lawrieface

Y’know, it’s real easy to latch on to some hopelessly clueless opinion among a tiny vocal minority and bash it into the ground over the course of a long blog post as though anybody actually capable of comprehending the words on their screen would be dullard enough to disagree, so… let’s do that.

There’s a thing that I’ve seen out there, on Twitter and in the comments here, where Jays fans, terrified of messing with success and off-put by “antics” and “immaturity” that absolutely pale in comparison to last year’s genuinely fuck-skulled throwing-a-helmet-at-an-umpire incident, want to keep Brett Lawrie away from the big league club once he’s healthy– ostensibly to work on his hitting, and probably because of some bullshit about “sending a message.”

That sort of stuff is particularly funny to me, because back when– after his 43 game 2011 cameo resulted in a .407 wOBA– Lawrie could do no wrong, fans were stampeding each other to be the first to defend him against those who dared question his explosion of anger at an umpire. But now that he’s posted a .209/.268/.374 line in his last 153 plate appearances, his always-evident quirks have stopped being lauded and have started to look like a problem to some.

Hmmm…

Real tough to see how this complicated evolution in some fans’ minds has taken place, huh?

Of course, it’s not that they’re wrong to have noticed that Brett Lawrie has been rather putrid at the plate for quite some time now. It’s just… a funny thing happened on the way to their believing Lawrie has suddenly turned to dog shit.

Well, two funny things, actually. The first one is that somehow the “keep a really good player off this team” brigade forgot how much better Lawrie is defensively than Maicer Izturis, Mark DeRosa, Edwin Encarnacion, or whatever combination of third basemen the team might send out there in his stead. In 2012, of the 30 third basemen with more than 600 innings at the position, Lawrie ranked 10th by UZR and was first according to DRS– and that’s after both metrics adjusted for the extra credit they were giving him when he played short right field in the club’s defensive shifts. He is a good fielder with supreme range at the position, which absolutely qualifies him among the elite defensively at his position. (Note: that’s better than those other guys).

The second thing is how injuries have coincided with his struggles at the plate.

It doesn’t look particularly good in comparison to the jaw-dropping numbers that Lawrie put up in his cameo as a rookie, but he entered last year’s All-Star break with a .291/.334/.495 line, which was good for a .332 wOBA– a mark that would put him fifth on this year’s version of the Jays, behind Lind, Encarnacion, Bautista and Rasmus. (Excluding Reyes and other guys who haven’t played semi-regularly so far).

Lawrie entered last year’s break playing fantastic defence, and just seven days into the season’s fourth month, having gotten better and better with each turn of the calendar. His wRC+ for April of last season was 94– perhaps slowed by a groin issue that, according to his player card at Baseball Prospectus, flared up on March 17th (St. Paddys, bro! Also, about two weeks from Opening Day) and lasted for eight days. His wRC+ moved to 97 for the month of May, 2012, then he really began to pound the shit out of it, posting a wRC+ of 143 in June.

By then, however, injures were perhaps already becoming a factor. BP notes that he suffered soreness in his knee on June 20th, which Jeremy Warnemuende of MLB.com explained at the time was from a wrong-legged slide in Milwaukee– which Lawrie chose to do “because of an abrasion on the back of his left leg.”

As I mentioned, the All-Star break began for Lawrie on July 7th, but for the rest of the Jays it was actually a day later. Lawrie was listed as day-to-day through the break with “lower back tightness,” according to his BP card, and sat out the final game of a series with the White Sox because of it. He had left the game on the 7th early, according to a tweet from my ‘Merkin friend, MLB.com’s White Sox man, Scott Merkin, as a “precaution.”

Lawrie soldiered on through July and early August, even after his scary fall into a camera bay at the new Yankee Stadium on July 18th, though he posted just a .243/.289/.371 from the resume of play after the All-Star break until he left a game with tightness in his ribcage on August 3rd. When he returned for 23 games of the club’s miserable September he was no better, hitting .237/.315/.361 to close out the season.

At the time he was finally placed on the DL for the ribcage injury, August 8th, John Lott wrote in the National Post that Lawrie “may have pushed his gladiator act too far this time.”

Using judicious language, Farrell said Lawrie’s oblique injury may have been more serious than he let on before he landed on the disabled list Aug. 4.

“As much as he played in discomfort leading up to his original placement on the disabled list, I think he’s well aware now that’s he’s got to be — I don’t want to say forthright, but he’s got to express anything that he is feeling to get back to the point of being able to [play] day in and day out,” Farrell said.

