mottolalizard

Alex Anthopoulos joined Bob McCown and Damien Cox yesterday evening on Prime Time Sports on the Fan 590 (audio here), to speak about the state of his club, the firing of his hitting coach, and– apparently– to spread the gospel of OPS, pitcher wins, batting average, and All-Star appearances.

Not that there’s anything wrong with a team or players excelling at those things, it’s just… elevate the conversation, Alex. Or, at the very least, if you have a bunch of proprietary analytics that you’re using, go ahead and mention that! Please! We’re starting to worry!

Anywho… obviously the topic du jour was the topic of the day, and on Tuesday that was the changes to the coaching staff, with Dwayne Murphy retiring and Chad Mottola being shown the door– or at least the door to the big league club’s dressing room.

Anthopoulos didn’t shy away from answering questions about it, though he was typically short on specifics:

Once Gibby and I talked about it, we just said, ‘You know what? We viewed them as a tandem, and this is a chance to change it up and go in some other direction.’ And Gibby has some guys that he’s worked with in the past, that he has good and strong relationships with. So, it was as much that. But, you know, I’ve talked to Chad, and I’ve told him that the door’s open to stay in the organization, and we can talk, and for him to take a few days and decide what he wants to do. I expect him to get a lot of phone calls; a lot of job offers. He’s well regarded– there’s not going to be an issue with him finding a job– and whether one of another 29 clubs has a big league opportunity, that remains to be seen. But there’s still a scenario that he’ll be back with us, and we’ll just give him as much time as he needs to work it out.

Mottola, of course, was an internal candidate who may have moved up to the big league seat last winter, in part, because the Jays were so late in selecting a coaching staff after it took them so long to name a manager. Yes, he had a glowing reputation for his work in Las Vegas, but, as Drew wrote here at the time, that, “if we’re being frank, is akin to being named ‘Miss Fort McMurray’ three years running.”

But it does sound like, if Anthopoulos is being honest, they would return him to some minor league post, if he was amenable to it. Speaking of demotions, Murphy agreed to take what appeared to be one when elected to return to the staff last winter.

The fact of the matter may have simply been that these two guys weren’t exactly ideal fits in the first place– or simply not Gibbers’ guys who got the job because the guys Gibbons did want had already been hired elsewhere.

Then again, to hear Anthopoulos speak about it, there may have been something philosophical to the dismissals, as well.

We were eighth in runs scored in the American League, which is about the middle of the pack, and ninth in OPS, which is about the same things. And some guys had some nice years– some nice turnaround years. Obviously we had a bunch a guys who missed time, which didn’t help– whether it was Reyes or Lawrie– overall, but there’s no question we can certainly improve. We can improve our at-bats, we can try to be more selective, do some of those things. Some of it falls on me, obviously, to change some of the players and get some more production there. But I don’t think it’s fair to blame Murph, or Chad, or anybody like that. I think it’s a combination of the players, and all of us as a staff.

Asked if he felt the players maybe weren’t respecting or listening to Mottola, the GM continued:

I never got the sense that they didn’t– I… I’ll say this: I think the players had the respect of both Murph and Chad. I don’t think there was ever a problem. There are players that do things a certain way– we’ve been a home run team for the last few years, we’ve got a lot of power bats, and there are times where, you know, it can call for maybe getting a guy over, doing some of those things. But I don’t think there was ever an issue of players– you know sometimes players are trying to do things and they can’t do it, and they’re trying to give themselves up to do some of those things. But I think this was as much an opportunity, with Murph stepping down, to change the dynamic a little bit for us.

. . .

I think a good hitting coach will take a player’s strengths– you have a new hitting coach coming in, and I don’t know that you’re going to make a whole lot of changes, or try to, with a guy like Reyes or a guy like Bautista or a guy like Encarnacion. I think they’ve been very productive offensive players and you just want to try to maintain them and find out what works. But with a guy like Brett Lawrie, which we all believe has more in him and can take a step forward, maybe there’s some work that he can do there. There’s a guy like Colby Rasmus, who had a nice year, hit for average and power, played a very good centre field, and if he can step it up a notch more, and become an All-Star, there could be some work done there.

