It’s been two weeks since we last had an appearance from ol’ Griff and his mail bag. Two dismal, dispiriting weeks that I’m sure are probably going to make it so that, in hijacking his latest one, posted Friday over at the Toronto Star, I’m going to need all my willpower to retain my sanity. Let’s find out if I make it through, shall we?
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 email@example.com and maybe he’ll select it for a future mail bag. Fingers crossed!
What are your thoughts on Josh Johnson so far? With the way he’s been pitching to date (not horrible, but not even close to the domination from spring training) and now with his injury, I think we’ll keep seeing his market value drop unless he starts to pick it up; In my opinion it would be the perfect time for AA to take advantage of this and sign him to an extension, something team-friendly before he hits free agency (as he did with Happ). I just can’t see AA trading him by July if they are in the hunt (which they fully expect to be), and letting him go this fall means you’re opening up the fifth rotation spot to an acquisition, or one of Romero, Drabek, and Hutchison — and this is bad.
Uh… yeah, I completely don’t get this. He’s not pitched well, can’t seem to throw breaking balls for strikes, is dead last among 311 pitchers with more than 10 innings pitched this season in percentage of pitches thrown in the zone (per the adjusted, Baseball Info Solutions data at FanGraphs), now he’s hurt, so… sign him up?
How does that make sense, exactly?
No, the risk on locking the club into Johnson for years and major dollars remains extreme, which is why I fully expect the Jays to continue to see how it plays out– to hope for the kind of production that can get them back in the race, to be OK with someone else paying him a monstrous amount of money next year, if it comes to that, or to trade him in July if it comes to that. I’m not sure why you think Alex Anthopoulos would be so hellbent on avoiding such a deal– or, frankly, what you’ve seen so far that makes you think it’s such a massive step down to Ricky Romero or Drew Hutchison. I think Johnson at his best certainly would make it one, but we haven’t seen it yet. Romero was great last year in spring, too, so… I need to see more before I think this extension business, given the still-astronomical cost, isn’t kinda crazy.
So I’m watching the game on Tuesday (April 30th) and increasingly dismayed at the performance of the team. Now they won that game so my blood pressure abated somewhat. But from my vantage point, I look at the team and think it’s simply not a well constructed team: Bonifacio can’t field a lick, Izturis was a horrible signing ($9M/3 yrs for a no-hit, below-average fielder), Cabrera can’t hit a fastball (who signs a guy for $16M/2yrs coming off a PED scandal?) plus your spo- on criticisms are also glaringly obvious, e.g. AA undervalued the role of the manager. Not to be long winded about this but if this team continues to challenge Houston for last place in the AL at the all-star break, does AA survive past the break? AA has done some good things with the farm system but by depleting it over the winter he might have doomed the Jays to the cellar for the next three to five years. Plus I can’t decided which contract was worse at the time of signing, Izturis or Vernon Wells (age of 28 coming off 3 straight Gold Gloves and avg OPS of .853 over 4 yrs) — I’d say Izturis.
These are precisely the kind of questions that keep the flame of optimism aglow inside of me, Matt, because holy shit, I never want to come within one iota of sounding like I agree with someone so utterly fucking hopeless. For someone who quite obviously thinks he has a clue about baseball, evidently you are staggeringly unaware of the month to month variation that is unbelievably common in the sport. You’re going to fire Anthopoulos, demote Bonifacio, and write off Melky Cabrera after a month??!? You have followed a baseball season before, haven’t you??? And the Izturis thing! Holy pissing fuck, yes, he had an awful first month as a member of the Blue Jays, but it’s a utility guy at $3-million per year– and one who, from 2009 to 2012, was worth seven wins above replacement, compared to 4.2 for the now $20-plus-million per year player you asininely, knee-jerk hopeless emotionally shat out the worthless opinion that you’d rather have. And you have the Jays fucked for as many as five years– after a month!!?! Aaaand you take a token shot at a man, John Gibbons, who isn’t sufficiently acting as the fucking all-inspiring spirit animal you ridiculously expect a manager to be.
I hope it was as cathartic as it was dumb, at least.
