esmilcatches

The Jays made it official this afternoon, sending Erik Kratz down in order to accommodate Jonathan Diaz’s return to the roster. This confounds the everloving shit out of people, which… sort of confounds me in return.

Yeah, it’s a bit strange the way that the Jays have set up their roster, but to act like what they’re doing is utterly indefensible is maybe a bit rich. Lots of people pining for Kevin Pillar, or for Kratz to have remained as at least a decent right-handed bat off the bench, or for the eight man bullpen experiment to finally be smothered to death. All of these are fair ideas entirely, and I’m sure that some of my responses on Twitter to people getting upset about the failure to execute them is as much an overreaction as the ones I’m trying to oppose, but… we really are capable of understanding what’s going on, right? We don’t really need to pretend these are fireable offences, do we?

Granted, we’re not all doing this, but bear with me.

Yes, as I noted earlier, Diaz has hit literally nothing since being sent down, but we’re talking less than 30 plate appearances. We’re talking about a guy who can take over defensively at multiple infield positions in late game situations, which has utility with Juan Francisco slated to get an extended look at third base in the near future, with Brett Lawrie slipping over to second. He’s not a great base stealer, but he at least gives John Gibbons a pinch running option, potentially. He’s a more passable shortstop backup than Steve Tolleson, and with the flat-footed Francisco, an ailing, potentially mummified Lawrie, and Jose Reyes — who is getting a day off tonight, in fact — being the club’s theoretical starters, does it not make sense to roster a couple of infielders who can also double as spare outfielders? Especially when they’re right-handed bats, given that the club has three ostensible starters in Francisco, Colby Rasmus, and Adam Lind who have platoon issues with lefties?

No, in Diaz’s case it’s not much of a bat, but looking beyond the last few plate appearances, you see a guy who put up a .358 OBP for Pawtucket last year, a .361 at New Hampshire in 2011, and an expectedly high number in Las Vegas in 2012, but one that was powered less by the hitter’s paradise that is the PCL than it was by a 15.5% walk rate.

There is less time available for a guys like Anthony Gose — who is clearly a weapon on the base paths, but is also a left-handed bat– or Pillar, who can only spell incumbents in the outfield, or the guys at an already-crowded DH spot. And while, yes, Pillar has absolutely been doing well at Buffalo (.309/.349/.463), he’s still a guy who rocketed through three levels last year (AA, AAA, MLB) having never played a game above A-ball when the season began, and he struggled mightily when pressed into big league action. That doesn’t mean the Jays should necessarily shield him, but is it an ideal situation to bring him up and hope the hot bat continues in the big leagues in a limited role? Is it not defensible to choose to not introduce him to such potential for failure, and just let him continue to apprentice at the triple-A level?

I think it is, but certainly it’s debatable. And, of course, they could manage to have both a Pillar and an extra infielder on the roster if they weren’t so insistent on holding so many relievers. We all know the reason for that, however, and it’s the fact that they don’t want to lose guys like Esmil Rogers, J.A. Happ, and Todd Redmond.

Again, debatable, but not exactly indefensible. After all, Rogers, despite being in the middle of an abysmal run, and for all his faults and all the braying about why he’s still here, is viewed, I’m certain, as a tinker away from being a valuable bullpen piece again — and whose underlying numbers one one hand look good (9.33 K/9, 2.95 BB/9), and on the other unlucky (a worse HR/FB% and BABIP than even his last season in Colorado). Now, I’ll grant that it’s a bit of a stretch to call him unlucky — he’s not generating ground balls nearly enough, and that’s going to be a huge problem for him — but that’s something he worked on to some success over the last couple of years (1.1 fWAR over 190.2 IP after moving from Colorado to Cleveland), and the temptation that he can figure it out once again is far more understandable than some of the folks looking only at the results want to believe.

When it comes to Redmond and Happ, you only have to look at a few things to understand what’s going on here. On one hand you have Happ’s first start of the season — underwhelming as it was — and some of the decent work Redmond has provided out of the bullpen in relief of struggling starters. Frustrated fans, quite understandably, will say that they see these guys as no better than any other scrap heap arm that will come available, but that simply isn’t true — check out the names of dreck that has been claimed off waivers since the star of March, via MLBTR’s Transaction Tracker, if you don’t believe me.

