colbycatch

Here’s an idea I’m instantly regretting: instead of empty open thread posts for playoff games, as we’ve done around here in years past, each day I’m going to attempt to have a quick look around at some splits and stats on a Jays player’s 2013 season, because… what the hell else is there to do for the next month? Or the next week. Or just today– or however long I actually continue to follow through on this exercise.

Tonight:
8:07 PM ET – Tampa Bay at Texas – David Price (2.4 rWAR) vs. Martin Perez (1.7 rWAR)
Get news updates on the game as they happen, and whatever else fun comes along the way, by heading to our story stack at theScore.com on desktop, or by downloading theScore app for free on your moblie device!

Earlier today I abandoned a post I was in the middle of writing that made mention of the idiot-empowering discourse-dumbing nonsense spewed by Dave Perkins back on Friday’s edition of Prime Time Sports, including his ridiculous scoffing the Jays focus on adding “talent,” and his saying that Colby Rasmus is “not a winning ballplayer,” or some such garbage. But I didn’t walk away from the post before looking at a few numbers on Rasmus, who had a superb season and should not be anywhere remotely close to a non-moronic conversation about what was wrong with the Toronto Blue Jays in 2013.

That doesn’t mean it will be easy for him to repeat it, but there’s a whole lot to like. By FanGraphs’ WAR, Rasmus was the sixth most valuable centre fielder in baseball, and that’s despite having a hundred fewer plate appearances than anybody else in the top eight. Even if you’re not really feelin’ the defensive component of fWAR, when you isolate what Rasmus did at the plate he’s even more impressive (provided, of course, you can see the number on the leaderboard past the blinding gold shimmer of Mike Trout’s stats). By wRC+, which is league and park adjusted, Rasmus was even with Carlos Gomez at 130, good for fourth among centre fielders with over 400 plate appearances, behind only Trout, Andrew McCutchen, and Shin-Soo Choo.

That’s crazy. That also means he’s crazy valuable– and heading into a contract year. So… I’m sure the Jays loved the five-year $90-million contract the Giants just handed Hunter Pence, who plays in an outfield corner and posted a shade-better wRC+ of 133, right?

But the thing about Rasmus is, his success seems rather tied into spikes in his BABIP. At least, that’s what it looks like on his FanGraphs page. His career BABIP is .298, but it has hardly been an even ride, with the mark during his two excellent years (2010 and this one) being in the .355 range, while the high water mark of his other years is just .282.

That’s concerning. I’d be lying, though, if I said that it didn’t look like the quality of the contact Rasmus made in 2013 was considerably better and more consistent than in the seasons before. Comparing him to the other edition of “Good Colby,” the numbers show that he was a different hitter in 2013 than he was in that excellent 2010, particularly against left-handers. The samples are small, so maybe we shouldn’t take too much from them, but FanGraphs will tell you that strikeout rate stabilizes after about 60 plate appearances, and walk rate at 120– and versus LHP in both of his successful seasons he had a shade over 130. Interestingly, though, in 2010 he walked 10.7% of the time and had a strikeout rate of 26% against lefties, while this year those numbers are 4.5% and 31.8%. Consequently, he posted just a .310 wOBA against lefties this year, compared to .356 in 2010, though his numbers even out when you add in his work against right-handers, because he friggin’ crushed them even this season.

In the overall, against both right-handers and left-handers, looking at his plate discipline numbers, there is some modest year-to-year shuffling, but only a couple things that jump out as noticeably different. One thing that does is that this season Rasmus swung at the lowest percentage of pitches, both in total and in the zone, of his career. This Z-Swing% is close to what he did in 2012– especially if you use the human-adjusted Baseball Info Solutions data on his FanGraphs page, and not the raw Pitch F/X data– but the big difference between the rates in those two seasons comes in the amount of contact he made on pitches outside the strike zone. In 2013 he swung about 3.5% less often at pitches outside the zone (per BIS) than in 2012, and in the overall made contact even less.

