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Buehrle’s gonna buehrle. And holy shit, it pitcher wins weren’t entirely meaningless relics of a bygone age only currently inhabited by Toronto Sun writers, the fact that he has ten of them on June 1st would be pretty seriously fucking impressive! Hey! And Dioner Navarro hit a home run! Encarnacion too, but that’s to be expected. Navarro, on the other hand– that’ll play! Thanks in part to his not being 100%, the Jays’ catchers have been one of the worst groups behind the plate in the all of baseball, just barely shading over replacement level. Fortunately, there’s a little more upside in Navarro (one hopes), and the reality is, Jays catchers have still been markedly improved over last year’s group. In 2014 so far they rank 25th with +0.2 WAR, whereas in 2013 they were 29th with -1.2 WAR.

So… that’s sort of alright, I guess.

Buehrle, though. Fucking eh. Again!


Image/chart via FanGraphs.

Comments (67)

  1. Dinner has been offering a fantastic display of a large carte. Mostly because of his command of the starting pitching. And that in itself can’t translate into a stat.

    Dinner a la Navarro has been served.

  2. Because I can’t post two links in the same comment.

    From SI. about Buehrle

    • sports writers that don’t follow teams they write about right here……

      “His eight shutout innings helped Toronto grab the rubber match of its three-game series with the Royals, and at 34-24″

  3. And an explanation maybe.

    The SI article makes it seem like Buehrle has made a conscience decision to change,yet it’s well known that he let’s the Navarro call the game.He doesn’t shake off the catcher because he never goes to meetings or scouts the oppponent’s batting line up.
    The change in Buehrle’s pitch usage is because of Navarro.
    Sometimes,not always, you can’t scout the stat line without understanding the conditions the stats were created in.
    Buehrle is outperforming his career stats and some think he’ll regress to those norms and that it is just a matter of time.
    Maybe he will and maybe he’s evolving due to other factors and this is the new norm..
    It should be fun to watch the rest of the season and see how it’ll turn out.

    • Or he’s bought a large supply of eye of newt and young goats.

    • if he goes 500 in his 20 remaining starts……up, yup, great season for him.

      anything above 500 from him the rest of the way, and possible CY Young votes

      12 starts in, this could be one of his best seasons ever – the wheels would really have to fall off for his final line not to be in the low 3 ERA with 20 plus quality starts.

    • His career norms are still pretty good, so that’s okay.

  4. So Navarro is making every single decision on every pitch (Buehrle works too fast for them to come from the bench) that a 35 year old pitcher who is the absolute epitome of career norm, who sports the SLOWEST average fastball in all of MLB this year and is 3rd in ERA and innings pitched in the AL on June 1st………


    Fuck man, what you choose to see and ignore is just painful to read sometimes.

  5. I hadn’t realized the Jays’ catchers were so bad. Hard to complain about anything at this point though, both because of W-L and because of not JPA.

    • I think JPA (and at this point last year, Henry Blanco) was just so bad last year that even slightly-above-replacement in 2014 feels like a giant asteroid of difference. I’m sure the WAR would also be better without Kratz’s anemic numbers.

  6. Well 20 wins is pretty special these days regardless of how flukey it is.

    The fact that he is still lowering his ERA though… that’s what blows my mind.

    • I’m not a big fan of pitcher wins; let’s face it, some so-so pitchers have had gaudy win-totals (Ubaldo Jimenez, Jack Morris, Ivan Nova) and some great pitchers have had low win totals because of the team they played on, like Felix Hernandez. Yesterday, if the bullpen had allowed 5 runs in the 9th and lost the game, it wouldn’t take away from Buerhle’s performance at all, obviously.

      But, I don’t see any statistic as having, really, zero value. If Buehrle hits 20 wins this year, I think we can all celebrate in his success. But, the most important thing is how many wins the team gets. If the Jays win 93 games, Buehrle won’t care if he won 20 or 17. Same number of team wins. But, if he keeps getting into the 7th and 8th innings, giving up no walks and barely any runs, he’ll put a lot in his personal W column. Either way, good for him, and good for the Jays.

  7. Math is cool. But it can’t tell you if a catcher is good at figuring out how to get a hitter out.
    Beuhrle has always been a good pitcher and he has had some good catchers. But the new math has no analytics to decipher what catchers call good games.

    Arencibia was bad, if you are half assed ball-knowledgeable I’m sure there were many times over the last few years you saw a Jays pitcher throw a pitch that didn’t make sense.
    I saw JP call a hook on a guy 0-2 that swung and missed in different time zones on Morrow last year. The curve ended up about 10 rows deep.

    Calling a game is huge, and it’s something that hasn’t been fully understood or analysed yet in baseball. It will be at some point though. And writers/stat guys will see why guys like Ausmus, O’Brien and Varitek hung on so long.

    Just use your heads and think about it. Most pitchers throw what’s been called. Most catchers call their own game. That’s 50 percent of the game right there. Huge responsibility that’s rarely talked about.

