Archive for the ‘Griff Bag’ Category

griffbag

Baseball is in full swing-ish, and apparently so is Richard Griffin when it comes to answering questions from his readers over at the Toronto Star, because once again back on Friday we had ourselves a fresh Griff Bag to hijack. Nails much?

As always, I have not read any of Griffin’s answers.

If there’s a question you’d like me to answer, email it to askrich@thestar.ca and maybe he’ll select it for a future mail bag. Fingers crossed!

Q. Richard Stoeten,

What would have to happen this year for Canada to win the WBC? If not this year, then when?

Tyler W, Toronto

Uh… I dunno…they’d have to find some half-decent players less willing to embarrassingly proffer the kind of lame excuses Ryan Dempster and Russell Martin have allowed themselves to use? Or maybe they’ll just have to wait for Jameson Taillon to get a bit older (yet not be quite good enough to get asked to play for the States), and guys like James Paxton to figure it out. Wouldn’t hurt to change the timing of the tournament, either. Like, why not do it in October, schedule it in the gaps between playoff series’, and feature only guys on non-playoff teams? Sure, some players would opt out due to fear of overuse, and MLB might not want their big showcase overshadowed, but I think organizations would much less fearful of injury, and it would make for a much, much better tournament.

Truthfully, though, in this kind of short tournament, anything can seriously happen. I mean, a 98-win MLB club still loses four of every ten games, so… shit happens in this sport. Some damn pitching and some participation from the best the country has to offer would help, but there’s always a shot. Just look at how achingly close they were to getting past Team USA, or how they beat them in ’06 and came close in ’09, or how the Mexican team that Canada beat the piss out of (literally and figuratively) also beat the States.

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griffbag

Now we’re talking! After a several week break through the least interesting part of the winter, Richard Griffin has resumed answering reader questions over in his Mail Bag at the Toronto Star, meaning that I figure it’s high time I get to hijacking what he’s been asked and start providing some especially more caustic answers of my own.

Good? Good.

As always, I have not read any of Griffin’s answers.

If there’s a question you’d like me to answer, email it to askrich@thestar.ca and maybe he’ll select it for a future mail bag. Fingers crossed!

Q. Hey Griff Stoet,

If the Blue Jays want to field the best possible roster, regardless of options, wouldn’t it be logical to give the long-relief role to J.A. Happ? Brett Cecil has had year after year to try and win a spot on the big league team when the team wasn’t competitive. I don’t know if it’s worth hoping Cecil has a good year as a reliever in the bigs when the only positive sample available is last year’s September, when the quality of the opponent wasn’t that great.

Happ can still be the sixth starter from the ’pen, could log four emergency innings if the need arises, and can get stretched out after that. I’d much rather have the Major League proven Happ than the unproven, shaken up, can’t-outsmart-righties Squints.

Casey Janssen, Sergio Santos, Darren Oliver, Steve Delabar, Esmil Rogers, ?? and ?? Who fills out those question marks, in your opinion? Who deserves those spots (if the answer is different)? I would have loved to see Marcus Stroman up, but I guess I have to wait until the beginning of the year.

Love the coverage, Griff! Keep em’ coming!

Alex H, Toronto.

Uh… why the hell would the Jays want to field the best possible 25-man roster on April 2nd, regardless of options? Honestly. I mean, I get why they might want to say a thing like that, for the sake of the guys competing for jobs in camp, but they’d have to be serious fucking idiots if they actually meant it.

Asset management is a crucial part of the job that Alex Anthopoulos is paid to do, and fortunately for all of us he surely understands that the World Series isn’t won on Opening Day, and that sometimes it better serves the organization to carry the lesser of two players on the big league roster for a little while, in order to keep them both in the organization, or to manipulate the service time of one. In the case of the Jays’ bullpen, injuries will happen, poor performance will happen, and when it does, we’ll all be happier to have Aaron Loup or Brad Lincoln– or whichever with-options arms the odd men out end up being– in Buffalo, rather than having exposed guys like Cecil, Rogers and Jeffress to waivers at the end of camp, lost them to other organizations, and found ourselves faced with the prospect of going that much deeper into their system for the next piece of depth.

Which isn’t to suggest that it will be an easy decision or that you always hold onto the guys who are out of options– obviously there’s a difficult calculation to be made– but I’d suspect that’s the way the Jays are leaning, especially since you don’t give Cecil nearly enough credit for some very strong numbers against left-handed hitters.