. . .

As an organization and as a team, can we use the whole field a little bit more? Sure. I think you do have to be careful, because one of our strengths is to hit the ball out of the ballpark, and if you overweigh using the whole field, things like that, it certainly can take away from some of your strengths. But I would say, we’ve always talked about, if we can, to try to cut down on some of those strikeouts– and that’s where, in tight games, man on third, less than two outs, we can put the ball in play and things can happen– we can get that run in.

Man. He sure doesn’t sound like the sabermetrician some people like to paint him as, does he?

And he didn’t really answer the burning question either: the vague talk about philosophy is nice, but all we’re really hearing that’s concrete, in terms of why the decision was made, is that they wanted to change the dynamic. It’s certainly not scapegoating– not with Anthopoulos acknowledging that guys were sometimes being asked to do things that they simply weren’t capable of.

What it might tell us– and I’m just spitballin’ here– is that, with Gibbons in a precarious spot, in terms of his job security, Anthopoulos is allowing him a little more autonomy to go down on the guys he wants to. Er… to go down with the guys he wants to.

But I don’t know.

Elsewhere, we got updates on a couple of pitchers. The one on Josh Johnson is simple: Anthopoulos says that the club hasn’t yet made the determination as to whether they’ll bring him back next season. Obviously you’re not going to hear them commit to doing a thing like that until the ink dries on the contract, so that’s wholly unsuprising. He continues to say that they want to see him pitching off a mound, see how he feels after that, and then they’ll go from there.

More interestingly, he spoke about Brandon Morrow. Or… actually, he responded to a question about the possibility of moving Morrow to the bullpen, which was raised by Gregg Zaun in an earlier segment of the show, when McCown asked the Sportsnet analyst what sorts of questions he‘d like to hear Anthopoulos answer. [Note: Ugh.]

The GM wasn’t feeling the suggestion:

We have not, and I think the reason is– that we had– in 2011 he pitched 180 innings, and we watched him, and watched his innings overall, and he pretty much pitched the whole year for us, and ended the year very strong. He came into 2012 with a tremendous start, looked like he was on his way to the All-Star game, then pulled a rib– which obviously is not arm related– and even when he came back at the end of the year, continued to pitch with an ERA below three. So, he showed us the ability to go at least 180 innings, he showed us the ability to strikout 200 guys in 180 innings. Even in 2012, with 120 innings pitched, he won ten games for us. So, what happened to him this past year, he started throwing a cutter in Spring Training, flared up his forearm, tried to pitch through it, and probably didn’t have enough down time, and it’s just taken a lot of time to get him back going, but he’s just started playing catch. There has been no issues so far, but obviously we’ll know more probably the first or second week of November– we’ll get him off a mound and that will be the first big test for him. But so far it’s moving in the right direction– he’s been playing catch the next few days and has had no problems.

So… there’s that. He said they talked about making Brett Cecil a starter at some point during the season, too. Changing on a whim, you guys!

Comments (64)

  1. Do people not realize how much more valuable a starter is than a reliever?

    • I wonder this myself. I cringe when I hear people talk about turning (even a league average) starter into a reliever.

      If it is someone like Cecil, who repeatedly failed as a starter, go ahead… But otherwise, what the fuck are they thinking?

    • they pitch about 3x more innings so it should be fairly obvious

    • He could have saved himself a long-winded and well qualified answer by simply stating that bull pen is not where this team needs help in terms of pitching. Even ignoring which is more valuable – starting or relieving (which shouldn’t be a question but amazingly still is to guys like Zaun) – Morrow is the club’s best internal option for a front line starter.

      • yes good point. some people seem to like the sound of their own voice though.

        • or as was pointed out on BBB….it is a good way of avoiding questions. the more you talk the less questions people can ask and the less real info you provide.

    • I think the point, though, is that if you move Morrow to a role where he’s not expected to pitch 180 innings in a season, maybe he pitches more than the 54 he threw this year. It seems goofy to put a guy in a position where he CAN’T provide you as much value because he’s only likely to be asked to throw 70-80 innings max, but on the other hand if he’s not going to go the full season and only throw 54 innings (or worse, fewer than that, which a real possibility), the bullpen might be a way to get a little more value out of him.