I’m not going to claim to know definitively what this might tell us, but if you told me he was swinging at fewer pitches in the zone because he was doing a better job of hunting pitches on which he could make higher quality contact, passing up early count strikes that aren’t to his liking, and that the better results came because of that, in spite of a career high strikeout rate and a career low contact rate– that he was selling out to hit for more power (which he successfully did, posting a career high ISO)– I could buy it. In fact, that’s something we’d talked about him doing during the year, and it would make sense as a strategy given his home park, which he certainly took advantage of this year, posting a .393 wOBA at home, as compared to just .335 on the road.

Even that number, though, is a little bit troubling. I think Rasmus is a terrific player and it felt like he was a different hitter this season, but he’s just been so volatile over the course of his career that I don’t think anybody should be ready to buy that this is who he now is, because after a couple years in the wilderness he’s finally been able to make a positive change in his approach. Maybe! But that uncertainty, for me, probably rules out the idea that you’ll sometimes hear tossed out there, of moving him to a corner and slotting Anthony Gose into centre. In fact, it might even be reasonable to consider moving Rasmus while the opportunity is there and his value is high, and giving Gose– who, as I’ve written before, doesn’t need to hit all that much to be a rather valuable guy– a shot.

This is, of course, a dilemma we’ve all recognized for a while now. It’s not the worst one in the world to have, but given the way that the Jays have in recent years stood by players who they’ve helped turn into breakout players– Bautista, Encarnacion, and Lind, for example– I wonder how much they’re actually considering letting someone else reap the fruits of their labours. I guess if it means adding pitching…

I guess we’ll have to wait and see. I’m all for having Colby get a chance to prove that this truly is his new reality while patrolling the Rogers Centre carpet, but when it comes down to it, that probably goes against my better judgement. Again, he’s about to get very expensive, he has a cheap replacement already knocking on the door (despite some major warts of his own), and a quick revert to his 2011 or 2012 levels of production would mean a pretty gigantic value loss for the club. If the powers that be decide that he’s the horse they want to bet on I won’t lose my shit about it, but their track record as gamblers is looking a little too spotty right now to be quite as comfortable with as we have in the past.

Comments (58)

  1. I just wish he’d throw out a baserunner once or twice. He did double one guy off first this year. He threw out exactly no one else, and no one trying to advance. Possibly because he may have led the league in throws to home that were 20 feet up the line.

    • I wish this would get more attention.

      I like Colby, but come the fuck on. Someone teach the kid to throw the goddamn ball. It’s not nitpicking, I know that the throw from centre to home is the hardest outfield throw, but he regularly misses by 10+ feet.

      Very frustrating to watch and it seems like it should be very fixable.

      • It’s not. Like you said, genius, it’s one of the hardest throws to make.

        • While I appreciate that you recognize my intellectual grandeur, you missed the fucking point.

          I realize that it’s a hard throw. But we’re not talking about too many throws hitting the mound or even just being slightly off target. He’s often 10 feet up the fucking baseline.

          That’s not a product of a tough throw. He’s been fucking terrible.

          (at that one aspect of the game. still on your side, colby.)

  2. Rasmus= the best

  3. AA’s been quoted as the rotation being dickey, mark (new addition) + morrow hopefully and the fifth starter job.
    Do you believe him exactly?

    • I do not believe he did anything remotely like confirming that. But yes, I believe him. Doesn’t that make sense?

    • Dickey, Morrow, Buehrle, a Scott Feldman or Bronson Arroyo-type of free agent and Happ, with Hutchison, Drabek, Rogers and maybe Redmond serving as depth doesn’t sound too far-fetched. If the team can find a way to turn some of its prospects into something better than Feldman or Arroyo, I’d be all for it, but I’d feel pretty good about that kind of rotation going into next season.

      • I am so sick of the delusions fans have regarding Morrow. When was the last time he had a healthy season?

        • I am so sick of people pretending Morrow is the same as fucking Dustin McGowan, when he’s made exactly the same number of starts over the last four years as Clay Buchholz, had two full, healthy seasons in 2010 and 2011 (missed a little time at the start of 2011, shut down because of his innings limit in 2010), and still made 21 starts last year as well.

