mcgowanBAL

Well here’s something that probably should turn into a regular feature, but never quite seems to — but that I’ll make to look like one anyway in order to keep from having it seem too terribly out of place: a collection of thoughts on what went on over the weekend (delayed because yesterday Dirk Hayhurst decided to write something rather interesting that involved the Jays)…

Generalizations

After 13 games, the 2014 Jays are 7-6. The 2013 version of the club was 6-7 at this point, but I don’t think you’d find anybody who wouldn’t say that what we’re witnessing now has certainly has felt completely different than the small difference in record would suggest.

Much of that is down to the fact that the pitching has been more than good enough to dream of big things on, as long as they stay healthy, and the defence has looked much better so far this season, particularly at second base, behind the plate, and in left field. That they’ve actually got some offensive production out of two of those positions hasn’t hurt either.

Also big, however, and somewhat overlooked, is the fact that the bullpen has started the year rolling. In 2013, Darren Oliver and Sergio Santos gave up runs in a tight game-two loss against Cleveland, then Oliver and Esmil Rogers let the Clevelands back into a what would eventually be a 10-8 win the next day. A day later it was Rogers and Jeremy Jeffress handing a victory to Boston in John Farrell’s return.

This year it has been an entirely different story — Todd Redmond’s loss in Saturday’s extra inning loss in Baltimore, and the questionable (yet also justifiable) bullpen usage that led to it, not withstanding – and the club seems to be winning games the way that they’re actually supposed to. As opposed to, y’know, relying on Maicer Izturis to hit crucial home runs, which the 2013 version of the Jays did three times in their first five weeks, including one that tied up the eventual game-two loss, one that plated the third run in a 4-3 victory over Chicago that brought the club’s record to 6-7, and an early May shot in the bottom of the ninth of a tie game in Tampa that brought the Jays’ record up to 13-21. Ugh.

I think what speaks most to why the feeling around this club is different now than a year ago, though, is this little tidbit (stolen from a commenter): the 2013 Jays were at or above .500 for seven days, from a victory on June 21st to a loss on June 28th, and hit .500 twice more in the following three games. That’s a grand total of nine times being at or above .500 at the conclusion of a game for the entire season. The 2014 Jays, after two weeks, have already been at or above .500 at the conclusion of a game ten times — and given that their record is currently 7-6, whether they win or lose tonight, that number is about to move to eleven.

So… yeah, that sure as shit feels better. And with the Twins on the schedule, it doesn’t exactly feel like the party is about to end just yet, does it?

Pitching Thoughts

There isn’t much to say about Mark Buehrle’s solid outing in Sunday’s laugher or the excellent performance of Drew Hutchison on Saturday night, except to say that one hopes they keep on keeping on. Dustin McGowan’s big day on Friday, though, warrants mention, but maybe not the kind of mention that you’re expecting…

McGowan kept the Orioles off the board over 6.1 innings and 97 pitches, allowing just five hits and walking one. A great line, however, there are actually some troubling aspects of McGowan’s start to the season, and not ones that can simply be tied back to his first start. Obviously it’s a little too soon to be reading much into anything, but here’s what warrants monitoring, in my view:

For one, despite all the talk we hear about his tremendous stuff, McGowan hasn’t been generating a lot of swing-and-miss, and especially didn’t do so on Friday. Of the 58 strikes he threw, only 6 were of the swinging variety, with 15 being called by the umpire, and the remaining 37 coming off of contact. Those aren’t crazy numbers, per se — on Saturday, Drew Hutchison had 11 swinging, 12 looking, and 30 strikes on contact — but maybe let’s see McGowan do a bit better in this regard before we declare him right again.

For two, McGowan has been giving up way too many fly balls, and generating way too few hits on the ground. He’s generated ground balls just 28.6 percent of the time, and 48.6% of the hits off him so far have been fly balls — well off his career marks of 46.9% GB and 34.5% FB. It would be easy to shrug these numbers off if not for the fact that, contrary to what you might expect given his disastrous home opener against the Yankees, these actually numbers went in the wrong direction in his start over the weekend.

Yes, it’s early, and just a nine inning sample, but the numbers are an indication that he’s having trouble keeping the ball down — a look at the plots of where he’s been pitching to so far in 2014 compared to his career (via Brooks) underlines this — and that doesn’t exactly bode well for someone looking to survive in the home run havens of the AL East.

