griffbag

In his latest, epic Bullpen post from earlier in the week over at the Toronto Star, Richard Griffin gives us a little bit of a teasing, offering a mini-mail bag in order to tide us all over until he posts a brand-spanking-new full-on whenever the hell that’s going to be. It’s only a couple of questions long, but so what? I’m up for a little hijacking– who’s with me???

If there’s a question you’d like me to answer, submit it to Griffin here, and maybe he’ll select it for a future mail bag. Fingers crossed!

Q: Hi Richard Stoeten,

Well the leaves are falling and it looks like it’s going to be a good world series but, as far as the Jays are concerned, it’s time to haul out the big foam finger (Senators as opposed to Miley Cyrus) and take the pins out of the Arencibia bobble head doll for another year.

Listening to AA it was a little concerning to get the impression that he seemed to think one more starter was all that was needed to make a difference next year. Is he starting to get overly hooked on the return of the injured plus thinking Happ and Redmond are the answer?

Morrow is good but doesn’t look like a guy with the stamina to be a stud for a full season, plus even minor injuries seem to throw him off of his game. Drabek has always promised more than he has delivered and who knows what Hutchison is going to turn out to be. As a starter Happ would be a great long relief in the bullpen and it’s really time to thank Ricky, cut him a big check and say goodbye. Dickey and Rogers would be the only two I would hold onto.

The defense is starting to look a lot better. There are some quality guys (when they are all healthy) in most positions except the catching. Maybe splitting time with a good veteran would finally get Arencibia to see that it’s about his lack of technique not the media.

Another big decision will be whether Goins is ready for everyday, his play in the field is good but his hitting needs work. I don’t think another season in Buffalo is going to hurt. Perhaps a genuine Gold Glove second basemen would be a better fit for the immediate future?

Don’t you think the positions of Gose and Rasmus will be decided on whether Rajai goes? I still prefer Rasmus in centre but Gose could be a real upgrade out in left.

Finally Griff, a thank you to yourself, and my fellow correspondents, for making the mailbag such an interesting, entertaining and occasionally wacky read this year.

Hasta la Vista

Frank Taker, Prescott

Ugh. OK, I guess we should take these in order.

- First of all, the media members who posture like they’re actually taking statements like the ones Alex Anthopoulos made in his end-of-season scrum at face value are doing you a disservice. The GM may be more open these days than he once was, but he’s not going to tear a strip into his players and force himself into a position where he’s going to have to backpedal in order to get fair value for them.

Saying that the club needs one starter covers the obvious. Telling a world that knows you already have Dickey, Buehrle, and Morrow that you need two starters makes a bit of a negative statement about Marcus Stroman, Kyle Drabek, Drew Hutchison, J.A. Happ, Ricky Romero, Esmil Rogers, Todd Redmond, Sean Nolin, and whoever else might be vying for a back end gig, doesn’t it? And since it’s likely from this pool of strength that the Jays are going to hope to find a deal for a catcher or a second baseman– if not a pitcher, as well– why do anything to subvert its value? Why, as certain reporters would hilariously demand, say that you don’t think those guys are good enough or reliable enough to pencil into your rotation, just as you’re about to go and try to sell other teams on the notion that they could work in theirs?

The same basic principle is the reason it’s OK that Anthopoulos hasn’t been throwing J.P. Arencibia under the bus by name, either. Don’t worry about him or Happ being relied on.

- Secondly, the question of Brandon Morrow’s durability is another issue on which I think the media is failing the fans by lazily dumbing down the discourse without actually looking into any data on it. It certainly feels like Morrow has made less than 71% of his expected starts since he joined the Blue Jays rotation, but that’s about what the number is.

True, in particular, the last two seasons haven’t been great, health-wise, and I could never say that there aren’t always going to be question marks on him until he puts in two or three full workloads in a row, but that’s no reason to skew things as badly as some people have let them become. Morrow made 26 straight starts before the Jays shut him down due to his innings limit in 2010. He came back the next season and, after a bit of an issue at Spring Training, made 30 straight starts from April 23rd until the end of the season, and then made thirteen more starts before the oblique issue felled him in 2012– coming back, you may recall, and not missing a start after getting hit in the shin with a line drive– and then making eight more after he returned.