As for who takes your final two bullpen spots, I have no idea. I guess maybe Cecil– even if Loup is slightly better– and a right-hander? Sure… why not. Certainly not Stroman– not just because of the suspension, but because the Jays seem like they’d rather wait for him to fail as a starter before they switch him to relief. Or at least, I think that’s what’s been out there from them on him. I hope it has been. It should be.

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With no Griff Bag on the immediate horizon, and not a whole hell of a lot else going on, I think it’s probably about time we take a dip into the Griff Bag’s infinitely less bent cousin, Gregor Chisholm’s latest Inbox at BlueJays.com.

As always, I have not read any of Gregor’s answers. If there’s a question you’d like me to answer, submit it to Gregor in his post and maybe he’ll select it for a future mail bag. Fingers crossed!

Which Blue Jays prospects do you see being able to make the next step this year and contribute at the big league level?
— Tim S., Calgary, Alberta

If you want to use a particularly strict definition of prospects, actually, I don’t see any. And I certainly hope there won’t be any, otherwise it will have meant something has gone quite terriblywrong, because the Jays just don’t have a lot of rookie-eligible players sniffing around for jobs on the Major League roster.

Sure, Aaron Loup should make the club and contribute out of the ‘pen, but he lost his eligibility by being on the roster for as long as he was last season, and it’s the same story for Anthony Gose, David Cooper and Moises Sierra, all of whom could see some time in a not-entirely-catastrophic season. But are those guys still prospects? I wouldn’t say so.

The same goes for Chad Jenkins, as well, though he’ll be hard pressed to get to the Majors regardless, with J.A. Happ, Brad Lincoln, and Justin Germano likely ahead of him on the Triple-A depth chart.

Beyond that group, you don’t see a whole lot of contributors. Marcus Stroman could succeed in a relief role at the big league level, but his 50-game PED suspension will eat into his season, and Alex Anthopoulos has said recently that he’d like him to continue developing as a starter.

Otherwise, everybody seems to like Sean Nolin, who Anthopoulos has said will begin the year at New Hampshire (and be on an innings limit). Nolin pitched 15 innings there at the end of last season, giving up just two earned runs, nine hits, six walks, while striking out 18 over three starts. If Happ and Lincoln end up in use in the Majors, certainly he could force his way up the depth chart, but it’s still a bit early for that. And it doesn’t get any easier thanks to the innings limit and the fact that Drew Hutchison and Kyle Drabek will be making their way back mid-season. Plus, with the club’s Triple-A affiliate finally out of Las Vegas, and the big league rotation full, there’s no need to rush guys the way they have in years past.

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Spring Training keeps inching closer, and while news items worth paying attention to are scarce, there’s one thing that’s sure to get us through these dark weeks: the Griff Bag. And Richard Griffin has got a fresh one up, over at the Toronto Star, which means that it’s time for me to crack it open and feast on the goo inside.

As always, I have not read any of Griffin’s answers.

If there’s a question you’d like me to answer, submit it to Griffin here, and maybe he’ll select it for a future mail bag. Fingers crossed!

Q. Hi Richard Stoeten,

I have a question about R.A Dickey’s longevity as a 38-year-old who is signed into his 40s. It seems to be established fact that knuckleballers can pitch longer than conventional pitchers because they’re throwing less hard and the pitch puts less strain on the arm. I was wondering, however, if that rule necessarily applies to Dickey. I ask for two reasons. First, he was a conventional pitcher for a long time before switching to the knuckleball. Is it possible that all those years put enough strain on his arm to reduce his longevity, despite having now switched? Second, because he throws his knuckleball harder than the average knuckleball pitcher, could that additionally limit his longevity? I’m not concerned about him significantly declining next season — I just wonder if he could possibly play as long as a guy like Tim Wakefield, for example. Thanks!

Jack Newman, Sarajevo, Bosnia-Herzegovina

Anything is certainly possible– with any pitcher, really– when it comes to injuries. Dickey is maybe a little bit different, given that he doesn’t have an ulnar collateral ligament in his arm, so he at least can’t tear that– which would require Tommy John surgery to repair– but obviously no one can have any idea what the future may bring. That said, you’ve certainly pinpointed some reasons why the notion that Dickey may pitch as long as a guy like Wakefield did is a little far fetched, yet I’m not sure if there’s too much need for concern about old wear and tear coming back to haunt him down the road.