You could be forgiven for reading that to apply to some of the other bumps and bruises Lawrie suffered along the way– and, if you’re like me, for maybe thinking twice about taking anything that he did post-All-Star-break with a giant grain of salt, or even throwing it away all together.

This year, too, has followed a similar path– though, finally heeding John Farrell’s advice, it seems Lawrie has been doing right by his own body and admitting when he’s ailing. I felt it was a positive step when, while away with Team Canada in a WBC tuneup this March, Lawrie took himself off the field and dealt with the disappointment of not being able to play for his country by admitting there was soreness in his ribcage again– this time on the other side.

What that did, unfortunately, was cost him his spring training, plus several games at the start of the season. As he was just getting up to speed, opposing pitchers were beginning their turn towards mid-season form, and perhaps that has as much to do with his struggles at the plate in 2013 as any of the stuff I’d prefer to gloss over here– like his noisy stance, his weak approach, and his decline in contact and walk rates. *COUGH*

Maybe I’m being too forgiving for the injuries. Maybe, if he’s going to be hurt so much, Lawrie needs to get his approach into a better position to hit the ground running post-rehab stints. Maybe all this is exactly why he needs to spend more time at Triple-A than the average big leaguer on a rehab assignment would.

But man… they could really use his glove as soon as possible. And even at his worse he’ll out-produce what we’ve seen so far from Izturis and Bonifacio. Aaaand let’s not forget that this kind of situation is pretty much exactly why the former Vegas hitting guru, Chad Mottola, was promoted to the big club this season.

Get him healthy, get him some time to get back to speed, and maybe we can get to forgetting all about the 330-odd plate appearances in the wilderness that we’ve seen from him this year and during the second half of last. Shit, even Paul Swydan, who wrote at FanGraphs earlier this month about how awful he’s looked and how the days of imagining Lawrie as a superstar may be over, had to admit that the injuries are real coincidental to his poor performance, and that there’s still got to be some hope there.

I can buy that. I can really totally buy that.

It’s that missing bat, of course, that got him to the Majors this quickly. It can’t have gone too far.

 

Lawrie, according to Alex Anthopoulos, via a post from Shi Davidi at Sportsnet, will begin a rehab assignment in Florida on Wedenesday, and will see some time with the Buffalo Bisons before returning to the big club.

Comments (71)

  1. Hey look! it’s Mark Buehrle.

  2. I think people forget that not having lawrie at third results in us having a low upside shit bag there. that in and of itself should be enough to get people to stop this nonsense of wanting him to be optioned down once activated from the dl

    • Word.
      Lawrie at 3rd base means Gibby can matchup the shit out of second base with DeRosa and Izturis, with bonifacio as the “super utility whatever” guy.

      There’s no question it’s a better team with Lawrie than without.

      • Bang on. His defence alone makes it ridiculous for anyone not wanting him playing

        • Especially with Reyes coming back to play short, that’s gonna weaken the left side defense a lot. A third baseman with the range of Lawrie movie to his left could help out tremendously.

  3. You lost me at “Merkin.”

    http://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Merkin

  4. I think it’s more people trolling you on twitter than here.Agreed it’s a small minority though.
    I would like for Lawrie to settle his excess movement while at bat.

    • They’re not trolling.

    • My eyes burn whenever the camera finds Brett Lawrie. I’d deal him for anyone of even slightly less comparable value who doesn’t pull at his dick in-game. This guy’s appeal has little middle ground. For me that has nothing to do with his time on the DL or inability to figure it out with the bat. Even if he was mashing I’d want him gone. Pure personality repulsion. It’s not the smartest reaction to have, but good God man, I’d rather watch Jo Jo Reyes pitch than suffer through another one of Lawrie’s over done hormonal explosions out of the batter’s box. I suppose I’m the Billy Martin of fandom.

  5. No one has looked worse at the plate for over a calander year.

    What do people think his trade value would be right now? Hypothetically of course, but I dunno.. His swing coupled with his 78 IQ = Hot garbage.

    • Other teams aren’t dumb, though. So surely they’d see there’s a tonne of value still.

    • There’s a category in Bill Simmons’ trade value column: “he’s worth more to us than he is to you.” See Lawrie, Brett.

  6. Of course, it could be that the league has now properly adjusted to him, and he has been unable to adjust back. I’m also not thrilled with his stance/swing. Seems to need some work.

    That said, I don’t think he’s as bad as he’s being made to be in some circles. He still has plenty of upside. I would, however, consider keeping him in the minors until his hitting rebounded. I think we’ve seen that, at his worse, Lawrie can be rather below-average at the plate.