          Yes, he was hurt this year and it’s a concerning arm thing. But last year it was just an oblique injury– it’s not like there’s some kind of recurring thing that he’s not able to recover from. And of pitchers who threw 120 innings in 2012, where do you think his ERA ranked? Twelfth! In all of baseball. Ahead of Chris Sale, ahead of Cole Hamels, ahead of Felix Hernandez, Cliff Lee, Stephen Strasburg, Madison Bumgarner, C.C. Sabathia, and tonnes more.

          Yet Jays fans are ready to run him out the door because they can’t wrap their heads around his health history.

          He made 26 of the 26 starts he was asked to in 2010 before he was shut down. If you expect he would make about 32 starts in a full year if healthy, that means 96 expected in the three years since, of which he made 61.

          Add it all up, and he’s been healthy for 71% of what should have been his starts since he joined the Jays rotation at the start of 2010. It’s not nearly as bad as this kind of nonsense thinking would have you believe.

          • You took the words right out of my mouth, and added a few fucks for good measure.

          • Amen

          • @Stoeten.

            You make some good points . However, this year’s injuries seem to be more serious. Furthermore, his diabetes may make it harder for him to recover in future.

          • What are you talking about? They’re exactly the same. Diabetic? Check. Last names start with the letter “m”? Check. First name has two syllables? Check. First round picks? Check. Doesn’t know how to win/not a winner/gutless pussy/tinkerbell who won’t go out there and pitch/who cares if you can’t feel your hand, go out there and pitch candy-ass/why do they keep running him out there when he continues to fucking suck? Rinse. Repeat.

            BRING ME SHIN-SOO CHOO AND TANAKA AND ALL WILL BE FORGIVEN.

            • I agree. Choo & Tanaka and we’ll be doubly exciting to watch next year. Choo at the #2 is a pipe-dream but damn. How good would a .400OBP look between reyes and eddy… droolssss

          • Believe me, no one would love to see Morrow return to his 2010-11 former self, than EVERY Jays fan. But the fact of the matter is he’s been lacklustre since the injuries that plagued him since. 2014 is a long way away from 2010/11, many pitchers lose the stuff they got in that span of time.

            I will believe Brandon Morrow is electric when I see him be electric, without blowing something up midway through the season. I guess what I am trying to say, is that many people still seem convinced the Jays can make a run in 2014, with a few key upgrades (2B, catcher, etc), but I am exceptionally skeptical & nervous when the club is built around banking on guys like Morrow to not get injured.

            • @agony

              +1. A healthy Morrow would be a huge, but the Jays as a team seem to have so many pitcing injuries, that I wouldn’t bet on him for 30 starts.

            • Lackluster since injuries? Reality, please.

              Fastball averaged the same in his starts this year as previous years. He’s just as electric. Came back from the oblique in 2012 and was fine.

            • Embedded nerve in pitching arm = dunzo. He’s finished with the Jays and probably as a major leaguer.

              The rest of the injuries, in hindsight, were pretty predictable too, aside from Reyes and Happ. Lawrie will miss time every year given the way he plays. Bautista always has some sort of nagging injury. Colby, same thing. Lind, same thing. EE was pretty healthy this year, but he’s had wrist problems his whole career and it sounds like they’re flaring up again, so expect him to miss time next year. On and on.

              At some point, betting all your chips on all these guys staying healthy and either matching or exceeding their career bests — which is basically what most people here predicted before the season started — becomes more stupid than naive. You just have to admit these are seriously injury prone guys and either move them for more durable players or at least make an effort to get better depth behind them.

          • Even AA made comments on Sunday regarding Morrow. He specifically spoke to the fact he hasn’t been able to stay healthy dating back to 2010.

            Sounds like Morrow does not have the GM’s confidence and AA is planning for him to play part of a season again.

            At this point I think that’s exactly what he should be doing, plan on getting maybe half a season out of Morrow.