How long does Moises Sierra have to knock the cover off the ball in Buffalo until he gets called up? He’s putting up PCL numbers in Buffalo. An obvious candidate to be sent down I think would be Bonafacio. He’s done nothing offensively and has been a defensive liability. He could play second base every day in Buffalo to improve his competency at that position.
How long? Until someone he might actually have a hope of playing ahead of gets injured.
I get the feeling that the Jays recognize that a 5.5% walk rate at Triple-A, with an effing .418 BABIP, and a .275 wOBA in his first 150-plus plate appearance crack at the Majors, isn’t going to translate into more production than even his most logical potential position battle opponent, Rajai Davis.
Davis is putting up better numbers right now, in the Majors, in the role he’s there for–against left-handed pitching– than even Sierra’s eye-popping minor league numbers. Of course, those will regress, and the sample is tiny, but isn’t it funny that, even if we indulge in this ridiculous game, Sierra comes up short? Shorter still if you factor in defence and baserunning.
Bonifacio, I should add, is a non-starter as a replacement because, while he’s not particularly good at it, he’s essentially an infielder for this club at this point.
I’m curious why the Jays drafted Marcus Stroman in the first round last year. While he might become a valuable arm in the bullpen, shouldn’t first round picks be used to draft potential impact everyday bats or starting pitchers with a higher ceiling than middle relievers?
Tim from Ottawa
Whoever told you about Stroman undersold him greatly, I think. Jim Callis of Baseball America said that many scouting directors felt Stroman had the best arm in last year’s draft. The knock, of course, is his size, but that gives the Jays the ability to either get him quickly to the Majors as an impact arm out of the ‘pen– not a mere “middle reliever,” as you suggest– or to continue letting him start, which I do not believe has yet been ruled out, and hoping that he can be one of those guys who is able to succeed as a short right-handed starter. The fact that he’s got an arm that can play so quickly, to me, is a good thing. I don’t have a problem with the pick at all.
With all the experienced relievers at the Jays disposal this year, why is it Aaron Loup, with the least experience, often the first out of the pen trying to hold a slim lead? AL took it on the chin again tonight, giving up 3 runs in 1.1, but is credited with a hold. Something is amiss here.
Glad to see Brett Lawrie leading off tonight’s game until Jose Reyes heals. I share the frustration in your yesterday’s blog and agree wholeheartedly that the “skipper” in the dugout must take more active control and charge before this season full of promise spins out of control completely. I hope today’s win is a harbinger of things to come the Jay’s way. Wonder what the odds are of the Jay winning the division, or even making the playoff after such a disappointing and dismal April.
Bing in Whitby
I kinda loathe playoff odds, especially so early in the season, because they’re so apt to change wildly given the small amount of data they’re based on, but in an actual, practical sense, if you think of how much ground they’ve created for themselves to make up, there’s nothing good about where the Jays are at except that April is finally over.
As for Loup… I think it’s possible that you’re right, actually, and that maybe Brett Cecil hasn’t been as bad against right-handers as his atrocious splits have suggested– the small sample of data is thrown out of whack by six walks to 25 batters faced, and there are a few calls among those that appear as though he should have had– and I’m still wary of Loup for having been so ridiculously good in the Majors last year, putting up numbers more sideways than the ones he did in Double-A. Are we starting to see the guy he really is? Perhaps, but I don’t think it’s so clear cut right this minute that I can insist he needs to be shuffled to the back of the bullpen pecking order. It’s something that should be monitored, yes.
Oh, and feel free to not be ridiculous about Gibbons, by the way. Or at least just let him know that, if any of his players give him any lip, he can beat him with a sack of sweet Valencia oranges. They won’t leave a bruise, and they’ll let ‘em know who’s boss– there’s no doubt about it. Bu-bu-bu-bu-bum…
I feel like there is a bit of piling of John Gibbons at the moment and I’m not sure it’s entirely fair. That being said, I thought one of his strengths was bullpen management. Am I wrong in feeling that he is too often pulling starters when they still do, or should, have gas left in the tank? Tonight seems a perfect example of to me of pulling Morrow after 5 when he is up by 3. Obviously he’s privy to more information than I am but it still seems like he isn’t trusting these guys to hold leads or keep the offence close enough to come back. Am I missing something? Thanks for the mailbag and the chats!