- Lastly, I don’t think you’ve quite got a handle on where the club’s defence is at. Melky Cabrera is owed $8-million for next year, and coming off the spinal tumour, it’s not likely he’s going anywhere. Maybe the Jays move him to DH by moving Adam Lind somewhere else, but I’m not sure whether Alex Anthopoulos– no matter how burned he feels he’s been this season when it comes to his own undervaluing of defence– is really going to overcorrect by that much. You’re not wrong that the outfield defence sure would look good that way, and with the trend game-wide heading in the direction of run prevention, maybe he’s more ready to embrace it than I am. But while the defence is there, the offensive floors for Gose and Goins are low. They could do reasonably well, or they could be absolute black holes at the bottom of the lineup, with not much behind them in terms of depth. If they are depth, I think the club is better off, assuming that you can get someone a little more well-rounded– maybe not as great defensively, but with a little more bat.

That said, as I noted earlier in the week in my Bronson Arroyo post, if you’re bringing in someone like that, who is a pitch-to-contact guy, along with Mark Buehrle, carrying Goins starts to make more sense.

Rajai I think would be a great player to bring back, especially because of how he can platoon with Lind at DH, but I don’t know if he’s going to jump at the opportunity to be a fourth outfielder and platoon DH, and his being here keeps Gose off the team– which may make sense anyway, given that he’s still very young, and still could use more work at the plate.

-

Q: Richard Stoeten,

I just saw the Dodgers walk Reed Johnson to load the bases in order to face Jason Heyward, the superior hitter of the two. Heyward proceeded to get a 2-run single. My question is, is there too much stock placed in lefty-lefty or righty-righty matchups? If it was me, I’d rather pitch to a utility player such as Johnson instead of Heyward any day.

Thanks,

Justin, Richmond Hill

Keith Law said something interesting in a recent chat about this, suggesting that he didn’t mind the old school thinking that suggests not getting too caught up in lefty-righty match-ups, but thinking more about it in terms of stuff. A guy with a “slider speed” bat is going to struggle with a guy who throws gas, regardless of his handedness, and a guy who struggles to pick up off-speed stuff is probably not best matched up with a fastball-heavy guy, even if the platoon matchup isn’t the “correct” on.

That said, you still need to pay attention to platoon splits. When Johnson was here in Toronto he was a perfect platoon partner for exactly the reason Diamond Don did what he did: while in the overall his numbers scream “utility guy,” he really does have quite a pronounced split. In his last 328 plate appearances against left-handers, dating back to the start of 2011, Johnson has posted a .339 wOBA. For Heyward, over 496 PA in that same span, the wOBA is .294.

Then again, if you look at their splits for just this season, Heyward has a pretty big advantage– albeit in a small sample, especially for Johnson. Because of that, you may be entirely right that Mattingly wasn’t using sound data to back up his decision. I’d probably tend towards using a bigger sample, though, which would tend to agree with Mattingly’s decision (Johnson has been better against LHP in both the two- and three-year samples), but it’s not like there’s a definite right and wrong on this. Mattingly may have been looking at micro-splits involving specific pitcher-batter matchups, or looking at how the Braves hitters had fared against certain pitcher types, or he may have felt there was something he’d seen in Heyward that he though could be exploited by a same-side pitcher.

Not knowing all the data makes it hard to skewer the manager, but the fact that over the bigger sample Johnson has been better certainly makes it understandable. I certainly wouldn’t agree with the idea that it’s as simple as “always pitch to the utility guy,” but you are right that mindlessly playing lefty-lefty, righty-righty isn’t the right way either.

Comments (45)

  1. I just made the comment in the Melky thread….if we have to see Gose in the lineup every day next year I think we are going to be disappointed with his bat.

    • If that means we get an ace for a Ramsus package I’m ok with it

      • For one year of Rasmus? You’re more likely to get a good pitcher for Gose.

      • Unfortunately Rasmus is not a proven All star centre fielder. If he had a more consistent history of success he would have more trade value.

        Then again if he was more proven, AA would have probably signed him to a long term extension by now lol

  2. Noticed you didn’t include JJ as an option.
    Is it because too much is unknown about the negotiations to speculate?
    Or you think he gone?

    • I’d think he’ll be back, but he’s not under contract, so isn’t really relevant to the question.

  3. Stoeten,
    Will there be a post on the sportsnet piece on the jays core?

    • I thought this thought from AA was kind of disconcerting:

      “The core changes,” Anthopoulos says. “And the core changes with performances from year to year.”

      That doesn’t exactly speak to stability.

      • Depends on how largely you define the core, I guess. And even then, it changes. All the time. For pretty much everyone.

        • Yes, I suppose that’s true, re: the definition.

          I mean, yes, the “best players” on your team might fluctuate year to year depending on results, but does that make them the long-term core of your team? Probably not.

          • Romero was a core piece 2 years ago.

            Still under contract for a while but I wouldn’t consider him a core piece anymore.

    • No. What would there be to say about that?

