It’s a day later than I’d like it to be, but if you’ve already taken a look at the questions in this week’s Griff Bag– aka Richard Griffin’s mail bag from over at the Toronto Star– you must know that I wouldn’t be able to resist taking a crack. So here it is: a most caustic hijacking of all the insanity that dribbled out of the brains of Griff’s readership.
As always, I have not read any of Griffin’s answers.
If there’s a question you’d like me to answer, email it to email@example.com and maybe he’ll select it for a future mail bag. Fingers crossed!
I’d be very interested in your take on J.P. Arencibia.
In my opinion, he needs to be replaced as the first-string catcher if the Jays are to be serious contenders in 2014. Among his problems are a large number of passed balls, his many-off target throws to second base to catch base stealers, his perceived inability to call a good game, his lack of being able to frame pitches, and his very low batting average, particularly for his position. The only plus I can give him is his home run total but, unlike Edwin Encarnacion who not only hits with power but also for a reasonable average, JP is strictly a one-trick pony.
I don’t disagree that the Jays need to do better than Arencibia, but… uh… not really for any of those reasons. Or, at the very least, not for those reasons beyond the far more damaging fact that he’s an effing out machine.
Arencibia’s on-base percentage has somehow regressed from the piss poor .282 he posted in his first season as a starter, to this year’s .239– the lowest mark among any qualified hitter in baseball by 20 points, and lower than the third-worst qualified mark by 30 points!
In fact, to give some further perspective, 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.
I know it feels like people have been piling on the guy a little much, but he’s literally been historically bad. And the 20 home runs and inadequate defence just isn’t making up for that.
Yes, they need to upgrade at the position. Badly.
The Blue Jays increased their payroll this year by about $40 million over last year and while we all know the results on the field it meant a large increase in ticket sales and attendance not to mention higher TV ratings, selling of merchandise etc. My question is what happens next? If the Jays do not make similar dramatic improvements to the team do they not risk tickets sales and attendance reverting back to what it was a few years ago? One writer suggested they needed to increase payroll to about $150 million or so in order to make the necessary improvements. Do you think Rogers would agree to something like that and if so, do you think they would go with the current management? In other words Beeston, AA and Gibbons still in place?
Oh for fuck sakes. Yes, the current front office is staying in place.
As for the money, frankly, I have a hard time believing that the increase in spending last winter was approved by Rogers with the thought that the Jays would be maxed out completely in 2014. Maybe that’s wishful thinking on my part, but it’s not like they didn’t know big raises are on the cards for Mark Burehrle, Jose Reyes, R.A. Dickey, Colby Rasmus and others– plus the fact that Josh Johnson would have to be extended, qualified, or have his production replaced somehow [note: pffft!]. I don’t think they’re going to have an unlimited payroll or anything, but there had to be some expectation that, even if everything went perfectly, additional funds would be needed, if only to maintain the status quo. And with a strong season at the gate and lots of money coming their way via MLB’s new national TV deal, it’s not terribly far fetched to think they’ll be spenders. Again, maybe not huge ones, but they pretty much have to do something, don’t they?
Once again, thanks for all your insight! My question today is about how to evaluate pitchers. First of all I have to admit I’m kinda old school in a lot of my thinking (let humans make the calls, not tv cameras!) but I get really frustrated when I hear the media discuss Cy Young candidates. I know that wins and losses are not EVERYTHING and that the more advanced metrics allow for very good evaluation of players, but the job of a starting pitcher (at least the good ones) are to win games. Their job is not to provide a quality start and be happy win or lose.
Back in the day, which anyone over 35 can remember, the pitching matchup mattered to a pitcher. It was personal. It was Stieb against Clemens; it was Morris against Saberhagan. The pitcher’s job was to outpitch the other starter. Furthermore, while the other stats are great and have important uses, I have yet to see a pitcher win 17+ games and not have other good numbers as well. I’m sure if you look back at the pitchers with the best new-age stats, they would also, over time, be among the league leaders in wins. Everyone talks about the wins that a pitcher “deserved” but did not get because of circumstances beyond their control. However seldom do they mention the wins that were aided by great defence or a bullpen stranding runners. I’m not saying that the Cy Young should go to the pitcher with the most wins, but over time, the best pitchers do get the most wins.
I’d love to hear your comments.
