Reality Check

bautistaencarnacin

As many caveats as may be applicable, ultimately, blame for the 2013 Blue Jays season needs to be laid at the feet of the front office and GM Alex Anthoupoulos. On that point there can be no doubt, dangerous as it may be to admit as much in the company of the hopelessly negative who will dull-headedly insist on the existence of a direct relationship between the club’s record and AA’s fitness for his post. If one is actually interested in being reasonable, however, I’d say that about the worst gripe you can make about the job he did over the winter was the way he ignored red flags, and– in particular– the way he splashed prospects and money around on players with major question marks hanging over them, which have almost uniformly been answered in the negative.

Though… that’s a little unfair, I think, as Mark Buehrle and Jose Reyes have been almost exactly as advertised. Without question, though, the GM whiffed on– or perhaps the circumstances simply conspired against– the seasons that were forthcoming from Josh Johnson, Melky Cabrera, R.A. Dickey, and to a lesser extent, Emilio Bonifacio, and Maicer Izturis.

Even Reyes, freak injury as it was, managed to get hurt– yet another red flag that was ignored and swept up in last winter’s wave of positivity.

“Alex should have known!” the sour fans surely bellow in their minds, oblivious to the fact that their insistence on the matter essentially means they believe baseball’s landscape is populated with a vast number of sure things, and Anthoupoulos gravely chose to take bad risks, believing too much in his own ability to evaluate talent.

Horse apples!

Don’t believe me? Let’s play a game. How would you feel about your chances if your team was in this situation coming into this season year:

- The best 2012 ERA posted in your own league by one of your projected five starters was fucking 4.56 (with a higher FIP, slightly), as that player followed up an injury-plagued 2011 (14 starts) by being worth just 1.5 wins above replacement per FanGraphs. As a comparison, the maligned R.A. Dickey’s ERA currently sits at 4.46.

- Your most reliable starter by fWAR over previous years had seen his third straight season of decline by that metric, despite still being under 30, and posted an ERA of 4.82 (albeit with a FIP of 4.11).

- Another starter had racked up some innings in your league following a mid-season switch, posting an ugly 5.08 ERA, and also spent time in 2012 on the DL with a thigh strain and a shoulder issue.

- Your fourth projected starter was young, not considered an elite-elite prospect, and in his first full season as a starter– and the first time in his career pitching more than 130 innings, finishing at just over 160– could manage just a 4.86 ERA in 2012, with his FIP only less than a half run better.

- Your aging fifth starter had missed all of 2012, after having put up an ERA over six in 2011, and a 4.40 ERA the year before that.

So… to recap, that’s two guys who’d missed a half season or more in the previous two years, a guy who’d had shoulder trouble, a kid who struggled and might not be able to give you 200 innings (even if healthy), a declining innings eater who barely kept his ERA below five, and nobody else with numbers a whole lot more impressive.

On the field, there are more question marks:

- One of your key outfielders is 32 and looked firmly like a platoon player in 2012, with a .280 wOBA against right-handed pitching.

- Speaking of platoons, you’re looking at one in another ourfield spot, mostly combining a lefty-killer, who is below average defensively, with a youngster who was pretty much exactly league average in 2012, based on both UZR and his .330 wOBA.

- Another outfielder is young and has flashed huge potential but spent the majority of both 2010 and 2012 injured, and posted just an 83 wRC+ when he was able to get on the field last year.

- At one of your middle infield positions, both options you’re going into the season with combined in 2012 to be at exactly replacement level, per FanGraphs– one would be just 23 years old and very green, while the other was entering his age 30 season, with a decent four-win 2010 being the only real standout season in a so-far middling and somewhat injury-prone career.

So, we’re talking about question marks all over the place. And there are more, still, which will pretty clearly give away the team I’m talking about, if you haven’t already figured it out.

- Your starting catcher, in his age 27 season, posted a .222/.288/.454 with defence that, by FanGraphs’ metric for catchers was slightly below average.

- Your designated hitter entered the season coming off a major injury that limited him to just five games post-All-Star break in 2012.

- Your main first baseman lost a multi-year contract in the off-season after it was discovered that he had a degenerative hip condition.

- Your manager entered the campaign with just a 154-170 career record following an acrimonious departure from his previous job.

Got it?

Yes, we’re talking about the Boston Red Sox, and obviously their 71-49 record came about exactly how they fucking drew it up!

And what is the point of all this, exactly? It’s certainly not to denigrate the Red Sox or to claim their success this year is down entirely to dumb luck. They obviously made calculated risks that are paying off well, and I think a lot of people saw that as a possibility at the time.

In fact, back in a post on April 1st (check the comments, too!) some clever person wrote this– COUGH!:

Even the Red Sox– who will hit, especially in their ballpark, with Pedroia, Napoli, Gomes against lefties, and full health from Ellsbury and (eventually) Ortiz– need only for Jon Lester and Clay Buchholz to regain their form of two years ago in order to be a club capable of winning the division themselves, really. It’s a tall order, but I suppose the point I’m trying to make is, so is having Dickey pick up where he left off in 2012, keeping Johnson on the path to regaining his dominance, getting a healthy season from Brandon Morrow, and keeping the regression demons at bay when it comes to Mark Buehrle.

Hey, one out of four ain’t bad!

But certainly there is an element of fortune in what’s happened to the Red Sox and what’s happened to the Jays. Boston has had some good fortune in terms of health– four starters with twenty-plus starts, Napoli holding up, Ortiz himself and healthy, Ellsbury healthy– and in terms of performance as well, I think. The Jays, undeniably, to some extent have not.

To some extent, I say. And yet, while I’ll always maintain that the way fans attempt to ascribe magical powers to managers and coaches whose presence happens to correlate to a player’s emergent success (or decline), I think it’s a fair question to ask whether there’s something systemic that’s better about the way the Red Sox make adjustments to faltering players, or evaluate medicals, etc. etc.

Or, it would be a fair question to ask if Farrell and Lovullo and Butterfield weren’t in Boston now, having overseen the disasters of the previous two years here in Toronto, including umpteen Tommy John surgeries, Ricky Romero going sideways, Colby Rasmus and Adam Lind nearly slipping through the cracks, and other clusterfucks. Then again, many of those things didn’t fall under the purview of the three ex-Jays staffers– and it certainly seems a crafty hire that the Red Sox snapped up pitching coach Juan Nieves, who had spent the previous five years as the bullpen coach of the notoriously pitching-healthy Chicago White Sox (healthy, that is, before they get traded *COUGH*).

In other words, it’s complicated. Obviously. But that’s just it: laying the blame for the Jays’ awful 2013 at the feet of Alex Anthopoulos and his off-season decision-making, as much as I began this piece by admitting must ultimately be done, simply doesn’t tell the whole story. That becomes especially clear, I think, when the reality of the difficulty of the task is viewed through the prism of another team. Reducing these complexities to the equivalent of a game of checkers– as fans do when they attempt to draw a direct line from a club’s record to their insistence that someone must pay– doesn’t stand up as remotely serious in terms of either analysis or expectations.

All teams enter every season with red flags and question marks, and whether or not those are answered in the affirmative is not necessarily a reflection of a club’s fortitude, a manager’s acumen, or an executive’s plan. If we’re going to have a serious conversation about where the Toronto Blue Jays need to go following a thoroughly disappointing season, the bare minimum should be to understand that truth– to not just rage at results and supposed failures of evaluation, absent any contemplation of not just the Jays’ own process, and not only also the process that teams like the Red Sox have followed, but the necessary imperfections in every roster, given the limitations of the pool of available talent.

That isn’t to suggest that all red flags are created equal or that there may not be skill in assessing them, I just think its highly instructive to see that the Red Sox, who are having a near perfect season, hardly came into the year with a perfect roster. The knee-jerk, unthinking reaction to how such an outcome came to be might be to blindly point to underlying factors, like coaching, but given that we know here first hand that John Farrell isn’t some kind of fucking magic ghost, that’s pretty tough to swallow.

That said, we can’t completely ignore the possible influence of these other factors and act like it all just comes down to bad luck– at least, not any more than we can ignore the entirely tangible sinkholes on the Jays’ roster in left field, at second base, behind the plate, and in the rotation– but thinking through all this I find it impossible not to view at least a healthy portion of the regressions and injuries that have plagued the 2013 Jays as being somewhat related to the wrong kind of luck.

It’s easy, in the abstract, to view the front office as a bunch of fucking useless dopes stealing our summer and filling it with boundless frustration for handing so much playing time to the likes of J.P. Arencibia, Melky Cabrera, and Maicer Izturis, and for overlooking red flags on Josh Johnson, Brandon Morrow and R.A. Dickey, but that position becomes far less tenable when you consider not only their histories, but how difficult it is to populate a roster with players who’ve shown the kinds of capabilities that those guys have in their track records. Defeatist fans seem to want to believe that players turning up here at their worst is a uniquely Toronto problem, but again we only have to look over to the Red Sox– who hit on ones with Stephen Drew and Shane Victorino this year, but who in misfired huge in recent years on Carl Crawford, John Lackey, and (in their eyes) Adrian Gonzalez– to see that it’s really not. And as the game we played earlier demonstrated, it’s not like this year’s Red Sox weren’t taking their share of chances as well.