      But of course that fails to consider the likelihood of him getting hurt by throwing more frequently, which is typical of bullpen pitchers.

    • Part of it is the silly belief that injuries occur linearly to innings pitched.

      If that were the case, by the end of the year most pitchers would be injured. It’s pretty obvious that injuries happen all over the calendar, even right in Spring Training.

  2. I’m really hoping all this talk about runs, OPS, small ball, using the whole field etc.. is him talking down to his audience, the morons hosting and listening to Prime Time Sports, and not ignorance of analytics.

    • “Talking down”? Man, you pinheads are so condescending, it’s ridiculous. I love how over the past few years you guys have been tying yourself in knots trying to convince yourselves that AA is one of you. Well guess what, he’s not! Sure, he understands and can appreciate sabermetrics, but he knows it’s not the be all and end all to understanding baseball. And face it, at heart AA is a bird dog scout. So suck it nerds.

  3. I don’t think he comes off as not being sabermatrically inclined there. Even when he talks about strikeouts, he uses the “man on third with less than two out” situation as an example… strikeouts may not be bad, but that’s clearly a situation where a strikeout is significantly less valuable than pretty much anything else.

    I think he also knows the audience he’s talking to, which… yeah, quoting any kind of advanced stats really won’t mean that much to a general audience.

  4. “…spread the gospel of OPS, pitcher wins, batting average, and All-Star appearances…”

    I’d like to think that AA means that if the players are healthy and productive, and playing their best, that their results would be reflected in these stats, or All-Star appearances, or whatever.

    I mean, generally speaking, the team would be better off if they ranked higher in the league in all of these categories. You could assume that a healthy, talented Jays pitching staff would be near the top of the league in pitcher wins, for whatever that’s worth.

  5. Considering the circumstance and what Alex said it looks like it’s gonna be either…..

    Mickey Brantley

    or

    Kevin Seitzer as hitting coach.

    Both appear to be available.

    Discuss.

  6. Interesting that he cites the introduction of a cutter to Morrow’s repertoire as the root cause of his arm problems this season. I wonder why they tried adding it? I believe a cut fastball has almost no platoon split, and he already throws a splitter for LHH.

    Dan Duquette would say I told you so. Don’t teach the cutter :-)

    • Found this interesting too. I don’t think I’d heard anyone make the direct connection there. If that’s the case, it’s a shame that Morrow has to be prudent with learning a new pitch but it’s a positive that there seems to be a direct cause and effect.
      Let’s hope he can get healthy and be studly next year without the cutter.

    • Look at Mo and Hallady, they feasted for years with the cutter.

      I understand Duquette’s point of view, the cutter will break most arms, but the pitch is magical.

      It’s kinda like making a deal with the devil.

    • to my knowledge there isn’t any evidence that throwing a cutter causes an increase in the incidence of elbow problems… but that doesn’t stop people from believing it.

      just going by AA’s sequence of events it would seem that pitching through the forearm ‘flareup’ would be the most likely cause of the longer term issue.

      • A cutter is often taught to be similar to a slider. Grip, release, etc. Many young pitchers develop a cutter that is somewhere between a true cutter and a slider. And sliders kill arms. So yes, a cutter is generally harmless, but if it’s not taught well, it’s a slider, and that’s dangerous.

  7. I don’t know why people ever viewed AA as a sabermetrics guy…his background is scouting through and through, and the massive focus he put on scouting after taking office (the many hires, including high-profile guys like Chuck LaMar, Jim Beattie, Dan Evans) shows that. Yes, he is of the new era of “smart” GMs that put a focus on acquiring undervalued assets (such as draft picks and the pending free agents that could net them, and usable players whose sheen had worn off like Rasmus), but that just makes him savvy, not a sabermetrician. I certainly hope advanced analytics are a major part of all the decisions he makes and he truly is just “talking down” to the audience when he riffs on OPS and wins etc. But other than the fact that it would be irresponsible not to take sabr stuff into heavy consideration, there is absolutely no reason to assume that AA jerks off to wOBA and xFIP and similar metrics.