  4. That was a tease. More ‘Sign Hallady’ posts please.

  5. “He came back the next season and, after a bit of an issue at Spring Training, made 30 straight starts from April 23rd until the end of the season”

    I always took that shut down as management by the Jays so that Morrow could finish out the year on the team rather than shutting him down for the second time, and if I recall, that what was implied by the move. Even Morrow at the time was surprised that he was DL’d:

    “We’re talking about him missing a start. He really is adamant he is ready to go and we said: ‘That’s fine, we understand it.’ But we decided to take the more cautious approach. We didn’t plan on having him throw 220 innings this year anyway. So, we took the decision out of his hands.”

    “It sucks,” he said. “I didn’t think it had to be a DL stint. It feels fine right now but that’s not what they’re going off of; they’re going off of the MRI.”

    http://m.theglobeandmail.com/sports/baseball/jays-pitcher-morrow-will-start-season-on-dl/article573771/?service=mobile#!/

  6. I think we should keep Gose, I like his value as the 4th outfielder/late innings pinch runner as I’m sure Rajai will be gone. I think Melky will be healthy and will rake next year but when he DH’s or needs a break Gose can play Left or Right. I’ll take the defensive upgrade with the probable corner outfielder offensive downgrade. Offense wasn’t the problem in 13, it was D and pitching.

    It will take a bigger prospect then Gose to get a good starter for our rotation anyway so instead of including him in a trade I’d use someone else. Regardless of what the pessimists have been saying about our prospect cupborads, we have lots of great young players in the low levels.

    • I wonder what we should do with Sierra if Gose is the 4th Outfielder?
      In terms of roster construction, I don’t see the Jays carrying 2 backup outfielders that cannot play any other position. This may push Derosa off the roster and Izturis to back up the entire infield.
      I think Sierra is out of options and did show something in September.

      • He’s only been up to the bigs twice, so I think that he has an option left.

        That said, perhaps he may be a minor league FA now (7 years in jays system).

        He seams like a perfect depth guy at Buffalo, injuries do happen.

        @ Stoeten, or anyone with ambition, some sort of updated guide or list of options and milb sericve time would be greatly appreciated.

  7. Any chance Andy Burns can be the solution to 2nd? He probably won’t be ready in April, but maybe mid-season? They probably start him in AA, as after a half season there, his numbers don’t look spectacular compared to his A-ball numbers.

    Albeit, he is a 3rd basemen. But he started his minor career at SS, so might be able to make the move to 2nd. And he has one career game at 2nd. Maybe they will move him to 2nd.

    I’ve never seen him before, and know little about him, but his minor league numbers look darn good, and he’s still very young.

  8. It’s to be hoped Morrow follows the AJ Burnett career path. For a guy who was hurt all the time earlier in his career, Burnett’s been a horse the last half dozen seasons.

    As for the Jays’ core and next season, I’m already getting that off-season optimism but so much went so fucking wrong this year you have to think a few things might swing our way next year. I base that on…absolutely nothing. But there’s the beauty of the game.

  9. Not exactly on topic, but if you plan to buy flex packs
    at the top price point, plan on sitting further back and further out.

    This is so they can reserve more seats
    to sell to scaplers/season ticket holders.

    Its the Blue Jays way of thanking us
    for supporting them during the lean years.

  10. It’s also tough to skewer the manager on a case by case basis, as Donny Baseball would’ve been heralded a genius if Heyward struck out listlessly against the lefty. It’s about evaluating these types of decisions in the aggregate, which I think the common baseball fan is incapable of doing. No offense to the chap that asked the question, he was just asking about splits. But he did so by citing a single example as a fail, which is a dangerous game.

    • kinda like poker. you go with the odds and sometimes you take a bad beat. doesn’t mean you made a wrong decision at the time.

      • Few players recall big pots they have won, strange as it seems, but every player can remember with remarkable accuracy the outstanding tough beats of his career.

    • Very good point. Sometimes, you can do everything right, yet still get screwed. That’s why the games are actually played after all; pretty much anything can happen.

  11. Re Gose & Goins “assuming that you can get someone a little more well-rounded– maybe not as great defensively, but with a little more bat.”

    A little more bat isn’t enough for me.

    Unless an excellent solution can be found I’ll take….

    -the guaranteed plus defence (which rarely slumps, btw)

    -the reallocation of financial resources (both these guys are cheap) towards catcher or SP

    -the improved defence with Rasmus moving to LF

    - the improved SP as a result of a better defensive unit overall (take a look at the GB rate of Dickey past 3/4 years, Burhele for ever, Morrow when he was killing it in 2011, Esmil Rogers)

    - Gose’s history of being able to somewhat adjust after two opportunities in MLB

    - the context that this team has a strong top and middle of the line up overall and that in the worst case situation of having two black holes, this team has enough stick to carry it.

    thank you very much.

