mirror

The other day I noticed a pretty damn remarkable thing while combing through the Standings On Any Date feature at Baseball Reference.

If you’ve never used it, the page allows you to select any date in any season since 1901, and shows you both the standings on that date, as well as how teams played from that date forward.

It must have been about three days ago when I hit on May 10th as the date of the real Jays turnaround in 2013– at least, so far. Before the big win streak began, most chatter had pegged the May 4th R.A. Dickey shellacking against the Mariners as the last day of the truly awful start to the season, but I’d noticed that the club went 3-3 in the six games that followed, and that arbitrary end-pointing those six games out of the sample would give an even rosier look of how things have gone of late.

What I didn’t realize, however, is the truly odd mirror images that would appear when I looked at the standings on that date– the day they reached .500– and since. The latter data has changed now, as you can see on Baseball-Reference.com, because they’ve played three more games, but back on Saturday morning, with the team finally back to .500, what I saw was what you see in the graphic at the top of this post:

From Opening Day until May 10th, the Jays won 13 games and lost 24, over which they scored 139 runs and allowed 195.

From May 11th until June 21st, the Jays won 23 games and lost 12, over which they scored 193 runs and allowed 141.

Freaky, huh?

And just what the hell has happened to cause such a stark turnaround? Pitching, you’d think. And we can see it if we look at how the club has pitched since I asked the rhetorical question back on June 5th, Just How Awful Have Jays Starters Been?

Here’s a sample of the dreadful numbers we were staring at back then, even as the Jays were in the early midst of their big turnaround.

- Heading into last night’s contest, as a group, Jays starters were 25th in terms of K/9 (27th by percentage), they had issued the second-most walks per nine innings (fourth-most by percentage), and the third most home runs per nine.

- As a group they sported the second-worst ERA in the Majors, and were dead last in terms of FIP and xFIP.

- They were third-worst in both tERA and SIERA.

- They sat second last in terms of win probability added.

- They were dead last in first pitch strike percentage, second last in percentage of pitches in the zone, and 24th of 30 in their percentage of swinging strikes generated.

- In terms of fWAR provided, only the Twins’, Astros’, Brewers’ and Padres’ staffs ranked worse– and the Jays’ group flips spots with Minnesota, dropping to fourth-worst in baseball, if you go by RA9-wins.

Things look a little better for the club’s starting staff if we take a look at those same metrics for just the month of June (which, it should probably be noted, contains a three game overlap).

- By K/9 Jays starters in June are actually worse, ranking 27th in the Majors as a staff (28th by percentage), which is probably largely due to the absence of their second and third best strikeout pitchers (by percentage in 2013), Brandon Morrow and J.A. Happ.

- As a group, in June they rank 22nd by ERA, 25th by FIP, and way up in 12th by xFIP.

- This month they’ve been 24th by tERA and 20th by SIERA.

- In Win Probability Added, they’re way up in 10th.

- However, they were still just 24th in terms of fWAR.

- But 8th best in baseball by RA9.

- In terms of first-pitch strike percentage, in June they’ve been the 14th-best staff. They’ve been 24th in terms of the percent of pitches thrown in the zone, and a bit down, at 26th in the Majors in terms of the percentage of swinging strikes generated.

So… uh… better– better results, certainly– but still not exactly great, eh?

What gives, then? How about this: Jays relievers in June have pitched to a 0.81 ERA– the next closest bullpen is the Nationals’, who are way up at 2.33. Yet, by FIP and xFIP the bullpen in June has ranked just eighth and sixth, respectively, in the Majors.

Not exactly spirit-lifting stuff, huh? The Jays are 15-5 in June, and have allowed just 60 runs to cross the plate– which is the lowest number in the Majors, and except for the Royals (62), is ten runs lower than the next-lowest number in baseball, and in that span among their AL East rivals, the next closest is the Yankees’ 90!– but they haven’t even pitched all that well, compared to the rest of the league. Especially if you go by the fielding-independent metrics.

So… dare we look at the BABIP? I guess we have to, and… yeah…

For Jays starters in June, their batting average on balls in play allowed has been .273, or the third-lowest mark among all the starting staffs in baseball. (League average for starters this year has been .293, and in June it’s been a touch down, at .291).

And the bullpen? They’ve destroyed the league’s other bullpens with a .189 BABIP. The next lowest is the Diamondbacks at .230, and league average, this month, for relievers has been at .298.

