Archive for the ‘Griff Bag’ Category

griffbag

Another week, another Griff Bag, another hijacking. Sound about right? Because there’s a new slice of read-submitted insanity up at the Toronto Star, and… much like last week… what else do you really want us to do here on a the first morning of the week? Try to come to grips with how awful the Jays have looked against the effing Yankees this season?

Fuck that. Let’s just let Griff’s readers get under the ol’ skin and watch the magic happen (or not happen, as the case may be).

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. Hi Richard Stoeten,

Been reading your column/blog for years, enjoyed it immensely.

Question for the mailbag:

Is the decline of Ricky Romero unprecedented? In the sense that within the span of two seasons he went from having a 15-win/2.92ERA season in 2011 and in 2013 he has struggled in Single-A Dunedin and after two starts in Buffalo he seems to be overmatched in AAA ball.

How can someone so fundamentally lose the skills and talents that got them to the position to get a $30-million contract as a professional athlete. I know we’ve seen pitchers somewhat unexpectedly fall apart before but it’s mainly been relievers (Gagne, Axford, BJ Ryan, etc).

From a 15-win season to being barely able to strike the kids in A-ball out is mind blowing.

Thanks,

Mike

The Romero thing is undeniably weird, though not unprecedented. The old timers will remind you of Steve Blass, who had five better-than-decent seasons with the Pirates in the late 60s and early 70s, then suddenly, inexplicably  forgot how to throw strikes. Recently there have been valuable pitchers like Rick Ankiel, Dontrelle Willis, and Jonathan Sanchez– all of them, like Romero, left-handers, oddly enough– who lost the ability to throw strikes. Granted, that isn’t a huge group for Romero to have seemingly found himself in, but this king of thing does happen (and while Ricky’s ERA and win totals are impressive, those just aren’t good enough metrics to base saying he was better than any of that group on).

Has it really happened to the Jays’ one-time ace, though? For me it’s still too early to tell. Yes, the early returns have been ugly, and I know a lot of fuckfaces out there want desperately for validation of their ignorant knee-jerk thoughts from various points along the way that Romero is finished, but it really is still only less than 20 innings across all levels in 2013.

Plus a brutal Spring Training.

Plus a full season as one of the worst pitchers in all of baseball.

Plus an entire career of not being able to get lefties out, which has probably got to be the biggest concern of all, actually. I don’t think coincidentally, in Romero’s best season, 2010, he faced the lowest single-season percentage of left-handed batters of his career, and had his most success against lefties, though they still hit him to the tune of a .343 wOBA. Twenty-five per cent of the batters he faced that year were lefties, but by the time of his dreadful 2012, the rate had climbed to 32%. Couple that increase with the .390 wOBA left-handers posted against him– which actually isn’t terribly out of line with his career rate, as from 2009 to 2011 lefties put up a .363 wOBA– and you have all the makings of the disaster that we saw.

So, for all the talk about mechanics or confidence, the fact is, regardless of whether he can throw strikes, with the book being out on him, it actually doesn’t sound entirely implausible, assuming that clubs other than the Rays employ managers competent enough to have noticed the splits, that his days as a useful big leaguer truly are over.

But the mechanics, for whatever it’s worth, are new right now, Romero did pitch in 2012 with an elbow that required surgery, and he’s struggled with command problems once before, spending three seasons at Double-A– mostly while being labelled a gigantic J.P. Ricciardi bust– from 2006 to 2008, before turning into a very productive big leaguer.

The Jays owe him $15.6-million for the next two years, plus whatever remains of this year’s $7.5-million, so he’s going to get all the time he’ll need to try and figure himself out. No, he can’t even get minor league hitters out right now, but I would certainly hesitate to just assume that it’s always going to be that way. Time will tell, but even if he does regain the ability to throw strikes, you sort of have to think that his issues against left-handed hitters, now even better known, will make it very difficult to return to the form we once saw.

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griffbag

Another week, another Griff Bag, another hijacking. Sound about right? Because there’s a new slice of read-submitted insanity up at the Toronto Star, and… like… what else do you really want us to do here on a Monday morning? Try to come to grips with decent pitching performances from Chad Jenkins and Ramon Ortiz? A Triple-A disaster for Ricky Romero? Emilio Bonifacio perhaps not being terrible?

Fuck that. Let’s just let Griff’s readers get under the ol’ skin and watch the magic happen.

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. I have watched the J.A. Happ injury (on Tuesday) over and over again on the networks and one of the biggest questions I have is in regards to the umpires. These are people who make calls in minutiae on a minute by minute basis which will affect the outcome of a game, but when it came to a decision that may have affected someone’s life . . . they chose to do nothing until someone had run 180 feet. Will the umpires be disciplined in any way? Thanks,

Jeff

I believe it was John Gibbons who said that he didn’t blame the umpires because, like everybody else, they were stunned by what had happened to Happ. While maybe that’s just him saying the “right” thing, it seems entirely plausible to me, and so, while I think you’re absolutely right that play should have been stopped as soon as Happ was hit, and that getting him medical attention needs to be the priority, I’m not sure any kind of discipline is necessary for the umpires. Like, I haven’t looked into it, but I can’t imagine that they’re standing by their call to not halt play as soon as possible.

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griffbag

It’s been two weeks since we last had an appearance from ol’ Griff and his mail bag. Two dismal, dispiriting weeks that I’m sure are probably going to make it so that, in hijacking his latest one, posted Friday over at the Toronto Star, I’m going to need all my willpower to retain my sanity. Let’s find out if I make it through, shall we?