    Knowing what to call, where to call for it, frequency, watching the hitter move in the box, doubling up on a pitch, changing speeds, brushing a guy off, working with what the pitcher has working, talking to the hitter/distracting him, receiving the pitch.

    Jason Varitek who was drafted as an all bat catcher never really developed into a very good defensive catcher. But he did understand how to get ML hitters out, how to out think them, how to work with his pitchers. He caught a ML record 4 no hitters, 7 one hitters and has often been mentioned as one of the greatest game callers. It’s a skill, one that’s probably more important then any current analytic you can use to rate a catcher. It’s too bad they haven’t figured one out yet. But they will, they always do. To me a catcher is similar to a quarterback, you call/control the game. Not a single pitch get’s put in play that you haven’t decided how it’s thrown/where it’s thrown/how fast it get’s thrown. Catcher’s don’t get the respect they deserve and often they don’t want it.

    So, all that said, the new math says we are 25th of 30 teams in catching? I say fuck the new math because it hasn’t figured out catching.

    Kratz, Thole and Dinner have been great.

    • “Math is cool. But it can’t tell you if a catcher is good at figuring out how to get a hitter out.”

      Yes it can. You can model anything with math.

      • Ok, then point me to a study of the best game callers.
        It can be figured out but it hasn’t been yet.

        • Small example of what I mean. I remember a Ernie Whitt interview, (and if someone can find the clip please post)

          Whitt during an interview was talking about how a hitter (I can’t remember who)loved fastballs up and in.
          Crushed them in fact.
          His pitchers strength was living on the black, but his out pitch was a fastball low and away.
          He knew the hitter, game was on the line, bases juiced, noticed the hitter was suddenly crowding the plate (presumably) to reach the low and away pitch. He called cheese in the hot zone on strike three and sent the hitter packing. None of this means fuck all. I’m only mentioning it to show that as much has been revealed about baseball there is so much more left to learn.

          I know people want it to be as simple as “scouting report says he doesn’t hit breaking balls so throw him a breaking ball” but that’s now how it works. ML hitters can hit any pitch if they know it’s coming or it’s location. You need to out think them.

          And Ernie is one of the reasons why I wanted to be a catcher.

      • I think what Smasher is saying is that we can only analyze a catcher’s effectiveness, on a per-season basis, solely from the standpoint of the results of the pitchers throwing to them. However, when the same pitcher, who, as mentioned, lets the catcher call the game, and there’s been this much of an improvement, we can call it A) luck or B) catcher influence. Maybe Pete Walker told Buerhle to work on something in the offseason and Dioner liked it in spring. But isn’t it more likely that Dioner just calls a very good game, one that takes advantage of Buerhle’s skills?

    • First of all I totally agree that pitch calling is huge and that ERA and whatever “normal” stats are proof enough for me that we are improved.

      Having said that, your confidence in yourself is amusing. You honestly believe you are a better judge of pitch calling than professional baseball players? What course did you study in pitch calling exactly? That someone once threw a curve and it went for a home run means awfully little. If the count was 0-2 the curve was probably SUPPOSED to bounce in front of the plate.

      • Where did I say anything about being better at understanding pitch calling then a major leaguer?

        If you are talking about JPA, then yes, I think everyone who’s ever watched the game, their girlfriends and their blind great uncle is better. He’s an idiot. But he proves that when he opens his mouth.

    • I think writers/stats guys DO know that things like this exist and that there’s value to catchers who do them well. They just aren’t sure how to quantify them yet. Pitch sequencing is a big area of study/discussion for advanced stats right now, but it’s understandably complicated. Just like all the pitch framing numbers that have come out in recent years, you can’t just add them to a player’s WAR when you don’t actually know how accurate they are.

    • Don’t know if it’s been mentioned yet Smasher but the pitchers and defence know this to be a fact and IMO it affects their play. In my opinion the negative effect that JPA had on the pitching staff last season affected the team immeasurably. And his little forays into the news just made it worse.

  8. Only +.2 WAR, but I’m more than ok with whatever his WAJPA is.

  9. I was one of the first posters to bring math and analytics to Toronto baseball fan sites, chiefly the importance of OBP. Stoeten has also been involved. Wilner too. I would argue that an analytic model to observe catchers’ contribution to run prevention is not far away.

  10. With the team golf outing today….. who do you think hits the longest golf ball?

    Think #edwing walks the parrot out of the tee box?

    This shirt is boss…..

    • Bret smashes off the tee

      • I can SO see Lawrie running up to the tee with the Happy Gilmore swing.
        And then high-fiving the caddy into a coma.

        • As long as they’re all bona fide amateurs, (there’s some NHL players who could’ve played the Tour) I’ll guess some of the taller pitchers who generate the best club head speed. I bet Lawrie with his muscular frame slices a lot.