As a team, then, that’s a .248 BABIP for the month, as opposed to the league average of .293.

This isn’t exactly a shocking statement given that we’re looking at a sample that includes an eleven game winning streak, but it sure looks as if the Jays have been getting a healthy share of luck. And defence, I suppose. Their defending certainly has seemed better of late, but… yeah… a lot of balls finding gloves. For whatever reason.

There are caveats here, it should be noted. The guys who have logged the most innings for the Jays have fairly consistently produced BABIPs below the league average. Mark Buehrle has posted a BABIP above .300 just three times since entering the White Sox starting rotation in 2001, while R.A. Dickey has been in the .275 range in each year since coming into his own as a knuckleballer when he joined the Mets in 2010.

The Jays also have been using power sinker guys like Esmil Rogers and Chien-Ming Wang, which has led to their having the second highest ground ball rate in the month of June, and one of the lowest line drive rates.

Buuuuuuut, as a club they’ve also had the league’s best strand rate over the month– 83%– which, obviously, is going to happen when you’ve got a bullpen going so well, but still, I think makes it safe to say there have definitely been some luck dragons kept at bay over the course of the turnaround.

As I say, that’s obvious when we’re looking at a sample that includes such a ridiculous winning streak, but crucially, it hardly suggests that the Jays are now “fixed.”

The mirror image we saw in their record, their run scoring, and their run prevention, back on Friday night, after they had reached .500, probably suggests, a lot more than we’d like, that the reality of this club is damn close to the middle– and that ain’t great.

Yes, they’ve gained a lot of much-needed ground, and they’ve balanced out some of their awful performance from the start of the season, but regression is a-coming– looking at you Rogers (.237 BABIP, 86.6 LOB%), and Wang (.292 and 86.2%), not to mentioned you, Mr. Lind– and they need Brandon Morrow and Brett Lawrie joining Jose Reyes in returning to health and hopefully finding something close to their peak performance levels if they’re going to keep themselves in a race, and not just tread water here.

Dickey managing to stop sucking shit would certainly help, too.

It could happen, certainly, and maybe nobody is trying to claim that they are, but they’re not out of the woods just yet. Not by a long shot.

Comments (80)

  1. This is excellent!

    I’m not sure if I should be happy that there is still room for improvement, should the pitching play to its ability, or concerned that the luck will run out sooner or later.

  2. All true but also a club missing Reyes, Lawrie, Santos & Morrow.

    Im in a glass half full place right now

  3. Wow, way to piss on our parade!

    We all know this shit. Why not celebrate for a bit

    • Man, he’s just presenting the stats and offering some analysis.

      Take from it what you will – I choose to believe the Jays will play better from here on out.

      • All I’m saying is that Mr Steoten spent the first two months of the season telling all the pessimistic retards to calm down (for good reason). Now, a few breaks fall our, and he telling all the optimists to calm down.

        Good analysis, absolutely. But also, a tad contrarian.

        Honestly, years of disappointment have led a sense of learned helpless among jays fans.

        • If by contrarian you mean consistent then, yes, it does appear contrarian.

        • It’s absolutely not contrarian. You’re just pissy because I’m not validating your feelings, I suspect.

          In a season of 162 games, massive highs and massive lows are just a waste of energy. Though… I’m not saying anybody shouldn’t be happy with the way things have turned around– be over the moon about it, I am. It’s just… does that mean we turn off our fucking brains? Let’s think about why it happened a little and not get lulled into the reverse of the same trap that caught so many people who were sure the season was over back in mid-May. That you’re getting butthurt about being asked to think is your problem, not mine.

  4. Nice analysis. For me the big standout difference between April/May and June is GB%, they’ve gone from about the lowest to about the highest, and I don’t know that it can be explained away by luck. Rogers and Wang are a part of it, but Johnson and Buerhle also saw a big jump. A staff change in philosophy? How much does random variance affect GB%?

  5. Would anyone be in favour of letting Lawrie at least build some confidence in Buffalo for a little while when he gets off the disabled list? I know he doesn’t have anything to prove down there but he seemed to have a permanent 1-2 count and just hacked at everything when he was playing and it was getting pretty tough to watch.

    • With this length of time he will be on a rehab assignment similar to Reyes anyway so yeah let him hack in AAA for a week or two before promoting him. I’m down.

    • Didn’t they rush Lawrie back a bit from his oblique early in the season? On account of the panic around Reyes going down?