That’s one of those things where a manager is damned if he does and damned if he doesn’t, and with the help of 20/20 hindsight, everyone is going to rip him when he gets it wrong. I can think of instances when it seems like he left his starter in too long, as well, so… what does that tell you? It’s easy to nitpick on the manager when everything under the sun appears to be fucking gerried, but most of the time it’s as useful as an NFL team blaming their loss on the guy who got the coin toss wrong.
I missed the chat session sadly but I have a couple of questions if you’d indulge.
Does Colby have an option to be able to send him down so that he can learn how not to swing for home runs every time? To learn how to hit or lay off of the curveball low and in that he swings over ALL the time? This way Gose can come up. I can’t remember specifics but I remember the likes of Gose (top prospects) having average seasons in the minors and come up big in the majors.
Secondly, Buehrle trade was a big mistake. His career against AL East is horrible. He’s older now and his success was attributed to playing in the central division for a long time and the Jays are on the hook for about $55 million over the next two years and this year. Is there any chance to offload him off of this team so he can be reunited with his pitbull? He just doesn’t seem to have it anymore.
Lastly, when do you think AA would pull off a minor but impactful trade before this ship sinks? The May schedule is the make or break month for the Jays as I see them being 20-22 games under .500 if they keep playing like this.
P.S. Without Reyes, the Jays will be as good as Bautista is. Do you agree? He’s not going to hit more than a .245 avg this year. He has the same swing on any pitch in any situation and doesn’t adapt.
Kim H, Richmond Hill, On
The thing about Rasmus is, he’s hitting just a shade worse than what Gose did last September, in terms of wOBA and wRC+, while striking out– as you point out– a metric fuck-tonne. I thought at first that he was selling out contact to hit for power, but with only two extra base hits in nearly three weeks, uh… it’s not good, you’re right. But the thing is, Gose’s September was a massive improvement over his August in 2012, and not exactly the kind of production you can feel comfortable expecting on a regular basis from him. His arm and his speed give him an edge in other ways over Rasmus, so he doesn’t have to be as good a hitter, but even where Colby’s at now, I don’t think, justifies making a change. But I don’t doubt that it’s possible at some point that’s exactly what they’ll do, and given how we’re now closing in on 900 rather abysmal plate appearances in a Jays uniform for Rasmus, it’ll be hard to call them crazy for it. I don’t believe Gose’s Buffalo numbers just yet, though– not any more than I believe Jim Negrych’s or Moises Sierra’s.
As for Buehrle, uh… yeah. His heavily backloaded deal was, in addition to the prospects they gave up, the price of acquiring Reyes and a year of Johnson. It’s as simple as that. Any production from him that comes close to what we’ve come to expect over the years is gravy, but I firmly believe that the Jays were looking at him as something along the lines of a four, which he entirely still can be. It is, after all, only a month into the season, and slightly effing insane to be talking like his career is finished. That said, given the contract’s structure, don’t hold your breath for anyone to deal for him.
Bautista is awesome, by the way, batting average tells us far too little, the market for trades doesn’t really heat up until after the draft in early June, and congratu-fucking-lations for your clairvoyance about what their record would be after another month of playing this shitty. That cover everything?
Thanks for answering my last question about Munenori Kawasaki vs. Maicer Izturis at 2B when Reyes gets back. The situation continues to bug me. I think you’re right about it being something of a toss up, though choosing Izturis over Kawasaki for the sake of who’s paid more defeats this season’s all-in mentality. From more of a qualitative perspective, I wonder whether having Kawasaki on the field might instill more confidence in the pitchers? Especially in light of Izturis and Bonifacio’s bungling early on and less than rock solid defence still? In other words, would purging Izturis and Bonifacio from the infield provide some sort of clear mental break from early April?
Clearly the collective problem remains a mental one. I’d also take Kawasaki’s grinding at-bats any day over Izturis’ occasional home run or, more often than not, first pitch safety swing. I’m thinking AA might have a blind spot at 2B. The Aaron HIll/Johnny Mac trade now looks absolutely awful. Hard to know, of course, whether Hill would have turned things around in TO — and committing to Izturis longer-term is looking a bit like a mistake. As you say, it’ll definitely be an interesting decision for the Jays come July.