The result sure looked great on Friday, but right now, if McGowan had pitched enough innings to be among the 100 pitcher on the “Qualified” leaderboards at FanGraphs, his flyball rate would be in the bottom ten (just a shade better than R.A. Dickey), his ground ball rate would be second last, and his swinging strike rate would also be bottom ten. These numbers don’t mean everything – shit, Yu Darvish’s rates look almost exactly the same (albeit with a swinging strike rate of 7.9% to McGowan’s 5.6) — but they’re definitely worth keeping an eye on.

Then again, it’s not like McGowan has fully completed his transformation into a starter just yet, either — watch for an upcoming post! — and it was definitely great to see him get the results, and to get his first win in the big leagues since June of 2008 — a game in which Jose Bautista drove in a pair of runs… for the Pirates!

Buck On Kevin Seitzer

Some of you may already be sick of hearing Buck Martinez’s voice — though I’m not, at least not when he’s talking about crabs — but he had what I thought was an interesting segment on Prime Time Sports back on Thursday, in which he discussed hitting coaches, and in particular, had some interesting comments about Kevin Seitzer:

From what I have seen — and mind you, we’ve only worked with him since February — but he reminds you a bit of [Yankees hitting coach] Kevin Long, how he prepares his hitters. He gives them a plan. He doesn’t say, “Well, look for the fastball,” he says “This guy is going to do this to you.” Tonight they know that Keuchel is going to throw that big curveball, and if it’s not above the belt, it’s going to be a ball — don’t swing at it. He also told them he’s going to throw the cutter inside, so you’ve got to make sure — he’s going to try to get you out inside with that cutter, you have to decide whether you’re going to try to hit it inside, or lay off of it and take it, thinking that it’s a ball, and look for something on the outer half.

. . .

You know what, I think he’s more theory than mechanics. I think he’s more a philosopher than he is a mechanic. I think he’s a guy that’s going to give you a game plan — “and this is why you should look for this.” And I told him tonight, I said, “Now you’re starting to get the ‘Oh yeah, I see what you’re talking about!’ ‘OK, I put that into use and it’s working.’ You’ve got to have some positive feedback before these guys are really going to jump in with both feet.

. . .

He’s made some dramatic changes mechanically, but now we’re at the point where it’s not so much mechanics as it is preparation and game planning.

Buck also mentioned speaking about coaching with Jose Bautista, who told him that he likes to have feedback and isn’t just a finished product. “And you can see that he’s reaped the benefits of Kevin Seitzer,” Martinez added. “Opposite field double last night was because he was looking for the ball away.”

If you remember it from way back on Wednesday, it was a great opposite field double. I don’t really want to get into ascribing too much of any sort of magic to coaches, but the game planning stuff is certainly tangible. Plus, as much as the game has been taken in new and different ways with the data that is now available, and a much as a hitter can be trained to do different things and informed by all kinds of things they hadn’t been in past eras, there are many long strands that run through the art of hitting, and the conversation was pretty interesting if only for that kind of stuff, which touched on Buck’s relationship with Charlie Lau, as well.

The Murky World Of Media Rights

I fully admit that I’m a layman when it comes to a lot of the business aspects of what the Jays do and where they stand within Rogers’ corporate structure, so when I write about it — as I did last week — it’s not easy. I’m never quite sure that I’m getting it right, and in fact, I did miss something quite interesting about the whole media rights issue, which is that there is a revenue sharing aspect of it.

I ended up speaking to a person in the game about this subject, and here’s what I was told:

I was listening to your last podcast when you were talking about media rights and the low value the Jays from their media rights. There’s a weird revenue sharing reason for teams to have a controlling stake in their TV partner rather than taking a larger media rights valuation each year. Media money is subject to 34% revenue sharing whereas an ownership stake is not subject to revenue sharing. It’s why the Yankees for years just owned their network and took little in media rights. You mentioned San Diego, Baltimore and Cleveland during your podcast too. San Diego has I believe a 16% ownership stake in the Fox network which is not subject to revenue sharing.  Baltimore controls MASN and when the Nationals moved to Washington part of the agreement with Peter Angelos was that the Nationals only would receive 27% or something low like that from media rights. The commissioner has to resolve that some time as the Nationals clearly feel they are getting ripped off.

Media values are a weird game as the Dodgers tried to get away from paying revenue sharing in their last deal as well.

In other words, there’s murk within the murk. I’m not sure how much — if at all — that changes anything about what I wrote, or my feelings about the relationship between Rogers and the Jays, but it’s certainly another important part of the background.