      • Bronson Arroyo??? That guy gives up homers in pitcher parks, I couldn’t imagine the weekly bombing he’d take. Why do you think he fled the AL east after winning with Boston. 46 jacks just two years ago, and leading the NL with 32 this year. He would not fare well in the rogers centre or the AL east.

  4. He looks so much more comfortable at the plate this year as opposed to last year with that wide open stance. I think he has become more mature as a baseball player and we can expect more results like this.
    The one negative I have with him is I can’t think of another ballplayer that has as many called 3rd strikes as him. It drives me a little nuts. Hopefully the next stage in his development is a better 2 strike approach.

  5. The problem in the outfield is that it looks like you have a good solid four guys (Rasmus, Bautista, Sierra, Gose) and then a terrible 8 million contract to a Melky.

    And by “solid” in the case of Gose I mean he can play anywhere, pinch run, and gives you some occasional hitting.

    Even if Melky does come back from his surgery to be better then this year, it’s a big IF if he’s going to get all the way back to playing at the same level he was with the Royals.

    Anyways, don’t trade Rasmus. He’s not the problem……

  6. I remember reading an interview done with Colby earlier in the year about how this year’s plan, in general, was to not be afraid to strike out. He was more selective, only focusing on pitches in his preferred zone. He took a lot of pitches – for balls and strikes – and crushed the pitches he swung at. I think this was Colby playing to his strengths.

    Sure, Colby gonna get paid. I have a feeling AA waits until after 2014 to possibly extend, paying for a more credible track record should Colby be lucky enough to reproduce 2013 next year.

  7. Rasmus is one of my favourite jays. Just a very good all round player. If you are a “big market” team like the jays claim they are, they should be able to find out a way to keep him.

  8. Defensive shifting has been somewhat of a contentious topic, at least for me, being discussed regularly around here of late; and while I miss ol’ Butter’s as much as the next guy, I don’t we should be so eager to ascribe all the credit for tactics that worked so well last year, to him and him alone. For, defensive shifting is a philosophy that requires complete organizational investment. From the front office, to the coaching staff, to the defenders, to the pitchers- all must wholeheartedly “buy in” in order for the tacit to be successful. Which is why I believe the reduction in shifting has as much, or more, to do with a veteran (read: stubborn) pitching staff, as it does to do with some fabled laziness of the coaching staff.

    The front office obviously, as evidenced by last years reliance, understands the marginal value of shifting- if they dont, they should be fired. The coaching staff which I view as, ostensibly, an extension of the front office- guys on the field relating concepts the FO values to the players- should formulate game plans’ accordingly. That is of course unless a number of veteran pitchers vetoed the idea from the get go. I don’t think a stretch to imagine veteran guys, guys with successful track records, guys like RA, Mark, and even JJ to completely dismiss the notion and cite past success for doing so. Aside form that, the fact is successful shifting is predicated on pitch location- pitching to a spot which increases the likelihood of hitting into a shift. Perhaps the FO felt that guys with suspect control such as RA, JJ, wouldn’t maximize the value of the shifts and thus abandoned the approach all together.

    • I think you make an excellent point here. Veteran pitchers– especially fast working ones like Buehrle and Dickey– want their guys set and ready and not fucking with their rhythm.

      • Sandcastles is also right about pitching to a spot that increases the probabilty of the ball being hitting into the shift.
        If everybody in the park knows your going to pitch to one location primarily, it’s going to take away from some of your arsenal.

        • So if this is right, then the shift makes only sense with the 95 mph fastball pitchers, which means we should be doing it in the late innings not with our starters at least our current ones.Interesting.

          • Utilizing shifts in high leverage (late-game) situations would surely be an “interesting” application; however, I’m not remotely advocating such a thing. A bunt double in the 9th stands to impact an outcome far more than it would in say… the 2nd. Again, love the thought process, I just don’t see it as a realistic possibility. If for no other reason than managers unwillingness. Imagine the criticism that would befall on the manager in a situation where a bunt double plays a key role in scoring the winning run, it would be thoroughly untenable. I’m open for a debate for implementing high leverage shifts, there may be one to be had, however it is not a tactic I readily support.