Thanks again. Your bullpen essay inspired another question, which I’ll send your way soon.
Aaron Hill’s options weren’t going to be picked up, so 2011 was going to be his last season in Toronto whether anybody liked it or not, meaning there’s exactly zero sense in going there. And there’s even less in having looked at one goddamn month of the season and decided you have some kind of handle on what kind of hitters these are– that Izturis, in particular, is whatever shit just dribbled out of your mouth and onto your keyboard there.
Oh, but hey! But! Confidence!
I raised my concerns for the Jays having relatively new coaches in March. I don’t think it’s a coincidence anymore that the Jays infield defence has significantly struggled without Butterfield; the Jays starting pitching is struggling with a rookie pitching coach in Walker; Jays hitting is terrible with a rookie hitting coach; and a coach in Rivera who lacks major league experience. What are your impressions of this coaching staff on a team mixed with veterans and younger players?
Ahh, another reader who gets a hearty congratu-fucking-lations for insufferable, pretend clairvoyance. But OK, I actually think that it’s entirely possible that Brian Butterfield, the work he put in with the fielders, and– especially– with developing their defensive shifts, is actually being missed right now. That said, holy fuck yes, it is entirely a coincidence. I’m sorry if this means you’ll have to look elsewhere for something to pretend you were once right about, but think about it for one goddamn second, please. All of these hitters and pitchers have track records; they’ve all had success, they all know what they were doing when they had success. Very obviously no one is asking them to be completely different players than the ones they’ve been when successful, and now some of them are still doing well and others are not. Is that bad coaching? Is it that Chad Mottola, who was praised mightily for his work in the minor league system over the last few years, and clamoured for by certain segments of the fan base, suddenly got dumb? Or is it– hold onto your hat– maybe just fucking baseball?
This notion where players, at this level, are essentially looked at as little more than blank slates to be painted on by their coaches and managers is truly baffling.
Q. The last time the Jays invested in a bunch of ‘star’ NL talent the same thing happened. Hitting is better in the AL. The pitchers have to be better in the AL. The NL stars are finding out where the big boys play. Hope John decided to rent this season instead of buy. Tick, tick, tick . . .
Harry Billingsley, Kalispell MT
Yeah, and that’s why Prince Fielder was terrible last year, and Albert Pujols, and Miguel Cabrera couldn’t make the transition when he came over, and Hiroki Kuroda, Max Scherzer, Jake Peavy. It’s why Josh Hamilton, Ryan Dempster and Edwin Encarnacion yearn for those easy NL days, why Adam Dunn only hit 41 home runs last year, why Dan Haren was so bad with the A’s and Angels, or Adrian Gonzalez only put up 9.5 WAR in less than two years with the Red Sox.
If you’re going to be a complete dick about something, at least have the common courtesy to not be hopelessly fucking wrong, thanks.
I have been a fan of the Jays for many years. This team doesn’t seem to be a team yet. It appears to be a bunch of guys hitting home runs and pitchers trying to strike out every batter. It’s the old baseball saying ‘Line drives win ball games.’ Kawasaki has been a breath of fresh air. However he is a career .200 hitter. The only real upgrades in my view are RA Dickey and Jose Reyes. At this point I am not overly impressed with Bonifacio, DeRosa, Izturis. Hopefully Hutchison will bounce back and Romero will find his groove. Just sharing some thoughts.
What exactly is it that you figure a baseball “team” does? Decide to not hit home runs so that everyone can feel great when the next guy in the lineup pick you up with an RBI single? Pitch their way into jams to give the bullpen a lift when they come in to save the starter’s skin???
My question is about hitting. Some people, like your buddy Dave Perkins, says that the hitters are swinging at the first pitch too much, and should try to wear out the pitcher more and get deeper into counts. On the other hand, most good pitchers like to get ahead with a first pitch fastball strike. When I am watching the game, I get so frustrated with the first pitch coming down the middle of the plate, and the Jay’s batter watching it go by, as if they weren’t ready. When the good pitchers get two strikes on a batter, it is almost impossible to get a hit off of them. My thought is that any fastball pitch coming down the middle of the zone should be swung on, regardless of it being the first pitch or the fifth pitch.