  11. I’m wide open to the possibility that Navarro is calling Buehrle a completely different way than other catchers have in the past, but then I think it’s only a matter of time before hitters adjust to that. For example, I’ve heard a lot of talk about Buehrle using his cutter inside to right-handed hitters, something he’s apparently doing differently this year, but I don’t think hitters won’t eventually start to look for that in the situations where Navarro calls it most frequently.

    A catcher can change a pitcher’s patterns, but it’s not like he’s telling him to throw his fastball 5 mph harder, or throw his curveball with 2 inches more vertical break. As much as the results have been a very pleasant surprise, I’m still highly sceptical that the difference a catcher makes can be as much as 182 points of ERA, especially when Buehrle is actually striking out fewer, and walking more batters than he did a year ago, and his xFIP has only dropped one point.

  12. I googled and clicked around half-assedly to no avail. Can anyone tell me what the light grey line in the chart above the green line represents?

    • That’s called the Buehrle Bump. The Jays’ chances of winning are always a little bit higher than what the numbers suggest when Buehrle is on the hill.

    • I think it’s either the hypothetical head start that the Blue Jays have as the home team, or the hypothetical headstart based on a superior winning %.

  13. You know things were bad last year when Navarro has supplied an empty batting average and low-quality defense, and we find it acceptable.

  14. Offense you get from a catcher is a bonus, you want them to call a good game.

  15. Jonah Keri ranks the Jays in the top group in his weekly Grantland Power Rankings. So you know, that’s nice.

  16. I love what Buehrle because he’s proving all the Internet Stat Guys wrong with every start:

    - He can’t keep winning because he doesn’t miss bats
    - He can’t keep winning because he’ll never be able to keep his strand rate that high
    - He can’t keep winning because his WHIP is high
    - He can’t keep winning because eventually he’s going to fall back to his career averages

    Blah Blah Blah

    Stats can’t explain this. He’s just got his Mojo going this season.

    • You seem to be assuming that this is the best string of 12 starts in his career.

      Anyone know if that’s true?

    • Yeah, reminds me of Jose Bautista’s breakout season when writers kept asserting he can’t keep his production levels so high. He’s better today than he was then.

      • Yeah 27 and 35 are basically the same age.

        Jesus Christ. I love watching Buerhle Buerhl as much as the nexty guy but you guys honestly believe that Mark Buerhle figured out how to outperform his peripherals by 2 runs/9 overnight? Seriously his ERA is just over 2 and his XFIP/FIP are both around 4.

        Are your reasoning is “well Bautista got better once”.

        Jays Talk is that way ———>

        • 29*

        • Actually, his FIP is 3.06. It all boils down to the HR/FB, and it’s worth noting that Buehrle has posted below-average rates before (6% in 2010).

          Considering we’re already 1/3 through his starts he’s got a good chance of producing 4+ WAR this year.

          • You’re right that his FIP is lower than I thought, but his xFIP and CALC ERA and TRU ERA which are quoted in the piece RADAR linked above are all around 4.00.

            You can’t take away what he’s already done so, he damn well might put up WAR numbers he hasn’t seen in 5+ years, which would be huge for this team.

            Is Buerhle doomed to put up career average numbers for the rest of the season? No. But it is far more likely than him continuing to vastly outperform his peripherals? Of course. I’m not sure why this is even an argument.

        • I agree in general (though, as noted below, his FIP is barely over 3), but there’s always the possibility that something has changed. We already know that his pitch usage in certain situations has completely shifted from everything he’s ever done in his career, so maybe these numbers are more sustainable than they appear based on his career numbers. It seems overly simplistic to just say “He’s old, he is what he is, he can’t keep it up” when a complete change in approach and sequencing could account for some of the improvements we’ve seen. No, he’s not going to keep the ball in the park at this rate. But that doesn’t mean he has to pitch to a 4.15 ERA the rest of the season.

          • The Jays are also shifting a lot more than they were last season (and to significant success). It’s obviously going to help a contact pitcher like Buehrle a lot more than it would others.

    • The only thing with Buehrle I see as unsustainable is that 2.4% HR/FB. Matt Cain in his best years was never quite that low.

      • I am inclined to say that it is pitch calling by Navarro, I remember a few articles stating that it was a weakness for JPA. I would assume that the impact of better pitch calling could regress as the hitters/teams adjust, I would imagine they are also trying to work out why the outlier. As Buerhle is having a base-runner or more on most innings a few Home Runs could make a big difference to his ERA as it may not be a solo HR.

    • Stats can explain what Buerhle doing, numbers can break down most anything…..

      it’s just that there is few stats that celebrate what Buerhle is doing…….. other than Pitcher Wins, because in a sloppy way, it combines all of what Buerhle is doing well, but, few think that that stats is of value.

      • A lot of what Buehrle does defies common logic. It’s absolutely astounding the career he’s put together (2nd among all active pitchers in career rWAR) without ever coming close to touching 90 on the radar gun.

        Just enjoy the ride, people.

  17. It’s kind of fun to watch the complaining go from real issues of a last place team, to pretend ones of a first place team. They never actually stop complaining, they just shift it around.

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