Geoff Baker touched on something similar in his latest for the Seattle Times, in which he argues that the Mariners’ payroll could be higher than it is, and tries to unpack some of this tricky valuation stuff from their perspective. Interesting stuff, and not even slathered in misplaced smugness!

Comments (64)

  1. Buck and pat talk about kevin seitzer while the camera man zooms in on him at least 3 times a game….and yes its very inchresting…as they’ve mennnchinnned

    • better than the zooms in of the crowds in the outfield. ugh I really wish they would stop that.

      • i actually ponied up and threw down 60$ on one of those sportsync radios. It arrived yesterday. Tested it on the Raptors. Works like a charm. Tonite – Buck dies.

    • The astonishing thing is that Pat hasn’t noted Seitzer as being “Big and Stong” and/or “Athletic”…

  2. I think the contrast from last year to this year also has a lot to do with the fact that some of the other AL East teams have been hit pretty hard with injuries and poor starts.

    I dont think any team is going to run away with this division, hopefully the jays can get the pitching and health they need to have some meaningful summer ball games.

    • I don’t know. At least personally, I haven’t viewed what they’re doing in relation to the rest of the division at all, to be honest. Pretty early for that. I know Tampa’s had the pitching breakdowns, but otherwise, I don’t know, doesn’t seem like anything too out of the ordinary has befallen anyone else. I mean, I know what they’ve been doing just because I do pay attention to it, but I don’t think it has any bearing on why I feel alright about the Jays — that’s mostly on them.

      You absolutely could be right though, that may just be me.

      • Tampa’s injuries are one,

        but Yankees also have one of the worst infields in baseball, and sure they’ve had some success so far, but no way Kelly Johnson, and Solarte can keep this pace.

        I guess I’m a bit more optimistic not just because the jays pitching has looked much better, but also because some of the other teams just don’t look as strong and/or have some pretty significant injuries.

        • Johnson and Solarte are actually *worse* at their positions than Jeter?

          • I meant their start with the bat, they are both OPSing over .900

            Jeter is doing okay, nothing special. He’s bat has been more sustainable so far.

            Defensively they are all train wrecks though

      • But Tim and Sid say it’s great that nobody has run away with the AL East yet!

  3. Regarding McGowan, I agree with you – far from a polished product, but how awesome is it to see him throw 97 pitches, not give up a run against a team with good offensive players, and feel great the next day?

    Regarding coaches – no, you can ascribe “magic” to them, but if they were completely useless they wouldn’t be in the game. They can give players different ways of thinking about and looking at things, and it sounds like that’s what Seitzer is doing. Hopefully Lawrie benefits from him as well.

    • Yeah, it’s kind of odd to read something negative about McGowan throwin 97 pitches. I definitely understand the need to remind ourselves of the reality of his performance but, holy fuck, he’s a starting pitcher again?

  4. Well your point about valuation of rights still stands 100%. In fact, if anything it is augmented because the Jays’ owners are not being “taxed” 34% of the true value of the rights.

    There is no denying that the objective value of the Blue Jays media rights is much higher than the amount that is reinvested in payroll. I don’t have the time or the inclination to figure this out, but I suspect the Jays may even be better off if they were owned by a third party, took the 34% hit on media rights and made Rogers/Bell pay full market value.

  5. Re: “There isn’t much to say about Mark Buehrle’s solid outing in Sunday’s laugher”

    Um… there’s plenty to say. If you actually watched (or remembered) the game you would know.

    Buehrle gave up a whack of really hard hit balls, and was the recipient some very good defence (take a bow Lawrie and Rasmus).

    He escaped with a tidy box score line, yes.

    He should be given credit for keeping all cool and veteran like after a shaky 1st inning and dealing with the extra two batters after the the Diaz non called error.

    However, that doesn’t change the fact that many of the batters in the O’s line up have tremendous career numbers against him.

    If there is a way for Buehrle to avoid the O’s, I think it would be in the Jays interest to do so.

    • You’re an idiot.

      • So I’m guessing you didn’t watch the game.

        • Buerhle gives up contact and gets in to trouble in 75% of his starts, that’s just who he is.

          • I’m taking really hard hit balls that were either chased down, at someone, barely foul, not the usual Mark Buehrle show.

            Don’t get me wrong, he made it work to his credit.

            I’m saying if they Jays have a choice down the road with off days and such where they can avoid Mark Buehrle and the O’s, factoring the crazy career numbers some these guys have against him, I’d consider it.