Understanding all that is the key to grasping why there is no doubt that Alex Anthopoulos deserves to keep his job and make a second attempt at constructing a winning roster here around the players who he has under contract for the two seasons following this one, and why it’s not necessarily going to require a massive overhaul. This season has been bleak, but that doesn’t inherently mean the future will be, even with many of these same characters sticking around. It’s not exactly a comforting thought, given that there will be major question marks, but last winter, while we were caught up in fawning over a roster many mistakenly saw as too-good-to-fail, a lot of fans seem to have forgotten that that’s baseball, and question marks are always going to be the case.

The task Anthopoulos is now faced with, then– as I’m sure he’s learned the hard way over the course of this season– is to find ways to mitigate and insulate the club against the big risks he took last winter. The rotation depth he’ll have without making a single move, with Drabek, Hutchison, Stroman, Nolin, Romero, and possibly even Happ on the outside looking in, is a huge start– so much so that some may reasonably be spun off in trade to help the club elsewhere. The fact that it will take so little to upgrade at second base and behind the plate is another very big plus, especially since the defensive issues with those two positions can, to an extent, be tied to the club’s pitching struggles.

It can be done. Will the upgrades he makes be enough? I don’t know, were Boston’s?

Comments (242)

  1. Don’t play the bame game.

  2. Of all the move’s AA has made, literally the only one i didn’t like or at least understand, was napoli for fransisco. I think he’s done a good job, kind of hard to predict an enormous number of players would have the worst seasons of their careers.

    • Yup,
      Same people who want to fire him are the ones praising him as a ninja last winter

      • That’s a load of bull. There was a lot of people who called into question the direction AA was going as far back as the Happ trade (a small scale precursor to the Marlins trade). You’re stooping to Stoeten’s typical strawman law where everyone who is criticizing AA now is just being reactionnary.

    • Yeah it is sometimes overlooked that AA signed or traded for quite a few Clozers and they didn’t really pan out: CoCo, Francisco… Okay I can’t think of any more but I think there were some.

      • Not saying Santos won’t ever be useful again, but his 2 years here have been disappointing.

        Still not a bad trade, considering who we gave up for him, but still…

  3. He took a swing and a miss. If he had of stood pat coming into 2013, I don’t think they would have been better off.

    Maybe it would stlll be nice to have Noah, Jake, Henderson, Travis, etc. I’m still not sure they’d be better off. None of those guys are locks to be anything at this point. And even with the development of those guys, they would still need to go out and make major moves to contend in 2014.

    • It’s not just the prospects, it’s the prospect capital and that prospect capital was used in a series of move that also cost the team it’s payroll flexibility. How does AA go about improving the team now that he doesn’t have that prospect capital or payroll flexibility? The team is definitely worse off. Fatally so? Some like TaoOfStieb seem to think so but Stoeten does make a solid argument for how this team could make a run next year. There’s at least a path there for a smart GM to take. AA isn’t as smart as he once seemed but he’s probably not nearly as dumb as his worst moves make him look either.. Maybe he can pull it off.

      • Doesn’t seem as smart as he seemed? Easy to say when looking at the Win Loss column, eh shit for brains?

      • If they still had prospects, or payroll flexibility, who could/would they have gotten other than what they got?

      • You sound wishy washy. Like you want to criticize but don’t want to be called out for doing so. Take a stand!

        • Yes I suppose I’m being wishy-washy. I guess what I ‘m saying is that I think a quick fix approach might work but I ‘m not really at a point where I trust AA to pull it off. For instance if AA was comfortable running with JPA this year, who’s to say he won’t do the same next year? I feel like Drew and Stoeten (and to be fair, many others) are holding on to the idea that AA is a good gm despite mounting evidence to the contrary. Stoeten has been hinting at a change of heart for awhile now but he’s openly said that he doesn’t want to because he thinks that doing so would enable idiots so he writes a column like this where he sort of criticizes AA while at the same time putting up a smokescreen to defend him.

  4. , marginal players would be upgrades at 2nd and catcher.

    Add one FA arm as insurance and a solid #3 type.
    Hope for rebounds from the pitchers as they can’t possibly be worse than they have this yeae

  5. Let’s also remember another aspect of all this… the Rogers hype machine. I think they certainly deserve a healthy dose of blame here. Like this post says, there were absolutely some red flags here and there yet Rogers was more than happy to send the circus down to spring training, roll out the ’92/’93 replays and special edition magazines.

    This is what happens when you feed the beast. If they’d rolled out an average marketing campaign, the disappointment wouldn’t have felt so immense. They conditioned fans to expect a winner, failed, and now they need to wear it.

    • The Rogers Hype Machine was building a brand. They had reason to expect a more competitive product this year (as most pundits and critics concensed) and tried to capitalize on it. Do you really believe some additional marketing has made this whole experience tangibly worse? Do you understand basic marketing?

      I’d contend that I’d be more upset if Rogers did little marketing heading in to this year – proof positive that they are currently heavily invested in the success of the team.

    • Seriously? I think they did very well for themselves hyping this team up. It’s their job. It’s the fans’ responsibility to be able to think through that stuff, so Rogers, for me, is pretty faultless here. The coronation stuff was a bit rich, but fans were eating it up, and that’s what they’re in business for.

    • I agree with this somewhat. Or at least, I’ve wondered about this. Sure, Rogers’ job was to hype and market the team. But is that the only source we had to listen to? Sort of seems so, but makes me wonder if other media outlets were a bit more lukewarm some of the “red flags” mentioned above would have been monitored more closely, or even how much of a mental impact did this have on the opening day 25-man roster? If it were a more realistic projection other than say, definite World Series champions, would that even have made a difference? By the time guys realized they were pressing too hard to fulfill their own expectations of themselves, they realized they’d sunk too low to rebound..

      • Look at the April 1st piece I linked. 20 of 43 ESPN commentators/analysts took the Jays to win the AL East. Were they swept up in Rogers-created hype?

        • I would also say to look at the Vegas odds for World series favorite at that time. Vegas odds are pretty good predictor of public opinion as all they are trying to do is split the bets right down the middle.

  6. Really interesting piece, Stoeten.

    I’ll just raise one concern I have though with the comparison to Boston.

    In 2012, the Red Sox were an unmitigated disaster, so they shed some of their biggest contracts, added a few prospects (though none that really contributed much this year), and most importantly, were able to reinvest some money in 2013 with gambles that have paid off – like Victorino, Napoli, and Drew. Even if those three aren’t the biggest stars on the Red Sox, you can easily subtract 5 or more wins if they aren’t there.

    Which basically gets to my concern, which I realize we don’t have the answer to today: do the Jays have the payroll room to add good, complimentary players like that?

    • You don’t necessarily need payroll to add good complementary players.

      • Generally it takes payroll or prospects though, and the Jays don’t have much of the latter either.

        I suppose there are options, just that it’s going to be tougher without, I assume, payroll flexibility.

        • The Jays have plenty of prospects, they’re just in the low minors for the most part– though Stroman, Nolin, Gose, Jimenez and Pillar aren’t nothing, either. I could see them dealing Happ, too. I don’t know if teams would be looking at the guys coming off TJ, but I figure that’s OK.

          Anyway, shouldn’t be as big a problem as you’re making it out to be, I figure.

          And the notion that they won’t have payroll flexibility is not based on a whole lot, either. The way AA has spoken I figure that the raises, the arb raises, and the qualifying offer to Johnson were all probably budgeted going forward. Plus, they only have $27-million committed for 2016 ($91-million for 2015), so they could backload or otherwise get creative, I think.

          • I wasn’t saying they have no prospects left, just that, how much further will they want, or can they, deplete the system?

            Anyways, certainly hope you’re right!

        • As has been pointed out here numerous times, the nature of the current roster entails that even a couple average players will be significant upgrades.

          I don’t want to pretend that there is a free agent supermarket where teams go pick whatever they want off the shelves, but I can’t imagine it would be too hard/pricey to get a 1-2 win catcher and second baseman. That alone would get us a few more wins.

  7. #FireGibby

  8. Great post. Not much to add here, other than that a season like this really allows one to separate bloggers and twitterers capable of critical thinking from the ones that can only parrot asinine narratives transported from other sports where they are more applicable or peddled to them by radio hosts and television analysts. Keep up the great work.

  9. I didn’t fault AA for trying to make significant moves – and still don’t, really – but this was never going to be an insta-juggernaut. The idea was with some positive development from what was already here, a few stars would turn this into a contender. This was a team that lost almost 90 games last year and five guys were never going to turn 90 losses into 90 wins on their own.