    • You’re welcome.

    • I agree it doesn’t make sense to do anything for the outfield but I’m not so sure about 2B. over a full year Goins is likely to get exposed and hit at similar levels to what JPA did this year making him a replacement level player. do we really want to lose 2-3 WAR at 2B when we could probably upgrade for fairly cheap (hopefully)?

      the strength of a lineup is determined by number of weaknesses as well as the strength of a couple/few of players. it is hard to sustain a rally if you have 2-3 massive black holes. if we go into the season with 2 black holes and the risk of players like Lawrie not living up to his potential again and Lind and Rasmus regressing and then a big bopper (Bautista?) gets hurt we are back to a AAA lineup again just like the last 2 years. I think we all want a bit better than that.

      In any event Gose is not likely to be a starter next year unless something happens with Melky or Rasmus.

      • I’m not sure we can ‘upgrade for fairly cheap’ at 2nd base. So far we’ve had Kelly Johnson who didn’t work out and Maicer Izturis that didn’t work out and Bonifacio that didn’t work out… And they weren’t particularly cheap either.

        • Kelly Johnson had a bad year but he would be an upgrade over Goins. I think they were all reasonably cheap.

    • I don’t think it’s that easy to push Rasmus to left field. Maybe at the end of the day, he’ll play where he’s penciled in, but I can’t imagine he’d appreciate the idea of playing a corner spot in his final season before free agency, as he’s obviously more valuable, and in line for a bigger contract as a center fielder.

      That being the case, I think that a lot of the added defensive value that Gose brings is lost if you end up having to put him in left field. At this point, I feel like the ceiling for Gose is what Cameron Maybin has turned into. Maybin has produced 5.9 WAR through 1,186 plate appearances since being traded to San Diego while producing a .249/.311./365 batting line. That’s obviously not nothing, but that value has a lot to do with the fact that he plays up the middle, and not in a corner outfield spot. I’m not sure what a positional adjustment for playing left field over the last 3 seasons instead of center would do to Maybin’s WAR total, but I would imagine that it puts him somewhere around 2 WAR per 600 plate appearances, which is a pretty lousy best case scenario for a full season of Gose in left field. I feel like it’s more likely that the Jays get 2 WAR from Melky playing left field next year, with Gose as the back-up plan if he gets hurt.

    • Washington needs some relief pitching and has Stephen Lombardozzi as a utility guy. the guy racked in minors and has been solid for Nats. I think he might be a good fit at 2nd

      • I’m not sure Lombardozzi is an upgrade over Goins. In 755 MLB plate appearances, he’s produced a .281 wOBA while being unspectacular defensively in 774 innings.

        • but he is 23 years old a little younger and higher pedigree if you could get him for a reliever i would do it in a second!!!

    • You assume that you’re not going to get a black hole behind the plate, too, which is pretty unlikely, since they almost all are. You’re also now banking on Rasmus being able to produce like 2013 and not 2011 and 2012. It starts to get pretty tough under that consideration, and, in addition, you’re pretending that you can’t also get a very good fielder who’ll hit better elsewhere.

      Maybe the resources are a bigger consideration than I want to believe, but I just don’t think it’s in Rogers’ financial interests to go this far and cheap out now. Or you can always deal from strength to fill those holes– though I do believe that Melky, who played CF in 2011, should be better anyway.

      You think of the Rays as a team, for example, that has a lineup built around two great hitters and a bunch of black holes, but the only guy with a wRC+ below 100 this year who they gave more than 200 at-bats was Jose Molina. Don’t just assume bats that bad can be carried easily.

  12. probably not the first time Stoeten has gotten his hands on Griff’s mini bag

  13. I would love to sign Halladay. I know it’s a terrible decision but he’s unequivocally one of if not the very best Blue Jay in the history of the franchise. Obviously if he’s getting $15MM per year you have to pass, but sometimes you can make a little decision to make the people happy, can’t you?

    Less (more?) controversially, did we steal Adam Lind’s nickname from the Rangers?

    https://twitter.com/tweetgrubes/status/369974518573305856/photo/1

    • You know what would make me happy? Getting to the post-season would make me happy. Seeing Halladay back here in a Jays uniform would not make me happy unless he suddenly at the very end of his career managed to resurrect all the talent and ability he had when he played for the Jays. Honestly I don’t want to see any more Flash-Back Fridays or Turn The Clock Tuesdays or any other stuff to remind me of what once was. I want to see what could be. I want to remember Halladay just like when I saw him last. When he was at the peak of an incredible career.

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