      At that time Bonifacio, Izturis and DeRosa were not looking like a strong everyday infield (a big part of why Muni was called upon).

      Giving Lawrie the chance he never had in Spring Training to get things going is a solid idea.

  6. with derosa and maicer platoon at third now seemingly working i dont think anyone would mind a proper rehab stint this time for lawrie. im with you.

  7. I was discussing this with a co-worker. Even if the Jays do make the playoffs this year, do you really see their starting rotation competing in the playoffs? Especially with Dickey looking pretty washed up like he has so far.

    • If the Jays make the playoffs, I would assume that the pitching would be good enough to get them there, and therefore good enough to win IN the playoffs as well.

      • agreed

        • The only difference with playoff ball is that 5 good-to-mediocre starters (ie. what we seem to have now) isn’t as effective as during the regular season. With short series’, and the need to win virtually every game, the benefit of having a few top-tier starters is exponentially more beneficial in the playoffs.

          • Our bullpen is tops though. That helps. If Johnson is on fire, great. If he’s getting hit, straight to Delabar, Cecil, Janssen, etc.

  8. The big question going forward is, obviously, what we can expect to the team. How they got here is interesting, and points to some issues, but also points to some solutions, if I’m being optimistic.

    I think we can conclude a few things about this team.

    The offense is good. It’s going to get better with Jose Reyes back in the fold, and should improve a bit more when Brett Lawrie returns. This likely isn’t in the elite offense some thought the team had when the season begun though – it’s just too hard to do that when JP Arencibia and Emilio Bonifacio are part of your lineup. All in all though, I don’t it’s a stretch to say that with Reyes back in the fold, this is a (roughly) top-10 offense in baseball.

    The bullpen looks very good, but obviously not as great as we’ve seen this past month. A top-10 bullpen too? That seems reasonable.

    The starting pitching still isn’t very good by almost any measure. Mark Buehrle – like the Jays themselves – averages out to something around the overall number he’s shown this year, maybe a bit better. Josh Johnson, half way through the year, is still kind of a wild card. RA Dickey has been pretty awful so far. Esmil Rogers and Chien Ming Wang likely aren’t going to succeed for long.

    I’d just argue that the rotation still has better odds of improving than getting worse. Dickey can’t really be worse, and the guy who won the Cy Young last year has to have a good amount of upside. Josh Johnson may not be 2010 Josh Johnson, but with his stuff, it’s hard to imagine him being much worse than he was in the first half, and he’ll always be capable of putting his stuff together and giving the Jays a nice run of starts. (His injury history is obviously a going concern, though.) Wang and Rogers may not last long being successful, but is it hard to imagine that the combination of Wang, Rogers, Happ, Morrow, Hutchison, Drabek, Nolin and Stroman give the Jays 200 league average innings total through the end of the year (roughly the amount of innings you’d wish for from two starters in the next half of a season)? The pitching obviously remains the weakness for the team, but it doesn’t seem wild to imagine it being a league-average rotation the rest of the way.

    If we put that all together, you have something like the 15th best rotation, 10th best bullpen, and 10th best offense. Perhaps that averages out to 12th best pitching overall and 10th best offense. That doesn’t scream out anything amazing, but if you look at the makeup of other successful teams, it’s probably better than you’d think, as most teams rarely are good across the board.

    The Orioles successful first half had them with the league’s best offense but 26th best pitching staff (by FanGraphs WAR). The Pirates have had a fantastic record with the 13th best offense and 20th best pitching. The Athletics have the 10th best pitching and 11th best hitting. The Rangers – 2nd best pitching, 17th best hitting. I’m nitpicking for the best examples, obviously, but it does prove the point that you don’t need terrific hitting AND pitching to succeed.

  9. In another, similar vane. I also noticed that the number of games vs less than 500 teams is very low for the jays compared to both the easy and al in general and the jays aren’t one of those teams anymore. Lots of Astros twins Angels dodgers etc still to come.

    • Stupid iPhone.

    • Jays have had toughest schedule

      • As they do every single year.

        • so you also think the jays get continually screwed by MLB scheudling?

          I thought that was just the ranting of Griffin!

          Hopefully Beeston has some influence. After all, he used to work for head office.

          Question: Do you think Griffin’s assertion (stated in today’s Q and A) that MLB cancelled the world series in 1994 so as to avoid having 3 CDN teams in a row is accurate?

          I don’t, I think perhaps it made them more indifferent.

          But man, it will all change when we move Tampa to Montreal!