    I guess it comes down to determining if his d is so good that the team can’t do without it while he works on his approach/swing. You might have nailed it with the suggestion that Lawrie should have a longer-than-usual stay at AAA for his rehab.

    • he has been called the best defensive 3Bmen in the AL – there is someone in Tampa that may not agree, but his D is a hugh upside. Even more so with the GP % the SP has put up.

  7. It’s the stance. He’s not getting in the hitting position fast enough on the heat and can’t adjust well to the breaking ball. Calm the stance, start driving pitches to all fields, then tinker with a bat waggle.

  8. Any time I see some mongoloid on here or Twitter suggest Lawrie be sent down or benched I don’t read anything they have to say after that because they’re stupid.

    Its like when this dude at work told me Archer isn’t funny. He can fuck himself

  9. I feel like the crux of the issue – as you basically conclude – is whether Lawrie’s problems are due to injury or approach (or a combination of both). If it’s the former, call him up immediately. If it’s the latter, there might be some value in leaving him in AAA for a few weeks.

    I agree the team is better with him on it, but like you argued with Dickey, sacrificing 2 weeks to have 100% Lawrie instead of 75% Lawrie is worth the sacrifice. Different scenario because Dickey is clearly injured, but if Mottola or Gibby or whoever is confident they can get him to make the changes, might be worth a try.

    People who bang this attitude drum; go fuck yourselves. Seriously, and preferably with both hands so you can’t comment or tweet or write in to Griff. Thanks.

  10. Simple, to get him back on track, have him start the weighted ball program. Its worked for everyone else so far.

  11. Lawrie at third can put Izturis, not Boni, at second. Boni’s .220 whatever obp can be on the bench. This guy will help the ballclub, even last year I believe he had one of the higher obp and averages, even though his power struggled a bit.
    Reyes/Jose/EE/Lind/Melky/Lawrie/Rasmus/JP/Izturis. Looks pretty solid to me.

  12. When I played we didn’t chug a gallon of coffee before we played. Sparky said that would make us too “addled” to play. I don’t know what “addled” means.

    • Your jack morris act is wearing thin. time to give it a rest.

      • Word.

        “When I played, nobody gave a +1 but if they did, I woulda given one.”

      • I don’t know. When I read these from “Jack Morris”, the wording is exactly how he would say it, and I read it with his voice. It’s actually comical.

  13. Personally, I don’t think Lawrie’s troubles are in being active in the box. He needs to not worry about calls going against him and keep tight plate discipline.

  14. He might have already been back by now if he hadn’t stayed in the game after he sprained his ankle and tried to run to third base on it.

  15. I think you’re narrative inventing (or at least narrative overstating) again.

  16. I know there is new concern about Lawrie and I agree it is a bit dumb. People need to breathe and look at the long term.
    Having said that, I would have been fine to have seen him traded in the off-season. You never know what you’re dealing with, but I just see too much risk for the upside. Of course, his trade value would be much lower now that it was then.
    That’s not to say he is bad, or he should be traded — Just that I count myself among those who have been worried he’d be injury prone, and that he plays like he wants to be. Maybe he turns out, maybe he doesn’t. We’ll see.

    • Disagree.
      Lawrie seems to be learning and adjusting and maturing.
      His defense is worth the price of a ticket alone.

      • Maturing? HAA! What a load!

        • Not seeing much maturing — less arguing, but no maturity. Where is it evident?

          • The maturity will come over time, you can’t force it.

            • This whole maturity over time argument is a weak one. Every kid who enters the game has to mature and almost everyone does just fine. The knock against Lawrie has way more to do with his personality than his need to grow up. If maturity over time meant anything Nyjer Morgan would still be in the majors.

  17. I want to be talked out of my growing anxieties about that list of things that you admittedly glossed over but, how many balls has he been able to pull into left so far? Is it still that insanely low number that I think Drew mentioned in a podcast a while back?

  18. I think Stoeten nails it with the Mottola upgrade. He saw the problems right away. Lawrie was to high strung and was ahead of the ball instead of letting it come to him. I remember reading in a fangraphs piece that Mottola wants to change his set up a bit but is concerned about messing him up. I think they absolutely have to give it a shot. Lawrie has shown from time to time this season that when his timing is down he destroys the ball. Remember the Boston series at Fenway? The hits weren’t landing but he was drilling screaming line drives.

    Stoeten also mentioned the approach. Lawrie has to change his strike approach or pitchers will continue to eat him alive. When he is down 0-1 or 0-2 he is dreadful.

