Another week, another Griff Bag — aka Richard Griffin’s latest mail bag from over at the Toronto Star — and… I… uh… here it is? Whatever, you know the drill!
If there’s a question you’d like me to answer, unless it’s about fucking Ricky Romero and J.P. Arencibia, submit it to Griffin here, and maybe he’ll select it for a future mail bag. Fingers crossed!
Hope everything is well with you. I guess I have a quick question.
With the promotion for Sanchez (to AAA-Buffalo)…What are the teams plans for him? Big league this season or are they just wanting him to get 100 innings or so at the next level?
Jeff Amos, Head Coach, Badlands Baseball Academy
Whoa! Is this an actual, sensible Griff Bag question? No silliness about a trade showcase? Nothing about Sanchez immediately replacing R.A. Dickey, or whichever starter we’ve decided this week isn’t good enough?
As for the answer, I have no inside knowledge, but it would seem to be a little of both. John Gibbons has come out and said that he thinks Sanchez is an arm that can help the club at some point, though in what capacity is hard to say. Aaron is already over 70 innings on the season, and last year threw just 110, including his time in the Arizona Fall League. To expect him to help the club as a starter down the stretch, then, is simply unrealistic, as he’ll reach his innings cap far too soon for it to be worth re-jigging the rotation. Could he make the odd big league spot start in order to give the club’s other youngsters, Drew Hutchison and Marcus Stroman, a rest as they each deal with their own innings limitations? I think so, and I think if all goes well he could be an intriguing weapon out of the bullpen for the club in the later months of the season.
Mostly, though, I tend to believe it’s a developmental thing. The thinking goes that Sanchez can get by so easily on raw stuff with lower-level hitters who are overmatched, despite his well-understood control issues. So it likely serves him well to face more advanced hitters, where he really will have to pitch more. Of course, it’s not like I’ve been watching his New Hampshire starts myself, so take that with a grain of salt, but it seems a reasonable enough theory, I think. The move could even be the club’s way of forcing their star prospect to see the need to make changes that they want him to make and he’s been otherwise reluctant to, given his relative success so far — but that’s just spitballing, too. It certainly does seem like a bit of a rush to have him out of Double-A so soon, but through the developmental prism, I think you can see why well enough. As we saw in his first taste of Triple-A action, it’s going to be a challenge for him at times, and that’s OK.
I’m not sure what impact a bullpen coach has, but everyone speaks so highly of Pat Hentgen’s influence. Has his absence this year been a possible reason for the bullpen’s struggles?
Thanks for your thoughts on this.
Has the bullpen struggled this year?
If you want to argue that it has, fair enough, but I’d suggest that the fact that Bob Stanley, and not Hentgen, is sitting down there is proooooobably not the reason Sergio Santos has been hurt, Steve Delabar’s velocity has been down and his control spotty, or that Dustin McGowan spent the first several weeks of the year in the rotation. I don’t know exactly how much, good or bad, we can attribute to a bullpen coach, but he ain’t fuckin’ magic, and as much as everyone — those in the organization and otherwise — seems to think Hentgen is pretty much the greatest guy, it sometimes seems like a lot of fans want to ascribe such magical powers to him because he’s Pat effing Hentgen. Not to say the coaches do nothing — that certainly isn’t true — but it seems to me the success or failure is much more about the players themselves.
I’m not sure if this is a mailbag worthy question/comment but something dawned on me today. Thanks for your mailbag, bullpen, etc. I’ve been a long time reader.
Having in depth conversations – most recently with local Tigers fans – about how Toronto is a band wagon type of city and will never have true fans I realized that I was born into being a Blue Jays fan. I can remember games at Exhibition Stadium and going to the Dome on opening week but those memories scarily make me realize I was 12 when the Jays won their first World Series. I never chose to be a Blue Jays fan but grew up playing hardball and have always followed the Jays.
I’m realizing that the first generation of children of Blue Jays fans are now having kids making what will be the second generation of fans. The first of the multi-generational fans are now seeing games. Is it safe to say that teams like Boston and New York have such strong fan bases because they would now be into multiple generations of die-hard fans? I never really thought about it before but one day I’ll drag my kids out to see (by then) the 3rd oldest stadium in baseball and pay $20 for a beer.