            Aside from that, I think you’re missing the point of my comment. Flamethrowers and soft-tossers alike stand to benefit from shifts- softtosser potentially even more so given a natural inclination to pull slower pitches. The general sentiment has much more to do with the unappreciated complexities inherent in shift implementation than it does with pitcher applicability. Which is to say, I believe, theoretically, shifts can add value to any pitchers RunsAgainst, so long as he has some semblance of control.

        • Doubt that, Radar.

          • I’m not so sure RADAR’s not on to something there Andrew. Even the most pull happy MLB hitter can take a belt high pitch on the outer third and slap it the other way. Thus taking removing the belt high fastball on the outer third from a pitchers repertoire.

            However, belt high outer third fastball resulting in a slap double might not be so bad…. Especially considering the caliber of hitters who shifts are generally implemented against. I dunno, good conversation topic for you and Drew.

          • I think there may be validity to the argument. A pitcher uses deception in the abilty to move in and out. If he’s pitching to the shift, it may take that away. I know that without the shift on and pitching to a dead pull hitter, you want to pitch to him outside, to make it harder for him to pull the ball.

  9. Rasmus is a natural in centre field and is the anchor up the middle. He’s a workhorse and we’ve got him in his prime years. I don’t care what you do with any one of the other outfielders, I want to see him loping around around the outfield and the infield next year.

  10. I love Cletus. Rightfully or not. But him and JB in the outfield. Redbull Kid at 3rd, Reyes and Edwin at SS and first with Lind or Melky DH’ing? That’s a pretty competitive team right there. Are there holes? Yes but that’s a pretty good fucking starting 6. If they can stay healthy and the pitching, which can’t be any worse, closer to expectations? I see competing after Aug 1. Long story short, I love Cletus. And rum. Apparently.

  11. Stoets, you’re the best. Tempted to call you ponyboy.
    Point is: you deserve a break. Season’s over. Stop writing. Go somewhere. A beach maybe? A fishing camp?
    Wherever and whenever, we’ll miss you.
    In the meantime, if i don’t get to say this later,
    thanks for the posts.

  12. Rios. Pfft. Fuck you.

  13. This is a fun game to watch. Frasor taking his time pitching. Frasor & Rios are teammates.

    Escobar has made some flashy plays with the glove tonight.
    I am not sure why Washington isn’t using his bullpen more.

  14. If AA is going to go the trade route for a mid rotation starter or better then big league talent is gonna have to be included. Trading prospects is one thing now is when he’s going to make or break this team. He is gonna have to think outside the box to get this team to the next level. I doubt there are any frontline pitchers on the market that are not going to cost the farm plus big league bats. I say just spend cash and sign the Cuban power bat first baseman who’s name escapes me. The Japanese pitcher who’s gonna be posted and the top free agent catcher on the market. I suppose that’s all contingent on them actually wanting to come here ….

  15. Two years in a row Texas loses the wild card

  16. Fuck Price is a gamer

  17. Game. Over.

  18. Tis now

  19. Happy Texas is out. Theyve had their shot, may as well give TB another kick at the can.

    Go (in no particular order) Rays A’s Pirates!

  20. Jays record as gamblers with power hitting position players is pretty good.

    Now if only they could steal some of TBs pitching scouts we would be all set.

  21. Isn’t he entering his prime? He could get better. I don’t think we’d forgive AA if Rasmus was putting up 5 WAR+ for years somewhere else and Gose is 80 wRC+ here.

    Rasmus’ BABIP is troubling though.

  22. I could live with trading Rasmus.

  23. Stoeten + Colby = True Love Forever

  24. The problem with Cletus and JPA is their high leverage performance, and particularly, lack of ability to make contact in high leverage situations. Late in close games, opposing teams will bring in tough lefty’s for Rasmus and tough righties for JPA. Their inability to hit anything other than mistakes from opposite handed pitchers makes them much less valuable than WAR numbers suggest. Trade Rasmus and Janssen asap at the peak of their value and try and turn the return into a top starter.

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