    I do think he may have drank some of his own Kool-Aid, though, buying especially high on Dickey and overrating Boni to a ludicrous extent. I don’t entirely blame him for Johnson turning into a pumpkin or Reyes’ injury (though there were warning signs on both) but fixing this team was never the patchwork job people made it out to be.

    • 1. Dickey – see ’10 and ’11
      2. I don’t think anybody expected Boni to be a beast, but merely intriguing potential for a 24th/25th man
      3. You forsaw Reyes sliding awkwardly into second base? That’s a cool story.

    • The 2012 Jays were a 500 team until Morrow, Lawrie and Bautista missed significant time (virtually the entire last 2-3 months of the season) and Rasmus inexplicably turned into a pumpkin after the all star break. They were making additions to a team that had a true talent level at or a few games over 500 not a 90 loss team.

      • Are they really though? We’re now talking about a season and a half of data that says that this is a .450 team. I know that’s a gross oversimplification, but you don’t get to just throw out the bad half of last year while keeping the good half.

        • There’s so much turnover between the 2012 and 2013 teams, you can’t combine them into one data point. It’s not about removing the bad half of a season. It’s about not putting much weight to a half of a season where the best players on the team are literally not on the field.

        • You absolutely do if you’re talking about healthy vs. unhealthy. As a relatively healthy team, they spent four months playing .500 ball. When their whole rotation and a few of their key hitters got hurt they had two horrible months. Which one reflects the actually talent on the roster?

  10. If anything, the only thing we can blame AA for is the continue presence of Darren Oliver. He is past his prime, and his performance on Sunday was sign he’s done. He blows saves, has in the past, will in the future. I’m not saying the Jays lost the game because of him, leaving so many men on base helped too.

    A loyal fan I began, and a loyal fan I will remain.

    • Were you a loyal fan who was losing it when it looked like Oliver wasn’t coming back last winter? Because there were plenty of those.

      • No, I didn’t want him ever. Game 6 of the 2011 World Series pretty much sums up how he should have never donned a Blue Jays Uniform, AA is trying to build a winning team, a guy who blew the World Series in Texas should never be a candidate. But that’s one mistake right?

        Then again, I am at fault for this whole debacle this year, as I said out loud this was the year the Jays made the post-season, I tempted the Baseball Gods, and they are angry. I am sorry.

  11. I can see AA roping in a decent left fielder…but I’m scared that the 2014 catching situation will remain just as mind-stifling awful as this year’s version. I’d say adios to Lind…and if Johnson doesn’t show an INKLING of better days ahead, he can hit the road (and immediately be a fucking rock star in his next go-round with a team). Rajai will be gone, and hopefully ONE of Boni or Itzy will be gone, too. DaRosa is starting to look at life after baseball, and this may be his final kick at the can before the missus makes him stay home and get to know his kids.
    Is it too much to hope for each of the remaining guys to have an AVERAGE year, statistically?

    • If Melky’s leg is better next year there’s no reason to expect him to not at least be league average.
      Of course, it’s ignoring these red flags that go them here in the first place but – if resources are limited – I’d rather the Jays focus on upgrading other areas of concern.

      • The fact that he was a CF in KC in 2011 gives me at least a little hope.

        • What scares me… and there’s no actual evidence or fact to support this… is just the timeline of Melky’s career.

          He stunk in Atlanta in 2010, where he was criticized of being out of shape and not putting in great efforts. His batting line that year: .255/.317/.354.

          He got DFA’d, and wound up in Kansas City, where he had a bit of a breakout. He got traded to San Francisco, went gangbusters, and then got suspended for PEDs.

          Now he’s in Toronto, where, through a leg injury-plagued half-year, he’s put up a .279//.322/.360 line, quite resembling of his brutal year in Atlanta. Of course, the accusations against him in Atlanta are the same types of things you hear about many underperforming players, but, it’s easy to see how someone who was developing leg issues would have looked ‘lazy’ and ‘out of shape.’

          I guess my point is just that, very rarely for PED-related players, you can paint such an easy picture of Melky’s career and the effects PEDs may have had when he was on and off them, even though we obviously don’t know any exact timeline and can’t make any factual statements. It’s just concerning, is all.

      • Digging into it, Melky is -5.2 UZR/150 on his career which makes him a little below average. Being moved to LF probably balanaces out the effects of aging somewhat but expecting him to be above average (or maybe even average) in the field may be a bit of a stretch.

        Hopefully the leg issues is what sapped his pop but maybe you were correct to bring up LF as a likely below average position.

  12. Getting rid of Cibia will be the salve to soothe fan anger.

    • Fuck,
      I’d take Molina over him in a heartbeat, as he can catch a great game

      • He’s too old now.

        I’d really like to see what Thole can do for the next couple of months, frankly. That’s sad, but that’s how awful Arencibia has been.

        I’d pine for Salty, who is a free agent, but look at the slash line of his I quoted in this piece. Very JPA-like.

        • I’m not one for maple boners, but Russel Martin would sure would’ve been nice about now.

        • Salty’s walk rate has been trending up for 3 years though. I’d like to think there’s hope he can sustain a league average obp going forward.

          That said, even if he can’t, I’d still take his 288 obp over JPA’s 245 any day.

  13. The one minor move that stings was Gomes for Esmil. Now, that trade (I think) happened before the Dickey trade, so AA didn’t know D’Arnaud would be gone. But trading TDA, Gomes and (last year) Carlos Perez has left us way to reliant on JPA, both this year and going forward.

    • I don’t think Gomes was going to get an opportunity here, so I understand completely why they saw him as expendable (and I still don’t believe he’s nearly as good as his numbers have looked, frankly). Perez finished 2012 in High-A, so I’m not sure how he was helping– he’s up to AAA now, and is struggling at the plate.

      So… not so bothered by that.

      • I agree Gomes wasn’t going to get an opportunity here, but isn’t that kind of the point – that AA overestimated JPA (and MAYBE underestimated Gomes – jury is out), so that Gomes should have had an opportunity?

        • I think that’s all hindsight stuff. JPA’s not great, but he took a step forward defensively from 2011 to 2012 and while he took a mild step back from the plate, going into his age 27 season I don’t think it was unreasonable to think he’d get back to his 2011 level offensively, if not surpass it, as it was only just a .219/.282/.438. That’s pretty much exactly where Salty was in both 2011 and 2012, and Boston went with him, and he’s taken a nice step forward for them. Catchers do take a bit longer to develop, they say. I can see why they did what they did, it just clearly hasn’t worked out.

          • Don’t want to use a leafs analogy, but he’s basically bozak

            • Maybe he didn’t overestimate JP, but that giving up TDA was the price of doing business. He might have thought the team was good enough to win with JP behind the plate.

  14. At least 5 teams want to materially improve their catching situation, which was why D’Arnaud was so valuable. I agree with most of this post, except that I do think AA is to blame for his assessment of JPA who has just never been more than he is today (except for a brief stint in the PCL). We traded a bona fide stud because of AA’s feeling we were secure at C, and now our best case is to get a cheaper 0 WAR guy who plays better D.

    • You don’t make that deal and you don’t get Dickey and this season is worse. d’Arnaud is also injury prone, and he doesn’t help the club nearly enough during the Bautista-focused timeline of 2013-15. Yes, AA decided a WAR in hand was worth two in the bush, and maybe that was a mistake, but it’s hardly as simple as you’re making it out to be.

      • To clarify my own question/quibble below – while I can see one taking issue with dealing d’Arnaud during the off season, I don’t. The club clearly didn’t want to hand the reins to a contending club to a raw rookie. And I’m sure they thought the offense could support even a 2012 version of JPA.

        More damning is the in-season decision to keep running him out there 80% of the time.

        Maybe Thole is no better, but I’d have liked them to give him a real shot earlier, before the season entered garbage time.

        • It would not have been the worst idea, that’s for sure.

          • Hiring Gibby was AA’s worst mistake. Winners are made by fire, iron sharpens iron. Lapdogs give their love unconditionally and drool on your pants, making it look like you pissed yourself.
            AA need a boss in the pit, someone to give him the cold hard truth. Where’s Cito?

  15. I think we need to stop depending on Morrow as a starter, whatever innings he can provide is a plus (apart from his random terrible starts), but to count on beyond that is delusional. Leaves us with Dickey (No. 3), beurhle (No. 4), and Happ (No. 5). Who knows what’ll happen with Johnson, but we need the ‘kids’ to step up, Nolin, Romero, hutch, drabek, jenkins, etc.

    • Brandon Morrow has been healthy for like 75% of his time since joining the Jays. Feels worse, but that’s the truth (or thereabouts– I calculated it at 22% a month ago or so).

      So… who’s delusional?

      • You are. Morrow gave us ten starts this year, with none more on the horizon. Last year he gave us 21 starts. If you assume 35 starts per year with perfect health, he’s at about 60% for four years in the aggregate. Trending downwards.