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 are your thoughts on Josh Johnson so far? With the way he’s been pitching to date (not horrible, but not even close to the domination from spring training) and now with his injury, I think we’ll keep seeing his market value drop unless he starts to pick it up; In my opinion it would be the perfect time for AA to take advantage of this and sign him to an extension, something team-friendly before he hits free agency (as he did with Happ). I just can’t see AA trading him by July if they are in the hunt (which they fully expect to be), and letting him go this fall means you’re opening up the fifth rotation spot to an acquisition, or one of Romero, Drabek, and Hutchison — and this is bad.

John

Uh… yeah, I completely don’t get this. He’s not pitched well, can’t seem to throw breaking balls for strikes, is dead last among 311 pitchers with more than 10 innings pitched this season in percentage of pitches thrown in the zone (per the adjusted, Baseball Info Solutions data at FanGraphs), now he’s hurt, so… sign him up?

How does that make sense, exactly?

No, the risk on locking the club into Johnson for years and major dollars remains extreme, which is why I fully expect the Jays to continue to see how it plays out– to hope for the kind of production that can get them back in the race, to be OK with someone else paying him a monstrous amount of money next year, if it comes to that, or to trade him in July if it comes to that. I’m not sure why you think Alex Anthopoulos would be so hellbent on avoiding such a deal– or, frankly, what you’ve seen so far that makes you think it’s such a massive step down to Ricky Romero or Drew Hutchison. I think Johnson at his best certainly would make it one, but we haven’t seen it yet. Romero was great last year in spring, too, so… I need to see more before I think this extension business, given the still-astronomical cost, isn’t kinda crazy.

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griffbag

A dispiriting three weeks into the season and finally our spirits are lifted. No, certainly not by a weekend of baseball, but by the return of the Griff Bag, as Richard Griffin has a brand new one up over at the Toronto Star. So let’s do it to it!

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. Hi Rich Stoet,

I agree with you 100 per cent and was surprised at the move to put Rajai Davis in to bat for Colby Rasmus — it made no sense to me at all. It is sad to see a hitter who is hot sitting while another player who is kind of streaky being brought in to bat in his place.

I think that it takes a bit of time for a team to jell specially the pitchers who have to pitch in cold weather at the beginning of the season, but among the new players that I am disappointed in are the outfielders who don’t have strong arms nor do they throw like Jose Bautista — their throws have for the most part hardly got to the catcher and are usually wide of the mark.

I am looking to see Melky Cabrera’s bat come alive. As for Emilio Bonifacio, he may be able to play at different positions but he is not good with the bat, and does not have a strong or accurate arm. I do hope and look forward to a quick return of shortstop Jose Reyes, who is one of the bright lights of this 2013 season.

I wish the Blue Jays much success this year and look forward to seeing some contending style baseball. Sorry I did not have a question instead of comments.

Regards,

Tony D’Souza, Toronto

Yeah… not a lot of guys can throw like Bautista, Bonifacio has indeed been a disappointment, the pinch hit wasn’t a great idea, and contending baseball sure will be fun. Uh… yeah.

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griffbag

Another week, another Griff Bag, as Richard Griffin tackles a new series of questions from his readers over at the Toronto Star, and… holy shit, I just re-read them. Ugh.

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 Griffin Stoeten,

So considering that Ricky Romero seems to still be struggling (I base this purely on Star coverage), why not send him down to Buffalo for the start of the season and keep Happ as the 5th starter?

Thanks, keep up the good work!

Nicholas Dodd, Montreal

Well, despite the insistence so far from the club that they won’t send Romero to Buffalo, there’s no reason to actually believe they’ll follow through on it if he continues to look absolutely 2012 atrocious. If they did, it would be worth giving a shit about, but– remembering what happened with Brett Cecil last year, when they similarly insisted he’d be part of the rotation, until they realized he couldn’t– until they actually do something stupid, I’m going to go ahead and give them the benefit of the doubt.

Frankly, even if they do take a struggling Romero north, it’s not like they’re forced to keep him there, and it’s not like there aren’t plausible reasons to believe he’s the better player to let prove he can’t do the job. He certainly was much better than J.A. Happ until some point midway through last year, and the fact that Happ has been clear in his preference, and has pitched a shade better than Dave Bush this spring, are hardly compelling reasons to make a change. It all comes down to Romero, and the Jays are entirely right to keep on assuming that he’s going to put it all together– whether they, or we, believe he really will or not.

He’s earned that respect, in my view, and as for the “what have you done for me lately?” arguments, it’s not like anyone actually disagrees on the key point in all this: if Romero sucks he shouldn’t be in the Majors. The only disagreement anyone has here is on the timing of the possible switch, and I think the Jays are right in showing faith in Romero and recognizing that it will be a whole lot more uncomfortable a thing to send him down than it would Happ– or to bring him back up if he gets his act together while Happ is keeping his head above water as the club’s fifth starter. And that’s assuming that they aren’t just saying the safe thing publicly while having much more heated discussion internally.

Ultimately, whichever path they choose, the result will be pretty much the same– the better of the two will find his way to the rotation with minimal damage done to the club’s long-term outlook. So… what the hell are we even talking about this for? Can we please just put the issue to bed? Please? Seriously???

No, eh? Well, OK then…

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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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