  8. I gotta believe that AA is speaking to the audience.in this case.If he started mentioning xfip and babip, the Stoetens and Drews of the world would be cheering but the average fan would react differently. ( I know I’ve tried it).
    According to those in the know, all MLB teams utilize stats that are way beyond what even fangraphs and BR produce.AA would use all the tools at his disposal.

    • “I gotta believe that AA is speaking to the audience.in this case.If he started mentioning xfip and babip,”

      I think he’d need to do that to demonstrate his use of “advanced stats”.

      Simply saying something like “Some of the data we have..” or “some of the information we use says…” or “there are indications that…” stuff like that can get the point across.

      I don’t doubt that the team uses them.. it’s to what degree and how much weight they’re given that seems to be in question.

      • Fair enough,especially the last sentence.
        I remember reading the question put towards the reporter that worked in the Jays FO ( Law or Rosenthal? I got a brain cramp) saying that the data was beyond what the average fan has access to and it’s used in evaluations.

    • I seem to remember reading somewhere that AA wants the minor league clubs to keep track “hard hit balls” regardless of whether they go for hits or outs. If that’s true, it would seem to indicate that he’s aware of things like babip and that the traditional starts aren’t the best measures of future success.

  9. should we start to be worried about AA now? does anyone know for sure how AA evaluates talent? to what extent does he rely on scouts vs using advanced metrics/market inefficiencies, etc? does he just bring his communication level down to the unwashed masses or is OPS, pitcher wins, batting average really the way he thinks?

    it is almost impossible not to question his talent evaluation at this point. leaving us with only JPA/Thole at C and Boni/Izturis at 2B in a season that we were going for it all. holy shit. the writing was clearly on the wall for JPA if you look at his MLB stats. pretty clear trend. he also gave away Napoli for a crappy reliever as well. and what made him think Happ was going to be a good SP?

    • Farrell’s comments from earlier in the year raise questions for me…

      Farrell is a total douche, but he does have a lot of experience with player development… the fact that he seemed so eager to speak out about how the blue jays approach things is a bit concerning.

      • @Ryan

        Farrell accomplished nothing with this team. And he was only even here for 2 years. Is he really such an authority? Did he really have a deep understanding of our minor league system?

        Or is he just full of praise for the Bosox system and used his opinion of the Jays system to contrast the two teams.

        • believe whatever you want, sons…

          i’m not trying to suggest that Farrell accomplished anything… just that he is an outside voice with some knowledge of how we develop players who doesn’t think we do it the right way.

          the only other people I’ve heard speak publicly on the matter work for the Toronto Blue Jays so its not like their opinion is without biases, either.

        • Farrell was a lot more inner circle Blue Jays than we or any writer will ever be. you do have to question his motivations though since he was already with the Red Sox after a bitter split.

    • “it is almost impossible not to question his talent evaluation at this point.”

      wtf??

      Gose? Lawrie? Reyes? Escobar? Bautista? Morrow? Encarnacion? Rasmus? Santos? Delabar?

      Those are al guys he got for next to nothing. Including Reyes – at the time people wondered in Selig would even allow the trade – fuck injury hindsight.

      He’s 4 years in as GM. The team would be a playoff contender even despite the injuries in any other division than the East. And would have been a playoff contender each of the last 2 years if not for starting pitching injuries + Romero falling off a cliff. That’s it. That’s the only real consistent knock you can give him.

      He’s only been GM

      • he definitely raped some teams a few years ago but more recently there have been some talent evaluation blunders leaving us stuck with backups at important positions at C – JPA, Thole, Blanco. At 2B – Bonifacio, Izturis. Our starting rotation is not terribly exciting either.

      • I think he started as a scout / scouting coordinator with the Expos and Jays.

        • I think he started in the mailroom, answering fan letters or something, didn’t he?

      • actually encarnacion was obtained by JP. As was the other conernstone of the franchise JB.

        Gose was obtained by flipping wallace..so if you claim wallace was nothing then you have to admit that AA didnt get much for Doc.

        AA has been here a while. Look around MLB…nobody gives their GM’s ten years to turn things around.

    • It’s funny how every now and then we hear about how crazy AA was for trading Napoli for Francisco.