Obviously I’m no doctor, but it sort of stands to reason that he’s helped by relying on a pitch that, hard as it is relative to other knuckleballs, doesn’t require max effort. Plus, in his pre-knuckle days his fastball would sit at 88-89 and he would throw that hard about 60% of the time, whereas now his heater is more at 83-84 and was only thrown 14% of the time in 2012. Physically, it means less stress on his body and less strain to recover from in the first place. You’d think that whatever damage may have been done previously has long been recovered from, or is much less likely to be aggravated by this new approach. But then again, what the fuck do I know?

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New year (uh… eleven days ago), new Griff Bag, as Richard Griffin helps tide us over through a slow-ish January by diving into some (read: a metric fuck-tonne of) questions from his readers over at the Toronto Star– which means that it’s time for me to crack it open and feast on the goo inside.

As always, I have not read any of Griffin’s answers.

If there’s a question you’d like me to answer, submit it to Griffin here, and maybe he’ll select it for a future mail bag. Fingers crossed!

Q. Hi Richard Stoeten,

Back when all the Dickey trade rumours were flying around, I was wondering about what the Winter Tour meant from a player personnel standpoint. A couple of players that came up in trade rumours (Anthony Gose, J.P. Arencibia) are taking part in the Winter Tour and I was curious if a player being included in the Winter Tour meant that they were “safe” from a trade standpoint. I know it’s a bit far fetched — why would AA turn down a trade just because the player had agreed to do some publicity? — but is there some link between the Winter Tour and a player’s value to the club?

Thanks,

Mike W, Toronto

Yeah… no. It means sweet fuck all.

Vernon Wells hit stops on the 2011 Winter Tour less than two weeks before he was dealt. Do you think Alex Anthopoulos hesitated for a nanosecond when Tony Reagins and his offer to eat that ridiculous contract came a-callin’?

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Merry Christmas to me! From Richard Griffin!

There’s a brand new, mid-holiday mail bag sitting unwrapped underneath the Toronto Star‘s tree, so let’s all take a few moments to rise from our food comas– or if you’re getting to this post-New Year’s, booze comas– to dive into this greatest gift of all.

As always, I have not read any of Griffin’s answers.

If there’s a question you’d like me to answer, submit it to Griffin here, and maybe he’ll select it for a future mail bag. Fingers crossed!

Q. Hi Richard Stoeten:

Thanks for coming to my rescue on Twitter.

The R.A. Dickey rumours were at their height, and (there was) concern about the price the Jays were paying. I expressed my concern to (ESPN.com expert and former Jays’ executive)) Keith Law about giving up Noah Syndergaard, and I mentioned the comparison that had been made between him and a young Doc (Halladay). “Oh Come on!” was his reply, which is among the tamer comebacks Law posts. You later pointed out that it was none other than Pat Hengten who had made that comparison, maybe in a moment of giddiness.

My question is this: we’re all prone sometimes to falling in love with prospects we’ve never seen. Truth be told, improving your roster dramatically without giving up anyone on it is a great idea, when you think about it. Do organizations sometimes (deliberately or otherwise) over-hype their prospects to improve their trade value down the line? If Syndergaard was really that good, I can’t see AA giving up on him, even though you to have to give up quality to get it in return.

Douglas, Fox, Ottawa

Uh… maybe in a moment of giddiness? Yeah, Law’s point is kind bang on, and while around here I may have breathlessly passed along Hentgen’s comp back when he said it, I did so while also shovelling a massive grain of salt along with it. A team employee comparing a kid in A-ball to a Hall of Fame-calibre 15-year veteran workhorse? Yeah, I think you’re right that “Oh come on!” was a pretty tame comeback.

As for your question, I do think some potential is maybe there for organizations to pump up certain prospects, but probably only to a really marginal extent. It’s not like competitor clubs don’t do their own scouting. And even if for some reason they were overly reliant on the kinds of scouting data fans can get their hands on, it’s not like the BPs and BAs of the world talk only to people in a prospect’s own organization. So… how do we figure this works?

No, Syndergaard is good. Maybe the fact that the Jays felt comfortable enough to move him in this deal is telling of some internal souring on him, but I don’t see a reason to change our opinions of him in the slightest: the development of his secondary stuff will make the difference between whether he can be a really high-end starter or a power reliever.

People always want to view trades through this prism where they have to be some kind of a swindling for one side or another. They really aren’t. This deal was about timing.