          • Long shot, but not as crazy as it sounds!

          • Also, if Griffin really said that– not as a joke– that’s fucking hilarious. Of course, if it WAS a joke and you missed it, that’s pretty funny too.

        • You were talking about this in one of your podcasts. You should throw together a post on it for the ignorant like me. I haven’t fully grasped how you measure a tough schedule. Just by % opponents over .500?

          • I love this blog, it offers refreshing insights, especially when compared to traditional sports media. I also believe that Buck Martinez sucks, etc, etc.

            But sometimes, I do feel that hipster-baseball fans are a little snobby. Stoeten et al. thrive a little too much on shitting on everyone who doesn’t see thing their way.

            “Fans who are too negative, don’t understand regression to the mean. Fans who are too positive, don’t understand regression to the mean.”

            What the jays just did was awesome. Let’s all take a moment to drink it in.

            • Q: How many hipsters does it take to screw in a lightbulb?

              A: Its a really obscure number, you wouldn’t have heard of it.

              • You don’t have to comment here, you know. That can be arranged.

                Hilarious that you’re calling someone a snob while making hipster jokes like your fucking popped collar is gods gift– or whatever it is you do.

                As for the schedule stuff– you know, the thing this comment was actually talking about– the Jays always have the toughest schedule because of the unbalanced schedule. They always play more games against the Yankees and Red Sox– and, in recent years, the Rays and Orioles– than anybody else. The number is based on the record of the teams that they’ve played (RPI– relative power index– is a better, more advanced way to look at it, and the Jays haven’t had it quite so bad by that metric this year).

                • Wow, “Butthurt,” really?

                  What an insensitive thing to say. What if I was a victim of male sexual abuse.

                  I’m not even trolling here! As I was before (FYI, you fed this troll real good).

                  Seriously Stoeten, not cool choice of words

                  • Sorry, that was meant for a response to a previous post.

                    Keep up the great work.

                    Three quality posts today!

                    Also, less butthurt!

  10. could you do a peace on this but from our hitting stand point? thought this was a really awesome read, but would love to know the other half of the question.

    saw that we are hitting something like .340 Wtih RISP or something stupid as a team for June…..so what do you think? got time for some more awesome content?

  11. “- Heading into last night’s contest, as a group, Jays starters were 25th in terms of K/9 (27th by percentage), they had issued the second-most walks per nine innings (fourth-most by percentage), and the third most home runs per nine.”

    You know what’s frustrating about this? JP Arencibia, on the defensive side of the ball, sees the degree to which lots of walks benefit the opposition. And yet, on the offensive side of the ball, will swing at anything thrown his way, to the point that pitchers won’t throw him in anything in the strike zone anymore (because, why would you, when you can throw him 7-8 balls and he’ll still strike himself out?).

    • frig we have beat JPA up enough, he has 15hrs and hitting 350 over the past week, there are lots of other issues on this team……go bash Jose for hitting 160 the past 3 weeks why dont you….fuck me

      JPA this JPA that

      go find a better option why dont you.

      • Jose is slumping, and will eventually get his timing back.

        With JPA, it seems like he just refuses to change his mindset. His current “hot” streak doesn’t make his refusal to take a walk any less frustrating.

        • remember when Jose was younger? and he struck out all the time and never really walked. Things can change. JPA has the power to be a 40hr hittng Catcher, which would be sick production, but need does need to become a DR and get some damn patients but fuck me people, haven’t we beat that horse to death this year already. Stop bitching so much about your team ffs.

          woosaaaa

          • before you guys jump all over me

            i am not on acid, i dont think JP is going to be anywhere close to the Jose type hitter we all love

            but he is providing production, so lets be happy with what we have already

            now if the twins want to trade Catchers….then we can talk.

            • and for all the people that say JPA is a rally killer…..

              Ground into Double plays leader is…..
              JoeyBats at 10
              JPA at 2

              has he been below ave, yes, but i still like him over Blanco or Thole

          • Wait, what? Jose always walked at a pretty good clip. Walk rates by year:

            2006: 9.8%
            2007: 11.1%
            2008: 9.4%
            2009: 13.9%
            2010: 14.6%
            2011: 20.2%
            2012: 14.8%
            2013: 12.7%

            Compare that with JPA’s career rate of 5.4%(and trending DOWNWARD each year in the bigs) and you’ll understand why people are frustrated, and why you’re comparison was ridiculous.