      It wasn’t a bad deal when it was done! Napoli never had that season in Texas until AFTER the trade, and was considered a mediocre at best catcher, while Francisco was a closer type of reliever that the Jays needed! At the time, JP was going to be the #1 catcher and nobody was against it.

  10. OPS is a big improvement over what they wouldve been talking about 5 years ago. Hey 5 years ago I am sure even Stoeten was quoting OPS.

    but pitcher wins?!? Yuk.

    • Thing about pitcher wins is, you’re really stuck with it as a universal shorthand. You want a measure of how well a guy pitched together with how much he pitched; wins gives you a measure (crude, but a measure) of those things but with the added noise of how many runs his team scored in games that he pitched. If you want a measure that doesn’t include the noise of how many runs his team scored, there is no single widely recognized, let alone universally accepted, stat you can point to. So I think it’s reasonable to cite wins as a shorthand–if a guy wins ten games in a season, he probably pitched OK enough and he probably pitched a decent number of times for a decent number of innings–maybe not, but probably. (Pushing it further, take something like Buehrle winning at least ten for a whole bunch of seasons in a row–what that seems to indicate is that if you stick him on a team that is likely to score a relatively large number of runs in games he pitches, like the Jays, he’ll probably do enough to make him a valuable member of the team. It doesn’t indicate that he’s a particularly good pitcher (though it does at least indicate that he doesn’t miss a lot of time); for that matter it doesn’t even indicate with any confidence that he’s not a relatively poor pitcher–he might always have been on teams that scored him a lot of runs–but it does indicate that he’s at least good enough to be OK on a good offensive team.)

      • “If you want a measure that doesn’t include the noise of how many runs his team scored, there is no single widely recognized, let alone universally accepted, stat you can point to.”

        I heard they’ve got this new fangled thing called ‘earned run average’… ‘era’ for short.

        not the most advanced metric… but removes the noise regarding how many runs his team scored.

      • FIP measures pitching independent of your team offense (and also the defense behind the pitcher). It is called Fielding Independent Pitching I believe. Wins is heavily influenced by offense, defense and even the bullpen behind the SP.

        • FIP is neither widely recognized nor universally accepted. More importantly, neither FIP nor ERA provides a measure of how much a guy pitched. The WARs do that, but not only is there more than one formula, the formulas there are are subject to change–so at this point none of them are universally accepted (even among people who Know Stuff), and it seems unlikely that any of them ever will be.

    • I was hoping someone would sing the praises of OPS!

    • What’s so bad about OPS as a quick reference tool? Tells you way more about offensive contribution than AVG or HR or RBI. And if you are going on the radio, it’s easier to remember that your team has a .750 OPS than all the more ‘sabery’ stats.

  11. Leave it to zaun cherry to ask about moving morrow to bullpen. I’m surprised he didn’t ask about moving Rasmus to second base.

  12. I thought those were all pretty casual references to wins, BA, etc. rather than a discussion about philosophy.

  13. Not Morrow to the bullpen. Seattle tried that and it didn’t work. He should be a starter.

    As for sabermetrics, I really wish I could understand them but I’m number-blind :( I’ll leave that up to Stoeten and Fairweather and the guys.

  14. Did the Radio-guys heads explode when AA indicated that Rasmus is on the verge of being an all-star?

  15. Miss fort McMurray and her pimp may take offense to that comparison lmao

  16. Interesting thing said during The Rays / Sox game last night. Paraphrasing a bit but the statement basically said “Sox hitters don’t try to do too much at the plate”..aka 5 run home runs and such loll

    Maybe this what AA means about changing our approach. We seem to have a lot of homer or bust batters in my opinion.

  17. I wonder if boston had kept A-Gon + Carl Crawford would they be in the same position they are now, either way trade benefited both teams.

  18. ” … it’s the topic of the day.”
    “Sounds insightful. I’ll have that.”

  19. I used to look forward to hearing AA speak until I realized that it was mostly wind and little substance.

  20. In my opinion, Assopolous doesn’t have a clue and HE needs to be canned.

    • I’d appreciate if you went and punched yourself repeatedly in the balls.
      And then don’t come back.

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