I agree with Gregg Zaun — the Jays’ batters don’t seem to have a plan, except perhaps EE who seems ready and has hit a few homers this year on the first pitch. Also, why is every one of the hitters trying to hit a homer? Again, it’s frustrating to see gaps in the outfield and it doesn’t seem like anyone is trying to hit the ball there, like an opposite field hit. I think Lawrie’s homer Thursday night at Yankee Stadium to the opposite field was a mistake, that is, he didn’t mean to hit it in that direction. Fortunately it went out.
I look forward to reading your blog every week.
Jim Anderson, Cambridge.
Hitting is hard.
So it is clear that the Jays need a second baseman; it’s not too much to say that any contending team needs some offensive production from that position. Bonifacio appears to not be grabbing the bull by its horns, with the same for Izturis. I am curious at what point the Jays might be willing to give a guy like Jim Negrych a chance? I know that he is 28 and basically has all but crossed the line into career minor leaguer, but he is currently hitting .429 through 17 games. I recognize that these numbers are in AAA and that they don’t always translate and it is very early in the year, but I find it difficult to believe that he wouldn’t be able to produce at least marginally better than either of the current options at 2B.
John, Princeton, N.J.
They don’t always translate? Biiiiiit of an understatement there, John. I don’t think his .439 BABIP-driven .508 wOBA is quite going to translate. Negrych was a guy who in 2011 began his sixth season as a pro, at age 26, in Double-A, making it the third year where he spent the majority of his time at that level, and his fourth Double-A season overall. That’s a pretty clear sign that a guy is a non prospect, and the fact that he’s now in his fourth organization is yet another testament to that. Plus, he’s from Buffalo, and was partly brought into the Jays organization to be a homegrown Triple-A guy to help kick off the club’s new relationship with the Bisons. I’m sure if they really thought he could help the big league club that would go out the window, so his inability to get into the lineup is mostly that he’s just not considered that kind of guy who– he’s Mike McCoy having a hot month, or Randy Ruiz, not some untapped Jose Bautista– and because he’s behind guys on the Jays, Maicer Izturis in particular, who have track records of actually being league-average Major League hitters. I understand wanting to give a guy a chance, and I wouldn’t want to say that, because long ago organizations decided he couldn’t hack it as a big leaguer, he shouldn’t have a shot if he’s proven himself too good at every other level. But as bad as the Jays other options have been, to expect Negrych to be better than they are from this point forward remains dubious.
Q. Hello Mr.
I appreciate your columns and have for many years. The 2013 Blue Jays need to play .600 ball the rest of the way to win 90 games and that’s no guarantee of making it to the post-season. Only one team in all the majors played .600 ball last year (Nationals @ .605). The Jays are in danger of being eliminated for all intents and purposes by the end of May unless there is a sudden dramatic turnaround. I don’t think Jose Bautista is wise to argue balls and strikes like he does. His stats speak for themselves and a .195 average can’t be blamed on the umpires. The club looks broken. There were no good reports about the ‘closed door meeting.’ Good players? Maybe. Lousy team? The proof is in the pudding. Only Houston and Miami are worse.
If his stats can’t be blamed on the umpires, why do you care what his relationship with the umpires is? But, OK, OK, you’re right, the Jays are awful, and it especially fucking sucks for them that they decided to decide the season in the first week of May this year.
Good work on the Blue Jays and your mailbag.
The Jays are a winless team so far this season to state the obvious . . . Below are a few of my thoughts on the Jay matter that others share or seen the rationale in as well. I submit it as food for thought and mail bag reflection.
Leadership? — There are varied issues in play but one that seems not to be getting real attention from the media is leadership and the lack thereof. What is going on with established proven players on the team?
It is incumbent and essential that on a team especially one with so many new and diverse players that established players like Bautista step up and provide that leadership and help navigate a team through its ups and downs. As you know, this is ever important during the extended period in which players are getting integrated into the team and old and new players find a growing confidence and comfort level, rhythm and chemistry to gel as a team. Overall, the Jays have the look and feel of a team of individual players each caught within the maze of their own struggle and issues with no real locker-room leaders to strengthen and unify, inspire and reassure players individually and as a team.
