The Jays announced this morning that they would begin the season by carrying 13 pitchers, a decision that was met with derision and snark from the snarky, derisive corners of the baseballing internet that I generally relish the piss out of. I grant them, it certainly feels right to shit on the delusional excess of clubs that carry so many relievers, as the expense of bench depth– I’ve done it– but I’ve gotta say, given the particulars of the Jays’ circumstance, there seems to me like there might be enough myopia in today’s snark to keep an optometrist in business for decades.
— keithlaw (@keithlaw) March 27, 2013
It depends on your definition of defence– or defense, if you’re like that– I suppose. And on that note, Sheehan later says outright that “defenses and rationalizations are not the same thing,” which I take to mean that he doesn’t believe the Jays’ rationalization– assuming he even considered it before smothering it in a warm blanket of snark– or that there simply cannot be a rationalization that leaves a team’s bench so thin at the expense of so many guys who are barely even going to be able to get into games.
I’d say that’s fair, but I actually don’t think the Jays are being wholly unreasonable with theirs here. At the very least, it’s probably worth considering the details before we get all insistent that it must be fucking stupid.
Dayn Perry of CBS Sports gets it, but then tries to not get it:
I get that this is a temporary arrangement for a DH-league team, and I get that that Jays are trying to delay waiver exposure for Brett Cecil and Jeremy Jeffress, but in a division in which even a single squandered game can matter greatly, this seems like a short-sighted decision.
Sheehan tries to put the Jays’ gamble into perspective:
— Joe Sheehan (@joe_sheehan) March 27, 2013
So the trade-off being made is the potential for at-bats going to J.P. Arencibia and Adam Lind (also: Colby Rasmus) in key situations in the first four games of the year– because let’s not mistake this as any kind of permanent solution for the Jays, who have Brett Lawrie’s DL stint backdated to allow him to rejoin the team during the Boston series– versus the potential to try and keep Jeremy Jeffress or Brett Cecil in the organization by delaying their exposure to waivers (or at least getting that much longer a look at them before choosing which one to try and sneak through).
Certainly you can make the argument that Cecil and Jeffress aren’t nearly valuable enough to risk having those guys ever come up in a key situation where their atrocious platoon splits are exposed, but it’s not like Cecil doesn’t have clear value against lefties, or that Jeffress doesn’t have a ridiculously electric arm. It’s also not as though Rajai Davis (.341 wOBA against left-handers over the last threeyears) isn’t on the bench to spell one of Lind or Rasmus– and either Mark DeRosa or Maicer Izturis, as well.
It’s really just Arencibia’s high leverage at-bats we’re worried about, and a quick look through the possible guys to have sitting on the bench waiting to come into such a situation lands squarely on Ryan Langerhans, and… not to suggest that I wouldn’t want Langerhans up against a right-hander in a key situation rather than Arencibia, but for handful of games, does it really matter? It could but the chances are relatively low and even that point, whatever difference exists between the two has to be weighted against the organizational flexibility the club loses in the trade-off. So, in that sense is the decision to carry the pitchers instead “short-sighted,” as Perry says, or is it actually an attempt to think long-term by broadening the base of relievers the club will be able to pull from as the season wears on?
I’d submit that depends on your view of whether the chances of sneaking one of them through waviers improves by delaying exposure, as well as the down-the-line value Cecil and Jeffress can provide– ironically, given Sheehan’s subsequent tweeting, as multi-inning relievers. It also depends on whether or not you are firmly planted in the vacuum on this issue, or if you accept the reality that John Gibbons is probably not going to pinch hit for Arencibia anyway, and that there are better things to quibble about– if you really want to go down this road– like the club’s choice of Henry Blanco as backup catcher over Josh Thole, who, with his .326 wOBA against right-handers in the two years prior to his concussion-y 2012, could spell Arencibia. Or the fact that even if they were going to carry just twelve pitchers, there simply aren’t a whole lot of appealing bats to add to the roster in Lawrie’s absence anyway.
For me, I can see how Anthopoulos may think that he has a better chance of sneaking one down to Buffalo by waiting. At the same time, I get the opposition to the 13 pitcher thing and would much rather see more multi-inning guys and more options on the bench. I’ll even go as far as to say that I find the Jays’ comfort with it a bit alarming. But is this really the situation in which to plant the flag and rage back against unchecked stupidity in roster management? I just don’t think it is. We can talk about it again, though, if it last much longer than half a week, and I’ll happily change my tune.