2008 Baltimore Orioles Photo Day

The Jays quietly made a rather interesting move on Sunday, signing former Orioles (and Reds, and Padres, and Moneyball-era A’s) catcher Ramon Hernandez to a minor league deal and, according to a tweet from Shi Davidi, assigning him to Buffalo.

Now, I’m not going to take too seriously the thoughts in my head that Hernandez, who was below replacement level in 52 games last year with the Rockies, might actually be better than the current incumbent at the position, but… well… this line from MLB Trade Rumors kind of stuck out to me:

The Dodgers acquired the 37-year-old from the Rockies back in April in exchange for Aaron Harang. The backstop saw only 55 plate appearances for Los Angeles, batting .208/.291/.438.

J.P. Arencibia is batting .219/.247/.427.

No, I don’t think it’s remotely plausible that the Jays would consider replacing their starting catcher mid-season with a 37-year-old from outside the organization. But… Hernandez, who over two seasons put up 4.3 WAR for the Reds in 2010 and 2011, miiiiiiiiight actually be the organization’s best catcher.

If that sounds more like an indictment of Arencibia than it is lauding of this hidden gem discarded by the shitty Dodgers, that’s because it is. But seriously! Since Arencibia has been in the league (2010), in a comparable number of plate appearances (931 for Hernandez, 1186 for JPA), Hernandez has provided double the value by FanGraphs’ WAR and out wOBA’d the player ten years his junior by 25 points (a respectable-for-a-catcher .326 for him, versus a declining-by-the-year .301 mark for young Aaron Cibia).

Granted, looking at a sample that includes 2010, or even 2011, is maybe being a little too kind to a 37-year-old who might not be even the player he was then, let alone the guy who was worth 13 wins between 2003 and 2006. And, if you remove 2010 from the sample, the wOBA advantage drops to just seven points (with equal wRC+). Aaaaand Hernandez has been considerably worse in his 250-odd plate appearances since the start of last season.

So… OK, the notion that he may genuinely be better for this team right now is a bit far fetched. It’s a nice depth move, though. If Arencibia gets hurt, the club now has another right-handed catcher who will be able to offer them about the same amount of production if pressed into duty– which… interestingly… Arencibia is out of tonight’s disasterfuck of a lineup with a sore shoulder after colliding with Shane Victorino during the Red Sox series. It’s also a move that helps the Bisons, who’ve been running a struggling Sean Ochinko out there since Josh Thole was freed. (Ochinko, incidentally, appears to be moving into full-on org. guy mode, with his former job as the starting catcher in New Hampshire now fully in the grasp of prospect A.J. Jimenez and his scorching bat).

That would pretty much be the end of the story, I think, if it weren’t that, concurrently, the club has gone a bit public with their displeasure at Arencibia’s progress– and perhaps, at least for the tin foil hat crowd out there, because of how the catcher continues to be obstinate in the face of criticism.

Shi Davidi delved into it in a piece for Sportsnet.

The 27-year-old firmly believes in his track record as a run-producer and heads to the batter’s box intent on making things happen, with an aggressiveness that can both help and hurt him.

Frustration is building, with manager John Gibbons complaining that the Blue Jays “just didn’t get any production down in the bottom of the lineup,” in Sunday’s 5-4 loss to the Boston Red Sox.

Arencibia went 0-for-3 with a walk, but came up with the bases loaded and none out in the sixth and popped to short.

Of late, Mottola sees an antsy hitter too eager to deliver, trying to make it happen with whatever the pitcher throws up, as opposed to hunting for something to unload on.

The hitting coach is later quoted as explaining, “once he steps between the lines, the mechanics go away because his mentality is go fast, fast, fast. We start with the mental approach, which in time will take care of the mechanics, and then allow him to slow the game down. As soon as he steps into the box and sees the guy at third, it’s 0-0 and all of a sudden auto-swing sometimes shows up. He knows, I know, a lot of the fans know, and it’s just one of those things where his desire gets in the way.”