        As it is this whole post is an exercise in ignoring red flags, while we’re on the subject. You’ve pretty much gone and assumed implicitly that 1B, 3B and CF are taken care of. No way anyone should feel comfortable running Lind out there next year. All he’s done is given us one good year four seasons ago; this season is well on its way to joining his last three in the dumpster before it’s all said an done. And Lawrie and Rasmus have provided lots of evidence that they can be counted on for horrible one-to-two month stretches.

        On top of all that, you’d actually bring back JJ if the circumstances allowed it, because you’re can’t believe your lying eyes, or the lying statsheet, that he’s this bad. And you somehow define a group consisting of Drabek, Hutchison, Stroman, Nolin, Romero, and Happ as “depth,” when they should be called nothing more than “hope.”

        I’m not saying I would fire AA this instant and I get the role of luck; I’m just saying the problems run way, way deeper than you’re telling yourself.

        • TRENDING DOWNWARDS? And you’re calling me not delusional, while you’re acting like his body is breaking apart at the seams?

          They’ve been unfortunate injuries, but sorry, you’re feelings on Morrow are wrong.

          Holy shit, and as for the other stuff, entirely miss the point much? There are risks everywhere, and you’re not going to eliminate them. I don’t want Lind back, for the record, but Lawrie and Rasmus are not worth discussing here because they are absolutely in no way problems going into 2014. Could they end up having shitty seasons? Of course, anyone can. But you’re not replacing them, nor should you, so there’s no point talking about them in a discussion of where to go from here. They’re cheap, young, talented and have shown they’re more than capable of handling their positions.

          And yes, Johnson is good. Sorry that you would rather use five or six awful starts to suggest otherwise, but if you can’t wrap your head around why a guy people were talking about getting a $100-million deal at the start of the year might still have value, then I can’t help you. And if you think that the group of pitchers is merely “hope,” then you’re absolutely clueless. I don’t know what you think depth is– it’s guys who aren’t good enough to make the rotation, but can help you in a pinch, and those guys certainly would qualify as that.

          Please do read this post again, because you’re exactly the kind of negative clown I was hoping to reach.

          • In 2011 Morrow threw for 30 starts. Last year, 21. This year, ten. In what way is that not trending downward?

            Look, my point is not that AA screwed up and should be shitcanned; the logic and motivation for all his deals were eminently reasonable when they were made. My point is simply that, for purposes of 2014, you’re vastly understating how far off this roster is from contention.

            All they have at starter is a glorified competition for the 3-5 slots. The organizational depth in the minors doesn’t move the needle on that. Your comment that JJ has only given us five or six awful starts doesn’t warrant a response. Even if he isn’t this bad, whatever that means, you certainly can’t count on him for the 1 or 2 slot, which, again, was my point.

            Obviously we’re going to go into 2014 with Rasmus and Lawrie and I’m not suggesting AA do anything about that (not sure why you understood that I was). My point is that even if the team finds a way to paper over its most obvious sinkholes, it still has ticking time bombs at other positions. Not time bombs of the dumb luck, “Encarnacion could accidentally rip up his knee rounding the bases” variety, but of the “we’ve seen Lawrie and Rasmus play and we know they’ve never been good from April to September” type. That’s different. Obviously no roster is perfect and every team has those guys, but when you’ve only got three sure things in the lineup, it’s a problem. Filling in 2B, LF, C with merely non-zero WaR guys won’t be enough.

          • JJ has an average game score this year of ~43…not exactly good by any stretch of the imagination.

        • Plus fucking one!

    • So Morrow is out, but Happ and his career high of 166 innings four damn years ago is in? Got it.

  16. The mental picture of AA and Beeston laughing to themselves over the possibility of this many misfortunes happening this season ala Mr Burns/Smithers doesn’t seem to far fetched.

    Maybe we don’t know the whole story….Perhaps Dickey overdosed on nerve tonic, the 2011-12 Melky disappeared at the Springfield Mystery Spot and JJ was hypnotized into thinking he was a chicken.

    The only thing missing would be JPA and Zaun Cherry throwing down at Hemmingways over who was the top English Prime Minister…..

  17. Stoets, I think Boston did exactly what you blogged about the other day recommending: replacement level players at min at every position, so sinkholes. We can do that in 2014 easily

  18. Great post. My one quibble is this. I think this is correct: “Laying the blame for the Jays’ awful 2013 at the feet of Alex Anthopoulos and his off-season decision-making, as much as I began this piece by admitting must ultimately be done, simply doesn’t tell the whole story.”

    But being unhappy with some of the in season decisions, including the relentless starting of Arencibia, is totally fair.

    Why weren’t you wearing the home team’s logo on your cap yesterday?

    • In what parallel, screwed up universe does Stoeten’s choice of chapeau matter at all? Such a weird/irrelevant question…

      • I know. I just thought it was weird. He put up a picture of himself on his blog – it’s not like I was stalking him or something. He’s wearing a hat with a blank front panel. I had just read Neyer’s piece about being a fan of the Royals, so that was in my head and I was wondering if Stoeten is a fan. Of course, you don’t have to wear the merch to be a fan, but I was curious is all.

        Why did you feel the need to comment on my question?

    • Because the hat doesn’t have a logo on it.

      • You made me laugh.

        I’m a fan of yours, but not a big enough fanboy to comment on your appearance. But the hat did make me curious!

        • I should say – comment further – ie whether I like the hat, why did you chose a no logo hat over a Jays logo hat, etc.

          • It was in the store when I was looking to buy a hat.

          • Hatgate! True fans should always blah blah corporate shill on Rogers’ payroll blah blargh.

          • @GMan it’s a ‘sports journalists mustn’t wear team logos’ thing apparently. Don’t know if it’s a hard and fast rule, or an unwritten rule, but bottom line appears to be that Stoeten can’t wear his Jays hat to the dome.

            • Or maybe I’m talking bollocks. Who knows?

            • If I was on media credentials, like Drew was, then that’s absolutely correct. And actually, that’s the reason I bought the hat. But I very, very rarely ask to get credentialed, and never have for a regular season game, so it wasn’t that I wasn’t allowed, it’s just… that’s the hat I was wearing.

    • “Why weren’t you wearing the home team’s logo on your cap yesterday?”

      I was wondering that as well.

  19. Great post Stoeten. I like the comp with the Red Sox. baseball is unpredictable and every year people make the mistake of the assumption that everything will be the same as the year before. That is also why I’m not completely worried about next season. Could it suck – sure. Is it likely? I don’t think so. Its far more likely that Johnson and Dickey perform closer to their numbers from the last 3 seasons – which in itself would probably have changed this season dramatically. The upgrades at 2B and C are more pressing in my mind since at neither position is there a sustained track record of success.

  20. My greatest amusement with the fire Gibby/AA set, are that 99% were over the moon with the moves he made this past off season.

    Sadly, we can’t ask “What would have you done?” without the taint of the results clouding their honesty…nor can we go back in time to the moments before the deals.

    I had my doubts about a few moves…but even those doubts were tempered with ‘this is a better team than if the move had never been made’. I was quite concerned about Dickey…and behold, he hasn’t lived up to his last few seasons. That doesn’t make me a seer as some people want to project themselves. It means a 50/50 worry came to pass.

    But then I ask myself…who else were they going to run out there? What sure things pitchers could they have gotten for the same package? Will that package amount to anything?

    Syndergaard looks good…you know…in the minors. I don’t discount that…but, I’ll cry when he’s tossing CG/SOs in the MLB. d’Arnaud is injury prone at a horrible position to be injury prone…and his bat doesn’t look like it will play at many other positions. Regardless…how were they going to help the Jays this year barring landing that imaginary sure thing pitcher?

    Again, I was leery of the trade…and can still recognize how the need and the cost made sense.

    Not even going to touch on the Florida trade, due to the tidal wave of wets dreams that created when it happened.

    I know there are a healthy amount of ‘Should have moved Oliver and Davis for a viable starter or A+ prospect’ types…but, really…any intelligent writing is lost on you anyway.

    AA took a chance, a big chance that crapped out for the most part. Yup…there were warning signs…they were also mixed in with a lot of shit luck…and it’s not like any of us have much of a clue what else could have been pulled off moving the same pieces.

    I for one…as horrible as this season has felt…and holy Atheismo has it felt awful…I feel better going into the next with the cast and crew AA gambled on, then what we were staring at at the end last season…or some of the panic signings that people were advocating to ‘fix’ the 2012 mess.

  21. Sure luck played a role but luck always plays a role. If you’re a smart poker player, you don’t just count on luck, you measure your odds and you evaluate your risk. Yes it could have worked differently for the Jays with better luck but what were the odds and did those odds justify sacrificing prospect capital and payroll flexibility? Did AA’s moves really have a better chance of panning out then say the James Shield trade? If you remember not everyone was on this band wagon, TaoOfStieb wasn’t and neither was Jon Hale. There were a ton of sceptics within the more sabermetrically inclined portion of the fanbase as plenty of message board discussion can demonstrate. Not eveyone who criticizes is a reactionnary.