          • “Remember when Jose was younger? and he struck out all the time and never really walked.”

            Uhh, you might want to look up some stats on that.

            Jose Bautista, Pittsburgh Pirates version: .241 BA, .329 OBP. That’s more or less the rate at which Kawasaki walks. He strikes out a little less now than early in his career but not by a crazy margin.

      • finally someone standing up for jp, he produces not many other catchers do
        and isnt half as bad as most people claim he is defensivly

  12. Late to your last post.

    My humble opinion on who should go down:

    I’m an asset whore so I wouldn’t want to lose anyone.
    So even though Wagner has been lights out I’d option him.
    Perez could revert back to his old self but if you can keep them both then why not gamble that he stays hot?

    History shows that someone will hurt their arm at some point and you can always bring Wags back up.

  13. ZZZzzzz

    more kawasaki gifs plz

  14. The only thing I hope happens in the coming off season is that the Dodgers fire the Matt-o-lantern and give Buck Showalter all of the money.

    That would make me the happiest man in the world.

  15. The games split isn’t unusual. It’s simple arithmetic that the record of a .500 team that has played X games will have the exact opposite records from games 1 to X/2 and from X/2 to X.

    Look at the Giants — currently 38-38. After 38 games played, their record was 23-15. The next 38 they went 15-23.

    The other numbers are still very cool, though.

    • That’s true, but I think it would be unusual for the discrepancy between the two records to be that extreme. It would make sense for a team to be within a few games of .500 on either side of the mid-point, but it’s weird that they were horrible for 37 games and amazing for the next 35.

  16. No analysis needed to show the Jays finally have luck on their sure.

    Muni’s HR against the Os was proof enough.

    Also can we get a shout out for the retiring Brian Tallet. May his quality facial hair be forever synonymous with the Blue Jays.

    http://www.mlbtraderumors.com/2013/06/brian-tallet-retires.html

    • It’s hard to believe but there was a time when I was not that upset to see Tallet starting for the Jays. Those were days of little hope.

    • That link also notes that Eric Thames was DFA’d. How good was that trade? Now we have Delebar’s Velocity program creator employed by the Jay’s, everyone on the staff will be throwing 2-4 mph faster and not getting injured by next year.

  17. The numbers don’t lie – we have been lucky to get back in it like this. But the good news is if you compare future expected contributions:

    Upside (or can’t be any worse): Reyes, Lawrie, Dickey, Happ, Morrow, Santos, McGowan, Boni, Izturis.

    Downside (or can’t be any better): Lind, Edwin.

    Grab bag (hard to say): Bautista, Johnson, Melky, Rasmus.

    I would even say there is more upside than downside in the “grab bag” category.

    • I think you need the bullpen in the “downside” category.

      Also Rogers and Wang

      • Yes bullpen overall will have some downside. True.

        Rogers and Wang shouldn’t be such a factor once Happ and Morrow come back (I know, optimism). I’d call them mixed bag. You get what you get out of them.

  18. “As a group, in June they rank 22nd by ERA, 25th by FIP, and way up in 12th by xFIP.”

    According to MLB.com, in the month of June they rank first in the MLB in ERA…

  19. *Slow clap* – for the quantity and quality of DJF content so far this week.

  20. So in conclusion, fucked or unfucked?

    • Depends on which stats you use.

      Guess they’ll just have to play the games and see what happens.
      Sorta exciting,isn’t it?

  21. Go Jays Go! Can we just enjoy this…who gaves a fuck if they are fucked or unfucked….or this is all luck…or this team is shit…

  22. No kawSkai today

  23. apparently stoeten needs babip to figure out hot streaks don’t last forever

    • When I played we didn’t worry about BPIFPAPAFP or WHIMCSCOARU. We just worried about the score of the game. If we had more goals than the other team then we were happy. If we didn’t then Sparky (he was always there not sure why) would get upset.

  24. I keep seeing the odd comment about Santos not being with the club.. Did I miss something there? Is our bullpen that bad that we need Santos?

  25. My favourite part of this ‘mirrored season’ of this is that now the Jays are back in it.

    My second favourite part is now all that now all the people that sarcastically used the phrase ‘it’s still early’ can cram it with walnuts.

  26. That strand rate is in Ramon Ortiz territory… scary stuff

  27. “not to mentioned you, Mr. Lind” It’s already started a bit. He’s had a meh week or so.

  28. You gotta give Hibbert the money. He is the best matchup advantage the Pacers have on offense

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