8:07 PM ET – Tampa Bay vs. Cleveland – Alex Cobb (4.0 rWAR) vs. Danny Salazar (1.2 rWAR)
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The turf at Rogers Centre looks like a meth addict’s front lawn. It’s got seams, discolourations, and obvious markings from too many years of being rolled and unrolled. This year we’ve heard more than ever about just how fast the surface plays, and I know I’m not alone in strongly suspecting that’s not unrelated to all the wear and tear that comes from how it is used and how frequently it moved around.
This would be bad enough just for the aesthetics, but the problems only start there– and I don’t just mean how hard the thinning surface and the concrete below might be on the bodies of the athletes the Blue Jays pay millions of dollars to and pin the city’s playoff hopes on year-after year. What’s been worse this season is the impact the fast turf had on defenders– in particular, the Jays’ defenders at second base (or at shortstop and third when those positions weren’t being manned by Jose Reyes and Brett Lawrie)– and how it has led to Ryan Goins being looked on as some kind of revelation when he was promoted to the Majors in late August.
Now, don’t get me wrong: defensively, Goins certainly has been fantastic. That’s inarguable. I mean, you can’t exactly extrapolate from a 34 game sample of UZR data and pretend like he’s going to be almost three times as good as the best fielding second baseman in the game if given a full season to work with (Darwin Barney’s MLB-leading UZR was 12.5 in 2013, Goins’ UZR/150 is 33.1), but he’s passed the eye test with flying colours, and the data backs it up.
This, however, has led to a lot of people seeing Goins as some kind of a solution to the club’s second base problem heading into next year. It didn’t help that he began his big league career with an eight game hitting streak, which, along with his excellent defence, mitigated the media chatter about how pitiful his bat looked once the streak was broken. Even including those hot first eight games, by the end of the season his major league line had dipped to an unplayably-bad .252/.264/.345.
That’s just a 34 game sample, of course, but batting average and slugging were pretty much what you would have expected given his woeful slash line from the land of the Dave Bushes, Claudio Vargases, Ricky Romeros, and Ramon Ortizes of the world, which this year was .257/.311/.369.
He’s shown in the minors that he can take a walk better than the 1.7% rate he did so in his call-up, so the current on-base is low, but still, I don’t think that line is necessarily so far off what you could expect out of his bat based on how the year in Buffalo went,. And for a fan base that has, rightly, very nearly completed griping J.P. Arencibia out of town, to be pining for a player like that– or even willing accept him as a fall-back– just seems kind of beyond ridiculous to me.
Maybe I’m wrong, though. At the very least, defence isn’t prone to slumps the way bats are, so– especially given the turf and the disasters we witnessed this year at second base– I can understand the impulse to want to go defence first here.
And his numbers in 2012 in New Hampshire maybe offer a glimmer of hope. Playing at age 24, which was average for the Eastern League, he put up an above-league-average slash line, ending up at .289/.342/.403. If he could do that in the big leagues, giddy up! And while New Hampshire is known to have a favourable home park for left-handed hitters, Goins actually fared better on the road in 2012 than at home, and had a more even platoon split than this year as well. While he was even better against right-handed pitching in 2012, against lefties his line was a passable .265/.326/.381, but in Buffalo this year he was a puke-tacular .214/.243/.310 in the split.
Did he just need more time to adjust to the shitballers of the International League? That would be easier to buy if his numbers didn’t go down as the year progressed. But I could buy it… if he could get back to those New Hampshire levels during another stint in Buffalo.
Throwing him into the big leagues, though, at a key position in a season where the club has to do well? You’d sure need a whole lot more belief in him than I have to do such a thing. Yet… with the way offence is going, league wide, it’s maybe not even be that completely fucking crazy! People like myself have noted Kelly Johnson’s name on the list of potential free agents available this winter, but when you look at it, Johnson’s floor, offensively, is what we saw him do in 2012 with the Jays– the .299 wOBA he posted was the lowest of his career. Goins bested that in Buffalo (.311), and he crushed it as a not-too-old prospect at New Hampshire (.336), and would add a whole hell of a lot more value on defence. Obviously those aren’t the Majors, but it’s not inconceivable that he could be good enough.
But he could also be a second baseman who hits like career-bench-player Johnny Mac, getting regular at-bats on a team that has designs on actually winning. Not good.
And shittily, if not for the awful turf, probably not even a question.
Image via blogTO/Keith Watson in the blogTO Flickr pool.