    The genius of the Red Sox moves wasn’t that they panned out and the Jays didn’t. Good fortune surely played a part in that. The true genius was how little risk the Red Sox took on in their attempt to improve their team. They kept their prospects, they didn’t take on long term contracts. Is it harder for the Jays to do that? Absolutely. The Jays need to overpay to sign free agents but overpaying through salaries that you acquire by trade in addition to trading prospects is hardly a desirable alternative. This was bad process. Optimism is intoxicating and can may you root for bad process but it shouldn’t make you lose sight that the process is bad. Flags Fly Forever can be a pretty facile justification for some bad decision making (yes that’s a poke at Drew but the guy should know better).

    • Getting James shields would have cost use D’arnaud + Syndergaard + prospects from the marlins trade

      • I’m not advocating getting James Shieds. I’m just saying what the Jays did was no smarter than the widely panned James Shields trade.

    • If you’re unwilling to comprehend anything related to the timing of the deals or the pressures to not sit idle for several more years, and how that complicates things further, please, by all means, go back to your little messageboard circle jerk. Declaring “this was bad process” shows that you have your head deeper in the sand than the people you’re attempting to criticize.

      • I can’t understand the context of the move? The context of taking on a lot of risk to add to a team that wansn’t a contender in the first place. I suppose that’s good process. But yeah sure, I’m the one with the head in the sand.

        • Again you are igoring the greater context, so yes, you are. Please, return to your messageboard circle jerk. They miss you, I’m sure.

          • So by your logic, was Jon Hale also ignoring context when he criticized the Marlins trade?

            • Yes, absolutely.

              I understand the pull of the value-in-a-vacuum stuff, but if it doesn’t acknowledge reality, it doesn’t have much worth.

    • If you’re a smart poker player, you don’t just count on luck, you measure your odds and you evaluate your risk.

      This isn’t poker. There are so many more possible outcomes in baseball, as front offices deal in humans, not playing cards.

      As far as risk goes, you have to take some risk at some point, don’t you? Like the Red Sox, the Jays had solid core pieces (Bautista, EE, Rasmus) to build around. Spending money for Napoli’s & Victorinos isn’t really an option.

      They took a risk, of course, but what is the alternative? Sitting around waiting for Noah Syndergaard? Looking at the Red Sox farm and the Yankees coffers and thinking “you know, maybe we can make a go of this in a few more years.”

      The time was now. The risk was real but so was their potential for reward. You don’t think they considered the chance it all went bust, as it has?

      There are no rewards for “most prospect capital” or “best process in a non-winning season.” They wanted to win. They aren’t going to this season, but they can regroup and still compete next year.

      • Clap
        X5 well done

      • “As far as risk goes, you have to take some risk at some point, don’t you?”

        Sure you do but some risks are smarter than others and this wasn’t very smart. It it really holding AA to too high a standard to think he couldn’t have traded that prospect capital for something other than bad contracts?

        (Apprecite the civility of the response, btw)

        • So AA should trade prospects for good major league players on good contracts? I’m suprised AA didn’t think of that. You KingKat are GM matieral, because no one has every thought of that before.

        • Just so you know KingKat, there are plenty of people who understand you’re reasonable position and questioned the trades when they were made. It’s absolutely fair to have a different opinion about things, even if you don’t write a blog.

          For the record, it was an obvious gamble by AA and one I’m still fine with but I know lots of people who never thought it was a worthy gamble. We talk about it all the time and shockingly no one’s ever threatened by the fact we all have different opinions.

          • It’s really easy to have a reasonable position like that without presenting an alternative, or by presenting an alternative that crumbles under the slightest bit of scrutiny.

  22. What do we even really know about payroll flexibility?

  23. i definitely think AA deserves another chance to turn this thing around. My anger comes from all the ABs they gave to boni, jpa etc when its clear they are awful baseball players and have always been. Gibbons probably deserves blame for that as well. AA should have been more proactive in may/june in finding replacement level replacements for these fucktards. Starting pitching is a whole other story.

    • It’s almost like they were fucking around, thinking it wasn’t too late for some guys to turn their seasons around if they kept running them out there and then BAM they were 10 out again.

      The Lawrie at 2nd experiment was another bizarre in-season decision.

    • So they should have been knee-jerk idiots twisting to the whims of the latest small sample size, rather than actually believing in their evaluations and the copious data that supported them. Obviously in hindsight I guess they should have, but that’s hindsight.

      I’d argue that some of their worst decisions were based on believing in too small a sample– Lind facing lefties being a big one.

      • Well, like i said, their is tons of data to support the fact that boni and jpa have always been bad (before this season). Its not relying on a small sample size. Its misguided faith in shitty baseball players.

        • BTW lind was ok vs lefties for a little while. Then he reverted back to his 2010-2012 form and is barely even mediocre vs. righties now. He is another guy I dont want to see back next year along with jpa and boni. Ive had enough of his shitiness.

          • I know there are knee-jerk idiots out there. I don’t count myself amongst them. For example, I was with keeping Bonifacio or Izturis at 2nd for a long time. I believe in their track records.

            But I was resentful at being subjected to Arencibia in an everyday role by June and I think there was enough data that this wasn’t a knee-jerk response.

            Lind vs lefties is another example. Who was knee-jerking it here – fans who didn’t like it, or management overreacting to a brief spurt of luck-fueled success against not great lefties/lefties without normal platoon splits?

            Who was knee-jerk when it came to throwing in Lawrie at 2nd in the middle of the season?

            I know some of these observations are the opposite of my comment that you responded to. I suppose I’m kind of bi-polar on this – on the one hand sometimes it seemed like they were fucking around as though they had forever for their experimentation to pay off and on the other they sometimes overreacted to unsustainable short-term success.

  24. Hey Stoeten burning question here: with two of the fastest pitchers in MLB playing for us this year aren’t we getting totally hosed by beer service getting shut down in the 7th? Bring in some guys that take their sweet time between pitches and at least stretch that drinking eligible window out a little more. Also pass a bylaw mandating Grant Balfour has to pitch pre-cutoff because that was just torture.

    • Oh god that’s a horrible suggestion. Remember Steve Trachsel with the O’s? Insufferable. Even Jason Frasor was atrociously slow. I’ll just get my booze in time, thanks.

      • Steve “The Human Rain Delay” Trachsel? Ya.

        Not a serious suggestion, more in the vein of sarcasm to point out my annoyance with the system. Going to the game Thursday and want to get drunk; just realized I’m going to have to crush the beers with Buehrle on the mound in order to do so by the seventh since he can get there pretty fast.

      • LOL what about the entire Red Sox pitching staff for a number of years recently. I dont know how many times Ive yelled “THROW THE FUCKING BALL ALREADY PAPELBUM!!”

  25. I’d like to see JPA in Philly next year. Mostly because I think the dynamic between him and Doc would be hilarious (assuming Doc re-ups with the Phills).

  26. 10 games under .500 and trending downward. This team needs to look in the mirror and have a reality check if they think they will flip a switch and vastly improve for next season. I bought my first Flex Pack this year, and I won’t be making that mistake again next year…

    • Shhh. The grown-ups are talking.

    • I bought 21 games this year…not bad for a guy who lives 100 miles away…and I don’t feel the least bit cheated.
      In the 15 games so far, I’m 7-8 having seen two absolute clunkers
      and a bunch of very entertaining baseball.
      Am I disappointed in the overall results? Sure.
      But that does not affect the enjoyment of any particular game
      nor will it dissuade me from returning for at least another 15-18 next year.
      Now, if only they’d have the damn subway running when I’m in town……..

  27. There’s been a black cloud of bad luck following the Jays around for the past how many years. This is not AA’s fault. No GM has a crystal ball when making trades, shit happens.

    However, that being said, AA has a lot of decisions to make come the end of the season and I sure hope he has some money to spend on the necessary missing pieces to this puzzle because I swear, if I hear “there were a lot of players available but not at the right price” or “there were deals to be made but we didnt find the right fit”. I am going to slam my head in a fucking door because that’s what it’s like listening to that same old AA drivel.

    There’s holes in the rotation, there’s a hole at 2B, there’s a hole in LF, there’s a hole at closer and also someone should staple a piece of paper to AA’s forehead to let him know that there is a gaping hole at catcher. Sure maybe one of the holes in the rotation could be filled with one of the names on Stoeten’s list but that name sure as fuck isnt going to be Ricky Romero, fuck that guy, let’s just stop bringing up his name because he’s done. The other hole theyll need to spend some money on a FA starter, please stop trading away the farm system.