Nothing in the piece suggests that those are the sorts of things that, y’know, a team that thinks its in the hunt might be more inclined to have develop in the minor leagues, but now they– at least theoretically– might have an option to go to in Hernandez, should they decide that path is necessary at some point. I’m not sayin’, I’m just sayin’.

In another piece for Sportsnet, Mike Cormack gets Arencibia’s thoughts on the criticism he takes in the media, which… um… hopefully isn’t a reflection of how he deals with it behind closed doors– and, to be fair, I’ve never heard the suggestion that it might be.

Now entering his third full big-league season, the personable Arencibia was asked how much attention he pays to what’s being said and written about him.

“I pay zero attention because I’ve learned more and more how — no offence — how much you guys don’t know,” he said.

He went on to say he’s never had a hard time blocking out the noise, positive or negative.

“It depends on who you play for,” he explained. “With my faith system, I don’t play for the fans, I play for one being. I go out there and I’ve been blessed with abilities. I try to maximize and play as hard as I can with the gifts that I’ve been given.”

Yeesh. And… uh… maybe there’s a connection to be made between that mentality and the what Mottola calls, in Davidi’s words, “an antsy hitter too eager to deliver, trying to make it happen with whatever the pitcher throws up.”

Supposedly, though, at least for the time being– if it’s to be believed, which it almost certainly isn’t– it sounds like the Jays will continue humping the status quo.

So, for now, it sounds like nothing is changing. But the possibility, however remote, could have moved closer into place this weekend. The combined .290/.353/.437 line (.346 wOBA) Hernandez put up as recently as 2010 and ’11 is at least a little bit to dream on, isn’t it?

Oh, who am I kidding? Probably not.

Comments (81)

  1. Arencibia sucks.

  2. what happened to the #freethole crowd… they were really loud and now they’re gone.
    where is everyone that was hating on melky and lawrie and wanted them out of the lineup?
    are they gone now once they see what the lineup looks like without them?

    • Yes.

    • No one wanted melky out of the lineup (although he hasn’t been the greatest fielder) and I would take Lawrie at 3rd for his Defence. Thole is crap though, never wanted him freed.

      • easily 50 people last week ripping his empty 275 average

        • Those people are on crack! 275 is second best on the team!

          • I’ve been Melkys biggest fan. He’s been squaring up balls with no power from the lower half thanks to wonky strings. It’s impressive and I like that he played through it (IMHO) because the Jays needed him. Could use more of this type of unselfish attitude.

        • Which handjobs were saying that?! I’ve come across dumb shit, but fuck me! That’s insane to rip on Melky.

          • He’s right, every game threat there were quite a few guys ripping Melky for hitting singles.

        • How is complaining about an empty .75 batting average, ripping on Melky?

          Is this not a legitimate complaint?

          I have talked about his empty .275 BA, but my complaint more lied in the fact that the Jays refused to put him on the DL, but rather send him up there hobbling around like a 80-year man with a walker for fuck sakes.

          Get the legs healthy and get back up here so you start smacking doubles again.

    • #FreeHernandez!

  3. I don’t understand how this guy is still playing every day. He is a really really bad player. Any upgrade would be huge.

  4. So, you don’t play or the fans, huh, JPA? Kindly fuck off out of here then, Dear Leader.

    • Nobody does.

      • Yes, they do. Playing for fans is part of the job, even if it’s a distant second to winning. The last time I checked, fans were the ones who went to watch these guys play, enabling them to make the big bucks, not the imaginary man in the sky who Arencibia says he plays for; he better care about the fans, however superficial his sentiments may be. Don’t be a tool and go public by saying you don’t play for fans even if that’s the way you really feel. PR matters when you’re in a high-profile pro sports league.

        • ha. if you want to make that argument, then they aren’t really playing for fans, either. They’re playing for corporate sponsorship’s and all of them suits up in the boxes. It’s a shitty argument.

          • Barry Bonds got fuck all when he became the home run king precisely because he was a cock and didnt give a fuck about anyone but himself. Corporate sponsors do consider an athlete’s reputation and overall character when they approach him or her with an endorsement deal.