Manager? — On the Clock — It was understood when Gibbons chose to retake the position that he would be ‘on the clock’ from the get go given the amassing of so many skilled and higher end players and the cost factor that went with it to the Jays organization. As May begins, the clock is ticking ever faster and will only get louder as the month unfolds. Likewise can be said for the hitting coach.
Rescue Time — Retro Time? (again) — There were those of us who were taken aback and perplexed at the rehiring of Gibbons in part because of his previous failed venture there and in part because there were some others who were seemingly better options available. At that time some amongst us believed if the Jays were going to go retro with a manager then why not one who has had the ultimate success along with struggles over a longer manager career. That person was Cito Gaston.
No Perfect Solution — Understanding there is no such thing as a perfect solution and that any candidate would be flawed and more so the longer their career in MLB, there is a case to be made for Cito.
The Gaston Case
1) Off Season — Given similarities in the level of players and mix of old and new players team-wise and career-wise that he managed in ’92 and ’93 that he would be better equipped and able to bring this clubhouse together and be able to provide the leadership and navigate the team through a high expectation pressurized season. In short he has been there and done that before.
2) The 1989 Season — History is on the side of such a change not only in terms of the ’92 and ’93 seasons but more important under the current condition and circumstances, the 1989 season. Remember, he was brought in to necessitate a quite underachieving Blue Jays team who were 12- 24 when he inherited them. The result was impressive as he lead the Jays to a remarkable 77 wins out of 126 remaining games, a .611 win average enabling the Jays to finish first in the AL East with a 89-73 record.
3)The H-Factor Coach — Gaston would also bring his skills, wisdom and advice garnered as a solid hitting coach to a team in dire need of now given their significant hitting problems.
Returning to the field of play would bring an unorthodox two for one element, manager and coach.
4) Respect/Experience — Players would be response to him and be willing to buy into him given his history, success, ability with a mix mash team and his skill set coupled with his Zen-like qualities and approach to managing and ‘enabling’ players and their performance.
He also knows how to deal with not only the kind of situation he would inherit but also how to manage expectations within the clubhouse, individually and collectively as well as with the fans and media.
5) Organization A Jay Man — Gaston knows the Jays organization, its culture and how it works as well as its older and newer personnel. This is even more invaluable when an ‘in-season’ replacement is needed enabling a smoother and familiar transition and work situation.
6) Repeat the Feat? — 1989 — Though such a feat may not be repeatable given the level and amount of competition in the AL East, the double wild card setup makes recitation, resurgence and redemption of reaching the playoffs still quite feasible ‘at this time’ but a month or six weeks from now the pendulum will shift to the improbable or impossible.
The Campaign — Maybe in May, the rumblings for change will broaden and deepen reaching a critical mass that will then coalesce into the better or best potential, practical and probable option, Cito Gaston Campaign (CGC) fan wise and media wise coast to coast to coast.
When I was in grade four a friend and I tried to build a wind-powered “car” that, it turns out, failed to work as planned due to our hopelessly tenuous grasp of physics as, y’know, nine year olds. This reminds me of that, only with not quite the same grip on reality. You’ve so fully swallowed a nonsense mythology and drank down your own hilariously feeble interpretations of what’s wrong with this club that you’re not going to need to eat for weeks. If you’d recognized how ridiculous it is to think that, from your couch in Vancouver, you could have actually formed some kind of meaningful understanding of what is going on behind closed doors in the Jays’ clubhouse, you could have saved yourself a whole lot of worthless blather. The fact that you didn’t clue in on that probably goes a long way toward explaining how you came up with your solution– well, that and the fact that you have so badly missed the correlation-doesn’t-equal-causation boat. The fancy words can’t help you, sorry.
Love the mailbag.
A question that hasn’t been brought up is Mark DeRosa, with the initial lineup he kind of made sense. After the injury to Reyes we really need a better bat off the bench. Doesn’t it make sense to release DeRosa for a one of those so called ‘lefty killers?’
It would have made sense to sign someone else, sure, but that ship has sailed. Back-to-back boat metaphors!