    Yes this season was a real serious fucking piss off, to the point that I think I probably watched less than half of the Jays games that I normally watch (about 85%) but there is a fruitful and talented FA market coming up this November, make something happen.

    • D+

      • I should note that I dont want him to viciously overpay for free agents but either explode rebuild and firesale everything of value or add the right pieces now. If the Jays are going to be in last place they might as well be doing it with young players and prospects. I know it’s unrealistic but can you imagine the haul that guys like Jose, EE, Reyes, etc etc would bring in?

        • They might even bring in superstars! Maybe even those almost as good as EE, Bautista, or Reyes!

  28. Management plays a part. Why can’t you look at the Boston Red Sox and put SOME of the blame on the return of Bobby Valentine which clearly affected the clubhouse chemistry.

    These players are at absolutely the top of their game. For them to perform to the best of their ability, the factors around them need to be right and they need to be focussed on their game. Management’s job is to squeeze the performance out of them.

    Buchholz, Lester, and Beckett all go to shit in 2012 and the team goes from a consistent 90 win team to a 70 win team and now back to a projected 96 win team. You put up a bunch of 2012 stats for a team whose stats might have suffered because the team was managed by a chump.

    I liked AA’s move in the offseason, but I never favor rehiring someone who was fired by a club, especially when they are never picked up by another club for the same position. Gibby was never rehired as a manager and neither was Cito, but the Jays happily welcomed them back, and what did they do for us?

    And in every case, AA’s worst case scenario came true. Buehrle may NOT get to 200 innings this season for the first time. Johnson got injured and is having a horrible year. Dickey might take all season to adjust the KN at home (if he ever does). Reyes got hurt but not because of the turf. Cabrera was an unknown based on the scope of his PED use. Boni and Izturis I thought would be great platooners and nothing on the stats sheet indicated that their year would be this crappy. To top it off, the rest of the players are not having any kind of year where they are performing BEYOND expectations except the bullpen who looks like they are starting to regress.

    I find Wilner’s attitude for Cito interesting. He was harshly critical of him before Rogers suspended him for a weekend. Yet he will happily now state that mangement means very little except in-game management.

    Meanwhile, you have Rogers paid veterans in Buck, Tabler, Hayhurst, and Zaun rave about how good managers are.

    Gibby is capable, at best… a replacement manager. If the team wants to get into the playoffs, they need better. You don’t get into the playoffs with a bunch of replacement level players — why can’t the same be said about the management as well?

    And there is a luck argument. But if that is the case, was it just luck that the Red Sox put out between 86-96 wins every seasons for the 10 previous seasons?

    • Beckett sure is doing a lot better now that he’s out of Bobby V’s reach, huh? And Lester started going south the year before Valentine got there, while Buchholz was coming off a stress fracture in his back that ended his 2011 season.

      So… can we please seriously stop talking about clubhouse chemistry and this nonsense whereby you think you’ve evaluated Gibbons’ magical abilities as manager. It’s horseshit, I’m sorry.

      Also, Wilner was like a lot of people in being critical towards Cito, which– at least for me (I won’t claim to speak for Mike)– was because he was stubborn, superstitious, and insistent on fucking around young players in order to protect his own legacy by piling up as many wins as possible.

      Had he played Snider more the Jays may have been able to make the decision to trade him when he had value, before they reached the point they came to last summer when they realized they’d likely lose him on waivers the next spring anyway, due to his being out of options.

      Had Cito played Arencibia over John Buck at the end of the 2010 season, maybe the Jays would have had just enough extra data on JPA to have realized his shortcomings a whole lot sooner.

      A manager usually means very little, because he usually is acting in the best interests of the organization as a whole. When he doesn’t, it’s a different story.

      • Hindsight is always 20/20, but I would love to see data on the efficiency of MLB managers rather than stating unequiviacolly that MLB management has little effect.

        Certainly the Jays woes this year are not tied to Gibby. AA’s gambles however were mostly high risk except for Buerhle, Bonifacio, and Izturis. Dickey, Cabrera, Johnson, and Reyes were high risk. If Cabrera returned even to his KC standard, if Johnson was 11-4 right now with a 3 ERA, if Dickey repeated his Cy Young performance, if Reyes was healthy for the entire season then AA would be Batman. But not one of those ifs panned out and the other two acquisitions were shit.

        If ALL were true you’d be looking at a team with at least a 64-54 record and in a pennant race instead of a 54-64 record and we’d be having a different conversation. Add into that Bonifacio and Izturis’ dismal year (which could not have been predicted given their record) and you’ve got today’s Jays and an injured Brandon Morrow to boot.

      • Strangely enough, Gaston played Snider more than the two managers Snider has played for since. One of whom managed the Blue Jays.

        But I totally agree that giving Arencibia another 30 at bats against September pitching would have completely opened the organization’s eyes about him.

        • I sense sarcasm.

          OK, it was a stretch, but it makes Cito’s actions no more defensible.

          • I love the world you live in where managers mean nothing, chemistry means nothing and now fundamentals mean nothing. But who can argue with you when you’ve made it so clear: if it’s not your opinion it’s horseshit.

            • Fundamentals don’t mean nothing. The other stuff is pretty close to entirely horseshit, though, yes.

              • Let me clarify, though. Obviously the manager has tasks to perform, and there’s some variance in how those are performed from one guy to the next. But not much, and not much that anybody half serious would actually think shows up in his club’s results. And the chemistry stuff may exist in some small ways too, but certainly not even close to how people talk about it, because when they do they ignore a whole history of success from groups with known bad apples, all the external pressures that make supposed chemistry irrelevant, and how convenient and lazy a narrative it is. The manager stuff is similar. It’s presented like magic. It’s bullshit. Why do you never hear about the great chemistry on losing teams? Because nobody ascribes magical chemistry to those kinds of teams, because it debunks the myth. Good teams win and then have chemistry ascribed to them– not the other way around. Scoff all you want, it’s bullshit. Your coach told you lies, sorry.

                • “All of which begs the question: Just what kind of impact does a manager have on a team’s performance anyway? In the essential 2006 book Baseball Between the Numbers, analyst James Click tried to tease some signs of managerial impact out of the statistical record but came up empty. After examining the measurable impact of in-game strategies (bunting, stolen bases, intentional walks), wins and losses relative to run differential, playing time distribution, in-game substitutions (pinch-hitters, relief pitchers, and defensive replacements), and direct impact on player performance (coaching), Click was unable to find evidence of a repeatable skill in any one of those five areas for any of the 456 managers he studied.”

                  Source: http://sportsillustrated.cnn.com/2010/writers/cliff_corcoran/08/26/managers.impact/index.html

                  If you wish to suggest that baseball managers have an effect on the game, whether in terms of chemistry, fundamentals (as if an MLB player hasn’t developed those), or any other platitude, that’s fine. You’re entitled to your opinion. But if you can’t define how those things translate to improvements in on-field performance, then what’s the difference? The data show that managers don’t really matter. You can believe what you want, but you’re believing in the tooth fairy.

          • Oh, I think playing Snider more in 2010 (even though the kid missed almost two months with an injury) than Farrell or Hurdle have played him in the three seasons since was at least defensible.

            Not playing Arencibia in September 2010 you could argue about because it did indeed reflect one of Gaston’s deepest prejudices. No, not the one about young players and proven pros. Gaston hated lousy defensive catchers. It runs through his entire managerial career, it’s the one position where he always went with the better glove. It’s why he played Sandy Martinez (non-hitter out of AA) ahead of proven vet Lance Parrish. It’s why he played Borders ahead of Myers and Knorr, and Barajas ahead of Zaun.

  29. AA is almost in a no-win situation. ‘Do something,’ the masses cry. ‘Why did you do THAT something,’ they conclude. Almost as frustrating are the ‘I told ya so’ types and the ‘Why doesn’t Wilner or Stoeten agree with me that the team sucks like I secretly knew it would!’ Anyway, rant over.

  30. Here is an idea I have not really seen this idea floated before. Looking at Dickey’s splits, he’s been much better on the road than at home (mandatory small sample size acknowledgement here). If the splits were reliable, would anyone out there look at moving Dickey in the off season to potentially fill one or more of the holes on the diamond. He likely still has value to a team playing in a pitcher friendly park, unlike the homer happy dome, and who will see his splits and that he is only a year removed from a Cy. IF his splits continue through Aug/Sept then the value he adds the jays is minimal when he continually gets rocked at home, and with multiple guys coming back from injury/coming up through the minors it is likely that someone could fill in for the value he has given this year.

    • It’s interesting, for sure, but you’d sure take a value hit relative to what you gave up, and I just think it’s too soon to conclude that he won’t ever be able to figure a way to get by better in the Dome.

      • Dickey going to get $10 mil next year. What is the going rate for a solid #3 starter?

        I wouldn’t move Dickey because I think (though I don’t know the going rate) he’s good value as a #3 who will throw 200+ and has the potential to pitch better than a #3. This year obviously would have played out differently had Morrow and Johnson been able to perform the roles of 1a and 1b for which they had been cast.