          • No fans, no baseball

  5. I think Hernandez being picked up is purely insurance.
    I stated this a few days ago but if JP or Thole were to get injured you’d be looking at Ochinko or Nickeas who are both hitting under .154 in AAA.

    Hernandez is 37 and outside of the inhuman Pudge you don’t get much production out of beat up old catchers.

  6. I think Hernandez should be JPA’s back-up now… He is better than Thole right now

    • Thole should get one extended chance to carry the mail.
      Give him a weeks worth of games (20-30) at bats in a row.
      It’s hard to play once every 7 days and put up numbers.
      Thole hasn’t been given a fair shake.

    • Dickey.

  7. Stoeten, you heard if we are linked to any of the International guys?
    11 of the top 30 are already off the board.

    http://www.baseballamerica.com/international/where-the-top-30-international-prospects-have-signed/

    • From that list we know they have 8 (Yeltsin Gudino) and 18 (Freddy Rodriguez). I retweeted whichever beat reporter had it first.

  8. Nice piece on the Mottola insight. That’s the shit I like reading the most. Inside, game thoughts and approaches, the actual mentality to hitting in pressure situations with birds in scoring position.

    Now, execution is totally a different matter than the theory. Take the first pitch against Mariano Rivera bases loaded, and that my friends might be the only hittable pitch in the at bat, and it was a nasty cutter inside.

    JP, from what I gather from his performance and quotes combined, is a catcher that is pull happy with power because he knows he can mostly get away with it hitting 25-30 jacks a year. Problem is he can’t, because his defense doesn’t make up for it. Striking out with a low on base percentage is something I think he can change, if he could put his homerun hitting ego on the back burner. If he could take an approach o watching the ball deeper in the the hitting zone, ie. Joe Mauer Matt Wietters, he could produce a lot more, bring up his average and perhaps his walks, and contribute more.

  9. “I pay zero attention because I’ve learned more and more how — no offence — how much you guys don’t know,” he said.

    This sort of response is concerning, I don’t believe he can say something like that in a written interview, while turning 180 behind closed doors and showing the common sense we all hope and expect most players have.

    JP strikes me as someone who is brimming with confidence, and perhaps not quite intelligent enough to know where to draw the line between confident and overconfident, allowing it to negatively impact his approach at the plate because of what he truely believes is important.

    I don’t think I’d put in hernandez over JPA just yet, but by the start of next year at the latest, theres 0 chance JPA is starting for the jays, if i were in AA’s seat, There are at least 3 or 4 free agent catchers who are better players than JP, sign one or trade for one.

    • if you were a professional athlete, who had spent his entire life being the best player on his team, made it to the major leagues, arguably had some success, then struggled, how would you feel about some fans negative opinion of you?

      • True. And for that matter what about being told be hitting coaches to make changes when something mostly worked for you.

        The again, look what happened to Andres Gallaraga when Don Baylor talked him into opening his stance.

        JP, should try to hit the ball the other way, more, it is one of the most overlooked and under appreciated hitting approaches in the game.

        Check out he best hitter going right now, Miggy, he is all  over the field, with slugging ability.

        • he absolutely has the power to take it out to any field.
          I’ve always thought jp struggles to recognize pitches early, so he guesses.
          It’s not necessarily something you can learn, all great hitters have fantastic pitch recognition, its not as easy as saying lay off pitches outside the zone, thats like saying hit more doubles.
          seems like any time he’s in a hitters count he assumes fastball and swings out of his shoes

      • to be totally honest david, i wouldnt need the fans to tell me i stink, i’d already be thinking it myself, so he’s really saying his performance has been fine, and that all of our collective heads are up our asses.

        They need to convince him that taking a walk is important, because right now he doesnt think it is and his results show it.

