn’t have to ride the bus.

  8. “the Mexican team that Canada beat the piss out of (literally and figuratively)”

    Did I miss something? Did Arredondo piss his pants?

  9. I love me some JA Happ, I think he has ML stuff and could help the team. but honestly who cares if he’s upset? so’s every player that doesnt make the team. He can demand a trade or wait for his shot. I think he’ll wait for his shot.

    • thats the thing about Happ, hes had a shot and proven he can handle the starting job, i think thats whats got him upset, and the fact thats its not even a compition in his eyes, the 5 are set, and even if he keeps pitching well, it wont affect where he starts the year,

      when you have 4 plus years in the bigs, and lose your spot without having lost a step, or without having a chance to fight for it, factor in the fact he could be in all but 3-4 starting 5 rotations this year, yeah, i would be pissed off too.

      Love him, and feel bad for him, dont want to lose him to another club, and want him in the system for years to come, i think he can be a #3 for a lot of years, and with this venteran rule, if they dont watch out, he will opt for FA, even though he has time left.

      So its just an interesting development to see him finally show is unhappiness about it, given the fact that what we have heard from AA and co is that he was explained his role and that AAA was where he was going and what not.

      having said that, from a club prospective, this is the best thing for the team, he will get his starts this year, i hope no one is under the fantasy that the jays will have 5 guys start 32 games, but everyone wants to break with the team to start the year, not go to AAA, even more so when you have already been there, and should be with the team based on stuff.

      • he had great games last year against big Texas and Detroit lineups. Im a believer. I just dont care if he’s frustrated!

  10. “and your right”

    Well grammared Shtoetshy

  11. Happ will be with the big team as injuries, unfortunately, are a sure thing in baseball. I get he’s upset but I’m not worried about that. He’ll get his chance and if he makes the most of it he’ll be ok. Especially with Romero falling back to earth with a large bump.

    I agree the Jays wanted Farrell gone but I also think Farrell basically created his own ouster when he approached AA after the first season. I always remember someone referring to how a cop-killer had ‘committed suicide’ by getting shot twice in the gut and once in the head by a trigger-happy SWAT team. As he pointed out, he committed suicide by shooting a cop. After that he was a dead man walking. Dream job or no. When he asked to be let go in favour of a division rival after just one season on the job, he was out and it was a matter of when not if. He claimed he wanted AA to go after pitching at the trade deadline and AA didn’t. Which means he didn’t know about ongoing discussions with the Marlins over Johnson. So clearly he was out of the loop by then. It wasn’t handled well. But the front office weren’t in the mood to whitewash it and neither was Farrell by the end of it.

  12. It was super nice of Bob to compliment your blog, Stoeten. “Thank you” would have been the polite thing to say.

  13. I have a sneaking notion that if Romero is ever sent down he will pout his way into oblivion.

    • I dunno, last season Romero was the first to tell you he was a worthless sack of shit, i dont think he would really put up a fight.

      If he pitches like he does last year, a stint in the minors might be his only hope because it looks like he needs to drastically change his approach, both in terms of his pitch selection and his fragile mental state. The AL Beast is hardly the place to do that.

  14. Keith Law has a new podcast!

    keithlaw ‏@keithlaw
    Also, episode 1 of my new podcast, Behind the Dish, will be posted on ESPN on Tuesday afternoon, with guests @jluhnow and @joe_sheehan

    • Great news – the new buster olney podcast is shit. The title of Law’s new cast has me a little worried he’s gonna talk about food.

  15. I’m not sure why people think the Happ trade was a bad one.

    None of the prospects going Houston’s way look too great. And Happ is a legit asset. I’d say he’s a reasonable #4/#5 starter on most teams.

    If Johnson (or whoever) misses a month, we’ll likely be a lot more comfortable seeing a month of Happ rather than a month of Jenkins etc.

    • with the volume of high drafter players going back, surely one of them has a good chance to hit. Wojo was lights out when you moved up to AA

    • Agreed James.

      AA gave up a bunch of guys who were about to lose all value for a decent end of the rotation starter.

      I also don’t see the issue with the Halladay trade. AA extracted as much as he possibly could from the team Halladay was willing to waive his NTC to go to. I’m not sure what the alternative was.

      • I don’t think the point was to knock the end result, but just to point out that if Anthopoulos hadn’t made subsequent trades to ultimately turn Michael Taylor into Anthony Gose, the return on trading Halladay would seem pretty lousy today.

        • Well it one equal one blue chip prospect in TDA and, yeah, what appear to be two failures at this point.

          I’m not saying that looks great for Halladay. But it looks better than what the Twins got back for Santana, for example.

          If AA’s leverage was cut down to one team, I’m not sure what more could have been extracted.

  16. Sure old catchers have magical powers. How else do you think they stay in the game so long.

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