      • True, I just figure AA likely can’t fill all the holes in the free agent market, so if you were looking to trade, Dickey is the one guy who still likely carriers some value from the MLB roster that may be appealing to other teams, and that considering this years results you wouldn’t completely hate giving up.

    • Considering the prospects you traded away to acquire him, the fact that no team will reimburse you anywhere close to what you gave up + the reasonable contract he is signed to and the hole you create in doing so….why the hell would you do that?

      He is a professional that has to, and will, learn to adapt to his new surroundings. Give it time.

  31. I, for one, am super-glad I back-loaded my flex pack in anticipation of a pennant race. Sigh…

    • Haha. Exact same situation – back-loaded it with a lot of division rival games in anticipation of there being a close pennant or wild card race. We have a really good record against division rivals right? Whoops. At least there’s still toque night!

    • I also back-loaded. Was out for four games in April, and had six in September…now I will save myself the flight. I’d actually forgotten about the tickets, because there is no way in hell I would use them. I’d put them on Kijiji or something, but the market value of the tickets will be less than a postage stamp come September.

  32. I think Jose Molina is a free agent after this season…

  33. re: AA…I don’t think it is so much making the wrong evaluation of certain guys as it was being a slave to upside… and ignoring that a lot of these guys have huge standard deviations for the expected level of performance. for me, bautista EE and reyes (when healthy) are the only sure thing first division guys on the entire roster. buehrle is a sure thing league average type who gives you innings. virtually everyone else has upside… but downside to go with it. this year most guys came in at the left end of the bell curve with a few notable exceptions (rasmus, lind, and virtually the entire bullpen). next year you might get something similar or something totally different… I don’t think anyone knows… and that has got to scare the bejeezus out of management. i’d like to see AA go with a lot more certainty peppered around the roster next year…

    • My point kinda was, how much certainty is actually available, though?

      • I worry that AA has a scouts eye for upside… which is a fantastic way to build a minor league system and has served the organization well in a lot of respects… but we have seen the pitfalls of that approach at the big league level this season.

        in other words, I worry that AA doesn’t value that type of player as much as his cohorts.

        in terms of availability it is really difficult to say what is available… we can all look at the free agent lists… but there are probably dozens of players in other organizations readily available that none of us know about.

    • Certainty in the Astros sense? Where everyone knew they’d have the worst record in MLB at the beginning of the season? Because what other kind of certainty is there?

  34. I am 100% behind the Boston theory here (need something good to hope for) but I wonder if its going to be much harder for the Jays to pick up the Napoli’s and the Victorino’s and the Dempster’s because we’re not Boston. How many of those kind of free agents really want to play up here?

    • It’s going to be much harder to pick up the names, but not necessarily as difficult to find ways to improve to the point where they can mimic the concept of simply not having shitty players (even if it means having mediocre ones).

      What’s problematic, though, as others have pointed out, is that the Jays don’t really have an answer for guys like Boegarts, Bradley, Cecchini and Middlebrooks who are knocking on the door. Though… AA has been pitching-heavy in his drafts, and maybe that’s where he makes it up a little bit.

    • I don’t know. Half the teams in baseball play in much bigger shitholes than Toronto. Toronto has the advantages of being quite a nice shithole. Toronto or St Petersburg? Toronto or Denver? Toronto or Detroit? If you can persuade player you have a chance to win, they’ll come.

    • Putting grass would be a good start to getting the right people to play in Toronto.

  35. It was a gamble….and we lost :(

    Sure was exciting, leading to opening day though!

    I have a terrible feeling Jake Maris ???? is going to be the best of the batch

    • A bit like one of those farts where you’re not sure if it’s gas or diarrhoea, but you hope for the best and do it anyway.

      Apparently, for the Jays, every fart is diarrhoea.

  36. MAPLE BONER JUSTIN MORNEAU IS ON WAIVERS!!!

    • The jays already have a lefty hitting 1B/DH hitting below his potential and spending too much time on the DL

  37. Lots of times we pine for recognizable names whether its pitching or whatever but the fact is sometime the name is just that. I don’t think AA should be fired at all with some smart moves ( trying to find underrated players ) we can upgrade for sure. And it’s not like guys like Happ or Rogers have been disappointments for example. Happ is a great 4 or 5 starter Esmil could be a long relief guy and occasional spot starter. The only mistakes AA did I think is the failure to unload Oliver at trade deadline and cash in on guys like Jannsen or other bullpen pieces. As this article perfectly illustrates it can be done with a bit of luck which the Jays have been missing for a while now.

  38. Stoeten, where would you rank the Jays among AL East in terms of 2014 outlook?

    I share your thoughts about the core being decent, but can you really see them leap-frogging the four other teams? I’m especially worried about the Yankees having so much money coming off the books.

    Thanks.

    • It will be a tough fight and I don’t see a reason why they shouldn’t be able to be right there with any of those teams.

  39. I blame the turf for all the jays problems.

  40. Screw it…I love that AA swung for the fences last offseason. If the moves were so bad, as all of the keyboard warriors suggest, half the world wouldn’t have picked them to win the WS. Once the team is assembled, the players are in the drivers seat and the responsibility for a good/bad season rests with them.

    How can anyone predict if they’ll be injured or if they’ll have career worst years? All of happend simultaneously this year. While everyone didn’t love every single move, I didn’t see anyone predicting all of this happening. I’ll be interested to see what D’Arnaud, Syndergaard, Nicolino, Marisnick, etc really do in the bigs. Personally, I only see D’Arnaud and Syndergaard sticking, with one being injury-prone and one winding up as Delabar, but without a breaking ball.

    We’ll see…go AA.

  41. Good post. I certainly didn’t expect the season to turn out this way after the offseason the Blue Jays had. The 3 major problems this season:

    - Starting Pitching
    - Defense
    - Too many black holes in the lineup

    The last two, defense and offensive black holes are probably not that expensive to fix. Getting a guy who plays great D and gets on base a decent amount is usually cheaper than getting someone who swings for the fences but is a defensive liability and strikeout king. So I’m hopeful the Jays can pick up some perfectly unexciting players to feel these gaps.

    As for starting pitching, I wouldn’t be surprised if there are zero changes and AA prays that internal depth is enough to piece together a decent 5 man rotation. Not ideal, but good starting pitch is hard to find.

  42. Stoeten I don’t get the reference to Pedroia being an injury-prone player. Other than his debut season, and 2010, the man has averaged 150G/year. Unless I read something wrong with that point you made.

  43. AA moves that I hated? Snider for Lincoln, Iztruis, Dickey for Noah/TDA, Melky. AA moves that I liked or loved? Pretty much everything else. Getting Colby for basically nothing is one of the best trades since Tillman/Jones for Bedard. Locking up Bautista and EE at half or a third of market value should receive a lot more attention than it does as well. Some experts, KLaw among them, didn’t like the Bautista extension at all but it probably saved us $50-$75 million.

    Going forward I am worried Dickey might never succeed here and maybe we’re better off moving him if the right offer comes along. Lind is another guy I’d be looking to move as Gibby seems obsessed with a) playing him against lefties b) batting him quite high against lefties. As for FA’s I think Infante, Sizemore, Ibanez, Burnett, Halladay and Lincecum are all worth taking a look it. Bad teams generally don’t go on 11 game winning streaks. Anyone who thinks this team is far away from contending needs to remember how they felt in the midst of that.

  44. Looks like Philly is going to cut ties with Chooch Ruiz. I’d gamble on a bounce back. (his career triple slash .274 .359 .410)
    Could probably get him relatively cheap and he’d be a nice mentor for Jimenez next year assuming AA will finally exile Arencibia to anywhere but here.

    • love this idea

      Ruiz and Jiminez works for me

      really hoping for a September call up for Jiminez to at least see what he’s capable of doing prior to offseason shopping

      • Not that I give a shit, but funny to talk about mentoring a kind with a guy who got suspended 25 games for amphetamines.

        I’m not sure he’d come as cheap as you’d think, but he’s certainly an improvement (even if he’s as bad as this year), short term, and hey, he’s from Panama, Jimenez is from Puerto Rico, so… that works?

  45. “there is no doubt that Alex Anthopoulos deserves to keep his job and make a second attempt at constructing a winning roster here”

    Sure… but how many attempts does he get? I mean as you admit ultimately the blame for the 2013 Blue Jays season needs to rest with the GM. At some point that needs to come with consequences.

    • Who said it shouldn’t?

      If 2014 goes as bad as 2013 it’s going to be very hard to argue for bringing him back in 2015, depending on the circumstances. But he’s set himself up well, with payroll committments from ownership, lots of money coming off the books for 2016, and a wave of prospects getting closer then too. He learned under the best (his predecessor) at keeping his job while not producing results, so… I wouldn’t get too excited about him leaving any time soon, but of course more of this can’t be tolerated.