Jason MacDonald, Amherst, NS
I bet that answer gave ol’ Griff one hell of a chub, but I’m sorry to say, it’s fucking nonsense.
Using the win-loss record gives the pitcher credit for run support his team provided, or punishes him for support he didn’t get. What the hell use does that have when we’re talking about using the number to analyze his individual performance or to compare him to other pitchers who have similarly unreliable win totals? Acknowledging all that doesn’t take away from any pitching battles, and doesn’t suggest people who don’t like the stat are happy with a quality start, whether or not the team wins or loses– except maybe in the small and lazy minds of those who cling to this useless stat as some kind of bizarre tradition. And the fact is, while you may not have seen pitchers with 17 or more wins and poor other stats, but they’re out there. Plenty of them.
For example, of the 123 17-win seasons since 1980, 28 came from pitchers whose earned run average was above four, including real abject ones, like Pedro Astacio in 1999 (5.04 ERA), Kevin Ritz in 1996 (5.28 ERA), Randy Johnson in 2006 (5.00 ERA), Charles Nagy in 1999 (4.95 ERA), and Scott Elarton in 2000 (4.81 ERA).
And we know it works the other way, too, like when Roger Clemens threw 211 innings with a 1.87 ERA for the Astros in 2005 while winning just 13 games, or Felix Hernandez pitching to a 2.27 ERA over 249 innings in 2010 and winning just 13.
Does it usually line up that quality peripherals mean a higher win total? I guess so, but why the hell would anyone who wants to be taken seriously lazily rely on a stat– and don’t kid yourself, wins too are a stat– that is so imprecise, when much more precise numbers are easily at our disposal? Do you still insist on telling time by looking at the position of the sun? It’s stubborn horseshit, and it becomes bigger horseshit with statements like “their job is not to provide a quality start.”
Yeah, it is. Their job is to pitch as well as they possibly can. And since you clearly grasp that a whole lot of what goes into a win is out of the pitcher’s hands, what exactly is the problem here? Just accept that wins are hopelessly flawed and move into the 1990s with the rest of us.
A quick question on Wednesday’s extra-inning loss in Arizona. With one out in the bottom of the 10th and runners on second and third, why didn’t the Jays intentionally walk Willie Bloomquist to load the bases and put the double play on the table? Seems to me they could have gotten out of the inning unscathed. Managerial mistake? Indifference? Something I might be missing?
Thanks for the great mailbag!
Uh… because he’s Willie fucking Bloomquist.
And America’s First Baseman was on deck.
What is your take on recent developments with Casey Janssen? Seems every outing has too many scary moments and lady luck is more of a factor for any success, at least with the last 2 saves? What does this imply for next year at the closer position? If we were in the race right now, I would be hesitant using him as my go-to closer based on the last month or so. Am I too quick to judge?
I’m sure everyone is asking if Goins is a true solution at 2nd base in 2014. If yes, why has he been under the radar all year?
I know this is one of those hindsight questions but do you think if AA had the do-over with the Dickey trade he would try or could have sent any one of our starters instead of Syndergaard to reduce the overall youth lost in both of the deal so that way the system was not as depleted of future starters as it is today, ie. maybe a starter in the contract range of J. Buck for example Happ?
Thank you as always,
1. If the Jays were in a race they’d have had more save opportunities and we might have a better read on Janssen, but while I share your mild skepticism, it’s not like you can expect the guy to be entirely flawless. As along as he keeps converting saves, I don think you worry too much about it. And if he stops being as successful, it’s not like you don’t have a bunch of options to step into the role. Meh.
2. No. Because he can’t hit.
3. Uh… with the exception of Aaron Sanchez, there was probably no non-MLB- core player Anthoupoulos would have wanted to deal less than Syndergaard, so I’m pretty sure he wasn’t rushing the kid out the door. If he wanted Dickey, that was the price– and apparently he wanted Dickey real bad. That doesn’t mean he might not want a do-over– he probably does, though it’s still too early to actually form a sensible opinion about who won or lost the trade– but it’s really just not possible to imagine any kind of reconfiguration. If there was another way to make the deal, unless it was by including Sanchez or a key big league piece like Brett Lawrie instead, the Jays would have done it.