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With the Winter Meetings in full swing, I missed last week’s Griff Bag, but fear not! Griff is back in the mail bag groove, filing a fresh one for us to enjoy (read: hijack) on Monday afternoon over at the Toronto Star. So… let’s get to it!

As always, I have not read any of Griffin’s answers.

If there’s a question you’d like me to answer, submit it to Griffin here, and maybe he’ll select it for a future mail bag. Fingers crossed!

Q. Hey Richard Stoeten,

I understand AA’s wish to keep Jeff Mathis as a defensive catcher and someone to manage the young pitchers, but I’m also wondering if people aren’t underestimating John Buck. Most of the knock on him seems to be (a) payroll, and (b) his low batting average. The payroll is irrelevant at this point — it is what it is and was part of the deal. As for the batting average, I believe I read that the Marlins’ new stadium is more of a pitcher’s park than the Rogers Centre. If that’s true, then we might see Buck once again have a career year, or was he just not making contact at all?

The other thing I’d like to ask about is R.A. Dickey. Given AA’s inscrutability, and that the Jays are rumoured to be interested, that would seem to negate the possibility, but it seems to me that having a knuckleballer in the mix to screw with batters’ timing would be great, do you think AA would be interested in trading with the Mets? I mean Dickey is 38, but knucklers also tend to have longer careers. Finally, any thoughts on Canada’s chances at the Baseball Classic?

Thanks for the insights, as always.

Richard Worzel, Toronto

I’d suggest you not go nuts here, Richard, and that it’s not quite reasonable to believe we could see a career year from a 32-year-old catcher whose production has declined in each of the two seasons since his 2010 peak, but I do think you’re on the right track by looking at his home park for the last two seasons.

Buck was much better on the road in 2012 (a .299 wOBA, compared to .269 at home), and while that wasn’t the case his first season in Miami, the new ballpark, according to the park factor data at StatCorner, was even more pitcher-friendly than the old one, with a HR factor for RHB of 84 (100 is neutral, Rogers Centre was 118), and a tangible but not-quite-so-staggering divergence on doubles and triples, as well.

Buck has learned (or, at the very least, has been again allowed) to take a walk during his time in Miami (he walked in 12.3% of his plate appearances last year, compared to 3.7% in 2010), and on the road in 2012 produced an ISO that’s not too far off his 2010 number.

That power wasn’t there (home or road) in 2011, so we need a pretty big grain of salt to take that information with, but for me, there’s certainly a chance he surprises people with how much better he looks in a better offensive environment– especially if he has any kind of BABIP bounce, up from his career low .284 last year.

As for the Dickey stuff, I think there genuinely is something to it. I know we’re supposed to believe that if we’re hearing it, it isn’t true, but that’s an awfully convenient trope for Alex Anthopoulos more than it is anything resembling reality. I mean, the Halladay stuff was getting leaked like crazy as that deal was happening, the Farrell stuff got leaked like crazy, The Trade with the Marlins was all public knowledge long before it was official, and there are all kinds of other examples of that old saw simply not holding up.

That said, the asking price for Dickey being what we’ve been led to believe it is, and his contract demands to the Mets being as reasonable as they are, I have a hard time seeing them actually dealing him– or, perhaps better put, another team offering the prospects necessary to make a trade worth New York’s while.

That said, I’m not terribly concerned about Dickey’s aging, given that he’s only looking for a short deal, and I’d be all for the Jays finding a way to get him. But six years of MLB control of someone like Travis d’Arnaud or Anthony Gose– who I likened, somewhat hackily, to Michael Bourn in a post yesterday– just seems like far too much. And with the Mets wanting more than just one elite prospect? I don’t think the Jays are that desperate to take the risk that Dickey comes here, signs an extension, succeeds in the AL East, doesn’t age at the normal rate for pitchers, that JP Arencibia is able to catch anything he throws, and that the prospects don’t come back to haunt them.  There are reasons to think each one of those things is possible, but all of them? I dunno.

WBC: I think Canada can make a nice run. Mexico isn’t as strong as you might think, and we’ve got to beat Italy this time, right? Right??? Canada shouldn’t have much trouble getting out of the group, but after that it’s going to be tough. Should be fun, though! There is definitely enough Major League talent on Canada’s roster to make it interesting– assuming guys are allowed by their teams to play, because the roster gets thin pretty quick beyond the top tier.

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