After nearly blowing my fucking brains out having to listen to Damien Cox suggest that “the Moneyball people say defence doesn’t matter anyway,” and Bob McCown suggesting Colby Rasmus– whose .354 wOBA ranks him sixth among centre fielders in MLB this year, just behind Carlos Gomez and Adam Jones, with only Trout, McCutchen and Choo ahead of them– should be hitting at the bottom of the 2014 Jays lineup behind Ryan Goins (!!?!!??!), I managed to catch Alex Anthopoulos speaking on the Fan 590′s Prime Time Sports this evening (audio here).
I won’t transcribe the entire thing, but there were a couple of nuggets that definitely worthy of our attention in a conversation that mostly dealt with the tweaks that will need to be made with the club as they head into 2014. And despite their rather obvious total cluelessness when it comes to certain aspects of ca. 2001 baseball thinking, McCown and Cox correctly identified two key spots where an improvement to even just average would be a huge help to the club: second base and behind the plate.
Once again Anthopoulos, as has been frustrating for many fans, was able to openly talk about his club’s issues at second base, while dancing around the notion that he badly needs a catching upgrade.
Maybe that keeps happening because J.P. Arencibia is sensitive. Maybe it’s because Anthopoulos thinks he might still have a little trade value– as opposed to Maicer Izturis. Maybe he’s fearful of acknowledging that his pitch to ownership last winter that everything would be OK behind the plate, even if they dealt Travis d’Arnaud and John Buck, was hopelessly misguided.
Or maybe he really believes Arencibia is OK. But I don’t think so.
“In the core group– I guess you’re talking about position players– I could see a few changes,” he said. “I’d love to get into who that would be, and who we have our eyes on, and so on– the tough part is that guys are still taking the field, and out of respect for them I wouldn’t say. But I think we can look at the performances, and so on, and we can go through it and say, ‘Well, you can upgrade here, you may not do better at this spot,’ and I think it would be pretty obvious. And if we do make changes in those spots, when they happen, obviously I’ll be able to elaborate on it a lot more.”
Oh, it’s pretty obvious.
And while Anthopoulos did go on to defend Arencibia from the charge that his play was a major reason that the club’s pitching struggled so badly– rightly pointing out that Arencibia was fine with certain pitchers, and that the running game and passed balls weren’t necessarily killing them, meaning that the blame can’t simply be placed on him– he also acknowledged that there are flaws there.
Yes, flaws. Like the fact that, as I pointed out in today’s Griff Bag, “if the season ended today, Arencibia’s OBP would be the worst by any qualified hitter since 1995… by nine points. Since 1933, only two qualified hitters– of over ten fucking thousand– have finished a season with a lower OBP than Arencibia currently has.”
As for second base, Anthopoulos admitted that Ryan Goins is playing his way into the conversation, but remained reluctant to act like the impressive-so-far rookie’s bat will ever be good enough for the club to feel comfortable with him as a starter going forward– though he, somewhat ambiguously, said he could be an important part of the club [read: depth].
“We almost feel like, on this turf now, you need to have three shortstops– at third, short, and second– to really take advantage of being on this turf and some of the balls that go through there,” he said, after having acknowledged that some of the club’s early defensive problems may have been due to the new infielders’ lack of familiarity with the turf– noting that some teams and players will come into the building and struggle adapting to it at first, the Giants this year being a prime example of that.
“Goins, with his defence, from what we’ve seen, absolutely can play there, it’s… can we upgrade where we have a defender, which is clearly going to be the priority, that might give you a little more offence?”
McCown and Cox seemed to figure that this was some kind of difficult proposition. They may be right about matching the defence Goins brings, but the fact that he put up a .257/.311/.369 line, for an OPS of .679, in Buffalo this year– and has already seen his successful early sample in the Majors slip to .314/.327/.373– suggests that it’s really, really not.
And hey, if the GM understands that Goins likely won’t hit enough to be playable, we can probably feel pretty good about his assessment of the guy with the historically low on-base, too!