Q. I have to admit, I was extremely happy with the trade with the Marlins and I still think that it can turn into a positive for the Jays. When Gibbons was hired, at first I was confused but came around to it. When it came to the R.A Dickey trade, I wasn’t happy with it. I was fine losing D’Arnaud, even with J.P and his media hating ways behind the plate. My issue with the trade was Syndergaard. I viewed the Lansing 3 as a potential Glavine, Maddux and Smoltz and I know you can’t fall in love with prospects, but I love pitching. I want to know your view on that trade at the time and what it is now.
My second question is this: Gibby will be gone within 60 games if things continue like this next season. Do you think AA is out the door if next season turns out like this one? The Wonder Kid who could do no wrong is on the ropes baby!
Marc from Beach Ball City (That should give it away!)
Second question first: no, for fuck sakes, he’s not on the ropes. He’s had one bad season. Something pretty extraordinary would have to happen for him to be gone so quickly, and all the “if this happens again” stuff truly ignores how silly it is to think, with the talent and resources the Jays should have, it will really happen again. Come on.
As for the Dickey deal, there was definitely some massive sticker shock around here– in the weeks of speculation leading up to the deal, I was calling the notion of Anthony Gose and J.P. Arencibia “crazy,” if you can believe that– but I rather quickly came around, agreeing with the Jays’ assessment that there was no better time to overpay than after their dramatic roster reshaping by way of the Miami trade and the Melky signing. They were all-in, and it didn’t make sense to half-ass it.
Obviously that was wrong– at the very least as far as 2013 goes– but let’s not make it more than what it was. And let’s fucking especially not compare three guys who were in single-A with a once-in-multiple-generations trio of Hall Of Fame pitchers who ended up for years on the same club. I know everybody likes to dream big, but be realistic. Ever heard about the Jays being turned down when dangling Roy Halladay for huge-at-the-time Giants prospects Jerome Williams, Jesse Foppert and Kurt Ainsworth? Remember how highly Kyle Drabek was once viewed? Or Ricky Romero? Or Dustin McGowan? Or, on the position player side of things, Travis Snider?
I mean… let’s not go fucking nuts.
Love the mailbag! I’m gonna join in here on the “Fire Gibby” chorus. I think he deserves to be fired, even though he’s not responsible for player acquisitions, doesn’t hit, pitch, defend, steal, catch, and whatever other excuses are being thrown out by various writers/journalists who are trying to cut Gibby slack because he’s a friendly guy. Hey, I heard Paul Maurice was nice and cordial too, how’d that work out? While Gibbons is great with the bullpen, it’s pretty clear he doesn’t command the respect of his position players — didn’t the Jays get body slammed in front of Gibbons’ family/friends the other day…? In addition, a baseball manager’s primary responsibility is to make sure that your team is fundamentally and psychologically ready to the play the game. I’ve never in my life, and I’ve been watching baseball for 20 years, witnessed a team that was more ill-prepared for a season than the 2013 Toronto Blue Jays. Maybe you have, but whoa, these Jays stink. Gibby seems like a great guy, and though it’s awful for anyone to lose their job, I think he was the wrong hire for this group.
Thanks and keep up the great work!
Marc Losier, San Francisco
What are you possibly talking about? The measure of a manager’s respect among his charges is whether or not they happen to play well when his family is there to watch??? Do you honestly have any idea how baseball works? A 97 win team still loses four out of every ten games, so trying to fucking divine deep meaning from one game of 162 is as batshit as it is disingenuous to dismiss Gibbers’ success in one of the few aspects of his job we can actually, tangibly assess– the bullpen– while skewering him for bullshit ghosts like players’ supposed lack of preparation, about which you are capable of knowing precisely fucking nothing.
That’s not to say that a case can’t ever be made against a manager, but it has to make bloody sense. It can’t rest on garbage like “this one other nice guy ran a team in this city in a completely different sport once, how’d that work out?” Like… for fucking real? You had a blank slate to work through the best argument against Gibbons you could muster, and you came up with that??!?
Not much has been made about the fact that the Jays put together a team of players who generally (with an exception or two, DeRosa, Buehrle/Johnson for one season of their careers) have not won anything. The Jays plucked away a bunch of individually (statistically) good players from losing teams: A Cy Young winner from a terrible team in the Mets; Reyes, Bonifacio, etc. The supposed leader of this team Bautista, was himself a utility/fringe player not too many years ago and again, he has never been in a winning major league environment. The current 25 or 40 man roster doesn’t have many players who have been on winning major league teams consistently and really don’t know how to win. To put it more bluntly, you can say most of the players have consistently been on losing teams.