            • Wouldn’t he deserve more credit for that, though? He went up against a lineup of players who have historically dominated him, and he allowed a run on five hits over seven innings. Sure, he allowed a few hard hit balls, but this was a matchup where a lot of people would have been concerned, and he pitched to extremely positive results.

              He certainly got some luck (5.03 xFIP on the game doesn’t look pretty), but if that’s the version of “bad Buehrle” we’re going to see this year, I think we’ll all take it.

            • Orioles are a slugging team, they grip it and rip it.

              Dusty gave up a lot of warning track outs as well.

    • Do you not realize that’s exactly how Buerle as a pitcher operates, he gets hit hard, but they usually find gloves.

      He lives and dies by his defense, look no further to his no-hitter and perfect game for evidence of that.

      • I do, and I’m saying it was extreme this game, and that the many O’s have great numbers against him.

        If there is an opportunity to skip a start against them, I would.

        • Agreed, he was getting shelled by the Orioles. If Rasmus wasn’t there to make some fine plays, I think Bautista made a nice catch too, then things may have been a lot different. I thought Buerhle was especially lucky to escape with the pitching line he had.
          I’d still run him out there against the Orioles though.

        • I have to agree. He was getting really lucky against the O’s.

          However, I’m still not convinced that you need to find a way to have him avoid them in the future.

    • He just always seems to manage to baffle the hitters just enough to get outs in high-leverage situations. Even against the Astros, when he was getting hit pretty hard, the only run he gave up was a lead-off bloop double that came home on a sac fly. Buehrle’s just gonna Buehrl.

      As for being the beneficiary of good defense, well that’s what they’re there for… I’m pretty sure improved defense played a part in Buehrle’s second half resurgence in 2013. (His FIP is 2.04 over his first three starts, by the way.)

  6. This is one of the better posts of the season.

  7. Did anyone read the Baseball Prospectus prospect 10 pack yesterday? I’m to cheap but I was curious what they said about Daniel Norris. He seems to be coming around.

  8. It’s gonna be cold in Minneapolis tonight.

    • Watch Griffin say that Dickey knew it was going to be cold tonight and that’s why he’s pitching tomorrow.

    • Might work out well with two extreme flyball pitchers coming up for the Jays.

  9. Rasmus out – Hamstring.

    • I’m sure the cold weather has a lot to do with that.

    • Really could use a back up CF on the roster, especially playing in that ballpark, lots of ground to cover…

      I don’t want to lose Sierra, and this isn’t based off of his slow start sinces its just 11 Ab’s

      but at some point they have to realize that Gose needs to be brought up. He’s a weapon off the bench as a pinch runner and can spell rasmus in CF

    • No point rushing him back i guess.

  10. I enjoyed reading this. Especially the part about Seitzer.

  11. I was supposed to make the border crossing down to Minni (from Thunder Bay) but have a final exam this week and had to bail. My brother and his girlfriend will be there though, and I just looked at the forecast and am all of a sudden not so upset. Brrrr..

  12. I’m glad you mentioned that interview with Buck. The stuff he mentioned about Charlie Lau was pretty interesting too. It will be interesting to see how Seitzer’s approach works over the course of the season.

  13. Dusty seems to be going to the slider & changeup more vs the curveball of yesteryear. Might translate to a bit less swing and miss and groundballs than we are used to with him considering how nasty his hook was. Likely not as hard on his arm either. Or, maybe not.

  14. Bautista starting in CF tonight? kawasaki batting 2nd?

    holy shit this is kinda crazy. I wonder how long Rasmus will be hurt. i’m thinking not very long or they will call up Gose….

    • why is it so hard for major league managers (or is it only the Jays?) to understand that you want a good hitter in the 2 spot? Shit, Gibbons even said last year that he wanted to get Bautista more AB’s and put him in the 2 spot for a while. It’s so frustrating.

  15. interesting piece up mlb tr with their 2015 free agent power rankings (2014 offseason),
    had rasmus at 8, saying he could play himself into a bj upton like deal
    thoughts?

  16. Liked this post. Not reading to much into McGowan’s numbers yet. to a rather large degree theyre still coloured by his first start when he was apparently tipping his pitches (maybe the reason why he seemed to give up solid contact with two strikes so often). the stuff still passes the eye test, and he’s been above average at inducing GBs in the recent and distant past. a little refinement of command is all that’s necessary i think.

  17. WTF is Bautista doing in CF??

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *