Well here’s something that probably should turn into a regular feature, and maybe is finally starting to: a collection of thoughts on what went on over the weekend — and this time they’re actually almost showing up on time! Almost…
Measuring The Dick
R.A. Dickey has been a much better pitcher for a whole lot more of 2014 so far than I think he gets credit for, and he’s certainly been a bit hard done by in his last couple of starts — though I’d be full of shit if I tried to claim that a large part of it wasn’t his own doing. The seventh inning Mitch Moreland line drive home run on Sunday truly spoiled a terrific outing, just as yet another late inning mini-implosion was enough to sink him in his previous start against Cleveland (though it hurts his overall line less after Brett Lawrie was charged with an error on an Asdrubal Cabrera scorcher that was originally ruled a hit). The mounting number of games that have slipped away in this manner has been brutal, but it has belied how well Dickey has actually pitched for the most part — much in the same way that his overall line from 2013, and his lack of performance (mostly due to a stiff back that limited his velocity) in the early going, while the Jays were burying themselves, coloured much of the public perception of his season, even as he pitched in the second half to a 3.56 ERA, with a 4.15 FIP and 3.86 xFIP.
This year, since a cold weather disaster in Minnesota on April 17th, Dickey has pitched to a 2.92 ERA and held opposing batters to a .211/.300/.331 line. It’s maybe not the ace stuff the Blue Jays expected when they traded for him, but it’s a lot closer than it looked last year, and a lot closer than this year has felt. Granted, we’re only talking about six starts and 37 innings there, and I’m choosing arbitrary endpoints to eliminate the Minnesota game, a late-inning blowup against Houston, and Opening Day in Tampa.
Throw out just Opening Day, and Dickey has posted a less-impressive 3.60 ERA (not sure on the advanced stuff because I’m working from the game logs at Baseball Reference), but — and, of course, we can’t really do this — if you also take out his seventh and final inning of the game against Houston — a game in which he cruised right up to the very end, when he surrendered an ill-timed double-walk-HR sequence in the final frame — his ERA over that 55 inning span drops just 3.17.
Even a 3.17 ERA — which, let’s continue to be clear here, is not at all what he actually has pitched to this season — wouldn’t put him into the top 15 in the American League. But it would be close — right behind 17th ranked C.J. Wilson (3.16), and 16th ranked Justin Verlander (3.15). Of course, the numbers for those guys aren’t benefiting from any of the kind of “well what if this hadn’t happened” stuff I’m trying to use to make Dickey’s numbers look better than they are, so the whole exercise is utter misleading in that respect. But the point is, Dickey has pitched quite a lot better than I think people think. The velocity on his knuckleball has remained exactly where you want to see it over the last several starts, and with some better bounces and either a shorter leash from the manager or some kind of adjustment from the pitcher himself to help solve his late inning woes, it’s hardly unreasonable to think that we’ll end up looking back in September and seeing a guy who had a very, very good season.
On Phillips On Lawrie
TSN gets Steve Phillips to write as a “Baseball Insider” for them, because, obviously, when you have the chance to get a poor former Mets GM and disgraced ESPN analyst, you damn well better do it!
In his post this week at TSN.ca, Phillips had some rather harsh words for a certain Blue Jays second baseman — or is it third baseman? — and his initial bristling at the idea of being moved off of “his” position.
I can understand how a player can be bothered by a position change. Ball players are creatures of habit. They don’t like change because it makes them uncomfortable. Brett Lawrie said, “I am a third baseman.” It is his identity. Players are their position. Lawrie needs to change his view of his identity. He is a Blue Jay not a third baseman.
. . .
Brett Lawrie isn’t a star. He is “just a guy.” He is a borderline starter in the majors. He is overrated. Lawrie was hyped when he got to the majors and had a very good quarter season in 2011, but he hasn’t lived up to the hype and has been a disappointment.
Seriously, he is complaining?
He should be grateful for the opportunities he continues to get from the Jays. He has no room to complain. … Lawrie is closer to being out of the Majors than he is to being an All Star.
If it were me, I would tell Lawrie that we are moving you to second base and, if he has any gripes, I would option him to the minors and see how he likes it. If he gets mad, but keeps his mouth shut, maybe it will help him. As I said earlier, emotions aren’t all bad. He hasn’t yet earned the right to be comfortable. The major leagues are about performance.
Be grateful you are a big leaguer Brett.
I mean, some of that’s kind of insane, of course, but… actually, is it?
The stuff about optioning Lawrie for complaining, I think, entirely is. So is the idea that Lawrie, still just 24, is at this point a finished product, and not a player to embrace because of his potential, rather than to push away because of his failings. But the idea that Lawrie has been allowed to think that he’s a bigger thing than he really is? Yeah, I can get behind that. Be it the passport, or the explosion onto the scene back in 2011, or the video game covers, or the media attention that comes with all of it, Lawrie is definitely a bigger star than his play has warranted.
Lawrie currently sits on a wRC+ of 94, which is exactly the number he posted last year. Granted, he’s dealt with injuries on and off basically ever since his dramatic first cameo, so there’s some slack that needs to be given, but nonetheless his production has been decidedly pedestrian. There were 19 third basemen with more than 400 plate appearances who hit better last year, and 16 produced more fWAR (granted, many had far more games in which to do so). This season so far, 14 3B with at least 150 PA have been better hitters by wRC+, as have twelve second basemen.
Obviously spinning it like he’s barely a big leaguer, or “ closer to being out of the Majors than he is to being an All Star,” is pretty hilariously dumb. But the way he’s going right now he’s a few flyballs not turning into home runs from having numbers that would make him look like a poor man’s Scooter Gennett. Maybe not the best position to be complaining from. So… that bit is at least not nuts.
- This is supposed to be about the weekend, so… um… how about that weekend of baseball in Texas? I mean, I know the Rangers are the walking wounded right now, and I know that the series ended on a sour note, but that was pretty terrific. If the Jays keep playing like that against Boston and Oakland this week, they’ll be fine.
- Speaking of the Rangers, J.P. Arencibia was sent to triple-A today. Been inevitable for about a year now, so… whatever. Not a lot to say on this, really.
- You’ll hear whining about a club’s production with runners in scoring position every year, no matter what the actual numbers say. Proof? The Jays have the sixth-best wRC+ with RISP in the majors.
- So the Jays made their reciprocal move for the demotion of Marcus Stroman (which I wrote about back on Sunday) today, and it’s reliever Rob Rassmussen who received the call, giving the Jays an extra lefty to use in dealing with the Red Sox this week, and rewarding a guy who has pitched very well for Buffalo. Makes sense.
- Gotta think it’s going to be a short stay for Rasmussen, though, as he’s the prime candidate to go back down when the Jays call up Liam Hendriks to take the start on Saturday against the A’s — which I think is likely to happen simply because Hendriks is more stretched out, and therefore less likely to tax the bullpen, than Todd Redmond is.
- Stephen Drew is finally off the market, having signed with the Red Sox for the prorated portion of the qualifying offer he turned down last fall. He won’t be in the lineup this week against the Jays, but this move sure does… speak to the desperation among the jowly, white-haired, Ted-Kennedy-lookin’, Tip O’Neil motherfucker set, eh?
- And lastly, speaking of Boston, don’t forget that on Thursday, the Jays and Red Sox are going at it at 4:05 PM ET at Fenway, and so it seems like a hell of a time to ditch work early and head over to Opera Bob’s, where once again us DJFs will be watching the game with some of the folks from Sports Bar Heroes — the excellent web series I’m involved in! — while enjoying $5 pints, $4 tall cans, $2 hot dogs, and hopefully a better damn result from the team than when we last tried this, back on Opening Day. Join us! Hit up the Facebook event page, if you’re still into Myspace 2.0.