On the other hand, you have the fact that the Jays used twelve starters in 2012, and thirteen in 2013, including such luminaries as Joel Carreno, Kyle Drabek, Chad Jenkins, Ricky Romero, Jesse Chavez (when he was bad), Carlos Villanueva, Aaron Laffey, Sean Nolin, Ramon Ortiz, and Chien-Ming Wang, in addition to Rogers, Redmond, and Happ. Depth is a good thing, the Jays have been rightly scarred by the way they’ve been hurt by a lack of it over the last couple of seasons, and it’s certainly arguable that whatever marginal value they’re letting slip away right now could be offset by the marginal value they’ll keep when later in the season they’re not forced to rush Aaron Sanchez in a panic, or make a hopeful turn to guys with pretty minor league numbers (like Liam Hendricks, who is now in his fourth season at triple-A, after failing to ever crack a not-very-good Twins rotation over the last few years, or Sean Nolin, who may end up as more than a warm body, but is hardly a saviour), or ones still living off pedigrees established long ago (Romero, Drabek, Deck McGuire).

Is Alex Anthopoulos minding the trees at the expense of the forest a little bit here? Sometimes I think yes, and I understand that it’s frustrating. And can I explain why Steve Tolleson is leading off for the Jays tonight? No, I cannot — though surely it has something to do with microsplits and the fact that he’s wielding a hot bat of late, in an impossibly tiny sample size. But let’s not act like any of these things is completely indefensible. You don’t have to like the explanations offered, but I think at least understanding them as they are would take some of the blind sourness out of some of the conversation surrounding this aspect of the club right now, and that would be a very good thing. So, too, would a few damn wins, I suspect — and I think that says a lot about what’s going on here, as well, no?

Consider this your Game Threat.

Comments (273)

  1. Good game. Ugly series, but good game. Buehrle Buehrled

  2. Buehrle keeps gettin’ it done

  3. Dunno about the bro hugs mentioned by another commenter, but what was up with Lawrie BITING Lind’s ear? Weird. Too much Red Bull.

    • Maybe the boys have a special friendship.

      • An ear biting friendship? Okay.

        I’m all jazzed up because there was very nearly a baseball fight in the Tigers v. Orioles game. JAZZED.

      • The bromance continues, it wasn’t that long ago when Lawrie gave his pal the fucking death glare for not tagging on a shallow fly to right.

  4. Lawrie had a great game today. Nice plays in the field and put up 4 good at-bats.

  5. Pitcher wins and all that, but the Jays are 7-1 in Buehrle starts and 12-20 otherwise.

    This man is worth the money.

    • *12-19

    • He is worth the money, but there’s a whole lot of other baseball clubs where you could say that about their best pitcher.

      For example:
      Yankees are 19-17 overall; 6-1 in Tanaka starts; 13-16 otherwise.

      • Exactly right. Which is why trade talks involving Buerhle (which come up way too often for my liking) are nonsense unless the Jays are WAY out of it. They’d be pretty fucked without him in the rotation.

        • One problem with trading him is that if you’re looking at restocking the farm, prospects will always be a crapshoot. (eg Drabek, Gose, Wallace, and D’Arnaud may be ok if the injury bug doesn’t keep biting)
          The problem with not trading Buehrle is his contract is over after next year and winning now should be uppermost in Jays management’s collective mind. Not to mention a few other contracts like JB etc will be coming due.

  6. Yanks and Mets havin a hell of a game

  7. what’s funny about everyone saying the Jays can’t hit good pitching is that they’ve put up solid performances recently against Lee, Hamels, Burnett, Liriano, Cole and now Wilson.

    is that collection of pitchers really worse than Richards, Skaggs, Weaver??

    sounds to me like it’s just a case of a couple decent (not elite) arms having a good day and/or the Jays having a little rough patch offensively, as can happen to any team over a short stretch.

    but nooo…. from that we get the timeless thesis that the team with the third most runs scored in the MLB can’t hit good pitching because they hit too many HR.

  8. Orioles lose, Yankees lose, Rays trailing 4-0 already to Felix. Very good day for us.

  9. It’s just weird to see ALE teams losing over and over like this. It’s like we’re in a topsy-turvy world where people throw ducks at balloons and nothing’s the way it seems.

  10. shot of Joe Maddon with his mouth hanging open in the dugout. Rays down 8-0 not even out of the second inning, 4 Errors already. their pitching is just terrible right now. Price and Archer should snap out of it, but Ramos and Bedard just don’t cut it, and Odorizzi may need a trip to AAA. plus their bullpen has been horrendous – Balfour, Gomes, Peralta all shitting the bed and Heath Bell has already been released…

  11. lawrie – i love that young douchebag

  12. Was at the game. Typical monday nite atmosphere. Snuck down to great seats behind the dugout so it was totally worth it. Team played better but it was painful watching diaz and tolleson play. Hope it never happens again. 5 of 7 runs came via the longball. Pitching was good. Fun game

    • Only 13,000 fans in the stands tonight. Brutal! Pathetic that there aren’t more fans willing to attend games in the GTA. Speaking for those of us who are thousands of miles away (but still travel when we can), it is a fuckin’ shame.

      • It’s not that they aren’t willing, it’s a Monday night game against a non-ALE team that had dominated the Jays for three straight games. Not everyone has season tickets.

      • Blech. Open the fucking roof. Sell some real fucking beers. Bring back toonie Tuesdays. Cry me a river. I’ll come when it is in my entertainment interest (sun shining, roof open and Jays still playing well). I’m done with blanket supporting a team that gets pushed aside for hockey after one year of actually going for it..

        • ^ This too.

          • you lucky bastards, i wish we had a MLB team in Vancouver.

          • It can’t be stressed enough how awful a spectator experience is when that tomb is closed.

            As Tim Micallef said today, the roof seems like it’s on the 60-day DL, which would be right in line with the rest of the team.

        • I won’t go til the roof opens. It’s really, really shit inside there with the roof closed – it has all the atmosphere of a parking garage (unless you know it’s pissing rain outside.)

  13. I know Colby says he’s not hurt, but that play in center field where he couldn’t catch the ball over his head made it look like he couldn’t extend himself–and then later when he did he had to come out of the game. I think they should bring up Gose and have Tolleson go down.

  14. So the Rays look like they might be pretty shitty after coming into the season with high hopes. Not unlike the 2013 version of our Blue Jays. I keep hearing talk of Price potentially being traded. Is there any hope in hell the Jays have enough in the farm to get him, and would anyone do that deal? Stroman, Sanchez, plus…

    How ‘win now’ does this division look?

  15. No Rasmus Cup this year?

  16. Together Jays arms are just average. Bench management aren’t going to push this team into top of AL East.

    • With the injuries to the rays there isn’t going to be an all around good rotation in the ALE

      every team has its reliable good starters up top and youth and question marks at the back.

      its going to be a slug fest and that probably works in the jays favour.

      bullpen needs to do its part though.

      • Agreed on the slugfest notion. I believe whichever team gets league average pitching and crushes the ball will wind up on top.

        That’s why I’m high on both your Toronto Blue Jays and the Baltimore Orioles.

        btw, got them both at 33 to1 ;)

      • Lester, Lackey and Peavy (all 3 in contract years) are the best trio of that bunch.

        • Good point. If all 3 perform elite and healthy, that’s Boston’s ticket.

          That said, if CC can get healthy I’d take big Hurok, Tanaka and CC.

          But that’s kind of Boston’s risk as well, 30 plus starts from 3 pitchers in the glass pitcher era is no guarantee.

          Either way parity and competition is fun!

  17. So now Rasmus might have to go on the DL, as per what Gibbons told the media.

    On the one hand, I’m pleased that they’re actually being up front about an injury instead of the “it’s not too serious, precautionary measures, oops, long DL stint, never mind” chatter. On the other hand, holy crap, can this team EVER have all of its key players healthy for any stretch of time? First it’s Reyes and Janssen, then Lind and Morrow out, now Rasmus. On a team with such a lousy bench, even one notable injury really screws things up.

    • It might screw up you OCD, but it doesn’t screw up the team.

      Off the top of my head I can think of 3 elite hitters, and 3 other very good ones in this line up.

      They’ll be fine.

      Baseball is hard, people get hurt, and I’ll take a tight hammy over a concussion any day.

  18. Pillar up.
    Diaz down.
    Colby “day-to-day.”

    • I actually would’ve preferred Gose and let Pillar get more minor league reps since his bat has just really started coming around at AAA.

      But what do I know?

      • In the first four games of the season he went 1-for-21. In 30 games since then, he has a .926 OPS and has hits in 28 of those games. He’s been consistent and awesome for the last month. I thought he should have been called up last time, and I’m glad it’s him this time, especially with the number of lefties in the lineup who just can’t hit left-handed pitching.

        • Agreed, the last month is what I meant by “coming around”. It’s not a long period of time for someone who has played about half a season at AAA over the past 2 years.

          Gose seems like a better drop in solution for a short stint.

  19. All the complaining about the shitty bench is getting to be a bit over-the-top. The Jays have four players who have accumulated negative WAR so far this season. Three of them (Goins, Kawasaki, Getz) are currently in the minors, and one (Sierra) is on a new team. Let’s compare that to the great players the rest of the AL East has been rolling out there so far.

    TB – Four players with negative WAR – starting SS, utility IF, backup catcher, fourth OF
    BOS – Five – two demoted, starting CF, backup catcher, utility IF
    NYY – Four – one demoted, starting OF, starting DH, backup catcher (now injured)
    BAL – Three – one demoted, starting 3B (coming off an injury, so kind of doesn’t count), utility IF

    Seriously. Everyone’s benches suck. The Yankees’ bench has mostly been solid, which is good because two of their regulars have been worse than most of the Jays’ bench players.

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