  19. Next thing you know, Stoet will be posting about how valuable Santos is to this team. I doubt most fans even remember who the guy is. If it were me, I’d make him pitch a month, without health problems, at Buffalo, and even then use him only as a September call-up.
    There may be some service-time/options bs that prevents my thing from taking place, but I am not a fan of the ol’ ‘he’s out 10 days’ and then stays out the rest of the year, two years in a row. I say this notwithstanding the recent post regarding same.

    • When I played we had a guy just like Kawasaki. His name was Willie Canate. He wasn’t really that good at much but we liked having him around. He used to go around quoting Chico Escuela all the time. Maybe that’s the only english he knew. I never asked him.

      • I love Willie Canate. If it wasn’t for his stupid base running error in game 5 I would probably not had the chance to be the hero of game six and live the rest of my life smiling and talking about being the hero of game six.

        • Rickey was the batter when Chico made that stupid mistake. Rickey hit the ball right to the pitcher. Chico should have known the throw would have gone to third because there is no way they would try get Rickey out at first on a comebacker to the mound.

  20. Blue Jays are 23-15 without the uncoachable one in the lineup this season, and 15-22 when he plays. That’s all I need to see. I guess I better watch I say or his goon sister will kick me in the nuts.

  21. In his defense….last year he threw his helmet down, and it did what round bouncing objects do best – bounce wherever they please, and it happened to bounce at the ump

  22. Lawrie has got to cool his jets and settle down as a big leaguer. There is no doubt he should be put in at 3rd when healthy. But if you want to send a message, put him 9th in the order and see what happens. He is a solid hitter, but not in the top 5 of your lineup.

  23. Agreed Lawrie should be up.

    Bad Lawrie is still better than Iszturis. And good Lawrie would be a fuckin rockstar to have in the bottom half of the order.

    Really hope you’re right about the injuries, but it’s a long limb to go out on. Good Lawrie last year still was lacking the power you would expect. I’m thinking it’s more approach and lack of a proper adjustment.

    He’s always just been good enough to hit at other levels. Tonnes of natural talent so maybe only minor adjustments needed. Maybe swallowing a bit if pride and making the needed changes gets him on again.

  24. I think there is a big difference between getting angry at an ump and yelling at your 3rd base coach/teammate/manager over a sac fly that would not have tied the game if it scored and would of ended the game if thrown out. Made him look very immature and selfish, which he is. The rest of the year in Buffalo would maybe humble the kid and if not get rid of him.

  25. Never realized how much he looks like Alf.

  26. Lawries defense is strong and his batting will improve. He has value but I don’t like the guy because he is immature and a fool. So screw him, I don’t want to see him play.

  27. Probably already addressed, but…

    “genuinely fuck-skulled throwing-a-helmet-at-an-umpire incident”

    He didn’t throw a helmet at an umpire. He threw it into the ground and it bounced into the umpire. It was the 9th inning of a tight game where he received 2 undeniably bad calls – the first one is fine (and he didn’t argue from what I recall) but another equally shitty strike immediately following? I’d explode too and I don’t think anyone criticizes that Lawrie did there.

    Get over it – he was rightfully pissed and reacted instinctively. His instincts in that moment were a bit over the top but so fucking what? I find it hard to believe you actually think it was a “fuck-skulled” considered action.

  28. Lawrie is a headcase. It is funny to see the apologists try and defend him. Any other club in MLB would have demoted this moron by now, but in Torontoland the corporate shills defend him until the bitter end.

    I can’t wait until he starts causing problems in the clubhouse, but people still support him because of his “elite defense”. Luis Mendoza would be proud.

    • He likely caused plenty of problems in the clubhouse morale-wise. Why do you think the team has done better without him?
      It’s not just corporate types who defend him. It’s the wanna-be tough guys that seem to permeate Toronto and they look up to Lawrie because he’s an asshole just like they are.

  29. Lawrie just needs to calm down a little sometimes. I think he’s getting a bit of a bad rap because he was one of the outspoken cheerleaders when all the off-season moves were made. When the jays were falling short of the expectations that were self-imposed along with the media hype and the pressure from the fans, Lawries frustrations got the best of him. Love his energy and hustle but sometimes it can be a bit much. Not always good for situational baseball when he should be thinking about his play itself and what the immediate action calls for. His attitude and energy can get him into trouble at the bat and in the field. When he comes back and starts tearing it up again, there won’t be much of this kinda talk so I’m not really worried. The kid still has STAR written all over him.

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  31. [...] do keep in mind that he’s 23. Andrew Stoeten had a nice piece reminding people of how good Lawrie’s been, and a suggestion he made – that Lawrie’s overall numbers might be hurt by his performance [...]

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