I know it’s tough but I think it is very important this off-season for the Jays to start bringing key players (starting position players or pitchers) who have been a big part of winning ballclubs. Obviously, that is easier said than done but that, along with experienced coaches/manager is a sorely needed and missing element of this season’s Jays. If you look at this team, they don’t have grinders and they don’t have the “gamers” and Buerhle is the only pitcher who is like a “bull dog” on the mound.
If you’re going to say something so monumentally dumb, at least have the common courtesy to not be so goddamn hopelessly wrong.
In addition to Buehrle (2005 World Series and 2008 AL Central title), and DeRosa (2001-2004 NL East titles with Atlanta, NL Central titles with the Cubs in 2007 and 2008, and the Cardinals in 2009, plus being with last year’s Nationals), who you’ve mentioned, there actually are a few other Jays players with a history of being on winning teams (none of whom is Josh Johnson, who you oddly mentioned):
Jose Reyes won the NL East with the 2006 Mets and went to the NLCS. Melky Cabrera won a World Series, a division title and a wild card in his years with the Yankees, and was crucial to the 2012 Giants’ championship, too, even though he was obviously suspended. Colby Rasmus won the 2009 NL Central with the Cardinals. Maicer Izturis went to the playoffs four times with the Angels, winning the AL West each time. R.A. Dickey was on the AL Central winning Twins of 2009. J.A. Happ won a World Series ring with the 2008 Phillies, returned to the Series the following year, and started a game in that season’s NLDS. Ramon Ortiz started a game in all three rounds of the 2002 playoffs for Anaheim, winning a World Series, pitched again in the 2004 playoffs, and was on the 2007 Rockies team that lost in the World Series to Boston. Chien-Ming Wang finished 2012 with the playoff-bound Nationals, and pitched in three straight playoffs with the Yankees from 2005 to 2007. Henry Blanco was there with Mark DeRosa, backing up Javy Lopez on the 2002 and 2003 Braves, winning the NL East both years, and he also was the seat warmer for a young Joe Mauer on the AL Central-winning 2004 Twins. Blanco also won the NL Central with the Cubs (and, again, DeRosa) in 2007 and 2008, and had an NLDS at-bat with the NL West champion Diamondbacks in 2011. Darren Oliver won the AL West with Texas in 1996, and went to the World Series with the Rangers in both 2010 and 2011. Oliver also went to the NLCS with Houston in 2004, with Reyes and the Mets in 2006, and won three AL West titles with the Angels in 2007, 2008, and 2009, making it to the ALCS in his final year there.
So… sorry, what fucking bullshit were you on about?
I haven’t written you in a while because I have been shellshocked by my Jays. I want to make a few statements, then ask if you agree.
1. You know I never liked A.A, and Beeston. I don’t know where the love for each other comes together there, but it must be the dollar frugality that A.A. incorporated from the very beginning. Beeston being a bean counter, it seems like a good fit.
2. I was very happy A.A. threw the dice as you say. Certainly it looked like a progressive move. Since it was the first time he ever took a shot, I was happy with the trades. Even though I never liked him and still don’t, I am not going to knock him for that try.
3. AA always stated he was going to build the team through drafts and trades. I say he has been a complete bust in this regard. Aside from the top picks he moved there is not much quality in the minors, at least not that I am aware of.
4. Here are some of the bad moves he made. He backed down in both of the Chapman, and Dervish bidding and was dead wrong on both of those assessments. He bet on Hechavaria and it sure looks like he was dead wrong there. So much for not being able to scout those players correctly and not going in with the necessary dollars to get the job done. What to me is very alarming is that he was unable to sign 2 of the 3 last first round draft picks. How can you build the farm if you don’t sign your top picks???
5. I know its hindsight, but the Aaron Hill trade was a disaster. He got absolutely nothing for Rios. He chucked his salary which was important to him, and Williams in Chicago was quite correct to claim him. That was a good GM decision.
6. He had Napoli in the Wells trade and gave him away in another bad salary move
7. As for Wells’ he earned the big salary for great play on Toronto, then when it was time to pay him and his play dropped he couldn’t get rid of him fast enough. Guys like Hill and Wells’ are character guys, the kind of player you want on your team. We have too many players on this team who have some shaded stats and read their press clippings in this town who are simply not good enough or tough enough mentally. The way they play the game at times leaves a lot to be desired and it is not getting any better. I am frustrated again, I think that now that Rogers have taken the lock off the purse its time to bring in a real big time GM and make this place rock like its just waiting to happen. AA is simply not the man, period
8. I left out a lot of other things he has screwed up, but if you could enlighten me as exactly what he has done on a positive not, other than being financially prudent, I would love to hear.
1. I was supposed to know that you have some kind of cretinous opinion about Anthopoulos and Beeston? Really? How do you figure?
2. It was hardly the first time Anthopoulos had taken a risk– he bet big on Jose Bautista being for real when he signed him to an extension, for example– but sure. Go on…
3. Well then you’re aware of shit. Sorry. The club has a top 50 prospect in baseball (Aaron Sanchez), a top 100 guy by many lists (Marcus Stroman), a guy who was up there as well before he was injured (Roberto Osuna), and a wealth of talent in the lower minors, largely due to the club’s shift to drafting high upside high school players starting when Anthopoulos took the reins. As for building the team through the draft and through trades, yes he didn’t get what he hoped for in Johnson and Dickey, and the prospect shine still isn’t off the guys he gave up, but it’s way to soon to talk failure– unless you’re talking specifically about this one season.
4. I agree that he should have been harder after Darvish and Chapman– though you could say the same of 28 other GMs, too– but what’s wrong with Hechavarria, exactly? For the price he paid and what he was able to turn him into, I don’t know what the hell anybody could be complaining about.
As for the unsigned picks, I don’t think you quite understand how this works. You get the pick back, and the Jays have used that fact as leverage. They’re fine going back into the draft with the pick, and in fact, as much as it hurts to lose a year before getting a guy into the system, they can mitigate that value loss by taking a guy like Stroman– who they chose with the pick they got back for failing to sign Tyler Beede, and who will very possibly make his big league debut before Beede is even drafted again– or, as they did with Phil Bickford, waiting and taking the pick a year later in a draft that’s supposed to be quite a bit stronger. It’s not like they’re losing out on the picks, so don’t piss and moan about it like they are.
5. J.P. Ricciardi was the GM when the club let Rios go– though his hands may have been tied by Paul Beeston on that one, as the club was, smartly, moving into a more cost-conscious, asset-acquiring phase. And Aaron Hill? Sorry, but Hill had a team option at the end of the season he was traded in, and he’d been so thoroughly terrible that the club wasn’t going to pick it up– which meant losing him for nothing. That they actually got something of relative value for him was a win. Yeah, it sucks that he figured it out almost as soon as he got to Arizona, and you wish the Jays could have been able to do that when he was theirs, but you can’t really lament that they traded him, considering the alternative.
6. Yes, Napoli was definitely a misstep in hindsight– or, some will tell you, that should have been obvious at the time. The Jays did get an extra draft pick by flipping him for Frank Francisco– and by doing so ensured that the compensation pick wouldn’t be impacted by the changing CBA– which is all the really wanted out of the deal. But yes, that was a mistake.
8. Am I to understand from this incoherent nonsense that you actually wanted the Jays to keep Vernon Wells!!?!?!
9. Seriously? Guess what? Getting rid of Vernon Wells’ deal tops the damn list– and that’s not just fiscal prudence; it likely enabled him to sign Jose Bautista to an extension, which is another great move. The Marlins trade is still very good, the Encarnacion signing looks genius, and the creative use of his bonus pool money in the draft is impressive. Say what you will about Brandon Morrow, but getting him for Brandon League was a steal. Same for Sergio Santos for Nestor Molina, and same for Anthony Gose for Brett Wallace. I seem to recall that he brought in Brett Lawrie, too. And flipped excess pieces for one of this year’s best centre fielders in all of baseball. He got Steve Delabar for Eric Thames. And, while it hasn’t work out great so far, he drafted one, and traded for (then developed) another prospect who, as a pair, were regarded highly enough to be dealt for a reigning Cy Young winner.
Any of those things sound familiar?