      • As much as I’d like to say otherwise, not everyone (not in a real sense anyways).

        There are lot’s of management homers in sports fandom that will say that they think their guy should be held accountable but ultimately will never set a deadline for such and are only too glad to provide goalpost moving excuses when the time comes.

        Not speaking of anyone specific but those folk are out there.

      • The funny thing is, if things were to continue to go south next year and they decide to sell off assets and rebuild, I don’t think I would want anyone but AA to guide the tear down based on what he did in the previous rebuild.

        • I have to agree with Philbert. I think AA did a pretty decent job of this rebuild and, if 2014 and 2015 don’t pan out, it’s only because he had a big misstep in pulling the trigger on competing. But that is still to be determined and I do believe the Jays have a solid team if only the starting pitching can be decent next year.

          AA has mostly recovered the franchise from the cluster fuck that Gord Ash and JPR left behind. There is reason to believe it is in healthy shape for the long term provided the farm system is responsibly maintained and utilized.

      • See what I mean.

  46. For fuck sake enough with the the AA excuses. The teams HE assembles during his tenure as GM so far all suck period. Ninja my ass…bottom line is that AA is not as good at running a major league team as some seem to think. From his “payroll parameters” comments to the pointless super-secretive Yu Darvish bidding fiasco to his overall trading track record, to his seemingly whoring guys off the waiver wires only to drop them a short time later, to his John Farrell lame duck hiring of a couple years ago, the guy really seems over his head in his current job.

  47. I badly want to be a fly on the wall when JPA and the jays go to arbitration.
    JP would think everyone was taking crazy pills.

    • Well, because arbitration favours traditional stuff like HR and RBI, it might not be so bad. Not that they’d actually let the delicate little snowflake get to arbitration.

      • It’s just so odd for an organization to make a below average player part of their marketing campaign. i’m sure if you go to tampa you dont see ryan roberts posters anywhere.

  48. Did anyone really want AA to sit on the prospects and develop yet another 5-8 year plan while watching Bautista and Encarnation’s productive years recede into the rear view mirror?

    Didn’t think so.

    He has solid talent pool under team control through 2016.
    He also has some holes to fill.
    And he deserves a chance to finish the job he started.

    The worst thing that could happen would be some sort of knee jerk reaction
    to a disappointing season and some moves that did not work out.
    That would net you a new GM, a new 5yr plan and another decade in the dumpster.

    No thanks. I’ll take my chances with AA and his run through ’16.

  49. I have a question for Stoeten or for anyone else for that matter. I am having a debate with a friend. My point is that Anthony Gose is no longer a player that deserves hype and also a player that Jays fans shouldnt be relying on to have an impact in the future.

    He is in his repeat year at AAA and his numbers are down across the board. Clearly he is Buffalo bound next season as well which would make it his 3rd year at AAA.

    When would you all consider Gose to be a bust or at least dismiss him as a top prospect?

    • He doesn’t have to hit much to be a potential starter in the Majors, because of all the other tools, so a bad half season is much too soon to write him off, for sure.

      • I agree with you, all he needs to do is be a hack and slash .275/.375 hitter at the big league level to be very effective. My point is that right now at this point he is not a player that I, as a fan am counting on in the future picture. In fact, I really don’t know that there’s a prospect in the Jays system that seems like a lock to be an impact player which is a little discouraging.

        But if he is Buffalo bound next season and has another meh sort of year, then what?

        • Prospects aren’t ever locks, but your discouragement is silly. There are lots of guys in the lower minors.

          If Gose is meh in Buffalo again he still has all the same tools he does right now.

    • This is a daft question. You don’t write off those tools until Gose is clearly in decline. And, if you’re “relying on” the future performance of any particular baseball player, you’re already in a deep state of sin. You need to keep an open mind and take what the future gives you instead of trying to make plans that will necessarily go awry very rapidly.

  50. Legitimate question, why are the training and coaching staffs getting a free pass for all the injuries the past few years? I can understand the freak Reyes type injuries, but the arm/shoulder/abdominal/hamstring “strain” type injuries are a function of flexibility, form and violence of motion. Isn’t that the purview of the training and coaching staffs to ensure proper technique and flexibility?

    • Injuries can’t simply be avoided through “proper technique and flexibility.” These things happen all across the game, so it’s really hard to single out one training staff, especially since we have so little information as fans.

      • Something to be said for the injury thing though. Not blaming coaches for it, but for the GM signing players with track records with health. In so far as anyone can pin down the White Sox success in that department, it seems to be that they simply make sure they only take people who are already established as not prone to breaking down.

        ‘Health’ is possibly an undervalued skill by most MLB GMs. If I could see a criticism of AA that might stick it would be that he has a track record of signing/trading for people with dubious records of staying healthy. A healthy Morrow is probably a far superior pitcher to a healthy Buerhle, but Buerhle is infinitely superior to anybody who is injured. The Jays may yet have reason to give thanks for having two starters who are unlikely to get hurt very often.

        I wonder if anyone has done statistical stuff comparing the benefits of a middle of the road to below average pitcher who is always healthy vs a ‘stud’ pitcher who misses 33% of all starts?

  51. Lind had two excellent months on the back of a babip of .397 in May and .394 in June.

    He’s too hot and mostly cold for my liking.

    1. DH Melky for obvious reasons.

    2. Flip Lind for whatever you can (the money isn’t bad for the option year).

    3. Get a bat first LF

    4. With this addition of hopefully decent and consistent production in both LF and DH now a defence first type catcher can now become a more viable option.

    5. Platoon Izturis and Derosa.

    The money saved on Lind can be put towards the one year plus option to the Pat Burrell type LF (yeah I know he sucked in TB, but you get my meaning), so this isn’t an unrealistic way of tightening up the line up.

    As for the pitching…… aside from JJ, I’d actually stand pat. The depth and return to the mean should get them close to league average, with some optimism with some of the high ceiling arms.

    • Youd stand pat with what exactly as your rotation and who as your closer? Morrow is a bandaid, they cant afford to plan another year with him in the rotation. Dickey, Buerhle and Hutch will be there, then who else?

      • Re: Closer….. I think the pen as a whole should get a pass from this conversation.

        Re: SP….. Dickey, Buerhle, Morrow, Happ, Drabek, Hutchison, Stroman, Nolin, Romero is a lot of starting pitching to throw against the wall to see what sticks.

        Between the bats and the pen, these guys as a whole just gotta get to league average,

      • Morrow is in the rotation, planned, booked, expected. Deal with it.

    • How about 7yr $49m for Jose Dariel Abreu?

  52. Looks like Buffalo was a smart choice by Management.
    Whomever handles their promotions has been doing a helluva job as well.
    Star Wars night and now this…

    http://www.baseballamerica.com/minors/buffalos-pajama-jam-tops-weekend-crowds/

  53. Who is a viable 2nd base option next year

  54. Yes … just wait until next year. In the meantime, let’s leave these fine men to their richly choreographed dances and on-field futility.

  55. Deafeatist fans. Lmao. That is a great description of a lot of Blue Jay “fans”!

  56. JJ on the dl
    call up dem prospects

  57. No one wants to admit it, but its undeniable: All the athletes who make it to the pros are so good that with the exception of the ones who suddenly go into decline and the ones who are elite, there is very little difference between them, i.e parity reigns supreme. What it comes down to is luck. Scouting matters. Edges can be found. I am not saying they can’t be, but the single biggest determinant of success is luck. I think the Red Sox vs Blue Jays example is a great illistrator of this, but I’d take it even further. I would say if you could replay this season ten times, the Jays would have a better record than the Red Sox 7 or 8 of those times. I mean even look how we judge the sports, its ridiculous. 162 games and we award the World Series to whoever wins a best of 5 playoff and then 2 more best of 7s. Its way harder to be the best team in the league than it is to win a playoff series. Just saying.

  58. I still think that the Cabrera signing was a smart gamble, even if it didn’t pay off. That possibility was what made it a gamble, but the downside is kind of low. It’s just money they would have spent on an even riskier gamble instead.

    • Still think the Melky signing was a smart move too. Not sure wtf happened this year, but what you gonna do

  59. I don’t blame AA for this years complete fail. I blame Shitty pitching, and defence. And having Happ get beaned sure didn’t help.. I do think its time to cut ties with some of the pitchers he has been hanging on to.

    Can’t keep butterflies forever.

  60. I’m not so sure context does the favours to AA that you seem to assume it does. On that, I’ll guess we’ll have to agree to disagree.

  61. Would you change your tune about AA if they offer JPA arbitration? What if they signed him to a long-term deal? I’m not suggesting they should do either, but want to hear what you would think of either of those moves…

  62. [...] image from Drunk Jays Fans [...]

  63. [...] the Red Sox in town Andrew Stoeten saw fit to do a Reality Check on the disappointing season our Toronto Blue Jays have [...]

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