PS: I expect my grandchildren to see natural grass in the Dome
It seems reasonable enough, but let’s not give the fans in those cities too much credit. Back in 1992 — which would be their eleventh straight season without making the playoffs — the Yankees drew just 1.75-million fans, or just over 21,000 a night in a stadium that held over 56,000. It’s a low water mark that the Jays’ attendance has only slipped below once in the last decade. You have to go back a little farther to see real dismal numbers for the Red Sox, but hoo boy, there was plenty of room to be found at Fenway Park in the early 80s. They drew just
1.06-million — 13,000 a night! — in 1981 [Note to self: 1981 was a strike year -- thanks "Statis Pro"!] under 2-million in 1980, and didn’t crack that mark again until their ALCS year of 1986. Though, keep in mind, through 1985, this was a franchise that had been to the playoffs all of three times — all losses — since nineteen-freaking-nineteen. Something about a curse?
There’s nothing like a good decade or more of futility to shake the foundations of what now appear to be the most rock solid of fan bases. When you get right down to it, fans of those teams are no better than we are. The passed down memories of better times might be something of an advantage when it comes to getting fans to want to come rediscover a team they’ve left to wallow in futility, but ultimately it’s the standings that matter most.
I noticed that Kyle Drabek seems to have disappeared off the Jays radar but is leading Buffalo in innings pitched. Is this because he is not the same pitcher he was before the injury or is he just flying under the radar? Also in terms of starting pitchers, who would be the Jays starters 6 through 9 at this point in the season should they need to plug someone into the rotation?
Drabek has certainly been far off my radar, John, as the reports on him since his return from a second Tommy John surgery haven’t been great, nor have the numbers. I must admit that I don’t know where his velocity has been lately, but when he briefly (and terribly) returned to the majors in a bullpen role at the end of last season, it actually wasn’t terribly far down from the levels he was at when in 2010 we were so excited for by promise (93.8 in 2010, 93.0 in 2013), but the fact that he was being used as a reliever certainly inflated the number. As a starter he’s likely — again, his star has fallen so much that I’m totally not sure! — a couple ticks below that. Perhaps as a result, his command has been a bit better since his return from surgery than Jays fans will remember it — he’s issued just 23 walks in 70.2 innings, and only eight over his last seven starts (41.0 IP) — but that hasn’t exactly been helping him a whole lot. The big strikeout numbers — which in reality only ever existed in one, short, 61.2 inning stint in the Florida State League back in 2009 — are gone. He’s punched out 52 batters over those 70.2 innings for Buffalo this year, on his way to a 4.46 ERA and a 4.85 FIP. BABIP hasn’t helped him, giving up 1.4 home runs per nine innings hasn’t helped him, and there’s certainly still something there to make one think he still has a chance to be some kind of a useful piece somewhere — he’s only just 26, after all — but if the stuff really has taken a step backwards due to injury, he’s unfortunately just another guy.
As for the six through nine starters currently, I believe that John Gibbons has said that Todd Redmond will get the next chance, if they need an injury replacement or a spot starters, but that was before Aaron Sanchez was called up. Sanchez needs to show he can have success in the International League, though, before he’s going to get his name called, so for now I’d think he’s behind Redmond, Liam Hendriks, and Sean Nolin. That can change fast, though. Drabek might even be the ninth guy on the depth chart, but I’m honestly just guessing.
In a recent game, the stats for Kevin Pillar showed a batting average of .250 and an on base percentage of .243. It seems intuitively obvious that the latter cannot be less than the former. Can you explain how that could be possible?
Phil Ford, Ottawa
Mostly it’s because Pillar can’t take a walk to save his damn life. That, coupled with the fact that he had one sacrifice fly, is at the root of what’s going on here.
Batting average and on-base percentage use different denominators (at-bats for BA, plate appearances for OBP), and the thing about sacrifice flies is, they aren’t counted for one — a player making a sac fly isn’t charged with having made an “at-bat,” in much the same way that walks aren’t considered as at-bats — but they are counted for the other. A sac fly is scored as a plate appearance.
The numbers have changed slightly since you submitted this question, but the phenomenon is still in effect (because Pillar continued to not take walks). Before being sent down Pillar had nine hits and zero walks in 38 plate appearances, which makes for a .237 OBP. But because of that sacrifice fly, he had one fewer at-bat than he did plate appearance. So to calculate his batting average you take his nine hits and divide by his 37 at-bats, which makes for a slightly-better-but-still-bad-especially-with-zero-fucking-walks batting average of .243.
Pro tip: Just ignore batting average and this all goes away. (Maybe make an exception to check out Tony Gwynn’s insane career numbers, though, today. RIP.)