        • I still have a huge problem with his attitude. He thinks everything’s still fine in the garden when it’s not. And when there’s a hint that it may be not, he doesnt stop and analyse it, he rejects it out of hand saying his critics don’t know anything. That to me is a HUGE probelm because it reflects on his own intelligence. Zaun made a tremendous statement yesterday. He said that when Wakamatsu left, JPA was left with no catching instructor. Considering that he has so many areas that need attention, that’s fucked up and that’s on Gibby and AA. I suspect thats one reason why Blanco hung around for so long and also (partly) why Hernandez has been hired. It’s the wrong approach. They need a full time designated catcher for Dickey (Thole), and a designated full time instructor for JPA.

  10. Offseason target dream: ryan hanigan, good obp for catcher, no?

  11. By the way, The Smasher wears his ball glove to live games with wrist bands, and wears a Hinske jersey.

    Now that’s douchy.

  12. As shit as Thole is look what Dickey has done since he started catching for him. Isn’t that reason enough to keep him here?

  13. Don’t forget the only catcher in Buffalo has been Nickaes and Ochinko which have been slashing an awesome 151/237/208 and 154/327/154 respectively. Jays promised Buffalo they would field a winning team, this could be about Buffalo more than Toronto.

    • Agreed. This move is about depth in the system. We may see Hernandez up at some point because of injuries or poor performance, but this move has nothing to do with supplanting JP.

  14. Remember how JP told Esmil Rogers that he needed to have a “quiet” confidence. Yeah, about that…

    • Yeah…. JP talks like he is Thurmon Munson, about how he is gifted and talented. Shut the fuck up. He has no major league history of showing plate discipline or hitting for average. He doesn’t frame worth a shit, and constantly misses balls to the back stop. Your clearly not as talented as you think you are JP. Let your numbers and talents speak for them self, and please, for the last time, shut up.

  15. JPA is not a guy the jays can win with. Can u imagine in a playoff game watching this clown strike out three times and letting the winning run cross the plate on yet another passed ball ! Pro athletes should have some level of confidence in themselves but this idiot is just arrogant. I dunno who pumped his tires but its miss guide and missed placed !

  16. “Arencibia went 0-for-3 with a walk, but came up with the bases loaded and none out in the sixth and popped to short.”

    He walked?!?!

  17. Nice move by AA. We needed some depth. We need JPA to turn shit around asap. He isn’t getting any younger. He doesn’t seem too bright, but I could be totally wrong on this. Not that intelligence necessarily causes performance though.

    Wtf is this supposed to mean…”I’m not sayin’, I’m just sayin’”?

  18. I’d take a better defensive catcher with a more consistent bat… I mean obviously.

    But in his defense, JP costs the league minimum (and I actually don’t think it will go up tremendously through arb) and he (other than tonight, fuck) usually manages to stay healthy.

    wOBA, OPS etc that are high but come with an injury prone guy are worth less.

  19. Arencibia sounds like quite the douche bag.

  20. #FreeJiminez

  21. Dunning-Kruger effect?

  22. According to CITY he’s out of the line-up tonite. What A Shame.

  23. Stoeten, serious question here for you for once.

    Does Greg Zaun have top teeth?

  24. The thing is with JPA, if the Jays stick with him for the rest of the year, and he belts over 30 HR (which is not impossible give his history of power), he’s in really elite company for the history of the position.

    It just blows me away that decent case for a DFA could be made even if he accomplishes that.

  25. Game threaaat? I think there may be a lot to say during this encounter w/ Detroit

    • Stoeten is concerned about unleashing the Wang/Fister clusterfuck of comments about to ensue, with good reason.

  26. Remember when we had great catching prospects and young arms that would fix our catching and rotation problems? Yeah…about that…

  27. JPA seems like exactly the kind of guy who “plays for the fans”, or, more to the point, “plays to the fans” (“I love hockey!”)…

    Also the first time I’ve heard he’s a god guy.

  28. Oh Cibia, how far thee has fallen….http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QaU4WumIzAQ

  29. [...] of all time. Andrew Stoeten of Drunk Jays fans has also written about J.P.’s season at great length. The fans have gotten on his case and, as everyone knows, so has Gregg `2G`Zaun (via the Fan590). [...]

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